Category: Guest blogs (page 1 of 4)

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.

SDG 6: Water – The glass is half empty and half polluted.

This guest blog comes fifth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

Can you still recall the ‘beast from the east’? Last year, London was ravaged by snowstorms and temperatures dropping far below zero. Thames Water was unprepared which resulted in burst water pipes in the South West. My apartment was cut off from water for almost a week. This week I realized how dependent we are off water. I couldn’t shower, do the dishes, cook, clean, drink tap water or go to the toilets anymore. Globally, water scarcity is an enormous issue. This month I will zoom in on SDG 6: clean water and sanitation.

SDG 6: Access to clean water and sanitation

Clean drinking water and adequate sanitation are essential to survive and live a dignified life. In 2010 the UN, therefore, decided to include water as a human right (1). Clean water is not guaranteed: 2.4 billion people don’t have access to sanitation and 1.8 billion people use polluted water. Water scarcity affects over 40 per cent of the global population. Due to climate change and population growth, this number is expected to rise even further (2). Inadequate water facilitates have big health consequences. They lead to poor hygiene, which causes various diseases. Every day, 800 children still die from diseases caused by poor sanitation. This is unnecessary.

The targets: Access, quality and efficiency.

The targets focus on the necessity of clean water in our everyday lives and the treatment of global water resources (3). Foremost, there needs to be universal access to safe, equitable and affordable drinking water and sanitation. This includes ending open defecation in order to avoid breed places for bacteria, which disproportionally affects the health of women and girls. Furthermore, water quality must be improved by reducing (chemical) pollution and safely reusing wastewater. All sectors need to increase water-usage efficiency and states need to implement integrated water resources management and protect water-related ecosystems, such as wetlands, rivers, and lakes. This can only be achieved through international cooperation and strengthening the participation of local communities.

UN water study: Find solutions within nature.

In 2018 the UN released a study on Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), which refers to finding solution to water scarcity that are inspired and supported by nature. As such, they aim to exploit opportunities that harness natural processes (green infrastructures) which regulate various elements of the water cycle. An example of an NBS that helps manage water availability is the creation of urban wetlands in order to reintroduce used water into the ecosystem. Another example is the creation of underground water reservoirs that can be used during droughts (4). Despite their enormous potential, NBS unfortunately only encompass one per cent of the total investments in water management.

Measuring water pollution on your smartphone.

Through the European partnership ‘MONOCLE’ researchers strive to use earth observation and data to monitor water quality (5). Participants are currently developing low-cost optical sensors, methods and technologies to support water quality monitoring by regional and national agencies. In addition, they explore the role that local volunteers can play in collecting environmental data. The idea is that by tapping into people’s own devices, citizens can provide much needed data. One project, which is led by my former university in Leiden, is ‘iSpex’. Through a mass producible add-on for smartphones with a corresponding app, volunteers will hopefully be able to monitor air and water quality properties in the future.

SDGs: Water, poverty and woodlands.

The SDGs are highly interconnected and can’t be seen separately. Water is essential for achieving any other SDG. As such, clean water is a requisite for health, gender equality, food production, energy supply, economic growth, biodiversity and tackling climate change. Water shortage and poor hygiene disproportionally affects vulnerable societies. Regions that battle with poverty, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, are characterised by long periods of drought (6). This directly impacts the quality of their land: water shortage and pollution destroy ecosystems. As a result, regions end up in a vicious circle: a. poor countries are often dependent on agricultural, b. land degradation destroys fertile soil making land unusable for agricultural, c. this process is accelerated by water shortages.

Reduce your water consumption!

Every day, we consume huge amounts of water, both directly and indirectly. On average, one person uses 121 litres of water per day: 6 litres per toilet visit and 10 litres per minute spent under the shower. In addition, the production of our food and products requires larges amount of water: 2,400 litres of water are needed to produce one hamburger and 11,000 litres to produce a pair of jeans. You can contribute to achieving SDG 6 by:

  • Changing your behaviour regarding water consumption. For example, close the tap while brushing your teeth; use a bowl when doing the dishes; flush the toilet only once; and spend a minute less under the shower.
  • Investing in innovative products that use less water. For example, there is a shower head that can save up to 2 litres of water per minute!
  • Being conscious about water requirements for food and other products. For example, try to eat an extra night of vegan or vegetarian food, or buy a pair of jeans that will last more than one month.
  • Inform yourself! Knowledge is power, so make sure you know your facts. You can, for example, follow a course at Coursera on Water Resources Management and Policy from the University of Geneva or on Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries by the University of Manchester.

Resources

(1) Access to water as a human right: www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml

(2) For more information, read the ‘why it matters’ spreadsheets: www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/6_Why- it-Matters_Sanitation_2p.pdf

(3) For an overview of all the targets: sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

(4) The UN NBS rapport: unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002614/261424e.pdf

(5) Read more about Monocle: monocle-h2020.eu/Citizen_science

(6) A map with global water shortages: www.wri.org/our-work/project/aqueduct/maps-data

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

This week’s guest blog comes fifth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

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

The targets: Gender equality and the position of women

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

The current situation: Numbers versus reality

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

Lacking leadership from the West: The case of the Netherlands

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

The new feminism: I am a nasty woman

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

Abby Wambach and the Wolfpack

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

Step up: Be a champion for gender equality.

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

Notes:

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 3

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

Month 5: February & Finance

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

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

 

Month 6: March & Networks

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

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

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

~

Links and tips

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

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 2

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 one is definitely a journey but there’s so much reward in being thoughtful about food. Some things I’m still working on:
    • Bringing in lunch to work from home consistently
    • Pushing my vegetarianism a bit closer to veganism, which I’ve started by treating cheese as more of a delicious treat than a daily staple
    • Just cooking better food: Anna Jones has been a great help here on seasonal recipes especially!

Verdict: High impact and mostly fun!

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Month 1: October & Commuting

Switching my commute from bus to bike.

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

Verdict: Easy, high impact and fun!

 

Month 2: November & Home

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

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

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

 

To be continued…

Growing Food System Insecurity

This guest blog comes courtesy of Chloe Foster, third year undergraduate student in the War Studies Department and Student Assistant to the Social Science Public Policy (SSPP) Sustainability Champions. 

Climate change is set to impact our lives in a variety of ways, but one particular global system is set to experience drastic consequences. Our current food system is not secure enough to sustain the challenges of the future because of increased extreme weather conditions, decreased biodiversity and increased emissions. A model developed by Anglia Ruskin University found that if ‘do-nothing’ trends continue, by 2040, the global food supply will be facing food epidemics and mass insecurity.  This prediction suggests that SDG 2, Zero Hunger is not as achievable as previously thought. Whilst the aforementioned future challenges are not the whole list, this blog post will explore these main areas impacting global food security.

Extreme Weather Conditions

As the Earth’s temperature has risen, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased. Among others, these events include heat waves, drought and flooding. In autumn of last year, Nigeria faced huge flooding which directly impacted on food security and created shortages of rice. The USA has also experienced extreme weather recently; Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused mass devastation of civilian, commercial and agricultural property. Whilst these natural disasters often pose an immediate threat to human safety, they also threaten crop growth and yields. Climate change is set to reduce harvest yields by 11% on average globally by 2050 and compound the already problematic state of food security. Research conducted by Oxfam found that weather-related shocks have the potential to cause huge spikes in food prices and the average price of staple foods, like cereals, could more than double in the next 20 years.

(Source – Oxfam Issue Briefing, GROWING DISRUPTION, Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger, September 2013)

Upcoming event – A new 30-year record of global wildfire activity from the AVHRR GAC archive

22 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Decreasing Biodiversity

The Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report in February of this year, detailing the increasing loss of biodiversity and its vital role in our food systems. The microorganisms (such as insects, birds and fungi), animals (like hedgehogs) and plants act as fertilisers, pollinators and purifiers of the environment, ensuring the healthy growth of the world around us.  However, changes in the environment have led to biodiversity loss and the increased risk of increased food insecurity. Almost 1/3 of fish stocks are over fished, around 26% of breeds of livestock are at risk of extinction and 24% of wild food species numbers are decreasing.  However, biodiversity-friendly practices are being increasingly using in agriculture and conservation efforts are increasing across the globe. Whilst these efforts will reduce the speed of biodiversity loss, sustainable frameworks should be used more by governments to formalise these attempts. King’s is promoting biodiversity across its campuses. At Guy’s, there are insect houses and bird boxes, at the Strand campus events are often held on the subject and the installation of green walls and greener spaces are being looked into.

Upcoming event – Biodiversity conservation in the 21st century: Lessons from northeastern China

15 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Emissions

The agricultural sector contributes to global warming in many ways. Research by Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, concluded that agriculture (including deforestation needed to create farmland) is responsible for roughly a 1/3 of global greenhouse gasses. The production of meat and dairy produce 51% of worldwide global emissions alone and their consumption is set to double between 2001 to 2050. These shocking figures highlight how our diets have a direct relationship to our carbon footprint and our responsibilities as consumers to make more eco-friendly choices. Changing our diets to be more plant-based and seasonal is an easy and effective way to live more sustainably. The Fetch-Ur-Veg scheme at King’s is a great way to get involved with this. With the scheme you get a weekly bag of amazing seasonally and locally produced fruit and vegetables, delivered straight to the Maughan library! If you’re stuck for recipes, take inspiration from their Facebook page!

Concluding Thoughts

Whilst these issues have solutions based in systemic change, there is still power in the individual. As such, I would still promote small changes that can be made to everyday life to reduce your impact on the earth. Eating a more plant-based diet, using more emission-friendly travel and being kind to the world around, individuals can also have a big impact, locally and in the bigger picture. Using http://www.footprintcalculator.org to work out your ecological footprint is a good place to start your sustainability journey!

King’s Venues Volunteer at Buses 4 Homeless

This guest blog comes courtesy of LaiHa Diamond and Craig Jennings, who are Sustainability Champions working for King’s Venues

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. 

Is this a futuristic dystopian village or an anaerobic food processing plant?

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jane Picciano, who is a Sustainability Champion working in the Library Services Team at King’s.

King’s Food waste goes to Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which helps to meet the following Sustainable Development Goals:

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.

The first stage for the food waste: the ‘mouth’ of the plant before reaching the ‘stomachs’ of the AD tanks.

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.

Shredded plastic from the food waste packaging and plastic bags the waste was delivered in

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.

The pile of ‘chicken & rice’ (which is really a bland oatmeal mixture)

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 images below.

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

King’s Sustainable Entrepreneurs: Woodsloth’s Bamboo Straws

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jonathan Hyde, Masters student at King’s studying an MA in Climate Change. This post aims to start a series of guest blogs highlighting how some of our students, staff and alumni in the King’s community are putting their sustainable passion & innovation into practice. 

Hi my name is Jonathan (Jonny), I study MA Climate Change at King’s and a passionate environmentalist.

This passion for the environment has led me to take a more pro-active stance towards achieving climate justice (fitting with the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and tackling environmental degradation on land and at sea (SDG 14 and 15).

Whilst away traveling, my partner Claire and I came to realise just how severe the plastic pollution problem really was. Plastic litter was polluting everywhere we went, whether it was a forest, a mountain or a beach – there was little escaping it. The beaches were particularly bad, and in one place we took part in a beach clean-up picking up countless straws. Yet, the next day it was just as littered!

It really opened our eyes to this issue. However, when we returned home we saw that actually we had been living in a sea of plastic all along, and that the UK had just as much as a problem.

However, when we were away we saw creative solutions to the problem. One in particular that we loved was the use of bamboo, and especially re-useable straws! We came to find out that bamboo is the perfect sustainable material, being the strongest, most durable, and most rapidly growing grass species in the world! It just so happened that Claire’s parents have copious amounts of bamboo growing in their garden. So, when we first visited them after returning home the bamboo straw production began!

In the beginning, I was just making them as gifts for friends and family, truly enjoying creativity in a way I had never done before. I feel that’s the real beauty of the sustainability movement – what it can creatively and innovatively inspire. The response was brilliant too; people loved them and encouraged me to start selling them. I then discovered my friend who lives close by also has a great amount of bamboo growing, so I began harvesting more, and experimenting with different designs and personalisation.

I established Woodsloth’s as an official business, as sales began to pick up.

Now, 6 months on, and 1 month into “official” business, I’ve created over a 100 straws. I’m delighted as that means over 100 straws aren’t going to end up in landfill or the sea! 100 down, 8 billion to go…and that’s just the number used in the UK!

I have an Instagram page (@woodsloths) and email (woodsloths@gmail.com) where I take personalised orders. I am also in discussions with the Union Shop to have a “King’s” and “KCL” edition on sale, as part of their sustainable and ethical Spring/Summer collection – so watch this space!

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