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Our Green Story: University of Leeds Residential Services
As a core service of the University, Residential Services provide around 9,000 beds for students across 23 University and private partner sites on and around the city campus. They also work in cooperation with Great Food at Leeds (GFaL) to support Meet in Leeds; enabling the University to host an array of business conferences, events, and overnight stays on campus.
With such a wide scope for impact, Residential Services recognised the importance of becoming more sustainable. Their sustainability journey began in 2011, when they first participated in the Green Business Tourism Scheme, and in 2012 the NUS Green Impact Programme. In 2018 Residential Services volunteered to become one of five pilot teams to develop a bespoke sustainability action plan, knows as Blueprint, with the Sustainability Service.
Working closely with the Sustainability Service, Residential Services were able to create a bespoke five year action plan to work towards a long-term sustainability vision. The team identified the issues that mattered most to them, whilst the Sustainability Service ensured that the plan would support the University Sustainability Strategy and Climate Principles. Importantly, the Blueprint is guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as part of the University’s commitment to the SDG Accord.
Since embarking on their sustainability journey, Residential Services have championed progress in all areas highlighted by the SDGs – from organising volunteer days for staff and students with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, to creating a sustainable sensory garden. They have adopted a circular approach to their highest impact purchases and disposals; namely, procuring new mattresses through a purchase and recovery programme with Bishops Beds, which ensures that mattresses are recycled at the end of their life. A small number of mattresses and furniture items are also donated to Over2Hills, for specialist cleaning and redistribution to a variety of third-sector organisations.
Through Blueprint, Residential Services have embedded sustainability into their current and future work. In December 2019, the team produced their first annual sustainability report, and they also appoint two Student Sustainability Architects each year to work on projects such as mapping biodiversity and supporting a circular economy.
More broadly, the Service has become part of a wider community of sustainability change-makers, and has been given the skills, resources, and expertise needed to turn their ideas into action. The collaboration between Residential Services and Great Food at Leeds in supporting the Meet in Leeds team has also helped to embed sustainability into the business operations of the University, an achievement which was recently recognised by the Green Tourism.
Earlier this year, four Residential sites and one GFaL site were re-awarded ‘Gold’ accreditation by Green Tourism for their commitments to sustainability over the past academic year. Those awarded include the Henry Price Residences, several blocks at Charles Morris Hall, and The Refectory.
The teams were recognised for their adoption of Blueprints, their support for the University’s #2023PlasticFree pledge to remove single-use plastic from its operations, and their introduction of zero-waste cleaning products across residences, amongst other achievements. By retaining their Gold level status, these locations currently form a group of ten University sites that have been recognised in this way by Green Tourism since 2011.
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