Team members we spoke to:

  • Jacqui, Domestic Assistant
  • Mike, Accommodation Operations Team Leader
  • Nick, Porter

What is your team?

Mike: We are part of the Environment Matters group, which is made up of five people from within the ahs operations team. My role is to work with senior management on strategy and objectives, then the group will get together to create a campaign of activity for the residences. We get together once every six weeks, look at what's going on at the moment, and what we want to push.

What kind of campaigns do the team work on?

Nick: Less Landfill, More Planet.

Mike: that was a recycling competition. We wanted to challenge the students to see how close they could get to zero waste , because a couple of years ago our collection regime for general waste was a lot more frequent than what we do now.

Nick: We used to go in three to four times a week for general waste.

Mike: We were producing masses for landfill, so we launched the campaign to put a spotlight on the issue and offer support to the students. Jacqui and Nick, as well as a Deputy, would go into the residences and advice the students on a daily basis about what can go into different waste streams. We reduced collections to get the students to think about what they were putting in the bins and encourage them to make their facilities go further. The results were largely very good, and the campaign formed the basis of what the waste and recycling regime is now.

Nick: It also prepares them for when they're in their own accommodation, and they have to follow the Council’s recycling regime.

Jacqui: Sometimes students don’t know much about recycling when they come to University, but if you encourage them, they become quite keen.

Nick: The porters and cleaners are in the residences pretty much every day, so we give students a lot of information, and any questions they have they can always ask us.

Jacqui: If you have formed a relationship with your students, they feel like they can ask.

Mike: The engagement side with the students in the residences is absolutely key. Sometimes it's just that extra bit of support that the students need.

In terms of other campaigns, we've got the Student Switch Off, which is run through the NUS. It’s an inter-halls energy saving competition, trying to get people to commit to minimising their energy usage and water consumption. Estates use energy readers to monitor the usage which feeds into a league table, not just comparing residences but it also pits us against universities all over the country and Europe. Some residences have done really well nationally, including Norwood and Durhill.

The final big campaign that we run would be the end of year Leave No Trace campaign. That's the reason why there are British Heart Foundation banks on campus. We tie in with charities and provide students with the facilities to be able to donate belongings to charity that they would otherwise leave behind. Two years ago campus collection bins alone raised £40,000.

Jacqui: It makes us feel like we want to achieve even more and keep doing more.

Mike: This campaign is something that's had a real impact from an operational point of view, with considerably less stuff being left behind by students at the end of the year and ending up in landfill.

What does a typical day for you look like?

Jacqui: It varies. One week I clean the kitchens, one week I do the bathrooms. When I'm in the kitchens I'm more likely to come into contact with the students so I talk to them to see if they've got any questions. and if I see anything that needs to be recycled I just remind them to put it in the right bin.

Nick: In term time I look after 29 kitchens and 16 social spaces. I go in and collect the recycling and the general rubbish and take time to talk to the students. At the end of the year there’s a lot of other things we do to get the residences ready for summer, as the summer is totally different to term-time.

Jacqui: In the summertime, when it is like a hotel here, we continue to help people with recycling, it’s all year for us.

Can you name something that makes you feel proud to work in your team?

Jacqui: It's nice to continue to strive to help the students.

Nick: I agree, it's good that we can talk to students and build up relationships with them.

Jacqui: If the students have just left home, it is a big thing for them.

Mike: I think it's what's been achieved by the team in such a short time, and year on year they deliver. I’m proud of what's been achieved from an environmental point of view as well. We've won awards and been shortlisted too, including at the internal Staff Recognition Awards.

Jacqui: I think the environment is something that everyone has become more interested in over the years, globally, so it's nice to try and succeed and get better responses.

Do you have a team joker?

Nick: Definitely Mike!

Mike: I’m not saying anything…

Nick: We both pointed at you so it’s got to be true!

Do you have any upcoming projects that you're excited about?

Mike: We will be looking at doing a version two of Less Landfill, to align more with the Council. We're also looking to roll out the Shared Living Agreement, which is already in place in parts of Eastwood residences, to more serviced areas which allows students to have a more bespoke service. Also, from a chemical point of view, we've changed our products to reduce wastage, but now we're looking at the carbon footprint of the chemicals that we use, and considering alternatives.

Do you have any funny team stories or running jokes?

Mike: Jacqui was the second person that we interviewed for the Quads team, and she thought that she was going to be interviewed by my grandad! (I've got the same name.)

Jacqui: My husband knew Mike's granddad, you see!

Mike: Nick also likes it on a Friday at two o'clock, because he gets the infamous Friday phone call. I generally give him a job to do and it's always an annoying one!

Nick: I call it Bad News Friday! It’s usually something like “Can you count all of the duvets that we have in stock by the end of the day?”

How have you found working for the University?

Jacqui: When I started my job as a Domestic Assistant, I thought I would just be cleaning kitchens and bathrooms. Joining the environment team has been really rewarding and motivates me to put that bit more into my job.