Month: December 2014

Wishing you a happy and sustainable holiday!


Estates & Facilities getting their holiday spirit on

Our office at Capital House is officially in the holiday spirit. On Friday, we had a Christmas jumper day to help raise money for Save the Children and through donations and selling cakes and biscuits we gathered together a total of £65.46. Thanks to everyone that participated!

A great infographic from 2degrees, which includes some fun facts about Christmas, helps to remind us that an unfortunate side-effect of the holiday season in the UK is typically an immense amount of waste. Apparently each year the UK throws away 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and a staggering 74 million mince pies! To add to that, we throw away enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon (that’s nearly 250,000 miles worth of wrapping paper!). And we’re not even digging into issues surrounding Christmas trees. Indeed, the holidays can make it easy to forget about sustainability, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Keeping sustainability in mind fits well with the holiday spirit of giving – for all that we take during the holidays, we shouldn’t forget to give something back to our surroundings.

The holidays pose specific sustainability challenges for universities. Offices close for longer than usual and any students that live on campus return home or travel during the holidays. As such, it’s important to ensure that energy isn’t being wasted while nobody is here to use it! If you live in halls and have not left yet, please take a look at our holiday check list. Likewise, if you’re a member of staff, look over our shutdown guide to make sure that we save as much as possible over the break.

Shut down guide

Of course, the holidays are also a time for reflection and looking ahead to the future. We hope you’ve all enjoyed an exciting first term. It’s been a whirlwind for us with various staff settling into new roles and a slate of events including our Sustainability Forum, NUS Blackout and the initial stages of implementing Sustainability Champions. Meanwhile Kat, Tom, Sunny, Martin and Ann have been drafting a new sustainability strategy including new policies and programs that we’ll learn a lot more about in the coming year.

Indeed, 2015 promises to be even busier and more engaging. We’ll be hosting and supporting a range of events and initiatives including a packed Green Week in February, an Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference put on by EcoSoc in March and the full implementation of Sustainability Champions, among other things. Please see below for some important second term dates for your diaries – we’ll add more as they develop. We couldn’t be more excited for what the next term has in store and we hope you’ll join us!

Until then, we wish you all a very happy holiday. Just remember to keep it sustainable!

Upcoming events (term 2)

  • Tuesday, 27 January, 18.00: Second Sustainability Forum
  • 9-13 February: Go Green Week
  • Monday, 23 March, 10.00-16.00: Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference (EcoSoc)

Some news and stories

A journey around the Dark Mountain

[This week’s guest post comes courtesy of the Sustainability team’s own Justin Fisher, who recently completed an MA in Science, Technology & Medicine in History. It is a guest post because he didn’t write it at work. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability. See?]


Vol 6

The beautiful Vol. 6. Photo credit:

Recently I had the good fortune to attend the launch of Dark Mountain Vol. 6 at Farringdon’s Free Word Centre. If you’ve not heard of the Dark Mountain project before, you’d be forgiven. Project co-founder Dougald Hine quipped at the event that when he asks people how they found Dark Mountain the answer is typically: ‘Well, it was late at night, and I was on the internet…’ Dougald admitted that this is exactly how he came to know the project’s other founder, Paul Kingsnorth, and I can confirm that this was the case for myself one night last December. It all might sound rather sinister. Launched a little over five years ago with a manifesto entitled ‘Uncivilisation’, Kingsnorth and Hine explicitly reject the dominant narratives of our society and are trying to facilitate the creation of new ones. Dark Mountain has become a powerful collective of artists and writers aggressively exposing the absurdities and contradictions of how modern society frames its relationship to nature. Above all else, it is showing the power of words and images in framing how we interpret and understand the world, and our place within it. They’re trying to tell new stories. They’re trying to destroy the ‘myths’ that sustain our society and drive our present crises: growth, progress, nature and civilisation. ‘We tried ruling the world; we tried acting as God’s steward, then we tried ushering in the human revolution, the age of reason and isolation. We failed in all of it, and our failure destroyed more than we were even aware of. The time for civilisation is past.’ Harsh words, indeed. But, are these not harsh times?

Before moving to London a little over a year ago I was broadly concerned about a number of environmental issues, and I made a conscious effort to do my part and encourage others to do theirs in reducing the environmental impacts of our lifestyles. I did the usual things like ditching my car for my bike, championing recycling and composting and ensuring that all lights and computers were turned off at work after every shift. But true change was surely beyond my grasp and not even on my radar. I was a History graduate working at a bookshop, not a climate scientist. As far as I was concerned, and as silly as it sounds to me now, environmentalism was a thoroughly scientific endeavour – one that I was deeply interested in, but not one that I could do very much about. And that was okay because I had some great scientifically-minded people in my life to take care of it. All I had to do was worry about it.

Then I began my MA at King’s last autumn, and, given my sympathies, the first module I enrolled in was environmental history. I had never encountered this before and was intrigued by what it might entail, and I quickly discovered what an important role the arts and humanities have to play in confronting the problems that we face. It was revelatory. I began to realise that as important as the science is, stories are equally so as they completely inform the way we interact with the world around us. One of the jobs of environmental history is to scrutinise these stories; to frame, un-frame and re-frame them; to examine how we have affected and been affected by our surroundings and what has driven that interaction. Finally, I felt like I had a place in this struggle, a way in, an angle that I understood. Graphs are great – I have some scientist friends who are giddy at the sight of them. But they don’t quite do it for me; I like words.

Dark Mountain

Photo credit:

Dark Mountain, as I understand it, is all about words. And images. And sounds. It’s about casting off our assumptions, our pretenses and our underlying denial. It’s about re-framing our world. And it asks really tough questions. In an intriguingly titled article published by Orion magazine in 2012, ‘Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist’, Kingsnorth took aim specifically at modern environmentalism, and especially its focus on ‘sustainability’. He asserted that sustainability, as it is commonly thrown about, ‘means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so.’ He went further:

This is business-as-usual: the expansive, colonizing, progressive human narrative, shorn only of the carbon. It is the latest phase of our careless, self-absorbed, ambition-addled destruction of the wild, the unpolluted, and the nonhuman. It is the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy. And without any sense of irony, people are calling this “environmentalism.”

I have struggled with that article ever since reading it. It’s hard to not take what Kingsnorth says straight to the heart. But, here I am, working for the Sustainability team. And so I sympathise too with George Monbiot, a friend of Kingsnorth’s who has been openly critical of Dark Mountain and what he interprets to be climate-defeatism. In fact, I have an abundant amount of hope for what this crisis means for humanity and our world, despite the powerful interests in opposition, seeing it as an opportunity to completely shape our future – an opportunity that doesn’t come around often. It’s beyond clear that the way we operate cannot continue, and we undoubtedly need to figure out how to live sustainably. But it is indeed important to question what narrative is driving that push for sustainability. Is it a desire for business as usual, minus the carbon? If so, then Kingsnorth has nailed it – it’s a futile exercise. If, however, it’s taken as an opportunity to re-orient our understanding of the world, and of our place in it, then there is plenty to be hopeful for.

So yes, the science is clear. And it’s very scary. Yet we still hesitate to change. What’s the missing link? The stories we tell – of growth and development, of humans and nature – must have something to do with it. What does this mean on an individual level? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I suppose to start with it means questioning the stories that are driving my own life. It means asking what is truly most important to me, and what I can do about that. It means not accepting that there is only one way forward, but many choices ahead.

I think it means we can change.

– Justin Fisher (

Calling all Sustainability Champions


Brilliant sustainability tips from King’s staff

This week we’re looking for staff volunteers to help us launch a new initiative, Sustainability Champions. If you have a passion for sustainability and want an opportunity to help drive change at King’s, then this is a great opportunity for you! This initiative seeks to embed sustainability within our departments, offices and labs through the efforts of King’s own staff. Volunteers can create teams of any size, from an entire department to a few colleagues, and will be working with the NUS Green Impact workbook with the full support of the Sustainability team. If you want to learn more and see a list of times and places at which you can drop by to chat with the Sustainability team throughout this week, take a look at our Sustainability Champions page.

This initiative is meant to complement our operational goals and to build on the efforts of King’s staff that have already been championing sustainability. Allison Hunter offers a great example. As Technical Manager for the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, Allison is responsible for technical provision across laboratories and relevant campuses. In this role she has managed to make some truly sustainable strides, and last month she was awarded a prestigious King’s Award for Sustainability. The King’s Awards recognise outstanding achievements of staff members as nominated by staff and students. In this case the Award recognised the successful implementation of a laboratory cold storage energy saving programme, which has saved 250,000kWh, or £25,000, per annum across six research buildings. Indeed, the efforts of staff like Allison can have a tremendous impact on the operations of the College, and we hope that Sustainability Champions will enable many more staff to participate.

What else is sustainable this week? EcoSoc is holding a Christmas dinner Tuesday evening at the Duke of Cambridge to reflect on the year and plan for the next (find details below). This seems a fitting end to an exciting term. Again, if you’re a staff member interested in becoming a Champion, swing by our drop-in sessions for a chat (and some cake!). We’ll be back next week for a final post before the holidays. Until then, keep it sustainable!

Upcoming events

Some news and stories

Educating Green Change

[This week’s guest post comes courtesy of Emily Shovlar, a third-year English Language & Literature student and enthusiastic EcoSoc member. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]

Let’s call this post, in honour of one of the organisations it features, ‘a story of things going right’.

That’s how the 10:10 project’s website describes the hashtag it created. #Itshappening is a Twitter treasure trove of sustainable action, mostly in the uplifting form of smiling primary school children and their new solar panels. It’s also a story of community efforts to combat climate change and progress towards a green future. What better way, then, for the Environment Society at King’s (EcoSoc) to show its rapidly increasing numbers and momentum than by hosting a panel event entitled ‘#Itshappening: how educators and organisations are bringing about green change’?

On 25th November, EcoSoc gathered in the Franklin-Wilkins Building to have our hearts and minds made brighter by five brilliant speakers. We assembled a hot water machine, organic fair-trade tea and biscuits, rows of chairs, the speakers and ourselves. It was our second panel event of the semester, and there was a general feeling that we were getting rather good at this. The stage was set for inspiration.


Mal’s enthusiastic arm span

The first speaker, tying perfectly in with #itshappening, was from the 10:10 project itself: Malachi Chadwick, its Communications Manager. Mal, his arm span enthusiastically growing with every statistic, described his work with the Solar Schools project, as documented on Twitter, in which 10:10 organises crowdfunding for primary schools to buy solar panels. There are now 66 ‘solar schools’ in Britain, funded by over £430,000 of community donations, with places for 20 new schools each year. The project is a success not only for the schools, some of which are entirely self-sufficient for power on sunny days, but for the whole community. Mal told us that 70% of online donors said the project made them feel part of a community, and that 45% of volunteers were keen to take part in more community projects afterwards. Even better, he pointed out that of the people who volunteer with the solar schools, 71% have changed their behaviours to save energy, and 29% have installed renewable energy in their own homes. By the time he got to these galvanising statistics, Mal’s arms were as uplifted as his audience.

This development of community is vital to sustainability: it’s all about localising, not globalising. It seems obvious to start with the education system if we want to instil green thinking, since, as Mal rightly said, schools are at the heart of their communities and connect to hundreds of adults and children alike.


The inspiring David Dixon, sustainable headteacher

Our second speaker expressed this connection from his own position within education. David Dixon is Head of Mulgrave Primary in Woolwich, a deprived and highly multicultural school. He is a truly inspirational headteacher: under his care the school has improved its Ofsted ratings, encouraged more community cohesion (especially after the nearby Lee Rigby incident in 2013) and embarked on a curriculum of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). More impressive still, he completed a doctorate while Headteacher, focusing on a ‘green leadership model’. He asked: what do leaders of sustainable primary schools have in common? He found: they had childhoods immersed in nature, they had strong communities and support networks, they were confident and go-getting and were happy to be disruptive to the education system. David feels strongly that “Improving the understanding of the connections between nature, a man made world and social justice is the way to develop less destructive citizens”. His work on ESD lets children choose how they live, and think about what it means to be a green individual.

Third up was Yolanda Barnas. She was a special invite from EcoSoc’s own Annie, whom she taught in her role as Languages teacher at the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in west London. Passionate like all the best teachers, she showed us the outdoor classroom she’d created at the school, from a semi-landfill wasted space, and described her efforts over the years to make the school greener. These included a wildlife garden in a little-used space against a school building, and a silver sustainability award for the school’s travel arrangements. What she really showed us, at King’s, was how one diligent person can transform an organisation or even a system. Her efforts might be small-scale, in that they only affect one school, but the sustainability movement is founded upon such green-minded individuals who change their own communities. Her dedication is exactly what we all need.

After Ms Barnas came Simon Goldsmith, Head of Sustainability at the University of Greenwich. Greenwich is brilliant at sustainability: this is recognised by its awards including Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development, and by its top-ten position in the university Green League for the last five years. His stance is that since universities are brimming with future citizens, it’s vital to embed sustainability within them (EcoSoc couldn’t agree more). Simon, like Mal, offered an armful of brilliant statistics: Greenwich has reduced its carbon footprint by 22% since 2005 and plans to cut it by a further 40% by 2020. It’s installed 200 solar panels in student accommodation, and put power-down software on every single one of its computers. For those of us who took part in the King’s Blackout, switching off hundreds of unused computers, the last statistic in particular is a worthy goal.


Simon Goldsmith sharing Greenwich’s sustainability secrets and plans for the future

Speaking of King’s, our final speaker was Tom Yearley, our very own Energy Manager, who featured recently on this blog. He only joined King’s in September but admits happily that his ultimate joy would be leaving the job, because King’s had woven sustainability into its ethos to such an extent that Tom became surplus. He gave us his vision for the coming years: student workgroups on sustainability, to make sure our voices cohere with his own plans; and large grants to improve efficiency in what is, we’re painfully aware, an un-green place of study.

Tom is guaranteed to encounter EcoSoc again, even more than the other four speakers – but it was a true privilege for us to encounter them all at once, in an evening of inspiration which confirmed all we hope to do to make ourselves, King’s, London and the UK greener. It was sustainably grown and articulately honed food for thought, and it was most certainly ‘a story of things going right’.

– Emily Shovlar (

Introducing Martin, the lab guy

Last week we learned a bit about Tom Yearley, our new Energy Manager. Tom is just one of a group of new staff to the Sustainability team. Energy is a broad and important strand of sustainability work at any institution. Also important to King’s is its laboratories, which on average consume 3-5 times more energy per square meter than other academic spaces. This is a big reason why Martin Farley has joined the team as the Sustainable Laboratories Project Coordinator. This week we will be looking into what Martin’s role entails, and why those of us working in labs ought to be thinking seriously about sustainability.

blog pic martin

Martin, bringing some serious sustainability into the laboratory.

‘I work with research labs to improve sustainability in short. Research labs consume a lot of energy, way more than most areas, and yet are often overlooked. There are a variety of areas we try and focus on like cold storage, ventilation, management practices, and about anything that produces heat. I try and bridge the gap between the researchers and facilities to find win-wins for everyone.’ In particular, Martin says he’d ‘love to further improve cold storage management here at Kings, though people like Allison Hunter have already been trailblazing in this area. For now I’ve been following in her footsteps. Cold storage is a unique challenge from the purchasing of freezers, to their maintenance and management, and finally their disposal, there is always something else to do. Kings isn’t unique in this respect I should add.

I worked just under two years at the University of Edinburgh doing a similar job, and before that worked in a few research labs and got a MSc in biology. Chatting around with lab people and learning how things and people work was pretty useful.’

Generally speaking, Martin urges everyone to be the change they want to see: ‘I really love working in and the idea of sustainability. Figuring out how as a species we’re going to survive on this planet without making it too painful for ourselves seems to be the big quest of our time, and it’s fun to be involved in a small way.’ Also, he suggests enjoying your local organic apples!

While he was at Edinburgh, Martin initiated an ongoing study into cold storage units, which seeks to discover the impact of various extreme cold temperatures on sample viability. Martin will write more in the future about laboratories to help those unacquainted to understand better what labs can and need to do in order to become more sustainable.

On another note, the Sustainability team is excited to welcome another new member, Ann Maclachlin, who steps into the role of Operations Sustainability Manager. We’ll share more about what she’s up to in coming weeks.

Unfortunately, due to last-minute scheduling conflicts, we have decided to re-schedule our second Sustainability Forum for January. The topic – green spaces and well-being – is one that we feel is very important, especially in a large city like London, and so we are very much looking forward to hosting the event in the new year. Keep checking back here for details, and we apologise for the late notice – we hope it doesn’t cause any inconvenience!

Until next time, keep it sustainable!

Upcoming events

Some news and stories