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Reducing carbon emissions from research

How you can reduce the carbon emissions from the main generators of travel, energy use, and from the materials and equipment that we use.

As a university, carbon emissions associated with the way we travel and the products we buy account for more than 75% of our overall carbon footprint, and we have committed to at least cutting this by half by 2030.

LEAF Sustainable Labs programme

LEAF is short for the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework and is a standard for sustainable laboratory operations. Through this programme, at University of Bath, we are improving the sustainability and efficiency of laboratories as part of our commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of our research.

LEAF provides a framework of actions that lab users can take to save plastics, water, energy, and other resources. By taking part in the programme, laboratories will reduce their carbon emissions and create an environment that continues to support research quality. The LEAF workbook includes calculators which help users to estimate and understand the impact of changes they’re making in both financial and carbon terms. Read about LEAF and how you can get your lab involved.

Reducing emissions from travel

Travel to undertake fieldwork, recruit researchers and disseminate research results is crucial for research and to maximise impact. It also presents a significant contributor to carbon emissions associated with research and consideration should therefore be given as to whether the same effect can be achieved without the travel to minimise emissions.

You can reduce travel carbon emissions by:

  • Prioritising online rather than physical meetings
  • Combining multiple research trips, and with other trip types
  • Consolidating meetings to reduce journeys
  • Reducing the number of people travelling
  • Agreeing a meeting place that allows the largest number of attendees to avoid flying

Where travel is still deemed necessary, consideration must be given to the carbon impact of potential options prior to booking and, as specified in the University’s Travel and Expenses policy, this should be considered with equal weighting alongside other factors, with the lowest carbon method being the default choice. In practice, this means that in many cases, land-based travel rather than flying is the default option (the policy provides an exceptions mechanism for those people for whom this will not be possible). Choosing lower carbon travel options does not necessarily cost more or take more time and can provide additional benefits.

Work outside Europe will often require air travel and here you can still reduce carbon emissions. International business class flights increase the emissions from your journey by 190% compared to economy (source UK BEIS/DEFRA 2020 emissions factors).

Many funders will fund low carbon travel options even if this is more expensive. If you are not sure whether this is the case, you could consider including a low carbon travel option in your proposal.

The Wellcome Trust requires all grant applicants to offset all research related travel carbon emissions as part of their grant funding conditions. Read our information and guidance about what’s included and how to approach it.

Reducing emissions from energy use

Conducting research can be energy intensive and laboratories typically consume 3-10 times more energy per square metre compared to typical academic or office spaces. For example:

  • fume cupboards can consume around the same amount of energy as three households annually which can be drastically reduced through efficient use
  • ultra-low temperature freezers should be used at the minimum required temperature; they consume up to 30% more energy at -80°C compared to -70°C
  • data storage, computer use and super computers can be highly demanding on energy use

Through LEAF, guidance is provided as to how laboratories can be optimised for energy efficiency including, for example, best practice for equipment usage (such as inventory systems and regular defrosting of freezers), laboratory setup suggestions to provide minimal heating and cooling requirements, and requirements to regularly check necessity of data and sample storage to clear out where suitable.

Reducing emissions from the materials and equipment we use and purchase

The materials and equipment that we purchase all have a carbon footprint of their own that constitutes the emissions generated to produce, transport and install a product (embodied carbon), as well as the additional carbon at the end of its life (decommissioning and disposal). You also need to consider the additional energy it will take to use the product (operational emissions).

When planning the equipment and materials you will need to undertake research, consideration should be given to how you can reduce these emissions in line with our Net Zero ambitions.

Space utilisation, sharing and planning in laboratories and across the University should be optimised to avoid purchasing equipment and materials unnecessarily, to minimise energy consumption, and reduce resource-intensive building and refurbishment projects.


You can reduce equipment carbon emissions by:

  • using existing equipment from within the university, locally or regionally
  • refurbishing, repairing or upgrading existing equipment
  • purchasing equipment (if still necessary) with carbon considerations as part of the tender or procurement request

Using existing equipment

To discuss what equipment is available internally, email the Research Infrastructure and Facilities Team at

Purchasing new equipment

You can embed carbon considerations into any tender or procurement request. The Procurement Team are already implementing this and will be able to assist you.

Priority carbon considerations for new purchases

Energy efficiency

Using a low amount of energy to operate.


This will avoid equipment becoming obsolete if broken.

Disposal options

This can be for new equipment at end of life or any redundant equipment that your purchase is replacing. How can you re-use or dispose of these in a low carbon way?

Sharing equipment

Sharing can reduce purchases across the region and contribute to carbon reduction. Are there limitations on how equipment can be shared? For example, if a piece of equipment cannot be moved once installed then it’s location should be selected to enable access by other researchers. Many funders are now requiring this, and this consideration would therefore also greatly strengthen a funding proposal.

Low embodied emissions

These are produced in the extraction of raw materials, manufacture, production, transportation, installation, and end of life disposal. With many factors to consider and uneven progress across supply chains (some suppliers are not yet calculating or publishing their carbon footprints), you can consider, for example reducing transport emissions by selecting a local manufacturer. The end-of-life emissions should be considered too.

Research funders are increasingly requiring actions to be taken by researchers that address the above questions. For example, The Medical Research Council (MRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) equipment calls specifically include sections on environmental sustainability, and when applying for EPSRC research funding, it is possible to include costs for access to a number of national and international facilities provided by or supported by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) (guidance: find an EPSRC facility or resource).


Our community is supportive of the University changing the way we do business and shifting to sustainable purchasing. To support changes in this area through your research, you can:

  • buy less – have you explored options to source materials internally or to share un-needed materials with others within the University, locally or regionally?
  • buy better – consideration should be given to the embodied emissions of a product and what measures you can take to reduce this. As well as buying more locally, you may be able to bulk order with other researchers to reduce transportation, for example.
  • avoid single-use items and if you cannot eliminate them entirely, can they be recycled? If there are not currently systems in place in your laboratory, could there be?
  • re-use items wherever possible – if there are not currently systems in place in your laboratory, could there be?
  • to ensure that any procured materials address these questions, you can embed carbon considerations into any tender or procurement request - the Procurement Team are already implementing this and will be able to assist you

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