Category: Guest blogs (Page 1 of 6)

King’s Energy: Grant funded – ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens’

This guest blog comes from Julie Allen, Energy Manager at King’s.

In June 2020, KCL (along with Arizona State University, Dublin City University and City University of Hong Kong) submitted a grant application to GCSO (Global Consortium of Sustainability Outcomes) for a proposal to create a Certification for Sustainable Kitchens – and we got the grant!

In March this year, our interim findings were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, in a paper entitled ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens: a systems approach for a More Sustainable Food Service Sector.’

I’m a published Author!

To break it down, here is a little background.

I have many years of experience in the commercial catering sector. There are always efforts to address food waste, OR energy consumption, OR water consumption, but never anything to look at the whole life cycle of the food going through a commercial kitchen. So that’s what we did. Our role at King’s was to provide energy consumption data from King’s Kitchen (which is excellently managed!). We also had to manage the expectations of our colleagues in other universities, as there can be a huge difference between theory and practice.

The paper looks at the impact of food on the climate – from the water used to grow the food, the transportation carbon miles, the energy to grow and prepare it, the amount of waste generated (not only from food preparation but also packaging) – and an analysis of a particular meal from field to fork. It’s been a fascinating journey looking at how different countries, organisations and sectors produce and sell food, even down to expectations around metering (we were asked to meter each tap until I explained it would take the whole grant!).

It’s been a fantastic journey, which isn’t over yet – we’ve had an extension until December 2021, so watch this space for further developments!

If you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch.

King’s Energy: A guide to eco-friendly energy suppliers in the UK

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can both switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy and support your community in doing so, check out the Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign, as well as how student group King’s 4 Change is supporting the campaign at King’s

If you’ve kept up with our blog you will know we have devoted a lot of time to making switching energy providers as easy as possible for you. Of course, we would also prefer energy efficiency to be at the forefront of your mind when switching. As such, we’ve selected a few companies to review so you don’t have to!

How do I know if a company is eco-friendly?

Unfortunately, greenwashing is rife, so it can be difficult to make sure you’re not just falling for a marketing ploy when you think you’ve found the perfect company. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Carbon Offsetting – Many companies which call themselves “green” simply offset the carbon they produce, for example by planting trees. We have criticised this in the past but if done alongside other measures it can also be a positive.
  • Energy Source – Companies are obliged to tell you where their energy comes from. As much as possible, look for tariffs that offer renewable energy.
  • Tariff – As mentioned, the energy source often depends on the tariffs offered. Make sure to check these to see which best fit your needs in terms of usage, cost and of course, efficiency.
Octopus Energy

Octopus has a wide range of tariffs which can be confusing for those who haven’t read our blog! However, if you choose the “Super-Green” tariff then they will provide you with 100% renewable energy in addition to carbon offsetting. To help with costs they will also reward you and a friend with £50 when you switch.

Green Energy UK

Green Energy UK are the only UK energy company to offer 100% “Green” gas as well as 100% renewable energy so in that sense they are the best pick. However, they are on average 38% more expensive than other suppliers so get a quote before you make the decision to switch.

Outfox the Market

Outfox the Market is the cheapest supplier of renewable energy. They offer 100% renewable energy, from wind power, but because they are less established than their competitors they are also lower-rated by customers. Make sure to read reviews online before deciding in this case.

Bulb

One of the more-established eco-friendly energy companies in the UK, Bulb offer 100% renewable energy, from hydro, solar and wind power, as well as 100%  carbon neutral gas. They are also, on average, 17% cheaper than the “Big Six.”

Ecotricity

Ecotricity is the UK’s vegan energy supplier, offering 100% renewable energy. They are approved by the Vegan Society and support anti-fracking campaigns as well as Extinction Rebellion, so if you are passionate about helping environmental causes then they could be the right provider for you. However, they are relatively expensive so again make sure to get a quote before deciding.

So there you have it, these are the 5 we selected to look at this week. If you know of another environmentally-friendly supplier, let us know in the comments below!

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

How to reduce, reuse, and recycle your way to a more sustainable lab

This guest blog comes from Dr Nicola Harris, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry

Lab-based research is not sustainable. If you work in a lab, think about how many tips, gloves and plastic tubes you throw away every day and then think about how many labs in the world do the same. In fact, labs are estimated to be responsible for 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. Unfortunately, alternatives to single-use plastics in the lab can be hard to come by or are labour intensive, and safety concerns mean that clinical and contaminated waste needs treating – usually by energy-intensive incineration or autoclaving (or both).

As well as the need to reduce plastic waste, CO2 emissions, electronic waste and over-consumption are also all problems with lab research. Labs use 10 times more energy than offices and 4 times more water.

We are all familiar with reduce, reuse, recycle at home – but how can we apply these in the lab? Here are some tips to help your lab move towards being more sustainable while our suppliers catch up. These tips are primarily based on my own experiences in life sciences research – I do protein-based research, with a lot of molecular biology and RNase-free work. Check out My Green Lab and LEAF for more tips!

Reduce

Probably the most important step to take right now, with the biggest impact.

New equipment – do you really need it? Can you borrow someone else’s? Does another group need something – can you share and buy it together instead of getting one each?

Reagents. If you need something, double check you don’t have it already tucked away at the back of a shelf before ordering more (a lab inventory is very useful for this). Do other groups have some you can borrow?

Consolidate autoclave runs. Does it only run when full?

Reduce lab energy consumption. Turn Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezers up to -70 °C, using around 30 – 40 % less energy than -80 °C. Regular defrosts will also help freezers consume less energy. Shut fume hood sashes when not in use – a single fume hood uses the same amount of energy as a household. Turn other equipment off when not in use – most things don’t need to be on overnight and at the weekend (turning off also increases the lifetime of the equipment).

Use pipette tip refills instead of new boxes. You can autoclave refilled boxes yourself, and tip refills come in RNase-free filter tip varieties too!

Improve sterile technique. Reduce plastic waste by using a glass or metal cell spreader – these can be sterilised with ethanol and a flame and are as sterile as a plastic disposable spreader (in my opinion more sterile, as people’s hands go in and out of the packet for the disposable ones!).

Think about what you are doing and why. Protein research does not really need tips to be sterile, for example. Buffers generally don’t need to be filtered and autoclaved, and the purest water isn’t necessarily required.

Reuse

Glass alternatives. Many single-use plastics have glass alternatives that can be washed and reused. Buffers can be made in glass bottles instead of plastic tubes, and cell cultures can be grown in autoclaved glass bottles. Reusing glass many times over will result in fewer emissions, even if it needs autoclaving. Remember that disposal of contaminated plastics requires autoclaving or incineration anyway – so you might as well autoclave glassware instead.

Plastics can be washed out and reused. This may not be an attractive option, however, as it is fairly labour intensive.

Re-home old equipment. If you need new equipment, there are options to buy equipment that other labs no longer need (for example from Warp It and Richmond Scientific). Similarly, if you no longer need some equipment then it can be used in someone else’s lab.

Recycle

Unlike at home, recycling in a lab can be difficult. Waste contractors can be unhappy about taking waste that could be contaminated – but it is worth talking to them about it if you are able to.

Plastic reagent bottles. Check the resin type (1, 2 and 5 are most commonly accepted), remove the hazard label and wash out thoroughly for recycling.

Uncontaminated card and paper. The easiest thing to recycle from labs – packaging in particular.

Take-back schemes. Lots of companies do take-back schemes – for example, New England Biolabs take back their cold shipping polystyrene boxes, and Starlab take back their pipette tip boxes and tip wafers. Check with your suppliers to see if they offer any take-back schemes (or encourage them to start one!).

Ice packs. Most life sciences labs will be familiar with the huge pile of ice packs that can build up in a dusty corner of the lab. Good news – 2B Scientific recycle ice packs.

One step further

The above examples are some easy-to-follow tips – there are many more things that can be done to make your lab greener. For example, you can talk to companies about their sustainability policies, challenge them on their plastics, and feedback about their packaging. You can also liaise with your waste contractor to find out how they feel about recycling. Check My Green Lab and LEAF for bigger-scope ideas to improve your lab sustainability.

Take away messages

  • It’s ok to start small
  • If you are new – don’t be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions
  • Go for ‘easy wins’
  • Switch suppliers to support greener companies (e.g. we switched to New England Biolabs for our DNA purification kits and 2B Scientific for protein expression kits)

Don’t worry if you can’t do much – lab culture can be hard to change, and you may not have much control over how things are done in your lab. But every step helps – try something, and your example may encourage other people to take greener steps too!

A big thanks to LEAF and the King’s Chemistry sustainability team for the inspiration and ideas to make our lab greener.

Find out more about King’s Lab Sustainability Champions here.

Resources

My Green Lab https://www.mygreenlab.org/

LEAF https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainable/staff/labs/take-part-leaf

Richmond Scientific https://www.richmondscientific.com/

Warp It https://www.warp-it.co.uk/

Starlab https://www.starlabgroup.com/GB-en/about-starlab/sustainability.html

2B Scientific https://www.2bscientific.com/

New England Biolabs https://www.neb.uk.com/news/the-neb-shipping-box-recycling-programme

 

King’s Energy: LED light bulbs – What are they and why is King’s switching to them?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

 

The LED, or Light Emitting Diode, is a relatively new form of lighting that works through an electrical current passing through a microchip, illuminating the diode, and the result is visible light. To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink. No doubt you will have heard plenty about LEDs, not least through our previous blog posts, but why is it so important that we change all King’s lighting to LED?

The advantages of LEDs

First, in terms of practicality, LEDs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are ‘directional’ sources, meaning they concentrate light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent bulbs which emit both light and heat in all directions.

Next, the lifetime of an LED gives it a huge advantage over its market counterparts. Where the lifetime of a CFL or incandescent bulb is adjudged to be when it is “burnt out,” LEDs do not burn out. Instead, they experience something called “lumen depreciation,” whereby their brightness dims slowly over time. Therefore, their lifetime is a prediction of when they will be 30% less bright than when you purchased them.

Now to the technical part, but don’t worry I’ll keep it simple for now. LEDs are much brighter than the other options on the market. Some LEDs can reach 90+ in the Colour Rendering Index (more on that later). In addition, you can also choose which colour you would like and sometimes you can even change colour!

Last but not least, LEDs are much more energy-efficient than any alternative on the market. Not only do they last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, meaning you can minimise both production and waste, they also use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They are more expensive initially, but they pay for themselves many times over in savings over their lifetime. It’s no wonder then that King’s are trying to modernise our light sources by switching to LED across all facilities.

CRI & Colour Temperature

If you are considering investing in LEDs, you may come across the acronym CRI (Colour Rendering Index) and hear about colour temperature. First, the CRI refers to the quality of the light. It is judged out of 100, with 100 representing sunlight. Think of it this way, if you have a light with about 70 CRI it may simply reflect off your lecturer’s bald head. If you had a light of 90+, you’d be able to see every liver spot and mole – scary stuff!

Now, in lighting, when we talk about colour temperature we do not mean if a light is hot or not. Instead, we refer to the colour of the light, measured in Kelvins. Usually, you can get LEDs that range from 3000K (warm, yellowish light) to 6000K (cool, white light) but you can also get RGB (Red-Green-Blue) where you can change colours at will!

What is King’s doing?

Here at King’s we’ve set some ambitious energy targets and switching to LED is one way we can become more energy efficient. We’ve already begun the switch, but there’s still a long way to go, and here’s where we could use your help. If you notice any old incandescent bulbs anywhere around campus please reach out to let us know. You never know when one may have slipped through the net.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Appreciating our local green spaces

This guest blog comes from Abbie Russell, Engagement Officer and Sustainability Champion at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN). With contribution from Louise Bolderstone, James Hollands, and Annicka Ancliff.

With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of ‘Nature’, we couldn’t not talk about our local green spaces – the value they bring. For some of us, visiting the local park has been a highlight of the day or the week during lockdown. There’s a lot of research, including IoPPN research, that suggests that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities is beneficial for mental wellbeing. 

One thing I do miss about working on campus is going for lunchtime walks through the park (shout out to Ruskin Park near Denmark Hill Campus!) with colleagues. It was so nice, that the Bee Team (aka IoPPN Main Building Sustainability Champions) organised regular lunchtime walks, the Ruskin Park Appreciation Walks, and we would be joined by colleagues from all over the faculty. It was a great chance to network, share ideas, research, and meet new people.

When lockdown hit – we decided to keep the conversation going online, with Teams meetings and a refresh of the Yammer group. We changed the name to Local Park Appreciation. This allowed us to open up this space to the entire King’s community and it now has 111 active members.

In this blog we explore some of the groups favourite local green spaces.

Hilly Fields, South East London (Abbie Russell, IoPPN)

My favourite thing about South East London is the number of great parks and amount of green space. I’ve recently discovered Hilly Fields since moving to a new house and it’s my new favourite sunrise spot. From the top of the hill, you can see for miles – trees in one direction, and city in the other.

Hilly Fields is in Brockley and is surrounded by lots of other green spaces: One Tree Hill, Ladywell Fields, and Peckham Rye Park.

Beckenham Place Park (Louise Bolderstone, Research Management and Innovation)

In the last year I have got to know Beckenham Place Park even better as it has been the focus of my weekends and I have walked in it with a friend most weeks, although prior to that I was a regular visitor. My appreciation and knowledge of this wonderful place has expanded in an equal proportion to the contractions of my horizon.

The park has benefited from additional funding in the last few years contributing to a place that provides a variety of activities for everyone, from open water swimming to exploring the ancient woodland to relaxing with some food or drink from the onsite café. However, its true value lies in the space afforded to everyone to enjoy by virtue of it being the largest park in the borough and at times, it feels like the entire borough is trying to squeeze in.  That does not detract from enjoying its beauty though because there is always a way to find a solitary path. I get a sense of calm from walking around and seeing all of the different plants, trees and greens offering a counterbalance to the craziness of the world during these last months. I love the twisted trees that have stood there for so many years and I have comfort knowing they have been there through many trials and continue to stand.

I have witnessed a transformation in the park’s popularity in the last year but its natural lifecycle has continued regardless.  The bluebells are nearly out again, after the carnival of daffodils.  Snow has surprised everyone and covered the open greens and settled gently in the woods. The parakeets continue to reign supreme and the wild meadow areas have sprung up and down again hosting kaleidoscopes of butterflies and hardworking bees.  There is peace and life co-existing simultaneously in this place and it brings me joy to see the old and the new living in harmony.  No matter what the next year brings, I know that Beckenham Place Park will be there.

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Greenwich Park (James Hollands, Registry Services)

During lockdown, the importance of getting outside and seeing green spaces has never been more important – both for our physical and mental health.  As I live in Woolwich, one of my favourite walks has been walking along the Thames Path to Greenwich, and then walking along around Greenwich Park.

Located near to the River Thames in South-East London, the park is open all year round and is listed as Grade I on the Register of Historical Parks and Gardens.  During London 2012 it was used for Olympic equestrian events as well as the Modern Pentathlon.  The park has a large sweeping green space which means even when the park is busy, you can walk around it easily.  The park is home to several tree and plant species, which means that even in wintertime, there is something out in bloom, and it also has lovely clean fresh air.

The park is on 2 levels, and at the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory, which the prime meridian passes through.  There is also a beautiful view at the top of the hill from which you can see Canary Wharf and the National Maritime Museum.  I love to be able to sit and look at these views, whilst enjoying the tranquillity of the park.

I would recommend giving the park a visit.  It is a short walk from Greenwich railway station, Greenwich Pier, and multiple bus routes.

                                 

Southwark Park (Annicka Ancliff, Research & Development, IoPPN)

In the last few months, Southwark Park has been my favourite walking/running spot. I used to follow the Thames Path on walks but since there are more people out and about I have preferred the park to avoid the crowds.

There was one run in particular which will always stay in my memory and that was the other day. It was so sunny and the park was buzzing, I saw a few runners and other people either using the outdoor gym or doing other fitness activities. In the course of my run, I was greeted by a tiny puppy which was an absolute delight and then a little girl offered (or possibly showed) me a flower I kept running past her but shouted my thanks at her.

It has been so nice to see people enjoying the parks more as the weather has improved and the lockdown has been eased.

What about your own local parks? Let us know and get involved online.

All King’s staff and students are welcome to join the Local Park Appreciation group on Yammer.

 

King’s Energy: We tried to reduce our carbon footprint using Giki Zero

This guest blog comes from Rebecca Lindsay, BA Philosophy and Spanish student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Giki Zero is a relatively new website that allows you to keep track of your carbon consumption and take personalised steps to reduce it. Over the last couple of weeks, the Energy Team have been trying out the various features to really get a feel for its potential. So, does Giki Zero really work?

Upon the first appearance, Giki Zero presents a sleek and intuitive interface. Its bright colours and shapes are appealing, but its practicality even more so. Just sign up (for free!) and answer some brief questions about your lifestyle – diet, commuting, housing, etc. – and you’re away! Immediately you’re presented with a score that reflects your individual impact on the planet:

Higher than 500 is considered “good progress”, whereas anything above 1000 is “true planet saver” status. By adding more data, and committing to more of Giki Zero’s suggested steps, you can increase your score (and flex on your friends). If you live with other people, you can even invite them and work as a team!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to reduce your carbon footprint. There is a range of difficulties to choose from when selecting steps, ranging from “easy peasy” to “hardcore”. Many of them you may already do, such as walking to work or turning the lights off when you leave a room – add these to increase your score!

As you add more information, Giki Zero will suggest more steps suitable to your lifestyle. Since you’re reading this blog right now, why not get involved with King’s Sustainability to tick ‘Join A Local Sustainability Team’ off your list?

Giki also has a mobile app called Giki Badges, which lets you scan your shopping to see its carbon and health impact, so you can take Giki on the go!

Overall, Giki Zero is a very easy and accessible way to monitor your carbon footprint. But don’t just take it from me, here are some testimonies from the rest of the team:

“I found the Giki Zero app to be really useful, with ideas that I hadn’t realised would affect my carbon footprint – like using soap rather than shower gel – but also things that I do as normal that are a ‘good thing’ with regards to my footprint! It’s challenging and fun!”Julie

“What struck me the most about Giki-Zero was just how simple and personalised everything is. My initial Giki score didn’t sound too high but when it was put into context, my carbon footprint was significantly higher than the UK average. We often read a lot about numbers and averages but seeing this in black and white was truly shocking. To help me come to terms with my shock, Giki suggested some relatively easy fixes that I would not have otherwise thought of, such as switching to soap and refusing unnecessary gifts (long overdue!). Beyond this bit of fun, you are also able to further personalise your account with actual figures and it provides competitive challenges and landmarks. All of this makes it fun to save the planet, and perhaps this is how we can actually engage more people to do so.” Mason

“The app has this aesthetically pleasing interface that reminds you of a video game and immediately draws you in. What I appreciated the most about it is that you are not asked to change your lifestyle in a day but you have access to a wide range of suggested steps from “easy peasy” to “hardcore” that you can take to decrease your footprint. You even have the option to team up with members of your household or your friends. It’s simple, fun and I feel it helps me make better choices one step at a time!” Angeliki

Be sure to give Giki Zero a try and let us know your thoughts at energy@kcl.ac.uk!

King’s Energy: Home energy saving tips

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

King’s Sustainability understands that not all have the resources to switch to renewable energy. This blog, therefore, outlines some simple and accessible ways to save energy at home. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can both switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy and support your community in doing so, check out the Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign, as well as how student group King’s 4 Change is supporting the campaign at King’s

Ask not what your planet can do for you, ask what you can do for your planet: How to save energy from your home

Okay so let’s ignore the political reference here, the point is that you want to become more energy-efficient, but you don’t want it to cost you, right? Well, good news for you – at the King’s energy team, we’ve put our heads together and come up with five startlingly simple ways you can save energy at home. And guess what, they’re basically free!

  • Don’t have double glazing? Use clingfilm instead

No, you did not read that wrong. While of course, it is not as effective as double glazing, using clingfilm around the edges of your windows can help your house to retain heat and therefore actually save you money on your heating bill.

  • Put tin foil behind your radiators

Yes, we know, it sounds crazy but you’re here to save energy on a budget and this is the ultimate method! Aluminium is a great conductor of heat (ever tried touching your foil when it’s fresh from the oven? Don’t!) and putting it behind your radiators will allow your rooms to retain heat and stay warm for longer. You may feel silly doing it but wait for the rebate on the energy bill and it’ll all be worth it!

  • Don’t leave anything on standby

An obvious one, we know. And one that should be redundant in the UK given we have those lovely switches on our plug sockets. However, we’re all guilty of this from time-to-time. If you see an orange or red light then turn it off, and yes, that includes your phone charger!

  • Be patient

Yes, we are still talking about energy. Be patient with your thermostat. Did you know that blitzing the heating doesn’t actually turn up quicker? Set it to your desired level then relax and wait for it to catch up. Your feet will be toasty in no time.

  • DO NOT BLOCK YOUR AIRBRICKS

Oooh capitals, must be serious eh? Right. Air bricks are vital for ventilation and prevent CO2 build-up. They may not be the most attractive things in the world but if you cover your air brick you may find yourself getting very sleepy, and not in a good way.

So, there you have it! Five things you can do at home to save money and do your bit for the planet. King’s are making great progress with their energy usage, and in the spirit of lockdown, it’s time for us to play our part from home too!

If you’d like more information, or want to get involved, be sure to email us at energy@kcl.ac.uk or head over to the King’s Sustainability Instagram page.

King’s Energy: What is energy?

This guest blog comes from Rebecca Lindsay, BA Philosophy and Spanish student and Sustainability Champion Assistants (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

The world of energy often feels like a world of jargon. Emissions, baselines, decarbonisation – what does it all actually mean?

In the most basic terms, energy is “the ability to do work.” So when we talk about energy, we’re talking about electricity, gas, diesel and other types of power. King’s energy is also responsible for managing King’s water usage.

When reducing your carbon emissions, it’s important to consider energy efficiency. Essentially, the more efficient an appliance is, the less energy it uses to do the same amount of work. Energy = Power x Time. Some quick GCSE physics revision for you there!

But higher energy usage doesn’t always mean less efficient. It’s also important to change where we get our energy from – to decarbonise. Decarbonisation, simply put, aims to reduce our economy’s reliance on carbon and fossil fuels. Solar, wind and hydropower are all examples of renewable alternatives.

There are lots of benefits to switching to renewable energy sources – not just for your bank account! Here are just a few:

  • It creates more jobs.
  • It diversifies energy sources, meaning less importing and a stronger economy.
  • It’s cheaper! Carbon is a finite resource and increasingly expensive, whereas renewable energy is more widely available.
  • Most importantly, it reduces our impact on the planet and helps slow global warming.

Long story short: save money, save the planet.

How to we use energy at King’s?

As a research-heavy university, we use a lot of energy. So it’s up to us to be responsible with where we get it from.

Our shift to renewables is well under way. Since October 2017, all electricity directly purchased by King’s has come from 100% UK wind energy.

Both Great Dover Street Apartments and Champion Hill, two of King’s residences, have solar panels. Not only saving money, but also reducing our impact on the planet.

In Autumn 2019, King’s was one of 20 universities to sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with onshore wind farms in Scotland and Wales, the first deal of its kind in the country!

Universities also make lots of investments, often in fossil fuels. King’s, however, has committed to divest from all fossil fuels by the end of 2022, and to invest 40% of its funds in investments with socially responsible benefits by 2025.

We’re also developing a Climate Action Strategy alongside the King’s Climate Action Network to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2025.

As you can see, there’s lots to be done. With target deadlines fast approaching, the emphasis on clean energy has never been greater. It’s a great time to get involved! For information on how to support us, email us over at energy@kcl.ac.uk.

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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