Under the 'People' category, an in-person induction on sustainable practices is a prerequisite to working in the UCL Physical Chemistry Lab. The technical team attend monthly department-organised sustainability meetings where best practice and resources are shared. We actively encourage undergraduate students to adopt sustainable practices. Posters of waste streams and Green Chemistry have been produced and displayed around the chemistry labs, guiding students to use the sustainable practices described. After all, they will be the chemists of the future. I also prioritise suppliers who use sustainable packaging and recycle chemical containers, often challenging them to adopt sustainable practice.
'Sample and Chemical Management' regarding a sustainability gold standard (LEAF) award: I keep a local chemical inventory that is audited, annually checking labels and condition of the chemicals. All chemicals are catalogued with a specific code per item and the departmental Quartzy list updated once the audit is completed. Redundant chemicals identified are offered to the rest of the department. There is also a practice of repurposing excess solutions, any surplus acid, bases or general solutions are diluted down or concentrated up for use in another experiment or for cleaning instead of being disposed. A back up cold storage was sourced should our fridge fail, minimising potential degradation of chemicals.
Equipment is turned off immediately when not in use reducing energy usage and phantom power draw while maximising the lifetime of the equipment. Surplus and redundant equipment is recycled via Warp It Ltd. An example of this was finding a new ‘home’ for redundant water purifying cartridges and acquiring vial trays for teaching. Outside of teaching term, specialist equipment like potentiostats, conductivity meters and spectrophotometers etc are available for research staff to borrow through our lab’s loans system.
For the ‘Ventilation’ category, the fume cupboards are serviced annually, the phase velocity is set to 0.4 m/s and the sashes are always closed when not in use. Any malfunction that affects the ventilation or services in the lab is immediately reported to estates. Vacuum pumps and inhouse vacuum are always used with a -78˚cold trap to condense any volatile vapours. The acetone used in the foam Dewars is recycled for future use in cold traps.
With the actions taken above I hope to be successful in my application for the gold LEAF award. I have also volunteered to deliver some LEAF peer auditing of labs which will allow the community to share best practice and learn from one another. Hopefully, the LEAF programme will encourage more labs to engage with sustainable practices and make their contribution towards a greener environment.