Ideas for research projects

Here at the University of Leeds all students can integrate sustainability into their degree. One of the easiest and most effective ways of doing this is through your dissertation or other research projects.

The Sustainability Service has a library of case studies and potential research projects for students. We can also support you in developing your research through the Leeds Living Lab.

Why do a sustainability research project?

There are lots of reasons for incorporating sustainability into your studies.

Here are just a few:

  • Increase your employability by developing new skills and demonstrating knowledge and awareness of key global challenges faced by employers and society.
  • Sustainability is interdisciplinary, so most students can integrate it into their research in a way that aligns with their interests – from exploring low carbon energy in rural areas, to investigating the social impact of the arts on ethical purchasing.
  •  Tailor your research project to address a sustainability challenge that can drive action, deliver change and have a positive impact on society.
  •  You could showcase your work and share your learning at the annual University of Leeds Student Sustainability Research Conference or even enter the University of Leeds Annual Sustainability Awards.

How do I develop a sustainability research project?

First up, you need to decide what you want to research. You might already have a topic in mind. You might even be ready to crack on without any support from the Sustainability Service. That’s great and if so please do let us know what you are doing and email us at sustainability@leeds.ac.uk.

If you need a bit more inspiration, we have a list of research project ideas below. We can help you think about how you could research these through your degree.

You could also carry out your research as a Leeds Living Lab, using the University as your test bed and driving real sustainable change to your own place of study. We can provide support for these projects and set up collaborations with teams both within the University, such as Estates Services, or externally with partners in the city.

If you are still unsure and need some support, discuss with your supervisor or module leader before contacting us at sustainability@leeds.ac.uk.

Research project ideas

We have collated a list of different projects available in a range of sustainability areas below. These will give you some ideas of what you could do, and we’re here to help you get started so get in touch with us at sustainability@leeds.ac.uk if you would like to talk through a project idea.

Air Quality

  • An analysis of air quality of specific locations on campus (i.e. car park) and recommendations for improvement.
  • Air quality studies of the University campus.

Biodiversity

  • Identifying the long-term social value of greenspaces in the workplace, both during and post COVID-19 at the University of Leeds.
  • Creating cultural change around campus green spaces. How to ensure staff use green spaces during work hours in a post Covid-19 workplace.
  • Estimating the amenity value of student, staff and community engagement with the Roger Stevens pond.
  • Review of the City’s biodiversity strategy and what it means for the University of Leeds.
  • Evaluation of the success of the Roger Stevens Pond in increasing campus biodiversity (Urban Water Living Lab)
  • Natural Flood Management trials at the Brownlee Centre site.

Climate

  • The unavoidable hypocrisy of the climate change researcher?

Communications

  • Analysing the effectiveness of sustainability communications at the University of Leeds.

Community

  • Building community cohesion in the LS6 postcode region of Leeds amongst rising conflict and tensions between students and permanent residents.
  • Twenty years on from “studentification”. Are students still impacting communities for the better and worse?
  • The COVID effect. What have been and what are the main impacts on student, university and Leeds communities relationships?
  • Community engagement opportunities of the Sustainable Garden and Roger Stevens Pond.

Environmental management policy

  • Identification and analysis potential gaps in environmental governance after the Brexit transition period at the University of Leeds.
  • Identifying applicable environmental compliance obligations for the University in a particular area.

Food waste

  • Encouraging consumer behaviour change around reducing food waste in the University of Leeds restaurants and cafes.

Single use plastic

  • Identification and removal of single-use plastics in packaging waste, using the University of Leeds as a study.
  • Identifying alternatives to black plastic plant pots and conducting a feasibility assessment for use by University Ground and Gardens.
  • Lifecycle analysis of particular single-use plastic items and/or comparisons of the lifecycle impacts of single-use plastic alternatives.
  • How to achieve systematic change in an organisation to achieve a reduction in plastic production, consumption or waste management with specific recommendations for the University of Leeds.
  • Achieving behaviour change around the use of single-use plastics including recommendations for the University of Leeds.
  • Achieving behaviour change around the use of reusable products including recommendations for the University of Leeds.
  • Identification of single-use plastics in a School or specific area (i.e. teaching/labs/events) and feasibility assessment of alternatives.

Sustainable curriculum

  • Leeds Sustainable Curriculum: Review of staff training and resources offered by other institutions including recommendations for the University of Leeds.
  • Enhancing educational engagement in the Sustainable Garden and Roger Stevens Pond.
  • Sustainable graduations at the University of Leeds.
  • Sustainability of teaching practice at the University of Leeds.

Sustainable design and engineering

  • Sustainable solutions to subsidence of embankment supporting a large 3G pitch

Sustainable transport

  • An assessment of urban cycling infrastructure good practice and and solutions for the University of Leeds campus.
  • An assessment of how politics affects the development of transport infrastructure and the impacts of this on University of Leeds Sustainable Travel targets.
  • Assessing the impacts of the University’s new and improved Cycle to Work Scheme on equality and inclusion.
  • From climate principles to climate action: developing a net-zero university travel policy

Volunteering

  • A review of sustainability volunteering and resources offered by other institutions including recommendations for the University of Leeds.

Waste

  • Achieving behaviour change around the use of reusable products including recommendations for the University of Leeds.
  • Review of the City’s waste strategy and what it means for the University of Leeds.

Each year the Sustainability Service supports dissertations and research projects by students across a whole range of disciplines. Here are a couple of examples:

  • A water consumption study on the University of Leeds Western Campus, Madeleine Eaves – School of Civil Engineering, 2019
  • Single-use plastic reduction at UK higher learning institutions: Motivations and best practice, David Burt – MSc Climate Change and Environmental Policy, 2019

If you have completed a sustainability-themed dissertation or research project and would like to share your findings with us please send them to sustainability@leeds.ac.uk

Useful resources:

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on research projects is linked to all of the SDGs.

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.