Nurturing student wellbeing is firmly Rooted in University life

Nurturing student wellbeing is equally as important as developing academic abilities at Leeds.

And in Rooted – the University Union’s community food project – there has been considerable growth in the number of people seeking to volunteer for this pioneering project.

As an oasis of calm among the hustle and bustle of University life, Rooted supports local biodiversity, improves employability skills for students and creates strong links between them, the University and the wider community.

Speaking in the greenhouse of the sustainable roof garden – perched on top of the Student Union building – Kate Kirkpatrick, a part-time project assistant with Rooted, said: “There is an incredible sense of calm and wellbeing here, which students find really attractive. It can be daunting moving away from home to University. You can get stuck in the bubble of student life, but this is the perfect escape from all the academic pressures you can face. We have also been able to refer students on to other appropriate services, if needed, such as the Student Advice Centre.”

Second-year English and Music student, Liberty Anstead, first volunteered more than a year ago. She has enjoyed the experience so much she is now preparing to take up a year-long work placement with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Liberty said: “I come here because it’s so relaxing and meditative.

“I absolutely love working with Kate and the rest of the team. Everyone is so friendly and supportive. It’s such a nice escape from being sat at a computer studying. It’s definitely the best thing I have done here. It has also expanded my horizons, introducing me to other organisations I have got involved with, like the Real Junk Food Project.”

Volunteer drop-in sessions are staged twice a week, and are also open to staff and the general public.

Kate added: “We find this creates a really nice mix of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and age groups. People come along for as little as ten minutes at a time between lectures. We have loved having Liberty as part of the team, and now she is helping us develop our salad growing enterprise, which is very exciting.”

This success story is just one example of how the University of Leeds has achieved its ranking of third in the UK in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey. Find out more here.

Student Sustainability Architect update: Becky

Having completed an industrial placement last year with the Sustainability Service, I’ve really enjoyed working as one of the Sustainability Student Architects during my final year of study.

My role has been to support the development and implementation of a new sustainability engagement programme, and it has been an exciting project to be involved with!  The aim of this programme is to support Schools and Services across campus to develop a unique sustainability action plan for their area which enables them to make positive changes.

We’re currently piloting the programme with numerous teams across campus, which firstly involves meeting with staff to learn more about their area.  The next stage is to run workshops with these teams to conduct a materiality assessment, which considers how their processes link with sustainability and what opportunities there are for improvements, before supporting them to build a sustainability action plan.

Building a programme from the ground up has involved a lot of research and communication (there is a lot to consider!) but it has been great fun and I’m really looking forward to it all coming together. The pilot workshops begin in a couple of weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see what the final sustainability action plans look like.

It’s going to be very busy moving forward – as well as piloting the scheme, we’re planning the overall package for when it rolls out across the University, such as the design, how we incentivise it with rewards and recognition, and how what support we’ll be creating with online resources.  It’s certainly going to be exciting and I can’t wait to seeing the positive changes take shape across campus!

If you have any questions, please get in touch with me at R.M.Ewan@leeds.ac.uk

Sustainability Architect update: Arianna

Sustainability Architect: what is it all about? Five months in this role and no two days are the same!

So much has happened since I took part in the Welcome to Leeds campaign back in October and it has been an exciting learning journey. One of the highlights of the past few months was the launch of SUS IT OUT!, the Sustainability Volunteering Week, in November; we wanted to offer a new, fun way to get involved with sustainability at Leeds, so we created a week-long programme of volunteering “tasters”. Organising a new campaign from scratch was definitely challenging, but it was a great chance for me to take the initiative, share ideas and work closely with the whole team to make the project a real success.

Sustainability never stops and I am ready for new challenges!

We are now busy planning new activities and volunteering opportunities for the spring and summer time – I’m sure there we will provide plenty of good excuses to take a break from books, spend time outside and make a positive impact.

Keep an eye on our Sustainability Volunteers Facebook group or sing up to our Volunteer Bulletin to make sure you don’t miss any news!

Have questions about volunteering with us? Send me an email: A.Griffa@leeds.ac.uk

Sustainability Architect update: Vaishnavi

The architect role I found is quite independent, where I’ve had a supervisor guiding me along the way by voicing my strategy proposals to the senior board, or working closely with me to discuss the feasibility of my ideas, but the majority of the work I was doing was projects I had designed for myself. I was given a lot of freedom, flexibility, resources and was linked in with valuable contacts who helped me accelerate my projects at different stages.

I really enjoyed taking up this one particular project, which included tying the cafes on campus to a company Too Good To Go with an aim to reduce food waste. I was initially conducting intense research in handling food waste by liaising with Living Lab project students and studying case studies of other universities to look at composting. which met with a lot of challenges along the way that were primarily logistical (for e.g moving waste across campus in trucks, hosting a composting facility on campus in a suitable location, etc.).

Halfway through, I realized that perhaps rather than looking at a solution to deal with waste, we could benefit from reducing the amount of waste produced itself, that is where Too Good To Go came into the picture. The app enabled cafes to sell leftover (fresh) meals produced on the same day for half the price before closing hours, which I imagined was exactly what students would buy into (healthy takeaway + cheap food). I drafted a proposal to expand the apps reach from the two cafes on campus already trialing the initiative, detailing the implementation from start to end, which my supervisor submitted to the board and got an approval of! Thereafter, I went along to train café managers to use the app and integrate it into their workflow; garnering an additional business profit of £1,000 for the company, as well as reducing a huge amount of food waste. 

In the next couple of months, alongside Charlotte (another Student Sustainability Architect) I am looking into setting up a Sustainability themed food stall on campus, to spread awareness and engage students with Sustainability related events throughout the year and what they can do to reduce their own impacts. In addition, I hope to solve the problem of food waste in the Refectory and other cafes by designing innovation solutions.

If you want to get in touch about any of the activities I’ve been involved with please email me – bn15v2m@leeds.ac.uk