‘Technicians make it happen’ at Bristol by gaining 100% Green Lab Accreditation

The University of Bristol is now the proud owner of the UK’s largest staff-driven laboratory sustainability effort. The Biomedical Sciences Building, which houses the School of Biochemistry, School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, has gained 100% Green Lab Accreditation status. This was awarded in collaboration with the NUS Green Impact scheme and was achieved through a series of rigorous greening initiatives.

University laboratories require large amounts of energy and resources, on average consuming 5-10 times more energy than other academic spaces. Occupying only 6% of our University space, laboratories account for 40% of our total energy, water and waste.

Befitting of a city well known for its green credentials, over 170 laboratories within the University of Bristol’s Biomedical Sciences Building have made changes to ensure that the world-leading teaching and research is done with utmost efficiency and minimal waste, resulting in a combined cost saving of over £85,000 worth of energy over the past two years.

Natalie Griffiths-Stubbs, a Senior Research Technician who coordinated the technical teams and led the department to gain a sustainability accreditation for the whole building said “Gaining 100% Green Lab Accreditation in a building as large as Biomedical Sciences is a huge job which requires attention at every level, from small everyday efforts to overhauling equipment and replacing it with greener options.

“The technical teams have worked tirelessly to introduce more sustainable ways of working to staff and students as well as taking on practical challenges. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and hope to lead the way for further positive change within the industry.”

Steps taken, including the replacement of energy-inefficient laboratory equipment such as ultralow freezers, drying cabinets and biosafety cabinets, have saved £22,000 or 120 tonnes CO2e.

The Biomedical Sciences Technical Team also pioneered a lab equipment sharing scheme by taking an inventory of all equipment, identifying unused kit which could be freed up for properly managed sharing or external reuse. This minimised the environmental footprint of electrical waste, saved £20,650 and freed over 500 square metres of space.

Laboratories are inherently one of the worst offenders for single-use plastic consumption, (estimated by the World Health Organisation to account for 1.8% of the earth’s plastic waste) due to the requirement of sterility and potentially hazardous contaminants. The Biomedical Sciences team have implemented laboratory recycling schemes, making central purchases to reduce packaging and transport miles. They also reuse plastics wherever possible within the labs.

Fred Hale, Strategic Technical Lead said “The contribution the Biomedical Technical team has made in lessening the environmental impact of our activities is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with some focussed effort. Sustainability and protecting our environment have never been more important to our staff and to our students in choosing where to work and study. This team is an exemplary in showing what can be achieved and supports our pledge to the Technicians Commitment.”

Improving efficiency and demonstrating research responsibility is core to the University’s aims as well as to the wider Higher Education sector. Through the mobilisation of staff along with their commitment and drive, we’ve shown that we can lead the way and have a great impact. Staff and students can now sign up to a national, collaborative pilot, the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) which is replacing Green Impact Labs.

Gain lab accreditation

Sign up to LEAF to gain green lab accreditation status

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