As a student sustainability architect this year, I had the opportunity to promote a circular resource economy to University students and assist the University in working towards its zero waste and single-use plastic goals.
I have loved working for the Sustainability Service to drive sustainability messaging and initiatives off-campus. The response I received from students throughout the project has been truly inspiring; it was great to hear so many enthusiastic students express their interest in sustainability, with many offering to help spread our message within the halls of residences. I was able to collect over 400 student responses from a Sustainability Engagement Survey; which I fed to the Sustainability Service and residence managers to highlight key focus areas for the year.
My favourite part of the project was engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly local charities, to organise events which promoted recycling and gave back to the community. I met with the Brain Tumour Research Support (BTRS) charity to discuss how the University could get involved in their recycling program. The program recycles single-use items, such as toothpaste tubes and crisp packets, and creates new recycled products. In return, the recycling manufacturer donates money directly to Ellie’s Fund at BTRS to support brain tumour research here in Yorkshire. I began to pilot this program within two University accommodation sites; however, due to university closures in March, I was unable to continue the project through. I am proud of the progress undertaken so far and see this as an exciting opportunity to raise awareness of students’ single-use plastic consumption, while simultaneously helping a great cause.
Another exciting project I had the opportunity to organise was the Spring Clean Clothes Swaps. The clothes swaps were a great chance to highlight the fashion industry’s waste problem while offering students a sustainable way to donate their unwanted clothes and revamp their wardrobe for free. We were lucky enough to partner with the British Heart Foundation for the event, with all remaining items donated to the Headingley store. Unfortunately, the pandemic meant that all scheduled events were cancelled; however, the interest from the site managers and students gives me hope that they will take place in the future. I believe this is a great way to encourage students to invest in long-term sustainable wardrobe options and find ways to upcycle their old clothes.
Despite the University’s shorter academic year and a national lockdown, the Sustainability Service and Residence Life team at the University of Leeds continued to provide excellent support in adapting to the new circumstances and promoting sustainability messaging across all student platforms. The experience has helped build my project management, communication, and creativity skills; for which I an extremely grateful. I want to thank all teams involved for their continued efforts to drive positive sustainable impact across the University. The work undertaken to meet the University’s climate and waste targets is truly inspiring and I am so thankful to have worked for such a dedicated team.
Ailish Byrne – Student Sustainability Architect
BSc Environmental Science
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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work towards achieving zero waste and reducing our single-use plastic goal is linked to the following SDGs:
- Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
- Goal 13: Climate action
- Goal 17: Partnerships
Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.