Month: January 2017

“Space to Breathe” at Somerset House

Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.

BackPack2SmallThe exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.


Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack

One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!


Cycling to run the bar

By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.

Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.

Sustainability Week: 6-10 February

The Sustainability Team’s aim is to reduce consumption within King’s College London. We work with students and staff to reduce our impact on our surrounding social and natural environments.

The annual Sustainability Week aims to highlight the potential of embedding sustainability into daily university life. King’s has invited charities, NGOs and ethical brands to your local campus Sustainability Roadshow to showcase their work and provide opportunities for you to get involved with.

There are a number of opportunities for you to get involved, whether that is trying vegan food, attending a documentary screening, helping clean plastic from the Thames, fixing yourself a new outfit at a clothes swap shop or bagging a second-hand bicycle from a bike auction.  For all events, check out the calendar below (scroll down for more details on the individual events).

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 Click on the schedule for a higher definition. 

More information:

06-Feb, 12.00-14.00 King’s College VegFest

A vegan lunch exploring plant-based foods.

06-Feb, 18.00-19.30 Careers in Sustainability: Sustainability and the Environment

A panel event to discuss current and future careers in sustainability and the environment.

07-Feb, 18.00-19.30 Careers in Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility

A discussion of the role sustainability plays within the private sector and the positive contribution businesses can make to enabling environmental sustainability.

08-Feb, 18.30-20.00 Panel Debate: Overconsumption versus Overpopulation

A panel debate discussing the true driver of environmental, social and economic disorder in the 21st century: is it overpopulation or overconsumption?

09-Feb, 18.30-21.30 Film Screening: Tomorrow (2015)

A 2015 French documentary film directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent. Faced with a future that scientists say is a great cause for concern, the film has the distinction of not giving in to catastrophism.

10-Feb, 12.30-14.00 Talk: Why should health professionals care about climate change?

A seminar discussion showcasing different perspectives on the response of the health community to climate change.

Wendela Schim van der Loeff, Sustainability Projects Assistant

King’s hosts global sustainability workshop

Last week saw King’s College London host members of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes (GCSO).

The GCSO is an organisation made up of 11 world-leading universities, including King’s, aiming to create solutions to global sustainability problems through research, development and capacity building. Combatting climate change and working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals requires innovative new solutions, and universities are often where these solutions are made – by academics and students alike. While each university might be able to drive change locally on its own, coming together to simultaneously implement solutions across the world can take these ideas to the next level.

The GCSO Network of universities

The GCSO Network of universities (Source: GCSO website)

King’s is a founding member of the GCSO and represented through Chris Mottershead, Vice Principal (Research and Innovation) and member of the College Council. This demonstrates the University’s commitment to sustainability, not only through improvement of day-to-day operations, but also at a senior strategic level.

Within the GCSO, several topic groups were set up to develop projects. The group that met at King’s last week is aimed at sustainability solutions related to energy, water and waste, that can be scaled from university campuses to the wider urban and rural environments. Representatives of the following universities were present:

The aim of the three-day workshop was to agree on their first joint project. With each of the universities presenting their own project proposal, the workshop showed the variety of innovative sustainability solutions discussed around the globe.


The attendees of the GCSO workshop

Impressed with the quality of all proposals, the attendees of the workshop decided to combine aspects of each to develop a new, joint project – a toolkit to transform university campuses into ‘living labs’. In these living labs, academics, communities and other stakeholders come together to test new ideas and technologies. If the test proves to be successful, it can be replicated elsewhere. Any changes within the ‘living lab’ campuses will be monitored and evaluated using quantitative aand qualitative measures developed at the GCSO institutions. This way, universities can ensure that operations and users of buildings do not experience any negative impacts as a result of the “experiment”.

King’s has agreed to be one of several test sites for the first GCSO project, exploring energy-savings around hot water. If successful, this project could save 3-4% of the university’s annual CO₂ emissions, bringing King’s closer to its 43% reduction by 2020 target. Details on what exactly students and staff can expect from the project will be announced at a later stage, so look out for further information!


The GCSO links to SDG 11, 12 and 17

With the first one-year pilot project due to kick off in the next few months, we are hoping that this global collaboration will continue to deliver innovative solutions over the coming years. The workshop saw so many exciting proposals to improve sustainability, it is without doubt that this first GCSO project will not remain the only one.

More information on the GCSO can be found on the organisations website.

The GCSO projects links to UN Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). More on the Sustainable Development Goals here

Sustainability Week events announced!

As you might have seen across our social media channels, we have announced the details of Sustainability Week 2017, which will take place from the 6th to the 10th of February.

Under the theme of ‘Waste not, want not’, we are organising a week of exciting events with King’s Money Mentors, Careers & Employability, charities, ethical brands and student societies. Highlights include a Sustainability Roadshow visiting all campuses, bike auctions, panel debates and careers events focused on careers in sustainability. Check out the detailed timetable of all events below:

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For more information, including links to Facebook events, head to this page. We hope to see you at some of our events!

Take a break and visit Kew Gardens

This is no ordinary stroll around some shrubs. These aren’t your bog-standard gardens

Kew Gardens are also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens. Just 30 minutes from Central London, Kew Gardens boasts landscapes, glasshouses, historic buildings and a vast range of rare and beautiful plants. Its scientific and botanical centre has been and still is of huge importance worldwide. In 2003, Kew Gardens became a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Open all year round, the Gardens cover over 300 acres, on the south bank of the River Thames, between Richmond and Kew . They were originally home to two estates – Kew Estate and Richmond Estate – which were combined to form the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The formal gardens are, of course, a major attraction, each specially planted and themed. They include the Azalea Garden, the walled Duke’s Garden, the grandly-named Palm House Partierre, the Queen’s Garden, the Rock Garden, plus the Plant Family Beds and Rose Pergola.

Aside from the gardens, there are many other attractions to enjoy. In particular, make sure to look out for the Henry Moore Sculpture, the Japanese Gateway, the Pagoda (this 50 metre high octagonal structure dates back to 1762), of course Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens.

And if you’re after more than a jaunt around the gardens, Kew also hosts a number of special events, throughout the year. Naturally, there are events focusing on plants and flowers, but if an open-air concert and picnic is more your scene, it’s worth checking out Kew The Music. And if you prefer movies to music, keep an eye out for Kew The Movies, which sees Kew Gardens turn into an outdoor cinema for one weekend.

On the Last Day of Christmas My True Love Recycled For Me…

Christmas has come to an end. For many of us, all that’s left of the yuletide period is an expanded waistline, a plethora of cards and paper wrapping, old electricals made obsolete by the latest gadgets received as presents, and a slowly wilting tree. All four need to be disposed of, but how?


For the first, the advice of Michael Pollan is perhaps most apt, Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Out with the chocolate biscuits and brandy butter, and in with carrot sticks and hummus. Dry January is another option, switching from lager to diet coke and from wine to a glass of sparkling water with a slice of lime. A new exercise programme can also help; whether that be small things like taking the stairs instead of the lift, or bigger commitments such as a new gym membership (although most gym members lose more pounds sterling than pounds of weight!).

Christmas cards can mostly be recycled, unless they have glitter or foil decorations, in which case they need to go into general waste – the glitter can’t be recycled and can clog the machines used in the recycling process. Most wrapping can be recycled, but bows and any other embellishment should be removed to make sure they aren’t removed by sorters (as we learned on a recent visit to Veolia’s recycling centre).

Electronics can be recycled in a number of ways. A Google search will show a number of companies that will buy old electronics kit. If tech is too broken or too old for them, the local council should offer a recycling option – electronics waste should not be thrown into general waste.


And lastly, what to do with the grand old Christmas tree? If it’s synthetic, put it back in its box ready to be used next year. If it’s live, firstly remove all decorations to avoid the risk of ‘cut by bauble’ injuries occurring or decorations contaminating recycling streams. Many local councils offer tree recycling services, and information about this will be on their website. Or if the tree is still hale and hearty and has its roots, try planting it in the garden to see if it will grow. Or, for a ‘biblically inspired’ approach, try and use the carpentry skills of Jesus’ father, Joseph, to repurpose the tree as a bird box or a hedgehog hotel.

Happy New Year and happy recycling. If you think you might be a bit of a recycling wizard, come along in early February to play the Sustainability team’s recycling game in Sustainability Week.