People power celebrated in sustainability success stories

Staff and students championing the cause are celebrated in this year’s Annual Sustainability Report.

Success stories from across the University and beyond are highlighted in the latest Annual Sustainability Report

Published today (Monday 19 August), the report highlights key performance and success stories from across the University and beyond during the past 12 months.

This year, the spotlight falls on the People of Sustainability – a range of staff, students and partners who have contributed towards a variety of positive projects in 2017/18.

And their efforts have been praised at the highest level at Leeds.

Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, said: “This has been another successful year of initiatives, innovations, research and policy development on sustainability.

“Whilst the University still faces a number of external and internal challenges, our commitment to sustainability remains as strong as ever.

“As ever, our staff and students remain at the heart of everything we do. I am always impressed with their creativity, innovation and sheer hard work, which helps the University become a more sustainable Institution.”

This year, students were given the opportunity to be involved in the annual report process. A group of three volunteer students from a range of disciplines, in collaboration with the National Union of Students (NUS), independently verified the report by reviewing the datasets and interviewing key contributors.

The students said: “From a strategic perspective, we are pleased to learn the University acknowledges its greatest contribution to sustainability is through its students and graduates. The University is making a remarkable effort to disseminate sustainability knowledge, skills, understanding and values across students, staff and wider communities.”

We have also identified how our actions are contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 targets designed to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This global focus is intrinsic to our sustainability efforts – from our home in Leeds, we understand how we can have a positive impact on a local, national and international scale.

Through our ambitious Sustainability Strategy, we have made firm commitments to take our economic, social, environmental and cultural responsibilities seriously. As a result, the annual report offers a more holistic appraisal of the University’s impacts.

To demonstrate its total value, the report contains 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 and the challenges we still face.

Some key highlights include:

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability Services at Leeds, said: “This has been a great year for sustainability at Leeds.

“We have had success with many projects – from Living Labs, the pilot of our exciting new engagement programme, Blueprint, and smarter use of resources, to embedding sustainability into our curriculum and supporting our community as school governors.

“But we’re not there yet and we recognise we have also fallen short in some areas. However, we are committed to achieving our ambitious goals and making a real difference.

“All in all, we are incredibly proud of our staff and students for embracing sustainability and truly embedding it at the heart of what we do. Thank you to everyone within the University, and our external partners, for helping us to successfully work towards our vision.”

Looking forward

Lots of exciting sustainability opportunities are planned for the year ahead

We are planning a range of exciting opportunities to help embed sustainability at Leeds even further.

We will roll out Blueprint right across the University as an ambitious programme for engaging and empowering change in our Schools and Services. The Staff Sustainability Architects and Student Sustainability Architects programmes will grow to further embed sustainability, implement initiatives and monitor progress.

The Positive Impact Partners (PIP) programme will continue to grow, seeing colleagues working with even more local Third Sector organisations to create mutual benefit, new partnerships and co-learning. Along with the School Governors programme, Leeds will enhance these initiatives further by providing the support and networking for participants to share challenges and experiences.

We are also undertaking a wider consultation on future climate strategy. Working with partners such as the Priestley Centre and Leeds Climate Commission, we are considering what our future climate change strategy needs to address. This will ensure operations, research and processes tackle carbon reduction and the impacts of climate change to ensure a resilient University and wider City Region.

Intrinsic to our sustainability efforts is recognising our global impact. Leeds will continue to map actions against the United Nations’ SDGs, using these as a framework to help guide activity across the Institution and beyond.

Case studies

Tim Knighton set up regular nature walks for colleagues 

Staff Sustainability Architects

Tim Knighton, Staff Sustainability Architect in the School of Healthcare at Leeds, set up regular nature walks for colleagues.

He said: “The walks were to encourage integration and improve health and wellbeing. We have covered a range of topics, including bird spotting, geocaching, and architecture. The fact that staff suggest walks, or stop me to talk about the walks they’ve been on, means it’s making a positive impact.”

Lecturer Dr Jen Dyer has been influential in helping develop the Leeds Sustainable Curriculum

Sustainability in the Curriculum

Leeds is pleased to see an increase in the number of students completing optional and core sustainability modules this year, with five new modules becoming available. Regardless of their degree, students can take our ‘Creating Sustainable Futures’ Discovery Modules to increase their sustainability knowledge and skills and, in turn, improve their employability.

Dr Jen Dyer, Lecturer in the Sustainability Research Institute at Leeds and a Staff Sustainability Architect, has been influential in helping to develop the Leeds Sustainable Curriculum.

She said: “I am passionate about all aspects of sustainability but, in particular, in inspiring and facilitating our students to get involved and contribute in any way they would like to. I have organised talks by current and past students, highlighting how they have been putting their sustainability studies in practice.”

Shaffa Ramzan volunteered to support schoolchildren whose first language isn’t English

Students into Schools

Through the Students into Schools (SiS) programme, and partnerships with the Tutor Trust and Brilliant Club, our students volunteer within local primary and secondary schools to support pupils across all areas of the national curriculum. In 2017/18, 512 students participated in these programmes.

Shaffa Ramzan is an Arabic and English student at Leeds, who volunteered at Blenheim Primary School, supporting children for whom English isn’t their first language.

She said: “This placement has challenged me by pushing me out of my comfort zone. Watching the pupils go from not knowing any English to memorising so many lines was a really good feeling for me.”

Mike Leonard has been running a campaign with the British Heart Foundation to recycle tonnes of unwanted items donated by students 

Reusing resources

Leeds has been working in partnership with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to encourage students to donate unwanted items at the end of the academic year.

Mike Leonard, Residential Property Manager at Leeds, led the initiative. He said: “Working in partnership with BHF, we ran a campaign to let students know what they could donate at the end of the year, when large amounts of unwanted items are left in halls of residences. Thanks to communal collecting bins, posters, emails and collection bags, BHF was able to collect 39.3 tonnes of items for resale.”

The total raised from donations in 2017/18 was estimated at £68,684 – a great result for the reuse of resources and raising money for medical research in the city.

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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