Working together to find sustainable solutions

The team at the Careers Centre have shown how anyone can work with colleagues across the university, and with suppliers, to find sustainable solutions for events and activities.

Although the Coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to in-person events over the past year, prior to this the careers service held a variety of events across the year including their very popular careers fairs.

Employer Engagement Officer, Kathryn Davis, recognised the need to make sustainable changes to the events and brought her colleagues together to review their current impact and where changes were needed. They highlighted issues with their travel policy, along with the waste provision provided during the events, the amount of single-use plastic provided, and the use of promotional materials, ranging from posters and banners to pens and packaged food.

One of the main challenges they wanted to overcome was the use of single-use plastic. In previous years, the careers fair organisers provided over 1,500 plastic water bottles to employers attending the events, which Kathryn and Olivia Osborne, Sustainability Architect for the Careers Service, wanted to change.

Kathryn and Olivia engaged with the University’s conference and events service (Meet in Leeds) to identify a supplier that could provide a more sustainable solution. In 2019, they made the transition away from individual water bottles to hiring large water fountains for each event. The bottles used on these fountains are cleaned and reused by the supplier.

Employers attending the careers fairs were informed of this change in procedure via their ‘joining instructions’ and were advised to bring their own reusable water bottle, as well as a hot drinks cup. This highlighted the University’s position on sustainability to external stakeholders and increased awareness of the #2023plasticfree pledge.

This change removed over 1,500 single-use plastic water bottles from their events over the course of one academic year, a huge amount for such a small change.

Kathryn explained;

We were concerned about the stallholders reaction during the first event, but it was overwhelmingly positive. Now they know what to expect when they attend our career fairs, I feel like we’ve really set a standard for sustainability and hopefully they will always come prepared in future.

These changes would not be possible without the team taking initiative and collaborating with colleagues and suppliers to find more sustainable solutions.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic, Kathryn and her colleagues have continued to offer the services of the Careers Centre in a virtual capacity. This includes their popular careers fairs, which are now undertaken using an app where students can log in and book a timeslot to speak to specific employers. To find out how the Careers Centre can help you, visit their website.

Kathryn is also an active member of the University’s Events Network, who are considering what events will look like in the future and how to ensure that the return to events on campus will be undertaken in alignment with the University’s key strategic sustainability priorities.

If you are interested in ensuring your events return to the University in a sustainable manner, or want assistance with any other sustainability initiatives, we want to help! Contact us at plasticfree@leeds.ac.uk

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on #2023plasticfree is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Goal 13: Climate Action
  • Goal 14: Life Below Water
  • Goal 15: Life on Land
  • Goal 17: Partnerships

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.