Author: Alicia Peel

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.

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.

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 Stevensand 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.”

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Sustainability is essential and not hard!

We asked our Sustainability Champions what Sustainability means for them and what it doesn’t. Read what they said:

SUSTAINABILITY

Reframing the problem to find a solution

Giving passengers free champagne could save railway £5 billion.

by Richard Milburn

The upgrade to the Eurostar services cost £6 billion to shave 30 minutes off the journey to Paris. But was there a better, cheaper way to solve the problem? In the TED talk below, advertising guru Rory Sutherland, suggests there was. For example, for 1% of that cost, free wifi could have been provided, so the journey became an extension of the office, reducing time pressures. Better still, by spending one billion pounds – still saving £5 billion – they could have employed the world’s top supermodels to walk up and down the train giving out free champagne, and (here’s the real irony) people would have asked the train to slow down.

This example highlights a fascinating approach to reframing problems that we face today (it also suggests some other options to put forward in the debate around HS2!) Can we take this ‘Champagne’ approach to sustainability challenges?

Some examples of different approaches already exist. The UK’s 5p bag tax, for example, has led to an 80% reduction in the use of plastic bags. Other initiatives were already in place to incentivise re-using bags; Sainsbury’s gave customers nectar points, for example. Yet it seems it was only when a charge was levied on bags that real change happened. This makes sense from a psychological perspective; we care more about money we might lose than that we might gain.

Overcoming the Cup Menace

Should such an approach be used for card coffee cups? A little known fact is that just 2% of coffee cups are recycled in the UK. Because of the wax lining inside of them, there are only two companies able to recycle them. This is an area where we need rapid change to reduce cup use, so perhaps it is time for a 10p cup tax? This would help to raise awareness about the damage wrought by these cups, change behaviour to encourage more people to carry keep-cups, and raise funds to support charitable initiatives or to enable better cup recycling.

In terms of sustainability messaging, it suggests new approaches are required to encouraging action on climate change. We need to talk more about solutions and solving problems that are tangible to more people. Developing electric cars to reduce poisonous fumes from motor vehicles that are damaging children is an argument that appeals to a wider audience than reducing carbon emissions, for example.

Do you have any ideas for ways to reframe sustainability problems? Let us know in the comments section below.

#WorldFoodDay2016

World Food Day Blog Post Banner - Wendela SvdL

One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in destructive weather events, such as floods and hurricanes.

At the same time, the global population is growing steadily at a rate of 1.13% per year (this is currently estimated to be an average change of 80 million people per year!). Global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. There is a constant increase in the number of mouths to feed and the world’s resources are struggling to meet such a heavy demand.

According to the World Bank, the number of impoverished people will grow from the current 702 million to around a billion by 2030. Out of this increase, 100 million will become poor solely because of food price increases caused by climatic change. Agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions.

Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

This is why this year’s global message for World Food Day 2016 is:World Food Day Theme - Wendela SvdL

World Food Day Blog Post - Wendela SvdLAt the UN Sustainable Development summit in September 2015, 193 countries pledged to end hunger in the next 15 years. With unprecedented speed and breakthroughs such as the US and China’s ratification, the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change is set to enter into force. This also entails the global goal for achieving zero hunger by 2030 – an ambitious goal and one that cannot be reached without addressing climate change.

Our collective task is now to turn commitments into action on the ground. Everyone has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change; even individuals such as yourself – staff and students at King’s – can make a difference. We shouldn’t be waiting around for countries to act but

start living by the change we want to see in the world.

Here are a number of easy actions that you can take to help improve the shocking reality of our consumption behaviour (source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

Number 1 - Wendela SvdL

Did you know livestock contributes to nearly two thirds of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 78% of agricultural methane emissions? By being a conscientious and ethical consumer and changing simple day-to-day habits such as your meat consumption, little effort on your part can have an impact on a larger scale! Start by trying to eat one all-veggie meal (including pulses like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas) instead of one meat meal a week. Way more natural resources are used to produce the meat on the supermarket shelves than plants or pulses, especially water! Millions of acres of rainforest are also slashed and burned to create grass pastures for livestock, so that we can eat a burger… Say no to your weekly steak and discover some new meals that might surprise you!

Number 2 - Wendela SvdL

Over 1/3 of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. That equates to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. All this food waste causes methane to be emitted during the rotting process, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide! Whenever you have leftovers, don’t throw them away! Ask for a doggy bag and bring last night’s dinner for lunch into work/lectures. In supermarkets, pick the ugly fruit and vegetables that might otherwise go to waste, if you are using it that same day. Funny fruit and veg are often thrown away because they don’t meet cosmetic standards, but in fact, they taste the same! There are also some great ways to share your food with others who may be hungry. OLIO is an app that allows you to connect with people who may have a surplus of something and allows you to share your surplus with (other) hungry students.

Number 3 - Wendela SvdLDeforestation and forest degradation account for an estimated 10-11% of global GHG emissions. In the digital age that we live in, there is no need for King’s to be printing as much as it does. Collect scrap paper and use it for drawing and notes. At the start of the new academic year, shop for notebooks made out of recycled paper! When you buy paper – printer paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. – make sure they are forest-friendly and try to buy furniture that is made from sustainably sourced timber. Little things like that can reduce our environmental footprint and make a big difference.

For more tips on what you can do to improve food security in the future, check out the U.N.’s pages on World Food Day, 2016! Enjoy some meat-free meals and have a great weekend!

A Welcome from King’s new Operations Sustainability Manager

Hello!

20161010 Olivia's Personal Blog (photo in blog post)I’m delighted to have recently joined the Sustainability Team at King’s, and the energy and ideas I’ve already witnessed in my first few weeks has been invigorating, not least the positivity from the many students I met at the Fresher’s Fair and Welcome to King’s events.

For the last year I’ve been working in the Learning and Innovation team at the UK Green Building Council, a membership organisation campaigning across the industry for a more sustainable built environment. As a large owner-occupier, the case for King’s College to make sure any new buildings we design and construct are efficient and sustainable, buildings that we will occupy and pay the energy bills in for many years to come, is a no-brainer. I’m excited to work with new colleagues in Estates and Facilities to make sure this happens.  Prior to UK-GBC, I spent nearly 5 years as Environment Manager at the BBC, working to improve environmental performance across their property estate. With around 175 buildings nationwide, and 22,000 staff working on delivering T.V. and radio content in studios and out on location, it was no mean feat. Ranging from improving the performance of the iconic Broadcasting House, with its 24-hour newsrooms, to advising on the most appropriate way to dispose of some very realistic-looking body parts from the clearance of a Silent Witness props store, no day was boring.

I hope this sets me up well to champion sustainability and support the College in embedding sustainability across all its activities. With a background in waste and pollution legislation gained at the Environment Agency, I’ve seen my fair share of what happens when environmental controls aren’t in place (and the hefty bills that can result from clean-up or prosecution). With this in mind, I’ll be making sure we are compliant and following best practice. But what excites me most about joining King’s can be summed up in one word – Potential.

From the world-class research and teaching across all academic disciplines, to the innovation bubbling out of the Entrepreneurship Institute, to the ground-breaking work of the Air Quality Group, and many more, I believe it’s no exaggeration to say that at King’s we have the potential to change the world for the better. And there’s never been a greater need.

20161010 Olivia's Personal Blog UNSDGs (photo in blog post)

With the ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement agreed at COP 21 finally bringing some hope of keeping global warming below the dangerous 2 degrees threshold, to the launch of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals one year ago, it’s an exciting time to work in sustainability. What I hope to be part of creating with the fantastic Sustainability Team is a step change in how all of us, students and staff, understand the potential we have to create a more sustainable future.

I look forward to meeting you at our events, and especially working with colleagues across the University through our Sustainability Champions scheme which is being re-launched later this month.

I hope you’re excited as I am about getting on board with making King’s sustainable!

Olivia

Sustainability Week

Hopefully you have all had a wonderful Welcome Week and are now quickly recovering from your Fresher’s flu!

For all of you living in King’s halls of residence, you must have heard it is Sustainability Week this week. Across all King’s residences, there will be a number of events you can get involved with, such as tie-dyeing your old clothes and giant sustainability themed Jenga. Each residence has a personalised programme of events, including movie-screenings of The 11th Hour and Wall-E on Tuesday and Sunday respectively. Contact your halls resident assistant (RA) for further information.

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This is also the week during which the Student SwitchOff competition is launched! Students at each residence are encouraged to get creative with their energy savings. The King’s Student SwitchOff Facebook page has lots of tips on how to save energy and gives away £25 worth of Ben & Jerry’s vouchers monthly. At the end of the year, if your residence saves the most energy and has been the best at recycling all year round then your entire halls of residence will receive an incredible amount of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as a thank you for helping King’s College save energy and money! Next year, when you aren’t living in halls anymore and you are paying for your own electricity and gas, you will be grateful for the tips and practice you had this year.

Last but definitely not least, NUS are also looking for Student SwitchOff Ambassadors! Being an ambassador for the campaign does not only look great on your CV but if you are successful at completing your objectives, NUS will provide a reference for you! Register for the training session being held on Wednesday the 5th of October, 2016 between 14:00 and 14:50.

For more information on what’s happening during Sustainability Week, check out the ResiLife blog!