Student Sustainability Architects: Welcome Mariam!


Picture of person sitting cross-legged on the grass
Welcome to Mariam who will be working with Leeds University Business School to further embed sustainability into the curriculum.

Hello, I am Mariam Zaqout, a PhD researcher at the School of Civil Engineering, interestein the political economy of financing sustainable sanitation servicein low and middle-income countries.

During my role as Student Sustainability Architect, I will work with the Business School to integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the School’s curriculum. Such initiative is crucial since the world face many challenges to improve the lives of all while tackling the environmental challenges preventing sustainable development.

Since education has always played a leading role in tackling contemporary issues and shaping the global market, this project aims to equip the Business School students with sustainability knowledge to harness their business skills to solve sustainability challenges from both industry and research perspectives in their fields of interest

I look forward to applying similar initiative across all the University’s schools since being sustainability literate promotes multidisciplinary collaboration and bridge the gap between the university graduates and the requirements of the global market to deliver these seventeen goals. And I believe it should also be a personal commitment from all of us as global citizens to engage with SDGs.  

#MyImpact: Sustainability Projects Assistant

Kate Marriot in front of a tree

Graduating from Leeds with a degree in Sustainability was a bit daunting. Any student graduating from University feels a bit lost when applying for jobs, trying to find one that will enable you make the impact you want in the world and that will use all the skills you’ve developed throughout your studying. But I was lucky enough to find both purpose and challenge over the past 11 months as a Sustainability Intern at the University’s Sustainability Service.

My role within the service has been so varied, allowing me to explore a huge breadth of sustainability in action. Throughout my degree, learning about climate change, circular economy, social justice, environmental politics and so much more, I began to feel more and more eager to have a practical impact on these elements of a sustainable future.

Through my role, I was able to support the University’s Climate Plan, embed sustainability across the University through our Blueprint programme, celebrate sustainability successes at the University and beyond through organising the Sustainability Awards, support connections with the community with the PIP programme and be involved in the University’s travel work, such as our emission reporting and work towards a sustainable return to campus. All this gave me a brilliant insight to a huge range of work streams within Sustainability.

My role working alongside colleagues surrounding the University’s travel was particularly interesting and enjoyable for me. Having an insight into the data collection for emissions reporting and being able to work in a small group to tackle problems was extremely rewarding. Similarly, I was able to take the time to up skill myself in using Arc GIS Pro, a software I was keen to learn more about, in order to support the return to campus work as part of the active travel working group. All the elements of the travel project work challenged me to expand my data management skills, stay up to date with national and regional travel updates and to learn a lot about good teamwork!

The Sustainability Service were bold enough to put a lot of trust in Hatty and myself, giving us the space to explore interesting topics, make suggestions and generally get stuck in. I was fortunate to have been able to perform a review of the Blueprint programme, talking to people in sustainability and beyond to gain their insights. With fantastic support from the team, I was able to suggest some improvements and deliver training sessions on these changes. Having this chance to explore how a project is run and be critical to make improvements was a brilliant opportunity and I am grateful to the Service for putting that trust in me.

One of the most valuable things this role has given me has been an insight into the amazing work done by people at the University at every level, both in academic and operational areas, and seeing what can happen when they can be enabled to work together, such as through living lab projects. It is so motivating to know that the University is home to people who work their socks off every day to try and make the University and the world a more equal and sustainable place. I know that whatever career I pursue in the future, that I will remember the wonderful people within the Sustainability Service and everything they have helped me learn.

#MyImpact: Sustainability Projects Assistant


Harriet Matthews stood by a tree

My name is Hatty and I have been one of the Sustainability Interns this year for the Sustainability Service.

I initially applied for the role because I wanted to gain a diverse experience and understanding of what it could mean within the incredibly broadly-termed ‘sustainability’ sector. I can definitely say I got a taste of this!

Coming to sustainability with a greater interest and experience of the social, rather than environmental side, of sustainability, I both enhanced and furthered my interest in this area, and pushed myself to explore more of the areas which were often confusing – and slightly scary – to my non-science-y brain. Throughout my role, I have worked heavily on the #2023PlasticFree campaign, student citizenship programme, co-organising this years digital (suprise!) sustainability awards with Kate, and assisting in the coordination of the University’s submission for the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Awards. Myself and Kate have also done a lot of work in enhancing the use of social media to better engage with students.

This year has hugely broadened my understanding of both sustainability – crucially, encompassing  both environmental and social elements – and ways of working towards sustainable solutions in such a huge organisation. The diverse range of work I was able to help assist with over the course of the year highlighted to me the need to look holistically at the ways in which we create sustainable change in an educational setting, be that through research, operations, teaching, or leadership – all are equally vital. My role offered me the chance to look at all these areas, for example through how we combine the exciting ongoing research into plastic reduction and alternatives with how this can be implemented operationally.

My role in gathering the required data for this year’s submission for the Times Higher Education Impact Award was also a hugely rewarding project to work on. It involved me working across vast sectors of the University, seeking out data used as evidence for how the University is tackling the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It was a hugely striking insight into the broad — and fascinatingly specific — areas of what goes on behind the scenes to create a such a far-reaching sustainable impact at the University.

I have relished the opportunity to be a member of such a forward-thinking sector of the University, and the chance to provide insight as a recent graduate is something that enabled me to contribute to team discussions on a range of issues, from student engagement, stakeholder engagement, and even strategic direction of the team.

This year has instilled in me the sense that whatever career go on to pursue, sustainability has to be at the forefront; I have worked with countless of inspiring people across the University, and if anything, working within the Sustainability Service has demonstrated the importance of sustainability as an embedded component of how we all operate, in whatever field that may be – and wherever I end up!

Being a Student Sustainability Architect

Rachel standing in the countryside smiling with pink jacket and hat

Student Sustainability Architect Rachel DeCordoba 

Our 2019/20 Student Sustainability Architect cohort share their thoughts and experiences with us as this year draws to a close.

Rachel DeCordoba – Conference and Curriculum

Wow, where did the year go? It’s hard to believe that my time as an Architect is already coming to a close, but it’s been a great experience, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

As a major highlight, the fourth annual Student Sustainability Research Conference proved to be a success. After helping to prepare for event, it was inspiring to see students present original research from so many different programmes and backgrounds, truly proving that sustainability is a multidisciplinary concept. Students worked to intentionally link their research with the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well, demonstrating how different research topics can be connected to larger common goals.  From viewing posters to attending presentations to experiencing interactive exhibits, I agree with conference attendees’ feedback that the day was both educational and enjoyable. I learned so much!

I also spent time this year working on how to integrate sustainability into the larger university curriculum and opportunities for research, including researching best practices from other universities around the world. Very quickly, it became apparent just how much of a leader the University of Leeds is in this field, from developing an auditing tool to link existing modules to Sustainable Development Goals, to compiling a comprehensive list of past dissertations relating to sustainability. Having such a large community at this university both amplifies opportunities for spreading the word about sustainability research and curriculum, but can also pose a challenging question for how best to reach students and staff. It’s my hope and prediction that with a combination of robust online resources and the further development of relationships between and within departments, students will gain a greater understanding of opportunities for sustainable research, and staff will utilise resources to implement sustainable aspects in their curricula. 

I’m so thankful to have been a part of this team, who has been so flexible with virtual and remote working during this pandemic (from different continents, no less!). While I’m sad that my one year at the university is nearly over, I look forward to watching future Architects and the Sustainability team continue with these exciting campaigns. This year’s experience has reinforced the idea that we need people from all disciplines to truly realise a sustainable world, and I look forward to seeing what comes next!

Person looking up into trees through binoculars
Student Sustainability Architect Fern Spencer

Fern Spencer – Food Carbon Footprinting

My year as a Sustainability Architect has really flown by. I’ve been working with catering services on campus to research and communicate the carbon footprint of food, which has been a great experience to end my degree on.  

Interestingly, not much has been done in catering venues globally to educate customers on the carbon footprint of the food they’re eating. This has come as a surprise to me, considering the amount of attention ‘low carbon’ diets have achieved in recent years. Information on the high carbon content of animal products, such as beef, has been pulsated throughout social media, the news and in international climate change agendas. As a result, there has been a massive surge in the demand for plant based food, as people alter their diets.  

As a Student Sustainability Architect, I’ve been given the freedom to explore this myself and determine how best to educate customers of the Refectory (students, staff and members of the public) about the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with their food choices. This has involved using the TUCO tool, a carbon accounting tool specially developed for large catering organisations, to calculate the carbon footprint of meals in the Refectory.  

The Refectory has been forward thinking in increasing the availability and range of their plant based food options, including the introduction of the vegan deli bar. This year, I have collaborated with marketing teams to develop a strategy to communicate this carbon footprint. It was important that the strategy used would be effective at informing customers which foods were comparatively better and worse for the environment. This would allow them to make an informed decision on their food choices and hopefully encourage the consumption of lower carbon foods. Given the unprecedented global covid-19 crisis we find ourselves in, adaptations are being made and this will likely be incorporated into the Refectory website for new students starting in September.  

During the year, I showcased my research at the annual University of Leeds Student Sustainability conference and networked with many talented individuals who are also pursuing interests in sustainability.  

I’m extremely grateful for the freedom and support given to me by the sustainability team, and my mentor Ian, whilst completing the project. This was the perfect opportunity to put my knowledge and skills into practice, learn from others and gain confidence in the sustainability sector. So thank you for the opportunity! I look forward to seeing what future architects implement.  

Negar Naghshinehpour Esfahani – Cleaning Services Student Architect 

The last few months have been a great learning experience for me working as a student architect with the cleaning services. Initially, it was a steep learning curve. I had to quickly and effectively understand the departments’ needs and challenges. From there, we decided that the reduction of bin liners was the main priority which directly supported the universities wider goal of achieving a plastic-free campus by 2023.  The months that followed were filled with trying to find alternative materials for bin liners and to understand their respective environmental benefits. With the effects of Covid-19, I was not able to take the next step and implement the trail bags nor do a full LCA (life cycle analysis) on them.  That said, the key takeaways from this experience will last with me for years to come and I’d like to share my top 3 with you. 

1 – Be open to change and communicate well – understanding that as a researcher or consultant the need to check in with your clients’ needs should be number one on the agenda. Be willing to communicate over the course of the project as well as open to changing your ideas to fulfil the needs. You don’t want to end up with a great idea that’s not solving your defined problem. 

2 – Sustainability is not an easy choice – for many of us in this field, we’ve come to understand the various tradeoffs sustainability brings. In order to make the best decision, in this scenario, a full life cycle analysis should also be taken. This will then lead to a clearer understanding of what the impacts are from switching to an alternative material besides plastic. Although initially, it may sound like an alternative bin liner is the best decision, the specific details regarding its composition, weight, performance, end of life also play a critical role. 

3 – Learn from the wider community – I found it most effective when I shared my research and findings with the wider sustainable architect team as well as the wider University during the sustainability conference. It was during these times, I received valuable feedback and criticism to then take back to the drawing board. By sharing your research, other opportunities may arise and lead to collaborative working opportunities. 

Camila Limberg Dias

My name is Camila, I am an Msc. Sustainability and Consultancy student. I finish my work as a Sustainability Architect with an award “in hands” and with the feeling of mission accomplished. The mission to reduce single-use plastics in laboratories is already challenging, and together with the difficulties caused by COVID-19 and the lockdown, deeply affected much of the work. But the progress made during the last months brought me, and the other colleagues involved, many learnings and a great foundation to keep fighting plastics in labs.  

I was able to first work with the Protein Production Facility, mapping the consumption of plastics and the willingness to change behaviour from its users. This process showed us the challenges go beyond the lab facilities and its users, but involve the processes, the suppliers, the materials available, health and safety and other aspects. A coordinated action, bringing together researchers, lab technicians, purchasing team, health and safety team and cleaning staff will definitely escalate the various changes that can be done to reduce the use of single-use plastics, reuse them when possible and recycle more. 

The more detailed understanding of this challenge is the first step and the baton I pass for the next sustainability architect to spread such measures to other labs and generate a bigger impact for the University to comply with the pledge. 

I would like to specially thank Laura Hewitt (Lab technician at the Protein Production Facility) for the great ongoing work as a sustainability architect from staff and great supoort. Also, I would like to thank to the whole sustainability team for the opportunity of experiencing this and leave a legacy to the university. 

Thank you Leeds Sustainability Team! 

Person holding a bug
Student Sustainability Architect Karolina Zarzyczny

Karolina Zarzyczny Biodiversity Action Planning

As a Student Sustainability Architect, I have spent most of this year working with the Residential Services to develop site-specific, Biodiversity Action Plan Recommendations. Biodiversity provides the foundation for ecosystem services required for human wellbeing. As the UK’s biodiversity is under threat, it is crucial to enhance biodiversity and maximise wildlife opportunities; especially in urban environments.  

Over the course of this academic year (2019-2020) I conducted habitat surveys across six off-campus residences; North Hill Road Residences, North Hill Court, Montague Burton, St Mark’s Residence, Sentinel Towers and Central Village. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to apply my fieldwork skills gained during my Zoology degree to the “real world”. Using ArcGIS and QGIS,  I then was able to create site-specific habitat maps which allow us to easily visualise the current habitats present. Moreover, the maps can be used to estimate the biodiversity value of each site by scoring it based on the quality and area size of the habitats present. This is important when trying to maximise wildlife opportunities across the residences. I was then able to use the maps and notes from the surveys to develop site-specific recommendations aiming to either enhance the biodiversity value of the site or to enhance the opportunities available for the residents, staff and visitors to engage with local wildlife and nature. My work has been shared with senior and site managers and hopefully when the time is right, the recommendations will be gradually implemented!  

I was hoping to spend the spring months conducting wildlife surveys and workshops with the residents, but due to the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic, this wasn’t possible. Hopefully, the next student architect will be able to bring some of those ideas to life!  

Despite the challenges faced by everyone in the second semester, working as a Student Sustainability Architect has been a fantastic experience. I was not only able to apply a lot of the skills and knowledge gained during my degree, to the real world, but I also learnt a lot. I have gained a lot of knowledge into selecting wildlife friendly plants for various environmental conditions, and I also had the opportunity to attend skills-based workshops such as a Marketing and Communications training session. So, thank you for this opportunity and if you are a university student looking for a part-time role in sustainability, I cannot recommend this position enough! 




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.

Student Sustainability Architects Work Published in Discovering Sustainability Journal

This year’s Student Sustainability Architects are now halfway through their projects and a few of them have successfully had their work published in the University of Leeds Discovering Sustainability Journal.

Find out more about the journal and their progress to date at

Colour Hyde Park Design Competition 2020

Looking for an opportunity to showcase your talent?

Wanting to develop your creativity and artistic skills?

APPLY NOW for our “Colour Hyde Park” – Mural Design Competition!

The University of Leeds is calling again on all budding artists, students, schools and community groups to submit their designs to this year’s “Colour Hyde Park” Mural Design Competition. 

Our project aims to improve the visual appearance of the area and celebrate the spirit and diversity of the community through the creation of multiple artistic murals around Hyde Park. We are working with residents and organisations in the area to ensure our project reflects and celebrates the community of Hyde Park. 

See the following link for more detail about the Colour Hyde Park Project and details of the winning entries from 2019:

We want YOU to get involved!

Our design competition is open for EVERYONE to join in and submit their entries.  This project gives you the opportunity to show your talent to the world and bring pride to the community of Hyde Park!

“Colour Hyde Park” – Mural Design Competition 2020

For our Mural Design Competition, we are looking for mural designs that reflect the Hyde Park community and why it’s a great place to live, work and study. We welcome designs from individuals or community groups; such as voluntary and residents groups, schools and religious centres. Chosen artists will paint their design in Hyde Park with our support.

Successful applicants will receive a materials budget and prominent location in Hyde Park to create a street mural based on their designs, £100 Fred Aldous voucher and promotion of their artwork and their background in a mural map leaflet and University communications campaigns and events.

Find out more and submit your entry:–mural-design-competition-in-leeds-uk/4218


New Student Project Opportunity with Coffee on the Crescent


Coffee on the Crescent cafe store signage
Image Credit: @speakofthelevel


Do you want to gain experience relevant to a career in sustainability whilst using your data analysis skills to combat the climate crisis in the local area?

Tim is a local resident, owner of independent café Coffee on the Crescent (@coffeepilgrimuk) and a former University of Leeds Geography student. He is taking urgent action to combat the climate crisis by making a positive sustainable impact on the consumption and waste management practices of businesses and residences in Hyde Park Crescent, the area in which his café is based. Tim hopes to demonstrate how changes in waste management practices can help the City to meet its climate objectives whilst working in partnership with local businesses to implement findings.

Tim is looking to work with a University of Leeds student for up to 100 hours on this project and objectives will include:

  • Research the waste requirements of the businesses on Hyde Park Crescent; this will include data collection and analysis of results from each business;
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of options which promote more sustainable waste disposal options;
  • Investigate the ways in which changes in waste collection process can lead to an improvement of the external communal areas within the Crescent; and
  • Demonstrate ways in which changes in waste management can help to meet City climate objectives on resource efficiency and single-use plastic reduction, implementing learnings of the University’s #2023PlasticFree programme.

Previous experience of undertaking cost-benefit analyses along with data analysis skills would be beneficial.


To find out more and to apply, send a copy of your CV along with a one-page covering letter explaining why you are interested in the role to Kelly Forster ( with the subject ‘Coffee on the Crescent’.

Knowledge & Capacity Survey


illustration of a person working at a computer

The University is committed to improving staff knowledge and understanding of sustainability.  To do this, we are carrying out a consultation to better understand the “needs” across the whole institution and this survey forms part of that consultation.

We aim to gather information which will help us to develop a programme of training and support that meets the needs of all staff at the University of Leeds.  It will help us to understand what topics we need to build capacity in, who needs training or other support, and where there are gaps.

Thank you very much for your time, we really value your input.  The survey should take about 10 minutes for you to complete, and all responses are anonymous.  If you would like more information on how the data will be used, or other ways to get involved please sign up for the Sustainability Newsletter or get in touch at

Click here to complete the survey

Survey closes 28 Feb 2020