Category: Food (page 2 of 2)

King’s is now a Fairtrade University

The Fairtrade Foundation has awarded King’s College London with Fairtrade University status. A Fairtrade University is one that has made a commitment to supporting and using Fairtrade.Fairtrade University FINAL CMYK.edit

The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, and means that a product meets the social, economic and environmental standards set by the Fairtrade Foundation.  For farmers and workers, this includes the protection of workers’ rights and the environment; for companies it includes paying the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in projects of the community’s choice.

Over the last year, King’s and KCLSU have worked together to make King’s a Fairtrade University. A joint Fairtrade policy has been signed, committing the university and students’ union to supporting Fairtrade by providing Fairtrade products on campus and engaging students and staff in Fairtrade campaigns. Both King’s and KCLSU already sell a range of Fairtrade products on campus, including tea and coffee, chocolate, fruit and graduation t-shirts and hoodies. As well as making Fairtrade products widely and easily available to the university community, promoting the positive impact buying Fairtrade can have on lives across the world is a key part of being a Fairtrade University. During Fairtrade Fortnight in early March, Fairtrade was promoted through posters and special offers from King’s Food. Some Sustainability Champions teams got involved by organising their own initiatives, such as Fairtrade wine & chocolate tastings for their teams.

To ensure the improvement of not only Fairtrade, but the sustainability of all food at King’s, a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group meets regularly to discuss these topics. The group is open to all, and if you are interested in finding out more please contact us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

The Fairtrade University award ties in with wider efforts to make food at King’s more sustainable. Earlier this year, King’s Food joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association and signed up to their Food Made Good programme, committing to sustainable sourcing and practices, as well as ethical standards.

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

It’s Coffee Week!

This week is UK Coffee Week, so we are taking the chance to talk about some of the great sustainability things happening in the coffee world. The industry often gets bad press, with environmentally damaging and exploitative farming methods, and often wasteful habits at the consumption end (disposable coffee cups, anyone?).

Luckily, there are now many initiatives trying to improve this image, and make the industry more sustainable. Last weekend I visited the London Coffee Festival, and picked up a few interesting things:

UK Coffee Week:

Rather than just an excuse to drink lots of coffee (not that we need an excuse for that…), this is a week-long fundraising campaign by coffee shops all over the country. Participating coffee shops raise money for Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water to coffee-growing communities. Coffee is water-intensive to grow, but those growing it often have little access to clean water and sanitation. So far, the project has raised £600,000 and provided clean drinking water to over 24,000 people. Find out more about coffee shops taking part on this map.

Fairtrade and more:

Coffee production is often exploitative and environmentally damaging, but it seems both coffee shops and customers are looking for ways to change this. Among the many coffee shops selling Fairtrade coffee, there are a few that have set up their own, direct trading schemes. As part of the festival, Union Coffee delivered a talk on how they make sure their coffee is from sustainable sources. This includes working with the same producers over many years, paying a premium on top of Fairtrade prices, and training employees to audit their supply chain. Many see this as a win-win situation: farmers receive a stable income and are able to improve their produce to sell it for higher prices in the future, and buyers have reliable sources and increasingly better products. While this might only work as long as consumers are happy to pay higher prices for premium products, it is certainly an interesting new direction.. Other coffee roasters sourcing their coffee directly from producers are Pact Coffee or Cafédirect.

Ditch the disposable cup

Following a lot of media attention in the last few months, disposable coffee cups were a big topic. Hubbub and Simply Cups took their Square Mile Challenge to the London Coffee Festival, installing three of their iconic yellow cup-bins, as well as smaller bins and posters around the venue. With significant quantities of disposable cups given out during the festival, the bins were in high demand!

As well as using the cup recycling facilities, visitors could hear about alternatives to disposable paper cups. Biodegradable and compostable cups were on show, as well as many reusable coffee cups. If you have been to the cafés on campus, you have probably seen the King’s College London KeepCups on sale. They were represented at the London Coffee Festival, and showed off the impressive number of universities that sell branded reusable cups on campus. With many companies now offering reusable cups in all shapes and sizes, disposable cups will hopefully be a thing of the past!

Social Media card - 1Interested to know what happens at King’s? The Maughan Library is currently taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, which is aiming to recycle 500,000 coffee cups by the end of April. If you are having coffee there, make sure you look out for the special coffee cup bins (and watch this space for future developments on other campuses)! King’s Food also offer a discount on hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup. King’s is also working towards becoming a certified Fairtrade University.

How to deal with food waste: Introducing the Wormery

For most of us, food waste is an everyday reality. Whether it is buying vegetables we can’t quite finish, or cooking too much pasta or rice, it is hard to avoid. At Champion Hill Residence, students have two great alternatives to throwing food waste in the general waste bin – and one of them involves some very interesting ‘pets’.

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Composting bin

In September this year, the Champion Hill team sent out emails to new residents to see if anyone was interested in a food composting project. Since then, 22 kitchens signed up and picked up their food waste caddies – that’s 25% of residents! The composting bin is located in the courtyard of Beech block, and open at the bottom to make it possible for insects to get inside and help the composting process. And it’s not just for food waste: paper and cardboard make composting more efficient – and less smelly.

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The Wormery

But, hidden from sight, there is another way of breaking down food waste: a Wormery. In a wormery, a colony of worms eats through the food waste. While it might not sound nice, worms are highly efficient at dealing with waste, and leave behind useful by-products in the form of fertiliser for plants. The residence’s Sustainability Champion Holly found out about wormeries while researching food composting, and loved the idea. At the moment, the Champion Hill wormery is home to around 480 red tiger worms – a number that is expected to increase rapidly once the worms start breeding in the warmer months.

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The healthy worm diet

They eat most things we eat: vegetables and fruit, peelings, bread, cake, and even pizza. To make sure they get a healthy diet, the team has placed a ‘worm menu’ next to the wormery (see picture). How quickly food waste is composted depends on the temperature: At the moment, worm activity is lower due to the cold, but activity and composting is expected to speed up when it gets warmer. And it turns out worms are not very demanding pets. Even though you do need to add a handful of lime mix every couple of weeks to prevent acid build-up (and to help the worms’ digestion!), once worms are fed they can be left alone for a few weeks.

The container is sealed, and liquid can be taken out through a tap at the bottom, which prevents the nasty smells we often associate with composting bins. This liquid is also rich in nutrients. Diluted, it can be sprayed onto plants as fertiliser.

And much like in conventional composting bins, the solid material worms leave behind can also be used to fertilise plants. Both the composting bin and wormery are relatively new, but once the fertiliser from both of them is ready in the spring/summer, the Champion Hill team plans to make the most of it.

Inside the wormery - no worms visible due to cold weather

Inside the wormery – no worms visible due to cold weather

One idea is to set up a herb garden in the residence, making the space more interesting for students, as well as adding to the biodiversity of the courtyard. If you have been at Champion Hill recently, you will have seen the early stages of this project. As a university, we are constantly working on improving our environmental footprint. Efforts such as the food composting projects by the Sustainability Champion Holly and the rest of the Champion Hill team are an excellent example of how this can be achieved through new and sometimes unusual ideas.

Resident at Champion Hill and want to compost food waste? Make sure you know what you can and cannot dispose of at Champion Hill by contacting the residence team. The composting bin is located in the courtyard of Beech block. The wormery is not directly open to students to make sure the worms get the correct diet, but food waste from participating kitchens is taken there by staff.

#WorldFoodDay2016

World Food Day Blog Post Banner - Wendela SvdL

One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in destructive weather events, such as floods and hurricanes.

At the same time, the global population is growing steadily at a rate of 1.13% per year (this is currently estimated to be an average change of 80 million people per year!). Global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. There is a constant increase in the number of mouths to feed and the world’s resources are struggling to meet such a heavy demand.

According to the World Bank, the number of impoverished people will grow from the current 702 million to around a billion by 2030. Out of this increase, 100 million will become poor solely because of food price increases caused by climatic change. Agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions.

Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

This is why this year’s global message for World Food Day 2016 is:World Food Day Theme - Wendela SvdL

World Food Day Blog Post - Wendela SvdLAt the UN Sustainable Development summit in September 2015, 193 countries pledged to end hunger in the next 15 years. With unprecedented speed and breakthroughs such as the US and China’s ratification, the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change is set to enter into force. This also entails the global goal for achieving zero hunger by 2030 – an ambitious goal and one that cannot be reached without addressing climate change.

Our collective task is now to turn commitments into action on the ground. Everyone has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change; even individuals such as yourself – staff and students at King’s – can make a difference. We shouldn’t be waiting around for countries to act but

start living by the change we want to see in the world.

Here are a number of easy actions that you can take to help improve the shocking reality of our consumption behaviour (source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

Number 1 - Wendela SvdL

Did you know livestock contributes to nearly two thirds of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 78% of agricultural methane emissions? By being a conscientious and ethical consumer and changing simple day-to-day habits such as your meat consumption, little effort on your part can have an impact on a larger scale! Start by trying to eat one all-veggie meal (including pulses like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas) instead of one meat meal a week. Way more natural resources are used to produce the meat on the supermarket shelves than plants or pulses, especially water! Millions of acres of rainforest are also slashed and burned to create grass pastures for livestock, so that we can eat a burger… Say no to your weekly steak and discover some new meals that might surprise you!

Number 2 - Wendela SvdL

Over 1/3 of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. That equates to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. All this food waste causes methane to be emitted during the rotting process, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide! Whenever you have leftovers, don’t throw them away! Ask for a doggy bag and bring last night’s dinner for lunch into work/lectures. In supermarkets, pick the ugly fruit and vegetables that might otherwise go to waste, if you are using it that same day. Funny fruit and veg are often thrown away because they don’t meet cosmetic standards, but in fact, they taste the same! There are also some great ways to share your food with others who may be hungry. OLIO is an app that allows you to connect with people who may have a surplus of something and allows you to share your surplus with (other) hungry students.

Number 3 - Wendela SvdLDeforestation and forest degradation account for an estimated 10-11% of global GHG emissions. In the digital age that we live in, there is no need for King’s to be printing as much as it does. Collect scrap paper and use it for drawing and notes. At the start of the new academic year, shop for notebooks made out of recycled paper! When you buy paper – printer paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. – make sure they are forest-friendly and try to buy furniture that is made from sustainably sourced timber. Little things like that can reduce our environmental footprint and make a big difference.

For more tips on what you can do to improve food security in the future, check out the U.N.’s pages on World Food Day, 2016! Enjoy some meat-free meals and have a great weekend!

Welcome back – a new year and new term

Welcome back to students and staff – we hope you have had a happy and sustainable holidays!

We are pleased to share with you that King’s reduced our electricity consumption by 43 per cent and gas by 24 per cent compared to normal December usage. The Sustainability Team would like to thank you for all reducing our electricity and gas consumption over the winter break. This resulted in savings of £73,000 and 338 tonnes of CO2. We managed to improve by 24 per cent against the winter break of 2012/13. This is a fantastic achievement but there is still room for improvement.

University-wide efforts are helping us to achieve our energy and carbon reduction targets. Shutting down unnecessary items, including lab equipment, lighting and PCs wherever possible led to this result. This builds on the success of the Blackout project in late 2014. This year we will be aiming to achieve similar savings every holiday, weekend and evening when non-essential equipment, such as lights and computers, are not needed.

Looking forward to the term ahead we have a jam-packed schedule. The Sustainability Champions project is set to officially launch next week, swiftly followed by Green Week, and Fairtrade fortnight. We are looking for enthusiastic people who would like to be involved at driving sustainability at King’s and helping with any of the former mentioned projects.

Fairtrade fortnight is especially important; we will be celebrating 20 years of Fairtrade, King’s is aiming to gain accreditation for being a Fairtrade university. The fortnight will be focusing on core commodities – cocoa, sugar and tea. This is the chance to take action to ensure marginalised farmers around the world have decent working conditions and are paid a fair price for their produce. Watch this space for the full Fairtrade fortnight schedule.

News, stories & interesting bits

Upcoming events

How did you spend World Water Day this year?

The 22nd of March was World Water Day. A day set aside to specifically remember and celebrate what we often take for granted. There is something magical about water. We’ve all experienced the powerful presence of water at some point in our lives. Perhaps through a beach vacation beside turquoise waters or a quick dip in the pool, a relaxing time by a serene lake, watching raindrops on roses or perhaps when we were kids splashing around in a paddling pool or a river. Water can evoke so many emotions. Can you think of what is your favourite memory of water?

Water is intrinsically connected to everything we do whether we are aware of it or not. From our cuppa in the morning to a long soak in a hot bath on weary days, from the things we choose to put on our plates to the objects we use everyday, a LOOOOOOOOOT of water goes into making all of that possible. The term used for the water that is embedded in all these things is called ‘Virtual Water’. You’d be proud to know (in case you didn’t already know) that the concept of virtual water was discovered by our very own Professor Tony Allan. Virtual water has taken the world by storm. Building on this concept is the notion of water footprints. Scientists have now discovered how much water goes into growing our food or making things. Take a look at the chart below. There is also a cool iPhone app by the Virtual Water Project that you can download from iTunes if you’d like to grow more conscious about how much water our everyday food and beverages really consume.

water-footprint

Source: http://virtualwater.eu

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Try these delicious seasonal recipes for Green Week!

[GUEST BLOG] Selina is Departmental Administrator and Equality Representative for the Department of Pharmacy and the Department of Forensic & Analytical Science. She loves cooking and is working on her own cookbook. Try out her Green Week recipes below!

You may already have heard of Meatless Monday, the campaign to try to get all us of to reduce our reliance on meat by encouraging consumption of at least one vegetable based meal each week. In addition there is also the Love Food Hate Waste campaign to try to get us to think more sensibly about the food we buy to reduce the amount we needlessly throw away. Why not celebrate Green Week at King’s with a 5 day menu of cheap and nutritional meals based on seasonal vegetables, love your leftovers and do your bit to reduce food waste and help the environment?

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Sustainability Forum: Urban farms, food co-ops and crowdfunding

[GUEST BLOG]

Faazi is a geography student at King’s College London. She provides her thoughts below on our second Sustainability Forum on sustainable food production and social entrepreneurship. 

The GrowUp story

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Tom Webster on starting up the GrowUp farm

For our second forum we were lucky to have former King’s student Tom Webster come to talk to us about GrowUp, his sustainable urban farming business. Tom and his business partner Kate use vertical growing techniques and aquaponics to grow salad and vegetables and farm tilapia fish. Vertical growing means that food can be grown with much less space than traditional farming, which is ideal for cities – and also reduces transport emissions. The fish tanks are kept inside the greenhouses that the vegetables are in, so the heat from the tanks also heats the greenhouse. Aquaponics is a farming system where water is kept within a loop: the nutrient-rich water from the fish tanks is used to nourish the plants and is then recirculated to the tanks, so energy and water use are kept to an absolute minimum. Tom and Kate raised the initial costs of £16000 through a Kickstarter campaign, where anyone can donate to your project in return for a small gift once the project is up and running – proof that with a bit of work, anyone can take their ideas to the next level!

Brainstorm on sustainable food at King’s

As a group, we came up with loads of brilliant ideas to make food at King’s more sustainable. There isn’t a big range of healthy food sold in King’s Food outlets, and the labels don’t tell you how the food was produced and where it came from. Switching to sustainable, local suppliers who used seasonal food would reduce the carbon footprint of the food that we consume on campus. There is currently a farmer’s market every Tuesday on Guy’s Campus which sells local food, and it would be fantastic to have something similar on all five campuses.

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How can we make food at King’s more sustainable?

Photo by James Lee on Flickr.

Photo by James Lee on Flickr.

This month’s Sustainability Forum will focus on two themes: sustainable food and social entrepreneurship. We invited Kate Hofman and Tom Webster, founders of the GrowUp urban farm. They used crowd funding to raise more than £16.000 for their social business through a Kickstarter campaign and successfully built a prototype fish and salad farm in a shipping container box near London Bridge, showcasing new techniques for sustainable food production in the city.

Food sustainability at King’s

We hope their story will inspire many students and staff to start up their own food sustainability projects. Similarly, we would like to offer a platform for suggestions and ideas on the food we provide at King’s. This academic year all catering was moved in-house to King’s Food, which allows us to improve on different aspects that impact our ecological footprint. The sustainability team met with King’s Food to see if we can work towards the Soil Association Catering Mark, which is “an independent endorsement that food providers are taking steps to improve the food they serve, using fresh ingredients which are free from undesirable additives and GM, and better for animal welfare” (more info here). Accreditation schemes such as the catering mark are a way to analyse all aspects of food sustainability in our canteens: from choosing where supplies come from to what is on our menus. 

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