Welcome to the 2019/20 Student Sustainability Architect Cohort!

The University of Leeds Sustainability Service team is pleased to welcome 9 new staff members, who will each take on the role of a Student Sustainability Architect.

This year’s Student Sustainability Architects will take the lead on delivering projects that align with the University’s strategic sustainability objectives and also develop their own ideas to increase student participation with sustainability. Please help us to welcome Alaa, Negar, Fern, David, Rachel, Ailish, Camila, Karolina and Alejandra to the team.

Ailish Byrne – Residential Services: Circular Resource 

 

Hi, my name is Ailish Byrne and I am a fourth-year Environmental Science student with a year’s work experience as the Sustainability Intern at HP Inc.  My degree program has allowed me to gain a complete understanding of the greatest environmental issues we are facing today, through studying the latest research across a number of subject areas including atmospheric pollution, renewable energy and transport, climate change, and sustainable development. I am excited to use my environmental knowledge and experience to further drive sustainability within the university and engage students and staff in initiatives across campus.

As a Sustainability Architect for 2019/2020, I will be working to promote a circular resource economy within the University’s halls of residences. During this project I will encourage students to think about their resource consumption and highlight ways they can incorporate sustainable practices in their daily lives, by purchasing clothes from charity shops rather than buying new or switching from single-use plastics to reusable alternatives, for example. I am excited to get out and talk to students about their views on sustainability and the current efforts they are making, whilst also developing campaigns to further inform and engage students on the importance of reducing and reusing resources to create a long-term positive impact.

Alaa Aldada – Student Citizenship – Litter and local waste management 

Hi, I’m Alaa, and I’m currently studying a Masters in Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering. My environmental and sustainability interests were my motives to study Environmental Engineering as my undergraduate course. Since I was undergraduate, I have been actively involving as a volunteer with several organizations and groups working on environmental education, and community development. As one of this year’s Student Sustainability Architects, I will be working on the Local Waste and Litter Engagement project, which is a part of the Student Citizenship Programme. The Student Citizenship Programme supports students’ integration into the local community and aims to ensure that theirs and other residents experience of their time in Leeds is a hugely positive one. I am looking forward to engaging with a group of volunteers, and we will be working to find realist solutions for good waste management in Leeds, especially in Hyde Park and Woodhouse Moor. Over the coming months, I will be developing some behaviour change approaches to achieve the objectives of raising the level of awareness and commitment to proper solid waste reduction, reusing, recycling and disposal processes. In addition, I will be working on engaging and educating households on responsible waste management practice, labelling and wheeling bins back to their stores, litter picks and cleanliness audits. I’m really excited about this project, and I will do my best to make a real difference!

Camila Limberg Dias – Removing Single-Use Plastic from Laboratories at the University of Leeds

Hi everyone! My name is Camila, and I am a Sustainability and Consultancy Masters student here at the University of Leeds! I come from Brazil, where I work as a sustainability consultant helping companies to reshape their strategic planning through the lenses of sustainability, and also collaborating with the report of their activities and outcomes on their Sustainability/GRI report. Back home I also work as a volunteer for the Brazilian association of professionals for sustainable development (ABRAPS). This year I am joining the sustainability team as a Sustainability Architect for the Removing Single-Use Plastic from Laboratories at the University of Leeds Programme 2019/20. I am sure my previous experiences together with this master will contribute to this project and to the university’s sustainability strategy. I want to create a healthy environment for learning exchange and good practices development. But I also expect to benefit a lot from it. Meeting many different people from different places, cultures and backgrounds and also working with new environments and tools will be a valuable experience for me. All this, embedded in a strong sustainability strategy, such as ours, will surely lead us all to thrive with great outcomes!

David Mihell – Blueprint

I am currently enrolled on the MSc in Sustainable Cities, which is taught jointly by the School of Earth & Environment, School of Geography and the Institute for Transport Studies.  The course looks at how cities operate as systems and how they can become more sustainable – to support environmental, economic and social goals – through looking at key urban elements including housing, energy, transport and the natural realm.

Having completed my PhD at the University of Leeds, I worked in industry as a management consultant before returning to the University’s as a member of the Student Recruitment and Marketing Team.  Having worked as an independent consultant for the last few years, I am enjoying being back as a student and have been really impressed by all the changes and progress that has been made on campus.

The University’s commitment to sustainability is also great to see, and I am looking forward to contributing to this through my role as Student Sustainability Architect, which supports the Blueprint scheme of tailored sustainability plans for Schools, Institutes and Services.  In particular, I am keen to learn more about the ways we are responding to to our sustainability challenges; helping share and implement solutions and best practice; and supporting the sustainability community across campus.

Fern Spencer  – University Catering Services: Carbon Footprinting of Food 

Hi! I’m Fern and I’m in my fourth year of study in Environmental Science, MEnv. This year I’ll be working with catering services to further increase their sustainability. The success of previous Sustainability projects means that there is now a wide range of low meat or meat-free food options on campus, as well as 65% of food being sourced within 40 miles. This is a great step towards reducing our carbon footprint because livestock generate 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions can be saved by eating plant-based diets but also local produce too. I will be working to calculate the carbon footprint of different food options in the Refectory so that we can each make informed decisions about our food choices.

Since starting my studies at the University of Leeds, I have been fortunate enough to gain sustainability-related experience with different NGO’s and businesses, including being a Green Impact Assistant for the University in 2017. I’m hoping that this position will allow me to put my learning into practice but also enable me to learn new things from other enthusiastic staff and students. By communicating carbon footprint information, I’m also hopeful that people will become more able to make better environmental choices and reduce the University’s environmental impact further. Every person making a small change can make a large difference!

Karolina Zarzyczny – Residential Services: Biodiversity Action Planning

Hi, I’m Karolina and I’m a final year MBiol Zoology student. Apart from sustainability, I have a great interest in outdoors and ecology. I have spent my industrial placement year working for an environmental, outdoor education charity and I have spent endless hours in the field surveying a range of plants and animals since the start of my degree. I am also working with the Living Lab on the Campus Pollinator Project which will tie in very closely with what I will be doing as a new Student Sustainability Architect. Safe to say, I am super excited to start!

I will spend the rest of this academic year working with the University Residential Services and the Sustainability team to develop biodiversity action plans (BAPs) for the residences of interest. To do this I will conduct site-specific surveys to establish an extensive list of species present around the residences and highlight those of special interest. As a Sustainability Architect, I’m also hoping to increase student and staff engagement in sustainability-focused events. Furthermore, I’m hoping to provide students with the opportunity to participate in biological recording across the residences which will allow them to develop skills and gain experience in this field without having to travel far away from the university!

I am very open to ideas and collaboration so feel free to get in touch with me at bs14kmz@leeds.ac.uk.

Alejandra Velarde Medina – Colour Hyde Park 

 

Hello everyone! My name is Alejandra Velarde and I am studying a MSc in Sustainability and Consultancy at the University of Leeds. I am originally from Peru where I studied a BSc on Economics. I am particularly interested in the integration of commercial industries, environment and social inclusion.

I am pleased to be joining the Sustainability Architect team. I will be working in the Colour Hyde Park Project (Second Phase), which has the main aim to continue preserving city’s cultural identity, join and inspire communities to feel pride and ownership for Hyde Park through art.  The inclusion of communities is part of the sustainable commitments and doing it over an innovate solution as art, gives everyone an aggregated value.

This year I hope to involve as many people as possible in the second phase of this project. Work with the local and student communities and make a positive contribution to Hyde Park through the creation of opportunities. I am looking forward to embracing everyone and alleviating social issues through sustainable solutions.

Negar Naghshinehpour Esfahani –  Cleaning Services: Plastics Reduction

Hello, my name is Negar Naghshinehpour and I am studying an MSc in Sustainability & Consultancy.  My background is in environmental science and my passion lies in the intersection of sustainability, technology, businesses and behavioural change.  I am originally from Vancouver, Canada and I hope that my previous learnings will help me succeed in this new role.

As a sustainability architect, my project is looking into reducing plastics; specifically in the cleaning service. If you think about it, the cleaning service is a very large consumer of single-use plastics. I will be looking into reducing bin liners, through better means of managing waste stream as well as looking into alternative materials for bin liners. I think the university goal of becoming plastic-free 2023 is an ambitious one – but one in which I am excited to play a role in. If you happen to have an idea or want to chat more about this project, I’d be happy to do so! Send me an email at ee19nne@leeds.ac.uk.

Rachel DeCordoba – Conference and Curriculum

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a MSc Sustainable Cities student. I’m especially interested in waste reduction and public transportation, and I previously worked in the field of community engagement and public involvement. As a Student Sustainability Architect, I’ll be focusing on integrating sustainability into the broader curriculum at the University of Leeds, as well as helping organise the Annual Student Sustainability Conference.

My hope is that all students at Leeds can engage with sustainability initiatives on and near campus in whatever way suits them best – whether it’s conducting and presenting research, attending the Sustainability Conference, thinking about their particular programme of study through a sustainability lens, or anything else! As an international student myself, I’m also excited to find ways to engage students who come to Leeds from all around the world. When it comes to sustainability, new and different perspectives are so valuable to create lasting change.

Every academic course relates to sustainability in some way. I look forward to discovering how we can truly ingrain sustainability into the academic curriculum and conduct and present sustainability research in new and unconventional ways. There are so many amazing sustainability projects throughout campus that provide great inspiration already!

 

 

My plastic free journey, and how you can join the #2023plasticfree pledge too

Everywhere you look, you’ll find plastic. Scientists have even found microplastics far away from humans, in the Arctic. It’s in the water we drink; the food we eat; the air we breathe.

Worried? I am. That’s why I’m doing something about it.

The clincher for the start of my plastic free journey was when I learnt that the great pacific garbage patch i.e. the world’s largest accumulation of ocean plastic, was twice the size of France. That absolutely blew my mind.

Studying a sustainability masters at Leeds opened my eyes even wider, and with all this plastic awareness, I knew I had to change my lifestyle.

How did I go plastic free?

First up, I ditched my shampoo. I can’t lie it was strange at first, rubbing what felt like a bar of soap (a shampoo bar) on my hair! Now, 2 years later, I can’t ever imagine going back. The natural ingredients have done wonders for my hair as well as dramatically cutting my plastic consumption. I now only wash my hair every 5-7 days!

After removing plastic from my hair routine, I switched my toothbrush to bamboo and bought a reusable razor. All of which are now second nature.

I get my food at refill shops and fresh fruit and veg from the local market. If I’m feeling lazy I go to the supermarket and let the packaging (or lack of it) decide what I’m having for dinner. By keeping plastic on my mind I keep it out of my bin!

Knowledge of the extent of plastic pollution drove me to set up Life Before Plastik, a UK plastic free shop, to help others with their journeys offering top tips and plastic free products.

Plastic free razor and shaving foam bar

Are you thinking about going plastic free?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who is starting out on a plastic free journey is to never beat yourself up. Nobody is perfect and sometimes you can’t know that the diet coke you ordered comes with a straw or that a packet of sweets that looks like its only packaged in cardboard actually has plastic inside (both real stories that have happened to me). Being plastic free isn’t about being perfect but instead making a real impact over time.

How do you go plastic free?

My top tip for going plastic free is to do it step by step. I’d advise starting in one room, lets say, the bathroom. Get a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste in a glass jar or tin, soap, shampoo bar and go the extra mile and get a reusable razor. Then look to changing things in your kitchen, beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm, a metal lunchbox and a dishwash block etc.

Making changes room by room will seem much more manageable and you can reward yourself each time you complete a room!

Plus why not try the weekly market at Leeds University Union. You can get fresh plastic free fruit, vegetables, and even bread. Delicious and free from plastic guilt.

With Christmas around the corner, you could even go one step further and have a plastic free Christmas. With so many options for stocking fillers and simple ways to wrap plastic free presents it’s not as difficult as you think! It could be the first step in your plastic free journey.

Written by Charlie Gill, University of Leeds 2019 Alumni and co-founder of Life Before Plastik. Follow Charlie on Facebook and Instagram @lifebeforeplastik.

For more information regarding the University of Leeds #2023PlasticFree pledge click here. 

Charlie Gill demonstrating a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste

Let Nature Sing Event

On the 17th of October, together with the Sustainability Team our student ambassadors from the Living Lab have put on a Leeds Campus Bird Survey, in celebration of the RSPB Let Nature Sing takeover.

The Let Nature Sing takeover is part of the RSPB nature recovery campaign, aiming raise awareness on the challenges faced by bird populations today. Over 5,000 locations across the UK have taken place in Let Nature Sing takeover, playing bird song in offices, parks and even public transport. Here at Leeds, our team decided to take it further and we encouraged people to join us for a walk around St. George’s Field, identify birds and listen to bird song.


Photo by Karolina Zarzyczny

We had a fantastic turn out with multiple students offering to volunteer on the day to help guide the bird walks. The best thing about our event was that it was open to everyone! Our participants ranged from skilled birders to nature lovers which haven’t had the chance to hold a pair of binoculars before. It was a great opportunity to get out of the office, enjoy the fresh air and gain some bird identification skills. Over the two walks, we have identified 18 different bird species both from visual surveys and by bird song (credit to one of our skilled participants!). The data collected will contribute to the ongoing biodiversity surveys around the campus and will help inform future Biodiversity Action Plans.

If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved in monitoring our campus biodiversity, email: sustainability@leeds.ac.uk