Residential Services Sustainability Awards won in 2021

Residential Services Annual Sustainability Report (2020-21)

Residential Services manages the residential accommodation portfolio for the University of Leeds, with circa 9,100 bed-spaces in both University and private partner sites. Residential Services also operates according to the University’s Sustainability Strategy, which comprises the following four key themes:

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

Residential Services started to work on its Blueprint Action Plan in 2018/19, and as required by the plan this annual sustainability report covers the progress made during the third year, September 2020 – August 2021. Actions are also highlighted with icons where they address United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs) – find out more about these on the Sustainability website.

Embedding sustainability through collaboration


Residential Services continued to develop its Blueprint Action Plan during 2020/21, and was awarded with a Blueprint Leader Award in May 2021. In addition, Residential Services also won the University’s ‘Protecting Our Planet’ Award in June 2021, for outstanding work on integrating United Nations Sustainability Development Goals across its service delivery operations. Residential Services has delivered on 13 Blueprint actions out of 15 (87%); and 15 Blueprint Plus actions out of 21 (71%) in the last three years.

Details of the Blueprint Action Plan for Residential Services can be found in the Sustainable Living Guide.

Collaboration with internal stakeholders

Residential Services appointed two Student Sustainability Architects during 2020/21. Caitlin Harris completed surveys of three residential sites, and generated biodiversity action plans and site maps for Ellerslie Hall, Henry Price Residences, and Lyddon Hall. Caitlin was also a member of the Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme, working on monitoring areas around campus and its residences.

Milan Thottahil is an international MSc student, who arrived in January 2021. He has worked with fellow student architects to demonstrate the negative impacts of single-use plastics on wildlife; set-up a plastic pen recycling scheme for the Yorkshire Brain Tumour Charity; has produced an online game to help explain what students can do with waste and recycling; and also planned a food donation scheme for helping local foodbanks for Christmas 2021. 

During this period, Residential Services has also worked successfully in collaboration with other internal stakeholders across the University. These included student ambassadors on the Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme, which saw them receive an award from the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) in April 2021, and a Bronze Award for the Hedgehog-Friendly Campus initiative. The latter included Residential Services staff monitoring and recording hedgehog activity around residential sites in Headingley and also on sites closer to campus.

Recording hedgehog activity near residential sites

Recording hedgehog activity near residential sites

Residential Services also worked with a student-led USH Bike Hire Scheme, which will hopefully launch on campus and in certain residential sites in early 2022. Estates and Facilities Services and their consultants in delivering a new accessible ramp for wheelchair users and landscaping next to Charles Morris Hall. Residential Services continues to collaborate with student ambassadors; student sustainability architects; and student volunteers in providing them with opportunities to apply their learning for hedgehog monitoring; food waste; bike leasing; circular resource use; and single-use plastics.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education  

Collaboration with external partners

Residential Services has also worked closely with a number of external partners throughout the year.

One of the key partners was Green Tourism. Residential Services currently has a total of eight conference-facing residential sites that are accredited under the hospitality industry’s Green Tourism accreditation scheme for sustainability. Andrea Nicholas, Chief Executive of Green Tourism, confirmed that they consider that the University of Leeds is now a leading Green Tourism Ambassador, in sharing good practice and leading the way in sustainability management (October 2020). Green Tourism also highlighted our sustainability successes on their blog in December 2020.

Other partners included:

  • Bishops Beds in supplying new longer-life mattresses, and recovering 17.2 tonnes of old mattresses for recycling in summer 2021.
  • Outco Grounds Services, with the introduction of electric-powered tools, and a vehicle on the contract commencing January 2021
  • The British Heart Foundation (BHF), in collecting a total of 3,199 bags of items for re-use, donated by students and staff; diverting the equivalent of 25.6 tonnes of waste away from landfill; and generating £44,786 of revenue in BHF shops in Leeds, to help support research for heart and circulatory diseases, some of which takes place here in Leeds.
  • Northern Consortium UK (NCUK), through links with our International Office, information was provided to NCUK, to help show what we do for sustainability here at the University of Leeds, and this appeared as one of three case studies for international students considering studying at the University of Leeds (April 2021).
  • In addition, Residential Services also collaborates with third sector charities; Estates and Facilities Services; supply chain partners; private sector accommodation providers; and Sustainability Services.
Outco contractors with electric-powered tools

Outco contractors with electric-powered tools

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships

Building knowledge and capacity

The Sustainable Living Guide

The previous in-house Living it Green Guide was renamed as the Sustainable Living Guide for 2020/21, and included a new section on ‘Your Leeds Community’. This section 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.

Communications with students

The Residence Life Team continued to send out communications to students resident in University and private partner accommodation throughout the year, via email and social media. This included hosting online events that provided information, and interesting activities for students to take part during covid-19 restrictions. In addition, Milan Thottahil organised the following:

  • A series of three posters aimed at highlighting the impact of throwing away litter, that then impacts on wildlife, and hedgehogs in particular. The series highlighted: the need to place litter in bins; the alternatives to single-use plastic items; and the impact of discarded rubbish on hedgehogs. The posters also incorporated QR codes that could be scanned to access further information on related themes (May 2021).
  • A collection of used plastic pens, which generates funds for Ellie’s Fund, an initiative for Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity (YBTC) (June 2021).
  • Planning an online waste & recycling game that we help students with improving recycling rates in University residences (2021/22).

Being a positive partner in society

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 2020 – Sep 2021, 3,199 bags of items were collected, amounting to 25.6 tonnes. The items went on sale in local BHF retail outlets in Leeds, and raised an estimated income of £44,786 for coronary heart research, making a total of £277,660 raised in the last seven years.

The University of Leeds was subsequently the only university to be shortlisted for the BHF Heart Heroes Awards 2021.

British Heart Foundation collection at Charles Morris

British Heart Foundation collections at Charles Morris

Local foodbanks

Surplus non-perishable food items were collected from a number of University-owned residential sites during the year, and they were donated to the Rainbow Junktion Café (Burley); Horsforth Food Hub; and Kirkstall Community Pantry for redistribution to local families and people in need. 181kg of food was collected prior to Christmas 2020, and 601kg during June/July 2021.

Food donations to Rainbow Junktion café

Food donations to Rainbow Junktion café

Improving access

Residential Services worked collaboratively with Estates and Facilities Services, their consultants and contractors to help improve wheelchair access between the Students’ Union and Cromer Terrace, with a new ramp and landscaping at Charles Morris Hall (2020/21).

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

Making the most of resources

Carbon management plan

An energy-efficient Student Hub was constructed at Montague Burton during 2019/20, based on Passivhaus principles for building fabric and mechanical ventilation heat recovery. Passivhaus accredited bi-fold doors were proposed in the design, but these were replaced with less efficient Regulation M accessible doors, as the original threshold would have been too high for potential wheelchair users. An energy performance survey was subsequently completed (December 2020), which rated it as EPC Band B (32).

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action


Caitlin Harris delivered three biodiversity action plans and site maps, for use in planning future improvements to biodiversity on University-owned residential sites at Ellerslie Global Residences, Henry Price Residences, and Lyddon Hall. Residential Services has also worked in collaboration with the Student Biodiversity Ambassadors to identify hedgehog activity on residential sites off campus, which resulted in a Hedgehog-Friendly Campus Bronze Award for 2020/21.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land

Health and wellbeing

The Residence Life Team organised a number of online and in-person events and activities during the year to help residents with their health and wellbeing.

In addition, enabling work also commenced on the Well Wood Project, located to the rear of North Hill Court, with Unite Students as co-funder, and Groundworks Yorkshire as the project delivery partner. The project involves the transformation of two disused overgrown tennis courts into a communal green space for use by students, staff, school parties and local residents, and is due to be completed in 2022.

Well Wood Project site

Well Wood Project site pre-transformation

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land


Bishops Beds continue to replace old beds and mattresses with new in a planned replacement programme, changing 652 mattresses and 84 bed bases (c 17.2 tonnes) during summer 2021.

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.


Bin Masters 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.

Leasing equipment

Forbes Professional continue to supply a number of leased washing machines at Storm Jameson Court and St Marks Residences, but also installed new machines in the Shared Housing properties (April 2021). 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 introduced ‘Zero Waste’ cleaning products to nine of our eleven residences (85% bed-spaces) in 2019/20, where plastic containers have been replaced by starch-wrapped pellets in compostable cardboard boxes. Both service suppliers have produced their first annual report, and the outcome has witnessed a reduction in plastic containers used by between 57 – 88%.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water

Clean air pledge

Residential Services has a total of five vehicles with two electric (40%). Emphasis is placed on using the electrical vehicles where and whenever possible, and this resulted in the electric vehicles responsible for covering 59% of the mileage during 2020/21. In addition, Outco landscape maintenance team introduced another electric vehicle, plus battery-powered equipment, when their contract commenced in 2021.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action