Sustainable Laboratories

working in the lab

Many of these research activities require specialist equipment or ventilation, making labs responsible for around 60% of the University's total energy consumption and carbon emissions.

To address this, we have created the Sustainable Labs programme which specifically focuses on energy reduction and sustainability in labs.

We encourage and support best practice so that sustainability becomes an integral part of everyday lab work.



How are we doing?

Achievements to date include replacing inefficient ultra-low temperature freezers and glass drying cabinets with energy-efficient sustainable units.

These replacements already save up to 615 MWh electricity and 188 tonnes of carbon per year and cut running costs by up to 72%.


Receive our e-newsletter

We produce an occasional e-newsletter for everyone interested in laboratories and sustainability. So sign up if you would like to receive updates on various topics including project and funding opportunities, workshops and new resources. Just email and put ‘SUBSCRIBE’ in the subject line.

Love your lab!

Find out below about how to be more sustainable in your lab space. Please raise awareness - many researchers may not be aware of where savings can be made and will appreciate your advice and encouragement.

Don’t miss our short be efficient, be sustainable best practice guidance videos for labs, for further helpful tips. 



Six simple ways to make your lab more sustainable

Expand All

Do you know that shutting a fume cupboard sash reduces its air flow, energy consumption and carbon emissions by up to 40%?

  • So always close your fume cupboard sash when not in use and reduce the amount of heated or cooled air escaping the room.
  • Use our shut the sash stickers.

Be conscious of what and how much you use.

  • Plan ahead to use the minimum amount of chemicals and samples.
  • Check if your chemical is already available and order only as much as you need.
  • Avoid disposable sterile plastics if possible.
  • Consider which samples you really need to keep and for how long, and label accordingly. Are you making the best use of storage space?

Before buying new equipment, think about what is already available. Most departments list their equipment and research facilities in this online searchable database.  

Sharing equipment has lots of benefits:

  • Share the cost - use existing equipment or make yours available to other departments for a small fee.
  • Share the space - less equipment means more space.
  • Share the joy - meet other researchers working with similar methods.
  • Save time - if you use existing equipment you do not need to worry about purchasing procedures and delivery times.

Freezers use a lot of energy - using space efficiently means fewer new ones need to be added. 

  • Label samples, including expiry date, and clear out old samples regularly.
  • Keep fridges and freezers clean and organised to ensure they keep your samples safe for years to come.
  • Don't store items on top of freezers - it reduces the air circulation that freezers need to work efficiently.
  • Report any issues like heavy icing, broken seals or dirty filters to the freezer manager.
  • Use our new freezer stickers.
  • Watch our best practice videos covering sustainable labs and efficient freezers

Check if others can make use of your unwanted chemicals and equipment

Find out how to dispose of items in the safest and most sustainable way:


Green Impact is our main sustainability engagement programme. It provides simple and effective ways for staff and students to improve the sustainable practices of their building, department, college and, of course, labs.

As part of Green Impact, we have created a special category dedicated to laboratories. Green Impact Labs contains best practice ideas to get you started and covers all areas including energy, materials, water and waste. 

Impressive individual projects are already underway, saving many tonnes of carbon.

If you do decide to create or join a team and have a go, Green Impact Labs will recognise all the great things you’re already doing. The programme will also provide plenty of ideas for ‘next steps’ to increase your lab’s future sustainability.

You’ll be rewarded!  Note all your fantastic actions down in your Green Impact workbook to collect points for your team. Your achievements will then be recognised and celebrated at the University’s annual Sustainability Showcase.

Take a look and be inspired today



LEAF – the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework

We are now supporting labs to get LEAF accreditation. LEAF was developed at UCL and helps researchers, staff and students to improve the sustainability and efficiency of their laboratories. It allows users to quantify the impact of their actions both in money and in carbon. Criteria cover areas such as people, waste, ventilation, chemicals & samples, equipment, procurement, and research quality.

LEAF is currently contained on a spreadsheet (and supporting guidance documents) and accreditation is done through the Green Impact scheme. Teams will be able to work towards a Bronze, Silver or Gold award. Contact us at for more information or to request your copy of the LEAF workbook.


This is a growing area and we will share more resources with you over time. In the meantime, you may find these simple steps helpful:  

Equipment specific guidance

Freezer best practice - we have created some stickers 'How to keep your freezer healthy' with some easy to follow tips. If you would like these for your lab please email

Freezer stickers

Embark on a journey towards cleaner, greener and safer labs

  • Place "shut the sash" stickers on fume hoods.
  • Add automatic timer switches or programme equipment using built-in functions where possible and safe to do so.
  • Replace toxic chemicals with green alternatives where possible and safe to do so.
  • Choose greener lab supplies.
  • Share equipment with other groups or departments.

Equipment sharing database

University-wide database, for high-value equipment. Feeds into national database.


For lab and office equipment reuse (University-wide redistribution).


Asset resale service, share of the profits returned to the department.

Purchasing guidance

Assistance for departments considering the environmental, social and economic impacts of its purchases.

Electronic lab books

License provided by the IT department.

Energy monitoring

If you would like to monitor the energy consumption of your equipment, we can provide energy meters for this purpose. Please email

Best practice guidance

We are currently developing best practice guides and sustainability training materials for lab managers and students to use and share.  We will share all our resources as they become available here and on our Sustainability Resources page.




Freezer stickers

'How to keep your freezer healthy' stickers

Switch Off stickers

'Switch off' stickers


Sash sticker one
Sash Sticker Red Zone

Fume cupboard stickers (Shut the sash)


If you would like to have some stickers for your lab please email


Share your ideas

We are always open to new ideas to make labs more sustainable and want to support you in your efforts as much as possible. We not only have resources to help you on your way but some funding may also be available. For more information contact Steffi Reiss, Sustainability Projects Manager for Lab Optimisation at

Subscribe for news

 For e-news on sustainable labs subscribe here



Share lab equipment by visiting our online database



Get in touch

Steffi Reiss
Sustainability Projects Manager for Laboratory Optimisation