Blog posts

Medicine’s first Gold LEAF Award

Reposted from Imperial news article “Centre for Inflammatory Disease awarded Gold LEAF Award” by Meesha Patel

The centre in the Department of Immunology and Inflammation is the first lab in the Faculty of Medicine to receive a Gold Award.

The Centre for Inflammatory Disease (CID) Green Team leMembers of the Department of Immunology and Inflammation Green Teamd by Dr Kerry Rostron-Barrett, Laboratory Manager and Section Safety Coordinator undertook the assessment as part of Imperial College London’s commitment to a more sustainable Imperial.

Established by UCL, the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework is an accreditation scheme designed to improve sustainability within higher education teaching and research. The first Gold LEAF certificate was awarded at Imperial College London in 2021-22 and the framework allows laboratory managers from all departments to quantify their environmental and financial impact.

The CID was awarded a Silver LEAF award earlier this year but their ongoing efforts were rewarded with Gold status.  This involved increased reuse of lab materials, actions to reduce work associated travel, increased engagement with the Estates team to alter ventilation requirements in non-critical areas, more comprehensive cataloging of samples and chemicals and promoting the use of existing samples and data in favour of generating new samples.

Dr Kerry Rostron-Barrett said: “Laboratory-based research, though essential, is extremely energy and resource intensive, using three to ten times more energy per meter squared than a typical office.”

“We have implemented a number of actions which have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of laboratory waste generated, consumption of single use plastics, water and energy – ultimately resulting in markedly reduced running costs and carbon footprint.”

Creating a more sustainable laboratory

Making a laboratory of this size and scale energy efficient and more sustainable is a challenging task. The CID laboratory occupies 547.42 m² of space at the Hammersmith Campus and conduct scientific and medical research in laboratory dishes (in vitro) and in animals (in vivo).

Contamination can be a problem in these experiments therefore single-use plastics can often be necessary. A few examples of the changes made were increasing the temperature of freezers, making recycling bins available so that non-contaminated lab plastics and single use gloves could be recycled, consolidation of consumable orders and making sure that equipment is stickered with ‘traffic light’ system stickers to highlight which equipment can or cannot be turned off at the end of each working day.

Ben Gray, Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator in Property & Major Projects said: “This Gold LEAF award for CID has demonstrated the largest carbon savings of any laboratory application across Imperial with approximately 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £34,000 of energy saved each year, a large contribution! All these savings in lab spaces are vital for our campuses to reach our Net Zero targets by 2040.”

“The CID team have not only made fantastic contributions to energy savings but have also shown great innovation to re-think the way they use consumables, making sizable reductions in the amount of plastic purchased in their lab and something which can be showcased to many other laboratories at Imperial.”

Professor Marina Botto, Head of Department said: “This result fills our Departmental community with pride. I am thrilled to see the CID Green Team was recognised for their outstanding commitment and efforts to improve the sustainability of our laboratories. It is inspiring to see all the changes they have implemented in the laboratory without compromising the quality of the research – it is testament of the real impact we can all make if we adapt our way of working”

Professor Matthew Pickering, Head of the CID said: “This was a transformative initiative and our Green Team led by Dr Kerry Rostron-Barrett wholeheartedly deserve the Gold status. They have shown how we can make impactful changes to sustainability through innovative changes to our laboratory practice.”

Silwood Park Allotments

Allotments at Silwood Park Campus

Silwood Park has a rich history when it comes to food self-sufficiency ever since the first students arrived in 1947. Now staff and students can get involved in starting their own allotment plot. Hear from four staff allotment owners on their experiences below.

(Clockwise: staff allotment users, Ro’s plot, produce from the staff plots, Andrew Greig’s plot)

Andrew Greig, Campus Services Coordinator

“I had looked on enviously at the allotment shenanigans of Silwoodians for a number of years as they dedicatedly grew their wares, whilst never really thinking too much of actually getting a plot myself. Then last year, having reached an age suitable for allotmenting and with the allotment changing to a bigger site in Silwood, I decided to join in the fun and get my own plot.

But what to grow? I am no gourmet chef and ashamedly not a huge eater of veg, maybe this was a time to grow my veg eating repartee! No, I went with home staples of potatoes, tomatoes, sweetcorn, lettuce, onions and some beetroot. And it was all a flaming success in the long hot summer of 2022, with it all doing fabulously and tasting amazing! I thought I must be the secret lovechild of Percy Thrower and Monty Don! Fast forward to 2023 and clearly they only adopted me. This year the potatoes were delicious again, but so many of my endeavours failed to get off the ground- peas, broccoli, cabbage all failed to materialise whilst the weeds have had a field day.

My best success this year has been the bench which I made from an old pallet and that I seemed to have used too much instead of weeding. Still, I’m already planning for 2024.”

Katie Willis, Research Associate (DoLS) and Tom Richards, Village Assistant Supervisor

“We began running the allotments when we first arrived to live on campus in 2017. Since then we have tried our hand at growing peas, beans, sweetcorn, squash, cabbage, kale, broccoli, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and lots and lots of courgettes! The allotments have given many staff and students the opportunity to try something new, providing a great excuse to get out into the open and meet new people. We have also taken part in Mental Health Awareness week, giving students from other campuses a chance to escape from the big smoke for an afternoon of gardening, an activity we hope to grow in the future.”

Anthony Fitzgerald, Departmental Manager in Dept of Life Sciences (DoLS)

“Having started my growing experience during lockdown with a small veg patch in the corner of my garden I jumped at the opportunity to have an allotment plot at Silwood when they were relocated to Hill Bottom. With two teenage sons a patch full of King Edward’s potatoes is a must, along with sweetcorn and tomatoes.”

Emma Sharp, Project Manager in Faculty of Natural Sciences

“I have had an allotment at Silwood for two years now and have already learnt a lot from other allotment users and some trial and error with plant placement and netting. Along with the benefits of fresh air and fresh veg, weeding gives me the opportunity for some good thinking time or even just a short screen break on a busy day. I have mostly grown peas, beans and cabbages so far but have tried celery and beetroot this year.  I have two guinea-pigs who also benefit and reduce any potential waste – they are particularly fond of the sweetcorn leaves grown by my colleagues.”

Want to learn more?

The History of Silwood Park’s quest for food self-sufficiency and the start of its allotments

When the first students arrived at Silwood in 1947 the country had just endured the worst winter anyone could remember (January to March) which had destroyed a huge fraction of the country’s stock of stored potatoes.

To make matters worse, the country was still in the full grip of post-war rationing with food, sugar, petrol and coal all in very limited supply. Private motorists were unable to drive more than about 22 miles per week, which made the 702 Green Line Bus from Silwood to South Kensington so important to Munro when Silwood was purchased for the College.

The other thing to remember about these early days was that all of the students ate all of their meals in the Refectory. There were no cooking facilities in the student accommodation in the top storey of the Manor House.

All this meant that the Silwood community needed to be essentially self-sufficient for food. There was a substantial acreage given over to production of vegetables and potatoes in the fields on either side of the Warden’s House in Silwood Lodge at Drive Field and Lodge Field (now the Tractors sheds).  Pigs were kept, but there is no record of any dairy cows at Silwood (though there were at Silwood Farm).   This tradition of food self-sufficiency, tended by the students in concert with the (then) substantial garden staff (13 men plus a superintendent) carried on well into the 1960s.

Allotments specifically for the students to practice their horticultural skills were not introduced until the mid-1980s when a central section of Ashurst Four Acre Field was fenced off and made rabbit- and deer-proof.  The area was shifted within Four Acre field after 5 years to alleviated pest and weed problems.  In the early 1990s the students pressed for the allotments to be shifted closer to the (then new) Residences, and a fence was erected in the south-west corner of Hill Bottom. The current allotments in the centre of Hill Bottom were built in 2018, after the earlier site became overgrown by Raspberries, Brambles and Tansy.

Information provided by Mick Crawley, former Campus Dean for Silwood Park.


The Green Team, Centre for Inflammatory Disease

Reposted from DoII blog “In profile: The Green Team, Centre for Inflammatory Disease” by Department of Immunology and Inflammation Communications

As part of our Staff Profile series, we are celebrating the Green Team in the Centre for Inflammatory Disease. Through their hard work and efforts the team has been recently awarded a Silver LEAF award. In this profile, they tell us more about their work to achieve the award and more about life in our labs.

Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?

The Green Team is made up of a mixture of students, PIs, Postdocs and technical staff:

Alice Denton (Senior Lecturer), Lyndon Costa (PhD student), Kassandra (Kass) Vezyrgianni (Research Technician), Stacey McIntyre (Postdoctoral Researcher), Christina Malaktou (Postdoctoral Researcher) and is led by Kerry Rostron-Barrett (Laboratory Manager and Section Safety Coordinator).

What experience does the team have and where did the members work/study before joining the department?

Prior to joining Imperial Alice conducted Postdoctoral work at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. Lyndon studied at the University of Exeter before joining us for his PhD studies. Christina studied at King’s College before successfully completing her PhD with us and becoming one of our Postdoctoral Researchers.

Before joining us as Research Technician, Kass completed her MRes at the University of York.  Stacey previously studied at the University of Oxford and is currently close to completing her PhD submission alongside working as one of our Postdoctoral Researchers.

And finally, prior to joining the department Kerry worked in several Postdoctoral Research positions and spent a year as a Research Scientist in industry.

Recently the labs were awarded a Silver LEAF award. What does this mean?

Laboratory-based research, though essential, is extremely energy and resource intensive, using 3-10 times more energy per meter squared than a typical office. The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) is a standard to improve the sustainability and efficiency of laboratory spaces.

Participating laboratories are awarded either Bronze, Silver or Gold level, depending on how many sustainability actions they take. After achieving Bronze, we were quickly able to make further changes in the labs to be upgraded to Silver.

Our Silver award recognises that we have gone beyond the minimum standard in Lab sustainability. As an entire Centre, we have implemented further additional actions which have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of laboratory waste generated, consumption of single use plastics, water and energy – ultimately resulting in markedly reduced running costs and carbon footprint.

How did you prepare for the LEAF assessment? What was the process?

After registering our interest in the LEAF programme, we received the LEAF user guide and created an account via the online portal.

Here we completed an online workbook addressing a range of different criteria: waste, people, purchasing, equipment, IT, sample & chemical management, research quality, ventilation and water.

A few examples of some of changes we made in the labs include: increasing the temperature of our ULT freezers from -80°C to -70°C, making recycling bins available in the labs so that used non-contaminated lab plastics could be recycled instead of being disposed of as hazardous waste, developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for plasticware washing so that single use plastics could be reused for non-sterile applications, order consolidation to reduce the number of consumable deliveries to site and traffic light stickers on equipment highlighting what can/cannot be turned off at the end of each working day.

After submitting our application, we then had an in person visit from Imperials Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator, Ben Gray, who assessed the labs based on our written application and took photographs to evidence what had been implemented.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

There is a common theme here with each one of us – and that is managing wide ranging day to day tasks simultaneously (without messing any of them up!).

On the sustainability side of things, we all agree that the most challenging aspect has been changing old habits among everyone working in the labs.  For example, it is just muscle memory for many people to throw lab plastics into the same bin they always have done, rather than recycling them.

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding aspects range from watching teams flourish as scientists to finding the answers to the scientific questions being asked!

When it comes to being Green – when we see people recycling/turning off lights in the lab without being prompted and knowing that our collective carbon footprint is significantly reducing with the implementation of simple measures to re-use and recycle lab materials.

What are the interesting hobbies or activities the team get up to when not at work?

When the team aren’t at work, the members engage in numerous activities including pottery, mixed martial arts, yoga, video gaming, reading about mythology, playing bass guitar and hanging out with theirs or other people’s pets. Oh! And the occasional pub quiz, of course!!

And finally, what would you love people in the department to know about the team?

We love being green – which I guess helps with our participation in the LEAF, My Green Lab and, more recently, Green Impact programmes!

We’re also very friendly (honest!) come and ask us stuff! We don’t bite, just recycle!

Engineering’s first Gold LEAF Award

Reposted from Imperial news article “Chemical Engineering Teaching Lab awarded the prestigious LEAF Gold Award” by Navta Hussain

The Undergraduate Teaching Lab team has been recognised for their leadership in implementing sustainable practices in the teaching environment.

They have been awarded the first LEAF Gold award in the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial College London.

The team, Dr Umang Shah, Andrew Macey, and Dr Mohamed Maher, were commended for their exemplary sustainable lab practices.

The LEAF Gold Award

LEAF is a green initiative first developed by University College London (UCL) to improve the efficiency and sustainability of laboratories and technical workspaces.

The Gold Award is accorded to those who have successfully embedded key sustainability practices, such as reducing waste, energy consumption and demonstrating commitment to the sustainability framework.

On being conferred the award, Professor Omar Matar, Head of Department, stated: “I am extremely proud of the team for their dedication and drive!.”

Journey to sustainable teaching

The Chemical Engineering undergraduate teaching lab team have been at the forefront of embedding sustainability practices to transform the traditional practical learning facilities and activities.

This contributes to a broader initiative aimed at developing a novel Sustainability Education Framework (ESF), which fosters sustainability values in our learners and educators.

The team’s mission is to seamlessly integrate key sustainability principles into the practical curriculum to emphasise sustainability in labs and create a unique environment that promotes sustainability values.

As Dr Mohamed Maher, Process Control Engineer, said; “It has been an incredible journey working with the team. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of implementing the sustainability framework in the Chemical Engineering Teaching labs, leading to the very first LEAF Gold award for the Faulty of Engineering.”

Looking ahead

The team is at an exciting phase of its journey towards sustainable development.

They are in the process of implementing a number of innovative solutions to enhance the practical learning experience including a hybrid power system that would enable half of the lab to function on renewable energy, thereby decreasing the lab’s carbon footprint.

Professor Jerry Heng, Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Chemical Engineering stated: “We are immensely proud of this achievement and delighted to witness sustainable framework being implemented, demonstrating the leadership and initiative taken by the Chemical Engineering Teaching labs team, for the present and future.”

Agilent Measurement Suite’s Gold Award

Reposted from Imperial news article “Agilent Measurement Suite given highest award for sustainability framework” by Jacklin Kwan

The White City laboratory has been awarded Gold Award Accreditation in the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF).

LEAF aims to improve laboratory efficiency, helping to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as carbon emissions and plastic waste. Over 85 global institutions and 1600 labs take part in LEAF.

Gold accreditation is only awarded the laboratories that reach the highest level of efficiency. Laboratories must prove that they meet 48 distinct sustainability criteria, including promoting greener travel for laboratory users and increasing facility recycling rates.

“The Department of Chemistry is proud to be leading in this initiative and the AMS is now the fourth group within the Department to obtain Gold LEAF status,” said Dr Trevor Ferris, the Departmental Research Facilities Manager.

Dr Ferris said that the laboratory improved users’ awareness of sustainability by implementing clear signage around the AMS and providing training.

“The signage included advice and guidance on how to save electricity, and how to recycle and reuse laboratory boxes and bottles,” he said.

Doing essential scientific research can be energy and resource intensive. It is estimated that laboratories generate around 2 per cent of the world’s plastic waste and use three to 10 times more energy than a typical office.

Dr Ferris, supported by Kamil Skirlo, Analytical Instrumentation Technician at AMS, hopes to register other facilities across Imperial in the LEAF programme.

Dr Lisa Haigh, Technical Operations Manager at the Department of Chemistry, is also leading the widespread adoption of the programme: “Small changes can make big differences.”

Dr Haigh sits on the Faculty of Natural Sciences Sustainability Strategy Committee, chaired by Professor Jem Woods (Centre for Environmental Policy), which discusses and share best environmental practices across Departments.

She says that she is in the process of encouraging energy saving by obtaining real data usage on common laboratory pieces of equipment. “We actively encourage researchers on new purchases that efficiency should be prioritised over cost,” Dr Haigh said.

Improving laboratory efficiency sits within Imperial’s Sustainability Strategy, which aims to transition to net zero by 2040. It works across three themes: resource management; academic excellence; and engagement with Imperial’s key stakeholders.

Imperial’s first Gold LEAF Award

Reposted from Imperial news article “Going for LEAF Gold” by Lisa Bushby

In June 2022, Dr Pabitra Shakya Tuladhar achieved Gold Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) status for the Chemistry Department’s Cleanroom Laboratory, maintained by the Centre for Processable Electronics in the Molecular Sciences Research Hub at White City, marking a first for Imperial College.

The LEAF scheme encourages lab managers in academia to drive improvements in laboratory efficiency by identifying practical steps to make their labs more sustainable. Participants complete a set of criteria to reach Bronze, Silver or Gold standard, and can estimate the carbon and financial savings their actions have achieved.

Dismayed at the quantities of chemicals being thrown away and the amount of single-use plastic being used in her lab, Dr Tuladhar decided to take action. Hearing of the LEAF accreditation scheme championing efforts to make labs more sustainable, Pabitra took the initial step in the process to meet the criteria for Bronze status, which she achieved in 2020 through the application of straightforward, practical actions such as explaining the sustainable practices users need to take when using the lab at the time of induction, using cold storage, ovens or incubators only when they are full and turning off equipment and lights when they are not needed.

Pabitra didn’t stop at Bronze and has continued to make improvements to her lab throughout the COVID pandemic, this also helped her lab to continue running during the disruptive period, and by using the same suppliers time and again, she always asks for discounts based on her continuing loyalty (saving money in the process!).

The lab equipment and chemicals and materials are shared with few other lab users from different groups across the CPE and Chemistry Department communities.

The lab utilises the warp-it website so that any unwanted or spare item can be offered to other external lab users. Spare equipment is loaned to other lab users in the building. Where equipment has finally met its end-of-life, it is typically returned to the supplier, and Pabitra even has an example of receiving £5000 for returned equipment for recycling!

A key innovation for the lab has been the introduction of the LabCup laboratory management software for users to track the material and chemical inventory. The list is kept updated by users when the material is old and disposed of or stock running low. The inventory is open to all CPE users so that they can share if needed. The system is compatible with Imperial’s ICIS system. At point of purchase, hazardous materials are authorised by College’s health and safety team and users are given information on how the material should be used and stored.

Dr Pabitra Shakya Tuladhar