Residential Services manages the residential accommodation portfolio for The University of Leeds, with circa 9,100 bedspaces in both University and private partner sites. Residential Services also operates in support of the University’s sustainability commitments, across the following four key themes:
- Social Impact
- Climate Plan and Pathway to Net Zero
- Engagement and Behaviour Change.
Residential Services has now completed five years of its Blueprint Action Plan, which commenced in 2018/19. This annual sustainability report covers the progress made during those five years, culminating from September 2022 – August 2023. In addition, actions are also highlighted where they address the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Residential Services actions that had a significant or positive effect on people and communities during 2022/23, included the following:
- British Heart Foundation: Students and staff in University Residences donated a total of 3,961 bags of items for re-sale and re-use, diverting the equivalent of 31.7 tonnes of waste away from landfill; and generating £ 55,454 of revenue from BHF shop sales in Leeds, to fellow students and local residents.
The subsequent revenue supports coronary heart and circulatory disease research, some of which takes place here in Leeds. In total, the Pack for Good campaign in Leeds received 13,901 bags during 2022/23 from universities, private partner sites, and collections from student areas equivalent to 111.2 tonnes. This generated an amazing £ 194,614 towards heart disease research in the UK.
- Local Foodbanks: 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 the Rainbow Junktion Café in Burley. 534 kgs of food was collected from St Marks Residences alone, when students moved out in September 2022.
- Health and Well-Being: Residence Life Team events continued with both online and face-to-face activities as part of the social events calendar taking place in Residences. During the year, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary of Wild Work Days with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in October 2022
Further events included improving wildflower meadows for insects and birds; pond habitat for dragonflies; fen land habitat which we also have in Yorkshire, plus two sessions working alongside local volunteers on the Wyke Beck Project in East Leeds, clearing rushes in Halton, plus brambles and scrub at Fearnville Fields. The University of Leeds also hosted a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Corporate Members’ Day on campus in July 2023, providing information and looking at our partnership work in academic, estates management, and student engagement aspects.
- In addition, Residential Services collaborated with third-sector charities, Estates Services, supply chain partners, private-sector accommodation providers, and Sustainability Services.
Residential Services actions that had a significant or positive effect on the environment during 2022/23 included the following:
- Re-use: Bishops Beds continued to replace old beds and mattresses with new ones in a planned replacement programme, changing 576 mattresses (c 13.6 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.
- Repair: BinMasters provide an annual repair service for any damaged external waste and 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 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: AMSG, Churchill, and Crystal Cleaning Services were appointed as cleaning contractors in early 2023. They have used ‘Zero Waste’ cleaning products at nine of our eleven residential sites (85% bedspaces) during 2022/23, and have replaced plastic containers with starch-wrapped pellets in compostable cardboard boxes. All service suppliers continue to provide regular sustainability reports and share information on their reduced impact on the environment.
- Biodiversity Action Plans: Dearbhla McSherry delivered a biodiversity action plan and site map for Devonshire Hall, which can be used in the planning of future improvements for biodiversity around University-owned residential properties. We now have twelve residential sites with habitat maps and biodiversity action plans, and we are using them to record and enhance existing flora and wildlife on these sites.
- Hedgehog Friendly Campus: Student Ambassadors on the Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme received a Gold Award for the Hedgehog-Friendly Campus initiative in February 2023. This work also included monitoring and recording hedgehog activity around residential sites in both the Headingley and Woodhouse areas of North West Leeds.
- North Hill Well Wood Project: Activities continued at the Well Wood Project at the rear of North Hill Court, which saw student and staff volunteers working with staff from Groundwork Yorkshire. Activities included the installation of new wooden gates for both entrances to the site, and setting up an interpretation board to provide visitors with an idea of the history of the site and its contribution to improving biodiversity in the area. The work also included the clearance of paths and steps which were overgrown after the summer, and the planting of hornbeam, wayfaring trees and hawthorn hedging to supplement existing cover on site. The site is now maintained by a series of student and staff work days with improvements being made as both finance and time allow. Pupils from the local Shire Oak CE School visit the site for ‘Forest School’ activities and conduct tree and bug habitat surveys. The woodland area is now re-establishing itself with bird species using the nest boxes, pollinators enjoying the nectar from various plants, and a number of fungi emerging from the wood piles and leaf litter that cover the ground.
- Yorkshire in Bloom: The combined impact of the work from Estates Services, Residential Services, Sustainability Services, and all of our students and external partners resulted in the University of Leeds being awarded a Gold Award at the Yorkshire in Bloom Awards in 2022, and Category Winner for HE and FE institutions.
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 2022/23, included the following:
- Carbon Management Plan: 7,386 new LED lights were installed across the residential portfolio to replace older, less energy-efficient lighting under the Net Zero Carbon Plan. This initial phase will be supplemented by the second phase of circa 1500 LEDs during 2023/24. The following graph indicates a reduction in carbon emissions by 65% since 2005/06.
- Clean Air Pledge: Residential Services purchased two new electric vehicles during the year, making four electric vehicles out of a total of six. Mileage is monitored on a monthly basis, which indicates an increase in the use of electric vehicles from 53% to 69% over the last five years.
- Circular Economy and Waste Management: The University commenced a tender process for reducing waste and moving towards a circular economy approach in 2022. WSP were appointed to act as our sustainable waste management consultant to identify best practices and create a roadmap of initiatives for consideration; which provides advice on the tender specification and assists in the evaluation of various submissions for appointment. The outcome of this process was that Mitie Waste and Environmental Services Ltd was awarded the contract in July 2023 as a waste management broker with services provided by their supply chain partners. The contract covers all University residences located on campus, Central Village, and Shared Housing, along with the recovery of electrical goods (WEEE), used lamps, and food waste from Devonshire Hall.
- Blueprint: Since being awarded a Blueprint Visionary Award in 2022, Residential Services has continued to deliver its Blueprint and Blueprint Plus actions.
- Student Sustainability Architects: Residential Services appointed two Student Sustainability Architects during 2022/23:
- Dearbhla McSherry completed a survey of the grounds at Devonshire Hall, which resulted in a new biodiversity action plan and habitat map for the site. Both Dearbhla and Elizabeth Sprason attended the Sustainability and Community Fair in February, to tell students about their work as Student Sustainability Architects.
- Elizabeth Sprason worked with local Residence Life Social Committees to plan and hold clothes swap shops at Central Village and Devonshire Hall. In addition, Elizabeth wrote two blogs about how donations can be given to the British Heart Foundation, and how those donations can help to finance vital medical research into various aspects of coronary heart disease here at the University of Leeds.
- Communications with students: The Residences Life Team continued to send out communications to student residents in University and private partner accommodation throughout the year via e-mail and social media. 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 2022/23 and outlined how students could get involved with their local community through volunteering and 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 (SDG11 Sustainable Cities and Communities).
- Green Tourism: Membership was renewed in 2022/23 for the eight conference-facing residential sites accredited under the hospitality industry’s Green Tourism accreditation scheme for sustainability. In addition, Central Village was subject to an audit during the year and achieved a Gold Award for how it manages sustainability on site. Read our green story here.
- CUBO (College and University Business Officers) Awards Finalist: Residential Services was shortlisted as a Finalist at the CUBO Awards 2023 for its work on Innovation in Student Experience. We continue to collaborate with all of our student ambassadors, student sustainability architects, student volunteers, University colleagues, and external partners in providing opportunities to apply their learning for biodiversity action planning, circular resource use, hedgehog monitoring, and single-use plastics.