10 Feel-Good Isolation Activities

Whether you’re based at University accommodation, your student house in Leeds, temporary accommodation or your family home, we all need ways to stay entertained, motivated and feeling good. Our top feel-good isolation tips will provide you with some ways to keep your body moving, your brain ticking and your soul uplifted at this strange time.

1. Clear out your wardrobe

There is no better time to get round to giving your wardrobe the big clear out you meant to do last year. Rediscover your old favourite items, and pull out the ones you no longer need and bag them up ready to drop off at your local charity shop and donation bank once they resume their operations for some second-hand-lovin’.  

2. Dance it out!

Turn on the music and dance like no-one is watching – because they really won’t be! Remember to use headphones when listening to music to avoid annoying your housemates and neighbours who may be working!  

3. Scrapbook some of your favourite memories

Scrap booking some of your favourite photos from the past year is a great way to remind yourself of life before lock-down!  Find inspiration online, and create a book of memories that make you excited for revisiting your favourite places.

4. Get creative!


Give yourself some creative therapy with whatever you have in the house! Whether it’s knitting, painting, or simply drawing your view from your window, channel your inner creativity and produce something to mark this strange time.

5. Learn to cook

We may be in isolation, but we still have to eat! Why not use this time to perfect a few store-cupboard staple recipes? With less choice available, it’s the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen and work with what you’ve got.

6. Call your extended family members

This can be a strange and confusing time, for the elderly in particular. Getting in touch with your extended family would probably mean the world to them.

7. Do some uni work

Sorry, we had to say it. Make sure you make the most of all the online resources being provided by your school and faculty. (University attendance in your pyjamas is now acceptable)

8. Learn a new skill with LinkedIn Learning

From courses in Photoshop to Excel, remote working to creative thinking, LinkedIn Learning offers a huge variety of free taught online courses for University of Leeds staff and students.

9. Volunteer

The NHS and Leeds City Council are both appealing for volunteers to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home.

10. Clean

Now Spring has officially sprung, get the duster out and give the house a big clean. A tidy space means a tidy mind, and feeling settled and calm in your own space is essential for your wellbeing during the period of

That’s it from us! From online work outs, learning courses, and video calling sites, online resources have really stepped up to provide us with some great ways of managing this strange and confusing time. If you feel that you need further support, head over to the University’s wellbeing safety and health website.

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





Tree Carving Competition Winner

Thank you to all who contributed towards our tree carving competition.

Our winner is Joely Holder. Well done, Joely!


We have had so many inspirational designs it proved difficult to choose just one.  That is why instead we are opting to use a combination of ideas from various entries to ensure everyone who entered will leave a positive mark on campus.

We are currently working with a local artist to bring all of these together and we hope that the work to transform the tree will begin during July.

Our runners-up are:

Rosie Smith

Lauren C Maltas

Tilly Jacques


Hue Owen

And a special mention to those who entered from Bright Beginnings


Leeds Living Labs One Year On


The first ever annual report is here for Leeds Living Labs.  Get involved!

What is Leeds Living Labs?

Since launching in May 2017 Leeds Living Lab has grown from concept to reality.  It currently has 9 significant collaborative research projects including the Air Quality Living Lab and Living Waste Living Lab.

The projects begin at the university campus, giving support and capacity where the university can provide.  Once the project has grown big enough to sustain itself it leaves the Living Labs to grow and develop on its own.

Think of a project like a goldfish: it’s nourished and fed, until eventually, it moves to a bigger bowl to grow.

Working Together

Living Labs is about collaboration. Bringing together those who wouldn’t normally consider collaboration or those that have considered it but were unsure where they can obtain that support.

It brings together students, academics and professional staff to co-produce innovative and transformative solutions to real-world sustainability challenges using the Leeds campus as testbed.

Branching different disciplines of knowledge is a real benefit of Living Labs.  Because of these different levels of knowledge from different background together it helps maintain sustainable improvements.

Why are we sharing this?

We want to spread the message far and wide: Leeds has a Living Labs and it’s setting an example!

There’s an opportunity here to get involved and share the mutual benefits with us.  Whether internal or external to the University of Leeds we want to welcome everyone to take part and get involved with current and future projects either as leaders or participants!

What if I’m not with the University of Leeds?

We still want to share our learning with you.  Tell us what you’re doing and come to us with questions. We’re always innovating, pioneering and looking to build our network.

Sustainable Commutes: University of Leeds Travel Survey Results

As part of our ongoing blog series for National Clean Air Day, Sustainability Project Officer Claire Booth discusses the University of Leeds Travel Survey results. You can read our previous blog entries here and here.

Every year, the University of Leeds undertakes a Travel Survey to provide a snapshot of how staff and students travel to campus. The results feed into our Sustainable Travel Plan, which helps us to achieve our aim to foster a student and staff body where sustainable travel is the norm, while reducing the associated negative impacts of travel such as congestion, carbon emissions and air pollution.  The results can also help us to assess the availability of workplace facilities, such as showers and cycle parking, and inform us of opportunities to make improvements and to better promote sustainable travel options.

Sustainable travel includes walking, cycling, car sharing or public transport. From the Travel Survey results conducted earlier this year, we discovered that over 75% of staff and an impressive 95% of students travel to the University in a sustainable way. That’s a really great result.


While over seventy percent of students walked or ran to the University as their main mode of transport (the main mode is the one they travel furthest by), only seventeen percent of staff commuted in the same way.  Between 5 and 10 percent responded that they cycled to work and a quarter of staff said that they drive into work.

The modes of travel that we choose to travel to and from the University have a direct impact on local air quality. Opting for a low or zero emission mode such as walking or cycling – or using mass transport such as bus, train or car sharing – reduces both the individual and collective impact of air pollution, and plays a part in improving air quality levels in the city.

Air pollution comes from a range of sources including transport. The main contributing pollutants from vehicle emissions are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and lead. Each pollutant behaves differently and has varied effects on our health, which makes air quality is a complex issue to manage and control.


But we want to keep making improvements.  This is why we are offering a free breakfast for National Clean Air Day for all staff and students who travel sustainably.  Join us tomorrow outside the Student Union from 8.30am onwards and make your pledge this National Clean Air Day.

Tweet us your pledge @Uol_Sus.

For more information on the Leeds Living Lab for Air Quality, which is driving projects that limit exposure to poor air quality, visit: http://sustainability.leeds.ac.uk/the-living-lab/airquality/




Four Reasons to Leave the Car at Home


It’s time to keep the car in the garage.  It may seem convenient but what are the real consequences of taking your car to work?  Does your commute have a real impact on the air around the city? And are there any real benefits from taking public transportation? Here are 4 benefits of swapping the car for a train.

1: There’s Less Air Pollution

Being in such close contact with stop starting cars is a fast track way to take in air pollution, being in close contact with exhaust fumes, even inside a car risk those fumes entering your body. And not just through breathing.  Most Air Pollution can enter your body through your skin. The particles are that small.

Those who take public transport are less exposed to air pollution than those who take personal transport to work every day. This is in part due to the stop-starting cars from traffic in and around the city.  Choosing sustainable modes of transportation not only allows for cleaner air for the city but also for your lungs.

2: It’s Cost Effective

If you’re commuting from a distance it may be time to think about commuting by train to the city centre.  Not only will you save money by using less fuel, but you will also allow your car to have a longer life.  The more you use your car the more maintenance it requires.  This includes tyre replacement, oil refill, windscreen wash and these just the basics.  If you’re unlucky you could create serious wear on your car and need some severe maintenance work that could go into the hundreds.

By choosing public transportation it not only allows you to have spare cash at hand but also takes away the stress of daily car maintenance.   The worry of whether you have fuel in the car will be gone.  The only thing you’ll need to think about is what book you’ll be reading that day.

3: It Gives you Personal Time

If you have a long work day then it’s made even worse my commuting into the city centre through motorways and nonstop congestion. And being behind a wheel requires constant focus, attention and care.

Use that time on your commute instead to unwind, close your eyes and reflect on the day ahead or the day gone by. There’s an opportunity within that commute to shorten your work day by letting your brain unwind by switching off and recharging.  It not only improves overall wellbeing but gives you time to be in the moment and not worry about the world around you.

4: It’s Leisure Time

There may have been time when you can listen to the radio or listen to a podcast but not only is it sometimes difficult to hear what is said over the noise of the outside traffic but you will also find that you’re never truly focussed on what’s being said if your eyes are on the road.  Let alone how unsafe it is to have your attention elsewhere while driving.

You may be on your way to work but it doesn’t mean you need to be working.  That precious commute time you can have by leaving your car at home can be spent catching up on your favourite book, learning something new, or reading up on the daily news and events.




From Alberta to Leeds: A Clean Air Interview with Exchange Student Nick Tabler

What’s your background? What brings you to the University of Leeds?

I’m Nick Tabler I’m a student from the University of Alberta in Western Canada I’m here on a QES Scholarship working with Leeds Living Labs doing software development, centre calibration and designing air quality monitoring solutions.

My background is in Electrical Engineering.  I haven’t had much climate science background coming into this so for the first month I’ve been learning a lot from my colleagues of Earth and Environment.  I’ve always had an interest in hiking, mountaineering, being outside and the quality of ecosystems.

I’ve been working within the Sustainability environment industry and I’ve wanted to get a more academic experience so I’ve moved into the research side of things. As far as air quality goes it’s a much larger concern in England and it’s something that’s difficult to manage and difficult to quantify.

What are you working on at the University of Leeds?

I’m designing a couple of air quality monitoring systems that will go around campus.  These are black box solutions that we will be putting nearby the motorways and around campus as well as a forest reserve south of Leeds. I’m working between that as well as air quality monitoring walks, managing volunteers. Collecting data and transferring it to our website as well as enhancing our website so people can see what air quality is like around campus.

We have a consistent walk engaging volunteers around campus, various staff groups, and student groups as well as trying to engage students who can find the data to see what the air quality is like over time. These Air quality walks are an initiative by the Leeds Living Lab Project to monitor air quality throughout 12 months starting from November/December and then moving up to November/December 2018.  It provides a data set that we can give to planning and operations to help engage their air quality strategy.

How would you compare the Leeds and Alberta?

Compared to Alberta I find Leeds is a lot more condensed. You get a lot of different air quality concerns that you wouldn’t get back in Alberta. I would say the density is much higher so you get a lot more traffic and a lot more slow traffic on motorways.  So that can result in a lot more diesel cars, I find that it’s a lot smoggy here. So it’s more noticeable. On some days it’s difficult to quantify on just a sensory basis. It’s something that has to be more experienced through sensors and monitors. It seems more people are concerned about Air Quality here than Alberta.

I think there’s something to be learned from Leeds to take back to Alberta. From what I’ve seen working with Sustainability on campus. There are a lot more initiatives here as far as biodiversity as well as data monitoring through the city. I think that’s something I’ll be taking back to Alberta.  Valuing biodiversity and monitoring on campus to the best of my knowledge I don’t see as many projects or outreaches are not quite there.  And that is well something that I find in Leeds. Think there’s a lot of different concerns that make it difficult for me to say one thing or another to compare both Alberta and Leeds, as far as land preservation, it’s a different specialality. It’s more condensed, less area here than there is in Canada so there are different solutions that have to be considered.

It’s National Clean Air Day on the 21st June. What’s your Clean Air Day pledge?

For National Clean Air Day 2018 I’m trying to rely on walking and cycling rather than using public transportation. Because public transport is substantially better than driving a single car but cycling would still be better!

University leads the way with Biodiversity


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!