Category: Guest blogs (page 1 of 4)

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #3

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

Sustainability in Estates & Facilities

Student Accommodation / Residences

King’s Food

King’s Sport

King’s Venues

Fit for King’s

Asset Improvement & Space planning

Evaluation

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

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #2

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

The following 2 sections contain the desktop research I have gathered on the sustainability practices within two departments at King’sThe School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, and Estates & Facilities.

Mapping the SDGs: Biomedical Engineering at King’s  

I attempted to match the information I found in the Biomedical Engineering Department website to the most appropriate SDG.

Evaluation

  • The Biomedical Engineering department primarily targets SDG 3. The United Nations state that universal health coverage is integral in ending poverty and reducing inequalities. The department focuses on achieving this through their research and innovation in healthcare and medical technology.
  • SDG 4 focuses on achieving inclusive and quality education, especially in developing regions. The university tackles this issue by giving students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities to progress onto higher education.
    The application for target 4.5 states King’s Widening Participation due to the fact that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related subject streams are available to prospective students on the K+ and Realising Opportunities programmes. However, Biomedical Engineering is not specifically listed, thus, this could perhaps be an area of improvement.
  • SDG 8 promotes productive employment, technological innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.
    In the Professional Issues module I recently completed, I gained an appreciation on project management, entrepreneurship, sustainability and ethics. I believe it has grown my professional development and some awareness of global issues. The module, however, is 0 credits and thus many students did not attend lectures. An incentive to encourage more students to attend could perhaps be an area to focus on.
  • Investing in scientific research and innovation is a primary focus in SDG 9.
    The department is well-known for their extensive on-going research in state-of-the-art labs and hence maps this SDG out well. Also, researchers themselves lecture many modules in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In doing so, students are more likely to then progress onto research and innovation themselves.
  • Due to the vast amount of energy used by computers and machinery it is important that the department focuses on responsible consumption and production as stated in SDG 12.
    King’s sustainability department encourages sustainable labs across all departments who may use them. This focuses on areas such as control of fume cupboards, energy efficient management of cold storage, and recycling plastics.
    To further encourage sustainable labs within the department, staff could become Sustainability Champions.

 

Interview with Paul Marsden (Development, Diversity & Inclusion Lead)

Most charities and sponsors are more likely to fund research projects and give grants to institutions who hold an Athena SWAN Award – many charities have this as a requirement. This acts as an incentive for the department to focus more on gender equality and inclusion. Many sponsors also require research projects to apply to developing countries. For example, technology must be widely used and accessible in all countries. This maps out SDG 9.

Furthermore, the department is involved in outreach activities organised by external companies: Nuffield summer programme, King’s Health Partner’s Summer School, Clinic Trials Day. These are aimed towards prospective students from under-represented backgrounds to encourage quality education for all – SDG 4. Other strategies, such as mentorships, are also being developed to support and encourage BAME students.

Along with the 2nd year Professional Issues module, the department also offers PhD training which focuses on social responsibility, ethics and engaging with industry.

 

Interview with Saad Qureshi (2nd Year Professional Issues Module Lead):

The professional issues module required students designing a business plan on a unique, biomimicry project (the application of nature to engineering). In this module, lectures focused on project management, ethics, and global sustainability issues.

The department’s aim in delivering the module, and teaching sustainability, was to develop student’s appreciation of nature and knowledge on social, economic and environmental issues. As biomedical engineering students, we are in a unique position to help tackle such issues. The project allowed students to develop their skills in sustainable design processes and eco-development. Saad explained that he hopes students will adopt a sustainable approach in our personal and professional lives.

 

The final part of Isabella's internship story will be published tomorrow, 17.1.20

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #1

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

Introduction 

My name is Isabella Trujillo-Cortes and I am a 2nd Year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s.  I have just completed the Careers+ Global Internship programme where I undertook a 4-week internship in Hong Kong this July 2019.
The Careers+ programme is aimed towards UK undergraduate King’s students from under-represented groups.
I am of Colombian heritage and I was raised in Newham, London. Despite growing up in a low-participation borough and attending a state school where high grades were not common, I have utilized the support from widening participation schemes to excel in school and college. My up-bringing in London has exposed me to many cultures which motivated me to apply to the Global Internship Programme. As a proud Latina, I am motivated to share my traditions with those of other backgrounds and cultures. The global internship will give me the opportunity to do so.

Aside from the internship, the programme provided one-to-one support and specially designed workshops to support us in achieving life-long success.
To prepare ahead of the global internship and to familiarise myself with the work environment of a professional office, I was also given the opportunity to complete a micro-internship with the Sustainability Department at King’s.

Having recently taken a module titled ‘Professional Issues in Biomedical Engineering’ I was introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The module enhanced my knowledge of the issues concerning our environment; however, I was not fully aware of the goals regarding social and economic aspects.

In addition, I am currently a Social Mobility & Student Success ambassador at King’s. In this role, I have been exposed to one of the many areas of service and sustainability which the university focuses on. I appreciate how the university supports and encourages prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds through widening participation.

In completing my project with the Sustainability department, I saw how the
SDGs, as well as  how global challenges (both environmental and social) are being addressed across the university.
I have also been introduced to the King’s Strategic Vision 2029 – a vision which sets out the aspirations of King’s to make the world a better place. King’s hopes to do this by amplifying Service as core to the public purpose of King’s and to facilitate participation of staff and students. The university are aiming to generate innovate ideas to impact society and work together to deliver these. The Service activity will be evaluated and measured in order to constantly improve strategies.

The internship raised my awareness of the student societies at King’s which tackle global challenges and promote sustainability. For example, the Enactus society (present at King’s, but also many universities world-wide) which implement community impact projects in order to enable sustainable human progress.
In addition, I have become more familiar with the practices and policies across the university to tackle environmental problems. For example, the methods used to recycle laboratory waste, save energy and water, and minimise food waste. The Sustainability Champions programme play a vital part in encouraging others to follow sustainable policies, initiative sustainable behaviour change and work together to reduce the negative and maximise the positive social and environmental impacts.

Furthermore, during my time in the placement, I was fortunate enough to have attended a Service Oversight Group meeting. I was informed about the wider service agenda and updates on progress and achievements. I was also introduced to a student-led project – the ESSA Project. Students delivered an audit report on the social responsibility at King’s which further informed me of the social responsibility practices in the university.

The social responsibility report stated that there was not sufficient communication to students about projects and volunteering opportunities. I find it interesting that this was the main area of improvement as, being a student myself, prior to completing this placement I was not aware of the many on-going projects around the university regarding Sustainability and Service. I agree that this area needs improvement in order to facilitate participation of students, and hence, progress in the Strategic Vision 2029. A training programme titled Supporting Service Leaders at King’s was also promoted in order to encourage staff to focus on Service in leadership. Such strategies such as these could further increase the participation of staff – both those working in Service as well as in other departments.

The service team also mentioned the idea of implementing compulsory modules in sustainability and service across all departments. As I completed a similar module in my course, which I found very engaging, I believe this idea is very likely to encourage other students to contribute in service.

After this internship I am looking to improve the statistics in student engagement by participating in areas of service throughout the university. I hope to join a student society where I can volunteer in social action projects to make an impact to our society and environment. I also look forward to encouraging staff in my department to become Sustainability Champions.

Kings are ranked 5th in the global THE University Impact Rankings and it is our responsibility to maintain this spot or potentially move up. I hope to contribute by playing my part in achieving the Sustainability Goals. Having completed this internship, I am now encouraged more than ever, to make a difference both on a local and global scale.

Lastly, by working in a professional office, I have enhanced my project management, communication, research and analytical skills. I hope to take these skills forward and apply them to my university studies and at my internship in Hong Kong.

 

 

Part 2 to be published tomorrow, 16.1.20

Introduction to Nicola Hogan, King’s new Sustainability Operations Manager

King’s’ new Sustainability Manager, Dr. Nicola Hogan joined the sustainability team last month having previously worked at Goldsmiths, University of London, The EAUC and The University of Limerick in Ireland. Since starting her career in sustainability in Higher Education (HE), Nicola has worked as both a researcher and a practitioner and in some positions, as both. She has conducted research into the calculation of the Ecological Footprint of A4 paper use and from that created a road-map for HE institutions on how to reduced paper use at source, save money and reduce CO2 emissions. She has also  conducted research into the use of sustainable ICT in UK universities identifying where and how ICT energy was being wasted.

In her role as Space, Environmental and Sustainability Officer at Goldsmiths Nicola was responsible for embedding sustainability into campus operation as well as ensuring the College was accredited with Fairtrade – something Nicola is particularly passionate about.

Embedding Sustainability into campus operations across a multi-site university has many barriers – something she is all too familiar with. From 2010-2016 Nicola conducted research that examined what the barriers to sustainable performance in universities might be and how to overcome them. Nicola identified 7 barriers in total, with poor stakeholder engagement identified as being the greatest barrier. However, Nicola was quick to note that stakeholder engagement is pretty good at Kings with more than 500 staff and student sustainability champions actively doing that extra bit for the planet and for King’s, in the 2019-2020 academic year.

When asked what singular and simple action (if any) could be taken to reduce our environmental/carbon footprint and improve our overall campus operations, she indicated that a reduction of waste’  – in all its forms (solid waste, waste water and energy waste) could potentially see an improvement of sustainable performance  by 20% to 30% – with almost no capital costs incurred. In fact it’s widely regarded that waste energy for example could be reduced by 20% in universities simply by switching off and powering down when not in use.

As Nicola starts in her new role at King’s College and with a new year’s resolution  to reduce waste at source in 2020, she is reminding everyone to ‘take a quick look in your bin’ at what you discarded and ask yourself – ‘could I have done without it’ ?

SDG 8: Economic Growth or Degrowth?

This guest blog comes sixth 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. 

The SDGs as a framework are contested. The main criticism is that the goals are contradictory. In particular, SDG 8 has been accused of violating all other SDG objectives. Whereas the SDGs call to protect the planet, this goal aims for economic growth. A recent study showed that if global growth continues to rise with three percent per year, we will not be able to reduce CO2 emissions rapidly enough to keep temperature increases below 2 Celsius [1].

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

The core idea behind this goal is that all must share in global progress. Decent employment opportunities create fair globalization and has the potential to reduce poverty. It can also provide legitimacy for our ‘social contract democracy’ and function as a pillar for peace and stability. In 2017, 5.6 per cent of the global population was unemployed. Moreover, to keep up with the growing number of people that fall within the ‘working age’, we need to create around 30 million additional jobs per year [2]. A job, however, does not always suffice; 783 million people that do have a job, still don’t earn enough to supply for their families.

The Targets: Growth, Employment and Working Conditions

This goal has three main elements: increase economic productivity, create jobs and improve working environments [3]. Economic growth trajectories vary per country. The least developed countries should increase their annual GDP by 7 percent through diversification, technological upgrading, innovation, tourism and access to banking. Increasing GDPs are expected to create more jobs, which should come with safe and secure working environments and provide equal pay for work of equal value. The most contested target is around ‘decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation’, in which green consumption should ensure that growth can happen within planetary boundaries.

Business Power and Sustainability

In his new book, professor Ponte [4] criticizes ‘green capitalism’ based on this decoupling. His arguments underline what many critics say: sustainable growth doesn’t tackle the main issues of production and consumption. Although the ecological impact per product might decrease, continuous expansion of production and consumption lead to a limited overall impact. In other

words, we cannot just buy our way out of the environmental crisis as consumption is at the heart of the problem. He suggests that to respect our planetary boundaries, we need to think about alternative ways of making the economy work, ranging from prosperity without growth to degrowth and eco-socialism.

Modern Slavery UK

Although contested, SDG 8 also touches upon important labour issues, such as modern slavery. Slavery is often associated with the past or far away countries. This is wrong because slavery is, unfortunately, thriving in the UK. In 2019, the English and Welsh police recorded 5,059 cases modern slavery. This is just a tip of the ice-berg; the real number of victims is approximately between 10,000 and 13,000 [5]. Someone is considered a slave if they are forced to work by threat, owned by an employer, treated as a commodity and limited in their freedom. Most people are trafficked into the UK from overseas and forced into jobs within the agriculture, construction, hospitality, manufacturing and car washes industries or sold as sex or domestic slaves. Unseen is an UK NGO fighting to eliminate slavery [6].

Gig Economy

Labour offences also happen is more subtle ways. Over time concerns have been mounting around the ‘gig economy’, which is characterized by a workforce that is based on short-term contracts or freelance work. Think for example about delivery couriers, Uber drivers and Task Rabbits. Many student jobs with zero-hour contracts also fall within this category. The main concern is around unfair pay and lack of workers protection and rights, such as sick pay, minimum income or insurance for work related accidents. An interesting recent counter movement are ‘worker-owned apps’ aiming to create network of cooperative alternatives of decent work [7].

What can you do?

· Purchasing Power: Over-consumption is a big part of our current ecological crisis. Think twice before you buy something new. If you do need to buy something, think about where

you buy your products. Try to buy from local and small companies and check how the product is made (supply chain).

· Political Power: Voting and political participation matters! Use your political power to demand governments to put necessary regulation in place. Public policies required to reach SDG 8 include mandatory corporate due diligence, stimulating the low carbon economy and applying minimum wages throughout the value chain [8].

· Witness Power: Keep your eyes open for cases of modern slavery and report to your local authorities if you see a suspicious situation. In the UK, you can do this by calling the modern slavery helpline at 08000 121 700.

References:

[1] Hickel, J. (2019). The contradiction of the sustainable development goals: Growth versus ecology on a finite planet. Sustainable Development.

[2] As always, read more on why the UN thinks this goal matters here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Goal-8.pdf

[3] More on the goal, targets, indicators and their progress can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg8

[4] Especially the conclusion of professor Ponte’s new book on business power in sustainability through global value chains holds some strong arguments.

[5] Read the government’s report on modern slavery here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/840059/Modern_Slavery_Report_2019.pdf

[6] If you do one thing after reading this blog, then look at the TED talk of Kate Garbers, founder and director of Unseen, a NGO fighting modern slavery: https://www.unseenuk.org/modern-slavery/unseen-ted-talk

[7] This article of VICE tells more about how worker-owned apps provide a solution: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pa75a8/worker-owned-apps-are-trying-to-fix-the-gig-economys-exploitation?utm_campaign=sharebutton

[8] A few suggestions of the type of policies that we need can be found in this chapter: https://www.2030spotlight.org/en/book/1730/chapter/sdg-8-what-policies-are-needed-achieve-goal-8

King’s Food Sustainability

This guest blog comes courtesy of Ellie Blackmore, Marketing Coordinator for King’s Food. 

Your morning coffee. You can’t function without it. Hitting a lecture without even a sip of caffeine? No thanks. But without a reusable cup, whether it’s a Keep Cup, a fancy bamboo tumbler you got for Christmas, or your dads old golfing flask, you’re contributing to the 2.5+ billion coffee cups that are thrown away every year, with less than 1% being recycled (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018).

This isn’t down to not trying – many people make the conscious effort to put the cardboard vessel that carried their morning latte in a recycling bin. The problem with this is that most disposable coffee cups have plastic in their inner lining, to make them both heat and leakproof, which stops them from being recycled and sends them straight to landfill.

Special recycling bins are few and far between, but King’s Food have installed them in all of their outlets. Simply pour any liquid into the centre of the bin, then pop your cup in the outer holes. Got a reusable cup? Even better, and no extra 20p cup levy charge* for you. Want a reusable cup? Pick one up at King’s Food cafes for £6.50.

King’s Food was recently awarded a 2-star Food Made Good Rating in recognition of commitments to sustainable catering – one of only seven British universities to have achieved this status. A 9% increase on last year’s score, highlighted successes include fair treatment of staff (e.g. all staff at King’s are paid London Living Wage), valuing natural resources (e.g. 100% electricity at King’s comes from renewable, wind energy) and celebrating local & seasonal products.

Local produce plays an important part of King’s Food, with elements of every day menus being sourced in London and the rest of the UK. Honey, from Bermondsey Street Bees, features in breakfast pots and the porridge bars at Chapters and Bytes Restaurant. Bread and pastries are supplied by Paul Rhodes, an award-winning bakery in Greenwich. King’s Food catered events offer attendees the chance to sip on cider made from London-pressed apples, by Hawkes Cidery in Bermondsey.

The positive impact of buying locally is indisputable: from the shorter distance the food travels, to the support it provides to local farms, communities and businesses. Not to mention the richer flavours and nutrients of the produce itself, all of which contribute to the delicious and sustainable food served at King’s Food venues.

One of many efforts to increase sustainability, Roots – King’s Food’s all-vegan café on the 8th floor of Bush House – opened in September 2018. Offering a selection of snacks, desserts, coffee and a different hot lunch every day, Roots is the first 100% plant-based university café in London. For the opening of Roots, the 2019 Green Gown Awards shortlisted King’s Food as a finalist in the Campus Health, Food and Drink category. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on November 26th.

Alongside Roots, King’s Food is committed to offering a vegetarian or vegan option every day at all  of its outlets.

The Food Made Good rating offers advice on how King’s Food can make further improvements to become even more sustainable and to drive change in the sector.

King’s Food will focus on the following over the rest of the academic year:

  • Continue with our focus on using local suppliers and explore using more produce from within 100 miles of London – which will likely increase the amount of produce which is organic.

 

  • Keep investigating ways to reduce energy & water usage across all sites

 

  • Look into our use of disposable packaging and how we can reduce it

 

  • Develop a strategy or policy around healthy eating/menu planning

 

  • Consider ways to further minimise food waste

 

*In February, King’s Food introduced a 20p cup levy to try and cut down the number of hot drinks sold in disposable cups across King’s campuses. Proceeds from the levy go into a Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), the total of which is currently around £65,000. Applications for sustainability projects will open soon. KCLSU also committed their 20p disposable coffee cup levy to go into the SPF from August ’19.

 

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
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