Higher Education Funding Council for England

Putting green spaces on the students' union rooftop

Tuesday 25-03-2014 - 18:08
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Across the country, Students’ Green Fund turns students’ unions into hubs of sustainability at the heart of their wider communities. At Leeds University Union, we see a particularly vivid example of this vision coming to life: transforming an area of the union building itself into a green, edible growing space.

The roof garden is on level two of the union building, right at the centre of the university campus. The high visibility of the space ensures the that the work carried out across the wider Students’ Green Fund project at Leeds University Union reaches as many people as possible.

“An earlier project at one of our halls of residences was quite isolated, but the union is a central hub of activity on campus”, explains project lead Anna-Marie Vickerstaff.

“The garden will be a propagation space for our other onsite growing in the sustainability garden. We will also have a greenhouse/workshop space for groups to use and a selection of cold frame beds made from recycled materials, along with planters made from old doors, bath tubs and wooden pallets”

At the opening of the garden last week, Hilary Benn MP was given a tour of the space, as well as being told about some of the wider activity around the Leeds Green Exchange.

Emma Simpson is leading on a Home Grow Your Own project, which brings together students and local residents to collaborate on sustainable food production. Last week’s launch saw the first day of action for this strand of work, planting a huge range of crops at a community centre.

Elsewhere, Sam Joseph is getting involved in the Real Junk Food project, which turns surplus food into healthy meals in some of the most economically deprived areas of the city, currently running a pay-what-you-feel café in Armley.

These – and many other student-led sustainability initiatives – find their home right at the heart of the university’s campus. Producing more local and healthy food in a range of green spaces across the institution, the launch of this roof garden makes the sustainability work at Leeds University Union excitingly visible, encouraging more and more students to get involved.

“This initiative creates a bridge for the university and the city”, explains University of Leeds vice chancellor Sir Alan Langlands. “It opens up the campus and will allow people to adopt green behaviours in their daily living. I hope it will lead to all sorts of student inspired initiatives.” We’re sure that it will.

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