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!
Our goal by 2020 is to ensure that 70% of this waste is recycled. In order to make this happen we have implemented a number of changes. Previously King’s worked with over 40 different contractors in order to dispose of our waste. This year we have worked hard to reduce that down to around 10, the main one of which is Simply Waste. The benefit of working with Simply Waste as one of our primary contractors is not only that they operate a zero waste to landfill policy, but also that every time one of our bins are collected it is weighed so we know exactly how much general waste and recycling we are producing. That data is passed on to us monthly so, crucially, if we implement any new policies or initiative we can see the benefit (or lack of) in real time. In this way it is much easier for us to tell what changes we need to make in order to improve our recycling rates.
So where are we now? Currently we are recycling 39% of our waste, so we still have a way to go before we hit our 60% target!
So how can you help us to improve our recycling rates?
We have this handy A-Z of waste guide which will tell you everything you need to know about disposing of all different kinds of items at King’s
Check out the bin in your areas. Are they correctly labelled with clear signage and is it possible to relabel them so 2/3 of the bins are recycling?
Make sure you and your colleagues are aware of Warp-it, our online sharing platform for office and lab items
If you have any questions about waste and recycling in your area then don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
As King’s gets quieter for the Christmas period, we would like to remind you to turn off all lights and non-essential equipment at the plug if you are the last one to leave the office for the Christmas period.
Please plan how you will shut down all unnecessary equipment in your area of work. Remember to switch off your computer, laptop and monitor, office lights and desk lamp. However, please be cautious with equipment such as fridges, freezers and research equipment. You can contact the Sustainability Champion in your area for more information or if you’re unsure about what action to take. Take a look at our switch off posters for laboratories here, and our offices here.
By switching off your electronics over the Christmas period, you will be helping the university to support its commitment to worldwide environmental responsibilities and the Paris Pledge for Action.
Take time to select a representative in your office to look after the following items:
TV screens and departmental controlled AV equipment in your area
Switch off the hot water boilers, kettles, microwaves and water coolers.
Kitchen area fridge
Empty and switch off or turn the cooling temperature to low.
Printers and photocopiers
Switch off at the socket; a photocopier on standby overnight can use enough energy to make 30 cups of tea.
Switch off at the socket.
Turn off tightly and report dripping taps to the Service Desk.
Windows and office doors
Ensure all are shut firmly.
Fume cupboards and safety cabinets
Please ensure the sash is closed for either equipment. Turn off all safety cabinets. For fume cupboards, clear out if possible, do not leave any equipment in operation, and set your fume cupboard to ‘low-flow’ if applicable.
As a global university, King’s College London is entirely committed to its worldwide environmental responsibilities. King’s is an initial signatory of the Paris Pledge for Action, which supports the agreement made at COP 21 (21stConference of the Parties, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to limit global temperature rise by less than 2 degrees Celsius.
By switching off your electronics over the Christmas period, you will be helping the university to support these commitments and to achieve its goal to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 43 per cent by 2020 from a 2005/06 baseline.
December 6, 2017 / / Comments Off on 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.
After 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.
From 1 October 2017, all electricity directly purchased by King’s is supplied from wind power backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. Wind backed REGO certificates guarantee that our electricity is supplied from UK renewable wind sources, making our electricity carbon free.
This includes electricity supplied to King’s directly from our energy suppliers, but excludes electricity provided by NHS Trusts on campuses with shared space.
King’s has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 43% by 2020 compared to a 2005/06 baseline, and is committed to becoming carbon free by 2025. Purchasing renewable energy is a significant step towards this goal. In addition, King’s has made significant investments in low-carbon energy on campus in recent years. Several buildings, including Great Dover Street Apartments and Champion Hill, are equipped with solar panels, and Denmark Hill Campus and Champion Hill have Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants on site.
So far, King’s has achieved a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2015/16 against a 2005/06 baseline. A recent report by Brite Green placed King’s in second place for carbon reduction within the Russell Group. The report also showed that King’s has successfully decoupled growth from growing carbon emissions, with emissions intensity (tonnes of CO2 emitted/£ of income) falling by 59% since 2008. This was the seventh best across the 127 English universities analysed.
Kat Thorne, Head of Sustainability, said: ‘Purchasing our electricity from renewable sources is an important step for us here atKing’s on our journey to zero carbon by 2029. Climate change requires an urgent response from all of us and here at King’s we will continue to identify and implement actions to reduce our energy use and related carbon emissions.’
August 4, 2017 / / Comments Off on Earth Overshoot Day: The day we spent Earth’s annual environmental budget
The 2nd August was Earth Overshoot Day 2017. This means that by this day, we have used more resources than the planet can renew in 2017, and emitted more CO2 than global forests can absorb.
The date for Earth Overshoot Day is not fixed. Instead, it is calculated* each year, changing as humanity’s ecological footprint changes. Looking at how the date has moved in recent decades reveals a worrying trend: Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier each year. While it was in November or later in the 1970s and 80s, it moved to August in the 2000s.
Earth Overshoot Day comes just days after an article published in Nature Climate Change suggests that based on current developments, there is only a 5% chance that we will meet the target to keep global warming below 2 degrees by 2100. This is the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Instead, there is a 90% chance that our planet will warm by 2.0-4.9 degrees by 2100, which could have potentially catastrophic impacts.
With this in mind, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint? As with many things, the first step could be measuring it. The Global Footprint Network has a calculator that allows you to work out your own Overshoot Day and ecological footprint. WWF also have a calculator that shows you the % of your share of carbon emissions you are using, compared to 2020 emission targets.
For many, flying and food will be the biggest contributors to our footprint. A transatlantic flight can emit as much as 1 tonne of CO2, and meat-heavy diets also carry a carbon price tag. As a university, King’s emitted over 35,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2015/16 – this is down 26% from 2005/06, but there is still work to be done to reach the target of a 43% reduction by 2020 and being ‘carbon free’ by 2025.
What can we do once we know how much we emit? There are many actions you can take to reduce your own environmental footprint. Why not try out some tasty vegan/vegetarian recipes? Or cycle or walk to university? You can also offset carbon emissions from your flights through various projects. The UN has also created the “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”, a guide with actions you could take from the sofa, in your home, or in your neighbourhood. Whatever you choose to do, it is important to remember that while actions may seem small, they add up to something big when millions of people around the globe commit to them!
*Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year) by humanity’s ecological footprint, and multiplying this by 365. More information here.
July 24, 2017 / / Comments Off on King’s achieves ISO14001:2015 certification
King’s College London operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) across all campuses. In 2016, this system was externally audited at Strand Campus, and certified with the ISO14001:2015 standard.
This year, Estates & Facilities have worked to extend the certification to all campuses, including Residences and sports grounds. Following a successful external audit of all campuses, the Environmental Management System is now ISO14001:2015 certified across King’s Estates & Facilities. Professor Ed Byrne announced the great news at this year’s Sustainability Awards.
Solar panels on the roof of GDSA
ISO14001 is an international standard which helps organisations use resources more efficiently and reduce waste. This achievement demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership for sustainability at King’s, which is apparent not only through the many initiatives underway, but through King’s Strategic Vision 2029, which has sustainability as one of the enabling foundations.
The EMS is at the heart of embedding sustainability at King’s, and takes a holistic view of the environmental impacts and risks arising from our activities. As well as minimising negative impacts, it drives improvement through identifying opportunities for King’s. One of the highlights noted in the audits were the opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. There is a lot of green space at our sports grounds, but even at our main campuses improvements have been made – such as the instalment of bird boxes and an insect hotel at Guy’s Campus.
On achieving the certification, Nick O’Donnell (Acting Director of Estates & Facilities) said: “We’re delighted to receive the certification, and are very pleased to be recognised for the progress we are making in reducing our impacts. This is a fantastic achievement for all operational teams in Estates & Facilities and for our service partners, working across such a large and diverse organisation.”
Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.
His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:
“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.
So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.
So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.
As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].
We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.
Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.
Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.
Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.
I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].
This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.
Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.
In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.
In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”
May 25, 2017 / / Comments Off on Champion Hill win Student Switch Off!
Every year, King’s runs the NUS Student Switch Off competition in its halls of residence. The aim of the competition is to encourage students to save energy. We started the campaign in autumn with visits to every hall, and NUS continued it throughout the year with photo competitions, quizzes and lots of prizes.
At the end of each year, the hall that saved the most energy compared to the previous year wins a delivery of Ben & Jerry’s for their hall. This year, we upped the difficulty and added recycling scores to the mix. So on top of making sure they were energy-efficient, students had to take care with what they put in which bin.
This year, Champion Hill Residence were the lucky winners. They came second in the energy-saving ranking, but due to their great recycling performance they managed to take the overall trophy.
So on a sunny day last week, we headed down to reward Champion Hill residents for their effort. In total, we handed out 400 tubs of Ben & Jerry’s (as well as some vegan soy ice cream) to students! With exam period in full swing, this was a well-deserved break for many residents. See for yourself:
400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out
Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway
Ice cream time!
A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break
In addition to winning the Student Switch Off, Champion Hill also has a great range of sustainability initiatives. We have previously featured the Champion Hill Wormery on our blog, which exists in addition to composting bins. The courtyard also has a pond and a plot for a planned herb garden. Finally, Champion Hill also has a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) and solar PV panels on the roof, making sure the energy used in the halls comes from more sustainable sources!
Last week, King’s re-launched the reuse platform Warp It. Originally opened to staff in 2016, Warp It works like a university-wide Freecycle. Staff can add unwanted furniture, research equipment and more to the online portal. Users can then claim these items for free. This means unwanted, good quality furniture is no longer thrown away. Instead, it is given a new life somewhere else in the university, reducing waste and saving money.
So far at King’s we have:
Saved over 17,000kg of CO₂, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
Avoided over 7 tonnes of waste
Kept the equivalent of seven cars off the road, and saved 24 trees
Saved over £40,000
At the moment, Warp It is only open to staff. If you are interested in signing up and start reusing furniture, please visit the internal Warp It pages.