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Achieving lab sustainability

Our sustainability journey

Climate change is one of the greatest issues facing humankind. In May 2019 the University of Exeter (UoE) declared an Environment and Climate Emergency (E&CE). Following the declaration, the Vice Chancellor appointed a working group, chaired by Prof Juliet Osborne, to publish an E&CE White Paper outlining the timeframes, targets and actions required to minimise and mitigate the university’s impacts on the environment and climate.

This White Paper informed the university’s subsequent E&CE Policy Statement, published in October 2020. This document, signed off by VC Lisa Roberts, contains key targets across all areas of university activities, with ownership and sponsorship at senior executive level within the university. A key commitment included in this policy is the implementation of green lab accreditation across all UoE labs.

The need for lab sustainability

In December 2020, the university set Zero Targets for all carbon rated activities, aiming for net zero in carbon emissions by 2030. Laboratories are responsible for producing a significant percentage of a university’s carbon emissions, by consuming up to ten times more energy and four times more water per square metre than other academic spaces. They also consume excessive amounts of plastic, and it is estimated that they are responsible for generating around 2% of plastic waste worldwide! Urbina, M., Watts, A. & Reardon, E. Labs should cut plastic waste too. Nature 528, 479 (2015).

It is a key responsibility for all university staff and students to address these issues and minimise the negative environmental impacts of laboratory-based research and education, by reducing energy consumption, plastic waste, and addressing other critical areas that have a strong impact on sustainability.

Further information on each area of lab sustainability is provided in the links below.

A list of recommended measures to help lab users get started: 6 steps sustainable labs poster [pdf]

If you have any questions or ideas, we would love to hear from you.

Please email:  LEAF@exeter.ac.uk