The NTDC and LEAF (Laboratory Assessment Efficiency Framework) have collaborated on a pilot project with several universities across the country to improve sustainability in technical areas. Manchester Metropolitan University is one of the key institutes involved with the pilot project. In this article, the Technical Services team detail their sustainability journey.
Manchester Metropolitan University is ranked number one in the People and Planet University League 2021, recognising the University’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions, working towards a zero-carbon future and putting sustainability at the heart of the University, proudly continuing our incredible run.
To support the University’s wider sustainable strategy, in 2021 an ‘Environmental and
Sustainability engagement programme’ was integrated throughout Technical Services. The
programme created opportunities for Technicians to foster sustainable and environmental
knowledge and share sustainability best practice and achievements.
Technical Services are a team of 200 highly trained, highly qualified Professional Services
staff, who work in specialist areas such as laboratories, workshops, theatres, and studios –
providing support to students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) and researchers. Our technicians were engaged with sustainable practices at varying levels and had an appetite
to increase their development.
The new programme of opportunities complemented our existing commitment to deliver
LEAF, an initiative that focuses on actions relating to waste, travel, energy, water,
procurement, and research quality in laboratories. These laboratories can potentially use 5
to 10 times more energy per square metre than other workspaces. The framework is led by
University College London and was piloted nationwide by 23 institutions, of which
Manchester Metropolitan University was one. We have now enrolled in the full programme
since its launch in February 2021. Labs receive awards in the form of a Bronze, Silver, or
Gold accreditation, dependant on actions undertaken within the workspaces.
A committee of technicians frequently meet to lead the delivery of LEAF within Technical
Services. We are delighted that 12 of our laboratory spaces that cover life and cellular
sciences and education have achieved a Bronze level accreditation. The committee has
also support student-led internships and placements, where the LEAF framework had been
used as a learning tool to increase students’ sustainable skills development.
We are working closely with University Colleague London to introduce the LEAF initiative
into space types currently not covered by the framework. For Manchester Metropolitan
University these include: PrintCity (3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing), Fashion & Textiles (Fashion, Technology & Innovation), Makers spaces (Ceramics, Glass, Plaster, Digital, Print, Wood & Metal) and the new University’s Greenhouses.
“It’s been truly fantastic working with Manchester Metropolitan University. They were
integral in piloting LEAF, and are at the forefront for integrating sustainability throughout the institution. The engagement by the technical community has been really impressive. I’m
really looking forward to what comes next.”
– Martin Farley, Sustainable Laboratory Advisor, University College London
In addition to LEAF, we shared the opportunity for technicians to participate in the
University’s Green Gown award-winning Carbon Literacy training programme (a total of 70
technicians out of a team of 225 participated) encouraging colleagues to revaluate
behaviours and to consider ways in which carbon emissions can be reduced at work and at
home. A bespoke format of the training for managers was offered as part of the learning
Technicians are integral to several sustainability projects including PrintCity who are
delivering TRANSFORM-CE, a €9.6 million project which is pushing the boundaries of
research and innovation in recycling.
The projects aims are to divert thousands of tonnes of waste from landfills across North West
Europe but also create new economic demand for the uptake of recycled plastic materials
by businesses, both locally and further afield. Our food and nutrition technicians, who
worked with students to develop Grow Café and its meat-free offerings on-campus and our
Fashion & Textiles team implemented recycle, re-use and re-purpose fabric and paper hubs
Other activities included a Technical Services sustainability led presentation at the “Institute
of Science & Technology Conference” creating a new sustainability network “Sustain” (the network developed an online free-cycle to eliminate waste, and share products across the
department), growing our sustainability digital communications (website, e-newsletters and
social media platforms) and introducing a Sustainability award to our Technical Services
Conference, which was awarded this year to the technical services “Resource Centre” which
put into place sustainable practises following an in-depth audit of their operations.