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.
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.
Starting this September, King’s will recycle coffee cups across campuses through the Simply Cups scheme.
Coffee cups have been a hot topic this year. Ever since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall revealed that “doing the right thing” by putting our empty coffee cups in the mixed recycling bin might not be so good after all, there have been campaigns to tackle the problem.
Disposable coffee cups are mainly made from paper. To stop them from leaking, the inside of the cups is covered in a thin plastic (polyethylene) film – and it is this plastic film that creates problems when it comes to recycling the cups. Paper mills can’t separate the plastic film from the paper, which means that millions of coffee cups placed in standard mixed recycling bins actually end up in incineration or landfill.
However, there are some specialist facilities where disposable coffee cups are given a second life if they are collected separately. Simply Cups does this through two different ways:
Coffee cups are shredded, and the material is mixed with other recycled plastics to create new products – which can be anything from pens to park benches.
Fibre from coffee cups is recovered by pulping them with ambient temperature water – due to the difference in density between paper fibres and the plastic film, the plastic will float at the top and is removed. You can read more about this process here.
As a member of Simply Cups, we will now be able to recycle all disposable coffee cups. To recycle your cup, simply look out for the special coffee cup recycling bins across campuses. Once you have found your nearest bin, “#FlipTipSip” – Flip the plastic lid off the cup and place it in mixed recycling, tip any remaining liquid into the designated liquids part of the bin, and slip the empty cup into the collection tube.
The coffee cup recycling bins are initially being rolled out at:
Strand Campus, including Bush House, the Maughan Library and Virginia Woolf Building
James Clerk Maxwell Building (Waterloo Campus)
Denmark Hill Campus
If you are based at Strand, you might already be familiar with the scheme. The Maughan Library is taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, a campaign to recycle 5 million coffee cups in the City of London by the end of 2017. After exceeding its April target of 500,000 cups, the campaign has recycled more than 1.2 million cups by the end of July. Manchester had a similar campaign earlier in the year – with coffee cups now returning as bird feeders, plant pot holders and chalk boards.
King’s is working to increase its recycling rate to 70%. Combined with other initiatives, such as the introduction of food waste segregation from all canteens and the improved recycling guidance online and on bin posters, we hope the new coffee cup recycling scheme will help us achieve this ambitious target.
Want to avoid disposable coffee cups altogether, and save money in the process? Use a reusable cup! King’s Food offer branded Keep Cups at their venues. You get a free drink when you buy a KeepCup, and a 10p discount every time you use it. And lots of other companies are doing it too – Starbucks, Pret and lots of independent coffee shops will also give you a discount if you bring your own cup!
Today is the first day of the Totally Thames Festival, which means Maria Arceo’s artwork “Future Dust” is now open to the public!
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo has collected plastic from the banks of the Thames. The project was supported by the King’s departments of Geography, Chemistry as well as the Cultural Institute. Maria is passionate about archaeology and oceanography, and interested in the footprints humanity leaves on aquatic environments. Plastic is one of these modern footprints, with countless reports on the amount of plastic debris that ends up in the planet’s oceans.
Maria Arceo at Sustainability Week
As campaigns such as ZSL’s #OneLess, and Hubbub’s For Fish’s Sake London highlight, London is a city closely linked to the sea. Waste in the tidal Thames will eventually end up in the oceans, and after breaking down into microplastics plastic might end up back on our plates.
With her Thames Plastic project, Maria wants to show Londoners the real magnitude of plastic debris entering the Thames. Since September 2016, she has done over 40 beach clean-ups all over London. Some King’s students and staff joined her for a clean-up during Sustainability Week, and picked up a complete computer keyboard in the mud between Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge. After the beach clean-ups, the workshops to clean and sort the plastic in May and June provided a perfect opportunity to look at the curiosities Maria and her team of volunteers found in the Thames (some photos of her Somerset House workshop can be found here).
Now complete, the “Future Dust” installation is a giant human footprint, entirely made from plastic from the Thames. Starting today, the piece will travel along the Thames for the rest of the month. It is currently near Guy’s Campus, in Potters Field Park outside City Hall, SE1 2AA. Next, it will move closer to Strand and Waterloo campuses – it will be the Oxo Tower Courtyard (SE1 9PH) from Sunday the 3rd to Wednesday the 6th September. Details of all locations can be found on the poster below, or on the Thames Plastic website.
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.”
The annual King’s College London Sustainability Awards took place on Monday the 3rd July. The Awards highlighted the growing commitment and enthusiasm of the King’s community for sustainable development, one of the enabling foundations of Vision 2029.
During the ceremony, 45 teams comprising of over 200 Sustainability Champions were acknowledged for all their hard work in introducing sustainable practices into their workspaces over the course of the academic year. The ceremony also celebrated the efforts of staff and students who have made significant contributions to sustainable development across our operations, teaching, research and the wider King’s community.
Professor Edward Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the Awards by highlighting the importance of sustainability and the work of the Sustainability Champions. He also announced that King’s recently achieved the ISO14001:2015 certification for the Estates operations on all campuses, including residences and sportsgrounds. You can find out more about the certification in the Estates & Facilities news.
Kat Thorne, Head of Sustainability, then reviewed the progress King’s has made in sustainability over the last year. Over 200 Sustainability Champions have carried out over 1,500 sustainability actions, resulting in 45 teams receiving Sustainability Awards. At an operational level, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by 26% since 2005/06, despite significant growth during this time period. The furniture re-use project Warp-It has now saved over £50,000 in procurement costs. In relation to sustainable food, the university is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and has applied for Fairtrade University status.
The 45 Champions teams were then awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. This year, 18 teams achieved Bronze, 19 teams achieved Silver, and 8 teams were awarded Gold. In addition to this, we celebrated individual Champions, staff and teams who went above and beyond in their roles to embed sustainability into King’s.
If you have looked at the bins at King’s recently, you might have noticed our new recycling guides. King’s is committed to achieving a recycling rate of 70%, and our new recycling guidelines are a small part of the wider changes that have been happening behind the scenes in the last months.
New recycling guidelines
Throughout this summer, our new waste contractor Simply Waste Solutions will start collections at all campuses, beginning with Denmark Hill this week. Simply Waste Solutions will replace several current contractors, and help us deliver a more consistent service across King’s. This means no more differences in what can/cannot be recycled depending on campus!
In addition to the new bin signage, we have created a Waste A-Z to help make recycling as easy as possible. This guide can be found at internal.kcl.ac.uk/recycling. If you would like to see additional resources, or have questions about other waste types, please let us know!
Our contract with Simply Waste Solutions means we will now be able to tackle more waste streams. One of these is food waste, which is currently only separated at Strand. With the new contract, King’s Food will separate their kitchen waste at all campuses, and send the waste to anaerobic digestion. In addition to this, we will be able to extend our coffee cup recycling programme to more campuses.
30,000 coffee cups ready for recycling
The Maughan Library already has this programme in place as a result of taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, and other campuses can expect to see coffee cup bins pop up in the next months. Usually, only 1% of disposable coffee cups in the UK are recycled. With the Simply Cups programme, we can collect cups and Simply Cups will turn them into new products. So don’t be surprised if your coffee cup makes its way back to King’s looking very different (e.g. a canteen tray or pen).
So, what happens to our waste?
As long as it is not contaminated, everything in our recycling bins will be given a second life. Paying attention to the recycling guidelines is important, as recycling bags may be classed as “contaminated” if they contain non-recyclable waste. Contaminated bags may end up being rejected, so it is important to pay attention to what goes in the bin. A common doubt regarding recycling is how clean items like plastic pots should be when going in the recycling bin. Things like yoghurt pots and plastic bottles should be empty and not contain any food or liquids, but they don’t need to be spotlessly clean. A rule of thumb is that if you would happily stick your hand in the recycling bin after binning your item, and it could come out clean and dry, it’s good to go in recycling.
Our food waste goes to anaerobic digestion. This means that it will be put into sealed containers and broken down by natural micro-organisms. At the end of this progress, two products remain: biogas, to be used as fuel to generate renewable energy; and a nutrient-rich digestate, used as fertiliser.
Glass waste is sent to plants where it can be washed and sorted into colours. It is then melted and moulded into new products. As glass does not degrade through the recycling process, as paper fibres do, it can be used again and again!
The remaining general waste is not sent to landfill, but incinerated in energy-from-waste plants. The created heat is used to generate electricity (fed into the National Grid) and to heat homes. The remaining ash is collected and used as a material for road construction.
This means that with Simply Waste Solutions, we are able to send zero waste to landfill for all of our general, bulky and food waste.
Simply Waste’s chief mouser
Fun fact: On a recent visit, we met Simply Waste Solutions’ very own chief mouser – a former stray who just turned up and moved in one day. Here he is, roaming the waste yard and making sure everyone recycles properly.