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It is often difficult to imagine the bigger picture of environmental destruction and waste pollution when we all live within very small niches, and much more to actually understand the impact which we can make as individuals. Here are just a few of the numerous ways in which you can achieve a more sustainable lifestyle within the city.


One of the most effective ways of reducing waste is by shopping at zero-waste stores, therefore cancelling out the big-hitters, food packaging. Leeds city centre is home to a number of specialist zero-waste stores that provide a diverse range of products, most notably The Jar Tree, a stall found within Kirkgate Market, as well as Ecotopia, located in Central Arcade. An alternative for those living in Leeds’s northern suburbs, however, is Waste Not, situated in Burley in Wharfedale. At these stores, you can use your own containers and fill them with all sorts of goodies, ranging from kitchen staples such as pasta, rice and dried foods, to cleaning and beauty products. All of these stores also provide sustainable household items, including bamboo toothbrushes and cutlery, which can be recycled instead of being destined for the landfill like their plastic counterparts. As a more general practice, a Tupperware container can also be your best friend when eating or drinking out. You can bring these into cafés, restaurants and takeaways to save the extra waste that goes into single-use packaging, so your slice of cake or portion of noodles can be enhanced by the delicious taste of sustainability.

Slightly further afield is the Real Junk Food Project, situated at their Kindness Sharehouse supermarket in Wakefield. Here, surplus food is intercepted from 92 stores and is redistributed on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis, therefore working on two levels. On one hand, the environmental benefit is substantial; since 2013, the Real Junk Food Project has saved over 5000 tonnes of perfectly edible food from going to waste, the equivalent of nearly 12 million meals. On the other hand, the Real Junk Food Project provide food for those that need it the most, including local schools, community groups and charities.

Leeds is also home to a number of initiatives and campaigns to encourage residents to recycle more. The #LeedsByExample project, for instance, has placed over 100 orange bins across the city centre, whilst several cafés and restaurants have pledged their support – visit any branch of Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger or Starbucks and you can recycle your coffee cups on the move. Furthermore, the initiative has also enabled the installing of Recycling Reward Machines, which provide 10p vouchers for the plastic bottles and aluminium cans which you recycle. The machines can be found in a number of locations, including Kirkgate Market, Trinity Kitchen, Leeds Beckett University, Heron Foods and a selection of Shell stations.

Sustainability extends much further than we might think, however, as it also encompasses clothes and general household items. Luckily, The Repair Café on Bridge Street offers a solution to disposing broken or worn objects. The ethos is to fix things, rather than chucking them away at the sign of the slightest malfunction. Visitors can bring in items such as clothes, electricals, IT tech, toys and jewellery, which a team of volunteers can inspect and repair. Whilst this is a great way to reduce waste as an individual, The Repair Café has been known to fix dishwashers and cash registers for businesses, ensuring that they also can save money and prevent unnecessary waste.

If you find yourself with excess wood, instead of throwing this away and it likely ending up in a landfill site, you can use Leeds Wood Recycling services. They provide a collection service that not only prevents wood from going to waste, but does so at a cheaper rate than standard skip services.

They also have a wood shop on Croydon Street in Holbeck, which repurposes the collected wood into tables, shelving, flooring, doors and bird boxes, which can then be resold. The service has proven to be incredibly sustainable, having rescued 113 tonnes of wood from the waste stream, as well as saving 57 tonnes worth of CO2 by using trucks that use less than half the fuel of a skip lorry. Leeds Wood Recycling is therefore the perfect way for individuals, warehouses and business to reduce wood waste and carbon emissions.

The methods above are but a handful of the numerous ways to live more sustainably; Leeds offers many more services and resources to reduce waste, whereas the internet is rife with ideas in a more general sense. The Zero Waste Leeds and #LeedsByExample initiatives provide lots of resources online and via social media which are specific to the city, but researching sustainability beyond these projects is incredibly valuable. And do not forget, creativity and imagination are not only the best ways to live a sustainable lifestyle, they are also the most fun.

Words by Kieran Blyth

Illustrations by Megan Dobynn

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