Sustainability at King’s

To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.

If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):

  • King’s has a target to reduce it’s carbon by 43% by 2020 (from it’s 2005/06 baseline).
  • King’s has a net-zero carbon target set for 2025.
  • As of August 2020, a King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) has been established so students and staff can actively shape how King’s will achieve it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. Form to join the network here.
  • Since 2017, King’s electricity has come from 100% certified renewable sources (wind power!).
  • The Sustainability Champions programme aims to influence behaviour change and empower our King’s students and staff to make the sustainable changes on the ground in their areas (whether that is an office, a classroom, research or teaching lab or a halls of residence). We started the programme in 2014 – starting with 17 champions, there are now 532 students and staff taking part.
  • You can apply to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (role will be advertised on KCLSU volunteer platform – end of October/early November) – to help a staff champions team embed sustainability in their area and create projects you want to see introduced!
  • King’s has increased it’s recycling rate from 37% to 69% in 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown).
  • King’s Sustainability has now produced 3 Sustainability Reports – see them here for a more detailed look at how far we’ve come – but also where we still need to get to!
  • Sustainable Food is important to King’s – it has now achieved it’s second ‘Michelin star of sustainability’ – given by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
  • As part of the King’s Sustainable Food journey, you can attend the quarterly Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Steering Group meetings – to hear about what is going on in the world of sustainable food at King’s and suggest any ideas or projects you want to start.
  • Worked with King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) to establish a Sustainability team in the Union Development Committee – a group of 9 students, democratically elected each academmic year to improve the sustainability of the SU.
  • Created a Biodiversity Action Plan for all four campuses and sports grounds.
  • Sustainable communications – since Sept’ 2018, we have had 31 guest blogs written and published King’s students and staff on the Sustainability blog.

Finally, make sure to get in touch with us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk if you have any questions/ideas – and make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Newsletter to keep updated on events, volunteering opportunities and more!

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

King’s and KCLSU achieve Fairtrade University status

We are excited to announce that following our Fairtrade Audit in May, King’s and KCLSU have officially been awarded Fairtrade University status!

As you can read in our last blog post, King’s is part of a new scheme led by the Fairtrade Foundation and the NUS, and this was our first year of being audited. Our target was to get accredited and earn one star this year, which we have achieved.

Our Fairtrade University accreditation is valid for two years, but that doesn’t mean we’ll lean back now. We’re already working on updating our Fairtrade policy, will continue our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group remotely soon (get in touch with us if you would like to join!), and are starting to put together an action plan to achieve our second star in the next audit.

 

Our Fairtrade University audit

King’s has been an accredited Fairtrade University since 2017, when we re-certified after a few years of not taking part in the scheme. As part of the Fairtrade University scheme, we passed a new Fairtrade policy (as well as a Sustainable Food one), and set up our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group. Many sustainability initiatives around food were first discussed in this Steering Group, and the Fairtrade University award pushed us to look at how we could improve further.

So when the Fairtrade Foundation and NUS teamed up to revamp the award scheme and run it jointly, we signed up to be in their 2018-20 cohort.

The new scheme asked us to go beyond the five commitments outlined in the original programme, and focus on five areas of action:

  • Leadership and Strategy, including having policies and statements on supporting Fairtrade
  • Campaigning and Influencing, including supporting campaigns like Fairtrade Fortnight, and running an innovative campaign each year
  • Procurement, Retail & Catering, including offering Fairtrade in a wide variety of categories
  • Research and Curriculum, including offering student dissertation topics on Fairtrade topics
  • Outcomes, including measuring our impact

It also required us to create a Fairtrade Action Plan, which is available on the King’s website here.

As part of the new Fairtrade University scheme, we made lots of improvements over the last two years. All coffee and tea served by King’s Food was already Fairtrade-certified, and in the case of coffee, also organic and Rainforest Alliance-certified. But when it comes to other products, King’s Food have increased the amount of Fairtrade ranges they sell. For example, orange juice sold by King’s Food is now Fairtrade-certified. While they have previously sold Fairtrade snacks like brownies and cookies, many of the cakes you find in King’s Food cafés are made on site by chefs now. Since last year, Fairtrade cocoa is being used to make these treats. During Fairtrade Fortnight, they also introduced Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate at their outlets, with the team from Tony’s coming along to hand out samples. The Fairtrade University Award is a joint programme between King’s and KCLSU, so KCLSU have also made improvements to their sourcing. The drawstring bags on sale at Nought are made from Fairtrade cotton, and KCLSU even serve Fairtrade rum at some venues.

We have also started including questions about Fairtrade and Sustainable Food in our induction survey in King’s Residences, results of which you can find on our Fairtrade page. In addition, we welcome students doing dissertations on Fairtrade and ethical trade issues at King’s, and are happy to support students wishing to carry out research on this with access to data. We also supported staff member Rebecca Brown in setting up the Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA), a new association between universities which aims to bring the issue of sustainability and labour exploitation in supply chains into the public conscious. In March 2019, King’s hosted the inaugural UAMSA conference, which was a great success. You can read more about UAMSA in this blog post by a student volunteer who helped organise the conference.

Previously, the Fairtrade Foundation audited the universities – but under the new scheme, students are trained by the NUS to become auditors. Four King’s students were chosen to audit King’s this year, and in late May, carried out an audit of King’s by interviewing members of the Sustainability and King’s Food teams. We are now awaiting their final report, and are looking forward to hearing how we have done!

Many of our initiatives around Fairtrade and sustainable food, including sourcing of new products, our coffee cup levy and donation of leftover packaged food were discussed in our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group over the last couple of years. The group is attended by the Sustainability team, King’s Food and KCLSU, as well as any interested students and staff members. There is an open invitation to join the group meetings, which take place every three months. To get an invite to the next meeting (likely to take place online at the end of July), email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk

King’s Environmental Sustainability Report 2018-19: out now!

We are excited to announce that our 2018-19 Environmental Sustainability Report is now available. It showcases the wide range of sustainability initiatives at King’s, and reports back on our sustainability commitments and targets. You can read the full report on the King’s website.

King’s ranked top ten in the world for societal impact

King’s was ranked 9th in the world in the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking. The ranking, which was first released in 2019, measures universities’ societal impact and work towards achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At King’s, we use the SDGs to illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the term ‘sustainability’, looking beyond only environmental sustainability and including social and economic sustainability. We are a signatory of the SDG Accord, and both the Environmental Sustainability Report and Service Report use the SDGs as a framework to show how our initiatives are making an impact.

The THE Impact Ranking looks at various measures of how universities contribute towards all 17 SDGs. This includes research, education, as well as policies and initiatives run by the university. For each university, the three SDGs it scored highest in are counted towards the ranking, as well as Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. For King’s, the SDGs we contributed most towards are:

  • Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals
  • Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Goal 3, Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Goal 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

For Goal 17, King’s was ranked 4th in the world, highlighting the impact of our partnerships across the world, as well as our reporting against the SDGs. We have also maintained a high rating for our contribution to Goal 3, ranking 11th in the world. This is a testimony to our medical research, education, as well as initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Our biggest increase in score this year was for Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. As well as research and education, sustainable practices and our contribution to arts and heritage have significant impact on our score in this category. This includes encouraging sustainable campus to travel, as well as following sustainability standards for new buildings. Free-to-visit exhibition spaces like the Science Gallery, the Arcade at Bush House or the Exchange at Bush House North East Wing are also highlighted in this part of the ranking.

We are proud to have maintained our top ten position in the ranking this year, particularly as the number of universities taking part increased from 462 to 766. You can find the full THE Impact Rankings 2020 here.

Sustainability Week 2020

Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around how to ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside students, student societies, staff Sustainability Champions and charities, put on events with the aim to educate and inspire around various topics relating to sustainability (whether that be social, environmental or economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

We had a total of 522 people come to take part in the events throughout the week.

Here is a summary of some of the events we had throughout the week…

GEOGFEST

GeogFest’ was a charity event for King’s staff and students, organised by GeogSoc and the Geography Sustainability Champions to raise money for the International Tree Foundation.

The event took place in the KCLSU bar The Vault on Friday 7th February as an early kick of to Sustainability Week.

There was entertainment from the Worn out Shoes ceilidh band formed by academics from across the Geography department, PhD candidate George Warren and a dance materclass by UG student Pia Fletcher.

There was a live count of the money raised through the night, in total the Geography department raised £243.38 for the ITF, which will be used to help offset the flights from second year Portugal and Morocco fieldwork trips.

 

DIY lip balm & craft your own zero-waste products

Gathered in the KCLSU zero-waste store, Nought, 24 students got together to learn how to make their own zero-waste lip balms (recipe here – made without the honey) and how to crochet their own face scrubbie, instructed by King’s Energy Manager and star crafter, Julie Allen.

During sustainability week, Nought held a competition to win a zero-waste hamper for all those who spent over £10 – so this event was also a chance for the students to stock up on their essentials to be in with a chance to win!

A Green Threaded Corridor

Artist and Goldsmiths University student, Margaret Jennings came to Kings to deliver ‘A Green Threaded Corridor: Tree Art Workshop’. The workshop started with a conversation about our natural environment in the middle of Guy’s campus memorial garden and an insight into Margaret’s background and artwork. This was followed by a silent walk around the gardens, taking notice of the trees and life which surrounds them.

Natural materials from the gardens were gathered and used in the art section of the workshop. The art was inspired by our individual tree stories (e.g. a cherry tree in a grandfathers garden or the grief you feel when a tree is cut down) – the art could be painting, drawing, poems. These were passed around and altered by others – as a comment to nature and its ever evolving state.

The art and poems created in the workshop will form the body of Margaret’s research at Goldsmiths university – alongside other university and community group tree stories.

The event ended with planting a Birch sapling on Guys Campus gifted by Goldsmiths University. This will form part of a tree corridor, as King’s will be mirroring this by gifting an Alder tree to Goldsmiths University.

 

King’s Think Tank: Post-Environmental Regulations Debate

See the blog post below, for an event summary from the Director and Researcher of the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

Vegan Sushi Class

King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society ran a vegan sushi class at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA) café. Over 30 students came to learn how to make their vegan sushi from scratch – how to cook the perfect sushi rice, prepare the vegetables, tofu or tempeh and do the perfect sushi roll.

Circular Economy Workshop with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

On the final day in Sustainability Week, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation came to deliver a workshop on circular economy.

They gave attendees an overview of what the circular economy is, and what businesses and services using circular economy principles may look like. As it was Valentine’s Day, they tasked students with coming up with circular economy alternatives to common Valentine’s presents, including re-used cards and potted flowers.

 

 

King’s Global Day of Service

Each year in March, students, staff and alumni take part in a range of volunteering activities across the world as part of King’s Global Day of Service.

This year, King’s Global Day of Service is on Wednesday 25th March (to celebrate the day King’s was founded) but any volunteering activities that take place throughout March can contribute to GDoS volunteering hours.

King’s is the first university in the UK to run Service events at this scale and the King’s GDoS activities represent our commitment to serving local, national and international communities.

The 2019 GDoS involved 190 volunteers in nine Service events in London and fifteen international events, across five continents. In total, 635 Service hours were completed, with an estimated economic impact of £5,000.

Find out more about what you can get involved in at King’s and across London this 2020 GDoS, here.

Sustainability Week Event Review: Environmental Regulations & Policies in a Post-Brexit Era

This guest blog comes from Mathilde Funck Brentano and Irina Tabacaru who are the Director and Researcher at the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTRE), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.

The Energy & Environment policy centre began the event with an audience-directed poll, featuring the question: ‘Do you think the UK should move forward with stricter environmental regulation after Brexit?’. After some time to reflect, the majority responded in favour of stricter regulation.

Following the survey, the panel began by discussing whether the UK should uphold European environmental standards after Brexit. While the speakers displayed little confidence in the ability of the current UK government to expand environmental regulations, all three argued in favour of furthering the existing policies. Drawing from his experience as a specialist advisor in the drafting of environmental legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, Professor Lee highlighted the importance of compromise in reaching higher-level objectives in environmental regulations. In order to enable effective policies to be successful, the accessibility of environmental regulations ought to be improved. The discussion also mentioned the importance of changes in consumption habits to match governmental policies. Mr. Bartha expressed optimism regarding the United Kingdom’s prospects after Brexit. As he noted, one of the European Union’s main weaknesses is its bureaucratic aspect, and the fact that European policies are not implemented by all member states evenly. For example, member states in Eastern Europe respond differently to environmental policies than those in Northern or Western Europe. The United Kingdom now has the possibility to expand sustainability-related regulations more freely across its territory, and avoid the European Union’s precautionary principles in the drafting of legislation, as well as the excessive allowances of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Conversely, Mr Ainslie underlined the apparent lack of ambition demonstrated by the British government in regard to green policies, particularly when compared to European targets. The speakers also discussed the necessity of a kerosene tax, given the considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by air transport.

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The discussion continued around the themes of Energy and Air Pollution. There was considerable disagreement between the speakers regarding the use and safety of shale gas as a potential alternative energy resource for the UK. The speakers’ views also diverged on the possibility of the UK reaching one hundred percent renewable energy use in the near future. Professor Lee also mentioned the importance of the UK finding its position concerning access to EU energy and, more importantly, pan-EU energy sources.

Our speakers expect that air quality standards will be upheld in the United Kingdom, despite its departure from the European Union. The British government has been tried several times by the European Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality standards. There is considerable public awareness on the topic, with approximately 28,000 to 36,000 pollution-related deaths in the UK every year. The necessity of tight cooperation between Westminster and local governmental bodies was put forth, as well as the urgent need for further enforcement.

Following the panelists’ discussion, the floor was opened to questions. The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion and interacted with the three panelists, raising a variety of issues, including the possibility of an EU-level meat tax. A captivating debate occurred regarding the theme of individual responsibility for climate change, as opposed to corporate and governmental responsibility. The high costs of sustainable and organic products, which represent a true burden for the average consumer, were extensively considered. The topic of waste management was also raised, following China’s decision to close its borders to foreign waste. Our panelists disagreed regarding the existence of the concept of ‘cyclical economy’, especially with reference to vehicles’ lithium ion batteries.

We would like to thank our three speakers for participating and sharing their thought-provoking insights with us. We would also like to thank the King’s Sustainability Team and KCLSU for their support in organizing our panel event. A big thank you also goes to our audience for being incredibly dynamic and engaged in the discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to King’s Think Tank events in the future!

The importance of Fairtrade at King’s   

This blog was written by Nicola Hogan, Sustainability Operations Manager at King’s. 

Kings College London has been Fairtrade accredited since 2017

In order to achieve the accreditation, King’s needs to demonstrate on-going commitment to the organisation in our sale of Fairtrade products and in our engagement with stakeholders. We’ve done this by organising events awhich support and promote Fairtrade and advertise the selection of Fairtrade products on sale across King’s campuses. 

King’s support of ethical organisations is part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As we enter this decade of action’, the Ten Principles of Fairtrade ask not just for a fair price for workers, but also champions Health and Safety, Transparency and Accountability and Capacity Building.  It also includes an anti-slavery principle where it protects against child and forced labour. 

However, in recent years the ethical business market has become crowded as more and more sustainable and ethical labels are popping up.  At King’s we support Fairtrade, as it helps to achieve the 17 SDG goals and especially speaks to SDG 5: Gender Equality through it’s support in empowerment of women

In addition, research indicates that farmers often strive to be Fairtrade accredited for the sustainability of the land as oppose to purely economic reasons. For these reasons it’s important that King’s continue to be accredited with Fairtrade.

Simply look for the Fairtrade label on products such as coffee, chocolate or clothing. 

If you’d like to know more about Fairtrade at King’s and perhaps embed Fairtrade in your teaching, research or departmental operations, please contact sustainability@KCL.ac.uk 

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