How should we respond to rising energy prices?

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


A picture of power masts around sunset.On the 5th of January, a group of twenty Conservative MPs and peers published a letter in the Sunday Telegraph calling on Boris Johnson to tackle the rocketing cost of living. I don’t make a habit of reading the Sunday Telegraph. But, the article was forwarded to me by a friend and, having been charged with writing a blog entry on energy, I thought it would make the perfect subject for my first piece. 

In the letter, the writers helpfully remind us that “high energy prices… are felt most painfully by the lowest paid.” Of course, it’s hard to argue with this reasoning. But, it would be easier to think there’s no ulterior motive had this not come from the same people who refused to maintain the £20 universal credit uplift.

Indeed, the letter was organised by Craig Mackinlay, the chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny group. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re a group of plucky politicians intent on keeping the government in check against net-zero commitments. Unfortunately not. They claim that “we have almost uniquely caused our energy prices, through taxation and environmental levies.” The implication? That Britain’s environmental policies are to blame. These are the same policies that are currently to just hit net zero by 2050, arguably too late to stop significant damage.

So, here’s my take on what has really caused the increase in energy prices and what can be done to prevent further increases. First, the increase is a result of a combination of factors. Primarily, the combination of rapid global economic growth after the COVID recession, an incredibly cold and lengthy winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), and lower than necessary supply. 

This lower than necessary supply is the result of decreased global investment in oil and natural gas infrastructure after their price dropped in 2014 and 2020 and delays to essential maintenance because of global lockdowns. This is felt more acutely in the UK, which only has the lowest gas storage in Europe capacity to hold 2% of its annual usage in storage (compared with France and Germany at 25%) after closing sites such as Rough storage. This has left it at the mercy of global wholesale energy markets. These aren’t currently in the UK’s favour with LNG demands from Asia having jumped to avoid blackouts and to keep industries operational, particularly after events like Fukushima. Add weak investment in low carbon energy technology and sources, such as renewables, biofuels, energy efficiency and electricity grids, and you can see why supply hasn’t been able to match soaring demand.

It is worth mentioning that geopolitics is also at play. Although they don’t directly supply the UK, exports from Russia’s state-owned Gazprom, which usually provides one-third of Europe’s gas, are at a six-year low. While the company claims this is because of low storage levels and increased domestic demand, it is quite a coincidence that this comes at the same time as heightened tensions with Europe over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The upshot doesn’t look pretty. In Britain, after an initial price cap rise (the maximum price suppliers can charge customers on a standard tariff), about 15 million households saw their energy bills rise by 12% in October. This trend is set to continue with predictions of a further 50% increase after a cap review in April. To cover the costs of failed energy suppliers, the average energy bill could go to almost £2,000 a year, up from £1,138 in 2021. Of course, businesses are also impacted, especially for industries that rely heavily on gas and oil.

To solve this problem, it would be misjudged to cut environmental levies and remove energy taxes. In fact, the opposite is required, greater investment and emphasis on clean energy would reduce reliance on other sources and increase overall resilience to shocks. In the short term, the most vulnerable people and businesses require financial support. After all, is it their fault that a free and competitive energy market has failed them?


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.

A welcome from Katie Gard, King’s Climate Education Assistant

Photo of KatieHello!

I’ve recently joined King’s Sustainability Team as their Climate Education Assistant, and I’m really excited to have taken on this new role. Part of my responsibilities includes developing educational resources which can facilitate climate engagement, including the KEATS Module Seminar Series and our Vision for the Future workshops, which will take place in 2022.

Prior to working at King’s, I taught in multiple international schools and most recently worked as an Academic English Tutor at the University of Exeter. I also volunteer within the Child’s Rights sector, in which climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent part of the conversation. My work experience has allowed me to meet so many people across the world and taught me that addressing climate change effectively is dependent on the needs of different individuals, societies, and communities. It has also shown me that there are many perspectives on how we can address climate change, which I hope means that there are many solutions, too.

During the pandemic, I decided to change my career and am now studying Social Sciences at King’s. It’s great to be part of the sustainability initiative at my own university. Given that I’m studying Social Sciences, I’m mostly focused on the societal aspects of sustainability, an example of which is climate justice. I believe that climate initiatives must also consider, and strive to mitigate, the degree to which climate change will further exacerbate social inequalities. I believe that ensuring equity shouldn’t only occur when addressing the negative impact of climate change but should also be enacted within any potential solutions. One of my personal aims within this new role is to ensure that social sustainability is central when discussing climate.

I look forward to meeting many people across the King’s community as we work to make the university more sustainable.

Happy New Year from the King’s Sustainability team!

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe exploring ways to live more sustainably? If so, the video below might help you get started, which we put together for incoming students but is relevant to anyone.

Focus on your wellbeing in 2022

For students: join KCLSU’s Take Time Out 10-16 January

Start the year in style by looking after your wellbeing. KCLSU is here to help you find that work-life balance. Join in by reading up on some of their wellbeing resources or by taking part in one of their events. Find out more on the wellbeing hub here.

For staff: join Staff Wellbeing Month

Staff Wellbeing Month offers a variety of webinars, courses, networking opportunities, toolkits and further resources with the overarching theme of building connection. Check out the programme here.

If you are looking for an impactful challenge this January, you might also want to check out these Veganuary resources.

Tips for a more sustainable Christmas

If you are celebrating Christmas this year, then it is important to be conscious about the impact of different activities and how you can make them more sustainable – while remaining equally enjoyable (or even more enjoyable knowing that you’re making a difference!). If you do not celebrate Christmas, then these are still relevant points to consider outside of these traditions.  

Gifts

For many people, Christmas and gifts go hand in hand. However, we know that overconsumption can be an issue for the finite resources on our planet. Our key tip is not necessarily to skip giving gifts altogether, but rather to think carefully about what you buy or give.  

Buy from businesses that put sustainability and ethics at the forefront

Ethical Consumer is an amazing website and magazine which helps to cut out the noise and gives you information on which businesses have been naughty or nice this year. They cover everything from high street clothing retailers, bookshops, health and beauty products, to which are the most ethical supermarkets. The Living Wage Foundation has also compiled a great Living Wage Gift Guide for 2021.   

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on small businesses. Therefore, if you can, it is more important than ever to support your small, local businesses. You could also consider buying from charities, and do not forget the impact of deliveries if you are planning to shop online.  

Do you need more inspiration? Then check out this blog post with tips for gifts for foodies, gifts around health and wellbeing, homemade gifts, sustainable tools…  Read more about sustainable and ethical Christmas shopping here.

Non-physical gifts  

If you want to cut the consumerism of Christmas back – why not use the money you would have spent on presents for a day out with your loved ones instead? Or offering your amazing babysitting skills to a sibling with young children, might be their favourite present yet!  

For a gift that makes a difference, you could also consider giving to charity in someone’s name.  

Wrapping paper  

Gifts bring us to the next topic: wrapping paper. Wrapping paper can often not be recycled, and we throw away over 100 million rolls every Christmas!  

If you do have a physical gift to wrap, consider ditching non-recyclable shiny wrapping paper for more environmentally-friendly options. This can be wrapping paper made from recycled materials such as ‘ReWrapped‘, a box you can re-use, or something homemade. Even if you are not the most talented crafter out there, websites like Pinterest have hundreds of ideas for DIY gift wrap. Gift bags such as this one are also great – as they can continuously be reused and save you lots of wrapping up time! If you receive a large gift – save the wrapping paper from it and use it for next year when you’re wrapping up future gifts.  

Food  

One of people’s favourite elements around Christmas is food. There is a lot you can do to have the most delicious meals during this festive season while being eco-friendly.  

Vegan/vegetarian  

This includes trying some vegan or vegetarian dishes. 51% of global greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture, therefore going plant-based is a powerful action we can take to reduce our contribution to climate change.  

This recipe video by Bosh! makes a vegan Christmas dinner including a portobello mushroom wellington, maple roasted veggies, balsamic sprouts, wholegrain mustard mash and the perfect roast potatoes, which show that going meat-free doesn’t mean missing out on a tasty dinner.  

Avante Garde Vegan has an alternative wellington recipe here. While also providing a bounty of other plant-based recipes, such as Christmas pudding, Yorkshire puddings and spiced hot chocolate.  

Buy your products carefully  

Besides, think about buying local, seasonal, and organic products, and avoiding products with unsustainable palm oil… Try purchasing your products packaging-free to reduce waste as well! Read more about Christmas & sustainable food here.

Cut down on food waste  

That brings us to the topic of food waste, which is responsible for about 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Good planning is the first step, but leftovers are often unavoidable. Think about freezing your delicious meals to enjoy at a later date. Or put them on Olio: it’s a great way to make sure your food doesn’t go to waste because plenty of other people might be keen to have it.  

Travel  

Although travelling continues to be more complicated this year, the festive season is known for travelling – whether it’s on a trip or to go back home. You’ve probably already made your plans for this year, but think about how you’re travelling and if you could opt for a more sustainable option. Good to keep in mind for your next travels too!  

Flying significantly increases your carbon footprint. Flying economy class to Cape Town or the Dominican Republic emits over 3 tonnes of CO2 – which is the same amount emitted by felling 4 acres of rainforest. If you’re travelling to Europe, try using the train. Or experience the UK Christmas traditions one year!  

The tree  

What is more sustainable: an artificial or real tree? If you can get a second hand one, fake. You can find these from sites such as eBay, Gumtree or Freecycle. However, according to the Carbon Trust, a 6.5ft artificial tree is responsible for about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – which means you need to reuse it for about 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than buying a real tree every year, depending on the materials used in the fake tree. Therefore, if a second-hand artificial tree is not an option, real trees are the more sustainable option.  

If you’re buying a real tree, make sure yours is grown using sustainable practices. For example, try to get a tree that is registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, where trees are grown according to strict guidelines (for example, being required to use sustainable seeds to protect local wildlife). Read more about how to pick your tree here.  

Once Christmas is over, you can contact the council who can collect your tree in January and shred it into chipping or use it for compost. Check your council pick-up dates here.  

Energy  

Remember to switch off for the Christmas period: turn off all lights and non-essential equipment at the plug if you are the last one to leave your office/residence. It’s important to turn appliances off at the plug as even when they are switched off, some devices will continue to use electricity while they are plugged in, known as ‘vampire power’. A common culprit is mobile phone chargers – they will continue to use energy when plugged in, even if there is no phone connected to them.  

Check out what to think about when switching off here.

Another tip is to try to keep your thermostat low. Rather than putting your heating on high during the colder winter months, lower your temperature gauge and use it as an excuse to wear a Christmas jumper instead.  

Graphic showing a lot of people in a winter and festive setting, with the text "Season's greetings from us all at King's"

We hope these tips give you some inspiration on how to make Christmas more sustainable!  


Check out some past blog post on this topic here:  

Christmas sustainability tips & facts from the King’s community

As part of our Sustainability Christmas Advent Calendar, we asked the King’s community for their top tip or fact around sustainability. This is what they said (check it out on our Instagram here):

“Our excessive eating habits during the festive season cause the same carbon footprint as a single car travelling 6,000 times around the globe, according to a University of Manchester study. This just seems absolutely mental to me!”

– Giacomo Ducato, KCL VegSoc President

“Oxfam is a great place to go for sustainable Christmas presents!”

– Rory Darling, King’s student

“The amount of rubbish produced by an average person in the UK per year is equivalent to 7 times their body weight.”

– Gordon Wong, KCL On The Streets Events Officer

“After Christmas approximately one billion cards end up in the bin, when they could be recycled.”

– Isy Clements, KCL Plant Society Vice-President

“Recycling one aluminium can can provide enough energy to run a TV for three hours.”

– Harshi Bhalla, King’s student

“Opt for a plant-based Christmas dinner. The livestock industry generates nearly 15% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, there are lots of meat alternatives around these days.”

– Asher Gibson, King’s student

“It’s estimated that we waste almost 270,000 tonnes of food each Christmas.”

– Amy Richardson, King’s student

“Wait until what you’re using is finished until you buy something new! It’s easy to get caught up in the sales and overbuy but try and shop more consciously this holiday.”

– Tasnia Yasmin, Sustainability Project Assistant

“For any student going home this Christmas with food left in the cupboards, download the app Olio, it’s an app for food-sharing, aiming to reduce food waste. It does this by connecting those with surplus food to those who need it.”

– Lily Hood, King’s student

“You can save used toothbrushes as common brushes, to clean the shoes or walls etc.”

– Damon Di, King’s student

“During the Christmas season the average family increases their spending on clothes by 43% and fast fashion companies produce more goods at lower prices to take advantage of this demand. Don’t get caught up in the fast fashion frenzy this Christmas!”

– Abigail Oyedele, King’s alumna

“You can use old newspaper to wrap presents rather than plastic wrapping paper, as it can’t always be recycled.”

– Caitlin Jackson, King’s student

“The equivalent of 2 million turkeys are thrown away every year. This blatant disregard for sentient life is insane to me!”

– Bethan Spacey, King’s student

“You can use fabric wraps for gifts instead of paper. Gift bags are also really good because you can reuse them.”

– Milo O’Farrell, King’s student

“You can create homemade edible gifts, e.g. I love brownies so would love getting a cute jar where someone has put in all the dry ingredients for me to make it. It’s cheap, thoughtful and low waste.”

– Ria Patel, President of KCL People & Planet

“Look at what you already have at home before you buy new Christmas decorations. Why not make your own DIY Christmas fruit decorations for your table using dried out oranges, or tie cinnamon sticks together for a tree decoration? Saving money, food, waste and the planet!”
– Eimar Helly, KCL EcoSoc Communications Officer

“Opt for vegan mince pies (they are really yummy) and a vegan meal this Christmas; donate half a portion of your food to the homeless instead of wasting it; switch to sustainable Christmas gift wrapping!”

– Chiyasmi Devi, King’s student

“My tip would be to look for a real Christmas tree that is FSC certified, sourced organically, and local to have the lowest carbon footprint if you celebrate Christmas.”

– Allie Marchand, KCL EcoSoc, Communications Officer

“You can make plant pots out of used tin cans! Rinse out the can, using a screwdriver poke a hole through the bottom and if necessary sand down the top edge of the can so it isn’t sharp, then plant a plant inside! I recommend some herbs for cooking and this saves waste and allows you to grow plants.”

– Rahul Goel, KCL Plant Society, President

“Check out @walkfree to see how to be conscious of modern slavery during the holidays.”
– Ishaan Shah, King’s student

“My tip is to go buy gifts from the local stores near you which will also help to support those stores, and instead of using plastic wrappers we can always use a paper bag or make one. Or we can take the gifts without wrappers too.”
– Dikshita Nath, King’s student

“Experiences are great gifts! They can be much more personal than material gifts. Think of inviting your friend / relative to a homemade meal, taking them to a cool event… Get creative!”
– Jone de Roode Jauregi, King’s alumna

“Why not buy your presents at a second hand/vintage store! You can find some unique and charming gifts there!”

– Helene Tessier, King’s student

“Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent, so why not give Veganuary a go! “

– Emily Read, King’s student

Graphic with the title "Sustainability advent calendar. 24 days of sustainable facts and tips". Showing 24 dates with pictures of individuals.

King’s Climate Action Network: what’s new?

The King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) is an open, interdisciplinary forum bringing together people from the King’s community who are passionate about climate action. The CAN focuses on solutions to reduce our carbon emissions while also maximising our positive impact on climate action.

Between 2020 and 2021, the network brainstormed more than 50 actions to be taken forward by the university. This year, the CAN has grown to more than 300 members who are working on implementing these actions.

What has the King’s Climate Action Network been up to these months? From research and responsible investment to our estate and travel, we have been discussing our priorities for the year ahead in our sub-group meetings. Members have signed up to smaller working groups to start implementing actions. 

Zero Carbon Estate

In the Zero Carbon Estate group, we heard about the progress the Energy Team and others have been making on a range of actions. We discussed setting up an ‘Energy Champions’ scheme where people could work on energy projects and receive formal recognition for them. This volunteering programme would include energy audit training, encouraging students to report issues and ideas throughout the year. We also brainstormed how we could get more creative with our communications to better engage our community.

Responsible Investment

In the Responsible Investment group, we explored the best ways to get student and staff input into a refresh of King’s Ethical Investment Policy. During the CAN plenary, we had a fruitful discussion with King’s Finance Team about the Ethical Investment Policy they have been working on. Key suggestions that were made by CAN members included increasing transparency and participation, developing clear definitions, embedding more ambitious wording and targets, and collaborating with the wider sector. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here.

Community & Engagement

In the Community & Engagement group, we have started planning a listening campaign to explore how King’s can best support/work with our local communities around climate action. We also discussed an exciting opportunity to shape the Science Gallery’s strand on climate change which will open next year.  Moreover, a group has started working on a plan to engage with secondary school audiences by educating them on science-based climate research and offering them climate-related research opportunities. We are also looking into how we can strengthen collaboration with our local councils around climate action.

Zero Carbon Research

In the Zero Carbon Research group, we brainstormed ideas to get climate researchers from across disciplines together. Following these conversations, the CAN is organising a panel event together with KBS on interdisciplinary climate research with academics from across King’s. A future event could also include ‘sandpit’ exercises where cross-disciplinary researchers come together for a short time to create projects around a given theme.  

Travel

In the Travel group, we discussed encouraging active travel by implementing a cycle bank system to pass on cycles within the King’s community and organising ‘cycling inductions’ at the start of the term. The new King’s Travel Manager will also drive action around business travel, for example by defining a scoring system to help identify what business travel is essential and what is not, and by creating guides on how to travel sustainably to some key destinations. A group is also working on estimating emissions from student end-of-term travel and brainstorming how we could promote slow travel.

Students & Education

In the Students & Education group, we have been discussing the pilot KEATS sustainability module and the SDG curriculum audit we have started on. We also discussed creating an interdisciplinary toolkit to show how climate relates to each field and developing a ‘Spotlight on Sustainability Careers’ event series. A group of students is also working on a climate careers podcast.

Find out more about sustainable education at King’s here.

Procurement & Waste

In the Procurement & Waste group, we discussed among other things how we could draw people’s attention to the importance of this area – it does represent the biggest part of our emissions after all! We have started to work on improving our methodology for estimating supply chain emissions, starting with food. We are also looking into opportunities for supplier engagement events, waste projects and communications, and developing feedback sessions with King’s Food about climate-friendly food.


The CAN sub-groups meet every 6-8 weeks, and the entire network comes together twice per term. Smaller working groups meet in between to carry out actions. Members are welcome to join one or more subgroups.

Sign up to the King’s CAN to be part of this journey and work together with students and staff from across the university to drive climate action! Find out more here or email Maria Rabanser or Jone de Roode Jauregi if you have any questions.

Sustainable education at King’s: what’s new?

What is King’s doing to strengthen sustainable education? Find out about three key projects we are working on at the moment below.

KEATS Sustainability Module

King’s Sustainability has launched an online, open-access, interdisciplinary KEATS sustainability module, aiming to offer everyone, no matter their field, a broad understanding of sustainability.  The module is being put together by a team of incredible students, staff and King’s alumni. This year will still be a pilot, but with the involvement and support of this year’s enrolled students, we hope to officially launch it as a finalised module in the new academic year. This pilot year, we have been releasing a new content section every two weeks.

So far, content on “what is sustainability”, the climate crisis, and sustainable food are live. There is also a section with tips on how to take action and an overview of our favourite sustainability resources. The contents include engaging short videos, text, and padlets to encourage discussions. There is also a short quiz at the end of each section to test participants’ knowledge, and evaluation forms to continue to shape the module according to people’s feedback.

Boost your knowledge of sustainability and help shape sustainable education at King’s by enrolling via this link By signing up, you will test the sustainability module and shape it with your feedback and ideas.   

Sustainability Seminar Series

Alongside this module, we have been hosting a Sustainability Seminar Series which is running throughout the academic year covering some of the biggest topics in sustainability. It offers the entire King’s community an opportunity to learn more about climate science, justice, sustainable agriculture and much more from seminal speakers in the field. Through these monthly 90-minute sessions, participants get the opportunity to fully engage with the subject in the breakout room discussions and Q&As with the speaker. The series aims to be interactive, empowering and motivate everyone to take action!

The first seminar featured climate expert Dr George Adamson on Bringing Climate Change Home. He discussed how we can address climate change at the scale of the everyday by understanding climate change as an interaction between place, personal history, daily life, culture and values. You can watch the lecture hereThe second seminar focused on climate, perception framing, and culture. We were joined by Dr Joachim Aufderheide from the Philosophy Department who helped us think critically about the concept of sustainability, understand how different disciplines tend towards different conceptions of sustainability, and consider moral issues around sustainability. You can watch the recording here 

The next seminar on the 25th of January 2.00-3.30 PM will focus on “Rethinking the Economy for a Sustainable Future”. We will host a very special panel with experts Enrich Sahan (Business & Enterprise Lead at the Doughnut Economics Action Lab), Julia Steinberger (Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Lausanne), and Vincent Liegey (spokesperson for the French degrowth movement). Save the date to make sure you do not miss out on this special session.  

Sign up for the series here.

SDG Curriculum Mapping

We are also very excited to have embarked on a new journey: mapping out all modules at King’s alongside the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). All students and staff can sign up as volunteers to support this project. It is a great opportunity to find out where environmental and social sustainability currently sits within the curriculum at King’s while building key skills such as auditing, research, and analysing data. 

The first training session led by SOS-UK took place on 13th December, where participants were trained to do a guided audit across programmes and modules and equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to do the mapping. The full volunteer description is available here. 

Register your interest here.

This article was originally published on the central King’s News pages here.


King’s ranked second in the People & Planet University League

King’s recognised for commitment to environmental and social sustainability

King’s has been ranked second out of 154 UK universities in 2021 People & Planet University League. Rising from 21st place in the previous ranking in 2019, King’s also placed first among the Russell Group universities. This ranking reflects King’s continued commitment to environmental and social sustainability.

The People & Planet University League ranks universities based on their environmental and ethical performance. It is compiled by the UK’s largest student environmental campaigning network, with universities scored against 13 categories, ranging from ‘Environmental Policy and Strategy’ to ‘Sustainable Food’.

King’s received an overall score of 79.5%, achieving 100% for staff dedicated to championing sustainability, the rigour with which we assess our environmental impacts, and our education for sustainable development. The ranking also recognised King’s commitment to wider social impact. High marks were awarded for our accreditation as a Living Wage employer, for in-sourcing our cleaning and security staff, and embedding social and environmental considerations into our supply chain.

I am delighted that King’s has been ranked second in the UK and first among the Russell Group universities in the People & Planet University League. We know we still have work to do but this ranking recognises the tremendous efforts of our students and staff who are dedicated to championing environmental and social sustainability across King’s.Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning)

In addition, People & Planet scored King’s highly for our sustainability policy and targets, commitment to carbon reduction, and student and staff engagement. Our staff Sustainability Champions programme has grown to more than 500 members, demonstrating the university-wide commitment to sustainability that this ranking recognises.

Our ranking in the People & Planet University League reflects the wider commitment and progress that King’s has made to maximise our positive impact across our university, and we will continue working with our students and staff to create positive change. Our Sustainability Champions and Climate Action Network are just two examples of how our engaged community is making a difference, and we look forward to sharing our forthcoming Climate Action Plan soon.Kat Thorne, Director of Sustainability

As a university committed to making a difference in the world through our research, education and service to society, we recognise that maximising our positive impacts is as important as reducing our negative impacts. At the start of 2021, we fully divested from all fossil fuels, almost two years ahead of target, and we have reduced our emissions by 53 per cent from 2005-06 to 2019-20. As we work towards our net zero carbon target, we are engaging our communities across King’s to help us to achieve this goal. The King’s Climate Action Network gives all students and staff an opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of our Climate Action Plan and take meaningful actions towards solutions to the climate crisis.

King’s also recognises it can have a significant impact on sustainability through education. There are over 100 modules related to sustainability and climate change across the university, including ‘Sustainability and Ethics’, ‘Sustainable Cities’ and ‘Literature, Climate and Futurity’. Through the recently launched online co-curricular module, ‘Sustainability & Climate’, all students and staff can gain a meaningful understanding of sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how related issues are relevant to their degrees, work and career goals. We plan to continue our work in this area, and an in-depth audit of our curriculum against the SDGs will be carried out in the next few months, with the goal of ensuring all students at King’s have access to education on environmental and social sustainability.

Find out more

Delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals

King’s College London has a long and proud history of serving the needs and aspirations of society. We are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a university, and we use them as a framework for reporting on our social impact. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals approved by the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) which aim to transform the world by 2030. This ranking demonstrates our commitment to delivering all 17 SDGs and particularly 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17.

Why are disabled voices needed in climate change discussion?

This guest blog post was written by Poppy Ellis Logan (she/her) in celebration of the UK Disability History Month running between 18 November and 18 December 2021. Poppy is researching population preparedness for power outages for her PhD with the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response, based in the IoPPN. In her spare time, she is Co-President of the KCL Neurodiversity and Mental Health Society. For more information on either, contact k20120570@kcl.ac.uk or president.NDMH@gmail.com


Why are disabled voices needed in climate change discussion, and how does this link to the disability history month theme of hidden impairments?

The climate change discussion is not just about prevention, but also about the response. The climate emergency is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather and environmental hazards around the world. The term typically used for the consequent events is ‘natural disaster’, however, there is a growing argument that this terminology fails to reflect the fact that these disasters are governed by human decision-making. This decision-making includes the planning, preparation and response to such events, and influences how extensively the local community are affected.

Disabled people experience marginalisation, inequality, and discrimination in many settings, including during disasters. Around the world, disaster planning and response are often not inclusive, failing to accommodate access and functional needs and thereby placing disabled individuals at a greater risk than others. Although policy progress is being made, with the Sendai Framework calling for disability inclusion in disaster management, we continue to see access and functional needs being overlooked. This applies to the climate emergency; local government associations are often unclear on the impacts of climate events on disabled members of the community and rely on local disability groups to advise them about how to even communicate with disabled people (despite 15% of people living with a disability). Consequently, timely warnings, evacuation routes, public shelters and relief or recovery efforts are often inaccessible.

This is a problem. In a disaster context, information is vital – both in terms of providing a warning for an event, and for ensuring that the public is well-informed about what is happening and what they can do to protect themselves. If this information is not accessible or if accessible formats are disrupted due to an event, people who require alternative forms of communication are left behind. On another level, social support typically plays a vital role in disasters, with mutual aid and altruism as a common theme across a range of events. However, disabled people are more likely to be marginalised, and thus may be less likely to receive social support from neighbours. Moreover, simply a practical level, people with alternative communication needs or hidden impairments are less likely to receive the right support from both their neighbours and emergency responders. The consequence is that disabled people may rely substantially on each other, on assistive technology, or on close personal networks for accessible disaster information.

These issues around communication and accessibility have perhaps been less visible during the ongoing COVID-19 disaster, possibly because we have been locked down in our own spaces, with continued access to online networks and digital devices. However, there is a risk that wider conceptions of disability and of ‘vulnerability’ in a disaster now become shaped by COVID-19, despite widespread criticism of their formulation and usage from disabled communities. The likelihood of this could be decreased by centring disabled voices in planning and decision-making for a range of events. Better representation of the diversity of disability in planning and decision-making could reduce the tendency to categorise disabled people into one homogenous ‘vulnerable’ group. Such makeshift categorisation is both ‘Othering’ and leads to assumptions around presumed vulnerability in a disaster context that fails to recognise the diversity of disability, the role of the environment in ‘disabling’ an individual, and the strengths and resources that disabled people may be able to bring to disaster settings.

One crucial point underlying this is the understanding that vulnerability is not static. Access and functional needs are very much context-dependent, and the needs (and members) of Priority Groups will vary from one disaster to another. Those deemed ‘clinically vulnerable’ during a pandemic may be very well prepared to cope during a blizzard. The people who may be affected by severe weather events are therefore not the same as those in our current conception of disability and vulnerability during the pandemic.

As an example, people around the UK are currently managing the effects of both Storm Arwen and Storm Barra. Both storms have resulted in power outages. During Storm Arwen, the access and functional needs of people with disabilities that are clearly reliant on electricity for their management were overlooked, despite media attention. The literature on power outages has previously identified that people who use electronic medical devices will be placed at risk by such events. However, there is a gap in the literature about how best to accommodate these needs. Moreover, it is less widely understood that power outages could remove all social support, crisis alert and information sources available to a person with alternative communication needs common to many hidden impairments.

Accommodating for a range of access and functional needs (including needs that are unrelated to disability) in disaster settings is something that has seen improvements, but still has a long way to go. To speak frankly, involving more disabled voices could cut out a lot of steps – there is nobody better to provide knowledge, experience and insight into access and functional needs during an event than the people who actually experience these needs each day. Universal inclusion may be a pipedream, but it might be easier to trust that the response for the next climate-induced disaster will consider the needs of people who use sign language, have unpaid carers, or require controlled medications, if people with a range of disabilities were prominently represented throughout the planning.


Find out more about the KCL Neurodiversity and Mental Health Society here. Also have a look at the Disabled Students Network and the Disability Awareness Society.

Check out Access King’s and the events they have lined up for the UK Disability History Month. This is the Staff Disability Inclusion Network at King’s College London.

Too Good To Go from King’s Food

This guest blog comes courtesy of Ellie Blackmore, Marketing & Content Coordinator for King’s Food.


For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, half a kilogram of food is wasted. Whether that’s scraps, leftovers or food past it’s Best Before date, it’s a growing problem, especially in the capital.

Graphic showing a paper bag with the Too Good To Go logo and below text reading "We've got magic bags that need rescuing. Download Too Good To Go to save a meal today"Many individual restaurants are taking a stand against food waste with the help of charities and businesses aimed at tackling the problem. At King’s Food, we recently teamed up with Too Good To Go – an app that allows users to reserve a ‘Magic Bag’ of food from restaurants all over the UK, for 1/3 of the retail price.

 

Too Good To Go was founded in 2015 and now has 7.2 million users across Europe and North America, with 8.2 million Magic Bags being rescued so far. According to Too Good To Go, “saving one Magic Bag from being wasted saves 2.5kg of CO2 equivalent – the same as would be produced by charging 320 smartphones” – that’s a lot of CO2 for a bag of croissants and sandwiches! While it was disappointing to not see food waste feature more at COP26, businesses are taking this issue into their own hands. Not only does food waste cost the environment; it costs businesses money too. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Program), food waste from UK restaurants adds up to £682 million a year.

Too Good To Go offers an innovative way to not only prevent food waste, but help restaurants cut some of their losses too, something that is all too important after the pandemic took its toll on the hospitality industry. The app is used by some of the biggest names in London convenience food – Pret, Starbucks, Greggs and Costa. Delicate pastries and baked goods from places that would normally be out of a student’s budget are more accessible via the app too – try the famous brownies from Konditor, decadent cheesecakes from Orèe and seeded spelt rolls from Planet Organic.

So, how do you use it? It’s so simple to help reduce food waste and get a discounted meal from your favourite restaurant!Picture of a paper bag with a croissant, apple, sandwich, and a breakfast pot. Download the app here and search for your favourite restaurant or cafe in your local area. King’s Food has 9 outlets listed across all campuses. Since joining the app in August 2021, 211 Magic Bags have been rescued from our cafes. On top of this, our outlets offer 50% off food that’s about to hit its Best Before date, 30 minutes before closing. So, if you’re not after a whole bag of goodies, you can head to Chapters (Strand), Wohl Cafe (Denmark Hill), or any of our cafes to grab a bite right before they close.

Reducing food waste in these ways is the best of both worlds – food doesn’t go to waste, and you don’t go hungry on the journey home. All while saving money. Bon appétit!


Note: Magic Bag and 50% off stock depends on availability. Some days, there is no stock left to reduce – this is a good thing! Less stock leftover = less waste.

 

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