Author: Maria Rabanser (page 1 of 5)

King’s and KCLSU achieve Fairtrade University status

We are excited to announce that following our Fairtrade Audit in May, King’s and KCLSU have officially been awarded Fairtrade University status!

As you can read in our last blog post, King’s is part of a new scheme led by the Fairtrade Foundation and the NUS, and this was our first year of being audited. Our target was to get accredited and earn one star this year, which we have achieved.

Our Fairtrade University accreditation is valid for two years, but that doesn’t mean we’ll lean back now. We’re already working on updating our Fairtrade policy, will continue our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group remotely soon (get in touch with us if you would like to join!), and are starting to put together an action plan to achieve our second star in the next audit.

 

Our Fairtrade University audit

King’s has been an accredited Fairtrade University since 2017, when we re-certified after a few years of not taking part in the scheme. As part of the Fairtrade University scheme, we passed a new Fairtrade policy (as well as a Sustainable Food one), and set up our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group. Many sustainability initiatives around food were first discussed in this Steering Group, and the Fairtrade University award pushed us to look at how we could improve further.

So when the Fairtrade Foundation and NUS teamed up to revamp the award scheme and run it jointly, we signed up to be in their 2018-20 cohort.

The new scheme asked us to go beyond the five commitments outlined in the original programme, and focus on five areas of action:

  • Leadership and Strategy, including having policies and statements on supporting Fairtrade
  • Campaigning and Influencing, including supporting campaigns like Fairtrade Fortnight, and running an innovative campaign each year
  • Procurement, Retail & Catering, including offering Fairtrade in a wide variety of categories
  • Research and Curriculum, including offering student dissertation topics on Fairtrade topics
  • Outcomes, including measuring our impact

It also required us to create a Fairtrade Action Plan, which is available on the King’s website here.

As part of the new Fairtrade University scheme, we made lots of improvements over the last two years. All coffee and tea served by King’s Food was already Fairtrade-certified, and in the case of coffee, also organic and Rainforest Alliance-certified. But when it comes to other products, King’s Food have increased the amount of Fairtrade ranges they sell. For example, orange juice sold by King’s Food is now Fairtrade-certified. While they have previously sold Fairtrade snacks like brownies and cookies, many of the cakes you find in King’s Food cafés are made on site by chefs now. Since last year, Fairtrade cocoa is being used to make these treats. During Fairtrade Fortnight, they also introduced Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate at their outlets, with the team from Tony’s coming along to hand out samples. The Fairtrade University Award is a joint programme between King’s and KCLSU, so KCLSU have also made improvements to their sourcing. The drawstring bags on sale at Nought are made from Fairtrade cotton, and KCLSU even serve Fairtrade rum at some venues.

We have also started including questions about Fairtrade and Sustainable Food in our induction survey in King’s Residences, results of which you can find on our Fairtrade page. In addition, we welcome students doing dissertations on Fairtrade and ethical trade issues at King’s, and are happy to support students wishing to carry out research on this with access to data. We also supported staff member Rebecca Brown in setting up the Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA), a new association between universities which aims to bring the issue of sustainability and labour exploitation in supply chains into the public conscious. In March 2019, King’s hosted the inaugural UAMSA conference, which was a great success. You can read more about UAMSA in this blog post by a student volunteer who helped organise the conference.

Previously, the Fairtrade Foundation audited the universities – but under the new scheme, students are trained by the NUS to become auditors. Four King’s students were chosen to audit King’s this year, and in late May, carried out an audit of King’s by interviewing members of the Sustainability and King’s Food teams. We are now awaiting their final report, and are looking forward to hearing how we have done!

Many of our initiatives around Fairtrade and sustainable food, including sourcing of new products, our coffee cup levy and donation of leftover packaged food were discussed in our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group over the last couple of years. The group is attended by the Sustainability team, King’s Food and KCLSU, as well as any interested students and staff members. There is an open invitation to join the group meetings, which take place every three months. To get an invite to the next meeting (likely to take place online at the end of July), email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk

King’s Environmental Sustainability Report 2018-19: out now!

We are excited to announce that our 2018-19 Environmental Sustainability Report is now available. It showcases the wide range of sustainability initiatives at King’s, and reports back on our sustainability commitments and targets. You can read the full report on the King’s website.

King’s ranked top ten in the world for societal impact

King’s was ranked 9th in the world in the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking. The ranking, which was first released in 2019, measures universities’ societal impact and work towards achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At King’s, we use the SDGs to illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the term ‘sustainability’, looking beyond only environmental sustainability and including social and economic sustainability. We are a signatory of the SDG Accord, and both the Environmental Sustainability Report and Service Report use the SDGs as a framework to show how our initiatives are making an impact.

The THE Impact Ranking looks at various measures of how universities contribute towards all 17 SDGs. This includes research, education, as well as policies and initiatives run by the university. For each university, the three SDGs it scored highest in are counted towards the ranking, as well as Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. For King’s, the SDGs we contributed most towards are:

  • Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals
  • Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Goal 3, Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Goal 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

For Goal 17, King’s was ranked 4th in the world, highlighting the impact of our partnerships across the world, as well as our reporting against the SDGs. We have also maintained a high rating for our contribution to Goal 3, ranking 11th in the world. This is a testimony to our medical research, education, as well as initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Our biggest increase in score this year was for Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. As well as research and education, sustainable practices and our contribution to arts and heritage have significant impact on our score in this category. This includes encouraging sustainable campus to travel, as well as following sustainability standards for new buildings. Free-to-visit exhibition spaces like the Science Gallery, the Arcade at Bush House or the Exchange at Bush House North East Wing are also highlighted in this part of the ranking.

We are proud to have maintained our top ten position in the ranking this year, particularly as the number of universities taking part increased from 462 to 766. You can find the full THE Impact Rankings 2020 here.

Can fashion be sustainable?

Walking around London, we see countless advertisements for fashion retailers every single day. Especially today, on Black Friday, retailers are doing everything they can to convince us to spend more. But our love for fashion may be harming the environment: reports show that fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world.

To find out more, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is a parliamentary select committee made up of MPs from across the political spectrum, launched an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Last week, they held a public evidence hearing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, questioning fashion designers, upcyclers and innovators about how to fix the fashion industry’s environmental impact. We were in the audience for the hearing, and are bringing you our highlights of the morning’s discussions.

Source: Hubbub Foundation

The first thing that became evident was that there is no shortage of challenges to embedding sustainability into fashion. From ‘fast fashion’ being too fast to consider sustainable options to convincing manufacturers to return clothing scraps, fashion brands can face numerous obstacles. The good news is that there are plenty of ideas on how to change this. One interesting challenge is the scraps left over from pattern cutting. Designer Phoebe English told the audience to imagine a t-shirt, and then imagine the piece of fabric it was cut from. While the fabric offcuts used to be a resource and sold, they are now frequently discarded. But innovations are happening. In New York, non-profit organisation FabScrap collects this fabric waste and sells it to makers of all kinds (fashion students, sewists, quilters) at affordable prices. Some brands are also looking into zero-waste pattern cutting, where designs are laid out on the fabric in a way that eliminates cut-offs.

The hearing also showed that it’s not just brands who need to change, but also us consumers. The expert panel explained that even though clothes are becoming cheaper, we are spending more, as fast fashion leads us to buy larger quantities of increasingly disposable clothes. But while buying a new outfit may make us happy, the happiness from a new purchase typically wears off after three days. And if an item breaks, we often throw it away – adding to the tonnes of clothes sent to landfill in the UK every year. While some brands now offer free or paid repair services, this isn’t a widespread practice and the panel of experts felt that this was an area legislation could help push the industry in the right direction. One initiative could be making repairs VAT-free. Another idea was for the government to introduce better labelling for our clothes. In supermarkets, food is labelled with health warnings and information on its origin – but our clothes rarely contain warnings about the harmful chemicals they may have been treated with, or the environmental damage they caused.

Finally, sustainability in the fashion industry is not only about environmental sustainability. Increasingly, consumers want to know more about the social sustainability of their clothes. While the fashion industry provides employment for millions of women around the globe, the jobs are not up to scratch: pay is often poor, while working conditions are bad. Journalist Lucy Siege and founder of Eco-Age Livia Firth both pointed out that cheap clothes are only possible due to exploitation. In addition, Dr Offord MP explained that in a survey of 51 leading UK brands, 71% could not be sure that modern slavery had not occurred at some point in the supply chain. While the Modern Slavery Act was praised by the panel, many felt it does not go far enough in assigning legal responsibility. Organisations like IndustriALL Union are working to ensure garment workers everywhere in the world have the opportunity to join a union and fight for better working conditions.

With all these challenges, what can we as consumers do to make our fashion choices more sustainable?

Based on the information the panelists gave, we have put together our top tips for a more sustainable wardrobe:

  1. Buy less, but better
  • Say no to fast fashion! Try to only buy what you really love and know will wear, and try to buy better quality clothes that you can love for longer. While difficult to do on a student budget, vintage shops, charity shops and resale platforms like Ebay or Depop may help you find some bargains!
  1. Get yourself a new outfit for free
  • If you have some clothes you no longer want, why not try going to a clothes swap? You can usually bring clothes you no longer like, and swap them for other pre-loved items a t a clothes swap near you. If you live in King’s Residences, keep an eye out for any swaps your fellow students or the Residences Team are organising.
  1. It’s not just Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – you can also Rent
  • There are lots of places where you can now rent an outfit for a special occasion rather than buying it new.
  1. Repair and repurpose your clothes
  • If you can, try to repair your clothes instead of throwing them away, or alter them to give them a new look. There are more and more repair cafés popping up around the country, and some brands even offer repairs on their products.
  1. Look behind claims on labels
  • During the hearing, the panel pointed out that while terms like ‘organic cotton’ are protected, claims of ‘sustainable cotton’ may not be. As consumers, we can try to find out what is behind these claims to make sure brands are sticking to what they promise.

If you are interested in finding out more about the inquiry, all the latest information is available on the Environmental Audit Committee webpages. The next public hearing is taking place on the 27th November, and will include witnesses from various fashion retailers.  You can also watch the full footage of this public evidence hearing here.

 

 

 

 

Widening Participation taste-test plant milks

This week, the King’s Widening Participation team taste-tested a range of plant-based milks during a team breakfast. Their line-up included ‘milks’ like coconut milk and hazelnut milk, and staff tried them in their cereal, coffee and tea.

And the winner for the best taste was…

Hazelnut milk !

While all plant milks got good reviews from the team, hazelnut milk was the runaway favourite, especially in coffee.

If this has made you want to try a plant milk in your coffee this weekend, the great news is that these ‘milks’ are not only tasty, but they also save carbon emissions and water. Happy tasting!

 

Training as a Climate Reality Leader

Hello from Maria from the King’s Sustainability team! For today’s blog, I wanted to share an exciting event I attended over the last three days.

This week, I attended the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps Training. The three day event is organised by the Climate Reality Project, founded by former US Vice President Al Gore. Its aim is to train people from all over the world to be leaders in the fight against climate change, and the training events were featured in 2017’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’.

In Berlin, over 600 new Climate Reality Leaders were trained over three days. The days included a number of presentations and panel debates on climate change and issues around it. As the first day of the training coincided with the first meeting of the German Coal Commission, coal was one of the key themes during the event. A panel on how Germany – and the rest of Europe – can leave coal behind in favour of renewables included an emotional account from a citizen whose village is due to make way for an expanding coal mine. You can read more about Germany’s disappearing villages here. Despite the need for Europe to move away from coal, another panel acknowledged the challenges countries relying on coal for energy face in their transition. Many European countries will need to look at how they can turn their economy around while ensuring former coal industry workers are ready to move into jobs in other industries.

One highlight of the training was to see Al Gore present his now famous slide deck on the climate crisis and its solutions. For over two hours, he explained the science behind climate change, the impact it has on the world right now – and will likely have in the future – and the solutions that already exist. While countless images of environmental destruction and disasters around the world may make it seem like there is no hope, recent developments in renewable energy show that it is not too late to change our path. For example, in June 2017 Scotland sourced 100% of its electricity from wind power for a whole month, and countries around the world are scaling up their solar capacity. In the UK, countless local authorities have pledged to go 100% renewable in the future. Hope was a defining theme of the training, with presenters and panellists reminding the trainees that it is possible to tackle the climate crisis.

A particularly inspiring moment showing changing attitudes was during a Q&A session on the climate crisis presentation. When the audience was asked to raise their hand if they do not own a car, the majority of the room raised their hand. You can see a picture of this moment here.

As a now newly trained Climate Reality Leader, I am excited to go out and campaign on climate change. Climate Reality Leaders are asked to complete Acts of Leadership following their training, which can include anything from giving a presentation to writing a letter to their elected representatives. The Leadership Corps is also a thriving community, with regional and local chapters organising meetings, and assisting and mentoring one another to tackle climate change together. This community element was also central to the three days of training, with each of us encouraged to meet and connect with fellow Climate Reality Leaders from around the world. It was inspiring to see so many people from different industries and all ages coming together to solve one big challenge!

If this has inspired you to become a Climate Reality Leader yourself, you can follow Climate Reality on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming trainings. The next one is due to take place in Los Angeles in August, with applications open now.

Sustainability at the sportsgrounds

Sustainability at the King’s sportsgrounds

Over the last couple of months, the Sustainability Team has been out and about visiting our campuses with an ecologist from the London Wildlife Trust. This forms part of our work on developing a Biodiversity Strategy for King’s, which will launch in the next few months. On our visits, we looked at the current state of biodiversity at our campuses, and at the ways in which we can improve it to make spaces more attractive for students, staff, and of course wildlife. As part of this, we also visited the King’s sportsgrounds. 

King’s has three sportsgrounds across South London: New Malden near Berrylands, Honor Oak Park near Brockley, and The Griffin in Dulwich. While sportsgrounds are not traditionally associated with biodiversity due to the need for pitches to be kept in optimal condition for the many sports clubs using them, the King’s Sport team has successfully made space for wildlife. At Honor Oak Park, biodiversity has even been integrated into the newly built pavilion, which has a green roof.

Particularly New Malden, which is situated next to the Hogsmill River and the Elmbridge Meadows Local Nature Reserve, has seen many biodiversity improvements over the years. The edges of the ground bordering the nature reserve are left untouched, creating a buffer zone between the reserve and the managed sports pitches. The vegetation of various trees and shrubs provides a valuable habitat for birds and small mammals. In addition to this, nesting boxes for various species have been installed across the grounds. Hidden just under the roof of the pavilion are bat boxes, which provide important roosting and resting space for bats struggling to find space in cities. Small bird boxes are scattered across the trees around the edge of the sportsground, and a nesting box and shelf for owls have been installed inside a shed.

While biodiversity features can often be seen as nice ‘extras’, the team at New Malden have recognised that biodiversity can also be an opportunity to directly improve the grounds. For example, instead of replacing netting on a fence, the team has planted a hedge made up of a range of native species. This can provide food for pollinators, space for wildlife once grown, looks attractive to those using the grounds, and is likely to be longer-lasting than netting.

Once our Biodiversity Strategy has been published, we will share it across the university, ask what students and staff would like to see, and work with campus teams to implement it. If you want to read about our plans once we publish our strategy, make sure to follow this blog, our Twitter, or are signed up to our monthly newsletter.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight! Join us this Friday for an event to celebrate Fairtrade

Fairtrade Fortnight puts a spotlight on trade, and the benefits fair and ethical trade has on the lives of farmers and workers who grow our food.  It takes place from the 26th February to the 11th March 2018, with a variety of events happening around the UK – including at King’s. 

The King’s Sustainability Team is excited to welcome Ketra Kyosiimire from the Ankole Coffee Producer’s Cooperative Union Ltd (ACPCU) in Uganda to King’s for this Fairtrade Fortnight event.  

Ketra is ACPCU’s accountant, giving her an oversight of all coffee production and sales, Fairtrade contracts and investment of the Fairtrade Premium in business improvements and community development. She’s also a farmer herself, and will speak about her experience of international trade and the difference Fairtrade can make from the producer’s perspective.  

ACPCU is an organisation supporting 17 Fairtrade certified cooperatives across southwest Uganda. There is a mixture of subsistence and commercial farmers in these multi-ethnic communities. Agriculture is the main source of income, and with assistance from Cafedirect, they have organised into a strong Union. They have created job opportunities, involved women and youth in their activities, and developed skills and long-term peace in their communities. ACPCU members now manage their coffee from farm to export; by avoiding intermediaries, members can maximise their incomes.  

The event will take place in Bush House, South Wing, 2.01/02 from 16:00-17:00 on Friday, 2nd March. Please sign up at https://fairtradefortnightkings.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

 

A visit to Grundon’s Energy from Waste plant

Have you ever wondered what happens to waste once it leaves King’s? For recycling, the answer is in the name: once it is collected, it is sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), separated by type and quality, and packed up to be turned into new products. Last year, we visited Veolia’s MRF in Southwark, London, to have a look at the processes involved. You can read about our experience (and see us all in high-vis and hard hats) here.

But what happens to all the stuff that can’t be recycled?

This summer, we visited Grundon to find out. Grundon collect waste from King’s laboratories that cannot be recycled or recovered through traditional methods. Instead, it has to be incinerated at high temperatures in a clinical waste incinerator. In two chambers, the waste is burned for several hours and at temperatures of up to 1,100 degrees Celsius. Gases are cleaned through a gas scrubbing system to reduce emissions of pollutants such as CO2. The heat produced through this process passes through the boiler and creates steam, which is exported to their Energy from Waste (EfW) plant nearby, and used to power a steam turbine generating electricity.

Grundon smallAfter our visit to the clinical waste incinerator, we toured Grundon’s Energy from Waste plant. This is where general waste (e.g. the black bins at King’s, containing sweet wrappers, sandwich cartons, plastic film etc.) is processed. While general waste at King’s is collected by Simply Waste Solutions, not Grundon, the process is the same.

Waste is collected in a tipping bay, where a crane picks it up and feeds it into furnaces. Like in the clinical waste incinerator, the heat generated is used to power a steam turbine generating electricity. The EfW plant we visited processes over 410,000 tonnes of waste every year, and generates 37 MW of electricity. A small proportion of this electricity is used to power the plant itself, while the remaining electricity is fed into the National Grid – enough to power approximately 50,000 homes.

The ash that remains at the end of the process is used for road surfaces. This means that even though some things can’t be recycled, we can keep them out of landfill by using them to create energy.

If you want to find out more about recycling at King’s, you can head to internal.kcl.ac.uk/waste, where you will find our full recycling guidelines.

 

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