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Deborah Coles (Laboratory Manager / Chair of the Sustainable Labs Group) has been influential in embedding sustainability within labs at LSHTM, and has championed the roll out of more efficient working practises across the board within the University for over a decade. 


Many of the sustainability initiatives that are in place today were created by Deborah with the support of the wider Sustainable Labs Group, and LSHTM Sustainability Group, and have had significant environmental, financial, and social benefits.


Some case study examples can be found below: 


Laboratory equipment related purchases, over a certain value, are automatically flagged and require authorisation before being approved. This is enabling better sustainability guidance to be offered to potential buyers, covering aspects such as reuse (they might not know thier item might already exist elsewhere in the University), energy efficiency, whole life costing, and social impact. 

Freezer exchange

Cold storage is often one of the largest consumers of energy within a laboratory environment. It has therefore been a high priority when considering our actions reduce carbon emissions.

Deborah has been working to meet this challenge by organising a 2-for-1 freezer exchange initiative, where a new more efficient model would be purchased to replace two older freezers. This has resulted in a whopping 35 units being decommissioned since the scheme began, with energy savings of £14,000 per year.    

Swap shop

What started as a simple exchange of leftover goods in a room over Christmas, has now blossomed into a popular reuse SwapShop used by many laboratory staff and students at LSHTM to share unwanted equipment and resources. The scheme has now been in place for over 8 years and is estimated to have diverted at least 18 tonnes of material from being disposed as clinical waste, in addition to allowing the exchange of over £200,000 worth of materials.   

Swap shop.jpg

Waste management

Recycling in labs can be quite a delicate area, what with items having more likely contact with potentially hazardous contaminants. Clinical waste is notoriously difficult to target and as such, recycling efforts usually come up against a strong health and safety barrier - and for good reason! Nonetheless, Deborah has has some fantastic successes in improving waste management at LSHTM, in particular her pilot laboratory recycling scheme.  


On initial inspection, most lab areas only had general and clinical waste stream bins available. After adopting additional recycling facilities during a pilot period, coupled with awareness raising on what could and couldn't be put in this stream, the new bins have helped labs reduce an estimated 15 tonnes of waste that would have been sent for incineration. 

the laboratory sustainability group

To help embed these initiatives, and to inspire new ones, Deborah created the Laboratory Sustainability Group, which comprises of staff from all departments who have an interest in championing sustainability in their laboratory area. 

The group meets roughly three times a year, and covers many aspects of lab sustainability, including current challenges, and potential projects.

To date, some of the actions lead by the group have included; 

  • Wide communications to suppliers to reduce (or use more readily sustainable) packaging materials.

  • Arrangements for freezer maintenance to increase energy efficiency and lifespan of the equipment.

  • Disseminating best practise across their networks to increase sustainability engagement among fellow laboratory peers.

To see who your representative is from your department please click here

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