Category: Sustainability (page 1 of 12)

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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sustainable Events Planning Opportunities

In a recent post about careers in Sustainability and CSR, we highlighted that speakers told the audience that relevant experience in the field was important, part of which could be working with societies at university. This is even more important as a number of companies are focusing more on the ‘soft’ skills of their potential employees than simply their degrees alone.  If you’re looking to gain experience in both sustainability, events planning, and working as a team, then a new opportunity with Ecosoc may be of interest.

EcoSoc is looking for passionate students to be part of an events planning team and organize environmental events this term. It will run separate from committee with the possibility of progression onto committee if desired. If you have an idea for a great environmental event, have an interest in learning about how events are run, or simply want to get more involved in EcoSoc, the Events planning team will an informal and fun way to make new friends and gain experience!

If you’d like to be invovled, you can sign up at here.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2017

Fairtrade Fortnight will be taking place between Monday 27th February and Sunday 12th March. This year’s theme is ‘take a break’, encouraging people to take some time out to have a Fairtrade tea or coffee together (perhaps with some Fairtrade chocolate for those with a sweet tooth!).

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The aim of the fortnight period is to raise awareness of the plight of farmers outside of the Fairtrade system, who may be exploited in growing, processing and selling their products. The Fairtrade process aims to ensure people get paid a fair price for what they sell, and that they have safe working conditions. You can test your knowledge and find out more about Fairtrade in this quiz.

Events and Promotions

At King’s we’re supporting Fairtrade Fortnight with special offers on food and drink – including a half price brownie with any hot drink and (for those looking for a healthy option) and a half price banana with any salad purchased. Medsin have organised what promises to be an interesting event “The Flipside of Pancakes: Big Food, Food Systems + Global Health” on 16th March, 6-8pm in the Gordon Museum, Guy’s Campus.

 

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Why is Fairtrade Important?

Low prices paid to farmers can mean:
• They can only afford to feed their families one meal a day. This can lead to health problems for their children such as stunting.
• They can’t afford medical care and put off treatment their families really need.
• They don’t have enough money to send their children to school. Lack of money also means pressure for children to work.
• They can’t afford to invest in better farming. That means they can’t improve the quality of their crops and charge a higher price for them.

Fairtrade exists to change this, but needs more people to know why choosing Fairtrade really matters. We want them to understand that Fairtrade means farmers get a better deal for what they grow. This leads to a better and more stable income, and can help them break the cycle of poverty they are trapped in. But many companies are only buying a fraction of their crops as Fairtrade, and even more companies aren’t buying any Fairtrade at all. Not enough companies are doing it, not enough people are buying it and not enough farmers are benefiting from it. By supporting Fairtrade, you’ll be helping to solve these problems and give farmers a better life for them and their families.

Learn more about Fairtrade here and we hope you enjoy some Fairtrade food and drink over the coming fortnight, and beyond!

A Career in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility

This year’s Sustainability Week saw two events organised by the Careers Department to provide students with information about how to get a career in Sustainability. A wide range of speakers, from the private, public and academic sectors, provided their insights to students on what a career in sustainability and corporate social responsibility is like, and how to go about getting a job in these sectors.

Sustainability Week Twitter Post (3)

As with any job, speakers highlighted the need to gain relevant experience while at university; from volunteering at environment-themed events, working with societies to run events and programmes, and choosing modules that provided knowledge of relevant issues. However, they also stressed that you don’t necessarily need a sustainability related degree (one of the speakers had studied English Literature) to get into the profession. Useful skills such as commercial awareness, knowledge of the law, and financial accounting, all provided important technical knowledge that was relevant to the field of sustainability. The jobs may not always be in the sectors you assume, either; Zoe from Marks and Spencer’s Plan A works on the sustainability of their buildings, since they are an often overlooked part of the sustainability puzzle where good design can significantly reduce energy use and carbon emissions, where as poor design can lock-in bad practise for the decades-long life of buildings.

You can make any job sustainable

One of the stand out pieces of advice the speakers at both events gave was not to limit yourself solely to jobs with ‘Sustainability’ in the title. Although the sector is growing and there are more jobs available, there are also a huge number of people applying for those jobs, making it a difficult sector to get into. Their advice was to find any job in a sector or organisation that you wish to work in, and work to integrate sustainability into that role and influence your colleagues.

This is sound advice, and something King’s itself practises. We have a hard-working team of Sustainability Champions; individuals from different departments around the university who work to make their departments more sustainable, to achieve bronze, silver or gold status. This massively increases the reach and impact of sustainability at King’s, and offers staff the opportunity to bring sustainability into whatever job they are doing.

If you want to find out more, audio recordings of the events are available on KEATS, and there is further information about careers in CSR and Sustainability on the careers website. Our Sustainability team also offers volunteering opportunities to gain experience in the sector, and paid internships each year. Sign up to our newsletter so you know when these opportunities come up.

So if you’re keen to get a career in sustainability and CSR, these events should have provided some valuable information on how to go about doing so. It may not be a straight forward journey, you may not get the job you wanted right away, and you may have to take a position outside the sector and bring sustainability to it to achieve your goal, but that is all part of roller-coaster of careers with purpose. Indeed, if you are ecologically minded, the best place for you may be at the most environmentally destructive companies – they are where change is most needed, and if you have the passion you could make a big impact.

Sustainability Week: The first three days

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.

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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!

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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!

It’s Sustainability Week!

Welcome to Sustainability Week!

This week will be packed with events and activities about sustainability – check out the full schedule here.

To start the week, we would like to share a case study of how King’s staff can have a positive impact by implementing small changes.

The Central Engineering Team (CET) carries out regular emergency light testing across all campuses, requiring an average of 1000 pages of paper for ticksheets every month. After looking at how to improve their practices, they are now testing recording tests on tablets rather than paper.

By doing this, the CET will save 12,000 sheets of paper per year. This is not only a huge reduction of paper usage, but also prevents nearly one and a half toner cartridges entering the waste stream. This new practice will also save energy and time, as pages will not be printed and scanned afterwards.

This example of King’s staff taking initiative should remind us all that no matter how small we think an action might be, it can add up to a significant impact.

So why not start making small positive changes this week? Our events will give you lots of chances to do so – whether it is learning about proper recycling, going meat-free for a meal, or getting yourself a bike to cycle to uni. The Sustainability Team is looking forward to seeing you at the events!

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