Sustainability at Leeds Arts University: A Circular Economy

14 June 2022

Sustainability Placement Student Bobi Steel considers how circularity principles could improve sustainable practices among students, staff and visitors to the University.

Hello, I'm Bobi and I'm an MSc Sustainability and Consultancy student from the University of Leeds currently undertaking a research project at Leeds Arts University. Through this project I'm looking to discover ways in which Leeds Arts University can implement circular economy principles across the campus to improve environmental awareness and sustainable practices among students, staff, and anyone else who might visit the university campus.

What is a Circular Economy?

Circular Economy is a term with several (sometimes quite ambiguous) definitions, but despite this it encourages actions that a lot of us are already familiar with and might already be doing in our day-to-day lives such as reusing materials, remanufacturing objects, refurbishing objects, repairing broken objects, and upgrading objects with other resources or materials. In a Circular Economy, recycling is seen as a last-resort solution when all the above actions have been considered and for whatever reason cannot be completed.

But rather than just focusing on the physical concept of material reuse, Circular Economy is also an umbrella concept that integrates a diverse range of complementary strategies to support sustainable resource management from a cradle-to-cradle perspective. It's about inherently valuing objects and resources so that they are used for the longest amount of time possible, and thinking about where they come from and where they will go once they are used rather than simply using and discarding them in a linear fashion.

How will this project impact Leeds Arts University?

Several creative projects at Leeds Arts University are already considering or implementing these actions and are a great inspiration to guide how we might be able to encourage everyone to follow these practices, and with the University's well-established Sustainability Framework, the hope is that this project can help Leeds Arts University become a leader in campus sustainability.

The project will involve a series of interviews with students and staff at the university to gauge the current understanding of circularity and its relationship with sustainability, and to find out more about how people interact with and use the current sustainability actions in place. This will produce a better understanding of the ways in which courses and staff members across the university can work together and collaborate to keep resources flowing around and within the university setting, which will in turn reduce the amount of waste that the university produces.

However, it's not all about waste reduction, and although Circular Economy literature often focuses on the business side of things, the project is also aiming to create more equitable access to resources for all students, whether that's for coursework purposes or general day-to-day needs, possibly encouraging activities such as swap shops and communal resource centres on campus where students can donate any unwanted materials or objects for other students to use.

The project also seeks to identify the ways in which multiple aspects of sustainability can be further encouraged in the work of students throughout their time at the university by embedding sustainability and circularity as a core value throughout their degree program, rather than as an afterthought.

Can I get involved?

The project will be running until the 18th of July, and if you're interested in hearing more or are willing to take part as an interviewee then please feel free to get in touch with me at

Image: Edward Howell, Consume less, share better unsplash