Today is the first day of the Totally Thames Festival, which means Maria Arceo’s artwork “Future Dust” is now open to the public!
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo has collected plastic from the banks of the Thames. The project was supported by the King’s departments of Geography, Chemistry as well as the Cultural Institute. Maria is passionate about archaeology and oceanography, and interested in the footprints humanity leaves on aquatic environments. Plastic is one of these modern footprints, with countless reports on the amount of plastic debris that ends up in the planet’s oceans.
Maria Arceo at Sustainability Week
As campaigns such as ZSL’s #OneLess, and Hubbub’s For Fish’s Sake London highlight, London is a city closely linked to the sea. Waste in the tidal Thames will eventually end up in the oceans, and after breaking down into microplastics plastic might end up back on our plates.
With her Thames Plastic project, Maria wants to show Londoners the real magnitude of plastic debris entering the Thames. Since September 2016, she has done over 40 beach clean-ups all over London. Some King’s students and staff joined her for a clean-up during Sustainability Week, and picked up a complete computer keyboard in the mud between Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge. After the beach clean-ups, the workshops to clean and sort the plastic in May and June provided a perfect opportunity to look at the curiosities Maria and her team of volunteers found in the Thames (some photos of her Somerset House workshop can be found here).
Now complete, the “Future Dust” installation is a giant human footprint, entirely made from plastic from the Thames. Starting today, the piece will travel along the Thames for the rest of the month. It is currently near Guy’s Campus, in Potters Field Park outside City Hall, SE1 2AA. Next, it will move closer to Strand and Waterloo campuses – it will be the Oxo Tower Courtyard (SE1 9PH) from Sunday the 3rd to Wednesday the 6th September. Details of all locations can be found on the poster below, or on the Thames Plastic website.
Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.
His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:
“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.
So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.
So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.
As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].
We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.
Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.
Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.
Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.
I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].
This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.
Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.
In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.
In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”
The annual King’s College London Sustainability Awards took place on Monday the 3rd July. The Awards highlighted the growing commitment and enthusiasm of the King’s community for sustainable development, one of the enabling foundations of Vision 2029.
During the ceremony, 45 teams comprising of over 200 Sustainability Champions were acknowledged for all their hard work in introducing sustainable practices into their workspaces over the course of the academic year. The ceremony also celebrated the efforts of staff and students who have made significant contributions to sustainable development across our operations, teaching, research and the wider King’s community.
Professor Edward Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the Awards by highlighting the importance of sustainability and the work of the Sustainability Champions. He also announced that King’s recently achieved the ISO14001:2015 certification for the Estates operations on all campuses, including residences and sportsgrounds. You can find out more about the certification in the Estates & Facilities news.
Kat Thorne, Head of Sustainability, then reviewed the progress King’s has made in sustainability over the last year. Over 200 Sustainability Champions have carried out over 1,500 sustainability actions, resulting in 45 teams receiving Sustainability Awards. At an operational level, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by 26% since 2005/06, despite significant growth during this time period. The furniture re-use project Warp-It has now saved over £50,000 in procurement costs. In relation to sustainable food, the university is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and has applied for Fairtrade University status.
The 45 Champions teams were then awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. This year, 18 teams achieved Bronze, 19 teams achieved Silver, and 8 teams were awarded Gold. In addition to this, we celebrated individual Champions, staff and teams who went above and beyond in their roles to embed sustainability into King’s.
Until Sunday, the 11th June, Thames Plastic are taking over the Somerset House River Terrace with their Thames Plastic Lab.
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo and a group of volunteers (including Thames21, King’s staff, and students during our Sustainability Week) have collected plastic from the beaches of the Thames. They have then spent a few weeks at Canada Water, washing the plastic so it can be used.
Now, the project has reached the next stage: sorting it by colour so it can be used in an art installation as part of the Thames Festival.
The Thames Plastic Lab is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Departments of Chemistry and Geography, the Royal Society of Chemistry and artist Maria Arceo, supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. Throughout this week, they are inviting the public to come along and learn what kind of plastic ends up in the Thames, how it gets there, and what you can do. You can also pick a piece of plastic and ask for it to be analysed! In the end, all the plastic from the workshops will be turned into an art installation to raise awareness for the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. The Plastic Lab has been a great success so far, you can see pictures of the event on Twitter.
The Thames Plastic Lab will remain open until the 11th June.
Opening times are:
9th June: 16:00-18:00
10th-11th June: 11:00-18:00
More information can be found here. Make sure to drop in!
Our neighbours from Hubbub are currently also running their own campaign to combat plastic waste in the Thames. With #FFSLDN (For Fish’s Sake London, don’t drop litter!), they are trying to engage Londoners in a conversation about our littering habits.
For example, do you know what tidy littering is? It’s leaving your rubbish next to a bin, on top of an overflowing bin, or on a wall or ledge. It might seem innocent, but rubbish often falls off, gets blown away, and ultimately ends up in our great river. 300 tonnes of litter are cleared from the Thames every year – showing how important things like the Thames Plastic project are. Ultimately, plastic pollution becomes a very real problem for people. It is estimated that 70% of fish in the Thames have plastic in their guts, and plastic increasingly makes its way into our diets through fish that have swallowed small pieces of plastic. So next time you drop a piece of plastic, make sure it’s in a recycling bin!
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
Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway
Ice cream time!
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!
The 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. And 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.
The conference started with a keynote speech by Amanda MacKenzie OBE, who highlighted the importance of getting everyone involved. When the SDGs were unveiled, she ran a campaign to get word about them out there. One of the key messages of this was the importance of using simple language everyone understands. This is why she refers to the goals as Global Goals rather than SDGs, claiming the term SDGs “sounds like something you would see your doctor about”. By calling them the Global Goals and making them accessible, we should be able to take millions of small, simple actions, together adding up to significant change.
Prior to the event, key partners of the UKSSD sent an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking what the government is doing, and will do, to work towards the SDGs. Lord Bates, Minister of State for the Department for International Development, took to the stage to respond on behalf of the government. He claimed that with Brexit, the SDGs can provide an important framework for the UK to face outwards again.
One aspect that was highlighted several times throughout the day was that the SDGs do not only apply to the developing world. Dr Graham Long from the University of Newcastle did extensive research on how the UK is doing compared to the goals – with the conclusion that there is work to be done within the UK too. For example, many see Goal 1 (No poverty) as only applying to the developing world. However, Dr Long showed that over 15% of households live under what is considered the poverty line in the UK. Similarly Goal 2 (Zero hunger) is not only about the absence of hunger – it is also about the presence of good nutrition.
So how can we achieve the goals and targets associated with them?
Dr Jake Reynolds presenting his plan to ‘rewire’ the economy
According to Dr Jake Reynolds from CISL, it is all about ‘rewiring’ the economy. At the moment, sustainable businesses face many challenges, and one could argue that the game is tilted against them. We need to change this to a system where sustainable businesses have the advantage. Dr Reynolds presented his 10-task plan to make this happen, calling to the government, business and the financial sector to implement changes.
Talking about how businesses can have an impact and implement changes, another session focussed on leadership within organisations. While we often talk about wanting change to happen, few of us make changes themselves, and even fewer are ready to lead change.
In the afternoon, John Elkington chaired a panel discussing ‘Transforming lives’. One main point from the discussion was the importance of having a positive message. Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer’s Plan A said that to achieve the SDGs, we need to get people excited about them. Trewin Restorick from Hubbub reinforced this, sharing some of the positive and fun campaigns the charity Hubbub has run over the last year. As they are our next-door neighbours at Somerset House, you might have noticed us sharing some of their great ideas (including #BrightFriday and the Square Mile Challenge we will be taking part in). Another idea that was mentioned during this panel debate was that of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – if you have followed our Sustainability Week, you might have heard her speak at our successful Overpopulation vs Overconsumption debate.
Overall, the conference gave attending businesses a good insight into why the SDGs matter, both at home and abroad, as well as how they can support them by promoting them in their organisation. As was repeated many times during the conference, we need everyone involved if we want to stand a chance at achieving the SDGs – this includes government, business, and every single one of us.
With Sustainability Week now in full swing, it is time to recap what happened so far, and what events you can still get involved in.
We asked students what they would do if they were Principal for the day
On Monday and Tuesday we took over the space outside the Great Hall at Strand with our Sustainability Roadshow. Representatives from King’s Money Mentors, Hubbub, Veolia, Thames Plastic, RSPB, EcoSoc, Abe & Cole and Amey joined us for this, and we got the chance to chat to students about sustainability at King’s. Among other things, such as our popular recycling game, we asked students to write down what they would do if they were Principal of King’s for a day. Ideas included switching to clean energy, providing recycling training and banning non-recyclable coffee cups. We will take this feedback and see what we can do about these suggestions to make King’s more sustainable!
Artist Maria Arceo and the Thames Plastic stall
Highlights of other events include our Vegfest, which saw around 100 students try plant-based food (including Sheese!). We also held a bike auction at Strand, during which 16 second-hand bikes found new homes. Dr Bike were also on site to provide bike checks, and will travel with us to the other campuses over the next two days. King’s Careers & Employability ran two successful events on how to start a career in the sustainability sector, giving students the chance to ask sustainability professionals for advice.
If you have missed our events so far, you still have the chance to take part! Sustainability Week lasts until Friday the 10th February, and there are still lots of events coming up.
Tonight, there will be a panel debate on whether overconsumption or overpopulation is the biggest problem we face.
On Thursday, we will take our Sustainability Roadshow to Waterloo Campus. There will also be a Clothes Swap Shop at Waterloo in the morning. In the evening, you can attend a free screening of Tomorrow (2015), or pitch your idea on how to make King’s more sustainable at the Geography Department’s Sustainability Challenge.
Finally, on Friday we move to Denmark Hill for a seminar on why healthcare professionals should care about climate change, and we will bring our Roadshow, bike fixing sessions and Clothes Swap Show with us.
For more information, check out the full schedule here. We are looking forward to seeing you at the remaining events!
Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.
The exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.
Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack
One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!
Cycling to run the bar
By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.
Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.