Martin Farley's sustainable and safe top tips for returning to the lab - Lab Innovations UK

Martin Farley’s sustainable and safe top tips for returning to the lab

This July, many lab professionals will be returning to their labs. So we caught up with Martin Farley, Sustainable Labs Advisor from University College London, to find out about his tips on a safe and sustainable return to the lab.

What are your sustainable and safe top tips for lab professionals returning to work?

Recently I posted my top 6 tips on this which are:

1. Regular soap and water are extremely effective in removing COVID – you don’t need to buy additional cleaning products or antivirals

2. Hazardous waste bins should only be used if you are 100% certain the waste is contaminated with COVID-19

3. You don’t need to double bag waste bins, unless one has broken

Martin Farley Sustainable UCL

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4.Waste from routine cleaning and used face coverings can be disposed of using the general waste route (black bins/bags)

5. Washing hands correctly is extremely effective, and gloves should only be worn when absolutely necessary

6. Turn off the tap while washing your hands, and use elbows if possible, to turn the water on/off during rinsing

Since writing this, Alexandre Jesus, a colleague from the IMM in Lisbon, suggested that lab workers try and identify a single space where they can work solo, as to reduce the required amount of decontaminations required. I referenced the above points in part from some NHS guidance on waste in their facilities, where Covid-19 is likely more prevalent than in our labs. I wrote these out as I found there was a lot of guidance that was heavy on the safety-side coming out, but maybe not quite balanced with sustainability considerations. This is in recognition that utilizing immense volumes of single-use items and strong cleaning products aren’t without their negative impacts!

Tell us about the initiative behind the LEAF programme

The LEAF programme has been developed by Sustainable UCL, and is a standard in sustainable laboratories. It makes improving lab sustainability easy and straightforward. It contains criteria, as well as calculators which allow users to actually get an idea of the carbon savings they’re achieving in the lab. LEAF is supported by the NTDC (national technician development centre) as it facilitates technicians developing their sustainability skillsets. It’s also supported by UKRN (UK reproducibility network) as it can help drive research quality. 

How can new institutions take part in the programme

LEAF will be widely available online from this Autumn. If anyone wants to take part, please get in touch with us at Sustainable UCL. We can run a webinar to show you the programme. In the immediate term, I’d recommend starting local ‘sustainable lab’ or ‘green lab’ groups. There’s strength in numbers! And groups provide continuity as folks come and go.

How would you encourage individual researchers to rethink their practices, to help them adhere to sustainable best practice? 

To start, get a group together and have a look at LEAF. We’ve put in all the good practice we can. If people want technical advice, we’ve produced some guides which are widely available (Sustainable Equipment and Lab Consumables Guides).

Otherwise I always ask folks is there something in particular to sustainability in your lab that frustrates you, or makes you angry? Use that energy to address it!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career

You don’t need to become a professional musician if you want to keep playing music!

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