Month: December 2022

Christmas sustainability tips & facts from the King’s community

Graphic with the title "Sustainability advent calendar. 24 days of sustainable facts and tips". Showing 24 dates with pictures of individuals.As part of our Sustainability Christmas Advent Calendar last year, we asked the King’s community for their top tip or fact around sustainability.

This is what they said:



“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

Also read our blog post here with tips on gifts, wrapping paper, food, travel, trees, and energy.

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:  

This blog post was first published in December 2021. 

Start 2023 as a Sustainability Champion at King’s

Want to embed sustainability into your role but not sure where to start? The Sustainability Champions programme could be for you. By joining the network, you will learn more about sustainability and gain sustainability accreditation.

Group photo of Sustainability Award attendees and Senior Leaders.King’s Sustainability are looking to expand the network of 500+ Sustainability Champions who work on campus and in our residences to make King’s a more sustainable place.

You can be a Champion for any office, lab or department – whatever size of area you feel is appropriate – and will have the full support of the Sustainability Team and access to an array of resources.

Sustainability Champions work on implementing projects and actions to gain a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award at the end of the year. The programme has proven to be crucial in helping the Sustainability Team embed sustainability and efficiency throughout the university. You can read more about the 2022 Sustainability Awards here.

The network brings together King’s staff from the different campuses, departments and faculties, empowering them to make positive changes within and beyond their own work environments. The programme includes educational events, a special awards ceremony, and drop-in sessions for support.

Find out more and sign up here by mid-January.

King’s receives a first class award in the 2022 People & Planet University League

King’s has once again received a first class award in the People & Planet University League, ranking 12th out of 153 UK universities. This league ranks UK universities for their environmental and ethical performance. The ranking reflects King’s continued commitment to embedding social and environmental sustainability across the university.  

Across the 13 scoring areas, which include topics such as sustainable food, workers’ rights and ethical investment, King’s achieved an overall score of 69.5%. We achieved 100% for engaging students and staff on sustainability, sustainable food, and for our environmental management system.  

Students and staff are actively engaged in sustainability initiatives at King’s, embedding sustainability into their departments through the Sustainability Champions programme, contributing to climate initiatives through the King’s Climate Action Network, and getting creative through the Culture Climate Collective. Sustainability Month is the highlight of student and staff engagement at King’s and takes place each year in February. King’s Food have continuously improved the sustainability of menus and achieved three stars in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s ‘Food Made Good’ ranking in 2022.  

In addition, King’s scored highly for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The Sustainability and Climate KEATS module has been co-created with students and gives all students and staff the opportunity to gain a meaningful understanding of sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they can take action on sustainability. We also received high scores for being an accredited Living Wage employer, and for monitoring our ICT supply chain through our Electronics Watch affiliation as part of our London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) membership.

The main areas to improve are Ethical Careers & Recruitment, Water Reduction, Carbon Reduction, Energy Sources, and Managing Carbon. Despite our progress, we acknowledge that there is much more to do.

Find the full details about King’s performance here.

We need you! Making lab-based research more sustainable

This guest blog post was written by Greg Anderson – Associate Director of Research Infrastructure in the Research Management & Innovation Directorate at King’s College London.

It’s an uncomfortable truth that our lab-based research activity uses a lot of energy and so, unavoidably contributes to climate change. I think the societal impact of our research more than justifies this, but I suspect our community of researchers would agree to using less energy if we can.

Image of a group of people standing in a lab in safety clothes.

In this vein, if you work in the Health Schools, there is a strong possibility that you can help us do exactly that in a very meaningful way. Ultra Low Temperature (ULT) or -80C freezers – whatever you call them – those Goliaths that sit purring in the corner and hurt our fingers each time we go in them, are one of the most important pieces of equipment we have in our labs. They keep our valuable samples safe and ensure the data we extract from them is reliable – hence the panic when they go silent or despair when you find one sitting in a puddle of its own making. They’re also one of the most energy-hungry pieces of equipment. Each one uses about the same amount of energy as the average 3-bedroom home, and many of the older models can use twice that amount. Not only do they draw a lot of power directly, but they also require a similar amount of energy to cool the space they occupy because they throw out so much heat to function. For the record – across our campuses at King’s we have over 550 of them!

As a user of these freezers, you may be aware that some contain – let’s call it – stuff, that is perhaps less valuable than the rest of it. Maybe you know what I mean!? That box of unlabelled Eppendorf tubes left in there 6 years ago; that bag of 50ml Falcon tubes with unidentifiable bits of tissue in; dare I say it – the samples that your soon-to-retire group leader still has in there from their PhD days. What we would love your help with, as things wind down for Christmas, is to grab a coffee with your group leader and nail down what contents can go! Perhaps muster support from colleagues, don some grotesque Christmas jumpers for extra thermal protection and Maria Kondo your ULT freezers together! Even better, organise the contents and make accurate records of the samples that need keeping so that they’re easy to find.

Now on its own, this is not going to solve anything; in fact, the more space you have in your freezer, the more air that can rush in and warm up your samples each time you open the door. This request is ultimately about consolidating the samples we keep and to make this work we need you to combine your efforts across research departments, and likely your local technical team, to have the greatest impact. The technical leads in your areas are already working hard to consolidate samples and may be able to help with shared space allocation between research groups in individual freezers. Which in turn means your teams can take advantage of a King’s wide freezer replacement scheme.

King’s has initiated a £1M scheme that offers departments the opportunity to trade in any two ULT freezers that are older than 10 years old and in exchange, receive a brand new, fully racked (to your specifications) market-leading, ultra-efficient model (CryoCube F570h). So, this is your chance to help get rid of those freezers in your department that no one wants to put their samples in because they’re on their last legs (and are coincidentally the most energy inefficient). Each freezer taken away either goes to UniGreen Scheme for resale, or SLS to be dismantled for useful parts or sustainably disposed of. The fate of every freezer is tracked as part of this project so that we can be confident that no wastage occurs.

How will this make a difference? If we can collectively reduce the contents of our ULT freezers by just 10%, we can remove 50 of our least energy-efficient freezers across King’s and replace them with 25 ultra-efficient new ones, saving over 273,750 kilowatt-hours over the course of a year — enough energy to power more than 83 average UK homes. That’s a lot of energy and valuable space saved!

If you want to find out more about the scheme and the wider aims of the project, please visit our SharePoint site, where you will also find tips and tricks on how to optimise sample density.