To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.
If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):
King’s has a target to reduce it’s carbon by 43% by 2020 (from it’s 2005/06 baseline).
King’s has a net-zero carbon target set for 2025.
As of August 2020, a King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) has been established so students and staff can actively shape how King’s will achieve it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. Form to join the network here.
Since 2017, King’s electricity has come from 100% certified renewable sources (wind power!).
The Sustainability Champions programme aims to influence behaviour change and empower our King’s students and staff to make the sustainable changes on the ground in their areas (whether that is an office, a classroom, research or teaching lab or a halls of residence). We started the programme in 2014 – starting with 17 champions, there are now 532 students and staff taking part.
You can apply to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (role will be advertised on KCLSU volunteer platform – end of October/early November) – to help a staff champions team embed sustainability in their area and create projects you want to see introduced!
King’s has increased it’s recycling rate from 37% to 69% in 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown).
King’s Sustainability has now produced 3 Sustainability Reports – see them here for a more detailed look at how far we’ve come – but also where we still need to get to!
As part of the King’s Sustainable Food journey, you can attend the quarterly Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Steering Group meetings – to hear about what is going on in the world of sustainable food at King’s and suggest any ideas or projects you want to start.
Worked with King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) to establish a Sustainability team in the Union Development Committee – a group of 9 students, democratically elected each academmic year to improve the sustainability of the SU.
Created a Biodiversity Action Plan for all four campuses and sports grounds.
Sustainable communications – since Sept’ 2018, we have had 31 guest blogs written and published King’s students and staff on the Sustainability blog.
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.
On the 14th and 15th May 28 students audited the 35 office and residence sustainability champion teams across King’s.
The student auditors received IEMA approved sustainability training, delivered by a representative from the National Union of Students (NUS) in the morning, before taking a break for a working lunch. In this, students assessed the work the staff champions had done within their workbooks. These workbooks contain various actions covering several sustainable areas, including: waste, energy, health & wellbeing, biodiversity and service to the community.
Snapshot of the Procurement actions within the Silver Workbook
The teams need to complete 18/23 to achieve their Bronze, 23/28 for their Silver and have an up to date Gold project plan covering 1-3 years to obtain their Gold.
After lunch, students paired up and went out to audit two champions teams each. Students went through each completed action with their teams, identifying positive progress the team had made over the year and identifying any areas for improvement to take forward onto the next 19/20 champions year. After the audits, all students returned to the training room to feedback their findings and established which award level their teams should archive for this 2018-19 champions year.
Wonderfully, all 40 office and residence achieved their projected award level achieving a total of:
One student pair commented on the auditing process and champions work, saying: “We were really impressed by the changes they have implemented across the team, and how everyone has shown a true change in behaviour. The team have been able to encourage all employees to adopt a sustainable working environment. They have taken initiative on many occasions and their drive to achieve accreditation for their work is fantastic.” Another student commented that she “was impressed to see how passionate people were! Sustainability Champions helps King’s to go in the right direction and have a significant impact.”
This volunteer opportunity presented an opportunity for students to develop skills which is looks great on a graduate CV, including leadership and analytic skills. In addition, this opportunity allowed students to learn more about Sustainability at King’s and the efforts that go into this behind closed doors.
Student Auditors on 14 May 2019 Training Session
All staff champions will receive their Bronze, Silver or Gold sustainability awards at the annual Sustainability Award celebration in July. Staff will be joined in the company of the student auditors and their student champion assistants, as well as supporting sustainable groups and societies who have all helped to make King’s more sustainable over the past year.
2017-18 Sustainability Champions at the Award Ceremony last summer (2018)
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!
More convenient, as it’s delivered to your home and much, much slower to run out
Cheaper per litre
Fewer plastic bottles thrown away
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
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!
This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.
Month 3: December & Christmas
Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.
Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?
Verdict: Definitely easy and fun
Month 4: January & Food
Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.
Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
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:
What is easy?
What is high impact?
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 Thinxin 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 tipof 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!
Over a month ago King’s Venues met Buses 4 Homeless CIC at The HBAA annual dinner. Dan Atkins touched our hearts with his passion on his mission to provide a low cost holistic solution to homelessness by creating beds, providing food and learning in decommissioned buses. The Buses4Homeless mission is to provide 14,600 nights sleep a year, in the warmth of the converted double decker buses.
The buses will be refurbished to create sleeping , dining and learning areas. (Image: Buses4homeless website)
As part of the King’s Service Strategy, all King’s Staff get a day off dedicated to Service. As part of this, King’s Venues team took on the task to help Buses4Homeless to transform four buses donated by Stagecoach, which were left stationary in bus depots without use for several years, and would have eventually been scrapped.
The Buses4homeless mission is to help those affected overcome the issues which led to them being homeless. The aim is to help develop skills and get into apprenticeships and training and eventually into work. The buses will take 40 people at a time, helping build stability and a sense of community.
Strategy of Buses4homeless (Image: Buses4homelss website)
King’s Venues & Food team helping at Buses4homeless!
It was a great day of service with the team delivering 4 volunteering days to the charity. For more information about Buses4Homeless, please take a look on their website http://buses4homeless.org.
This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!
I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.
This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.
Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.
Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.
We were told that most food waste
recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable
bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch
and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops
everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than
plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look
closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and
how easy it is to sift it out.
Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).
The food waste is now ready for a
long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the
luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first
and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one
of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.
Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.
You will notice that all the
tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process
collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold
back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to
4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem
with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the
You can see the large motors on
the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make
sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at
body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and
heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.
The two long implements you can
see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the
tank look like.
It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.
The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.
And this is the story of what
happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!
If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.
The only thing I would strongly
suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is
overpowering and it lingers on clothes.
I can’t even describe it. 🤢
Jane Picciano, Sustainability
Champion Gold, Maughan Library
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.
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!
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.
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 Soulis 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This week, the King’s Widening Participation team taste-tested a range of plant-based milks during a team breakfast. Their line-up included ‘milks’ like coconut milk and hazelnut milk, and staff tried them in their cereal, coffee and tea.
And the winner for the best taste was…
Hazelnut milk !
While all plant milks got good reviews from the team, hazelnut milk was the runaway favourite, especially in coffee.
If this has made you want to try a plant milk in your coffee this weekend, the great news is that these ‘milks’ are not only tasty, but they also save carbon emissions and water. Happy tasting!