Category: Guest blogs (page 2 of 4)

Easy & Everyday Tricks to Reduce Your Plastic Use

This guest blog comes from Yukti Gopal, a third year Politics student from the Department of Political Economy.

 

The plastic we throw away in a single year could circle the earth four times. Every minute of every day, one million plastic bottles are used. It’s become an addiction. Plastic is everywhere and it’s almost as if we can’t escape it. The problem when we ‘throw plastic away’ there is no such thing as an ‘away’, it just ends up somewhere else, usually it’s the ocean. 8 to 14 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every single year. Needless to mention the disastrous consequences this has. Fortunately, we can all do something to reduce our plastic consumption and here are some easy tricks which you can implement in your everyday life:

1: Buy a reusable water bottle/coffee cup

The simple process of producing bottled water requires 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the actual container. Mind-blowing. We are lucky to live in London where tap water is safe to drink, so why buy plastic bottles?

2: Buy in bulk when possible

Some shops like ‘As Nature Intended’ offer a bulk section where you can buy everything from oats, rice, to seeds and trail mixes. You simply bring your own containers and fill them up. Not only is it cheaper to buy that way but it’s also an efficient way to cut single-use plastic food packaging. If you have access to a farmer’s market, stop by to buy your fruit and veg, there’s usually much less plastic food packaging involved!

3: Eat less seafood

I know this one can be a bit controversial but the sad truth is that while it is great to use reusable straws, the majority of plastic found in the ocean comes from fishing practices. To be precise, 46% of marine plastic waste comes from commercial fishing. Instead, you could get creative and try plant-based alternatives which are more sustainable.

4: Use reusable bags

This is such an easy one! We throw away more than 1 trillion plastic bags a year. I personally always have a reusable bag in the back of my bag in case I need to pop by the grocery store; they take literally no space, weigh nothing yet come in really handy! Incorporating these little swaps in your day-to-day are quite easy and don’t require much effort at all so join us, and be a part of the positive change!

SDG 3: Healthcare as a Human Right

This week’s guest blog comes fourth 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.  

This month is all about wellbeing at King’s. Unfortunately, access and quality of healthcare is not always guaranteed. Article 25 of the UN Human Rights Declaration (1948) states that everyone has the right to a standard of living that enables health and wellbeing (1). Due to the lack of accurate and credible data, it is difficult to measure the current state-of-art of healthcare provision.

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing for everybody

Sickness and death are part of our natural cycle. However, there are many situations in which it can be prevented or cured. The number one cause of death are cardiovascular diseases. Amongst children under five, birth trauma’s, infections and bacteria lead to over 6 million annual deaths (2). Furthermore, there are large regional difference that mirror income disparity; the worst health situation can be found in Sub-Saharan-Africa and South Asia. As an example, maternal deaths are 14 times more likely to happen in developing countries and children are twice more likely to die before they turn five. Furthermore, developing countries still struggle with deadly diarrhoea contaminations caused by poor hygiene’s.

Reproduction, healthcare and medication

The first target is that everyone should have access to a good quality of healthcare and appropriate medications and vaccinations (3). Strengthening local capacities, for example; affordable care, educated doctors and hygienic hospitals, is a stepping-stone to achieve this. Moreover, women and children are central to accomplishing this goal. Some targets are, therefore, directed at issues such as reducing maternal mortality, preventing children’s deaths, eliminating substance abuse during pregnancy and easing access to sexual and reproductive services. Lastly, more general targets focus on issues regarding to common diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis, traffic deaths and diseases caused by pollution.

Every Women, Every Child

The health of women and children is essential to achieve sustainable development. Healthy women and children create healthy societies and healthy societies build healthy economies, stability and harmony. The project “Every Women Every Child” was set up in 2010 by Ban Ki-Moon and works with various partners to tackle gender related health issues (4). One of their projects, in collaboration with Unilever and USAID, aims to tackle infant deaths due to a lack of hygiene. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to make a habit out of washing their hands with soap on a regular basis (5).

Contraception and family planning

High on the Dutch development agenda, and close to my heart, is sexual and reproductive health-care. The Netherlands helps 1.8 million girls and women to access contraception by strengthening third countries’ healthcare systems and actively lobbying foreign governments. Central to our development policy is family planning. Besides the project “She Decides” of our minister Lilianne Ploumen (which I will tell you more about in SDG 5), we are part of the partnership “Family Planning 2020”. The aim of this partnership is to ensure that every girl and woman is able to freely and independently make the decision whether, when and how many children she wants (7).

No well-being without mental health

There is a growing awareness that mental health is crucial to achieve the SDGs (8). “One in four people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime, but the issue remains largely neglected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Mental health issues are strongly correlated with structural societal problems and too-often result in the neglect of human dignity and forced treatment. Potential solutions arise not only from within but also from outside the regular healthcare sector. The UK project “Time to Change” challenges the way we think and act around mental health in order to overcome shame and loneliness (9).

What can you do to achieve better health and well-being?

Healthcare is a worldwide problem. Start, therefore, with tackling a few health-related issues within in your own live, direct environment or broader society:

  • Take care of your own body. Eat healthy, exercise, drink in moderation and don’t wait around to visit a doctor. Moreover, make sure that you use contraception during sex, and only have sex without a condom if you are 100 percent sure you both are free of STDs.
  • Take care of your mind. Get enough rest and be aware of the signals of mental problems (10). One of the things I find useful is mindfulness (do you already know the Headspace app?). The online course “de-mystifying mindfulness” elaborates the clinical background of mindfulness in an accessible and academic way (11).
  • Challenge mental health stigma’s. Look at the “Time to Change” resource webpage and inform yourself about mental health issues. Start a conversation with your colleagues, be aware of stereotyping media coverage and call people out on their discriminatory behaviour.

Resources:

Blog Series: SDG 1 – The Battle Against Poverty

This week’s guest blog comes second 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’,  looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

Poverty in all its forms everywhere is, according to the United Nations (UN), stating that it is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. The good news is that the amount of people living in extreme poverty has relatively decreased from 28 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2013. The bad news, however, is that over 896 million people are still living with less than $1.90 per day, mainly within South-Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (1). Poverty goes beyond the lack of financial resources; it reflects a lack of opportunities, which are often linked to education, healthcare, discrimination and hunger.

 

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice”

Nelson Mandela

 

 

The Targets: Eradicating Poverty and Creating Social Security

The seven SDG targets that aim to diminish poverty by 2030 include both a financial and a social dimension. A distinction is made between extreme poverty measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day and general poverty measured according to national definitions. Whereas extreme poverty must be overcome completely, general poverty must be halved. On a national level, the targets are three-fold: strengthening the resilience of the poor, particularly in cases of natural disasters; implementing social policies that protect citizen against poverty and; creating equal rights and access to economic resources and services. On an international level, the targets press states to actively mobilize resources that can combat poverty and to create policies that target and benefit the poorest.

Progress? Measuring Regional Inequality

Without measurements there is no knowledge of progress. In the previous blog, I explained that each goal is broken down in targets which are measured by indicators. The UN created a database which tracks down how each country is currently doing on each indicator. Have a look around yourself as this database is accessible for everyone (2). Looking at the data, the general trend seems to be that regional inequality is on the rise. Let’s zoom in on social security, which is crucial to battle poverty. A total of 45 percent of the world’s population has access to at least one type of social insurance. A simple comparison illustrates the imbalance: in Western Europe this percentages is 99, whereas in West Africa it is merely 9 percent.

 

Oxfam and the UN: Business against poverty

There are countless projects that intend to contribute towards SDG 1, but as I specialise in business I would like to focus on the partnership between Oxfam and the UN (3). This partnership aims to make companies aware of their positive and negative impact on local poverty. To accomplish this, they created the so-called ‘poverty footprint’. Through this online tool, companies can begin to understand how they affect poverty and adjust their business operations accordingly. A company that completed the poverty footprint is Unilever. They concluded that by offering more part-time instead of full-time jobs at their manufacture site in Kecap Bango, more people would be helped out of poverty in this Indonesian region. Thus, by measuring their influence on poverty, companies are urged to find innovative solutions.

The situation in Europe

Eurostat, the statistics centre of the European Union (EU), shows that in 2016 over 118 million people were at risk of poverty or social inclusion (see the Figure below). There is a wide disparity within the EU. To illustrate, in Bulgaria almost 42 percent of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In comparison, in Sweden this percentage is only 14. Furthermore, 36 percent of Greek people live below the national poverty line and 19 percent of Romanian people that are employed still live in poverty. In the UK, child poverty is taking a worrisome number; about 4 million children are classified as poor.

 

 

 

The Fund of Urgent Needs in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands, where I am originally from, does not know extreme poverty. Nonetheless, 10 percent of Dutch citizens live under the national poverty line of 33 euro per day. An organization within the Netherlands that aims to tackle local poverty is the Fund of Urgent Needs (SUN). My mother is the location manager in my home-town Leiden, where SUN offers financial aid to people that are in danger of falling between two stools. She explains that: “our foundation gives to the inhabitant of Leiden, who are in an urgent financial situation and do not apply for governmental help”.

What can you do in the fight against poverty?

The traditional way of donating money is, for the low-budget students, not always a possibility – nor might it be the most effective route. Luckily, there are other ways: you can volunteer at existing programmes, such as Child Poverty Action Group, Oxfam, foodbanks or ONE, or develop your own project at King’s. As poverty is rooted in various related problems, you can think about projects improving general live conditions as well. For example, become a reading helper for children at BeanStalk – with only a few hours a week you can ensure a child can read, grow and thrive!

 

References:

  1. More statistics, data and information on this goal can be found here.
  2. If you want to play a bit around with the target data on country level, you can either go to UNSTAT or the SDG index.
  3. Read more on the poverty footprint at Oxfam’s or the UN’s respectively websites.
  4. Unfortunately, in Dutch, but if you want to learn more about the situation in the Netherlands click here and for the foundation of urgent needs here.

Blog Series: 1- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Will You Help Build A Better World?

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, a 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’,  looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).  

The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.

The Sustainable Development Goals:
17 Goals to Transform the World by 2030

“This is no plan B because there is no planet B”, are the famous words of Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN). In 2015, the agenda for sustainable development was set by the UN member states. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a collective action plan concerning sustainable social, economic, and ecological advancement for everyone. The aim is to leave no one behind. In this article, I will briefly introduce you to the goals in general. In the upcoming months I hope to familiarize you with each individual goal by writing seventeen separate articles on them.

The 2030 agenda

The SDGs take over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were effective from 2000 to 2015. The MDGs contributed to halving child mortality and lifting more than a billion people out of extreme poverty, to name but a few examples. Nevertheless, they did not tackle the root causes of underdevelopment. One of the reasons was that the MGDs Goals were only focused on developing countries and at providing developmental aid and assistance. The goals encompass broad social objectives targeted at governments but without measurement tools to evaluate process. The SDGs, on the other hand, target all countries and concern overall investments. They cover a combination of social, economic, and ecological goals targeted at the whole world population and with measurement mechanisms.

17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 indicators

The 17 goals cannot, and should not, be understood as separate entities; the success of one goal is closely related to the achievement of the other goals. The goals are broad and ambitious in their scope. For example, the first goal objective is that nobody should live in poverty by 2030 (“zero poverty”). Each goal is broken down in several targets. The overall 169 targets give the global goals more substance and depth. They specify the various aspects that constitute the goals and indicate when the goal is successfully achieved in 2030. As an example, one of the targets that specifies the first goal refers to the fact that the amount of people in extreme poverty must be halved in 2030. One important improvement is that these targets can then be measured through accurate and dynamic data. The overall 232 indicators link existing datasets to the targets to facilitate the measurement, and evaluation, of progress. To measure is to know!

The Global Goals in your backyard

Under the title “Global Goals”, several organisations around the world are organising events and actions to create awareness of the SDGs and to mobilise people to contribute to the accomplishment of the goals. These events are diverse and differ in scale. Worldwide, there are various events around the subject how to make the SDGs “local business”. In the UK context, the UN Global Compact Network UK organizes the SDG Roadshow, which focuses on how businesses can align their strategies with the SDGs (1). Furthermore, in London Fashion United, a leading fashion trade event, has recently launched the “Power of One”. Through this campaign they aim to raise awareness for the Global Goals and in particularly for ethical and sustainable fashion.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals are also for you!

What encompasses these 17 goals precisely? How are we progressing? Who contributes towards their achievement? What can I do?

During an internship for the United Nations in 2016, I was responsible to find answer to these questions and communicate them to various people. I observed that although everyone is convinced of the importance of the SDGs, they often get stuck in the web of goals, targets and indicators. Meanwhile, I have started working on my PhD at King’s College London and have noticed that there is quite a bit of uncertainty on the SDGs amongst students.

To contribute to a better world, I want to make the SDGs more concrete and accessible for you. To do so, I will write an article about every goal in which I explain what the specific goal means and sketch the current situation. I will give examples of initiatives addressing the specific goal and suggests ways for you to contribute as well. Will you help to build a better world?

 

References

  • Want to know more on the SDG roadshow? You can visit their website here.
  • You can read more on the Power of One here.

Our Fundraising and Supporter Development Sustainability Champions are raising the bar

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Zoe Long. Zoe is a MA student studying Climate Change: History, Culture and Society at King’s.

The Sustainability Champions from the Fundraising and Supporter Development Team have been working incredibly hard all year to reduce their office’s impact on the environment. This year they are working towards the Silver Sustainability Champion Award. Their Chair Caitlyn Lindsay took some time to explain what they’ve been up to.

The Fundraising and Supporter Development Department raise money for the university and affiliated hospitals including Guy’s Cancer Centre, Evelina Children’s, Maudsley Mental Health and St Thomas. The team is comprised of around 120 staff in the Virginia Woolf Building and raise money through a series of events, alumni funding and telephone campaigns.

The Sustainability Champions’ main focus has been raising awareness of environmental issues and the small ways people can make a change but have a big impact. Some of the events organised this year include:

  • Swap Shop: A clothing exchange to recycle wearable but unwanted clothes, finding them a new home and reducing waste going to landfill. This provides also great alternative to buying new items. Money raised from this event was donated to Crisis to buy a safe place for someone stay at Christmas. Any leftover clothes were donated to Smart Works and Oxfam.
  • Craft Fair: Fabric scraps and coffee pods were recycled, crafted and sold in aid of Evelina Children’s Hospital. Another great idea to divert materials from the waste stream.
  • January Walking Challenge: To beat the January blues staff in the office were challenged to walk the furthest, competing both individually and in teams. The initiative was a real success, spawning some healthy competition and encouraging people to swap their commute or get off a few stops earlier. Walking is good for the body, mind and planet!
  • Food Bank Collection: A drive for dry goods and sanitary products saw two boxes of goods being donated to the Waterloo food bank just in time for Christmas.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: The Team is taking part in a Citizen Science scheme run by Friends of the Earth in collaboration with King’s College London to measure air quality in London. Look out for the test tube on Kingsway measuring the air pollution score. The scheme is also designed to prompt thinking about the ways in which we can improve air quality in the city.

Sustainability Week saw the Champions make a special effort to reduce the office’s impact on the environment, events included:

  • Meatless Monday Lunch: Exploring meat-free diets to reduce stress on the planet’s environmental resources.
  • Plastic Free Tuesday Quiz: An interactive way to raise awareness of the many ways in which we can cut down on our plastic use.
  • Power Down Friday: A push to switch off monitors as well as computers at the end of the week to save power. This raises awareness of the many ways in which energy is being consumed in

So far the efforts have been enthusiastically received in the office. Next year the team is aiming to build on their success and achieve the Sustainability Champion Gold Award by focusing on procurement, consumption, and reducing printing.

Sustainability Week Careers Event

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Zoe Long. Zoe  is a MA student studying Climate Change: History, Culture and Society at King’s.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)

The Discover Careers in Sustainability event on Monday night kicked off the series of evening events part of King’s Sustainability Week. Full of useful information about future careers, the panel was formed of a range of professionals already working in the sector in various capacities. Sitting on the panel:

• Kat Thorne – Head of Sustainability for King’s College London
• Veda Karandikar – Senior Associate in the Sustainability and Climate Change consulting department at PwC
• David Lourie – Director of Good Business
• Iyesogie Igiehon – Associate in the Global Environmental and Regulatory Law Group at Allen & Overy

For those who could not attend the event, here is a summary of some of the best advice.

Was your first job you dream job?
The overwhelming response was no. Instead, the advice was to focus on the role and the skills it can help you to develop. Considering why the job does not suit you can help shape where you want to be next.

Each panel member has a very different background and route to sustainability, however, they were united by the fact that none of them actually intend to work in the sector. Instead, each person followed a career route led by their interests and networking!

How can you find jobs in smaller, harder to find companies? 
Recruitment consultants a good place to start; there are lots of niche recruitment firms, but Acre was mentioned specifically. Whilst they may not have specific graduate roles, a role may come up once in a while and by talking to recruiters you are putting your name out there. Escape the City was also brought up as a place to look for less traditional roles. Twitter, LinkedIn and any social media accounts are often sources of niche roles that may not be advertised elsewhere. When reading reports, check out who wrote the report and if the company is somewhere you would be interested in working. Finally, it is a cliché but networking counts! Get out there and talk to people, be interested in other people’s work and attend lots of events, London is the perfect place to do so.

How can you make your application stand out?
The panellists were very clear you should do your research to really understand what the company is about. You must demonstrate you know who you are applying to. Kat suggested saving your time applying to 100 companies in favour of spending time perfecting five or even one application that you really want. In this time it is important to show the skills you will be using in the role such as research and analysis. Demonstrate you know what the role involves, and how your skills fit the tasks involved.

If you haven’t got a formal education in the role you are applying to, show your interest through practical action or evidence such as volunteering or blogging.

What is the future of the sustainability industry?
There are no signs the sustainability sector growth is slowing. In fact, all signs point to it growing, as larger firms dedicate more resources and time to grow their sustainability departments leading. This will lead to a skills demand in the market. But the sector is changing. Terms like ‘sustainability’ and ‘CSR’ are being used less and less as sustainability becomes a good business practice rather than a side branch of this business.

As sustainability becomes integrated into businesses, jobs will be less advertised as pure sustainability roles and more about core business functions with an edge (or interest) in CSR and sustainability. This means it will be harder to find specific roles so you should focus on your interests and skills. David from Good Business mentioned that when hiring, his firm did not necessarily look for a background in sustainability but rather the skills (business or otherwise) that the candidate will bring to the firm. Secondary to this is a demonstrable interest in the company’s values. Think commercially; trends set to grow include Big Data, AI, and Block chain so start brushing up!

Nevertheless, this is definitely a growing sector, becoming important in every sector and job.

Thank you for a successful Sustainability Week and well done to our GoodGym participants

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us to put on events, chatted to us during our pop ups and helped us to spread the sustainability message throughout King’s. The success of Sustainability Week 2018 wouldn’t have been possible without you all and we in the Sustainability Team are grateful to everyone who participated. We will be bringing you blog posts about all of the different events from the week, and to start of we have a recap of the King’s GoodGym run to the Oasis Waterloo Farm.

The following guest blog comes courtesy of Alyx Murray-Jackman. Alyx is a Sport Participation Coordinator for King’s Sports.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)

Tonight we visited Oasis Farm Waterloo, an urban farm and community resource in Waterloo, a hidden gem just moments from the Southbank, and the closest farm to Parliament. We also managed to run 4km and fit in a quick but tough circuits session.

Joining us for their first ever GoodGym group run, we had the amazing RajmundAnnaGeorgiaOctavia and Theo (wow so many!) – give them a cheer for coming out in the cold and using their run to do some good. As well as welcoming these fab runners we also heard about the Long Run taking place in South London this weekend for anyone that’s about, and a little reminder of the Thursday running fitness session happening in Vauxhall this week.

As well as braving the cold, here at GoodGym King’s we also had to brave the busy Waterloo Bridge Commute as we couldn’t head out over Blackfriars Bridge as usual due to the location of the task. We practiced our dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge techniques and headed out. With everyone safely over the bridge, we made quick work of the rest of the journey down to the farm and met Roddy outside.

The task: The super organised Roddy split us up into groups when we arrived and showed us each to a planter – we needed to remove all the soil, take out all the bricks, move the planter, and then re-fill it with the bricks and soil – we had a tough 40 minutes ahead of us with a good arm workout! Between us we managed to fully move a couple of planters and make a great start on 2 or 3 more which some volunteers are going to finish off in the morning. I think the sounds of the animals settling down for sleep helped us work hard (especially the pigs from the Pig Palace!).

Roddy kindly let us use the farm’s new barn for our fitness session as it started to rain. We went through questions like “are you scared of spiders?”, “have you eaten any pancakes already today?” and “do you cycle to work?” – if you answered yes to the question you had a 40 second strength exercise to do, if you answered no then it was a 40 second cardio exercise.

After lots of squats, high knees and mountain climbers (great suggestion Sophie!), we were ready to head back to King’s. We waved goodbye to Roddy with promises of coming back soon to help with more tasks (hopefully in slightly warmer weather)! We ran back a slightly longer route, with slightly better views, over Westminster Bridge and did some stretches back at the base.

Credit to Gosia for the pun!

SPA takes itself to task on sustainability

Laura Westwood SPAThis week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Laura Westwood. Laura is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)


The last couple of months have seen a proliferation of posters and a new recycling bin in the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.  Handily located at the tea point, the new bin makes each coffee break an unavoidable opportunity to do our bit – and we’ve additionally committed to using only eco-friendly coffee pods.

Before the bin arrived, we had to walk to the kitchen across the corridor to recycle waste.  Hardly an onerous task, I admit, but when one lunches al desko on rainy days, absent-mindedly favouring the nearest receptacle can become a habit.  I have rescued several stray banana skins from the floor under my desk this week, as I habituate to our personal bin ‘cull’!

When our Directorate Sustainability Champion, Sian, came to the Internal Audit team meeting, the information she shared with us showed that some of the choices we make with good intentions may in fact be ill-informed.  I had been convinced that rinsing my cup under the tap was preferable to leaving it in the dishwasher, but Sian explained that if we avoid using sinks and run one dishwasher cycle per day, our energy efficiency will improve.

My personal good news story is that, confronted with the information on one of our new office posters that King’s produces ten tons of waste each day, I logged into Papercut for the first time and resolved to curtail my printing activities.  I find it much easier to absorb information when I read it on paper, but I’ve made a concerted effort.  My first zero-printing week occurred this month, and I hope for many more.

The next step for the Strategy, Planning & Assurance sustainability team is to advance our ideas for contributing to the local community.  Talks are underway with local organisations to build on the success of previous years’ clothing collections by welcoming homeless guests for a hearty meal served by King’s staff and students.   New and nearly new clothing and accessories are planned to be collected and displayed in ‘retail’ style, so that guests can browse at leisure and select pieces to take away.

All in all, the drive for sustainability in SPA has pushed me to fully accept my duty to demonstrate sustainable behaviours at work.  However insignificant our individual ‘oops’ moments may seem amongst an 8000-strong staff population, they add up to serious environmental impact.  I can no longer gloss over my environmental footprint, because with Sian’s help, it has been laid out in front of me – and I’m thankful for that.

Laura Westwood is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance. 

Sustainability Champions- Culture at King’s

This weeks guest blog comes courtesy of Culture at Kings, who tell us about some of the great initiatives they have been carrying out over the last few months as well as their upcoming sustainability plans.

“If you know where to look, you can find many great green initiatives at King’s. There’s an Urban Garden Project, a Cycling Club and there’s even talk of having a bee hive on the roof of the Strand building. It’s fantastic to see how many people across the University are concerned with the environment and we at Culture at King’s wanted to be a part of that of course, so we signed up to the Sustainability Champions scheme with a team of six.

We worked through our workbook and ticked the boxes for a greener office: printing double-sided, wearing jumpers instead of turning up the heating, drinking Fairtrade tea, and shutting down equipment that’s not in use. But soon we started to change things in our personal routines as well. We realised we were eating less meat, we wouldn’t buy products with excessive wrapping, at least two of us have a 4-minute-shower-challenge timer, and we started bringing spare fruit and veg into the office to share with colleagues to reduce our food waste.

Plant-cultureStella Toonen signed up to receiving a bagful of organic vegetables every week, an initiative run by PhD student Roger Hallam in the CMCI department to offer an alternative to buying groceries from supermarkets. Yvonne Castle attended a Bee Hotel Workshop led by Urban Bees, a free event which was part of the Northbank Festival. She made a little bamboo hotel for solitary bees and learnt lots about the different types of bees pollinating London flora. And Kate Dunton helped out at her local organic community allotment and planted bee-friendly flowering herbs in her own garden.

So with all the support we received from colleagues we decided we could take it a bit further and started organising bigger awareness initiatives. We set up an ‘Air Con Free Fridays’ pilot in the office for July and August, which is going very well. And we’re planning to organise a ‘Buy British Week’, in which we encourage staff to buy products grown close to home and celebrate their achievements with a picnic on the last day of the week.

Staff enjoying the breeze at our first Air Con Free Friday

Staff enjoying the breeze at our first Air Con Free Friday

It looks like we’ve got exciting ‘green’ things coming up, and (perhaps subconsciously) our work across King’s also seems to include some great initiatives too. Our Science Gallery London team at Guy’s campus has been promoting the benefits of eating insects through our Fed Up season about food, and as part of our Cultural Institute’s Utopia 2016 season we’re already having great conversations with artists about visualising a perfectly sustainable world. As Sustainability Champions we’d like to think we had something to do with it.”

A Clash of Titans: The Principal’s Debate on fossil fuel divestment

[This guest post comes courtesy of Justin Fisher, a former Masters student and alumni member of KCL Fossil Free. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]

Last Wednesday marked an important day for King’s as President and Principal Ed Byrne hosted his first Principal’s Debate. This was in response to King’s Fossil Free campaign, which has for more than a year been increasing support for its motion asking the College to divest Debate_Pic_1itself from the fossil fuel industries. For those who have not followed the progress of the campaign, it really kicked off in October with the submission of a 1200 signature petition to the university administration. While that number has since increased to over 1400, the university finally declined the divestment option formally in mid-February. However, much to King’s credit, the Principal’s Debate went ahead as scheduled, and it made for a most lively and engaging evening, and further demonstrated the scope of the passionate support for divestment at King’s.

The question at hand was, ‘Is divestment from fossil fuel companies a useful policy tool to bring about action on climate change?’ Representing the College on the ‘no’ side were King’s VP of Research & Innovation Chris Mottershead and King’s Professor of Climate & Culture Mike Hulme. Speakers on the ‘yes’ side included Mark Campanale, co-founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, and Mark Horowitz, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at King’s and one of the initiators of King’s divestment campaign. Each speaker was allowed to make their case before fielding questions from the audience and making some final rebuttals.

Chris Mottershead has been in close contact with the campaign for months, and it was to him that the petition was given back in October. Interestingly, Mottershead has spent the majority of his career working for BP, and he has perhaps unsurprisingly been weary of endorsing divestment at King’s. In his remarks he focused attention on the role of governments in owning and controlling the majority of carbon reserves, seemingly trying to make the case that fossil fuel companies are not the ones driving fossil fuel extraction, and the role of consumer demand. He was also careful to focus on the global need for fossil fuels, and reiterated time and again the need for consistency in the ways King’s invests. However, he admitted that he does not believe that King’s has any current investments in renewables. One of the most powerful concessions of the debate came when an audience member bluntly confronted Mottershead with the question of whether his three decades of experience working with BP created a conflict of interest with the divestment question. Mottershead responded that it ‘probably’ did. He also compromised his position when he claimed, late in the debate, that fossil fuel companies don’t actually have much political power, which drew loud jeers from the audience. Clearly the crowd was not buying what Mottershead was selling, though few would deny the importance of government action. Indeed, that is one of the primary aims of the divestment campaign.

Professor Hulme proved a welcome and intriguing addition to the panel. A Nobel-laureate for his work with the IPCC, his experience working with climate change is beyond question, and his academic approach to the topic provided a lot of interesting debate and easily provoked the majority of the questions from the audience. Hulme carefully explained the importance of economic development in the poor world and technological innovation in mitigating the worst impacts of climate change, and continually reiterated that reducing the question of climate change to carbon emissions is an oversimplification. He offered a reminder of the range of challenges brought about by climate change, and explained why he preferred a broad approach with multiple targets. He was also fixated on the semantics of the question, as he reiterated time and again that he did not believe that divestment was a useful policy tool, nor did he believe that it would bring about what he believed to be the necessary range of actions to address the myriad problems posed by a rapidly changing climate. However, when he eventually conceded that divestment may well be a useful tool for social mobilisation, there was a noticeable buzz of excited exasperation from the crowd. Indeed, it seems as though few of Hulme’s points were incompatible with the aims of the fossil free campaign, and he did offer an important reminder of the complexity and diversity of the issue.

Mark Campanale offered a level and analytical approach to the question, which is not surprising given his role in helping to found the Carbon Tracker Initiative. It was Carbon Tracker that first coined the term ‘carbon bubble’ and explained its implications; if the world takes action to limit global warming to below 2°C, in any form, then as much as 80% of Debate_pic_2known carbon reserves will be left in the ground. Given that fossil fuel companies are valued largely on the reserves they hold, these so-called ‘stranded assets’ would rapidly sink such companies and lead to a crisis similar to that when the US housing bubble burst in 2008, only far worse. That bubble was worth a staggering $2.8 trillion. The value of the carbon bubble? An unfathomable $28 trillion. Campanale explained carefully the financial folly in continuing to invest in companies whose future projects are all but guaranteed to lose money, providing a sound financial case for divestment.

Mark Horowitz was the final speaker and he made the most of his time, deftly covering a range of issues from scientific projections of the effects of increased carbon emissions to the advent of grid parity in much of the poor world (where renewable power has become a more affordable option than fossil fuels) to the political obstruction of fossil fuel companies undermining climate regulations. He patiently explained that the position of the campaign is not a radical one; rather, that of companies’ intent on burning far more carbon than is known to be compatible with life on this planet is as radical as it gets. He offered an impassioned and logical approach and against Mottershead and Hulme’s assertions that fossil fuel companies provide a social good, asked at what point does the negative begin to outweigh the positive, bringing about the need for a change in the balance of power? Horowitz asserted that perhaps the decades of experience on the other side of the table had fostered a complacency towards the status quo when what is needed more than ever are fresh perspectives.

The most engaging part of the evening were the audience questions that came after each speaker made their case, some of which have been alluded to above, which lasted for more than an hour. The general mood of the room was encapsulated in an assertion from an audience member that they had no doubt that King’s would eventually divest, and the real question was whether it was going to be a leader or a laggard. Indeed, with other London universities such as SOAS and LSE setting formal processes to work on the question, King’s is already looking more like a follower than a global leader.

The debate ended with Ed Byrne asking the audience to show its support for one side or the other by way of applause. The thunderous racket in support of divestment, accompanied by a visual show of support with audience members holding the Fossil Free logo, boisterously summed up the excited pro-divestment sentiment of the crowd. The debate offered a tremendous platform for both sides to explain their stance, and a lot of genuinely useful dialogue was generated as a result. At the end, though, one could not help leaving feeling as though support for divestment is growing. It was good of King’s to participate in such an event, and we shall now wait and see how well the administration was listening.

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