The Living Lab

What is a Living Lab?

The Living Lab is an interdisciplinary network of students and staff collaborating to investigate the solutions to real-life, local ecological justice issues. We aim to support students to engage with social and ecological issues in meaningful ways, as our website explains.

The current Living Lab is called FEEDING THE CAMPUS and it focuses on creating a campus food system that better meets the needs of both people and planet. Over 800 students are involved through over 20 modules in all five Schools of the University, together with the Catering, Estates, and Careers teams.

Posts can found under #LivingLab and #FeedingTheCampus. Follow us on twitter Ecological Justice at York St John (@YSJEcolJustice) / Twitter

or on our Feeding the Campus webpages.

Scroll down for posts about last year’s Living Lab – Learning at the Junction.

Introducing LIVING LAB: Feeding the Campus

Campus Energy and Environmental Projects Officer Sarah Williams with some of the donated locally grown vegetablesat the Living Lab launch


The Living Lab is a network of students and staff from different departments, all collaborating to investigate a real-life, local, social and ecological justice issue. And we’re embarking on a big one: the campus food system. Read about our wonderful launch event here.


Psychology students in the Living Lab


Psychology lecturer Maria Fernandes-Jesus gives an insight into how her second year ‘Qualitative Research Methods’ students are getting involved in Living Lab: Feeding the Campus. All 105 students are working in groups to conduct in-depth research into a burning question related to the campus food system. Read more here!




Learning Outside the Classroom – and through the Living Lab


An eyewitness account of the rich learning process experienced by third year Initial Teacher Education students on the Learning Outside the Classroom module. Their work intersected with the Living Lab through visits to YSJ’s community food growing spaces, and an exploration of storytelling and the food system.





Sustenance: a Fine Art exhibition as part of the Living Lab

The students and their lecturer seated at the exhibition's banquet table

This semester, a group of seven Fine Art students opted to join the Living Lab and make a collaborative response to issues around the food system, together with their lecturer Helen Turner. Fine Art student Sam Keane and Living Lab intern Meg Padgett reflect here on the result: SUSTENANCE, an installation, an exhibition, a provocation, a banquet, an experience.


Introducing the Living Lab core student team 2022-23

A picture of one of the student researchers, Lukasz


The Living Lab is blessed with a wonderful team of student interns and students-as-researchers. In this post they introduce themselves in their own words.




Burns Night Potluck – our Semester 1 feast

Ben Garlick in a kilt reading a poem to a crowd


Students and staff from across the university gathered on Burns Night to mark old traditions of sharing food and poetry – critically examine the present – and envision alternative futures. A rich and vibrant evening!



Red Tower York – helping the community one bite at a time

Red Tower volunteers holding a fundraising cheque


Living Lab interns Lauryn Wilson and Charlie Malbon investigate local food pioneers Red Tower York, and the ways students can get involved with supporting their work using surplus food to help their local community.




Green Week: Focus on the Living Lab


Living Lab student researcher Hayden Costello reports back on the range of food system-focused activities that took place during YSJ’s third annual Green Week.




A Cookbook for Students by Students


This year the Living Lab is developing its own YSJ Student Cookbook – a sort of time capsule of student food culture at York St John in 2023. Twenty student volunteers are coordinating a range of recipes that tell students’ food stories, identities, cultures, values and issues – all through the lens of food! Here Lucy Hurst tells all.





The Circular Economy at York St John

A diagram showing the stages of circular economy design


Student blogger Michaela Bosman shares examples of ‘Circular Economy’ design at YSJ, and asks how more products used on campus could be designed for reuse and materials recovery?





Planet Food York: a cafe for all

Selection of raw veg and fruit on a table


Student bloggers Lauryn Wilson and Charlie Malbon interview Linguistics student Rosemary Walker-Lyne about her volunteering role with Planet Food York, a local organisation which intercepts waste food and uses it to feed communities on a pay-as-you-feel basis. There are abundant volunteering opportunities here for interested students!





How Brussels Renewed My Hope in Humanity and its Future

Drummers in bright costumes parading through Brussels

The Zinneke Parade celebrates multiculturalism and bonds communities. Image source

In this post YSJ Literature student and Living Lab blogger, Michaela Bosman, reflects on her transformative learning experience on a Pagoda Sustainable Global Experience internship in Brussels.






Feeding the Campus: York St John’s first People’s Assembly

MRes student AJ Heritage reports back on YSJ’s recent experiment in participatory democracy, a ‘People’s Assembly on Campus Food’ held to launch the 2023-24 Living Lab.




My Placement with the Living Lab: Bringing history student skills to the plate!

Food Stories display in YSJ Library‘YSJ Food Stories – student culinary culture in the cost-of-living crisis’ builds on the YSJ Student Cookbook. Led by students from across disciplines, the Living Lab will continue to deepen our understanding of these issues by gathering more student stories and sharing them as a form of activism: as films, publications, practical kits, and campaigns. Hear from History student Ania about their time on placement with the Living Lab project.



Students invited to submit creative food stories for new publication

Students from York St John University leading on Food Stories project

Calling all York St John students! 18 months into this Living Lab, we know you feel passionately about food poverty, food waste, health issues and climate change. Submit your golden words for publication!





Show some love for your campus with Wild Wednesdays – starting this week!

Students at York St John campus doing gardening activityAmy Hodgson, Community Gardening Volunteer Coordinator, opens the invitation to fellow students to come along to weekly gardening workshops held by the Grounds Team on campus.





The Garden Project: Student innovation


Living Lab intern Hayden Costello tells of the progress made trialling approaches to establishing a student-led cafe space on campus.







Last year’s Living Lab: Learning at the Junction


An introduction to the pedagogy behind the Living Lab, meet the core members, and hear lecturers and staff discuss how they plan to integrate sustainability into their modules.



Learning At The Junction

“For the Living Lab project 2022, we have decided to focus our attention on air pollution, and how it impacts us physically, socially, and emotionally. Throughout this project, we will be exploring interdisciplinary and creative methods of improving the urban environment, ways of disseminating information, and how best to engage the public in ecological issues. Working with Councillor D’Agorne, the deputy leader of the City of York Council, our research will help inform the council’s next Air Quality Action Plan.”


Intersections in Ecological Justice

art of a polluted river

Read article here.

“Humans are, and will always be, entirely dependant on a healthy world and its functioning ecosystems. From needing the correct temperatures and nutrient-rich soil for food production, low-particulate and nitrate levels in the air to breath, or water sanitation to drink and avoid disease, we are deeply entangled into the ecological world.”



Embedding Justice in Critical Maths Education 

Click here to read Manjinder K Jagdev’s research on decolonial practice.

Manjinder K. Jagdev, Senior Lecturer in Education, discusses Critical Maths Education, decolonising the curriculum, and the importance of teaching social justice issues to all ages.





Science for Social Change

Disease Detection and Prevention

Click here to read about Dr Adam Odell’s involvement in Disease Detection and Prevention.

Dr Adam Odell, Senior Lecturer in Biosciences, and lead for Disease Detection and Prevention (DDaP) Group, discusses science communication and future interdisciplinary projects.






The Politics of Place

The outside of the De Grey building facing the junction


Jude Parks, Senior Lecturer in Geography and co-coordinator of the Living Lab, reflects on sessions by the junction.







Green Reads

green week 21-25 March 2021

Learn more about Green Week here.

As Green Week overlaps with the York Literature Festival, I have complied a list of five creative nonfiction and poetry books that can help readers better understand the intersections in ecological justice […]




Art as a Catalyst for Scientific Discovery

An image of Clare Nattress' bike in a rural terrain, it reads 'how can cycling be used as a performative art methodology to investigate and disseminate the problem of air pollution?'

Learn more about Clare Nattress’ research here.

Clare Nattress, lecturer in Graphic Design, discusses activism in design and her own air pollution research.






Sharing Projects, Sharing Air

Watch a recording of the event here.

The Green Week sharing event- talks from David Haley from Chrysalis Arts, Sarah Williams from Estates, and second-year Drama students.






Festival Success


Last week, students from many different modules gathered to share their work with each other and with the public as part of the Pint of Science Festival.







Languages at the Junction

two students stood by the junction


Dr Clare Cunningham, Senior Lecturer in Languages and Linguistics, writes on her Multilingualism module and ecological justice.