Sustainability Architect update: Rob

So far my role as a sustainability architect has been really varied and exciting! Together with Josh West (Sustainability Projects Assistant) I have been attempting to build sustainability into laboratory inductions. We have produced a ‘best practice’ checklist that will be circulated to labs soon, allowing for a reference point for sustainability in labs.

I have been involved in an equipment replacement scheme, jointly working between sustainability and the energy department, to replace energy intensive equipment such as drying cabinets and ovens. I have been involved in the data collection process through distributing plug in energy monitors that monitor energy intensive equipment. So far we’ve had a massive response from labs across the University, with multiple schools requesting energy monitors for their equipment. In turn we have collated a good dataset and hopefully, after I have finished the analysis, there will be some beneficial replacements taking place which will result in lower energy consumptions.

A real highlight so far was getting the chance to present at the University of Leeds Student Sustainability Conference, a interesting event with some brilliant ideas. Look out for the conference in 2019! Moving forwards, in 2018 I am keen to focus on getting more student engagement within laboratories (if anyone reading this wants to get in touch please email me!). We will also be focusing on reducing water consumption in labs. 

If you want to get in touch about any of the above please drop me an email – wsdrgi@leeds.ac.uk

Sustainability Architect update: Charlotte

My main deliverables as Student Sustainability Architect have been to conduct a comprehensive review of all the Great Food at Leeds food packaging to ensure that the Catering Services are implementing best practice within the business. Packaging, although essential for food hygiene, has a lot of implications, from its manufacture and the usability, to how it is finally disposed of or reused. It is important to consider these challenges and implications when assessing new packaging types!

Since the publication of the 25 Year Environment Plan by the current UK government, there has been a nationwide surge to reduce plastic-use and to create radical changes in packaging. I have conducted research on the wide variety of packaging types currently in use to see what can be swapped out for more sustainable options, or eliminated completely. I have enjoyed this research, and learnt a lot about the material components and their potential negative impacts. At present, I am currently conducting life-cycle analyses of the types of products used to aid recommendations to the University.

A key part of my job here is to propose solutions which are applicable to the business and can be a real game-changer. Solutions I’ve looked at include; deposit-return-schemes (DRS) and KeepCup libraries. DRS are where consumers pay a small sum (let’s say 10p) on a purchase which is then refunded when they return the item. In the UK, recycling has fallen to 44%, however the Campaign to Protect Rural England estimates that recycling rates would increase up to 98% if we have DRS in place.

Unfortunately there are no DRS machines currently on the market in the UK. To overcome this, I’ve been scoping out international companies with the expertise in this field to building relationships and scope possible future procurement opportunities.

Selling KeepCup’s at the University has been a great success, with over 600 units sold in the first few months of the initiatives launch. Despite this surge around campus, there are some things that could aid in increasing reusable use, such as a KeepCup borrowing scheme for when people may forget to bring theirs into uni. I’m still working on the logistics of how this could work across the cafes and eateries on campus, but hopes are this might end the need to buy a hot drink in a disposable cup!

The next few months will see the launch of the Sustainability Market, which will take place on the 30th of April (watch this space!). This will be an opportunity to chat with students, staff and visitors on what the Sustainability Service are working on around food waste and other initiatives. We want to hear YOUR thoughts of on food packaging and what you think should be a priority. Also, keep an eye out for more questionnaires and surveys dotted around cafes on campus, a great opportunity for you to voice your opinion on what needs to be done to reduce food waste and improve packaging!

If you want to get in touch about any of the above please drop me an email – ee14cd@leeds.ac.uk

The Bee Network – what a buzzing opportunity!

Bees, I have always had a soft spot for them. I was that weird fearless child who would push past my screaming mother with a glass and card to save that panicked little bee who just couldn’t figure out why the window wasn’t a passageway to the outside world again. From a very young age, I have always respected animals and found them absolutely fascinating.

As a recent Zoology graduate from the University of Leeds, I learnt even more about the importance of bees, not only for the maintenance of our ecosystems, but also to provide us with food via crop pollination. It wasn’t until I was lectured by an academic here that I heard about the three hives on campus and I knew I wanted to be involved with the Beekeeping Network as soon as possible. Protecting our bees is so important, especially as their population numbers are crashing due to increased urbanisation, pesticide use and introduced disease. Beekeeping benefits our bees by helping to re-establish their colonies and can improve local pollinator rates which in turn has a huge positive impact on your “feeling sorry itself” garden. We of course get a taste of locally sourced honey which is special in itself, and this of course reduces the demand for imported stock that has travelled a long distance, therefore cutting back on carbon emission impacts. There really wasn’t any reason why I didn’t want to sign up!

The first meeting took place in February where I was met with a lot of friendly faces including Jen Dyer. It was rather wonderful being in a room full of people who all wanted to be a part of something that benefited our bees as well as themselves. A few slides were presented to us that gave an overview of the colony structure and included some photographs of the hives from previous years. I never actually realised how many bees can fit inside a hive, it’s madness! A virtual hive was used during this session instead of a real one as the colder months leave the bees feeling very sleepy and inactive. This virtual hive wasn’t the most techy, yet still very informative. It consisted of a wooden box that contained several sliding panels with various pictures of the hexagonal structures inside. We were asked to identify which hexagonal cell contained honey, wax, eggs or diseases such as chalkbrood, a fungal disease that attacks the eggs and larvae. This triggered a lot of discussion and interaction which was fantastic as we were all able to learn from each other. We were informed that with the following months comes the buzzing activity and honey harvesting, so bring on the warmer weather!

I have now signed up to the Beekeeping Network newsletter and avidly follow their Facebook page which provides activity updates and general bee news. Feel free to contact Jen Dyer at j.dyer@leeds.ac.uk if you wish to find out more! It’s time to save our bees!

Written by Emily Rampling (Administration Assistant – SCAPE)

Progressing Campus Sustainability: The University of Leeds joins the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN)

The University of Leeds has joined the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN), a global network of universities committed to holistically integrating sustainability into campus operations, research and teaching.

“The University of Leeds is proud to be an international university which has sustainability at the heart of what we do. Being part of the ISCN will allow us to further enhance our dialogue and knowledge about best practice in sustainability and to be part of a global education community working to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds

The International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) provides a global forum to support leading colleges, universities, and corporate campuses in the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices for achieving sustainable campus operations and integrating sustainability in research and teaching.

In 2009, the ISCN partnered with the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), a World Economic Forum initiative bringing together the heads of 26 top global universities, to develop the Sustainable Campus Charter, which organizes campus sustainability into 3 core principles, requires a commitment at the highest level of the institution, and includes annual reporting on sustainability goals, initiatives, and performance.

To date, over 90 Members represent top-tier colleges and universities from over 30 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

“We are delighted to welcome The University of Leeds into the ISCN and look forward to providing a platform for international value exchange and partnership on campus sustainability,” says Bernd Kasemir, Secretary of the ISCN Board.

For more information on the ISCN, please visit: http://www.international-sustainable-campus-network.org