Category: Carbon (Page 1 of 5)

Join the King’s Climate Action Network

Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon 

An image of solar panels at King's, with the text "Join the King's Climate Action Network"

King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.  

The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university. 

We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change: 

  • Zero carbon estate (energy and water use, sustainable construction) 
  • Procurement and waste (purchasing policies and data, waste management) 
  • Travel (flights, business travel and commuting) 
  • Responsible investment (divestment from fossil fuels, investment in socially responsible funds) 
  • Students & Education (formal and informal education on climate change and sustainability) 
  • Community & Engagement (creating a positive impact as part of our net zero carbon target) 
  • Zero carbon research  

Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.  

We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here. 

The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or visit the sustainability webpagesTo join the network, please register your interest here. 

Sustainability at King’s

To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.

If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):

  • King’s has a target to reduce it’s carbon by 43% by 2020 (from it’s 2005/06 baseline).
  • King’s has a net-zero carbon target set for 2025.
  • As of August 2020, a King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) has been established so students and staff can actively shape how King’s will achieve it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. Form to join the network here.
  • Since 2017, King’s electricity has come from 100% certified renewable sources (wind power!).
  • The Sustainability Champions programme aims to influence behaviour change and empower our King’s students and staff to make the sustainable changes on the ground in their areas (whether that is an office, a classroom, research or teaching lab or a halls of residence). We started the programme in 2014 – starting with 17 champions, there are now 532 students and staff taking part.
  • You can apply to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (role will be advertised on KCLSU volunteer platform – end of October/early November) – to help a staff champions team embed sustainability in their area and create projects you want to see introduced!
  • King’s has increased it’s recycling rate from 37% to 69% in 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown).
  • King’s Sustainability has now produced 3 Sustainability Reports – see them here for a more detailed look at how far we’ve come – but also where we still need to get to!
  • Sustainable Food is important to King’s – it has now achieved it’s second ‘Michelin star of sustainability’ – given by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
  • As part of the King’s Sustainable Food journey, you can attend the quarterly Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Steering Group meetings – to hear about what is going on in the world of sustainable food at King’s and suggest any ideas or projects you want to start.
  • Worked with King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) to establish a Sustainability team in the Union Development Committee – a group of 9 students, democratically elected each academmic year to improve the sustainability of the SU.
  • Created a Biodiversity Action Plan for all four campuses and sports grounds.
  • Sustainable communications – since Sept’ 2018, we have had 31 guest blogs written and published King’s students and staff on the Sustainability blog.

Finally, make sure to get in touch with us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk if you have any questions/ideas – and make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Newsletter to keep updated on events, volunteering opportunities and more!

SDG 9: Progress for better or worse?

This guest blog comes seventh in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

“We need to help these poor countries develop, to create industries that are able to compete globally, and better their lives” – as spoken by a British diplomat at a conference I recently attended. Without going into the problematic post-colonial mindset, it also raises a fundamental economic question (1). Underdeveloped countries need to develop. However, the so-called developed states are destroying our world. What will happen if all countries reach this level of industrialization?

SDG 9: Innovation, industrialization and infrastructure

The starting point of this goal, just as we’ve discussed with goal 8, is that industries are the core drivers of the global development agenda (2). Reliable infrastructures and technological innovations are necessary to deliver the other goals, such as health care, sanitation and access to education. Some goals, for example, can be delivered through internet services. However, around 3.8 billion people, mainly from the least developed countries, still lack internet access. The growth of industries is closely tied to the global political economy. As a result of increased trade barriers and tariffs in 2018, global manufacturing and associated employment slowed down.

The Targets: Manufactory, mobility and research

This goal includes three broad issue areas which is reflected in the wide variety of indicators (3). Three indicators directly target the development of industries, aiming to stimulate inclusive industrialization; to provide access to financial credit for small and medium enterprises; and to make existing industries more sustainable in terms of clean and efficient resource-use. In addition, industry developments are heavily dependent upon innovation and, as such, the indicators aim to encourage industrial research and development through policies. Lastly, to include everyone in the process of industrialization, the indicators underline the importance of broad access to reliable infrastructure, such as all-season roads, energy-transmission or internet. Developed countries can support developing countries by providing access to novel information, finances and technology.

World’s system theory (Wallerstein)

The central role of global political economy and trade has led to many critical scholars arguing the link between inequality and industrialization. One of the most influential is the world system theory, developed by the socialist Wallerstein in the late 20th century. This theory is influenced by the dependency theory and zooms in on the terms of trade (4). The main argument is that cheap labour and raw materials flow from low-income countries to high-income countries, who in turn, use these raw materials to manufacture goods which they sell for a much higher price back to low-income countries. This exploitative structure of trade and capitalism makes it difficult for low-income countries to escape.

The Entrepreneurial State

Given that this is a government-led development Agenda, it is interesting that innovation is part of this goal. Some people have argued that innovation should be left to the dynamic entrepreneurs of the private sector instead of bureaucratic governments. In her book ‘the entrepreneurial state, Mariana Mazzucato refutes this argument and aims to debunk the public versus private sector myths. In her study, she finds that the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made the high-risk investments. For example, every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded. She criticises economic growth by showing a dysfunctional economic dynamic where the public sector socializes risks, while private sectors gets the rewards.

Resource-efficient infrastructures

Infrastructure developments, such as roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructure, are really resource intensive. They account for almost half of the global footprint. As such, resource efficiency of infrastructure can be a major driver of the transition to sustainable development. The UN Environment recently published a policy brief (6) in which they argue that our current project-by-project approach to infrastructure planning results in inefficient service delivery. System-level approaches, on the other hand, can increase the efficiency as they are better able to respond to user needs and capture positive industry spill-overs. This type of approach considers the economic, social and environmental impact of infrastructure systems, sectors, their location and relevant governance framework throughout the entire lifecycle, enabling industrial symbiosis and product circularity.

What can you do?

  • Since this goal takes place on a systems-level, your first step is to inform yourself about issues such as global trade, international power imbalances and the grow-degrowth debate. There are plenty of resources. Books that I found useful are: ‘degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era’ and ‘a splendid exchange: how trade shaped the world’.
  • Use your dissertation to contribute to knowledge around these topics. Talk to lectures about what research question might fit your specific programme and use your outcomes to start dialogues with different groups of people, such as policymakers, NGOs or firms.
  • Due to the high level of abstractness, it is especially important to put pressure on your local, regional, national and international political representatives by tweeting, writing, voting, etc. to make sure they implement good policies.

References

(1) For a more elaborated discussion about economic growth, you can read the blog on SDG8 I wrote last month.

(2) Read more about why this goal matters: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/9.pdf

(3) Specific indicators, targets and progress can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg9

(4) An easy and fun way of learning more about the system theory is through this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRLd7xJNn14

(5) Buy the book at your local bookshop or watch the four things you need to know in 60 seconds: https://marianamazzucato.com/entrepreneurial-state/

(6) The UN policy brief can be found here: https://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/Policy%20Brief%20-%20Making%20Infrastructure%20Resource%20Efficient.pdf

Fetch Ur Veg – subscribe & volunteer

This guest blog comes courtesy of Helena Fazeli, Geography Undergraduate and part of the student team running Fetch Ur Veg. 

Local, seasonal, organic vegetables delivered straight to the Maughan  

FetchUrVeg is a student-run scheme that organises weekly deliveries of vegetable bags. For £7 you get a selection of 5 seasonal, local and organic vegetables – enough to provide the bulk of your weekly groceries. 

“I joined because I wanted to find an affordable way to buy my groceries whilst knowing they were from sustainable sources. After starting, I continued because I loved the small and wholesome community as well as cooking with vegetables I usually wouldn’t buy!” – Mia 

Why should you join?  

 1. SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS 

All vegetables are locally sourced, from independent producers. 

2. LOW CARBON 

What you get has therefore travelled less. 

 3. LOW FOOD WASTE 

Everything ordered is used up – help reduce our huge amounts of food waste. 

4. LOW PLASTIC WASTE 

Cut down on plastic packaging 

5. EAT MORE VEGETABLES!  

Eat a more plant-based diets and reduce your carbon footprint 

 6. TRY NEW INGREDIENTS 

Each week is a surprise assortment of vegetables – get creative with your cooking. 

 

How does it work?  

Signups open every two weeks, at which point you sign up for two weeks at a time —> Signups are open now (until 15/01) for the deliveries on the 22nd and 29th of January HERE – make sure to add two bags to your basket before checking out!) 

 

Want to get involved?  

We’re always looking for volunteers to come join us – even if just a few hours over the term. We have two volunteering shifts a week: 

 

The morning shift (9-11) takes place at Kentish Town vegbox and you’ll help pack all the bags. It’s a great way to spend two hours outside every week, connecting with like-minded people and helping support this wonderful community co-op. Morning volunteers are welcome to take any surplus vegetables home, as well as stay for a home-cooked meal at the end of the shift.  

For afternoon shifts (12-14) you’ll be stationed at the pickup location in the Maughan. 

If interested, fill out the form below HERE or get in touch! 

8 tips for a sustainable christmas by Giki

This guest blog comes courtesy of Jo Hand, Co-founder of Giki Badges, mobile app which helps to  inform and understand the impact of your UK supermarket products to guide a more sustainable lifestyle.

As the Christmas buying season gets into full swing, the plethora of choice in food, presents and holiday options can often feel a little overwhelming. But if you put a sustainability filter on your shopping trips, it can make for a happy green Christmas. Here are 8 ideas to get you started.

Avoid unsustainable palm oil

Palm Oil is used in mince pies, Christmas pudding, chocolates, gravy and lots more Christmas goodies. If it is not produced sustainably, it can cause deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, which is threatening species such as Orangutans, tigers and rhinos. But it’s possible to find sustainable or palm free options. Just check what you buy on The Giki app.

Try organic food

The great thing about Christmas is we cook so much from scratch, so have more choice over our ingredients. Although organic can be more expensive, a little planning to maximise leftovers can help reduce costs.  Organic farming is significantly better for biodiversity, because no artificial chemicals are used and this means more insects and wildlife. It is also much better for soil health.  You can get organic fruit, vegetables and meat in the supermarket, or via deliveries like Riverford and Abel and Cole.

Cut down on waste

This is great for the wallet and the environment. Food waste is responsible for up to 3% of our total environmental impact, or 16% of our food footprint[1]. So planning can help, and if you are still stuck with too many leftovers, 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.

[1] Giki analysis based on an average UK diet with high levels of waste.

Streamline your food packaging

Wherever you can, buy food with better packaging, which you can recycle. You can check this on Giki, just scan and look for the green Better Packaging badge. No packaging is usually best, but often very hard to find. Recyclable packaging, as minimal as possible comes next. Both these options will help reduce waste to landfill.

Get arty with your wrapping paper

When it comes to wrapping paper, it can be a minefield. Much of it is nt recyclable, and we throw away over 100 million rolls every Christmas! So if you have an artistic streak, or kids who do, why not wrap in plain brown FSC paper (this hasn’t usually been bleached) and decorate it with your own picture. All the extras of ribbons and bows, tend to go straight to landfill and not buying them saves money!

 

Go for a family secret santa

This is a great way with a large group on Christmas day for adults or kids to give and receive one special present, rather than loads that can feel overwhelming. It also helps cut back on the £2 billion worth of unwanted Christmas presents every year! It is even rumored the Royal family enjoy a Secret Santa!

Give the gift of experience

Instead of stuff, why not take someone out, or give your time or expertise. Offering your amazing babysitting skills to a sibling with young children, might be their favourite present yet! Or adopt them an animal from WWF or other charities.

 

Keep your feet on the ground

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. A lower carbon option is to enjoy our UK Christmas  traditions, or try the train to Europe.With over 2/3 of Brits now thinking about buying a present that has a positive social or environmental focus this year, 2019 is definitely a year of environmental awakening.

SDG 7: Energy – A Social and Environmental Challenge

This guest blog comes fifth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

Mornings are not my finest hours. With the winter around the corner, I put the heather up and turned on the light to watch the news on my laptop. I quickly boil an egg, toast some bread and jump into the bus to King’s College. Energy is for most of us (including me) a given, but while we are polluting the planet by burning fossil fuels many people are still energy deprived.

SDG 7: Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy

Energy poverty constraints everyday live and limits human and economic development [1]. Worldwide, around 840 million people do not have access to a reliable electricity source. Moreover, 3 billion people do not have access to clean cooking fuels causing indoor pollution endangering health. Energy also supports the working of practically every economic sector: from businesses, medicine and education to agriculture, infrastructure, communications and high technology. At the same time, many economies are dependent upon fossil fuels, that is coal, oil and gas. These fossil fuels produce large amounts of greenhouse gases which is a main contributor to our current climate crisis.

The Targets: Global access to CLEAN energy

Energy is both a social and an environmental problem [2]. This reflected in the underlying tensions of the targets: we want people to have universal access to affordable and reliable energy services, however, the energy sources need to increasingly be renewable and used efficiently. Whereas advanced economies need to adapt their current supply systems, developing economies are hoping to leapfrog directly into clean energy systems. Governments, therefore, need to invest and share clean energy technologies as well as expand clean energy infrastructures.

What is renewable energy and why is it important?

The word ‘renewable’ underlines the access problem we face; at some point in the near future we will run out of fossil fuels and therefore we need to find energy sources that can be constantly replenished [3]. However, there is also an environmental component as fossil fuels are the number one cause of global warming (SDG 13). Renewables can meet our energy needs without harming the earth because they release very few chemicals, like carbon dioxide. New technologies are able convert renewable resources, such as the movement of the wind and water, the heat and light of the sun, the carbohydrates in plants, and the warmth in the Earth, into electricity. The good news is that renewable energy consumption has increased from 16.6 per cent in 2010 to 17.5 per cent in 2016. However, if we want to achieve the climate goals, this change needs to be rapidly accelerated.

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind

The Netflix movie ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ beautifully brings the energy problems to life. It tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who is thrown out of the school when his family is unable to pay his fees. With help from his former teacher, he gets access to the school’s library where he learns about electrical engineering and energy production. Seeking to save his village from the drought and famine, William plans to build a windmill to power an electric water pump to sow crops (SDG 6). Through Williams experience, we see the importance of light for studying, the effects of global warming and the necessity of horsepower to survive draughts [4].

Solar Sisters: Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy

Energy poverty and climate change is disproportionally shouldered by women (SDG 5). They are often responsible for collecting fuels and suffer the health consequences of unclean cooking fuels. Solar Sister [5] invest in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities to deliver clean energy. They provide finance, training, technology and services that enable women to build sustainable businesses. This way, they create a ripple effect impacting not only local women but also their families, and the customers and communities who switch to using clean energy. They kickstarted 4.000 clean energy entrepreneurs and impacted 1,5 million people across Africa.

The Goals are there for You!

Living and studying in the UK, your biggest impact is most likely on clean energy production and consumption. As such, you can take a critical look at you:

  • Energy supplier – Who supplies your energy? What is their energy mix? Can you change to more clean energy providers? Good examples of green UK energy providers are: Ecotricity, Bulb, Ebico and The Utility Warehouse.
  • Energy consumption – There are many small steps to take in your day-to-day live, for example turn off your laptop; unplug electronical devices that you are not using; don’t leave chargers plugged; or change your bulbs to LED lights.
  • Investments – Many students forget that their savings are invested in energy production. Does your bank still invest in fossil fuels, or do they encourage clean energy? Alternatively look in what your university or parents are investing. Did you know that KCL is committed to divest from all fossil fuels by the end of 2022 after students’ hunger strikes?

 

[1] A facts sheet on why this goal is so important can be found here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Goal-7.pdf

[2] You can read more on the targets and how we are currently doing here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg7

[3] Learn more about renewables and fossil fuels and their impacts here: https://www.ucsusa.org/energy

[4] You can watch the movie on Netflix, but here is a small trailer to convince you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izCc4duhnxA

[5] Learn more about the great work Solar Sisters are doing: https://solarsister.org/about-us/

King’s staff and students joined the global climate strike

On 20th September many of you will have joined in or seen the Global Climate Strike taking place.

Here in London, King’s staff and students took to the streets and joined those demanding our decision-makers to take immediate climate action.

King’s encouraged staff to join in with the strike and the President and Principal of King’s, Professor Edward Byrne AC and Vice President and Principal for London at King’s, Baroness Deborah Bull, joined staff and students on the Strand.

Above shows Professor Edward Byrne AC (centre), President and Principal of King’s College London and Baroness Deborah Bull,

Vice President and Principal (London) at King’s (far right), at the climate strike on the 20th September. 

 

 

If you would like to meet other students interested in climate action join one of the many student groups and societies.

Green wall unveiled at Orchard Lisle & Iris Brook

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.

To read more about the living wall, and to see the full planting plan, visit Team London Bridge.

A winning idea – How to make fashion more sustainable

This week’s guest blog comes from Cristina Zheng Ji. 

Every year, the Policy Institute encourages students and staff to pitch their policy ideas to a panel of experts. This year, the overall winner was second year Political Economy student Cristina, with her pitch to make the fashion industry more sustainable. We met up with Cristina to talk about what inspired her to take part, why sustainability in fashion is important, and how consumers can influence industry.

What inspired you to take part in Policy Idol?

Cristina: One of my lecturers suggested it as a great opportunity, so I decided to look at it. I had two ideas for a pitch, but narrowed it down to this one.

What is the Environmental Cost Labelling System?

C: It’s a labelling system to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing production. This would involve using the traffic lights system: red for the highest environmental cost through to green for the lowest and apply it to four categories of impact – water use, energy use, scope to recycle, and whether it is biodegradable.

What inspired you to do a pitch on sustainable fashion? Did you come across sustainability in your degree?

C: I was inspired by a YouTube video I saw on how there is an increased accumulation of plastic fibres in the environment. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic break up in a washing machine cycle and get into water streams. The numbers were astonishing: a washing load can realise up to 700 000 fibres in a single wash. This made me think about how people can reduce or change their consumption of polluting clothing – for example to pieces that don’t release plastic fibres. After looking deeper into the issue, I also found out that disposable fashion caused other severe environmental damages, too. Sadly, information about the impact of clothes on nature is not easily available, so I thought it would be useful to do something to aid consumers when they go shopping. I narrowed the environmental factors down to four categories, which can be changed after feedback from experts. I was also inspired by the traffic lights system in the food industry which colour coded food to provide nutritional information at a glance.

Sustainability is a general interest of mine, but not a formal part of my degree. Sometimes people around you also have a good influence – at home my parent’s generation wasn’t as aware of recycling, but coming to university my friends are very aware. And climate change is a huge issue with a wide range of threats, so it’s good to focus on sustainability. My other idea was also on climate change.

Why is fashion so important?

C: Many people are not aware of how polluting the industry is – it is the second biggest polluter in the world after the oil industry and bigger than shipping and aviation industries combined. We know that cars, shipping and flying have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but we don’t know about clothing. With the fast fashion model of ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ – where we buy clothes, wear them two or three times, and then throw them away –, people buy and dispose a lot of clothes. In Britain, more than 300 000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. And people will still buy fast fashion as it’s a habit and generally affordable to most, but I believe that once people are aware of it, they might change their behaviour.

I think it is important to give consumers the choice. The idea for the pitch came from the idea of ‘nudging’. Some people see nudging to be paternalistic; however, it preserves people’s freedom to choose according to their own preferences. With the Environmental Cost Labelling System, options of good/neutral/bad are given, so if people want to make the ‘bad’ environmental choice they can do this, but one day they might choose the ‘good’ option instead. For those who have not thought the green issues much yet, the labelling could nudge them towards the better option. And for those who already choose a ‘green’ lifestyle, a lack of relevant information in the fashion industry makes this difficult. Ethical and sustainable fashion is often expensive. If we target the high street with this labelling system, we can bring sustainability to consumers without them having to research brands they don’t know, or spend more money.

Do you think this will lead companies to change their practices?

C: I think it will do. A change in the consumer purchasing behaviour can lead to a change in the manufacturer’s behaviour as they see an increase in demand in sustainable clothes and a decrease in unsustainable ones. Companies also have something to gain from this. If consumers switch to more sustainable brands, it will reward brands working on sustainability.

And companies know that sustainability is important, and that they can’t go on like this. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. make denim from cotton, but know that an uncontrolled and irresponsible resource use of this is wasteful and unsustainable. They are now working towards a circular economy where they encourage the consumer to take their old clothes and shoes back to the stores to be recycled.

What would the system look like, how would it work?

C: The four categories are a starting point – these could be changed after expert reviews. The information would be on clothing tags. Most clothes have a price tag, and also an additional one with information on the brand, or for example one I saw only says ‘We are denim’ 10 times. To replace this, I have designed a tag that has the Environmental Cost Labelling System with the traffic lights on it. In the food industry, the traffic lights labelling is not mandatory, so different brands may set their own standards. If this were to be made mandatory for clothing, and there was a universal agreement of standards for each colour, this could be powerful. There are already websites and non-profits out there that collate information on sustainability of clothing – we could work with them.

Just having a label to simply say ‘sustainable’ isn’t enough. There are so many aspects related to sustainability, and the Environmental Cost Labelling System would allow consumers to consider which aspects are the most important to them when they go shopping – e.g. energy use, water etc. The traffic light system also tells us about intensity, and not just pass/fail – it gives more power to the consumer.

 

After winning the overall prize at this year’s Policy Idol, Cristina is now looking at working with the Policy Institute to take her idea further. We hope that in the future, we might see this labeling system on the clothes we buy!

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