This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.
In last week’s blog post, we alluded to the idea of covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels. While some of you may have had this idea before, others may have spent the past week captivated and wondering why it hasn’t been done yet. Well, aside from the fact that we simply don’t need that much energy, as we mentioned last week, there are several other reasons why we won’t do it. Read on to find out.
Why is this even an idea?
The Sahara Desert is one of the most exposed places on Earth to the sun’s rays. So, the idea is that if we could gather all that energy, we could power the world. In reality, we would harvest so much more energy than we could ever possibly need. According to Forbes, solar panels covering a surface of around 335km2 would actually be enough to power the world – this would cover just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert.
What would happen?
Outside of electricity generation, this could have several consequences. First, the light colour of the Saharan sand serves the purpose of reflecting the sun’s light and heat back into the air. By covering this, we would be ensuring that more sunlight is absorbed, thus prompting a rise in ground temperature. Warmer air then rises to higher altitudes and condenses as clouds that will then fall as rain, completely transforming the desert as we know it.
Why is this an issue?
The planet works based on a series of well-balanced systems, and this could completely upset the apple cart. The Amazon Rainforest, for example, is reliant on the mineral-rich sands blown from the Sahara for nutrients. Without these, the Amazon will not receive enough nutrients to survive, and its downfall could be accelerated. Furthermore, the increased heat in the desert won’t end there. It will be transported worldwide through weather systems, resulting in less rainfall for the Amazon and more unstable weather in regions such as North America or Asia.
What’s the silver lining?
We don’t need 100% of the Sahara to be covered in solar panels. Even 20%, which is the amount that would kickstart these impacts, is not needed. Instead, a series of smaller solar farms covering 1.2% of the surface should be enough to generate enough electricity without having such extreme impacts on the environment.
But is it feasible?
It is probably not realistic to expect political cohesion and economic investment to quickly make such a concept a reality. However, if projects such as the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco continue to show good results, there is no reason why a series of independent projects cannot be set up over a longer time period that could meet our energy needs.
As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!
King’s Environmental Management System (EMS): ISO14001.
In April 2020, King’s was successfully re-accredited with the Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO14001. If you’re wondering what that is exactly, it’s an internationally recognised accreditation scheme that acknowledges how efficiently and sustainably an organisation is managed.
The organisation in this instance is King’s College London and the efficient and sustainable management is managed by the Sustainability Team with actions carried out by the wider Estates and Facilities team.
The EMS works on the principal of ‘taking concerted action for continual improvement’ – so similar to making improvements with anything in life – King’s will gather baseline data of its operations, identify where improvements can be made and then take action to continually improve those operations.
Evidence of good environmental performance is documented for both hard services (maintenance of electrics, plumbing, HVAC, etc) and soft services (cleaning, catering, security etc). The EMS also looks at existing operational procedures, ensuring actions are carried out safely and efficiently, thereby avoiding any negative environmental impacts. Examples include the correct procedure for composting of cut grass and tree trimmings from the sports fields, a procedure for storing fuels (oils, diesel and petrol) and for monitoring their use and the storage and use of chemicals etc.
An EMS also looks at how we communicate with stakeholders, examines our plans and policies for leadership, planning, staff training and ensures King’s are at all times legally compliant with environmental legislation.
If you’re wondering how you can support King’s ongoing ISO14001 accreditation, becoming a Sustainability Champion is a great start! Being an active Sustainability Champion who contributes to existing sustainability projects will ensure the College is continually improving. The engagement hours of staff and student activities are reported in a bi-annual EMS review meeting, and quiet often, Sustainability Champion projects overlap with operational activities for clean air, carbon and energy reduction and community engagement. This is an ideal opportunity for student sustainability champions to get some ‘real world experience’ which of course can be added to their C.V.
Outside of being a Sustainability Champion, the most effective way of supporting King’s EMS is simply for individuals to live more sustainably. Every individual act of sustainability on campus has a direct impact on operations – particularly those associated with energy and waste. As energy consumption and waste remain the College’s top environmental negative aspects, all efforts made to reduce both will help King’s reach our target of being Net Zero Carbon by 2025.
Below are tips on how to live more sustainably.
Become a Sustainability Champion.
Reduce your intake of meat consumption – consider having it only once a week. Even better consider going vegan.
Walk, Cycle safety where possible and of course, weather permitting.
Dress for the weather; wear warmer layers during winter and cooler clothing during the summer.
Switch off electrical devices when not in use and plug out chargers when not charging a device.
Dispose of waste in the correct bin – either the food bin, recycling bin or general waste.
Use reusable coffee cups when ordering coffee to go – it’s cheaper too and perfectly safe!
Grow a plant(s) in your room /office/home.
Join any of the various King’s sustainable societies – plenty of sustainability actions can be done online and outdoors obeying the ‘space and face rules’
Shop sustainably – either from a charity shop or from an accredited ethical and sustainable company. Preferably a local one too.
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.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Erk Gunce, PA to King’s Chief of Staff and Team Administrator in the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) department.
As the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) team, we are proud to report that, we did it! We broke free from our daily routines and went into nature. No, we are not stuck to our desks and no, we are not addicted to our screens. We did leave the office and we did have fun – and I personally ensured that nobody was checking their emails on their phone!
A few weeks ago, 30 colleagues from the SPA team took a day out of work to volunteer for a local charity. We were able to take a day off, thanks to the Service Time policy. As part of this scheme, all King’s staff can spend one day per year volunteering for another organisation. We chose to support the environmental preservation work of Groundwork London, and took the opportunity to get to know our team members better. Groundwork set us a variety of tasks over the day. These included designing and building a hibernaculum – a protective refuge for reptiles and insects. Hibernacula (pause for applause), allow insects to seek refuge from temperature changes, especially over the winter for protection against the cold. We also made use of loose wood from coppiced willow trees to create hedging, used as a fence to mark the outer barriers of a natural space, instead of relying on non-natural fencing material.
Building a hibernaculum for small mammals, insects and reptiles in the winter (above, left), finished hiberanculum (above, right)!
Coppicing wild willow trees (above, left) and turning branches into a natural hedge (above, right)!
Why did we do this?
This opportunity allowed us to do our bit by giving back to nature. It was very heart-warming to see our team addressing their previously non-green habits: colleagues traveled in using their bikes, no disposable cups were used and we made sure we recycled the leftovers from our lunch.
In line with King’s Vision 2029 ‘to make the world a better place’, this was a fantastic opportunity to give back to nature by building shelters for vulnerable creatures and making use of natural items to build natural fencing. Through taking a day out to support a charity, we also made clear our dedication to support non-profit organisations with their environmental efforts.
Because, team building and wellbeing!
Another crucial aspect of our day off was our commitment to improve the morale of our team and make everyone feel valued. The digital era can easily distract us from the beauties of nature. Encouraging our colleagues to spend a day immersed in a green space was an opportunity to boost their wellbeing. One of the challenges of being a large team is that staff might not know all their colleagues, or they may be mere acquaintances. After the event, staff commented that they had met new faces, got to know their colleagues better and enjoyed learning about each other’s personal hobbies and interests. Hence, it really wasn’t just about environmental support but equally a community building opportunity.
‘The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve done in ages. A brilliant combination of team building, physical exercise, a deeply gratifying sense of achievement and the feel-good high of helping to preserve and enhance urban habitation for native birds and animals’. – Scott Davison, SPA staff member
Here’s to hoping for more Service days – for our communities, for our staff and for a better world.
Want to use your Service Time to volunteer for a charitable cause? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
The living wall is a pioneering project designed to filter air at the campus and enhance biodiversity. It contains 73 native and non-native species, and the plants have been carefully curated to provide year-round biodiversity impact. This includes 30 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) approved flowering species and 18 RHS approved pollinating species, which are proven to support an increased insect population. The wall is also designed to improve air quality, with variations in plant size allowing for air movement to pass through the foliage, which acts as an urban air filter. Plants with hairy, waxy or sticky leaves trap particulates like PM10 and PM2.5 and hold them until they are washed away by rain. The appearance of the wall is likely to change throughout the year, with different plants flowering, and species naturally evolving around the wall.
These are some of the plants you can spot on the wall: lavender, rosemary, holly, strawberry trees, sage, wildflowers, honeysuckle and sword ferns. The living wall is also home to several bird boxes, insect boxes, and even a bat box.
Rainwater from the rooftop will be collected and circulated through the wall to irrigate the plants, and the fyto-textile system that holds the plants allows the water to be distributed evenly through the living wall.
The living wall was funded through the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Business Fund, which has awarded £200,000 to create a Business Low Emissions Neighbourhood in the London Bridge area. The initiative is led by Team London Bridge and Better Bankside, and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, who own Orchard Lisle, will support the upkeep of the living wall.
Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside student societies and staff Sustainability Champions, put on events with the aim to educate on various areas of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!
Here is a summary of the week…
Sustainability Pop up: This Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We played lots of sustainability related games – we quizzed you on how many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs you could remember and played the washing line game, where staff & students got the chance to win a Keep Cup and a free tea/coffee if they correctly guessed how long it took seven everyday items to degrade (from tea bags, to tin cans (hint: they rust!) to plastic bags). It was great to talk with staff & students about what interests you most within sustainability and we got the chance to update staff & students on some of the sustainability projects happening at King’s – for example, the Don’t Be Trashy project and behaviour change techniques aimed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in King’s halls of residences.
King’s VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. We hosted this event in collaboration with the King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society. There were lots of free samples from vegan producers, including vegan cheese (thank you Tyne Chease), chocolate (thanks to Raw Halo) snacks (thank you to Purl Pops, Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Freya’s Fruit Bars), Dairy Alternatives (thank you KoKo, Rebel Mylk and to a King’s Alumni own brand: Edenera!). Students and staff also brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, we discussed the environmental impact of the food we eat and general sustainability passions!
Dr Bike: Cycling is not only an environmentally sustainable form of transportation, but one that is socially sustainable due to the value exercise has on physical health and overall well-being.
We want to encourage cycling in London and help make it as easy as possible for our staff and students. Therefore, we held four Dr Bike sessions across the King’s campuses. These Dr Bike sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff. Mechanics led the session and checked brakes, gears and chains, changed bike pads and gave advice and accurate quotes for whatever they couldn’t fix. There are many Dr Bike sessions happening across London every day, organised through Cycle Confident. To keep up to date with the latest session near you, follow Cycle Confident updates here.
Film Screening: A Northern Soul: Sustainability often gets bundled into being thought of as purely environmental, with the social and economic sides to it often neglected. This year, for our final event of the week, we chose a film which demonstrated the importance of these two, often forgotten, pillars of sustainability.A Northern Soulis a documentary set in Hull, which follows one man, Steve, a warehouse worker on his journey through Hull in 2017 during its crowing year as the ‘UK City of Culture‘. We see Steve chase his passion of bringing hip-hop to disadvantaged kids across the city, through his Beats Bus. The film raises uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK, but does so while demonstrating the strength and charm of Hull’s residents in the face of this inequality. The film is available on BFI player.
GoodGym Run:King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Euston Food Bank. GoodGym volunteers helped to sort out the dry donations of cereal, biscuits and chocolate into sell by date to help ensure no food loss and effective allocation of items according to date. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to help the local community. To read more on GoodGym click here.
Gardening at the Maughan: The Library Services Sustainability Champions ran the gardening session at the Maughan to help nurture the 200+ trees which were planted in the garden at the start of December 2018, as part of National Tree Week and broader City of London Environment and Clean Air Strategies . Sustainability Week volunteers watered all the trees and re-taped them to ensure their visibility, helped to replant some of the crab apple trees and gave the garden a quick litter pick – all in all, the garden got a good bit of T(ree)LC.
Ethical Beauty Talk: Stephanie Green from the Modern Language Centre spoke about how sustainable shea butter can empower women. Speaking from her experience living and working in Ghana she told the story behind the TAMA brand, made from natural shea butter. Lots of the beautiful vegan friendly soaps, creams and lotions were also available for sale at the session!
Zero- Waste Beauty Workshop: 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. The UN has stated that our use of plastic is creating a ‘planetary crisis’, and by 2050, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish. Read more here.
During the week, we held two zero-waste workshop sessions, co-hosted with the King’s Beauty Society. In these sessions, students learnt more about the global plastic-problem and the individual steps we all can do to make zero-waste living that little bit more achievable. Students got to make their own zero-waste coffee body scrub (using King’s Food own used coffee grounds – which would have otherwise gone to Anaerobic Digestion), lemon lip scrub and peppermint toothpaste!
Due to the demand, The Sustainability Team plan to host more events like this throughout the year. In the meantime, a post with the zero-waste beauty recipes will follow on the blog soon.
Thank you to everyone who helped organise and took part in Sustainability Week 2019! We love meeting you all and hearing your feedback, ideas and passions. You showed King’s really can #MakeADifference!
It’s been a busy year and last week on 10 July we had the pleasure of celebrating the achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in sustainability over the past year here at King’s.
The annual King’s Sustainability Awards ceremony took place at Bush House and we celebrated the passion and commitment of the 235 Sustainability Champions who have carried out 1,950 sustainability actions, nearly 500 more than the previous year.
45 Sustainability Champion Teams were awarded: 16 Bronze, 11 Silver and 18 Gold Awards.
We also celebrated with Special Awards for other staff and students from across the university who have worked to embed sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.
Working Towards Gold: 1st Floor James Black Center Labs
Best at Recruiting New Champions: Cardiology, Pharmacy Teaching
Outstanding Achievement: 5th Floor JCMB, The Dickson Poon School of Law
Supporting King’s Food in the Sustainable Restaurant Association: Ali Hepple & Izzy Brayshaw
Supporting the Analysis of Sustainability Data: Analytics
Commitment to Embedding Sustainability: Operational Assurance
Commitment to Sustainability: Bouygues, CIS, Procurement, Servest
Commitment to Waste Reduction and Re-Use (via Warp It): Bush House Project Team
Commitment to Sustainability as Energy Champions: Abdul Lateef, Graham Camplin, Kurosh Bastani, Nick Gouveia
Consistently Achieving Highest Monthly Recycling Rates: King’s Sport
Commitment to Sustainable Campus Refurbishment: Natalie Littleson
Working to Embed Sustainability in Capital Development: Olga Ezquieta
Commitment to Implementing Sustainable Lab Practices: Oliver Austen
Commitment to Sustainability & Wellbeing: Robert Staton
Most Improved Recycling Rates: Stamford Street Apartments
Commitment to Biodiversity: Stuart Bailey
Going Above & Beyond: Library Services
Sustainability Awards 2018 – Staff and student champions
Serve to shape and transform
We welcomed Professor Jonathan Grant, Vice President & Vice Principal (Service) who thanked all involved for being the ones to motivate others and to stand up and make a difference to the environment and our local communities around King’s. ‘Service’ is the term we adopted at King’s in our Strategic Vision 2029 to describe our commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. Professor Grant shared details of the King’s Service Strategy framework and explained that the Sustainability Champions are an integral part of the framework. The Service Strategy framework will be launched and celebrated on 19 July and all King’s staff and students are welcome to attend.
Sustainability is important to our students
As part of the event we celebrated our students who’ve been involved with a video showcasing their actions over the past year which includes working with King’s Food as Sustainable Food Assistants, auditing our Sustainability Champions teams, taking part in Student Switch Off actions and competitions in King’s Residences, working as Sustainable Food Assistants and running social enterprises such as Zest and Fetch Ur Veg- who offer weekly organic veg box deliveries.
National Sustainability Awards
We saved a surprise for Awards day and our Library Sustainability Champions teams found out that they had been nominated as finalists at the national EAUC Green Gown Awards, recognising the impact that they have had by making the libraries more sustainable for both staff and students. This year we now have 3 finalists at the Green Gown Awards, including Widening Participation’s Parent Power project and King’s Food for their work on ditching disposables.
Thank you once again to everyone who has helped us make a difference here at King’s this year. The efforts of all those involved really do add up and help to achieve our university sustainability targets. Achievements this year include:
30% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2017) which is keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by 2020 (2017/18 figures will be shared once available)
Improving waste recycling rates by nearly 10%
Reusing furniture and equipment internally at King’s – saving it from disposal and saving £96k in 2017/18
36 events held by staff and students in Sustainability Week and Reduce Waste Week
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at email@example.com.
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.
Every year we hold Sustainability Week in order to raise awareness and educate staff and students about sustainability at King’s. This year we worked with student groups, King’s departments and external partners to bring to you a week based around the theme of how you can ‘make a difference’. Here are some reflections on the week…
Sustainability Pop up: This year for Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We gave you the chance to win a Keep Cup by correctly guessing how long it took everyday items to degrade (many people were shocked to find out that it can take a plastic bottle up to 450 years to degrade!), quizzed you about how to correctly recycle at King’s and played a game to see if staff and students know how to use or special coffee cup bins (remember, #fliptipslip!).
VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of milk and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. In collaboration with EcoSoc we hosted a VegFest with free samples of vegan cheese (thanks to Bute Island Food who were also kind enough to donate last year). Students and staff brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, talked about the environmental impact of the food we eat and discussed the issues surrounding veganism.
Careers Events: Sustainability is more and more becoming an integral part of business and big organisations. King’s Careers and Employability hosted a successful event during Sustainability Week with guests from law firm Allen & Overy, Good Business and our Head of Sustainability Kat Thorne. The event was designed to help students understand how they can find internships and develop their career in sustainability. For more information please visit King’s Internships.
Cycling: In the Sustainability Team we do everything we can to promote cycling at King’s. Because of this we held four Dr Bike sessions. These sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff throughout the week. Mechanics changed bike pads, checked chains and for whatever they couldn’t fix, gave accurate quotes for how much it should cost to get repaired.
Geography Documentary Screening: The Geography Department Sustainability Champions and King’s Climate hosted a film screening of former US Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore’s latest film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’. A panel beforehand made up to PhD students, lecturers and Dr George Adamson discussed our response to climate change and the best ways to tackle the issue.
GoodGym:King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Oasis Farm Waterloo, and urban farm and community resource, to help to make planters for trees. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to also to help the local community. Read more about the Sustainability Week session on our blog.
Temple Gardening Club Winter Pruning: We teamed up with the Northbank BID to bring you this gardening session at Temple gardens. Staff and students braved the cold weather to prune rose bushes ready for regrowth in the spring.
SGDP Sustainable Labs Tour: Labs consume 3-10 times more energy per square metre than normal academic spaces like lecture theatres or offices. As a research university, King’s manages a variety of energy-intensive labs across its campuses, which is why it’s so important to make our labs as sustainable as possible. This tour of the laboratory at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre was led by Bernard Freeman, Lab Sustainability Champion. The SGDP lab has achieved a Gold Award at the 2017 King’s Sustainability Awards, and Bernard was a Finalist in the 2017 Green Gown Awards for his efforts in embedding sustainability into labs.
This year Sustainability Week was all about how you can make a difference, which you showed us you can do in so many ways! From volunteering, bringing in homemade vegan food to finding out how you can develop your career in sustainability, you showed us exactly what the King’s Community is capable of!
It’s gotten off to a great success so far. Our vegan lunch on Monday gave staff and students the chance to learn more about a plant based diet, as well as try some free samples of sheese and vegan chocolate.
We’ve had careers advice from expert in their fields, including our Head of Sustainability, Kat Thorne, about the best way to develop your career path in sustainability.