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Residential Services Annual Sustainability Report (2021-22)/by Lucy Mcdonald
Residential Services manages the residential accommodation portfolio for the University of Leeds, with circa 8,500 bedspaces in both University and private partner sites. Residential Services also operates according to the University’s Climate Plan and its seven principles for climate action. These include the following four key themes:
Residential Services started to work on its Blueprint Action Plan in 2018/19, and this annual sustainability report covers the progress made during the fourth year, September 2021 – August 2022. Actions are also highlighted where they address United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Residential Services actions that had a significant or positive effect on people and communities during 2021/22, included the following:
British Heart Foundation
Students and staff donated a total of 4,500 bags of items for re-sale and re-use, diverting the equivalent of 36 tonnes of waste away from landfill and generating £63,000 of revenue from BHF shop sales in Leeds. The money raised will be used to support research into coronary heart and circulatory diseases, some of which takes place here in Leeds. In addition, the University of Leeds was the only university short-listed as a Finalist in the British Heart Heroes Awards 2022, in recognition of the impact of the collaborative work that takes place in university-owned residences.
Surplus non-perishable food items were collected from a number of University-owned residential sites during Christmas and the summer months (June – September), and donated to local foodbanks at the Rainbow Junktion Café (Burley), Horsforth Food Hub, and Kirkstall Community Pantry for redistribution to local families and people in need.
Health and Wellbeing
The Residence Life Team continued to organise both online and in-person events during the year as part of the social events taking place in Residences. Wild Work Days also recommenced with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in 2021, nineteen months after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic stopped such activities. Volunteers worked on six nature reserves in the Leeds and Aire Valley catchment area during the year. Activities included improving pond habitat for dragonflies, wildflower meadows for insects, woodland areas for native bluebells, planting fruit trees, clearing invasive scrub, and improving conditions for local fens.
In addition, Residential Services also collaborated with third sector charities, Estates Services, supply chain partners, private sector accommodation providers, and the Sustainability Service.
Residential Services actions that had a significant or positive effect on the environment during 2021/22, included the following:
Bishops Beds continued to replace old beds and mattresses with new ones in a planned replacement programme, changing 737 mattresses and 258 bed bases (c 22.9 tonnes) during the year. In addition, Over2hills also provided a reactive recovery service for old mattresses, and furniture, to offer to third sector charities for either re-use, restoration, or recycling of component materials.
BinMasters provide an annual repair service for any damaged external waste & recycling bins used on residential sites. This work is carried out in the weeks before Intake Weekend so that facilities are ready for use once students arrive in September. The repair work extends the life cycle of the existing bins and reduces the need to purchase new bins as replacements.
Hedgehog Friendly Campus
Student Ambassadors on the Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme received a Silver Award for the Hedgehog-Friendly Campus initiative. This work also included Residential staff monitoring and recording hedgehog activity around residential sites in both Headingley and Woodhouse areas of North West Leeds.
Forbes Professional continued to supply a number of leased washing machines at Storm Jameson Court, St Marks Residences, and Shared Housing properties. Leasing equipment maintains continuity of service, whilst repairs or replacement can be arranged more efficiently.
Single-Use Plastics Pledge
Both Churchill and Crystal Cleaning Services continued to use ‘Zero Waste’ cleaning products at nine of our eleven residential sites (85% bedspaces) during 2021/22, where plastic containers have been replaced by starch-wrapped pellets in compostable cardboard boxes. Both service suppliers continue to provide regular sustainability reports about their reduced impact on the environment.
Biodiversity Action Plans
Julie Marietti delivered two biodiversity action plans and site maps for use in planning future improvements to biodiversity around university-owned residential properties on both Cromer Street and Springfield Mount on campus.
North Hill Well Wood Project
Work continued with the Well Wood Project at the rear of North Hill Court, which saw student and staff volunteers working under the supervision of Groundwork Yorkshire. Activities included the establishment of pathways and steps around the site; the removal of litter and building debris; the planting of native fern, hedge, and tree species; the construction and filling of raised planting beds; and the establishment of bird and bug boxes on site. The project is due to be completed by the end of 2022 and will be maintained by students and staff volunteers thereafter. Two contacts have been made by different academic departments at the University, so there may be potential for Living Lab research activity on-site in the future.
Climate Plan/Net Zero Carbon
Residential Services actions that had a significant or positive effect on the University’s Climate/Net Zero Carbon Plan during 2021/22, included the following:
Carbon Management Plan
A retrofit project was conducted at 7 & 9 Lyddon Terrace in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University, to monitor the impact of installing energy-saving measures in Victorian solid-wall properties. Work commenced at Sentinel Towers replacing old oil-filled electric radiators with solid soapstone core radiators, which use Bluetooth technology controls. All residential sites were surveyed to establish where LED lighting could be installed across the portfolio to replace older, less energy-efficient lighting under the Net Zero Carbon Plan next year.
Clean Air Pledge
Residential Services’ electric vehicles were responsible for covering 66% of their total mileage during 2021/22. In addition, 87% of students elected to walk between their residences and campus during the year, with a further 10% using the bus. Cycling figures were admittedly low during the year, but less than one percent of students used a car to travel to campus from residences during 2021/22.
Big Climate Fightback
Students For Trees made contact during the year, which resulted in students and staff planting native hedge species at both Montague Burton and St Marks Residences as part of the Woodland Trust’s Big Climate Fightback initiative.
Residential Services continued to develop its Blueprint Action Plan during 2021/22 and was awarded a Blueprint Visionary Award in June 2022. Residential Services has delivered 13 Blueprint actions out of 15 (87%); and 15 Blueprint Plus actions out of 21 (71%) in the last three years.
Student Sustainability Architects
Residential Services appointed two Student Sustainability Architects during 2020/21:
Communications with students
The Residence Life Team continued to send out social media and email communications to students resident in University and private partner accommodation throughout the year. This included hosting both online events, and others that took place around the residential sites.
The Sustainable Living Guide
The Sustainable Living Guide was updated for 2021/22 and outlined how students could get involved with their local community through volunteering, and by supporting local independent businesses, events, and elections. It also encouraged staff to become a Positive Impact Partner by getting involved with local charities and other volunteer activities in their area.
Membership was renewed in 2021/22 for the eight conference-facing residential sites accredited under the hospitality industry’s Green Tourism accreditation scheme for sustainability.
Residential Services continues to collaborate with student ambassadors, student sustainability architects, and student volunteers in providing with opportunities to apply their learning for biodiversity action planning, circular resource use, hedgehog monitoring, and single-use plastics.
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