King’s is re-certified with the international standard ISO14001 for our environmental management system

This update is brought to you by Nicola Hogan, King’s Sustainability Manager for Operations.


King’s was recently re-certified with the international standard ISO14001 for our environmental management system.

For those of you not familiar with the international standard, it provides a framework that the King’s Estates and Facilities team can follow for guidance on best environmental practice, and subsequently submit evidence of their environmental performance. The system and its evidence are then audited by an external auditor for certification to the standard.

The recertification was awarded by NQA after one of their auditors carried out a 6-day external audit of 4 of our sites (Bush House, Guy’s Campus, Honor Oak Park and Great Dover Street Apartments). He also audited our various EMS documents, for further evidence of adherence to the ISO:140001 standard.

The auditor, who has audited King’s before and knows the campus quite well, was particularly impressed with the extent to which we communicate with staff and students via social media and newsletter. Being re-certified with this standard is important to King’s as it confirms our operations have considered their impact on the environment, minimised it where practicable and that we remain compliant with relevant legislation year on year.

An example of reduced impact on the environment includes evidencing that our recycling rates have improved and our bins are not contaminated, that our buildings source their energy from solar panels, that several of our lightings are LED and that lights and electrical equipment are not left on unnecessarily. The auditor also interviewed various staff at each site and commented on how knowledgeable everyone was about how their sites operated.

Aside from physical evidence, the auditor also needed to see that we were keeping important and relevant documentation up to date, that we were making changes in line with changes in legislation and that external global activities such as climate change, COP26, COVID and fuel supply shortages had been considered. Examples of such documents are our list of objectives and targets, our compliance register, our aspects and interested parties, and an up-to-date Environmental and Sustainable Policy that refers to the EMS.

The Sustainability Team are delighted at being re-certified but agree that we should not rest on our laurels. While our overall score was very good, the auditor identified several areas that he considered ‘opportunities for improvement’. The wider estates and facilities teams will be working hard to make those improvements and to identify where we can make further changes that will reduce our carbon footprint further. We will be audited again in March 2023, and have already started preparing for another successful audit. 

So if you are wondering what you can do to contribute to a smaller carbon footprint, feel free to send suggestions to Sustainability@kcl.ac.uk. Alternatively, if you see resources being wasted across the estate, e-mail ask@kcl.ac.uk.

Mental health and sustainability – what’s the link?

This blog post has been adapted from a post written last year by Helena Fazeli for Mental Health Awareness Week. Trigger warning – this blog discusses mental health and suicide.


Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022) is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems. The theme this year is loneliness and the week aims to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental health and the practical steps we can take to address it.

How do mental health and sustainability intersect?

#1 SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all

One of Sustainable Development Goal Three’s (SDG 3) targets is to “reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being”. Awareness of the importance of addressing mental health has increased in recent years, and rightly so: depression represents one of the leading causes of disability, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29-year-olds, and people with severe mental health conditions are at risk of premature death due to preventable physical conditions (WHO, 2021). Additionally, individuals with mental health conditions may face stigma, discrimination and human rights violations. 

While SDG 3 focuses explicitly on mental health, achieving this target requires progress across all 17 SDGs. Mental health and wellbeing are intricately linked to challenges such as poverty, inequality, work, education, gender, infrastructure, air pollution, access to quality green spaces, peace etc. Not only do these factors increase the risk of poor mental health, but they also impact the accessibility and quality of mental health services. 

One example is emergency contexts, including natural disasters, conflict and forced migrationduring which many individuals will face temporary distress. In the longer term, the prevalence of common mental disorders generally doubles in a humanitarian crisis due to increased poverty, lack of security, separation from family, community and home, and trauma. Overall, it has been estimated that 1 in 5 people living in an area affected by conflict will have a common mental health condition. Finally, it is important to note that climate change is expected to exacerbate many of these issues, thus causing greater and wider distress, which leads us to our next topic… 

#2 Climate change and mental health

When you think about climate change, mental health might not be the first thing that comes to mind. We often discuss climate change on a global scale, in terms of physical processes and tangible, measurable impacts. However, it both directly and indirectly impacts individuals’ and communities’ mental health and psychological well-being. 

Indeed, climate change and its associated impacts (rising sea levels, changing temperatures, extreme weather patterns, wildfires, droughts, food and water insecurity, etc.) put at risk a range of phenomena that people and communities value and rely on in their daily lives, both material and non-material, from homes, landscapes and ecosystems to cultural traditions, livelihoods, identities and social cohesion… From forced displacement to gradual changes in an environment, feelings of loss – loss of place, loss of identity, decreased sense of self – can arise. And, as mentioned above, these impacts are more acutely felt in communities and populations where climate change intersects with pre-existing health conditions, socioeconomic inequities and unequal power dynamics. 

#3 The rise of eco-anxiety 

As with many crises, the climate crisis is causing (justifiably) strong emotional responses, in people and communities around the world. Amongst inspiration and hope for change, feelings of anger, hopelessness, guilt and fear are common and natural. 

Eco-anxiety refers to the stress caused by “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold” or the “feelings of helplessness, anger, […] panic and guilt toward the climate and ecological crisis”Force of Nature has been studying the occurrence of eco-anxiety amongst youth globally. They found that amongst 500 respondents, over 70% had experienced feelings of hopelessness in the face of climate change. 

In recognition of the interconnectedness between the health of our minds, bodies and planet, last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme was indeed nature. This demonstrates how sustainability refers not only to environmental sustainability but also to social sustainability.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the climate crisis, be kind to yourself, and connect with your loved ones and your community. However, if symptoms of anxiety are interfering with your ability to function well and feel good, we encourage you to seek professional help. Here are some ways you can find support at King’s: KCLSU’s wellbeing eventsPositive PeersCounselling and Mental Health supportBlack Students TalkOut-of-hours counselling. You can also find resources here and here

Get involved this Mental Health Awareness Week

Join the Mental Health & Climate Change seminar (13 May)

What are the links between mental health and climate change? What is eco-anxiety? And how can we go about overcoming this?

To mark the UK mental health awareness week, King’s Sustainability will be joined by neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer for a lean-forward seminar on mental health & climate change. According to Kris, the best way to combat eco-anxiety is opening up pathways to action, to give the sense that we are not powerless and that we can indeed do something that is meaningful and can make a difference.

Kris will briefly explain the brain basis of eco-anxiety before diving into interesting break-out room activities exploring how to cope with it. Join this interactive seminar led by an expert on eco-anxiety to build your own eco-anxiety “toolkit” by identifying what your personal pathway to action might be in a safe, positive environment.

Kris is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s Department of Neuroimaging and the Director of the UCL Climate Action Unit.

This seminar is part of a series that runs monthly between October ‘21 and June ’22 covering some of the biggest topics in sustainability. If you would like to stay in the loop about upcoming seminars, please sign up here. These seminars are linked to the KEATS Sustainability module which we are piloting this year. You can enrol on the module here.

KCLSU’s Take Time Out (3-20 May)

Take Time Out is taking place until the 20th of May and aims to encourage you to schedule in some time, away from your studies, to boost your wellbeing, take a break and connect with the King’s community. See all events here.

More opportunities at King’s

This coming week, King’s wants to focus on what we can do individually and as a community to foster connections and support each other. Access King’s gyms and BeActive programme for free and join the events on journaling, connecting with charities, a virtual coffee morning, or one of the mindfulness sessions. Find out more here.


Some further reading on the topic

Tackling social inequalities to reduce mental health problems: How everyone can flourish equally

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance 

The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health 

Caring for the environment helps to care for your mental health 

Mental health and the environment 

Mental health and wellbeing in the Sustainable Development Goals 

The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development 

This Must Be the Place: Underrepresentation of Identity and Meaning in Climate Change DecisionMaking

Place identity and climate change adaptation: a synthesis and framework for understanding

“From this place and of this place:” Climate change, sense of place, and health in Nunatsiavut, Canada

Examining relationships between climate change and mental health in the Circumpolar North 

New student-led initiative: Freecycle

King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability are trialling a new initiative this year called Freecycle. Items such as bedding and cookware will be donated by current residences and reused by students moving in after summer. The goal is to minimise waste while providing students with essentials without a price tag. Tasks will include sorting out and distributing items. Volunteers will be able to call dibs on certain items and there might be free food involved. If interested, please fill out this form to receive more information.

This is initiative has been led by Kindness Ezekwe who is a BSc Accounting and Finance student at King’s Business School and part of the Students & Education subgroup of King’s Climate Action Network.

King’s among top 5 UK universities for environmental and social impact

King’s has placed 5th in the UK and 24th in the world in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, the only global league table that measures universities’ contributions to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). King’s also retained the top position in this ranking among London universities for the fourth consecutive year.

“At King’s, we believe ‘Our Deeds Define Us’ and we are delighted to see this recognised by a position amongst the top 25 universities in the world in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. This achievement would not be possible without the dedication of the King’s community who fulfil this commitment in a number of inspirational ways.”

– Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning)

Our highest SDG in the 2022 Impact Rankings is for ‘Life on land’ (SDG 15), for which we ranked joint eighth in the world, an increase of 31 positions from last year. This places King’s among the top 10 universities in the world for research and education that serves to protect and preserve land ecosystems. Our two other top contributing SDGs were ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ (SDG 11), and ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ (SDG 12).

King’s improved our score on 13 out of the 17 SDGs, ranking among the top 50 universities in the world for 13 SDGs, which demonstrates the breadth of the university’s environmental and social impact. King’s also jumped over 65 places for ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ (SDG 7), and more than 40 places for ‘Gender Equality’ (SDG 5) and ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ (SDG 6).

Find out more here.

Dive into King’s Spotlight on Sustainability podcast

The new series of the Spotlight on Sustainability podcast has landed! In this series, Emily and Abigail will be exploring “Building sustainable communities”. 

Episode 1: How can universities be more inclusive to migrants? With Ria Patel 

In this episode, Ria Patel, founder of the KCL Undoing Borders campaign, Co-Chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens and External Relations Officer for Greens of Colour, talks about the KCL Undoing Borders campaign. This campaign aims to tackle the hostile environment against migrants at universities.  

Episode 2: Why does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion matter? With Sarah Guerra 

In this episode we are very lucky to be joined by Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at King’s to explore what EDI is, why it matters and how you can help make your community accessible for all.

You can access the podcast on Spotify here. We would love to hear your thoughts on this episode; get in touch via the email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk. 

Happy Earth Day 2022!

Happy Earth Day 2022!

This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods.

For Earth Day 2022, we need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.

EARTHDAY.ORG

Check out the images below to see how the King’s community has come together to engage with the climate crisis, developing innovative and inclusive solutions. Sign up to these initiatives here.

 

Also have a look at this recent research, co-authored by King’s Geography’s visiting professor Sampurno Bruijnzeel, which explores the importance of restoring native forests for greatest climate and environmental benefits – but this comes with trade-offs for wood production. 

Cycling in London event & survey

Two photographs showing a bike mechanic looking at a bicycle in the courtyard of Bush House.On 3rd March, a cycling event was held at Bush House as part of Sustainability Month to increase awareness and understanding of how students and staff can get started with cycling in London.

The event consisted of a “Dr Bike” session, where external bike maintenance mechanics provided free bike health checks, advice, and small fixes (fully funded by Westminster City Council).

Students were also on hand to provide information to help others get into cycling, particularly focusing on commuting to campus. They discussed where the bike lockers are on campus and how to access them, information offered by external organisations (for example, TFL cycle safety pages and relevant council pages for cycle buddy schemes), and KCL’s Cycling club.


Two photographs showing a bike mechanic looking at a bicycle in the courtyard of Bush House.

The COVID pandemic forced us to rethink how we travel to campus. Cycling was identified as being a safer, more sustainable mode of travel that also supports wellbeing. King’s is keen to support our ‘new ways of working’ so identifying where improvements to cycling provisions need to be made is central to that.

To help us identify what those improvements might be, please could you take this 5-minute survey by 17 May? Your responses will shape how we grow the estate to meet everyone’s needs. Please direct any queries to Ruonan Zhang.

The Careers & Employability Festival starts next week!

How does sustainability tie into a career in healthcare or arts & entertainment? What jobs lie in the environmental sector?

Join this Careers & Employability Festival to hear from professionals who studied subjects from clinical medicine to museum studies to geography and are now part of the Greener NHS Programme, own sustainable fashion businesses, work in climate finance, renewable energy, and more. They will be discussing how they incorporated sustainability into their careers.

Sound intriguing? Find more information and sign up here.

12 April: Be a sustainability changemaker in any and every career.
14 April: Assessing your future organisation’s commitment to sustainability.
26 April: Build your employability for a sustainability career.

Community Garden week at King’s

It’s King’s Community Garden week!🌳

King’s Community Garden (Guy’s Campus) was setup by Oli Austen – Sustainability Champion and senior technical officer in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine.

Oli set up the space as gardening is a great way to connect with nature (especially for city dwellers), and evidence for the positive impact of gardening is always growing. A report by the King’s Fund in 2016 found many health benefits of gardening, including significant reductions in depression and anxiety. The Royal Horticultural Society website also lists advantages such as improving cardiovascular health and promoting a healthy diet🌸

Since its creation the garden has been tended to by undergraduate and postgraduate students, professional services staff, academics, technicians and KCLSU staff🌱

You can get involved with the community garden in the future by emailing oliver.austen@kcl.ac.uk.

Why is there a lack of renewable energy use in the UK?

This guest blog comes courtesy of Marco Hacon, the Energy Team’s Sustainability Champion Assistant. 


I recently worked with the team behind King’s sustainability module on the section on energy. 

Side note: If you haven’t heard of it, where have you been? For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s a great open-access resource that brings interdisciplinary knowledge from both students and staff. Don’t be put off if you don’t have any understanding of sustainability, the module aims to provide something for everyone. So, even if you have a strong knowledge base, it covers a lot of areas; you’re guaranteed to learn something new. Check it out here.

Anyway, as part of my research for it, I learned that in the UK (as of December 2020), renewable production generated 40.2% of total electricity produced in the UK; around 6% of total UK energy usage. This last number surprised me. The 2020s are supposed to be the decade of green action with the UK having a strategy in place for decarbonising all sectors of the economy to meet a net-zero target by 2050. So it made me wonder: why is there a lack of renewable energy use in the UK? Well, here’s what I found out:

First, the UK has a regressive approach to funding low-carbon transitions. The energy is currently being funded by levies on the energy bills of consumers. As it stands, 27.9% of energy bills go towards the construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure. Consequently, those who spend more on energy bills relative to their income contribute more to the low-carbon transition. Let me be clear, as I’ve expressed in another blog post, this has not caused the current energy price crisis. But, as prices rise with the increased cost of living, if these bills cannot be met, the transition will be held up. There’s nothing just about that. 

As a result, the UK sector doesn’t receive enough support to produce and manage energy. According to data from the Office of National Statistics released on the week of the 14th of February, the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy has failed to grow since 2014. In the same period, employment in areas such as manufacturing low-carbon technology, energy supply and construction has actually dropped by 28,000 and is currently roughly 207,800. Particularly concerning is that areas such as onshore wind and solar energy, which are essential components of a low-carbon energy mix, have been hit the hardest. It would be easy to place blame at the door of Coronavirus, but it looks like businesses in these areas were struggling in 2019. Even in relation to offshore wind, the UK’s flagship renewable source, energy production isn’t as high as might be hoped. Despite historically high energy output from wind farms in Scotland, the UK generates less than its counterparts in Europe.

Another reason that the UK is struggling to increase renewable energy’s contribution is storage. With much renewable energy being reliant on weather conditions, inter-seasonal storage remains a core challenge for the industry (and not just the UK). As such, there needs to be a lot of investment in energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries are expected to dominate the storage boom. On this front, the UK has started to invest. It has been recently announced that one of Europe’s largest battery storage facilities is set to be built in Scotland and is due to be operational in 2024. The Green Battery Complex will comprise two 400 MW facilities, each providing 800 MWhrs of energy storage capacity. However, capacity is measured in hours instead of days or weeks. As a result, looking forward, the UK would be wise to invest in other energy technologies such as green hydrogen, ‘gravity’ storage, and ‘cryogenic’ batteries.

In terms of other things the UK must consider when looking to the future, it must place localism at its heart, promoting community energy developments and supporting households. This is both in terms of reducing energy waste such as insulation as well as initiatives like solar panels that reduce the need for grid-supplied energy. 

Correction from previous blog post.

In a blog post from 2021, titled “King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex”, the author outlined that it would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand. The actual number is 116.

Thank you to Assoc. Prof. Johan Montelius from Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) for identifying this and bringing it to our attention.


Photo of Marco HaconMarco Hacon is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics and Development here at King’s. Before this, he worked in a few start-ups and scale-up companies with social purposes, where he gained a basic understanding of sustainability. He is a strong believer in a just and equitable clean energy transition. He is excited to write about this as well as more King’s-related energy topics for the team’s blog. He also wants to help develop toolbox talks for King’s staff and teams that centre on how to use energy sustainably.

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