Jake’s Work Experience

Hi I’m Jake, and I have been working with the sustainability team over the past week. The team has given me lots to do over the time I have been with them and I have enjoyed every moment.

On my first day handshakes where given out as I was introduced to the every member of the sustainability team. I was then introduced to my first piece of work, biodiversity measuring. In preparation, I was given a map with areas of habitat marked out on it and a trundle wheel. I then used the map to locate specific sections of habitat, and the wheel to measure the sides of these sections, calculating the total area. The measuring was all done outside and on foot, luckily it was a sunny day!

After I had done some biodiversity measuring I was off to St George’s fields to meet another colleague, Mike, who was waiting with a beekeeper suit, of which I was given to wear. We were going to check on two types of bee hives that are found in there; a top bar and a national bee hive. I was able to help with the check by lifting one of the frames out and seeing whether the bees were healthy.

At the end of the day I was in the office, where I was given the responsibility to look and comment on the, soon to be live, Sustainable Training Module, which will be used to help people understand what sustainability is and what it means at the University.

The next day I was introduced to the ins and outs of the Living Lab programme, and asked to research how other universities are applying this concept. I then finished of the day with some more biodiversity measuring, of which all the data was successfully finished on that day!

On Monday, I was given a tour of the university and some of its labs which gave me an understanding of the large number that are available at the University. The rest of the day was spent researching and gaining more information on sustainability actions within labs.

On Tuesday morning, I helped conduct an i-Trees survey which is a Living Lab project looking to map all the tress on campus and their ecological and econimcal benefits. The survey I was part of involved determining the name (genus and species) of each tree being recorded as well as calculating the height, circumference of the trunk, how much light reaches the leaves of the tree, and the size of each canopy cover.

Aminah’s Work Experience

Hi, I’m Aminah and after about 6 weeks, I will be in year 11 for my final year of my GCSE’s at Roundhay High School. I have been here with the sustainability team for 2 weeks of work experience, and I’m so glad I have! The team looked after me really well, on top of giving me lots to do and learn. This whole experience has given me a much better understanding of what subjects I may pursue as I move onto A-level, because I can now link the subjects with degrees I learned about, that I may want to do.

On my first day (Monday), I got a huge tour of the University campus, which I’m really grateful for because if not I would have got lost countless times during these two weeks. It was also really interesting to see all of the different schools, and how much variety there is with degrees, that I before was oblivious about.

Tuesday was especially good, because a free breakfast was served due to 4th July, along with its supposed theme, which made me feel extremely welcomed. During the rest of the day, I was in a laboratory for the first time. Working with Jane-Marie, who is a laboratory manager in the School of Earth and Environment, where I was setting up for the Environmental Science Academy field trip about water ecology for the next day, and getting a head start with all I was to do the following day. This was incredible, and probably the day I learned the most.

The Wednesday and Thursday of my first week, was probably the highlight of my work experience. I absolutely loved being out on the field and discovering things for myself, and meeting new people. On the Thursday I was actually volunteering on the trip as supposed to the day before where I was taking part. Volunteering gave me a responsibility I wouldn’t usually carry, but did inspire me to volunteer more when I can, because I never knew how much I enjoyed it until then. I also think I will defiantly keep my eye out for more field trips in the future to get involved in, because it’s an amazing opportunity that I’ll kick myself if I miss.

To finish up my first week, I mainly stayed with the sustainability team, doing an online research task, where I learned about how other universities are tackling issues of laboratory sustainability, compared to the University of Leeds, and then using this information to suggest improvements to the sustainability team.

Overall my first week was super enriching for me with new experiences and information, and I would do it all again if I could. I never knew the extent of how interesting and engaging sustainability and the Earth & Environment subjects could be until now.

On the Wednesday of my second week I did some tree surveying as part of a research project on campus, where as a group we went out and recorded data about the trees in St. George’s field. We also tried identifying what they were, however it was quite tricky because there are so many variations of the same tree. It was a new experience for me and I’m glad I did it because it was a nice break, and the weather was lovely too.

For the other four days I stayed in the office and continued to develop on the research tasks and gather as much information as I could. I also attended a sustainability meeting. I think it was important for me to experience what a work environment was like, and I’m glad I have because I’ve come to find it’s not as daunting as I thought it was, and for the record…way better than school!

To conclude, my whole work experience has been phenomenal, thanks to the whole sustainability team, and I wish you all the best. A special thanks to Claire Bastin for offering me to come in the first place, I enjoyed it immensely, and I hope other work experience students share the same extraordinary experiences as I did.

Goodbye from this year’s Student Architects – Emma

I have been lucky enough to be one of the University’s Sustainability Architects this year. This opportunity has allowed me to gain a greater insight into the sustainability initiatives at the University, supporting projects with like-minded people, all from different backgrounds but with the same passion and desire to find sustainable solutions to the many challenges we face.

This experience has allowed me to further my knowledge within sustainability and develop valuable professional skills and experience. I found working as a close team and developing ideas together very successful. Team meetings were one of my favorite elements of the role which were always engaging and motivating (a refreshing break from studying!). One of the key things I learnt was that sustainability is a massive challenge within Universities, but I was overwhelmed to see and be involved in the efforts and the progress here at the University of Leeds.

One of my core projects throughout the year, was promoting and encouraging sustainable dissertations to students. This is an area in which I feel there is great scope within the University, and I am excited to see this develop further with some of the ideas we have been working on. One of the suggestions is to create a sustainable dissertation archive on our website. The archive would have a bank of past student’s sustainable dissertations which others could use to gain inspiration and ideas, and contacts for any further support.

The Student Conference on Sustainable Futures is also something I would promote to anyone looking for dissertation inspiration. Sustainable dissertations are something I have become very interested in over the past two years. I believe it is a great opportunity to invest a long period of time into exploring something that can significantly benefit society in some form. I chose to produce a sustainability themed dissertation based on a personal interest and a desire to contribute to sustainability regarding the future of textiles. My research has benefited me as an individual and significantly changed my process as a designer which has opened up a realm of new opportunities for me. By seeking sustainable alternatives, I have found more advanced solutions and more environmentally friendly ways of working. My passion is finding sustainable alternatives to pigments or dyes in coloring textiles, through bio-mimicry (the imitation of nature). I plan to keep researching within this area with the desire of making this a more commercial coloration process. One of the best things I have learnt and been inspired by during my role and my research is that you don’t have to study a directly sustainable degree, everyone can be sustainable and find more sustainable (and more exciting) ways of working within their discipline.

My role as an architect and working with the sustainability team really helped me develop my ideas and gain confidence in presenting my research. I had the opportunity to present my research at the Sustainable Futures Conference which was extremely successful and really built my confidence with public speaking. The conference is a great networking opportunity which I encourage everyone to get involved with.

I am privileged to have been a part of the team for the past year and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The sustainability service has an exciting future ahead and I believe it is one of the most valuable services within the University. Many thanks to everyone in the team who has encouraged, supported and inspired my sustainable journey. The experience has been a pivotal step in preparation for my career as a designer, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.

To end on the most valuable thing I have learnt throughout the year; sustainability brings benefit not sacrifice.

– Emma

Goodbye from this year’s Student Architects – Matt

My time as a Student Sustainability Architect is coming to an end and it seems odd to be reflecting on this year as it’s flown by so quickly!

My primary responsibility for the year was to increase the integration of sustainability in dissertations – in line with the University’s concept of a ‘living lab’ and the Sustainability Strategy theme of Building Knowledge and Capacity. This materialised in the form of the ‘Building Knowledge and Capacity Student Award‘, which rewards students for their brilliant and innovative dissertations in the field of sustainability. I’m thrilled to have been a part of setting this up and hope that, as it grows and develops, students from disciplines that are on the peripheries of the sustainability agenda are encouraged to contribute.

The inaugural Student Conference on Sustainable Futures in February has to be my highlight from this year. It was such a vibrant and engaging day that I am confident will continue to be hugely successful in the coming years – especially if the amazing catering carries on!

The last things to do are to thank the team at the University’s Sustainability Service – particularly Josh and Claire, whose enthusiasm and tireless work has made it a joy to work with – and to say good luck to next year’s Architects who I’m sure will continue to do great work and be agents for change.

– Matt

Creating Sustainable Futures Module – Key Findings 2017

The award-winning Creating Sustainable Futures (CSF) Discovery Theme is a collection of optional curricular modules that students can take alongside their degree subject to broaden their knowledge of the social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of sustainability.

Each year, students taking the ‘Introduction to Creating Sustainable Futures’ module apply what they have been learning to real world use, collecting sustainability data from across campus as part of their practical group work assessment.

Back in October and March, 57 students undertook a ‘travel’, ‘waste’, ‘energy’, ‘Fairtrade’ or ‘community’ themed project over the course of a week. From assessing the University’s bicycle storage capacities and route accessibility, to gaining a better understanding of people’s perceptions of the University’s positive and negative impacts on society, teams collected data from all corners of campus, capturing a snapshot review of sustainability at Leeds.

The data collected is fed back to the University Sustainability team to help create a timeline of recordings and supplement other audits that take place throughout the year. Student’s data collections not only provide hands-on experience of sustainability in practice, allowing them to put their understanding of issues into context, but also present the University with extremely useful information on current sustainability trends.
Some key findings from semester two’s groups included;

  • Of the 269 empty teaching and communal spaces that were assessed as part of the Energy Project, 47% of them had their lights switched on when not in use.
  • 2/3 of the 75 people surveyed as part of the Fairtrade project were unaware that the University of Leeds is a Fairtrade institution, but half were recorded as understanding the importance of supporting Fairtrade.
  • For the Waste project, 86 recycle bin opportunities and their locations were recorded across the 8 buildings that were audited across campus.
  • 89% of respondents to the Community project questionnaire agreed that Leeds’ international research contribution has a significant positive impact on society.

This module is just one of the ways we are helping deliver our Sustainability Strategy commitments of integrating sustainability into student learning. We intend to further increase the take-up of the Creating Sustainable Futures modules by students from all disciplines, helping them to understand the fundamentals of sustainability and how it applies to their future careers.

Student Conference on Sustainable Futures 2017

On Friday 3rd February 2017, The University of Leeds hosted its first Student Conference on Sustainable Futures – Sustainable Perspectives on Future Challenges. The event highlighted the rich diversity of sustainability research and curricular projects, from students at all levels, across all disciplines.
With over 100 delegates and 40 student presenters representing every faculty, the day was filled with a medley of posters, talks and conversation workshops covering such topics as; using biomimicry to reduce the need for unsustainable textile dyes, integrating low carbon energy solutions for remote rural areas, analysing extinction rates in marine micro-organisms, and tackling social inequalities in accessing higher education.
To open the event Professor Tom Ward – Deputy Vice Chancellor for Student Education, delivered an inspiring introduction to the importance of embedding sustainability at Leeds and its place in everyone’s lives. He commented –
“This agenda will shape your future, be part of the sustainability society.”

Following a quick coffee and with twitter hashtags at the ready, attendees made their way to Parkinson Court where student’s posters, art pieces, and digital presentations were being displayed. It was amazing! Engineers were talking with artists, biologists  conversing with sociologists, business students debating with geographers. The room was echoing with collaborative discussions.
The exhibition was open all day, drawing in passer-bys with photos of Antarctic expeditions, videos of magnified crystals depicting Earth’s finite resources, and posters detailing some of the future global challenges we face.

A busy hour of oral presentations was next on the agenda, kicking off with sessions covering aspects of sustainability within Cities, Communication, Society, and Biodiversity. Ample time for questions from the audience allowed discussions to breathe and gave presenters an insight into the minds of non-specialists on their subject.

A vegetarian feast of locally sourced, low carbon grub provided by Great Food at Leeds, awaited the rumbling stomachs of the conference crowd. The delicious spread hit the spot and attracted hugely positive feedback (the brie and cranberry wontons went down a treat!)

Conversation sessions brought an interactive element to the day, with ‘Re(act) on Sustainability’ getting people out of their chairs and expressing the complexities of sustainable behaviors through performance art. Down the hallway, the ‘Community engagement within the curriculum’ workshop explored the benefits and challenges of sustainability in the community and peoples thoughts on how this can be expanded.

Afternoon oral sessions continued with familiar themes of Communication, and Society, but were also joined by Innovation and Technology, Food and Agriculture, and Governance and Policy. Such varying and fascinating presentations saw people struggling to decide which to attend! From the role of sustainable menstrual products for female empowerment, to present challenges in connecting Indian farmers, and exploring young consumers perceptions of fast fashion.

The awards ceremony, to celebrate the exemplary posters submitted to the conference, brought the day to a close. Head of Sustainability at the University of Leeds, Dr. Louise Ellis, gave a roundup of the fantastic work from the day and praised the diversity and delivery of student’s projects.

Professor Lisa Roberts – Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation lead the awards ceremony. Winners and highly recommended awards went to:

Most Original Concept
Highly Commended
Mary Loveday Edwards

‘The Use of Nostalgia at the Ideation Stage of Permaculture Design’
Winner
Clare Martynski

‘The Role of Performance and Live Art in Transforming World views’

Most Effective Visuals
Highly Commended
Katie Thomas

‘People and Nature In Harmony? Understanding a Consumer Ethical Dilemma’
Winner
Ana Perez
‘What We Know Affects What We Do – Exploring Fashion Sustainability and its Perception by Young Consumers’
Best Conference Poster
Highly Commended
Vishnu Sunil Kumar

‘To Tree or Not to Tree? Assessing Carbon Stock Distribution Along an Altitudinal Gradient in the Western Ghats’
Winner
Rizwana Alam 

‘The Governance of Urban Green Spaces: Challenges and a Way Forward to Sustainable Development’

Lisa concluded with a call to action to all who attended the conference, encouraging collaborative discussions, and to keep conversations in the fore regarding how research at Leeds must continue to address the key social, economic and environmental challenges of our time.

A huge thank you to all who were a part of the day. It was fantastic to see such a diverse turn out. We already looking forward to next year!

For more information on the Student Conference on Sustainable Futures, including posters and highlights of the day, please CLICK HERE

Sustainability Architect Spring Update – Amy

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Since meeting with several engagement coordinators, student enhancement officers and faculty education service managers I have been able to better understand how a Sustainability Rep would fit into different faculties across the University. It has allowed me to grasp an idea of what is required of me, as a Sustainability Architect, for the role to be taken seriously within each faculty. Therefore, over the next couple of weeks I am working towards completing a draft profile for the Sustainability Rep position as well as researching how to attain HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Record) accreditation for the role .

Additionally, having been liaising with the Sustainability Service’s Projects Officer, Amanda, and Manager, Claire, in looking into the possibility of of setting up a new community initiative, loosely based around a mentoring, and will aim to increase student engagement within the Leeds community and better integrate students with local residents. I look forward to seeing where this will lead!

Sustainability Architect Spring Update – Will

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During my time as a student architect, I have been working on trying to increase the recycling rate at University ran student halls of residence. Currently, the recycling rate at some student halls is only 20%, which falls well below the UK average household recycling rate of 45%. Initially, I  hoped to achieve an increase in participation of recycling through making the Sustainability Service’s A-Z Recycling Guide available on the University of Leeds App, and through introducing food waste bins. The concept of incorporating the recycling guide into the app has now developed to the stage where the Service is drafting up a separate app specifically to do with Sustainability at Leeds, which will lead to a wider outreach of sustainability related issues. However, the idea to introduce food waste bins across all residencies has been tabled for the time being due to resource constraints. On the other hand, some of the green reps have taken it upon themselves to trial the use of food waste bins in their halls of residence in a couple of flats. In the coming weeks I will be getting involved in the ‘Leave Leeds Tidy’ campaign, acting as a student representative for the Sustainability Service. This initiative does fantastic work in finding a use for many of the items that get left behind at the end of the year.

Sustainability Architect Spring Update – Ileyas

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My name is Ileyas and I am one of the four Sustainability Architects this year. I am a second year Politics student, so naturally my interest is in democracy and other political concepts. As a result, my aim at the beginning of the role was to explore ways in which I can fuse my area of interest with the need to embed sustainability in the University’s student population. After liaising with Claire, the sustainability manager, we agreed that my key objective would be to embed sustainability through encouraging higher student participation in democratic initiatives, such as voting in local elections and campus-wide elections.

In my action plan, my main aim is to create an event for like-minded individuals who have an interest in a variety of issues, be it democracy, sustainability or just people who want to have a positive influence on our community. This forum would not only be for students at the University of Leeds, but also encompass the community in which our University is apart of. Other angles from which I hope to achieve my objective, involves working in collaboration with LUU on their variety of events focusing on the upcoming EU referendum, and using that opportunity to steer students towards sustainability and the ways in which politics and sustainability are interlinked.

If you haven’t registered to vote for the EU referendum yet, follow this link!

Sustainable Labs Working Group Returns!

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After a longer than average summer break the Sustainable Laboratories Working Group has made a comeback! Albeit with a less than impressive tan.

Chaired by Associate Professor Louise Jennings, the group brings together researchers, technicians, and services from across the university to discuss options to reduce the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts laboratories impose on both a local and national scale.

Previous successes to arise from the meetings include the Reuse@Leeds:labs network, allowing lab users to share chemicals, glassware and electrical equipment. They have have also enabled the refurbishment of 64 fume cupboards in the Priestly Chemistry Lab which saved 511 tonnes of carbon emissions over a 6 month period between 2013/14.

On Tuesday 23rd February the group congregated for the first time this year to share updates, both positive and negative, on sustainable working practices across laboratory spaces. We discussed management systems for chemical storage, such as LabCup, and how to achieve more effective equipment sharing and procurement strategies. We also looked at energy efficient practices for ultra-cold storage, water use, and fume cupboards. These will be some of the key issues as we try to create a more sustainable laboratory network.

Think about it, in an average week how much waste have you produced? Was it recyclable? How much energy did you use? Could you have used less? Have you shared any pieces of equipment?What equipment could you have shared?

The Working Group would like to engage as many lab users as possible in the sustainable laboratory network. Joshua West (Sustainability Service Projects Assistant) is on the lookout for enthusiastic technicians looking to bolster their public speaking skills and share their sustainable working practices at this spring’s Sustainability Forum (date TBC).

If this opportunity catches you eye or if you have any questions about the working group or the Sustainability Service in general then please contact Josh at j.west1@leeds.ac.uk