Embedding sustainability across Residential Services

Residential Services has been working hard over the last 18 months to embed sustainability across the University’s portfolio of nearly 9,000 beds. This has been done across four key themes:

  • Embedding sustainability through collaboration
  • Building knowledge and capacity
  • Being a positive partner in society; and
  • Making the most of resources

Within each of these themes Residential Services has made a lot of progress across a wide variety of projects and initiatives.


  • Blueprint: Residential Services implemented its Blueprint Action Plan during 2018/19, and was awarded with a Blueprint Explorer Award, at the University Sustainability Awards in June 2019. During this period, Residential Services has worked in collaboration with its students, staff, Estates Services (Grounds & Gardens), FD Marketing & Communications, Sustainability Services, plus a number of supply chain partners and third sector charities. Residential Services has delivered on 8 Blueprint actions out of 15 (53%); and 10 Blueprint Plus actions out of 21 (48%).
  • Staff Sustainability Student Architect: Mike Leonard is the Staff Sustainability Architect for Residential Services and is responsible for all sustainability aspects across the service, including actions required within the Blueprint Action Plan.
  • Student Sustainability Architects: Residential Services appointed two Student Sustainability Architects during 2018/19:
    • Chloe Badge, who was tasked with surveying eight residential sites, and generated a biodiversity action plan for Devonshire Hall, and Lupton Residences; and
    • Nicola Wood, who set up a student food waste collection scheme at Devonshire Hall; two pop-up shops with the British Heart Foundation; and assisted FD Marketing & Communications by encouraging students when moving out; and to bring less, as part of the Move In campaign in September.
  • Green Tourism: Residential Services has a total of ten conference-facing sites that are accredited under the hospitality industry’s Green Tourism accreditation scheme for sustainability. Central Village was assessed for its performance as a sustainable accommodation provider in May 2019. In keeping with the other sites, Central Village achieved a Green Tourism Gold Award, and a number of examples of ‘best practice’ were identified, establishing it as “. . . an example for other universities and accommodation providers to follow.” (Green Tourism Report).

Residential Services accepting the Green Tourism Award


  • The Living it Green Guide: The Living it Green Guide is an in-house guide on how to live more sustainably in University accommodation. The Guide was distributed to over 4,900 students, 100 staff, and various contractors working on the residential portfolio during 2018/19.
  • Devonshire Hall Chickens: Students at Devonshire Hall have the opportunity to look after some ex-battery hens, during their time on site. The hens are collected from the British Hen Welfare Trust, and settle in to their new academic life, with students recruited and trained to look after their welfare. The condition of the hens improves significantly over the time, and the volunteers also get the additional benefit of any freshly laid eggs.

Rescue chickens at Devonshire Hall

  • Moving In & Moving Out Campaigns: Both the Moving In & Moving Out campaigns were established with FD Communications, to influence what students bring to University; what they purchase during their tenancy; and how they can minimise waste in their first year in University Residences:
    • During the move in period, Residence Life Facebook pages provided videos that reached 1229 ‘people’, backed up with posters displayed in high footfall areas, for the ‘Enough with all that stuff’ campaign.
    • The move out campaign at year end used e-mail, Residence Life Facebook, Twitter, and University Instagram channels of communication, with the latter receiving the highest levels of engagement. During the week in which Nicola Wood ‘took over’ the University Instagram account as Student Sustainability Architect, her posts reached 7,485 people.


  • National Inclusion Week: The Sensory Garden at Charles Morris Hall was officially opened in September 2018, as part of the series of events held on campus for National Inclusion Week. The Garden provides raised beds for wheelchair access and engagement; braille and large font guides for the blind and visually impaired; and is designed to provide interest to visitors registered on the autism spectrum. Positive feedback has been received from Visit England, Green Tourism, and Yorkshire in Bloom, as well as students, staff and visitors.

Stakeholders getting a tour of the Sensory Garden

  • Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: Six Wild Work Days were undertaken by student and staff volunteers during the year, generating 97 volunteer days of work for YWT (582 hours). The work took place on sites along both the upper, middle, and lower sections of the River Aire catchment, with students taking part from nineteen different countries. The involvement of the student volunteers in the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, was highlighted by a Leeds City Council press release in August. In addition, the activities provide students and staff with an opportunity to work in the outdoors away from the University, and can help to reduce stress and anxiety, thereby improving the health, well-being, and self-esteem of those involved.

Volunteers working with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

  • British Heart Foundation: British Heart Foundation collection banks are located all year round at all University owned residential sites, and students are asked to donate any unwanted items for subsequent reuse. During the period Oct 2018 – Sep 2019, 5,075 bags of items were collected, amounting to 40.6 tonnes. The items went on sale in local BHF retail outlets in Leeds, and raised an estimated income of £ 71,050 for coronary heart research.


  • Carbon Management Plan: A number of new boilers were installed at Devonshire, Ellerslie, and on Cromer Terrace, together with double and secondary glazing at Devonshire and Lyddon Terrace. The carbon reduction target for The University of Leeds is currently 35% by 2020/21. By the end of 2018/19, energy consumption in University managed residences had been reduced by 48%, providing a carbon reduction figure of 59% on its original 2005/06 benchmark. A new carbon neutral/zero plan is due to be disseminated in March 2020, and Residential Services will be working to support and contribute to its delivery.
  • Biodiversity: Residential Services co-funded a new planting scheme for the area between Leeds University Union, and The School of Earth and Environment, bordered by Charles Morris Hall and Lyddon Hall. The project enhanced existing trees and lawns, with the addition of shrubs, grasses, ferns, and herbaceous planting, providing structure, colour, scent, texture, and movement. The new plants provide both cover and food sources for invertebrates and wildlife in the area. The scheme also provides students, staff and visitors with a space that has year-round interest which benefits mental health and well-being. Further work was also carried out on Back Cromer Terrace, with the planting of a shrubs, climbing plants, spring bulbs, and a British native species hedge, comprising blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel and holly.
  • Bishops Beds: A circular resource scheme was implemented, with the planned delivery of 248 new bed bases and 810 mattresses to a number of residences including Sentinel Towers, Henry Price, and Lupton in the summer. The mattresses have been designed specifically for a longer life cycle, and with an 80% recycled content. The old mattresses @ 23.6 kgs each, and bed bases @ 21.5 kgs each were also recovered on the return trip, for recycling of the component materials for subsequent re-use. The combined weight of mattresses and bed bases recovered by Bishops Beds amounted to 24.4 tonnes during the year.
  • Over2hills: Over2hills provide 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. At least 156 individual items have been recovered this way, and include mattresses, bed bases, fridge/freezers, tables and chairs.
  • Buglife Urban Buzz Project: Student and staff volunteers helped to plant 1,000 spring bulbs and 500 plug plants in the area between Charles Morris Hall and Lyddon Hall, plus on Back Cromer Terrace during the year. This location has now been identified as a pollinator hotspot on the national Buglife web-site, and is part of the ongoing Campus Pollinator Project.

Volunteers planting bulbs near Charles Morris

  • Leasing Equipment: Forbes Professional were appointed to supply a number of leased washing machines at Storm Jameson Court during 2018/19, as opposed to direct purchase of the same equipment.
  • Sustainable Purchasing: Churchill Cleaning Services installed a Purex chemical-free cleaning system at Charles Morris Hall in 2018, which won the Purchasing Award at the University’s annual Sustainability Awards in June 2019.
  • Single-Use Plastics Pledge: Devonshire Hall reduced their single-use plastics, with the removal of over 86,000 plastic items, including plastic sauce sachets, water bottles, and plastic cups. This work has been highlighted as one of the key achievements so far in the University’s #2023 PlasticFree Pledge.
  • Clean Air Pledge: Residential Services has a total of 5 vehicles, with 2 electric (40%). Emphasis is placed on using the electrical vehicles where and whenever possible, and this resulted in the electric vehicles responsible for covering 53% of the mileage during 2018/19.