Day: December 20, 2021

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.  


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.  


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.  


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.  


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.  


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.  


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.