Category: Guest blogs (Page 1 of 7)

Why should you become a Sustainability Champion Assistant?

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

With a new academic year approaching, you may be thinking about how you can get involved in sustainability at King’s. While many students come to university eagerly anticipating joining societies, less think about volunteering. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. When I became a Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), I had little idea of what it would entail. But here I am to explain why you should become an SCA for King’s Energy.

Clock volunteering hours

Did you know that at KCL you can log your volunteering hours on an online portal for an award? You could receive a bronze, silver or gold award for your efforts which is not only a personal pat on the back but would also be viewed favourably when included on your CV. It should be noted that you can mix-and-match volunteering experiences so you won’t only be reliant on King’s Energy, but over an academic year, you can easily attain a Gold award just through being a Sustainability Champion.

Learn new things

I’ll be honest, when I was allocated to King’s Energy, I whipped out the old CGP GCSE Physics revision guide to refresh my knowledge. However, prepare to be surprised. You will work with experts in the field who have extensive experience working in their field. I’ve been working with the Energy Team for 6 months, and I feel like a bonafide expert already, so you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily you will pick up information. Another thing that may surprise you is just how versatile the topic of energy is and how it links with so many different things around us.

Gain experience doing something you love

No, I don’t mean energy. We don’t expect you to love energy (although you may just fall in love with it along the way), but you likely have a skill that we are looking for. For me, that skill is writing. I love writing but it is so difficult to gain experience in a low-pressure environment. Enter King’s Energy. Whether your skill is writing, social media marketing or team management, there is a role for you here.

Make a positive impact

How could I ignore this one? As I mentioned, energy is all-encompassing, and it’s becoming an increasingly important issue in the modern world. Not only will being an SCA enable you to learn more about this crucial matter, but you will also be raising awareness and spreading that knowledge in an impartial, non-political way. In other words, you will play a vital role in the education of climate issues and, in doing so, help protect the future of our planet.

There you have it – my top four reasons to become an SCA!

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

Bethan’s experience living in one of our Sustainable Living Communities

This blog comes from Bethan Spacey, Sustainability Engagement Assistant and BA English student. 

My name is Bethan and I’m an (about to be) third-year English Student. For my first year at King’s College London, I lived in Wolfson House in one of the Sustainable Living Communities (SLCs).                                                                                            

The SLC I lived in was one of the zero-waste flats, and I was lucky enough to get to do this in its pilot year. In this blog I will talk a bit about what SLCs are, the ones that are on offer, and my experience. 

SLC is an initiative being run by King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability to facilitate the sustainable education, living and community of change-makers. The programme works alongside ResiLife to bring sustainability-focused events, themed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into King’s halls.  

For 21/22, they’ll be running vegan and zero-waste SLCs. The vegan or zero-waste SLC members live in a designated flat in one of King’s residences and will have support and specific events and activities to complement the respective lifestyle choices.                                              

My experience with SLCs began when I received an email about a zero-waste project that they would be running in a small number of flats in my allocated student accommodation, Wolfson House.  I had been interested in a zero-waste lifestyle for a while – even giving it a go in my hometown – but I had never been successful. At that time, I was living low waste: I’d massively reduced my plastic usage and was purchasing more consciously, but there were still major factors that were inhibiting my progress, such as money, living with my family and resources (living in a small village in South Wales).  

This was one of my concerns: that I’d enter one of the zero-waste flats keen, but not quite good enough. I was worried that I’d make mistakes and be reprimanded or fall out with my peers, or that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the requirements of complete and total zero-waste. I applied anyway and was quickly allocated a place. 

When I arrived at the flat, I discovered that the other people that had opted into the scheme were just like me – some with even less experience living a zero-waste lifestyle. This was reassuring. It was also, to my surprise, a mixture of people regarding backgrounds, genders and ages. This I was also glad about, as I was worried that choosing to enter one of these flats would be choosing to pigeonhole myself and only interact with a certain kind of person.  

I attended the first SLC event after settling into the flat and was gifted a bag of zero-waste goodies, such as a reusable cup and a mason jar. I have these things to this day, so it is sufficient to say that they have helped me out on my zero-waste journey. In between SLC events, leading the lifestyle of our choosing within our flat was up to us; staff were not sent to police if we were living ‘zero-waste enough’. This made me feel like I had the space to learn and grow without judgement. Luckily for me, Wolfson House was right next to King’s (now sadly closed) zero-waste store, Nought! This was perfect: not only could I get zero-waste products near my accommodation, but I could also get them at a student-friendly price. This store has since shut, but I’ve been surprised at how many zero-waste or bulk food stores you can find in London that aren’t insanely expensive. Some of the bigger Lidls even have sections where you can buy nuts in bulk! 

I attended several SLC events before an early covid-related departure in March. My favourite was the Vegan Christmas potluck, an event at GDSA where everyone brought their own dish and we all shared food. I got to chat with quite a lot of people from the different residences hosting SLCs, as well as eat some yummy food. Meeting people in the other residences was great because although I ended up in a zero-waste SLC, I would have happily partaken in a vegan one, so it meant that I got to meet more people with similar interests.  

As I mentioned, my year got cut short when the UK went into its first lockdown, and we were all sent home in March. However, I loved my experience in Wolfson House and more specifically, in a zero-waste SLC. I would recommend the experience to anyone already living attuned with either one of the zero-waste or vegan lifestyles, but also just to anyone interested. For me, it was a great way to officially begin my zero-waste journey with someone holding my hand and giving me useful advice and insight. 

Applications to join one of the Sustainable Living Community flats are now open. Join the SLC Facebook group for updates on how to apply!

 

 

 

Mason’s experience working with King’s Energy

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

Those of you who are regular readers of our weekly blog posts may notice the same name every week next to the title – that’s me. You may be questioning what I actually do, why I volunteer for King’s Energy and how I keep churning out these posts – or not. But I will tell you anyway.

To be completely honest, I didn’t sign up to volunteer as a sustainability champion because I was particularly passionate about being an ecowarrior. In fact, I didn’t even sign up at all. My girlfriend signed me up because she felt some volunteering experience would look good on my CV. I must confess, I wasn’t pleased. I interpreted that I would be collecting rubbish in my already limited spare time. When I was assigned to King’s Energy, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. To give you some background info, I studied History as my BA and Politics and Contemporary History as my MA – nothing “sciency” and very little to do with energy.

But I attended the first meeting with the team, consisting of two permanent members plus whichever sustainability champions have been coerced into joining. When I started, there were two of us. Neither of us knew a thing about energy. You would think it is quite over-awing being dropped in a call with two people who work and have extensive experience in the field, but they’re completely normal people who are relaxed and accommodating, creating a laid-back, low-pressure environment. Additionally, they had no initial expectations of us. Instead, they allowed us to establish what roles we wanted to take on – enabling us to play to our strengths. Finally, the role did not involve hours of scouring the beach for litter. Instead, I spent an hour a week partaking in our virtual team meetings and around the same time researching and writing blog posts.

When it comes to this part of the role, you agree as a team what the post will be about, but the content and how you write it is entirely up to you. There is also the opportunity to create graphics for social media, but if you were to see some of my attempts, you would understand why I stuck to writing. In terms of researching and writing posts, as I mentioned, it is not terribly time-consuming, and it is actually interesting. Energy is not just about telling people to turn the lights off; it covers how it is generated, the impacts of this and educates you on how energy affects your life. It is a topic of huge importance, and quite simply, there is no better place to educate yourself on this than working with King’s Energy.

Six months on from being forcibly signed up, I am here advocating the role. As my girlfriend initially suggested, it will take pride of place on my CV, but it has been so much more than that. I have gained valuable writing experience and been exposed to a potential future career.

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

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

We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to cover the Sahara Desert in giant solar panels to resolve our renewable energy issue. No doubt you will have seen utopian constructions of what this could look like. For instance, David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet provided an example of how a future powered by renewable energy could look. But in Morocco, that future is already here, and they’ve taken that interest in Sahara solar panels seriously too. Check out this image of the world’s largest concentrated solar power project, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex:

When was it built?

Construction began in May 2013. There have since been two expansion productions also commissioned, one in 2018 and one in 2019. It was funded by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the cost of a cool $3.9 billion, though this funding came from several investors, including the World Bank.

How does it work?

Here’s the cool part! Noor I uses Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) to produce energy. Essentially, this means that a series of mirrors divert sunlight into something that retains that energy to be used later. The unique part about Noor I is that it uses molten salt to store energy, meaning that energy collected during the day can also be released at night.

The complex has upgraded on this for Noor II and III, which can store energy for up to 8 hours. Noor II uses a slightly different technology: parabolic troughs, or concave mirrors to the rest of us, to reflect the sun’s rays. Noor III, meanwhile, has a solar tower that collects the energy reflected from the mirrors (pictured).

Finally, Noor IV, which has not yet been commissioned, will use photovoltaic panels as we know them, so we will be one step closer to finding out what will happen if we fill the world’s hottest places with solar panels.

How much energy does it produce?

Noor I alone produces 370GwH per annum, with Noor II producing 600GwH and Noor III 500GwH and combined, they cover 6,178 acres. To put that into context, global energy usage was 171,240TwH in 2019. It would seem then that Noor is just a drop in the ocean, but consider that the Sahara Desert is 2.273 billion acres. It would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand, which would require 719,674 acres of the Sahara… Now, that really is just a grain of sand.

A couple drawbacks and limitations include the need to regularly clean the solar panels (even more so because of the sandy environment), which requires large amounts of water and the challenge of transporting power over great distances and political will.

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

Sustainability Stories: Anna Peran

Hey guys! My name is Anna and I’m here to talk about my views on sustainability and my experience of it at King’s. Originally, I’m from France and moved to London in September 2018 to start my BA in Geography. I’m now graduating from King’s, and these past three years have been such a time of growth for me. There are so many things to be said, but here’s a short selection.

When I first got here, I knew as much about climate change as your average French high schooler, that is to say: not much, and not nearly enough to start caring. That said, I was already vegetarian, and had made that choice for environmental reasons, about a year prior to coming to London.

In my first semester at King’s, I took a compulsory module on the changing natural environment that ended up changing the academic and career path I had envisioned thus far. Learning about the science of climate change, its societal causes and consequences, and the intricacies in between simply became fascinating to me. The more I learnt, however, the more the lack of political action surrounding environmental issues became frustrating.

I went to an event at the beginning of the second semester, where the guest speaker was a representative of COP24 who came to discuss the decisions that had been taken in Warsaw that year. I expected a lot from this event. It was after all about the institutions that were meant to actively be solving this issue. I distinctly remember the emphasis that was put on the framework developed and agreed upon at the COP for ‘future policy-making’, introduced as perfect to tackle the ‘future realities of climate change.’ To say I was disappointed would be the least. I remember thinking to myself, what about present realities? I realised how inadequate our current institutions were to answer the environmental challenges we now face. For one, they worked on different time scales and levels of complexity. From a mainstream perspective, climate change sounds simple: too many carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming with downsides to nature and society. That simplicity is deceptive. Reducing emissions is a given, how to do so is another story. Socio-economic and political dynamics must be considered, touching upon so many other issues, and making it all the more complex. Questions asked by a worried audience that day remained unanswered.

From this point on, making sense of governance to solve our contemporary challenges, especially from an environmental perspective, became the focus of my human geography degree. One thing about me though: I am deeply passionate and simply cannot let go of the causes I care about. I get that from my mum, who always reminded me that my voice matters, by listening and using her own. When it came to climate change, the situation was and remains so pressing I could not learn about it in class without taking any action in return. My thought process was simple: who am I to complain about people not taking action with the platform they have if I myself do not use mine, however small it is. I also thought: how am I going to react when I’m 50 and teens ask me if I knew what was happening and if I did anything to prevent it? I chose to take action so that one day I could say, no matter the outcome: I did everything I could. And that’s how KCL Climate Action society started, with the help of my wonderful friend Poppy who also studies Geography.

I believed that like me, once people would get a better understanding of climate change, they would start to care, and take action. Climate change remains very abstract for many people, as a global issue that expresses itself in local ways, as a natural phenomenon that results from societal doings, as human-induced but not human-controlled. The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. As founder and president, it required a lot of work, motivation and organisation to start and get the society known, among students, academics and staff members alike. It taught me more than I had hoped for and in a year, KCLCA’s community grew from a couple of people to 900 students, with guest speakers from all over the world. Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.

I must say, however, that my vision of taking action has changed between the start of KCLCA and now. When I was president last year, I poured all of my energy into the society, but things take time and sometimes the results weren’t there, because not many people showed up to events at first, and there were many small initiatives here and there from other groups but it was hard to rally everyone and join forces. Halfway through the second semester, I was exhausted and let’s be honest, a bit depressed. I was drowning under alarming news, reports, and documentaries and I felt like things were staying the same, that our species was simply running to its end. And taking so many others on its way. I looked around me, looked at London, and how everything seemed so unsustainable, everywhere. It was a very oppressive feeling, and one I still get often.

I think there is a point, for everyone that cares about the situation and tries to do something about it, where you ask yourself: what’s the point? You don’t eat meat, you buy second-hand clothes or from sustainable brands, you buy local, you cycle everywhere. You look around: nothing has changed. That’s when community matters. That’s what KCLCA is here for, and so many other groups elsewhere. You can rest, and you need to. And if no one has told you yet: you’re doing a great job. We cannot change the past, we can only do something about now and the future. But this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Yes, the situation is pressing, but sacrificing your health and wellbeing won’t help. And that’s true of any other situation.

I think in these moments where things get overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the present reality, on what you physically have around you rather than everything happening elsewhere. Put your phone down, try and have a chat in person with a loved one, pick up a book you like, have a nice workout, take care of yourself in whichever way you can or like. Sometimes we need to anchor ourselves for a bit in order to stay afloat. That’s what I did this year and the committee did such an amazing job. They got things done, they made the events happen, they got the campaigns going, kept our social media active. And I am so grateful for this. Sigrid, our president this year, has been fantastic. The whole team really. I wish I could have done more, but I did what was best in that moment. The society will keep on going, and that’s quite something. Because so many students are going to learn so much from it and take it to the ‘real’ world after that. I intend to do so now, as I graduate.

In short, it’s about balance and community. That’s the essence of sustainability. For ourselves, for our society and for the environment.

That is one of many things the Western world notably needs to understand from Indigenous communities at the forefront of climate action.

 

For anyone interested, easily accessible resources include:

On our relation to nature:

Readings:

Videos and Documentaries

On the natural world itself:

Documentaries

  • Our Planet (2019). Available on Netflix.
  • Chasing Coral (2017). Available on Netflix.

On the science of climate change:

 

Thank you, Anna! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

King’s Energy: Smart homes – how energy-saving are they?

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

I’m sure many of you have seen adverts or promotions for some form of “smart home” technology. They are becoming increasingly popular and in-demand, but is this just because they seem like a cool idea? Or do they actually save energy? We’ve done the research for you, so read on and find out!

What are smart homes?

Simply put, smart homes are residences that use internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating. Many new homes are being built with the capacity for them to become smart homes, while older homes can be retrospectively fitted with the right technology.

What makes them “smart”?

Smart homes allow you to monitor and control anything in your home which is linked to your WiFi. That may sound like you’re the smart one there, but smart homes do have some features which make them truly intelligent. For example, using sensors, they can tell when somebody is in a home or a room and control the lights or heating accordingly. They can also track your behavioural patterns to identify the perfect amounts of water or energy for certain activities. Based on these patterns, many smart homes will also offer you recommendations on saving energy every day. That’s truly smart.

Can they help save energy?

The simple answer is yes, but it depends on the individual. A smart home can only provide information and optimise with the tools at its disposal. It is up to the homeowner to give it more tools to use and a better environment to use them in. Put simply, if your water meter is not linked to your smart home, then it will have no impact on your water usage. It can take time to get everything hooked up and become comfortable with all the features.

What can be done to help my smart home?

Several things can be done to make homes more suitable for smart home technology, so these may well be worth looking out for when it comes to investing in your first home:

  • Insulation – A properly insulated home will make heating and cooling much easier and more energy-efficient, thereby making life much easier for a smart home.
  • LED bulbs – As we mention most weeks on this blog, LEDs use much less energy than most other types of lightbulbs. They are also extremely durable and can be easily connected to smart homes.
  • Solar panels – An expensive investment, we know. However, this one shows that while you can save energy, if your energy is still sourced from fossil fuels, for example, then the environmental benefits are minimal. Solar panels will also reduce reliance on grid electricity, and even more so if you also invest in a home battery which will retain and store any excess energy. So, if you are thinking of purchasing a smart home, think long-term and make sure your home is ready before making that investment.

So, there you have it, smart homes have the potential to be extremely effective in terms of saving energy, but much of that depends on how you use and complement it. If you have seen them advertised and dream of having one in your future home, then don’t worry; they can be really great for the planet, but you should ensure the correct infrastructure is in place before taking the plunge.

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

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!

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