Category: Education (page 1 of 4)

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!

SDG 5: Gender equality – “I am a Nasty Woman!”

This week’s 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. 

On International Women’s Day the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London released a study on attitudes toward gender equality around the world (1). Results showed that 52 percent of the respondents believe that there are more advantages to be a man than a woman. Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, reflected: “people rightly believe gender equality has not gone far enough. While the issues we prioritise may be different country by country, there is a real consensus that men must play their part if we are to achieve true parity between the sexes.”

The targets: Gender equality and the position of women

Even though the term gender equality suggests different forms of gender identification, SDG5 concentrates primarily on the position of women and girls in society (2). The targets focus on private and public domains as well as economical, social and political positions. Foremost, all gender-based discrimination and violence must be eliminated. Furthermore, unpaid labour, such as domestic responsibilities, must be acknowledged to ensure social security; women must have access to contraception; and policy around gender equality should be enforced. Additionally, women must have the same economic property rights and the same opportunities for leadership positions as men.

The current situation: Numbers versus reality

Globally, there has been some progression in certain areas of gender equality. For example, the participation of women in parliament increased from 13 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2017. Furthermore, the number of child marriages slightly decreased, however, 650 million girls and women today were still married in childhood. Progress has been slow; for example, there has been a 1% change in the percentage of senior management roles held by women globally in the last 10 years. In some sectors progress has even been reversed; the percentage of female ICT specialists in the EU has decreased by 6%. Note that numbers only tell part of the story. A lot of gender-based violence and discrimination remains hidden due to shame, taboos or the lack of data availability.

Lacking leadership from the West: The case of the Netherlands

Gender inequality is something that is apparent in both poor and rich countries. My birth country, the Netherlands, for example, dropped from the 16th to 32nd place in the world rankings. Countries such as Moldavia and Mozambique have catch up. This is largely due to the weak political and economic position of women as well as the growing inequality in income and health. To illustrate, there is a gender pay gap of 16 percent, female parliamentarians dropped to 37 per cent and only 26 per cent of management positions is filled by women. A national hero is our former minister Lilianne Ploumen. With her organization She Decides, she fights for sexual and reproductive rights, and even filled in the gap of anticonception supply caused by the Global Gag Rule of US president Trump.

The new feminism: I am a nasty woman

The good news is that the attention for women emancipation is on the rise. In response to comments by Trump such as “grab them by the pussy” and “those are just nasty women”, multiple protests have been organized. For example, the Women’s March in Washington during which actress Alshley Judd performed a poem of teenager Nina Donovan titled “nasty woman” (3). Another example is the hashtag #MeToo which sought to increase awareness for sexual intimidation after several scandals of sexual coercion in Hollywood. Global governance organizations have introduced informal projects as well, to illustrate European Union and the United Nations have founded the Spotlight Initiative to combat violence towards women and girls (4).

Abby Wambach and the Wolfpack

A book on this topic to watch is from Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion (5). Based on her experience as a top athlete, she argues that: “it’s time for women to know the power of their wolves and the strength of their pack”. If we keep on playing by the old rules of leadership, we will never change the game. In the book Abby creates a new set of rules to help women unleash their individual power as well as to unite with other women and create a new world together. To do this, we need to make failure fuel, lead from wherever you are, champion other women and demand what you (and others) deserve!

Step up: Be a champion for gender equality.

Because gender inequality is often socially constructed, the most important thing you can do is to step up for your rights and/or the women in your direct environment. It is not ok if a female colleague is payed less than her man colleague, it is not ok if a female colleague is never nominated for promotion nor is it ok if colleagues make jokes about women in the kitchen or sexual intimidation. Furthermore, there are various initiatives you can support. For example, HeForShe has several projects about online violence towards women and breaking through taboos on sexual health (6). Remember, gender equality is EVERYONE’s business.

Notes:

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 3

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

Month 5: February & Finance

Looking into switching my pension to more ethical funds. This has been a daunting and opaque process for me, but I’ve been lucky in the support of some very knowledgeable friends.

Verdict: Definitely high impact but so far neither easy nor especially fun.

 

Month 6: March & Networks

The Network Effect: Sharing ideas, starting conversations and hopefully getting more people thinking about the small things they can change.

  • One of the challenges I’ve always had with this stuff is even if I am able to live completely carbon neutral with negligible environmental impact, I’m just one person on a planet of billions. But that’s what stories are for, so I’ve written this post in the hopes that a few of you will get something useful out of my experiences, and maybe between us we’ll have more of an impact.
  • And on that vein, it helps to think about your network: where are you connected, where do you have influence, who do you know who can change things?
    • This month I ran a workshop for my division at King’s to map our ongoing work against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, so we can amplify and celebrate positive contributions and reflect on how to reduce negative impacts. The output will be an ambitious sustainability plan encompassing the work of about 50 people and the workshop is now being prepped to be shared across the university – exciting stuff!
    • Sometimes all it takes is asking the right person the right question at the right time. Our office fruit is delivered by Oddbox, this year graduations went paperless, our last teambuilding afternoon was a Good Gym walk to volunteer at a foodbank. What could your workplace switch, and can you help make it happen?

Verdict: Relatively easy, pretty fun, and impact… well, you tell me!

~

Links and tips

  1. Energy provider: Switching to Bulb has only ended up costing us 20p more per month.
    1. If you sign up using the link above we both get £50 credit
  1. Laundry and washing up liquid switched to Ecover’s 15L refill boxes:
    • More convenient, as it’s delivered to your home and much, much slower to run out
    • Cheaper per litre
    • Fewer plastic bottles thrown away
  1. Sanitary products: Switching to Thinx was a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
    • They ship from America, so watch out for customs fees
    • They also sell reusable tampon applicators
  1. Toilet paper by Who Gives A Crap.
    • I’ve recently switched to these guys and now get toilet paper delivered (so convenient) in plastic free packaging (which is colourful and lovely), made from recycled office paper (no trees harmed in the making).
    • It’s quite a bit more expensive per roll, but the rolls are double the length, so from my initial experiment I think it’s pretty much cost neutral. And they donate half their profits to sanitation projects around the world!
  1. Toiletries
    • Eco friendly deodorant by Nuud
    • Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, in reusable metal tins
    • Investing in a metal safety razor, rather than using plastic ones
    • Bamboo toothbrushes: I have one of these at the moment, but it’s a growing market with loads to pick from!
  1. Food and kitchen:
    • Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to cling film, and it’s easy (and cheap!) to make your own
    • Oddbox deliveries of seasonal fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets
    • Buy plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
  1. Little habits:
    • “Landfill Bin” is now written on the top of my kitchen bin, reminding us all to think twice about whether something is recyclable – this has had a bigger impact than I expected it to!
    • Make sure you’re using smile.amazon.co.uk if you use Amazon; they’ll donate a (tiny) portion of the profit from your purchases to a charity of your choosing

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 1

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

This journey starts in October, when I joined On Purpose, I started at King’s and took the WWF carbon footprint test for the first time. Horrified, I learnt that annually I was using 200% of my share of the world’s resources.

That same month we were flooded with news of an upcoming climate catastrophe following the IPCC special report and changing jobs had left me with a new work-life balance, with both time and mental space to think about what it might be possible to change.

So I set myself a challenge: Every month for the next year I am going to change one lifestyle factor to be more sustainable, and I’m going to try and maintain (or grow) the change for the rest of the year, in what will hopefully be an exponential curve towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Since then, I have made changes to how I get around, how I eat, how I supply my house with basic essentials and even how I dress. I’m healthier, happier and feel more connected to my local area. I’m also more informed about environmental issues and the incredible work being done to tackle them globally.

It’s now six months in and when I recently re-took the WWF carbon footprint test I got a score of 125%. I’d never have guessed it could be both fun and easy to make that scale of change.

This is what surprised me most: it doesn’t need to be hard, it doesn’t need to be a sacrifice. There are a growing number of social enterprises making sustainable decisions genuinely more convenient and more fun than their less-green alternatives, and I’ve shared some of the ones I’ve liked below.

The first thing I had to do was pick where to start. At a basic level, my criteria was:

  1. What is easy?
  2. What is high impact?
  3. What is fun?

By focusing on things that are easy and fun, I’ve built momentum for the things that are harder, like divesting pensions, and looking for alternatives to short-haul flights. The easy stuff is a great place to start; there are so many things that you change once and they’re done for good.

Month 1: October & Commuting

Switching my commute from bus to bike.

  • It’s now March and I’m still cycling every day!
  • I have saved at least £60 per month on bus fares
  • I have gained 30 mins per day in commute time, because cycling is genuinely the quickest way for me to get to work
  • I have lost weight and feel far fitter than I’d anticipated from an additional 30 minutes of daily cycling
  • I feel a lot more connected to my local area: I notice new spaces as I cycle past them in a way I never did on the bus

Verdict: Easy, high impact and fun!

 

Month 2: November & Home

Changing household habits and spending patterns; from energy providers to toiletries.

  • This is one I’ve added to every month, and I’m still collecting recommendations: The full list of things I’ve tried and would recommend is below if you’re interested!
  • To highlight the real game changers:
    • Sanitary products switched to Thinx in a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
    • Energy provider switched to Bulb, which has only ended up costing us 20p more per month for a fully renewable energy plan and some of my friends who switched are saving money.
    • We now have greener versions of bulky items like laundry detergent, washing up liquid and toilet paper delivered: It’s cheaper, more convenient and the Who Gives A Crap toilet paper especially is more fun!
  • And possibly my favourite sustainability tip of the year has been trying to wear a new outfit every day – without duplication – for as long as possible, to stretch and make you be a bit more creative with your wardrobe. The verdict after 80 days and counting:
  • I’ve rediscovered all kinds of stuff in the back of my wardrobe and found new combinations of things that work together, so I’m not remotely tempted to go shopping and buy more clothes
  • I’ve been (I think!) dressing better, because I’m thinking about it not just throwing on any old thing
  • I’ve sketched my outfit each day, to make sure I don’t duplicate, and so have the beginnings of a little outfits menu, which is nice and, who knows, might make me dress better in future!

Verdict: Varied, but on the whole easy, high impact and fun!

 

To be continued…

Sustainability Week 2019

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.

Josh & Ali from the Sustainability Team at the Sustainability Pop Up, Tues 12th Feb.

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!

VegFest Vegan Product Samples, Fri 15th Feb.

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.

Dr Bike at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA), Tues 13th Feb.

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 Soul is 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.

Shot from the documentary ‘A Northern Soul’

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.  

GoodGym runners and walkers, Fri 15th Feb.

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.

Left: Planting the trees in December ’18. Right: checking up on the trees & re-planting some of the growing crab apple trees.

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.

Top Left: Students with their coffee scrubs
Top right: Essential oils used for the toothpaste and lip scrub
Bottom Left: Breakdown composition of the coffee body scrub (1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 coconut oil)
Bottom Right: President of KCL Beauty Soc

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!

SDG 4: Education as the Passport to the Future

This week’s 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.  

 

A primary kid developing the newest app in his bedroom. A teenage boy creating an online platform to share social content. These are the success stories in the age of technology. However, such dreams don’t become reality without one essential ingredient: education. As Malcolm X once said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

SDG 4 = Quality Education

Education is key to reduce inequality and enable people to break the cycle of poverty. Education empowers people, it increases quality of life and stimulates tolerance. There has been a lot of progress towards this goal in the last two decades. In developing countries, the enrollment in primary education has reached 91 percent. But not all is done as 57 million children remain out of primary school. Inequality in opportunities is evident. Half of the children out of school live in Sub-Saharan Africa or in conflict affected areas. The vast majority are girls (1).

The Targets: Quality Education, Relevant Skills and Safe Environments

As the goal suggests, the first target is to ensure free, accessible, quality primary and secondary for everybody. As a result, literacy and numeracy must be dissolved. Other targets go beyond school-aged children aiming to make early childhood development and adult skills training’s accessible. Within education systems, all genders should be equal, and the emphasis should be on knowledge and skills that are needed to promote sustainable development. Moreover, schools should be a safe and inclusive environment, there should be more scholarships for developing countries and there should be better training to provide quality teachers.

 

Education, poverty and health

Education, poverty and health provide a ‘triangle dilemma’: whereas education improves children’s chances for escaping poverty whilst improving their health conditions, poverty and poor health are the main reason why many do not attend schools. The lack of education and health care robs millions of children of their futures (2). Poverty-prone communities in Tanzania, for example, have high changes to get infected by the parasitic disease ‘schistosomiasis’ due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Especially, school-aged children are vulnerable to the infection. To tackle this problem, a joint-project by UNDP and WHO setup drug distribution points in schools to prevent transmission of the disease and ensure vulnerable children don’t drop out school (3).

A lost generation: education during conflict

Education is a fundamental human right as per the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, out of the 7,4 million documented refugee children, only 3,4 million attend school. Attendance drops drastically; 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, 23 per cent of them are enrolled in secondary school and just one per cent attends university (4). The foundation Educate a Child aims to scale-up successful educational programs for refugees and promote innovative approaches. Their Bangladesh-based partner, for example, provides non-formal basic education in refugee camps. Thus far, they recruited 400 teachers, established 200 Transitional Learning Centres and educate 25,000 students (5).

 

A mismatch between skills and education

One of the biggest challenges in Europe is the disparity between what students learn in universities and the types of skills that are needed within the employment market. A business association articulated it as following: “Currently we have a skills gap; we have vacancies, but people are not trained to fill them. Business need to make education their top priority and present people with equal choices.” The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) aims to strengthen the quality, supply, image and mobility of apprenticeships in Europe.Through vocational education and training (VET) companies ensure their supply of future employees and students learn valuable workplace skills improving their future employability (6).

The goals are there for you as well!

The fact that you are reading this blog already gives you a privilege. I am assuming you have enjoyed primary and secondary schools, and most likely higher education. At a minimum level you are gifted with literacy. Use this gift to advance worldwide education:

  • Attitude – There are no ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ educated people, there are only ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ educated people. A value-based division is completely ridiculous, so ensure that your language reflects the appreciation of all forms of education.
  • Develop – Acknowledge your privileged position and make sure you keep on developing yourself. Attend your university classes; follow a skills training on coding; learn how to use Excel properly or drop in a conference on business ethics.
  • Tutor – An easy way is to tutor children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Private tutoring increases the income gap. To overcome this, you can support a pupil to get the most out of her/his education and help them build their future. There are different local charities (7).

References

Volunteering Opportunity: Social Responsibility Audit Assistant

Committed to the idea of a socially responsible university?

Applications are invited for the role of Social Responsibility Audit Assistant in the ‘European Students Sustainability Auditing’ Project (ESSA).

We are recruiting for a diverse group of six students from King’s College London to participate in the project between February and March. The Social Responsibility Audit Assistant role is open to all current King’s students who have an interest in social responsibility and sustainability.

The successful students will complete two days of training in February 2019 in Edinburgh and will act as host students for an institutional social responsibility audit of King’s which will be undertaken by students from Edinburgh, Porto and Kaunas University’s from the 11th March until 15th March in London.

It is important that we have a diverse range of skills and academic knowledge, we therefore endeavor to select our team from a range of backgrounds and academic degree programmes. We encourage applications from protected characteristics for this role and students from widening participation backgrounds specifically.

Please note that we also have resources in place to ensure that support is available to students who may have any kind of additional support needs and/or face financial barriers to participation in this kind of initiative.

 

How to apply

To apply for this opportunity please email an expression of interest to sustainability@kcl.ac.uk. This should be no longer than 2 sides of A4 and should highlight: your interest in the project, how you fulfill the person specification, what you hope to learn from being involved in the project, and confirm your availability for the dates indicated in time commitment.

The deadline for applications is Monday 14th January 2019 at 9am. For successful applicants there will be an informal group interview/ information session on Friday 18th of January from 12pm-2pm.

If you are unable to make this group interview due to exam or other commitments, please let us know in your application.

If you have any questions about the role please email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk

 

Summary

The ‘European Students Sustainability Auditing’ Project is a European-Union (EU) funded pilot project that aims to learn more about social responsibility and sustainability in universities across Europe.

Social Responsibility Audit Assistants will play a key role in the project by hosting audit students and helping bring together the findings from the audit to report to the Service Committee, a senior University governance group.

Participating students will have the opportunity to gain new skills, knowledge and work experience by undertaking this role. Student auditors will receive training to enable participation in the audits, aiding their own understanding and developing their skills, as well as contributing to the advancement of social responsibility and sustainability in European Higher Education. Participation in this can also be reflected in your Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR).

Further information about the project is available online at www.essaproject.eu.

 

Person specification

The role is open to all students who have an interest in social responsibility and sustainability. The ideal candidate will possess the following skills and knowledge.

  • Good communication skills, both verbal and written, and confidence in face-to-face engagement.
  • Confidence to work independently and in a team and able to assist fellow team members to identify creative solutions to problems.
  • Good analytical and research skills
  • Excellent time management and leadership skills
  • Some knowledge of the workings of universities and of social responsibility and sustainability issues and initiatives.

 

Time commitment

Social Responsibility Audit Assistants will attend two days of training in Edinburgh in February on 7th and 8th of February and participate in an audit of King’s College London on week commencing 11th of March until 15th of March in London. All Audit Assistants will be expected to write a short blog piece, reflecting on their experience in the project. The total time commitment is approximately 8 days.

All approved accommodation, subsistence and travel costs incurred by the student Audit Assistants through the role will be covered by the project, at the relevant official EU rates.

 

Skills and experience gained

Successful students applying for the role will gain the following skills and experience.

  • Experience of working on an international project in a supported professional environment
  • Insight into effective social responsibility and sustainability education
  • Experience of communicating using a variety of different means
  • Knowledge and understanding of the auditing process
  • Ability to make evidence-based judgements
  • Experience in advanced level reporting
  • Ability to support and encourage others to perform
  • Leadership skills
  • Time Management
  • Team development
  • Project management.

 

Project partners

Partners in the project, which is led by the UK’s National Union of Students, include the European Students Union, the University of Porto and its students’ association, Kaunas University of Technology and its students’ association and the University of Edinburgh and its students’ association.

Blog Series: SDG 2 – Food is Life

This week’s guest blog comes third 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’,  looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

Are you ready to rescue food? That is the motto of a Dutch restaurant called ‘InStock’. In response to the fact that one third of food production is wasted, they decided to create dishes solely with the unsold products from local supermarkets (1). Although we produce enough food to feed everyone, one in nine people (815 million) still go to bed on an empty stomach. After a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again because of conflict, droughts and disasters.

The Targets: Ending Hunger and Achieving Food Security

The targets underpinning SDG 2 address the access to and production of food, while supporting rural development and protecting the environment. By 2030, all people must have access to safe and nutritious food, and all forms of malnutrition must be ended. Malnutrition can, amongst other things, lead to growth cessation for young children and unborn babies. Furthermore, the agricultural productivity and income of small-scale food producers must be doubled in a sustainable way. Importantly, food production must be able to maintain ecosystems and the diversity of seeds, plants and animals, whilst being resilient to climate changes. Additionally, investments in agricultural should be strengthened, trade restrictions corrected, and extreme food price volatility limited.

The Situation: From Hunger to Health?

If current trends continue, the targets set in SDG 2 will be largely missed by 2030 (2). Malnutrition sits awkwardly with the large amount of food waste and increased levels of overnutrition and obesity. There are large in-country and intra-country differences, most notably between developed and developing countries. In the later, almost 13 percent of the people are undernourished, with peaks in Asia (33 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (23 percent). Alarmingly, poor nutrition is still the case of nearly half of deaths in children under five. To increase food security, governments must top up their spending on small farms, crop diversity and women’s access to agricultural resources.

 

The food security crisis in Yemen

An occurrence of food insecurity which illustrates the link with conflict and climate change, is Yemen (3). Yemen is ravaged by ongoing levels of conflict between the Yemen Government, backed-up by Saudi-Arabia, and Al Houthi opposition forces. Although the food security crisis in Yemen has been building up since 2004, recently the country has started to receive media attention as the situation was officially classified as a famine. Depreciation of the Yemeni riyal (YER) has resulted in continuously increasing prices of food and fuel, mainly affecting vulnerable parts of the population. The situation has been worsened due to the Tropical Cyclone Luban and the second outbreak of cholera. Of the 29.3 million inhabitants, approximately 17.8 million are food-insecure with 8.4 million severe cases. Without international action, the prognosis is that the crisis will deepen even further…

Universities Creating Partnerships for Zero Hunger

A Conference at the University of Wageningen (4) posed the question: How can we create partnerships that can rid the world of hunger and malnutrition? Insights included that there is a need for a good institutional environment allowing farmers to practice sustainable agriculture. What is more, malnutrition is not only an issue in developing countries. Even though healthy food might be available, it can be affordable to certain communities or there is a lack of knowledge on how to differentiate between unhealthy and healthy options.  Interestingly, Lawrence Haddad, director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, emphasized on making hunger uncomfortable for governments: “hunger and malnutrition are the result of choices about how we use our scarce resources. You can choose to use those resources differently”.

What can you do?

As a consumer, you have great power to increase food security. Use that power! A great initiative that empowers you to contribute to SDG 2, is the Chefs’ Manifesto Action Plan (5). Although targeted at restaurants, their lessons are relevant for everybody:

  • Know your food. Find information, for example on: (a) the ingredients in your products i.e. are these grown with respect for earth and oceans? Are the products seasonal? (b) the supply chain i.e. how many intermediates are there? How fair are workers’ wages? and (c) animal-welfare of diary, meat and fish products i.e. do producers ensure good living conditions?
  • Buy responsible. With the relevant knowledge, use your purchasing power to ensure sustainable production. Try to buy products from local producers through farmers markets, buy less meat and fish, eat seasonal fruit and vegetables and inform about the products at your favourite restaurant or lunch cafe.
  • Nourish yourself, friends and family. Good nutrition starts with yourself! Ensure your meals are nutritious and share this habit with your environment. And whilst you’re at it, plan your meals so there is no need to waste.

References:

  1. Do you want to know more about this concept? Please visit their website here.
  2. If you want to read more about progress towards SDG 2, you can visit the UN website here or the UNSTAT website here.
  3. To get an overview of the humanitarian and food crisis in Yemen, I used the fact sheet of USAID, which you can read here.
  4. Luckily for you, the whole conference is captured by video and available here.
  5. You can read more on the chef’s manifesto here.

King’s Sustainability Awards 2018

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

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 sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Thank you for a successful Reduce Waste Week

Well, what a week. We in the Sustainability Team had a raucous time shouting about waste as part of our Reduce Waste Week. Our aim was to reach out to the idle public and hit them with games, workshops and community events to engage, shock, and enlighten them to the growing waste problem and the need to REDUCE the amount we create in our everyday lives. Waste is a choice and not a given so we armed ourselves with facts, ideas and a giant raspberry costume and delved headfirst into the King’s community.

Our first event was a workshop on making your own toiletries. This DIY Lush event was fabulous with Sophia concocting a dreamy coconut and coffee grounds face scrub and a pure peppermint and bicarb toothpaste. All made with natural ingredients and in re-usable pots so we can say goodbye to Colgate and toothpaste tubes!

Our second event was the incredible Disco Soup. What is a Disco Soup you might ask? Well, we make soup – to Disco music! We hooked up with Plan Zheroes to scour Borough Market for food that was going to be thrown away by street vendors and collect it for donation. We then scurried back to set up shop in The Shed and had student volunteers prepare the veg while the marvellous SU chef cooked up a carrot soup, mushroom soup and coleslaw. We also manage to get our hands on two bins bags of artisan bread which usually sells at £4 a pop! It’s incredible the amount of food is thrown away – 25% of all farmed food is thrown away!!

Interspersed with these events we had pop-ups where we highlighted the issue of single-use items and how, if they’re not recycled or re-used, can stay in the environment for hundreds if not millions of years!!

In between all of this we were dressing up as fruit and pratting around, having a good time raising awareness about waste and how the only real way to solve the waste problem is to not create it in the first place.

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