Welcome to our new Sustainability Architects!

We’d like to give a warm welcome to the newest members of the Sustainability Service, Emma Weaver, Matt Morton, Gloria Koepke and Mumo Mutulili.

EMMA

Hello, I’m Emma one of the 2016/17 sustainable architects. I am a fourth year Textile Design student here at the University of Leeds. I am a creative individual with an inherent desire to give something back. I have a fascination for nature and its capabilities and I’m extremely excited by the “sustainability era” that surrounds us. My role as an architect gives me an opportunity to promote my passion to other students within a variety of disciplines throughout the University.

One of my main desires this year is to integrate sustainable knowledge to students, but mostly my intentions are to promote the potential and benefits of sustainability within student educations. My number one aim this year is to promote that our sustainable future doesn’t have to involve sacrifice. Instead, we should be recognising and benefiting from the innovative, revolutionary potential it presents us with.

I am very much looking forward to the year ahead, and hope to influence and inspire other students to get involved and benefit from this fascinating field.


MATT

Hello! My name is Matt and I’m one of four Sustainability Architects for 2016/17. I’m currently studying for an MSc in Sustainability and Consultancy here at Leeds. Following my environmental undergraduate degree, I decided I wanted to further my understanding of sustainability and the shared value it has for both business and society.

My duty as an architect is to diffuse the principles of the sustainability strategy throughout the University. The aspect of my role that I’m especially looking forward to is the opportunity to engage with a variety of students and staff members to find out what sustainability means to them. In the coming year, I aim to make sustainability accessible and achievable for a wider audience by highlighting its interdisciplinary and holistic nature – allowing individuals to be aware of how it can align with their existing learning. Through this, I hope that I can encourage it to be an integral part of people’s consciousness and empower them to be agents for sustainable change in their professional and personal lives.


GLORIA

Hi, I am Gloria, one of the four new sustainability architects. I am currently studying Mathematics as an Erasmus exchange student for one year here at the University of Leeds. After three years of studying I am thrilled to be actively getting involved with the real-world challenge of sustainability. Aside from studying various algebraic structures and proofing endless theorems, I enjoy sourcing the tastiest non-dairy milk and vegan Mousse au Chocolate recipes, experimenting with DIY cosmetic products, and I have previously volunteered for the nationwide German organisation “Foodsharing”. Since 2012 this organisation has prevented approximately 6,692,466 kg of food from being thrown in the garbage by collecting it from supermarkets and distributing it to the public for free!

Amazing projects are coming up at the University in 2017, such as the Student Conference on Sustainable Futures in February. Over the next semester, I want to investigate the challenges and possibilities students have making sustainable choices on campus by conducting one-week-long self-experiments.

MUMO

Hello, I’m Mumo and I’m part of the 2016-2017 Sustainability Architect’s team at the University. I am currently in my final year of an integrated Civil Engineering Masters degree. As a student studying Civil and Structural engineering, sustainability is at the fore front of my daily activities as I am trained to design and operate systems that use energy and resources sustainably, at a rate that does not compromise the natural environment.

I strive to make daily contributions to building a sustainable society by sharing my knowledge with my course mates, housemates and my family, ensuring that we use resources efficiently and effectively. I keep up with current news and information being shared from different parts of the globe in order to understand multiple views to solve sustainability challenges.

My aim as a sustainability Architect is to increase student and wider community participation on this vital subject, particularly focusing my efforts on efficient and effective use of resources. I am very excited to share my ideas and get the student community involved in this journey!

 

Keep up to date with all our architects on our website and social media pages!

We are now a Bike Friendly Business!

We are pleased to announce that the University of Leeds are now officially a City Connect Silver Accredited Bike Friendly Business!

Here is some of the judges feedback following our application:

“Well done on achieving Silver accreditation on your first assessment. It’s clear that University of Leeds takes cycling seriously and that you are committed to the continued promotion of cycling to your staff and visitors alike.” City Connect, Bike Friendly Business Team.

So what is Bike Friendly Business Accreditation?

“Currently, the majority of commuter journeys across our region are made by car, whilst only 1.5% of commuter journeys are made by bike. We have a congested, overburdened road network and this contributes to some of the country’s poorest air quality, with local drivers spending on average one day a year sitting in traffic. CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Business accreditation scheme, which complements the new Cycle Superhighway constructed between Bradford and Leeds, aims to help address this and offers support to local organisations who want to encourage more and more people to travel to their premises by bike, and also recognises the efforts of those who are already doing lots of things for people on bikes.” City Connect

How did the University of Leeds perform?

The University of Leeds applied to the CityConnect Bike Friendly Business scheme in order to have some external assessment carried out on all aspects of cycling in the University workplace in order to see what we were doing well and also where we could improve. The University were assessed facilities such as cycle parking, availability of cycle to work scheme and the wider support offered for staff such as availability of bike maintenance facilities and route planning advice, through an application form and a site visit. The assessment from City Connect took into consideration things such as the size of the organisation and other factors which may affect organisational ability to implement certain aspects of their recommendations for improvement as part of the accreditation.

We were the highest scoring bike friendly business in the West Yorkshire region due to things like our campus bike hub, excellent bike parking facilities, cycle to work scheme, staff access to hire bikes and dedicated contacts for cycling in Sustainability Service.  We were only 8 marks from being the first gold accredited regional business so we are now going to look at the areas which were highlighted for improvement such as availability of cycle training and more lockable bike parking to aim for Gold next year!

As part of this accreditation the University are now able to apply for a small grant, offered to help us create a further improved environment to encourage staff and visitors to cycle to campus. We are exploring the possibility of applying for more electric bikes for hire from the bike hub as part of this available grant funding. Watch this space!

If you are interested in finding out more about the scheme, please click here. http://cyclecityconnect.co.uk/get-involved/working-with-businesses/

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust volunteer day

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Volunteer day:

It was a beautiful sunny day on the 19th October as we set out to Bingley, a small town just West of Leeds and Bradford. As we arrived at our destination we loaded ourselves with spades, shovels, hammers, gloves, wood panels and piping and set off down to a remote woodland area near the river.

We began by clearing the area of weeds and any debris left from the recent 2015 floods along the River Aire where we found all sorts of bits and bobs: plant pots, signs and large bags of compost. The soil itself was sandy and unconsolidated making it much easier to work with as we then proceeded to dig 2 separate otter holts located 20m apart from one another. The holes themselves measured 2 metres by 1.5 metres which required a lot more manual labour than was initially expected! Branching off from the holes were entrance and exit tunnels that the otters could use to enter but also escape the holt if any predators tried their luck with breaking and entering.

After a long morning of digging and excavating, it was finally time to lay down the wooden panels that would make the skeleton frame of the holt. Arranged in a square, 1.2m x 1.2m space, the holt was beginning to take shape with clear entrance and exits leading to a spacious living area. Although we didn’t actually see any otters in the wild floating down the river holding hands as they sleep like we’d hoped, we did see evidence of otter activity in the area in the form of tiny little footprints scattered across the mud. This was an encouraging sight as it was evidence that otters are active in the area and would make good use of the holts.

The volunteer day was a great experience and opportunity to help out with the work that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are doing to increase species inhabitancy in the area. The holts themselves were constructed with the intention of encouraging otters to recolonise and breed along the River Aire.

If you’d like to find out more about the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the work they are currently doing visit their website at http://www.ywt.org.uk/.

University leads the way with Biodiversity

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It’s a rare thing for me to write a blog – indeed, this is only the second I’ve ever written (the first on one of my other passions, reuse).  As such, I’m sure you will understand that for me to do this, it is because I’m writing about something that I am very excited about, biodiversity.

Why is biodiversity so exciting?  With a background in farming and nature conservation, I really enjoy working on the campus biodiversity and working with lots of interesting people across the campus, including our academic lead, Professor Claire Quinn, the Capital Projects and Grounds Teams, Leeds University Union and too many external people to mention!  I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring new avenues for us to be creative in the way we have to manage the campus. Our first biodiversity plan, written in 2011 by academics in the School of Earth and Environment and the Faculty of Biological Sciences was based on a very different campus.  At that time, the city campus was in desperate need of rejuvenation, which has led to one of the largest capital development schemes since the 1960s and we have built lots of new buildings that are sure to create a legacy for the University to be proud of for many years to come.

Whilst all of this was taking place, we still managed to achieve some of the objectives in our Biodiversity Plan!  ‘How was this possible?’ I hear you say and I would have to reply that it is down to good communication and collaboration across the organisation.

I have chaired the University’s Biodiversity Group since its inception, and through that group we have explored many new ideas and have used the University as a test bed for some of these.  The creation of wildflower meadows, a sustainable garden, a network of campus beekeepers or corporate links to the RSPB and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are all a testament to this.  Our students and academics now use the campus to explore new research ideas and projects and it is a great privilege to be a guest lecturer on a biodiversity management module.  As part of this, students have had the chance to
explore some of the issues and opportunities within inner-city urban areas and I take real pleasure in knowing that I have, in some small way, given them a grounding in some of the ‘real world’ issues they might face in their career.

We are also exploring ways to improve biodiversity on campus; everything from the green walls outside the new multi-storey car park to the permeable surfaces outside the newly-refurbished Institute of Transport Studies building. The development of the campus creates a real challenge when it comes to improving our biodiversity and means we are having to be creative and diligent in our approach!

Perhaps most enjoyable of all has been the ongoing engagement with staff, students and local schools on the benefits of biodiversity, including local organisation ‘Into University’ designing  biodiversity-friendly borders on either side of the Parkinson Steps and nursery children from our campus nursery ‘bright beginnings’ visiting the sustainable garden.

The sustainability strategy set the objective to become ‘an exemplar of urban biodiversity’, driving us to be innovative and creative, but also to take all of the latest thinking around urban biodiversity management – and I emphasise the ‘Urban’ element in all of this.  There is an increased interest in the benefits of green spaces in rural areas (see this article for a useful insight: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/12/importance-urban-forests-money-grow-trees  highlighted via the soon-to-be-published UN document, ‘New Urban Agenda’. It is clear that urban green spaces are a wonderful opportunity area to not only improve wildlife connectivity, but also offer improved wellbeing and a wide range of other benefits such as cooling and reduced flooding risk

With all of this in mind, and building on the successes of the past five years, we have developed a new ‘Biodiversity Standard’ which really does set a new standard for biodiversity and allows us to be ‘exemplars’ in the sector.  It presents us with an incredible challenge in light of the University’s growth, with some difficult decisions to be made.  However, by working together, as well as linking with the upcoming landscape master plan, we will be able to effectively manage our biodiversity and lead the way as ‘exemplars of urban biodiversity’ into the 21st Century.

What’s not to get excited about?  I truly have the best job in the world!

 

My First Month…

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Hi everyone,

I’m Becky, an undergraduate from the university studying Sustainability and Environmental Management, and I’ve just completed the first month of my placement as Sustainability Intern.  It’s been a busy and exciting month for the Sustainability Service with students returning!  Freshers was a fun and hectic time on campus, and I promoted sustainability at Fresher’s Fairs and helped out in the Bike Hub with student and staff bike hires.

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My main responsibility is to manage and expand the Green Impact scheme across the university, which recently launched for 2016/17.  This has involved meeting and communicating with staff and presenting volunteer opportunities to students.  There has already been a great interest for student project assistant roles, and I look forward to working with these students throughout the year to improve the sustainability of the university, whilst developing their professional skills.

I’ve also had a chance to get involved with several projects that my colleagues are working on.  One memorable project involved harvesting the honey from the hives on Laidlaw Library and putting them into jars to be sold on campus.

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I’m particularly interested in corporate sustainability, so I’ve been helping out with the university’s Environmental Management System, creating questions for the move to ISO 14001:2015, and going along to an audit of the School of Food Science and Nutrition.  I’m also assisting in putting together the university’s 2016 Biodiversity Action Plan, a really exciting project!

As I’m interested in waste management and have considered this as a theme for my dissertation, I have been tasked with creating a methodology for cross-University bin dips.  Not the most glamorous of jobs, but it’ll definitely be an interesting project!

It’s been such a full and exciting month, I’m really looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring with a great team.  Next week I’m off to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Volunteer Day to help with the construction of otter holts on the River Aire to help with recolonization… more to follow!

Welcome Issy!

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Hi everyone,

I’m Issy, I’ve just recently, within the past week started my new role as the new Sustainability engagement intern for the upcoming academic year.

I have just completed my second year of my geological science degree programme at the University of Leeds and have decided to take a year out to pursue my interests regarding sustainable energy and the appropriate usage of resources both locally and on a larger scale.

My main goals this year are to increase staff and student engagement with sustainability through the form of our monthly newsletter (which is free!), and regular events that offer people across university the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of sustainability, chat with members of the team and find out how they can get involved on and off campus.

I’m really looking forward to this year and what it has to offer for the sustainability team.

Issy

Scott’s Teach First Experience with Sustainability and Educational Engagement

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“Hi, my name is Scott and I’ve just finished a summer project for the Sustainability and Educational Engagement teams at the University of Leeds. (I’ve also never done a blog post before, so this could be “interesting”!) I was – until 3 weeks ago – a full-time teacher, and I was asked to look at the provision of University resources aimed at schoolchildren with the aim being to have students engage more with sustainability and improve sustainability literacy. I was keen to help improve outreach at Leeds, and to get to do so with sustainability being at the forefront (a topic that I’m very passionate about) seemed too perfect an opportunity to not apply for.

I spent my first couple of days really trying to nail down what it was that people expected of me, meeting with seemingly half the university staff on campus, and gathering data to use at a later date! It was agreed that I’d design “two or three” lessons for teachers to download, or to be delivered by University staff in workshops, as well as looking at where Educational Engagement and Sustainability overlapped, suggesting how best to market the new resources, and writing a report that brought all of that together. In just three weeks! I hope that the 29(!) lessons I’ve created, with associated resources (including a board game), will be enjoyed by students across the UK and beyond and help to spread the word of what sustainability is and how it’s interwoven into society.

My time here has been brief but very enjoyable. The team here were all very welcoming (and 25p coffee helped!) and were very happy to chat about the project (and other things), and now I’ve reached the end, I’m sad that I won’t get to engage with people who clearly have a love for the vision of Sustainability, and won’t get to learn about how sustainability isn’t just about the colour green, saving the trees, or the birds and the bees!

To conclude, I’d like to thank Louise and Claire for the opportunity, Josh and Amanda for always being friendly faces, Mike for showing me the work on biodiversity on campus, Kelly for sorting it all out and telling me about her work on food on campus, Dom and Eric for trialling lessons and giving me feedback, Pre and John for discussing outreach, Jenny and Steven for telling me about their work with transport, James for telling me about water conservation, Tilly for educating me about Snapchat(!), and Gina for telling me about the work already done aimed at disadvantaged students (who are close to my heart).

Enjoy what’s left of summer!”

Goodbye from me

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Can’t believe my placement year has come to an end! It’s definitely been a really exciting and great year.

During my second year at university I had my heart set on finding an internship to develop skills which would make me more employable after I graduate. I would definitely recommend doing an internship to anyone who is thinking of doing one. I had a list of things I wanted to get out of a placement year before I even secured a position: I wanted it to be really useful, something that was worth taking a year out of university for and something that would not only prepare me for the ‘real world’ but also help me make a positive contribution to society (working on a strategic theme called ‘Being a Positive Partner in Society’ was my cue to apply).

I also wanted to gain transferable skills that would not only help me with my future career but also help me with my studies. I can happily say that working in the Sustainability Service ticked all the boxes and I got everything out of my placement I wanted to.

As an international student I was amazed by how much the University is doing to promote sustainability and embed it across the whole University.

It’s an amazing team to work with who made me feel welcome from day one. It’s really inspiring to work with people who are this good at and enthusiastic about what they do. If my next workplace will be just half as good as this one, I’ll be happy.

There have been so many highlights of this year it’s hard to pick one but just to mention a few: all the engagement activities we did with IntoUniversity students were great, from fixing bikes with them to talking about the University’s social impact and beyond. Going along to SkyRide and making smoothies with a pedal-powered bike was also great fun, it was great to see so many people on their bikes all across the city.

Another highlight was attending Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s 70th Birthday Celebration with Sir David Attenborough, it was the most inspiring talk I have ever been to. Sir David Attenborough has always been one of my biggest inspirations – his work has been inspiring generations for decades and will continue to do so for a long time, but sitting only a few metres away from him was truly incredible. You can watch a recording of the event via this link.

It was really interesting to update the ‘Living in Leeds’ Guide and consult with various key stakeholders, including community groups, the Police, Leeds City Council, and students. The guide is here to help students settle in to the community and live more sustainably and I’m really looking forward to seeing people reading it around campus!

I’m also looking forward to the University achieving its set goals in terms of sustainability and continue to contribute to it as a student. I think it’s really important to stress that every little contribution helps to achieve the overall goal – to create a more sustainable university.

I’ll really miss working with the team but it’s time to move on now. I would like to thank everyone I worked with and made my year so great.

Good luck to the team and to the new interns – I’m sure you will have a blast working here!

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