Author: Maria (page 1 of 3)

Champion Hill win Student Switch Off!

Every year, King’s runs the NUS Student Switch Off competition in its halls of residence. The aim of the competition is to encourage students to save energy. We started the campaign in autumn with visits to every hall, and NUS continued it throughout the year with photo competitions, quizzes and lots of prizes.

At the end of each year, the hall that saved the most energy compared to the previous year wins a delivery of Ben & Jerry’s for their hall. This year, we upped the difficulty and added recycling scores to the mix. So on top of making sure they were energy-efficient, students had to take care with what they put in which bin.

This year, Champion Hill Residence were the lucky winners. They came second in the energy-saving ranking, but due to their great recycling performance they managed to take the overall trophy.

So on a sunny day last week, we headed down to reward Champion Hill residents for their effort. In total, we handed out 400 tubs of Ben & Jerry’s (as well as some vegan soy ice cream) to students! With exam period in full swing, this was a well-deserved break for many residents. See for yourself:

400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out

400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out

Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway

Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway

Ice cream time!

Ice cream time!

A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break

A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break

In addition to winning the Student Switch Off, Champion Hill also has a great range of sustainability initiatives. We have previously featured the Champion Hill Wormery on our blog, which exists in addition to composting bins. The courtyard also has a pond and a plot for a planned herb garden. Finally, Champion Hill also has a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) and solar PV panels on the roof, making sure the energy used in the halls comes from more sustainable sources!

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

Building the Open City

SomersetBeing in the centre of London, our campuses are predominantly urban spaces. However, there are ways sustainability and biodiversity can be built into the city.

To give people the opportunity to find out more about this, Open City have organised Green Sky Thinking.

Green  Sky Thinking is a week-long programme of open events around how to design a more sustainable London. During the week, there are 50+ events, ranging from site visits to presentations.

It runs from the 15th to the 19th May 2017, and registration for sessions is open.

To find out more about the programme, visit the Green Sky Thinking Website.

SPA takes itself to task on sustainability

Laura Westwood SPAThis week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Laura Westwood. Laura is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)


The last couple of months have seen a proliferation of posters and a new recycling bin in the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.  Handily located at the tea point, the new bin makes each coffee break an unavoidable opportunity to do our bit – and we’ve additionally committed to using only eco-friendly coffee pods.

Before the bin arrived, we had to walk to the kitchen across the corridor to recycle waste.  Hardly an onerous task, I admit, but when one lunches al desko on rainy days, absent-mindedly favouring the nearest receptacle can become a habit.  I have rescued several stray banana skins from the floor under my desk this week, as I habituate to our personal bin ‘cull’!

When our Directorate Sustainability Champion, Sian, came to the Internal Audit team meeting, the information she shared with us showed that some of the choices we make with good intentions may in fact be ill-informed.  I had been convinced that rinsing my cup under the tap was preferable to leaving it in the dishwasher, but Sian explained that if we avoid using sinks and run one dishwasher cycle per day, our energy efficiency will improve.

My personal good news story is that, confronted with the information on one of our new office posters that King’s produces ten tons of waste each day, I logged into Papercut for the first time and resolved to curtail my printing activities.  I find it much easier to absorb information when I read it on paper, but I’ve made a concerted effort.  My first zero-printing week occurred this month, and I hope for many more.

The next step for the Strategy, Planning & Assurance sustainability team is to advance our ideas for contributing to the local community.  Talks are underway with local organisations to build on the success of previous years’ clothing collections by welcoming homeless guests for a hearty meal served by King’s staff and students.   New and nearly new clothing and accessories are planned to be collected and displayed in ‘retail’ style, so that guests can browse at leisure and select pieces to take away.

All in all, the drive for sustainability in SPA has pushed me to fully accept my duty to demonstrate sustainable behaviours at work.  However insignificant our individual ‘oops’ moments may seem amongst an 8000-strong staff population, they add up to serious environmental impact.  I can no longer gloss over my environmental footprint, because with Sian’s help, it has been laid out in front of me – and I’m thankful for that.

Laura Westwood is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance. 

Don’t buy it – Warp It!

Last week, King’s re-launched the reuse platform Warp It. Originally opened to staff in 2016, Warp It works like a university-wide Freecycle. Staff can add unwanted furniture, research equipment and more to the online portal. Users can then claim these items for free. This means unwanted, good quality furniture is no longer thrown away. Instead, it is given a new life somewhere else in the university, reducing waste and saving money.

So far at King’s we have:

  • Saved over 17,000kg of CO₂, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
  • Avoided over 7 tonnes of waste
  • Kept the equivalent of seven cars off the road, and saved 24 trees
  • Saved over £40,000

KCL E&F WARP IT - TWITTER 1 - 1024x512At the moment, Warp It is only open to staff. If you are interested in signing up and start reusing furniture, please visit the internal Warp It pages.

It’s Coffee Week!

This week is UK Coffee Week, so we are taking the chance to talk about some of the great sustainability things happening in the coffee world. The industry often gets bad press, with environmentally damaging and exploitative farming methods, and often wasteful habits at the consumption end (disposable coffee cups, anyone?).

Luckily, there are now many initiatives trying to improve this image, and make the industry more sustainable. Last weekend I visited the London Coffee Festival, and picked up a few interesting things:

UK Coffee Week:

Rather than just an excuse to drink lots of coffee (not that we need an excuse for that…), this is a week-long fundraising campaign by coffee shops all over the country. Participating coffee shops raise money for Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water to coffee-growing communities. Coffee is water-intensive to grow, but those growing it often have little access to clean water and sanitation. So far, the project has raised £600,000 and provided clean drinking water to over 24,000 people. Find out more about coffee shops taking part on this map.

Fairtrade and more:

Coffee production is often exploitative and environmentally damaging, but it seems both coffee shops and customers are looking for ways to change this. Among the many coffee shops selling Fairtrade coffee, there are a few that have set up their own, direct trading schemes. As part of the festival, Union Coffee delivered a talk on how they make sure their coffee is from sustainable sources. This includes working with the same producers over many years, paying a premium on top of Fairtrade prices, and training employees to audit their supply chain. Many see this as a win-win situation: farmers receive a stable income and are able to improve their produce to sell it for higher prices in the future, and buyers have reliable sources and increasingly better products. While this might only work as long as consumers are happy to pay higher prices for premium products, it is certainly an interesting new direction.. Other coffee roasters sourcing their coffee directly from producers are Pact Coffee or Cafédirect.

Ditch the disposable cup

Following a lot of media attention in the last few months, disposable coffee cups were a big topic. Hubbub and Simply Cups took their Square Mile Challenge to the London Coffee Festival, installing three of their iconic yellow cup-bins, as well as smaller bins and posters around the venue. With significant quantities of disposable cups given out during the festival, the bins were in high demand!

As well as using the cup recycling facilities, visitors could hear about alternatives to disposable paper cups. Biodegradable and compostable cups were on show, as well as many reusable coffee cups. If you have been to the cafés on campus, you have probably seen the King’s College London KeepCups on sale. They were represented at the London Coffee Festival, and showed off the impressive number of universities that sell branded reusable cups on campus. With many companies now offering reusable cups in all shapes and sizes, disposable cups will hopefully be a thing of the past!

Social Media card - 1Interested to know what happens at King’s? The Maughan Library is currently taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, which is aiming to recycle 500,000 coffee cups by the end of April. If you are having coffee there, make sure you look out for the special coffee cup bins (and watch this space for future developments on other campuses)! King’s Food also offer a discount on hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup. King’s is also working towards becoming a certified Fairtrade University.

Have an egg-cellent Easter!

Easter is coming up, and we are already looking forward to a long weekend of enjoying the sun and eating chocolate. To make sure everyone, including the environment, is as happy as a bunny, we put together some tips on how you can go the eggs-tra mile to do good this Easter. (No more egg puns, we promise)

Here are our top five Easter tips:
  1. Fairtrade chocolate eggs

What’s better than getting lots of chocolate eggs for Easter? Getting lots of Fairtrade chocolate eggs! Fairtrade ensures that farmers around the world get a fair price for their cocoa, and invests in communities to improve lives.cocoa With more and more companies now offering Fairtrade chocolate, Easter is the perfect opportunity to support the scheme. The Fairtrade Foundation lists a few companies offering Fairtrade Easter eggs this year, but there are plenty more around on supermarket shelves!

  1. Packaging

So, we have eaten all the chocolate, and now we are left with a mountain of wrapping. To prevent this, try to find treats with less packaging. There are now great alternatives to lots and lots of plastic on the market, for example the Eco-Egg by Montezuma’s, which comes plastic-free in biodegradable packaging.

You can also try to upcycle any waste that does arise – Pinterest always has lots of ideas!

  1. Locally sourced food

Everyone loves a good Easter Sunday meal. Why not challenge yourself to make it using locally sourced ingredients this year? Buying from local markets and farmers means your food has travelled less miles on the road – and it gives you a better idea of where your food came from and how it was produced.

  1. Get outside

After all of this ftulipsood, Easter can also be a great time to enjoy the (hopefully) warm weather! With the stressful exam period coming up, making use of green spaces can help clear your mind – even if you don’t have time for extended walks, you could move your workspace outside for a few days. There are plenty of green spaces around London (e.g. Richmond Park, Southwark Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath etc.), and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can try out some community gardening!

  1. Switch Off

Before you leave King’s, please make sure you switch off anything you don’t need.icon_switch_lights_off This can be anything from kitchen equipment (fridges, microwaves), office equipment (printers, PCs, screens), to lab equipment not in use (please do check with the owner if it is ok to switch off!). In 2015, students and staff at King’s switched off for Easter and saved 95 tonnes of CO₂ – this is the same as taking 18 cars off the road for a whole year.

Join the #SquareMileChallenge!

Today, Hubbub and Simply Cups launch the Square Mile Challenge across the City of London – and as King’s students and staff, you can take part!

Social Media card - 1The aim of the challenge is to recycle half a million paper coffee cups in the month of April. Coffee cups have been getting lots of bad press recently, as seven million of them are thrown away every single day – that’s 4000 a minute! The problem with this mountain of coffee cups is that less than 1% of them are recycled. While they are recyclable in theory, this does not happen in practice. The reason for this is the plastic lining inside the cup, which is almost impossible to separate from the paper. As a result, the coffee cups are either incinerated, or worse, end up in landfill.

So, what can we do about this?

This is where you can help. The Maughan Library will take part in the Square Mile Challenge, which means you will see cup-bins appear. These are specifically for your paper coffee cups. Once full, they are collected by Simply Cups, and taken to specialist recycling facilities. In a unique process of shredding the paper cups and blending them with recycled plastics, a new material is made. This is then turned into a range of things – everything from pencils to park benches. In fact, it only takes 1500 coffee cups to make a park bench!

It does not matter where your coffee cup came from. Starbucks, Pret, Costa, King’s Food – we’ll recycle all of them, as long as they are empty! With exam season fast approaching, we are sure the coffee-drinkers (or tea-drinkers, if that’s more your thing) at the Maughan can help the Square Mile Challenge reach the 500,000 cup goal. We will keep you updated with how many cups we have collected throughout the campaign.

There are five coffee cup bins around the library – two in the Rolls Café, two in the courtyard, and one by reception.

Not at the Maughan? Coffee shops all over the City of London will have special recycling bins throughout April. You can find them here!

If all this talk about 7 million wasted coffee cups made you want to do more than just recycle, it’s worth to bring your own cup. UNSDG #12And not just for the environment – it can save you money too! King’s Food will give you a free hot drink if you buy a KeepCup from them. If you already have one, you get 10p off your drink every time you use it. Starbucks will give you 25p off your drink if you bring your own cup, and Caffe Nero will give you double stamps for your loyalty card.

You can follow what is happening during the Square Mile Challenge by following Hubbub on Twitter, and keeping an eye on the hashtag #SquareMileChallenge.

How to find the least polluted route in London

This week, Spotlight featured the City Air app, developed by the Environmental Research Group at King’s. The app helps users find the least polluted route between two points in the city, using the ERG Nowcasts. You can read the Spotlight article and watch a short video on the app here.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nIf you want to find out more about air pollution in London, you can check out our three-part series on air pollution, featuring an interview with Tim Baker from the ERG.

You can try out a web version of the City Air app here.

 

How to deal with food waste: Introducing the Wormery

For most of us, food waste is an everyday reality. Whether it is buying vegetables we can’t quite finish, or cooking too much pasta or rice, it is hard to avoid. At Champion Hill Residence, students have two great alternatives to throwing food waste in the general waste bin – and one of them involves some very interesting ‘pets’.

CompostingBin

Composting bin

In September this year, the Champion Hill team sent out emails to new residents to see if anyone was interested in a food composting project. Since then, 22 kitchens signed up and picked up their food waste caddies – that’s 25% of residents! The composting bin is located in the courtyard of Beech block, and open at the bottom to make it possible for insects to get inside and help the composting process. And it’s not just for food waste: paper and cardboard make composting more efficient – and less smelly.

WormerySmall

The Wormery

But, hidden from sight, there is another way of breaking down food waste: a Wormery. In a wormery, a colony of worms eats through the food waste. While it might not sound nice, worms are highly efficient at dealing with waste, and leave behind useful by-products in the form of fertiliser for plants. The residence’s Sustainability Champion Holly found out about wormeries while researching food composting, and loved the idea. At the moment, the Champion Hill wormery is home to around 480 red tiger worms – a number that is expected to increase rapidly once the worms start breeding in the warmer months.

MenuSmall

The healthy worm diet

They eat most things we eat: vegetables and fruit, peelings, bread, cake, and even pizza. To make sure they get a healthy diet, the team has placed a ‘worm menu’ next to the wormery (see picture). How quickly food waste is composted depends on the temperature: At the moment, worm activity is lower due to the cold, but activity and composting is expected to speed up when it gets warmer. And it turns out worms are not very demanding pets. Even though you do need to add a handful of lime mix every couple of weeks to prevent acid build-up (and to help the worms’ digestion!), once worms are fed they can be left alone for a few weeks.

The container is sealed, and liquid can be taken out through a tap at the bottom, which prevents the nasty smells we often associate with composting bins. This liquid is also rich in nutrients. Diluted, it can be sprayed onto plants as fertiliser.

And much like in conventional composting bins, the solid material worms leave behind can also be used to fertilise plants. Both the composting bin and wormery are relatively new, but once the fertiliser from both of them is ready in the spring/summer, the Champion Hill team plans to make the most of it.

Inside the wormery - no worms visible due to cold weather

Inside the wormery – no worms visible due to cold weather

One idea is to set up a herb garden in the residence, making the space more interesting for students, as well as adding to the biodiversity of the courtyard. If you have been at Champion Hill recently, you will have seen the early stages of this project. As a university, we are constantly working on improving our environmental footprint. Efforts such as the food composting projects by the Sustainability Champion Holly and the rest of the Champion Hill team are an excellent example of how this can be achieved through new and sometimes unusual ideas.

Resident at Champion Hill and want to compost food waste? Make sure you know what you can and cannot dispose of at Champion Hill by contacting the residence team. The composting bin is located in the courtyard of Beech block. The wormery is not directly open to students to make sure the worms get the correct diet, but food waste from participating kitchens is taken there by staff.

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