Annual Sustainability Report highlights major progress

Huge strides have been taken towards further embedding sustainability in schools, faculties and services at the University.

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability Services at the University

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability Services July 2018

Published today, the University’s Annual Sustainability Report highlights the many success stories achieved during the past 12 months.

This year, Leeds has linked its approach and commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrating how we can all play our part in a global solution.

As a University, its core purpose is to increase knowledge and opportunity for the betterment of society. To do this, Leeds has made firm commitments to take its economic, social, environmental and cultural responsibilities seriously. 

As a result, the annual report offers a more holistic appraisal of the University’s social, environmental, economic and cultural impacts. To demonstrate its total value, the document is full of case studies, commitments, progress, facts and figures. Together, these tell the story of the amazing work being undertaken to become an even more sustainable University.

Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, said: “The University has once again proved its commitment to a sustainable future through a whole series of activities, innovations, research and policies. There have been some challenges – political uncertainties and a growing campus – but sustainability has remained a key priority for us throughout. 

“I am particularly proud of the fact that, through continuing to integrate sustainability into our curriculum, we are graduating students who are responsible global citizens. As a University, we have an important role to increase knowledge and opportunity for the benefit of society. Our graduates are testament to this; they understand global challenges and are eager to be part of the solutions. 

“I am looking forward to yet another year of challenging ourselves, and others, to be more sustainable. Another year of innovation, behaviour change, outstanding research and collaboration to ensure the University plays a leading role in building a sustainable future.”

The report has also been independently verified by the National Union of Students (NUS), which stated: “The University should be commended on an impressive overall achievement. 

“The institution is showing valuable leadership for the higher education sector through initiatives like its student sustainability research summit, the Living Labs programme and the Student Sustainability Architects roles, all of which are novel and impactful in terms education for sustainable development.”

Annual Sustainability Report July 2018

A graphic highlighting some of the key findings in the Annual Sustainability Report 2018

Some key highlights from the report include:

  • 5,700 students completed sustainability modules 
  • more than 129,000 people benefited from the University’s outreach programme 
  • Leeds worked with more than 260 Third Sector organisations
  • more than 7,000 people attended sustainability events; and
  • 96% of students travelled to the University sustainably. 

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability Services at Leeds, said: “I believe completely in the need for a sustainable society. We’re not there yet, and we all have a part to play.” 

A good example of how sustainability is embedded across the University, and in its ambitions for the future, is the launch of the Living Lab programme, which uses Leeds as a test-bed for the co-creation of sustainable solutions. It relies on collaboration between students, academic and operational staff. 

The key to Living Lab projects is they produce innovative and transformational solutions to real world problems, and that those solutions are scalable and transferrable to the city and beyond. It’s about taking theory from the lecture hall and applying it to real life situations. From climate change research and inspiring behaviour change to enhancing biodiversity, the Living Lab opens the door to a whole world of sustainable solutions.

And collaboration is key to Leeds being a truly sustainable University. 

The report states: “Thank you to everyone within the University, and our external partners, for helping us to successfully work towards our vision.”

Looking forward

As well as focussing on the Living Lab programme, the University also plans to strengthen its commitment to the circular economy approach, namely by revitalising the Reuse@Leeds system, which aims to get the best value out of surplus resources on campus.

Opportunities to get involved in sustainability will increase. The University is looking to develop an approach to engaging staff in sustainability, including a full review of the Green Impact programme, which brings together staff and students to play an active role in making the workplace more sustainable.

The Positive Impact Partners programme will continue to grow, seeing staff working with even more local Third Sector organisations to create mutual benefit, new partnerships and co-learning. The sustainability team is looking to develop the new School Governors Programme, an incredibly important volunteer role to help school leadership teams to set targets, policies and standards and to plan for future development. This hugely valuable experience will give even more staff and alumni the chance to give back to their local community and make a positive impact on the education of young people across the city region. 

And the University will continue to work with the City of Leeds – the council, public, private and Third Sector partners. As an anchor institution, this enhances the sustainability of all involved and reinforces the University’s purpose to increase knowledge and opportunity for the betterment of society.

Case studies

Chris Askew, who appears as a case study in the Annual Sustainability Report July 2018Chris Askew

Chris Askew (above) works for the Print & Copy Bureau (PCB) – the University’s in-house printing, copying and mailing service, for both staff and students.

He played a significant part in ensuring PCB switched to 100% recycled paper, reducing carbon and preserving ecologically important rainforest. 

Dr Georgina Binnie, who appears as a case study in the Annual Sustainability Report 2018 Dr Georgina Binnie

At a time when email and social media seem like the primary way we get in touch with each other, the University’s Writing Back project is bucking that trend. It’s the brainchild of Dr Georgina Binnie (above), who remembered how great it was to receive letters from her grandmother when she was an undergraduate. 

Now a research fellow at the University, she decided to set up the Writing Back project, so that other people could have the same experience, while helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation. Writing Back is an intergenerational pen pal project, matching students with elderly Leeds residents to exchange letters, memories, local knowledge and photographs to give the other an insight into their lives. It may seem like a small act of kindness, but it can transform someone’s day. 

There have been more than 280 people in the programme to date, with many building long-lasting friendships.

Taff McAuley, who is a case study in the Annual Sustainability Report July 2018 Taff McAuley

Taff McAuley (above) and the Cleaning Services team work closely with Sustainability Services on a number of projects, including efforts to improve recycling levels and reduce contamination levels across campus. They take part in Green Impact and last year won a Sustainability Award for the work they undertook with a student on creating a cross-institution reuse art piece.

Please contact Sustainability Services if you would like a hard copy of the report, or would like to find out how you can get involved with Sustainability activities at Leeds.

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