An innovative project developed by a Leeds student has won a prestigious national competition designed to accelerate the path to net zero across UK universities and colleges.
The idea, developed by PhD student Seb Stroud, was selected as one of five winners of the Platinum Jubilee Challenge, organised by the Royal Anniversary Trust to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The competition invited students from 21 institutions to design projects that would reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable behaviours at their institute.
The winning project will see the creation of several ‘mini meadows’ across the University of Leeds campus. Not only will these reduce carbon emissions from mowing, but will also benefit biodiversity and create environments for ongoing research.
Winner Seb Stroud, who is based in the School of Biology, said: “I am very excited to be able to connect my fellow students with this project.
“The University has started to really invest in realising nature-based solutions on campus and the creation of these carbon-capturing mini meadows is going to be a great opportunity to support not only climate mitigation but also wildlife, botanical education, and nature connection in students.”
A prize of £5,000 will support the implementation of this innovative project which proposes that one third of grasslands on campus are transformed into mini-meadows.
These islands of biodiversity will be managed using traditional techniques.
The mini meadows initiative will be established as a living laboratory at the University of Leeds, offering opportunities for research and learning alongside its function as a net zero solution.
Thom Cooper, Sustainability Manager, said: “By using the University as a living lab, the project will give students the opportunity to research and improve our understanding of the campus’s ability to capture carbon whilst also supporting the Estates team to build on their already impressive work in enhancing biodiversity and its ability to adapt to inevitable change.
“We are looking forward to sharing the learning with the sector and our wider Leeds community.”
These mini meadows will offer opportunities for biodiversity monitoring and soil carbon measurement as part of relevant modules and projects.
Prize winning research
As a recipient of the Queens Anniversary Prize, the University of Leeds was invited to participate in this latest student competition.
The country’s most prestigious higher education honour was awarded to the University in 2021 for ground-breaking work in forecasting extreme weather events, conserving tropical forests and improving climate-related health issues.
Alongside the mini meadows project, two other projects will be implemented with support and funding from the Sustainability Service.
These projects were proposed as part of the Climate Plan Student Challenge – an internal competition held earlier this year through which the University’s submission to the Platinum Jubilee Challenge was selected.
Both of these projects focus on bringing the notion of circularity to University’s campus, through a clothing exchange and a sell-and-buy initiative to redistribute goods that are no longer needed.
They aim to reduce waste and keep goods in use for longer, with positive impacts on sustainable consumption and associated emissions.