Category: Events (page 1 of 7)

Sustainability Week 2020

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 how to ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside students, student societies, staff Sustainability Champions and charities, put on events with the aim to educate and inspire around various topics relating to sustainability (whether that be social, environmental or economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

We had a total of 522 people come to take part in the events throughout the week.

Here is a summary of some of the events we had throughout the week…

GEOGFEST

GeogFest’ was a charity event for King’s staff and students, organised by GeogSoc and the Geography Sustainability Champions to raise money for the International Tree Foundation.

The event took place in the KCLSU bar The Vault on Friday 7th February as an early kick of to Sustainability Week.

There was entertainment from the Worn out Shoes ceilidh band formed by academics from across the Geography department, PhD candidate George Warren and a dance materclass by UG student Pia Fletcher.

There was a live count of the money raised through the night, in total the Geography department raised £243.38 for the ITF, which will be used to help offset the flights from second year Portugal and Morocco fieldwork trips.

 

DIY lip balm & craft your own zero-waste products

Gathered in the KCLSU zero-waste store, Nought, 24 students got together to learn how to make their own zero-waste lip balms (recipe here – made without the honey) and how to crochet their own face scrubbie, instructed by King’s Energy Manager and star crafter, Julie Allen.

During sustainability week, Nought held a competition to win a zero-waste hamper for all those who spent over £10 – so this event was also a chance for the students to stock up on their essentials to be in with a chance to win!

A Green Threaded Corridor

Artist and Goldsmiths University student, Margaret Jennings came to Kings to deliver ‘A Green Threaded Corridor: Tree Art Workshop’. The workshop started with a conversation about our natural environment in the middle of Guy’s campus memorial garden and an insight into Margaret’s background and artwork. This was followed by a silent walk around the gardens, taking notice of the trees and life which surrounds them.

Natural materials from the gardens were gathered and used in the art section of the workshop. The art was inspired by our individual tree stories (e.g. a cherry tree in a grandfathers garden or the grief you feel when a tree is cut down) – the art could be painting, drawing, poems. These were passed around and altered by others – as a comment to nature and its ever evolving state.

The art and poems created in the workshop will form the body of Margaret’s research at Goldsmiths university – alongside other university and community group tree stories.

The event ended with planting a Birch sapling on Guys Campus gifted by Goldsmiths University. This will form part of a tree corridor, as King’s will be mirroring this by gifting an Alder tree to Goldsmiths University.

 

King’s Think Tank: Post-Environmental Regulations Debate

See the blog post below, for an event summary from the Director and Researcher of the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

Vegan Sushi Class

King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society ran a vegan sushi class at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA) café. Over 30 students came to learn how to make their vegan sushi from scratch – how to cook the perfect sushi rice, prepare the vegetables, tofu or tempeh and do the perfect sushi roll.

Circular Economy Workshop with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

On the final day in Sustainability Week, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation came to deliver a workshop on circular economy.

They gave attendees an overview of what the circular economy is, and what businesses and services using circular economy principles may look like. As it was Valentine’s Day, they tasked students with coming up with circular economy alternatives to common Valentine’s presents, including re-used cards and potted flowers.

 

 

Sustainability Week Event Review: Environmental Regulations & Policies in a Post-Brexit Era

This guest blog comes from Mathilde Funck Brentano and Irina Tabacaru who are the Director and Researcher at the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTRE), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.

The Energy & Environment policy centre began the event with an audience-directed poll, featuring the question: ‘Do you think the UK should move forward with stricter environmental regulation after Brexit?’. After some time to reflect, the majority responded in favour of stricter regulation.

Following the survey, the panel began by discussing whether the UK should uphold European environmental standards after Brexit. While the speakers displayed little confidence in the ability of the current UK government to expand environmental regulations, all three argued in favour of furthering the existing policies. Drawing from his experience as a specialist advisor in the drafting of environmental legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, Professor Lee highlighted the importance of compromise in reaching higher-level objectives in environmental regulations. In order to enable effective policies to be successful, the accessibility of environmental regulations ought to be improved. The discussion also mentioned the importance of changes in consumption habits to match governmental policies. Mr. Bartha expressed optimism regarding the United Kingdom’s prospects after Brexit. As he noted, one of the European Union’s main weaknesses is its bureaucratic aspect, and the fact that European policies are not implemented by all member states evenly. For example, member states in Eastern Europe respond differently to environmental policies than those in Northern or Western Europe. The United Kingdom now has the possibility to expand sustainability-related regulations more freely across its territory, and avoid the European Union’s precautionary principles in the drafting of legislation, as well as the excessive allowances of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Conversely, Mr Ainslie underlined the apparent lack of ambition demonstrated by the British government in regard to green policies, particularly when compared to European targets. The speakers also discussed the necessity of a kerosene tax, given the considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by air transport.

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The discussion continued around the themes of Energy and Air Pollution. There was considerable disagreement between the speakers regarding the use and safety of shale gas as a potential alternative energy resource for the UK. The speakers’ views also diverged on the possibility of the UK reaching one hundred percent renewable energy use in the near future. Professor Lee also mentioned the importance of the UK finding its position concerning access to EU energy and, more importantly, pan-EU energy sources.

Our speakers expect that air quality standards will be upheld in the United Kingdom, despite its departure from the European Union. The British government has been tried several times by the European Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality standards. There is considerable public awareness on the topic, with approximately 28,000 to 36,000 pollution-related deaths in the UK every year. The necessity of tight cooperation between Westminster and local governmental bodies was put forth, as well as the urgent need for further enforcement.

Following the panelists’ discussion, the floor was opened to questions. The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion and interacted with the three panelists, raising a variety of issues, including the possibility of an EU-level meat tax. A captivating debate occurred regarding the theme of individual responsibility for climate change, as opposed to corporate and governmental responsibility. The high costs of sustainable and organic products, which represent a true burden for the average consumer, were extensively considered. The topic of waste management was also raised, following China’s decision to close its borders to foreign waste. Our panelists disagreed regarding the existence of the concept of ‘cyclical economy’, especially with reference to vehicles’ lithium ion batteries.

We would like to thank our three speakers for participating and sharing their thought-provoking insights with us. We would also like to thank the King’s Sustainability Team and KCLSU for their support in organizing our panel event. A big thank you also goes to our audience for being incredibly dynamic and engaged in the discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to King’s Think Tank events in the future!

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #3

This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019.  This blog comes last in a series of three blog posts from Isabella. 

Sustainability in Estates & Facilities

Student Accommodation / Residences

King’s Food

King’s Sport

King’s Venues

Fit for King’s

Asset Improvement & Space planning

Evaluation

  • The United Nations state that good health is essential to sustainable development, and thus, King’s highly encourages healthy living and well-being. SDG 3 is the most popular within the department and maps across almost every division. 
  • SDG 8 focuses on energy productivity. Given the number of computers, projectors and TVs across the university campuses it is vital that the Estates & Facilities department minimises the amount of energy consumed. 
  • Income equality affects staff and students as it may prevent them from pursuing opportunities. SDG 10 states empowering lower income earners is vital, and Kings are taking many approaches to work on this. In some areas, for example, the Estates & Facilities department gives discounted rates to those with lower income. 
  • An SDG also commonly shared across the department is SDG 11. To face the rapid growth of cities and increasing rural to urban migration, it is vital to focus on sustainable development. As Estates and Facilities manage the venues, residences and space planning in the university this SDG addresses this department most than the others at King’s. 
  • SDG 12 is also implemented in almost every division. Aside from meeting the social responsibility and service targets, King’s also focuses on environmental aspects. It is important that we reduce our ecological footprint by adjusting our consumption and production methods. This goal is being achieved in the way King’s manages the world’s shared natural resources and disposes of toxic waste and pollutants.
    SDG 13 is also quite similar to 12. In managing our consumption and production methods, the human impact on climate change is reduced. 
  • King’s is ranked as the world’s 14th most international university with over 40% of students being from outside the UK. The university focuses on establishing an inclusive community where students from abroad feel they are welcomed. This maps out SDG 16 which encourages peace and unity. 
  • SDG 17 explains that the SDGs can only be realized with strong partnership and cooperation. To achieve this on a global scale we must begin locally. The Estates & Facilities department does so by raising awareness of sustainability and service to staff and students.

8 tips for a sustainable christmas by Giki

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

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

Avoid unsustainable palm oil

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

Try organic food

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

Cut down on waste

This is great for the wallet and the environment. Food waste is responsible for up to 3% of our total environmental impact, or 16% of our food footprint[1]. So planning can help, and if you are still stuck with too many leftovers, put them on Olio. It’s a great way to make sure your food doesn’t go to waste, because plenty of other people might be keen to have it.

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

Streamline your food packaging

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

Get arty with your wrapping paper

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

 

Go for a family secret santa

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

Give the gift of experience

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

 

Keep your feet on the ground

Flying significantly increases your carbon footprint. Flying economy class to Cape Town, or the Dominican Republic emits over 3 tonnes of CO2 – which is the same amount emitted by felling 4 acres of rainforest. A lower carbon option is to enjoy our UK Christmas  traditions, or try the train to Europe.With over 2/3 of Brits now thinking about buying a present that has a positive social or environmental focus this year, 2019 is definitely a year of environmental awakening.

Thames Litter Pick

Each year, 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is added to our oceans – 250kg every second. To help solve this problem, King’s is committed to fighting single-use plastics.

King’s Sustainability Team and ResiLife’s Sustainable Living Communities will be teaming up with Bywaters on Friday 25 October to remove rubbish from the bankside of the River Thames. Link to register to the event, here.

By removing plastics (and other waste) from the Thames, our students and staff will play their part in preventing more waste from ending up in the ocean, and also help keep one of Britain’s most popular spaces sustainable for future visitors.

All of the waste we collect through the litter pick will then sorted for recycling at Bywaters’ state-of-the-art Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), with the resulting segregated waste being sent to specialist recycling plants across the UK.

Educating students on issues like this is important to King’s and it is the reason why, alongside providing the most sustainable waste management services possible, we’ve created a ResiLife initiative that focuses on a different Sustainable Development Goal every month.

This month (October 2019) is SDG6: Clean Water! We have been raising awareness of residents’ water use, thinking about how each of us can reduce the amount of single-use plastics that end up in our waterways, as well as giving away re-usable bottles, canvas bags, and other sustainable alternatives.

The aim of this initiative is to change perspectives – encouraging students to think about the importance of water in their lives and increase water-use efficiency, with the hope of protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems for present and future generations.

King’s staff and students joined the global climate strike

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Sustainability Awards 2019

Sustainability at King’s over the last year has seen major progress, and on the 19th July, we celebrated the efforts and achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in helping to make King’s a more sustainable university this past year.

The annual ceremony took place on the 8th floor terrace in Bush House. We celebrated the commitment and passion of the 327 Sustainability Champions who have carried out 2,762 sustainability actions, nearly 812 more than the previous year.

Sustainability Champions 2019

62 Sustainability Champions Teams were awarded: 25 Bronze, 9 Silver and 29 Gold Awards. (In the table, yellow shows office teams, green are residence teams and blue indicates lab teams).

We also celebrated staff, students and groups in the Special Awards category, for members across the university who have achieved particular success in embedding sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.

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 champions for being the ones to motivate others and to stand up and make a difference to the environment and local communities around King’s. ‘Service’ is a large part of sustainability at King’s. The term was adopted at King’s in July 2018 in the Service Strategy, forming part of the Strategic Vision 2029 to emphasise King’s’ commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. Professor Grant praised the champions and their actions which are integral to this strategy over the past year (for example:

  • Geography labs have been making their own air quality monitors and are working with SMSS to go into local schools to build and walk around their local area to map clean air routes and devise clean air walking route for pupils and their parents/guardians.
  • Maughan library champions planted 202 trees in the Maughan library garden as part of the Mayors London Tree Planting Weekend (1 & 2 December).
  • King’s Policy Institute sustainability champion, Rebecca Brown, established the first Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA) conference in March.
  • King’s Food & Venues promoted and carried out a beach clean on the banks of the Thames – copious of cable ties and fish soy sauce packets were found!
  • Science Gallery London grafted cacti in their ‘SPARE PARTS’ exhibition – the remaining cacti have now been donated to KCLSU to find a new home in the student common area!

Sustainability with our students

As part of the event we celebrated our students who’ve been involved with a ‘Sustainability Showcase’. Lizzie Ayles, Climate Change MSc student spoke on her passion to combat the climate crisis and why the champions programme is important to her and her involvement in the programme in the student auditing opportunity which takes place each May. Morgan Larimer, Events Officer in the newly established King’s Energy Co-op spoke on why the co-op was formed and their plan of action to help King’s reach it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. You can join the energy co-op by contacting them via email or on Facebook.

National Sustainability Awards

This year, one of the King’s champions teams: Social Mobility & Student Success, found out that they had been nominated as finalists at the national Green Gown Awards. This year, we now have 3 finalists at the Green Gown Awards, including Social Mobility & Student Success champion team, the Sustainability Report and the recently opened Vegan Café in Bush House.

THANK YOU!

Thank you 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:

  • 37% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2018), keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by 2020.
  • Improving waste recycling rates to an overall recycling rate of 62%
  • 26 events held by staff and students champions in Sustainability Week
  • Growth in champions teams was 35% and the number of champions grew by 44%
  • King’s ranked 5th in the world for social impact in THE rankings.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Why we went green for our Service Day

This guest blog comes courtesy of Erk Gunce, PA to King’s Chief of Staff and Team Administrator in the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) department.

As the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) team, we are proud to report that, we did it! We broke free from our daily routines and went into nature. No, we are not stuck to our desks and no, we are not addicted to our screens. We did leave the office and we did have fun – and I personally ensured that nobody was checking their emails on their phone!

A few weeks ago, 30 colleagues from the SPA team took a day out of work to volunteer for a local charity. We were able to take a day off, thanks to the Service Time policy. As part of this scheme, all King’s staff can spend one day per year volunteering for another organisation. We chose to support the environmental preservation work of Groundwork London, and took the opportunity to get to know our team members better. Groundwork set us a variety of tasks over the day. These included designing and building a hibernaculum – a protective refuge for reptiles and insects. Hibernacula (pause for applause), allow insects to seek refuge from temperature changes, especially over the winter for protection against the cold. We also made use of loose wood from coppiced willow trees to create hedging, used as a fence to mark the outer barriers of a natural space, instead of relying on non-natural fencing material.

Building a hibernaculum for small mammals, insects and reptiles in the winter (above, left), finished hiberanculum (above, right)! 

Coppicing wild willow trees (above, left) and turning branches into a natural hedge (above, right)! 

Why did we do this?

Because, sustainability!

This opportunity allowed us to do our bit by giving back to nature. It was very heart-warming to see our team addressing their previously non-green habits: colleagues traveled in using their bikes, no disposable cups were used and we made sure we recycled the leftovers from our lunch.

Because, Service!

In line with King’s Vision 2029 ‘to make the world a better place’, this was a fantastic opportunity to give back to nature by building shelters for vulnerable creatures and making use of natural items to build natural fencing. Through taking a day out to support a charity, we also made clear our dedication to support non-profit organisations with their environmental efforts.

Because, team building and wellbeing!

Another crucial aspect of our day off was our commitment to improve the morale of our team and make everyone feel valued. The digital era can easily distract us from the beauties of nature. Encouraging our colleagues to spend a day immersed in a green space was an opportunity to boost their wellbeing. One of the challenges of being a large team is that staff might not know all their colleagues, or they may be mere acquaintances. After the event, staff commented that they had met new faces, got to know their colleagues better and enjoyed learning about each other’s personal hobbies and interests. Hence, it really wasn’t just about environmental support but equally a community building opportunity.

‘The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve done in ages. A brilliant combination of team building, physical exercise, a deeply gratifying sense of achievement and the feel-good high of helping to preserve and enhance urban habitation for native birds and animals’.  – Scott Davison, SPA staff member

Here’s to hoping for more Service days – for our communities, for our staff and for a better world.

Want to use your Service Time to volunteer for a charitable cause? Get in touch with service@kcl.ac.uk for advice.

Green wall unveiled at Orchard Lisle & Iris Brook

The living wall is a pioneering project designed to filter air at the campus and enhance biodiversity. It contains 73 native and non-native species, and the plants have been carefully curated to provide year-round biodiversity impact. This includes 30 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) approved flowering species and 18 RHS approved pollinating species, which are proven to support an increased insect population. The wall is also designed to improve air quality, with variations in plant size allowing for air movement to pass through the foliage, which acts as an urban air filter. Plants with hairy, waxy or sticky leaves trap particulates like PM10 and PM2.5 and hold them until they are washed away by rain. The appearance of the wall is likely to change throughout the year, with different plants flowering, and species naturally evolving around the wall.

These are some of the plants you can spot on the wall: lavender, rosemary, holly, strawberry trees, sage, wildflowers, honeysuckle and sword ferns. The living wall is also home to several bird boxes, insect boxes, and even a bat box.

Rainwater from the rooftop will be collected and circulated through the wall to irrigate the plants, and the fyto-textile system that holds the plants allows the water to be distributed evenly through the living wall.

The living wall was funded through the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Business Fund, which has awarded £200,000 to create a Business Low Emissions Neighbourhood in the London Bridge area. The initiative is led by Team London Bridge and Better Bankside, and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, who own Orchard Lisle, will support the upkeep of the living wall.

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

A winning idea – How to make fashion more sustainable

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

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

What inspired you to take part in Policy Idol?

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

What is the Environmental Cost Labelling System?

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

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

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

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

Why is fashion so important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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