The Living Lab has been running since May 2017 and there are a number of projects currently up and running. Take a look below at what is taking place, and the potential projects you can get involved in!
Investigating Plastic Free Behaviours
This collaboration between Catering Services and Leeds University Business School Marketing Division aims to investigate ways to reduce plastic waste and enhance the sense of accomplishment when individuals behave in a sustainable way. The researchers aim to demonstrate that, if sustainability goals are framed in a promotion-focused way (enhancing desired outputs rather than avoiding undesired ones), individuals would be more successful in their goals, especially if they keep track of their progress. This is being tested through the rate in which customers use reusable cups and the rate in which they recycle after consuming a meal. The project was funded through the #2023PlasticFree Living Lab funding call.
Living Lab for Air Quality
The Living Lab for Air Quality is one of our flagship projects. Bringing together academic staff, operational colleagues and students from all levels, we are measuring and mapping air quality in and around the University of Leeds Campus to help inform decision making, process and policy that improve our environment and the health of our community. To find out more click here.
i-Tree Leeds: Campus Survey
This project is a collaboration between the Sustainability Service and Leeds4Trees – a partnership of LEAF (Leeds Ecosystem, Atmosphere & Forest Centre), the United Bank of Carbon (UBoC) and Leeds City Council. We are exploring the value of trees and green spaces across campus as a pilot study for a City-wide project. The findings of the project will enable us to take even better account of the value of trees when planning campus development. You can access the interactive map and read more about the project here.
Biofiltration Systems & Sustainable Urban Drainage
The Sustainability Service and Estates Services have collaborated with the School of Civil Engineering to investigate the design and configuration of biofiltration systems for sustainable urban drainage in the UK climate, using the University campus as a test-bed.
Biofiltration systems are landscaped Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) that provide rainfall-runoff reduction, peak flow attenuation and stormwater runoff treatment. They have a small footprint so can be retrofitted into the existing urban landscape which makes them ideal for locations such as the University of Leeds campus. The project aims to assess feasibility and opportunities for their uptake.
Phase 1 of the project included lab-based work to establish the appropriate soil matrix. Phase 2 then focussed on plant growth trials and included the installation of 24 biofilter columns at our Bardon Grange site in Leeds. PhD student Andrea Aiello recently completed 6 months of investigations to establish the optimum biofilter design and recommendations for Phase 3 – a pilot biofilter on campus! We will be sharing the findings here soon.
The Food Waste Living Lab
Food waste is a global challenge and the University of Leeds aims to lead the way in innovative approaches to reducing waste from our catering, cafes and restaurants. We have therefore developed a Food Waste Living Lab – an ongoing programme that encompasses a number of different projects, from feasibility studies to trials of innovative new ideas.
Feasibility of food waste management options: In 2017 The Sustainability Service collaborated with the Centre for Doctoral Training for Bioenergy to look at the feasibility of a variety of technological and behavioural approaches to managing the University’s food waste. Three students teamed up for their Research Project module, producing individual reports on specific focus areas, and a joint report to provide findings and recommendations of next steps to the University. You can read their reports below.
- Assessment of Food Waste Management Options for UoL – A Living Lab Approach (Davison N, Fenwick S & Sherwood H, 2017)
- Hannah Sherwood – UK Food Waste Policy and Legislation: Opportunities and Challenges for Decentralised Food Waste Management at the University of Leeds (Sherwood H, 2017)
- Nick Davison – Assessment of Biological Waste Management Options at the University of Leeds (Davison N, 2017)
You can read more about the project and meet the students here: Interview with CDT Bioenergy Students
Resource recovery from food waste: PhD Student Cynthia Okoro-Shekagwa has been researching sustainable bioenergy creation and resource recovery from food waste generated in the University of Leeds Refectory through anaerobic digestion. This will be used as part of wider case to investigate the business case for campus scale anaerobic digestion at the University. Through her PhD Cynthia aims to:
- Produce a model to predict methane production from food waste using hydrogen injection in anaerobic digestion
- Optimise process conditions for methane yields and biogas quality
- Produce academic evidence supporting alternative food waste management for UoL
- Deliver a presentation of findings and a summary report suitable for non-academic stakeholders
- Deliver a knowledge transfer workshop for students/researchers interested in the outputs of the research
Food Waste Research Network: In response to the above reports, the University has brought together an interdisciplinary network of food waste researchers. Keep an eye out here for updates on research outputs from this group.
Biochar in composting: Dr Andrew Ross in the School of Chemical & Process Engineering (SCaPE) is currently running a number of trials and experiments exploring the benefits of using biochar in composting. These benefits include reducing gaseous emissions, reducing odour, improving compost quality, enhancing composting rates and improving compost storage. The project is investigating the potential to supply high quality growth media for use on campus. It is currently carrying out trials in the Sustainable Garden in partnerships with Estates Services and LUU Rooted.
Student Sustainability Architects: Over the last few years we have had a number of Student Sustainability Architects working to deliver academic research that informs and supports a more sustainable approach to food and food waste management in partnership with Catering Services. We will soon be adding their reports and outcomes on the Student Sustainability Architects page.
Last Mile Deliveries
Large numbers of courier vehicles deliver parcels and packages to our Schools and Services around campus. Staff and students increasingly utilise the benefits of online orders with next day delivery to support research, teaching and operational activities. Such volumes of vehicle movement have an impact on congestion as well as local air quality.
We have made great strides in reducing the volume of vehicle movement by working with Go Getter Dispatch bike couriers to deliver campus post. However, goods and parcels delivered by external courier services remain a complex and fragmented challenge that is difficult to monitor and manage. The Facilities Directorate is therefore collaborating with the Institute for Transport Studies to map the flow of courier vehicles around our campus and to highlight potential future improvement projects that might help reduce local congestion and pollution.
LivingLabScape: Sustainable Garden
Based on the gold award-winning RHS flower show entry in 2012 by the University’s water@leeds, the Sustainable Garden is an excellent example of collaborative working between the Facilities Directorate, Leeds University Union and academic staff. It provides a multi-functional space for staff, students and visitors.
All can engage in cultivation of the edible garden, wildflower areas, soft fruit hedgerows, insect houses and pocket habitats. Regular gardening sessions allow volunteers to learn new skills, research pods are utilised for undergraduate student study, and the space as a whole offers a valuable teaching area, particularly for Biology and Geography modules.
We are in the process of summarising some of the recent research activity that has taken place in the Garden and will share it here soon.
Creating Sustainable Futures
As part of Broadening at the University of Leeds, one of our ten Discovery Themes is called Creating Sustainable Futures. This UK Green Gown Award winning project offers students across the University the opportunity to study sustainability modules as part of their degree. Students are able to tackle real-life sustainability challenges through practical projects. Research findings, data and solutions are shared with university operational staff, local communities and businesses to drive continual sustainable improvement.
Our Sustainable Labs Working Group was established in 2013 to support and monitor the implementation of sustainability actions to reduce the impacts of our laboratory network. It brings together Lab Managers, Technicians, Academics and Estates Services from across the University to work together collaboratively and share best practice.
We regularly host S-lab events and seminars to forward our sustainability projects such as Reuse@Leeds:labs which allows users to share items like electrical equipment, glassware and chemicals through our popular reuse site.
Every year we employ staff and student Sustainability Architects to support the implementation of our strategic aims and our commitment to increase awareness of sustainability at the University. This gives students the opportunity to develop their skills and employability whilst driving impactful sustainable change across the University.
Recent projects have included:
- Developing a ‘sustainability rep’ role to increase our reach across campus
- Increasing sustainability themed dissertation opportunities for undergraduates
- Strengthening student voices through political and governance activities
- Promoting increased recycling and reuse rates within Halls of Residences
The Sustainability Service at the University of Leeds offers 12 month internships to undergraduates looking for a placement year opportunity as part of their degree. Our interns gain excellent learning and experience for a career in sustainability whilst giving the University valuable support in engaging staff, students and the wider community in our Strategy and initiatives.
Mixed Ability Sports
The Mixed Ability Sport (MAS) model is yet to be applied to a University setting but could prove an effective way to increase sports participation in underrepresented groups, as well as to achieve greater social inclusion and community building. The Living Lab therefore collaborated with the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) and the Sport & Physical Activity Service (SPA) to carry out a pilot project to evaluate whether there is a need and opportunity for a MAS offering at the University of Leeds. Find out more here.
Development of a Process for Identifying and Managing Labour Risks in the University of Leeds Supply Chain
Saul Diez Lozano – MSc Sustainability and Consultancy
A Worthy Investment? Evaluating the Utility of Carbon Footprints for Informing Environmental Policy Within Organisations
James Townsend – MSc Sustainability and Climate Change
Impacts of the University of Leeds’s Palm Oil Supply Chain on Biodiversity in Southeast Asia
Jonathan Withey – MSc Sustainability: Business, Environment and Corporate Responsibility
Making Laboratories Greener: Barriers to Energy Efficiency at the University of Leeds
Emma Sturtevant – MSc Sustainability and Climate Change
Should the University of Leeds Use Biomass for Space Heating? An Assessment of Technology Options and Associated Feedstocks
Ben Smith – MSc Sustainability: Business, Environment and Corporate Responsibility
If you have a research question you would like to be included in the above list please contact us.