Dr Pabitra Shakya Tuladhar has achieved Gold LEAF status for the Chemistry Department’s Cleanroom Laboratory marking a first for Imperial!
Through the uncompromising efforts and with a passion for driving improvements in laboratory efficiency, lab manager Dr Pabitra Shakya Tuladhar has achieved Gold 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 Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (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.
As the scheme is accredited, Pabitra completed her registration through the ICL LEAF website and then had to demonstrate achievements under each category (waste, people, sample and chemical management, equipment and ventilation) during lab visits and interviews with the LEAF team.
Congratulating Pabitra on the achievement of Imperial’s first LEAF Gold Standard Award, Hari Haren, Energy Engineer in Imperial’s Estates Operations said “We are very impressed with your lab’s commitment and your personal involvement in driving laboratory sustainability forward. We’d like to invite you in the future to share your knowledge and experience, which we feel will inspire other labs to aim for Gold.”
How can I get involved?
Participating labs are asked to complete an online workbook that enables them to assess how individual items contribute to their carbon footprint in a thorough, wide-ranging and organised manner.
The LEAF project is being re-launched soon for 2022 so look out for the advertising and, when it appears, please get in touch with Hari Haren and Rhea Samra who can provide you with the following information to get your lab set up.
- Provide the LEAF user guide to help you create an account and provide a step-by-step guide on how to register your lab
- Provide access to the online portal
- Add you to the College LEAF Teams group, which has a toolkit of materials and a demonstration recording on how to use the online portal.
Please help us by encouraging your labs to take part so that we can help Imperial reach its sustainability and net zero carbon targets.