Month: December 2016

Proud to be King’s this Christmas

As Christmas approaches, swiftly followed by the New Year, we are always encouraged to take a moment or two to reflect on events of the year to date, our 2016. At the same time, as the period becomes increasingly commercialised, it is worth pondering for a moment what positive impact we can have on others. So this blog will highlight the top 5 stories about King’s making a better campus and a better world, and with any luck inspire in us all some hope for 2017.


In fifth place is the change to a smoke free campus. It is great to see the university aligning its actions with its research, and the smoke free campus is a fine example of that. The health impacts of passive smoking are well known, so freeing non-smokers from those impacts while on campus is a very positive step in the right direction.

In fourth place is the Entrepreneurship Institute’s launch of the business accelerator, with 20 start-up companies provided with a host of support to grow their businesses. Changing business is crucial to changing the world, and with many large companies doing more ‘green-washing’ than real sustainability and ethical practice, disruptive and innovative ethical start-ups are vital to changing business-as-usual to business-for-good.

In third place is research that has reduced the need for fish in experiments. In a new study led by King’s College London, researchers have validated a pioneering technique to recreate a freshwater gill system in the lab. This technique, published in the journal Nature Protocols, provides a more humane way to study the impacts of environmental hazards on freshwater fish, whilst reducing the number needed for experiments.

In second place is King’s commitment to a new ethical investment policy, not only moving money in the university’s endowment investment out of the most polluting and risky assets of coal and tar sands, but also committing positively to invest at least 15% of King’s endowment in ethical and low carbon companies.

RM_3 Baby Gorillas

Pictures courtesy of The Pole Pole Foundation.

And in first place is one of the most recent events, the presentation of the Prince William Lifetime Award for Conservation to John Kahekwa, long-term partner on conservation research projects within the War Studies Department. John reminds us all what can be achieved with faith and perseverance, even in the face of extreme adversity. John setup the Pole Pole Foundation (Pole Pole means ‘slowly’ in Swahili) to work with communities to protect gorillas in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In spite of a war that engulfed the country and claimed the lives of 5 million people, John stuck to his work and helped keep the gorillas safe and aided communities to recover from the conflict.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories above and that they may have warmed you up inside a little as the Christmas chill sets in. Here’s to the 2016 that has gone and the hope of an even better 2017 where we may all unite to move people and planet towards a better future.

End of term – time to switch off!

The first term is now officially over! But before you head home for your holidays, please remember to turn off all non-essential equipment at the plug – think computers (& monitors), decorative lights, kettles and microwaves. If you can, also consider emptying your fridge and turning it off while you are away (you can always use up food by throwing a pre-holidays party!).

By doing this, you will help King’s achieve its goal of a 43% reduction in energy consumption by 2020, as well as support the Paris Pledge for Action to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Read more about what to consider when leaving King’s here.

And if you need any extra motivation – this puppy really wants you to switch off anything you don’t need.


Image by @estateskings

To find out about which King’s buildings and libraries will be open outside of term, please visit the Estates & Facilities internal webpages.

A Visit to Veolia’s Recycling Facilities

by Wendela Schim van der Loeff

On Friday morning, the King’s Sustainability Team and its Champions visited Veolia’s Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF) in Southwark. Veolia is our waste contractor who services all of Southwark and many other parts of London. Operating under a circular economy business principle, Veolia seeks to turn waste back into resources that power our homes and industry. Waste to landfill is removed from the waste process and replaced by recycling or energy from waste. In smart societies of the future, Veolia sees production and consumption going hand-in-hand and one person’s waste will become another’s resource. Its aim is to further incorporate sustainable thought into the waste process, where the resources sector can make a realistic 10% contribution to the UK’s 2027 carbon reduction targets, through the decarbonisation of energy and its circular economy.


The Sustainability Team and Champions at IWMF

 Upon arrival at the Veolia site, the team was given an overview of the waste manager’s practices and operations within the waste and energy sectors, across London. Located in Southwark, this facility is able to process all of Southwark’s household waste and recyclables, helping to significantly improve recycling rates and reduce the impact that the borough’s waste has on the environment. The facility enables Veolia to divert the majority of Southwark’s waste away from landfill and provides energy to local social housing. We got to see the processes our recycles and general waste all go through as well as all the sustainability work Veolia does.

The facility comprises of 5 major areas:

  1. The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) sorts recyclables collected from households.
  2. The Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility turns black bag waste into a fuel for energy recovery.
  3. The Reuse and Recycling Centre (RRC) supports waste prevention through a variety of reuse schemes.
  4. The Transfer Station (TS) provides a collection point for any materials that cannot be treated on site.
  5. The Recycling Discovery Centre (RDC) offers educational opportunities designed especially for primary school children.

Inside the IWMF. The materials are processed through disc screens, which separates resources.

Inside the IWMF. The materials are processed through disc screens, which separates resources.

 The Southwark treatment facility operates across a number of waste types. At the MRF, waste is split between cardboard, glass, juice cartons and more. 50% of recycled waste is sold to brokers in the UK and the other 50% is sold abroad.

The majority of King’s waste is taken for treatment by Veolia and it manages the majority of waste across London’s boroughs. How can King’s and its staff and students help mitigate waste from landfill and improve the value retained from waste, i.e. the recycling process?

– Those living in residences should be reminded what they can recycle (plastics, cardboard, glass, paper, tins, juice cartons). Batteries, clothing and electrical items can also be recycled at residences, but not in kitchen bins.

– During the sorting process, Veolia cannot take any risks with food contamination. This implies that when a pizza box is still intact and closed, it will not be recycled as there is a significant chance of it containing pizza leftovers. When you recycle your pizza boxes, make sure to flat pack them or take them apart.

– Remember that plastic carrier bags should not go in the recycling bin! They have to be picked out at the Materials Recovery Facility, as they could cause problems by getting stuck in the machinery. Drop them off at the designated plastic bag recycling point at your local supermarket instead.


Four tips for a more sustainable Christmas

Simg_1451With the end of term fast approaching, Christmas is now just over two weeks away! Once we add up all the presents, wrapping paper, cards, food, trees and lights, Christmas can often have a significant impact on the environment. By taking small actions that don’t require a lot of effort, we can all reduce this negative impact without missing out on the Christmas spirit! Here are our top tips to make your Christmas holidays more sustainable:

 1. Christmas Trees

It’s difficult to talk about Christmas without talking about Christmas trees. You might notice a heated debate about what is more sustainable: a real Christmas tree, or an artificial one. Artificial trees certainly have benefits, the main one being that they can be re-used for many years. Reuse is the key here: a study claimed that artificial trees should be reused for 20 years to be ‘greener’ than buying a real tree every year.


But not all real trees are made equal: Make sure yours is grown using sustainable practices. One way of doing this is checking whether your seller is part of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Or consider looking for an organic tree. If you want a real tree that you can reuse, you could get a pot-grown tree, which will live for many years – you can even rent them! After taking down your tree, remember to check with your local council how you can recycle the tree to make sure it does not end up in landfill.

And if you want to see what a Christmas tree farm looks like, The Guardian recently published a photo essay following the life of a Christmas tree!

 2. Gifts that matter

If you are tired of buying gifts that might end up in a dark corner of the house by New Year’s Eve, why not try to do something a bit different? Gifting an experience is a great way of avoiding waste, and there is something out there for everyone. Struggling to find a present for that one friend who only drinks single-batch coffee and complains about coffee chains? Many independent London cafés offer classes on how to make the perfect cup of coffee at home. FAN2011806Someone in need of de-stressing after December deadlines – or before January exams? Why not book a pampering session for them (extra points if your salon of choice uses organic products)! You could also cook a great meal for someone, or spend time doing something they love with them – in our hectic world, our time is often one of the most valuable things we can give.

For a gift that makes a difference, you could also consider giving to charity in someone’s name. After we have all been watching Planet Earth II for the last few weeks, adopting/sponsoring an endangered species seems like an obvious option (no baby iguanas or racer snakes, but plenty of big cats, gorillas and penguins).

 3. It’s what’s on the outside that counts

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, a box you can re-use, or something homemade. present with red ribbon and card.Richard, one of our team members, collects pictures from newspapers and magazines in the weeks leading up to Christmas to create his own personalised wrapping paper. Even if you are not the most talented crafter out there, websites like Pinterest have hundreds of ideas for DIY gift wrap (if it does end up looking bad – #PinterestFail will make you feel better, we promise).

 4. Switching off at King’s

Before you leave King’s for your well-deserved Christmas holidays, remember that you can help the environment by switching off any non-essential equipment. This can make a huge difference – last year, King’s used 70% less electricity on Christmas Day than it did just one week earlier. If you are a student in residences, you can make a big contribution to this. At Great Dover Street Apartments alone, students moving out and switching off at the end of term meant that electricity use dropped by 55% in just one week!

_DSC0090This year, we would like everyone to keep up the good work, and try to see if there is anything else that can be switched off over the holidays. Our top tip is to turn appliances off at the plug to ensure they are not wasting energy. 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 are mobile phone chargers – they will continue to use energy when plugged in, even if there is no phone connected to them.

We hope these tips give you some inspiration on how to make Christmas more sustainable! What are your top tips to cut down on waste and help the environment over the festive period?

Before the Flood: documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio

Tonight, in the Pyramid room, KCL EcoSoc are screening the documentary Before the Flood.

Before the Flood is a star-studded rally for an important cause, the need to save the world from apocalyptic climate change. Directed by Fisher Stevens and hosted by newly Oscar-annointed Leonardo DiCaprio who talks with the likes of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama, “Before the Flood” is another global warming warning sign, more honorable in its intentions than in having a distinct voice to ultimately make a difference.”


Saving Gorillas in a Warzone in Congo

On Wednesday this week some of the biggest names in wildlife conservation attended the Tusk Conservation Awards at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The annual awards, now in their fourth year, recognise the African conservation heroes that dedicate their lives to protecting wildlife on their wonderful continent.

This year, John Kahekwa, the founder of a Congolese Gorilla Conservation organisation – the Pole Pole Foundation, which is a project partner for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Research project within the Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-human Sphere, part of the War Studies department – has been awarded the highly prestigious Prince William Lifetime Award.

The award, presented by HRH Prince William and Sir David Attenborough, is one of the most prestigious conservation awards in the world and marks the fantastic work of John and the Pole Pole Foundation to secure the future for the Grauer’s Gorillas in the DRC.

John’s work has made a significant contribution to the Marjan Centre’s research for the last four years, providing a central case study for research and teaching as well as expert input into articles published by the centre and workshops attended by staff. John was awarded the Marjan-Marsh Award in 2012, an award for outstanding conservationists working in regions of conflict awarded by King’s in partnership with the Marsh Christian Trust.

John Kahekwa, director of the Pole Pole Foundation said,

“I am hugely honoured to receive the Tusk Lifetime Acheivement Award, and that a spotlight has been placed on our work with the gorillas in DR Congo. The award comes at a critical time, as these fantastic creatures have just been classified as critically endangered. Working as a project partner with King’s Marjan Centre for the Study of War andUNSDG #15 the Non-human Sphere has helped raise the profile of my wonderful country the DRC and also the innovative approach my foundation take to the conservation of gorillas.”

Richard Milburn, Sustainability projects assistant at King’s and the UK Representative of the Pole Pole Foundation said,

“This award provides the recognition John deserves for his phenomenal work in one of the most challenging regions of the world. John has worked to help communities and protect gorillas even during a horrific conflict that claimed the lives of 5 million Congolese people. He is an inspiration for us all, and it is a source of immense pride that we have links between John and King’s.”

Richard Milburn, Sustainability Projects Assistant