Earth Day, widely seen as the birth of the modern environmental movement, marks its 53rd anniversary on Saturday 22 April 2023.
This year’s Earth Day theme is ‘invest in our planet’. Here in Leeds, our Climate Plan sets out the University’s largest single investment of £174m in support of our seven principles for climate action. More than £150m has been set against our ambitious target to deliver net zero emissions by 2030, including improving efficiency in our buildings, reducing energy use, shifting away from fossil gas and enabling sustainable travel.
The work to do this will not be easy, and it will take time - particularly given our complex mix of buildings. But by working together as a University community, collaboratively and with ingenuity, we have the opportunity to not only deliver against our proposed pathway, but even to exceed it. Together, we can speed up emissions reductions and reduce the remaining emissions that will need to be balanced through carbon removal projects.
So what can you do? Whether you are a member of staff or a student, here are some of the ways you can contribute to real emissions reductions, today.
Identify opportunities for change
Tackling climate change will need ingenuity and creativity to find new solutions, and no idea is too small to make a difference. If you spot an opportunity to improve sustainability across the University community then there are a whole range of ways the University can help you turn it into reality.
If you have a question or suggestion or want to get involved with the Sustainability Service at the University of Leeds, we’d love to hear from you. Please use this Activity Initiation Form to make your request.
LUU consider policy suggestions at the LUU Better Forums. A previous suggestion from students saw the University switch the default search engine on University PCs to Ecosia, which uses funds raised to plant a tree for every 45 searches made. You can also get in touch with your LUU Sustainability Reps.
Check your own carbon footprint
A really important start point to reducing your impact is understanding what areas of your lifestyle have the greatest carbon footprint. For example, you could choose planet friendly meal choices with meat free and locally sourced ingredients, buy second hand clothing instead of new, and bring your own reusable coffee cup or refillable water bottle which you can refill at water points across campus.
Reduce energy use
Our pathway to net zero includes changes to the source of energy on campus, and improvements to the fabric of buildings to improve energy efficiency. But we also need to reduce the amount of energy we use. We can all help save energy through simple actions like turning off equipment when not in use and making sure that windows are closed when we finish in a room.
If you spot energy waste that you can’t prevent yourself - such as lights left on in buildings overnight or heating set uncomfortably high – you can report it either direct to the building operations team or to the Estates team helpdesk.
Repair, reuse and recycle
Everything that we use at the University has a carbon impact created by its manufacturing, transport and disposal. The simplest way to reduce emissions is to reduce what we use, whether by avoiding entirely or switching to longer life or reusable alternatives.
One way to do this is by buying second hand or even borrowing items instead of buying them. As well as the ‘usual suspects’ like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Vinted and Depop as well as charity shops and vintage stores, check out student marketplace Hazaar and Buy Nowt LS6 in Headingley.
Try to keep items out of landfill wherever you can. If you have something that’s broken you can fix it at a Repair Café. You could also upcycle items into something new, or pass it on for others to use by selling or giving away. Look out for British Heart Foundation charity collections at University residences, as well as the annual end of term Good to Give campaign which aims to pass unwanted items on to new homes. And if something really cannot be repaired or reused, then many items can be recycled – make sure you check what the council can and cannot accept in recycling bins.
The University and LUU are committed to working collaboratively on tackling single-use plastic in our operations. Find out how you can reduce single-use plastics day to day.
Consider your travel options
As part of our Climate Plan, the University has committed to reducing emissions from travel. For those who are able to, active travel like running, cycling and walking has benefits not just for climate but also for health and wellbeing. Check our web pages for information on sustainable travel, including information on hiring and maintaining bikes through the University Bike Hub.
If you're a staff member, the University travel booking process includes guidelines on choosing more sustainable travel options. Booking through the University’s travel supplier, Key Travel, gives the option to select the ‘greenest fare’ option, and means we can accurately account for our travel emissions. If travel by train is an option, the launch of flexible season passes for those travelling in only a few days a week can help make this more affordable.
Join or create a sustainability network
There is a lot you can do to reduce your impact yourself, but you can achieve more by being part of a wider community taking action. You could start by talking to your friends or colleagues about the University Climate Plan – you might be surprised to find how many people would like to be more sustainable but don’t know where to start. Letting them know what you are doing to reduce your own impact could inspire them to get involved as well.
Get Involved in the University
- Become a Student Sustainability Architect
- Sign up to volunteer with the Sustainability Service or register for an event
- Choose one of the Sustainable Futures Discovery modules. Not only will this help you reduce your climate impact personally, it will also give you crucial skills for the jobs market.
- Focus your own research projects on sustainability, which could see you using the campus as a Living Lab.
- Share your own research and be inspired by other students at the annual Student Sustainability Research Conference
- Join our Sustainability Community on Teams
- Become a Staff Sustainability Architect
- Work with your school, service or department to create your own bespoke Blueprint sustainability programme.
- Check our SLabs network for ideas and support, and consider joining the LEAF scheme to gain accreditation for sustainability initiatives. Labs are particularly high energy users and, whilst some of this is unavoidable, closing fume hoods and changing freezer temperatures can make a big difference.
Keep up to date on the latest news
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on Student Citizenship links to all of the SDGs.
Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.