Time to say goodbye!

catherinecropSo my 11 month placement has come to an end! It’s been a full year, and that has made it fly by. I feel like I have got so much out of the year – I’ve worked on a variety of things and learnt a lot about how sustainability is embedded at an organisation of this size!

My main project has been working on Green Impact, and it has been really rewarding seeing a project develop and grow over the whole year. I’ve got to meet and work with people from across the entire University, from labs in St. James’ to academic departments to the Catering team, and it is always really exciting when people are working towards the same positive changes and believe in the changes they’re making.

Being able to shape a project and make it my own has been really exciting and I’ve definitely gained a lot of skills over the last year! I’ve also found it really interesting to work on carbon management and energy projects as climate change is my passion, and I’ve got to see how Leeds takes these issues seriously and how projects work on the ground.

Some of my highlights for the year have involved working with people across the University, and especially those who don’t have anything to do with sustainability in their day to day role but are so passionate about the issues. I’ve got to know a lot of people, and helping them implement positive changes has been a lot of fun. One of my aims in the year was to focus on student engagement with Green Impact, and I’m pleased that it went so well, with more students than ever being involved in Green Impact and working with teams.

A key highlight was the Sustainability Awards. It was the biggest event I’d ever organised and after a reasonable amount of stress and last minute panicking, the event came off without a hitch, and everyone had a great time! It was great to have so many people who Sustainability work with in one room.

But (as cheesy as this sounds!) the best thing for me this year has been working in a team who are all so passionate about what they do. The work is so incredibly varied and there never is a dull day, and I’m very sad to say goodbye to the team! Thanks to everyone I have worked with this year!

Key Findings from Creating Sustainable Futures 2016

In March we saw the return of the award-winning Creating Sustainable Futures (CSF) Discovery Module, an optional curricular module that students can take alongside their degree subject to broaden their knowledge on the social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of sustainability.

A part of the module consists of a practical project the students must work through in groups. This year the project themes were given a refresh, updating the structure, data collection and content, enabling students to gain relevant information that would directly benefit the University and allow them to put their understanding of sustainability issues into context.

Semester 2’s CSF cohort of 41 students undertook either a Travel, Waste, Energy, Fairtrade or Community themed practical project as part of their assessment.

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, providing a snapshot review of the sustainability themes highlighted in the projects.

Some key findings from the students included;

  • Just under half of the unoccupied lecture theatres visited during the Energy project were found to still have their lights turned on.
  • Only 28% of 140 survey participants knew that the University of Leeds is a Fairtrade institution.
  • Bicycle storage sites reaching close or to full capacity included in front of LUU, the Social Sciences building and the University Main Entrance, with neighbouring parking facilities only reaching around half their capacity.
  • In the Waste project, the most consistently contaminated waste stream across all the locations audited was general waste, containing 40-50% contaminants that could have been recycled.
  • Leeds University Union was recorded as the most popular choice by surveyees when asked what parts of University campus facilitated community engagement, followed by The Edge and Parkinson Court.

This data will be collected year on year to build a timeline of sustainability recordings made by the students themselves, which not only provides hands-on experience of sustainability in practice but also presents the University with extremely useful information on current sustainability trends.

The 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 module by students from all disciplines, helping them to understand the fundamental notions of sustainability, and in turn allow them to progress to other modules within the Creating Sustainable Futures theme and promote attributes reflecting that of being a sustainable citizen.

If you are interested in finding out more about Creating Sustainable Futures please click here.

Sustainable Food On Campus

The impact of food production and food waste on the climate is huge. As part of our commitment to reducing consumption of goods and services, we have worked with staff and students to set up some fantastic projects that they lead, dealing with issues of food waste and learning how to grow local, healthy food. Some of the project currently underway include the following:

At Central Village residences, a food waste collection scheme has been set up, using both staff and student volunteers on site. The scheme commenced after Easter 2016, and has collected 1.8 tonnes over two months, with the food waste going to an anaerobic digestion unit at Doncaster. The student volunteers will be returning to assist in September, and will help to promote the initiative to the new residents.

15 ex-battery hens were collected from the British Hen Welfare Trust in Summer 2015, and ten student volunteers recruited in October. The staff and student volunteers have learnt how to look after the hens on site at Devonshire Hall, and the volunteers also get the benefit of fresh eggs laid by the hens. The initiative won the CUBO 2016 Innovation Award for Excellence in Student Experience.

A Dig-In project was introduced on site at Lupton Residences, with student volunteers assisted by the Bardon Grange Walled Garden Project. Fruit trees, strawberries and herbs have been planted, with vegetables due planting in the Autumn. In addition, a student-led food composting scheme has been introduced on-site, using redundant compost bins obtained from a local school. The combined initiatives won this year’s Green Residences Award at the university.

If you would like to get involved with sustainability at your Halls of Residence contact sustainability@leeds.ac.uk or your local Hall Rep.

Devonshire Hall Chickens Group
Devonshire Hall Chickens Group


Cohen Labs Green Impact success!

Cohen laboratories – School of Earth and Environment

This was the first year our labs went for the Green Impact award. As part of the School of Earth and Environment we already had an eye to our environmental footprint but this gave a real focus to our efforts. Using the workbook as a guide we looked around the labs for areas to improve and got to work: we saved energy by encouraging users to shut sashes in fume cupboard; we created system to allow reuse of plastic sample bottles; and we rethought our purchasing to reduce waste and harm to the environment. We made these and many other small changes to the way we work and through that raised the environmental awareness of our users.

Laboratory work produces a lot of waste from plastic tubes to cuvettes. Much of this we can do nothing about; however, Green Impact gave us a frame work to make changes where we could and showed us just how much we had already achieved. We will be doing it again next year, hopefully finding some new ways to reduce our laboratories impact on the planet.