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Success at the 2023 Green Gown Awards

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Student Sustainability Architects

We are thrilled that the University of Leeds has been recognised with four nominations and two prestigious awards at the 2023 Green Gown Awards..

The awards are a celebration of sustainability excellence in higher education run by EAUC, the Alliance for Sustainability in Higher Education, and the winners were announced at a ceremony in Liverpool on 30 November. 

Student Sustainability Champion - Hazel Mooney

Hazel Mooney holds her award while wearing the green gown. She is smiling

Hazel Mooney, a postgraduate researcher and 2022-3 Student Sustainability Architect, was announced as the winner of the Student Sustainability Champion category. Hazel’s entry outlined her role championing the voice of young people in climate action, with her work centred around trees and tree planting.

Hazel helped to run the volunteering programme for the planting of the new Gair Wood in north Leeds earlier this year. She also chairs Students for Trees - a UK-wide programme supported by the Woodland Trust and SOS-UK to mobilise students to take action for woods and trees. Her work has ranged from tree planting projects through to creating learning materials for young people. 

The judges said Hazel’s entry was “a brilliant case study of hands-on learning, working with Students for Trees create educational materials for children to help build their connection with trees.  Alongside her studies for a PhD, Hazel is a Student Sustainability Architect and has become an authority on engagement with young people and invited to speak in Parliament to the All–Party Parliamentary Group for Woods and Trees, presenting calls to action for the conservation of trees in the UK.” 

Upon winning the award, Hazel said:

I've dedicated lots of time over the years to providing opportunities for young people to take action for woods and trees and feel empowered to fight the climate and nature crises. I'm incredibly happy to receive this award as recognition of wonderful things that can be achieved when we work together.

Hazel Mooney is being given her green gown after winning her award. The gown is being put on her and she is smiling.

We also asked Hazel about her future plans, to which she said: "I'm excited to continue working closely with the sustainability service and the wider community to deliver more opportunities to make a positive difference for the environment and learn from each other."

Research with Impact - Gair Wood

The University also received a Highly Commended award in the ‘Research with Impact’ category for Gair Wood. One of the largest new woodland creation projects in the north of England, Gair Wood has transformed a University owned site in north Leeds by planting more than 66,000 trees.  

The site acts as a Living Lab for research and teaching, and is exploring the impacts of woodland planting as well as providing a resource for field trips and student projects. 

The first tree at Gair Wood was planted almost exactly one year ago, and is a collaborative project involving  United Bank of Carbon (UBoC), White Rose Forest, Leeds Ecosystem, Atmosphere and Forest (LEAF) centre, the University’s Estates team, as well as the many student, staff and community volunteers involved in planting the woodland. The site contributes to the White Rose Forest initiative which aims to increase tree coverage across Yorkshire. 

Dr Robin Hayward, Gair Wood communications lead, said the following:

A lot of work has gone into creating a woodland that has strong social, environmental, and ecological sustainability, beyond standard practices of tree planting. It's wonderful to have that effort recognised through this commendation.

The University of Leeds Gair Wood team are stood together smiling, celebrating their win.

When asked what was next for the project, Robin stated the following: "Now that planting has been completed at Gair Wood, we're moving on to the exciting phase of watching it grow. There's so much we can learn from careful monitoring of the environment and wildlife while woodland establishes and we're already collecting data with a focus to improve and inform future tree planting efforts across the UK."

Finalists - Residential Services and the Student Sustainability Research Conference

The University also received two further nominations at the awards.  

The Residential Services’ Blueprint team were shortlisted in the Student Engagement category for their work to address mental health and wellbeing through environmental projects including the creation of a sensory garden at Charles Morris accommodation, transforming two overgrown tennis courts into a woodland glade, and partnering with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to run ‘Wild Work Days’ for students and staff. Their engagement with the Student Sustainability Architect program also saw them delivering biodiversity and circular economy initiatives at University residences. 

Also in the Student Engagement category, we were shortlisted for the 2023 Student Sustainability Research Conference. This annual event offers students at any level and field of study the opportunity to share research contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and to learn and be inspired by each other. The 2023 event was for the first time a collaboration across institutions from Yorkshire Universities and was also run as a carbon neutral event. The 2024 Student Sustainability Research Conference will take place in March 2024. 

The full list of finalists can be found at the Green Gown Awards website.