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Revolutionising how we tackle food waste at the University

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Student Sustainability Architects

Student Sustainability Architect Katie Fox shares insight into food waste within the UK and her mission to revolutionise how we handle food waste at the University...

Welcome to the exciting world of sustainable dining! I'm thrilled to take you on a journey through our food waste project at the Refectory—a project that's not just about serving delicious meals, but also about making a positive impact on the environment and our community. 

Despite commendable efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the years, the UK  is still emitting a whopping 44.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from the agricultural industry alone! To put that into perspective, that's the entire annual COemissions of Ecuador, a country with 18 million people.

And here's the kicker: a staggering 5.5% of our national greenhouse gas emissions stem from wasted food. Yes, wasted! As a result, institutions, schools, universities and businesses have a unique opportunity to directly reduce the GHG emissions of the agricultural industry through simple yet effective behavioural changes.

Working with the Refectory to tackle food waste

The refectory building

Enter yours truly, the Student Sustainability Architect here to save the day… ok more like the hour? And I am on a mission to revolutionise how we handle food waste at the Refectory.

Teaming up with our brilliant Head Chef, Lisa Hall, we've launched a survey that will not only help to shed light on the root causes of plate waste but also gives you a shot at winning one of ten Too Good To Go Bags. Because hey, who doesn't love a win-win situation?

Once we have analysed the results; the Refectory will reassess both their internal and external strategies. Potential outcomes are changing portion sizes, altering the meals on offer and reorganising our canteen layout. These changes, backed by previous scientific models to maximise their effect will help our customers to be more eco-conscious.

Our sustainability efforts don't stop at the kitchen door. Behind the scenes, the Refectory uses a 'Just in Time' procurement model, ensuring ingredients are ordered only when needed to minimise spoilage. And when it comes to cooking, we've mastered the art of batch cooking—smaller batches, fresher meals, and fewer leftovers. Plus, we've got some secret sauce up our sleeves (literally!)—common food ends are transformed into soup stock and sauces, adding flavour and nutrition with every spoonful.

Now, what about those inevitable leftovers? We sell food and drinks packages daily via the Too Good To Go app discounted up to 60% off making it a win-win for both your wallet and the environment. And any remaining food waste? That's where our partnerships with organisations like Olleco come in, they transform our waste oil into biodiesel, meaning you could be riding a bus powered by last night's dinner. Finally, across the university we are part of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and are accredited by this organisation. Meaning that Great Food at Leeds receives the most up to date information on sustainable dining. 

Of course, sustainability is not just dry papers and stuffy conferences. It's about making a real impact. We have designed our work to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, our initiatives would contribute to Goal 2, Goal 12, and Goal 13. But most importantly we would feed (pun intended) into the University's Climate Plan and objective to deliver net zero emissions across the University. Not only that, but we would help make this world a happier and healthier place!

What can you do about food waste?

Person serving another person food at a deli counter

  • Fill out my survey to be in for a chance to win a "Too Good to Go" bag, and help me better understand food waste at the Refectory!
  • Be mindful about your own consumption habits to avoid food going to waste.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive into our survey, join this sustainability revolution and let's cook up a greener future together! Got questions, ideas, or just want to say hi? Drop us a line at the Sustainability Service at Because when it comes to saving the planet, the more, the merrier!