A week in the life: Sustainability work experience student

Posted on: 8 April 2024 in Issue 8

Last month, we were delighted to invite A-level student Ruby for a week-long work experience placement with the Sustainability Team at the University of Liverpool. In this guest blog, she highlights her expectations, experience, and learnings from a very busy week with us!

A bit about me

My name is Ruby and I am currently in my first year of Sixth form, studying A-levels at the Belvedere Academy. I decided to do my week of work experience with the Sustainability Team at the University of Liverpool because I have been passionate about the environment ever since I watched a David Attenborough documentary. It is something that’s very important to me as it’s a subject that fits well with my A-levels, and I am interested in a sustainability-related career path in the future.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at my week in the Sustainability Team! Join me as I share insights into my daily activities and provide a glimpse into the impactful work the Sustainability Team is doing to create a more sustainable future.

Campus tour

On my first day, Sustainability Officers Laela Purvis Greenway and Alex Preugschat gave me a guided tour, highlighting some of the sustainability features across the city campus, such as the ‘BREEAM Excellent rated buildings, solar panels, green spaces, cycling facilities, food growing spaces, recycling facilities, and the University’s Energy Centre.


Photovoltaics (PV) Solar panels on the Foundation Building and cycle storage on campus.

The Energy Centre is a very impressive building which generates 90% of the electricity around the campus. Later in the week, I was fortunate enough to go inside the Energy Centre with Ben Parker the University’s Carbon and Energy Manager, who told me all about how the Energy Centre works, and the plans to decarbonise by 2035. He taught me about the energy/carbon saving benefits of operating such systems. The tour also gave an insight into the challenges faced by university’s operating energy centres with regards to future energy demands, climate change resilience and achieving net zero carbon targets.   

Large scale plant and equipment at the University's Energy Centre.

Another highlight from the tour was visiting the Oliver Lodge campus gardens. The garden is maintained by staff and student volunteers at the Guild of Students who attend gardening weekly sessions in which they provide all the equipment to allow you to boost your gardening skills and learn more about urban food growing, permaculture techniques, biodiversity and health and wellbeing. When I visited the garden, the purple sprouting broccoli was overflowing out of its net!

Green spaces on campus: Oliver Lodge campus garden and the Guild's green wall.

I also visited the Guild’s green wall of herbs and seasonal fruit and vegetables and learnt that the University is a gold accredited member of the Hedgehog friendly campus scheme and saw the ‘Bioscape NatureArks’ and wild pod planters dotted around campus, which provide support for wildlife including bees and hedgehogs. I also saw some students enjoying nature whilst studying in the Library Garden at Sydney Jones.

Nature Arks

BioScapes NatureArk planter with wildlife habitats and students enjoying the Library Garden at Sydney Jones.


I really enjoyed learning about how other departments in the University work together to create a more sustainable institution. I joined Laela in some of her scheduled meetings and wow do the team get their steps in! These meetings discussed improving the website and how to make catering more sustainable for big and small events. The reason I enjoyed it so much, was because each meeting was about something entirely different, showing how broad sustainability is.

League Tables

I carried out research into university league tables, comparing sustainability rankings of other Russell Group universities to the University of Liverpool, which ranks 50 in the QS Sustainability rankings worldwide. I learned a lot while doing this including Russell Groups universities net zero carbon targets. This activity really made me have a think about what type of university I would like to attend.

Learning about LEAF

Coming into this week, I had no idea how much labs negatively impact the environment with the amount of chemicals created and the amount of plastics used. Jenna Lowe, Laboratory Sustainability Officer works on the LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency and Assessment Framework) programme which helps lab users follow guidelines to save plastics, water, energy and other resources. Jenna works with all labs in the University, and helps them achieve bronze, silver or gold accreditation, with most labs at bronze but a lot working to go up to silver, and there are six gold. She gave me a tour of the Life Science Teaching Labs and all the bins had labels, switch off stickers, they used glass reusable bottles and used machines at their full capacity to not waste energy. The lab was in such a good condition it was incredible!

Thermal metallic beads (Lab Armor) are used in the sustainable labs to replace water and the lab equipment uses less energy.

Communications and engagement

I worked with Kate Sisodia, the Sustainability Marketing, Communications and Engagement Manager who organises events, produces the annual Sustainable Development Goals report, manages their social media accounts and writes news articles and website content. She taught me all about maximising engagement with your audience, and she helped me give ideas for this blog post! Not only this, but I worked on updating the sustainability communications plan, adding a timeline of activities and events for the academic year for students and staff to look forward to, such as Earth Day and the upcoming launch of the new Sustainability Strategy. I also had some fun creating content for social media.

My thoughts on work experience with the Sustainability Team

Although it may be a biased opinion, as I do want to study sustainability in the future, I found this week to be filled with fun activities, and a fascinating insight into the amount of work that goes into making a large institution sustainable. I went into the week thinking the team would be talking about recycling, reducing car use and overall reducing our carbon emissions. But I learnt that sustainability is so broad, and there is so much more too it!

The entire team are so friendly and took so much time out of there very busy week (especially after Sustainability Week, which you can read all about here) to talk me through their roles and give me a proper look into what happens in the department. Additionally, the team work on so many projects and help the university meet their sustainability goals. So, my work experience was hugely insightful, fun and an overall great week!

Find out more

For more information about sustainability plans and progress at University of Liverpool please contact the Sustainability team by emailing sustainability@liverpool.ac.uk