Category: Procurement (page 1 of 2)

A winning idea – How to make fashion more sustainable

This week’s guest blog comes from Cristina Zheng Ji. 

Every year, the Policy Institute encourages students and staff to pitch their policy ideas to a panel of experts. This year, the overall winner was second year Political Economy student Cristina, with her pitch to make the fashion industry more sustainable. We met up with Cristina to talk about what inspired her to take part, why sustainability in fashion is important, and how consumers can influence industry.

What inspired you to take part in Policy Idol?

Cristina: One of my lecturers suggested it as a great opportunity, so I decided to look at it. I had two ideas for a pitch, but narrowed it down to this one.

What is the Environmental Cost Labelling System?

C: It’s a labelling system to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing production. This would involve using the traffic lights system: red for the highest environmental cost through to green for the lowest and apply it to four categories of impact – water use, energy use, scope to recycle, and whether it is biodegradable.

What inspired you to do a pitch on sustainable fashion? Did you come across sustainability in your degree?

C: I was inspired by a YouTube video I saw on how there is an increased accumulation of plastic fibres in the environment. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic break up in a washing machine cycle and get into water streams. The numbers were astonishing: a washing load can realise up to 700 000 fibres in a single wash. This made me think about how people can reduce or change their consumption of polluting clothing – for example to pieces that don’t release plastic fibres. After looking deeper into the issue, I also found out that disposable fashion caused other severe environmental damages, too. Sadly, information about the impact of clothes on nature is not easily available, so I thought it would be useful to do something to aid consumers when they go shopping. I narrowed the environmental factors down to four categories, which can be changed after feedback from experts. I was also inspired by the traffic lights system in the food industry which colour coded food to provide nutritional information at a glance.

Sustainability is a general interest of mine, but not a formal part of my degree. Sometimes people around you also have a good influence – at home my parent’s generation wasn’t as aware of recycling, but coming to university my friends are very aware. And climate change is a huge issue with a wide range of threats, so it’s good to focus on sustainability. My other idea was also on climate change.

Why is fashion so important?

C: Many people are not aware of how polluting the industry is – it is the second biggest polluter in the world after the oil industry and bigger than shipping and aviation industries combined. We know that cars, shipping and flying have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but we don’t know about clothing. With the fast fashion model of ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ – where we buy clothes, wear them two or three times, and then throw them away –, people buy and dispose a lot of clothes. In Britain, more than 300 000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. And people will still buy fast fashion as it’s a habit and generally affordable to most, but I believe that once people are aware of it, they might change their behaviour.

I think it is important to give consumers the choice. The idea for the pitch came from the idea of ‘nudging’. Some people see nudging to be paternalistic; however, it preserves people’s freedom to choose according to their own preferences. With the Environmental Cost Labelling System, options of good/neutral/bad are given, so if people want to make the ‘bad’ environmental choice they can do this, but one day they might choose the ‘good’ option instead. For those who have not thought the green issues much yet, the labelling could nudge them towards the better option. And for those who already choose a ‘green’ lifestyle, a lack of relevant information in the fashion industry makes this difficult. Ethical and sustainable fashion is often expensive. If we target the high street with this labelling system, we can bring sustainability to consumers without them having to research brands they don’t know, or spend more money.

Do you think this will lead companies to change their practices?

C: I think it will do. A change in the consumer purchasing behaviour can lead to a change in the manufacturer’s behaviour as they see an increase in demand in sustainable clothes and a decrease in unsustainable ones. Companies also have something to gain from this. If consumers switch to more sustainable brands, it will reward brands working on sustainability.

And companies know that sustainability is important, and that they can’t go on like this. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. make denim from cotton, but know that an uncontrolled and irresponsible resource use of this is wasteful and unsustainable. They are now working towards a circular economy where they encourage the consumer to take their old clothes and shoes back to the stores to be recycled.

What would the system look like, how would it work?

C: The four categories are a starting point – these could be changed after expert reviews. The information would be on clothing tags. Most clothes have a price tag, and also an additional one with information on the brand, or for example one I saw only says ‘We are denim’ 10 times. To replace this, I have designed a tag that has the Environmental Cost Labelling System with the traffic lights on it. In the food industry, the traffic lights labelling is not mandatory, so different brands may set their own standards. If this were to be made mandatory for clothing, and there was a universal agreement of standards for each colour, this could be powerful. There are already websites and non-profits out there that collate information on sustainability of clothing – we could work with them.

Just having a label to simply say ‘sustainable’ isn’t enough. There are so many aspects related to sustainability, and the Environmental Cost Labelling System would allow consumers to consider which aspects are the most important to them when they go shopping – e.g. energy use, water etc. The traffic light system also tells us about intensity, and not just pass/fail – it gives more power to the consumer.

 

After winning the overall prize at this year’s Policy Idol, Cristina is now looking at working with the Policy Institute to take her idea further. We hope that in the future, we might see this labeling system on the clothes we buy!

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 3

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

Month 5: February & Finance

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

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

 

Month 6: March & Networks

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

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

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

~

Links and tips

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

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 2

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

Month 3: December & Christmas

Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.

  • Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
  • Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
  • I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?

Verdict: Definitely easy and fun

 

Month 4: January & Food

Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.

  • Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
    • Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
    • Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
    • Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
  • Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
  • This one is definitely a journey but there’s so much reward in being thoughtful about food. Some things I’m still working on:
    • Bringing in lunch to work from home consistently
    • Pushing my vegetarianism a bit closer to veganism, which I’ve started by treating cheese as more of a delicious treat than a daily staple
    • Just cooking better food: Anna Jones has been a great help here on seasonal recipes especially!

Verdict: High impact and mostly fun!

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Month 1: October & Commuting

Switching my commute from bus to bike.

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

Verdict: Easy, high impact and fun!

 

Month 2: November & Home

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

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

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

 

To be continued…

Apps to Help You Go Green

Eco-Friendly Search Engines

Ecosia

Ecosia is a certified B Corp and was founded in 2009. It’s mission to mission to cultivate a greener world and has the goal to plant one billion new trees by the year 2020.

Ecosia does this by donating at least 80% of its advertising income to tree planting programs in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, and Peru. It currently has 7 million active users and has planted over 52, 000, 000 trees so far.

Using the app (or desktop search engine) is an easy way to make a difference.

(Ecosia also doesn’t sell your data to advertisers nor have third party trackers, unlike other some of the larger search engines…)

Tackling Food Waste

10 million tonnes of food is chucked away in UK every year. That’s equivalent to wasting £17 billion or £700, on average per household.

Olio

Olio is part of the ‘food sharing revolution’. This app connects people who have food to give away. There are 907,000 people have joined the Olio platform, and so far, has saved 1,218,03 portions of food!

To advertise food: download the app, snap a picture, give the item a short description & when and where the item is available for pick-up.

Too good to go

This app allows food outlets (Restaurants, Cafés,  Bakeries etc.) to advertise any food they have left over at the end of the day– to be sold in Too Good To Go’s ‘magic bags’ for heavily discounted prices.

So far, Too Good To Go has partnered with 1,488 stores (such as Yo! Sushi and Paul) across the UK, saving 479, 094 meals from the bin (equivalent to saving approx. 958,188 Kg of CO2). To learn more about Too Good To Go, watch their video here.

Plastic Reduction

Refill

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. 

The Refill app locates sources of free drinking water wherever you are. In London there are  over 900 refill stations. Around King’s, there are over 42 refill points around Strand, 38 near Waterloo, 17 around Guys , 10 by St Thomas’ & 4 close to Denmark Hill.

Using Refill helps to reduce use of disposable plastic water bottles (nearly half of the bottles in the UK are not recycled, with more than 15 million littered) and save carbon emissions connected to the disposable plastic production. Refill also receives 13p for every refill logged on the app, which goes towards planet protecting campaigns.

(The King’s App can also help you locate re-fill station inside of each King’s campus).

Keep your refillable bottle with you and you’ll never go thirsty again!

Sustainable Fashion

Good On You

Good On You gives you ethical ratings to over 1,000 high street fashion brands. These ratings encompass not just  environmental sustainability (e.g. assessing the company’s energy and water intensity, chemical use and disposal), but social sustainability; analysing factors such as child and forced labour, worker safety, freedom of association and payment of the living wage. Good On You also builds the rating around if any animals are used (reduced scores linked to the use of angora, down feather, shearling, karakul and exotic animal skin/hair, wool and leather).

Users can feedback and make requests of the brands.

Read more on how Good On You and how they rate here.

Sustainability Week 2019

Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside student societies and staff Sustainability Champions, put on events with the aim to educate on various areas of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

Here is a summary of the week…

Sustainability Pop up: This Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We played lots of sustainability related games –
we quizzed you on how many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs you could remember and played the washing line game, where staff & students got the chance to win a Keep Cup and a free tea/coffee if they correctly guessed how long it took seven everyday items to degrade (from tea bags, to tin cans (hint: they rust!) to plastic bags). It was great to talk with staff & students about what interests you most within sustainability and we got the chance to update staff & students on some of the sustainability projects happening at King’s – for example, the Don’t Be Trashy project and behaviour change techniques aimed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in King’s halls of residences.

Josh & Ali from the Sustainability Team at the Sustainability Pop Up, Tues 12th Feb.

King’s VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. We hosted this event in collaboration with the King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society. There were lots of free samples from vegan producers, including vegan cheese (thank you Tyne Chease), chocolate (thanks to Raw Halo) snacks (thank you to Purl Pops, Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Freya’s Fruit Bars), Dairy Alternatives (thank you KoKo, Rebel Mylk and to a King’s Alumni own brand: Edenera!). Students and staff also brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, we discussed the environmental impact of the food we eat and general sustainability passions!

VegFest Vegan Product Samples, Fri 15th Feb.

Dr Bike: Cycling is not only an environmentally sustainable form of transportation, but one that is socially sustainable due to the value exercise has on physical health and overall well-being.

We want to encourage cycling in London and help make it as easy as possible for our staff and students. Therefore, we held four Dr Bike sessions across the King’s campuses. These Dr Bike sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff. Mechanics led the session and checked brakes, gears and chains, changed bike pads and gave advice and accurate quotes for whatever they couldn’t fix. There are many Dr Bike sessions happening across London every day, organised through Cycle Confident. To keep up to date with the latest session near you, follow Cycle Confident updates here.

Dr Bike at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA), Tues 13th Feb.

Film Screening: A Northern Soul: Sustainability often gets bundled into being thought of as purely environmental, with the social and economic sides to it often neglected. This year, for our final event of the week, we chose a film which demonstrated the importance of these two, often forgotten, pillars of sustainability. A Northern Soul is a documentary set in Hull, which follows one man, Steve, a warehouse worker on his journey through Hull in 2017 during its crowing year as the ‘UK City of Culture‘. We see Steve chase his passion of bringing hip-hop to disadvantaged kids across the city, through his Beats Bus. The film raises uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK, but does so while demonstrating the strength and charm of Hull’s residents in the face of this inequality. The film is available on BFI player.

Shot from the documentary ‘A Northern Soul’

GoodGym Run: King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Euston Food Bank. GoodGym volunteers helped to sort out the dry donations of cereal, biscuits and chocolate into sell by date to help ensure no food loss and effective allocation of items according to date. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to help the local community. To read more on GoodGym click here.  

GoodGym runners and walkers, Fri 15th Feb.

Gardening at the Maughan: The Library Services Sustainability Champions ran the gardening session at the Maughan to help nurture the 200+ trees which were planted in the garden at the start of December 2018, as part of National Tree Week and broader City of London Environment and Clean Air Strategies . Sustainability Week volunteers watered all the trees and
re-taped them to ensure their visibility, helped to replant some of the crab apple trees and gave the garden a quick litter pick – all in all, the garden got a good bit of T(ree)LC.

Left: Planting the trees in December ’18. Right: checking up on the trees & re-planting some of the growing crab apple trees.

Ethical Beauty Talk:  Stephanie Green from the Modern Language Centre spoke about how sustainable shea butter can empower women. Speaking from her experience living and working in Ghana she told the story behind the TAMA brand, made from natural shea butter. Lots of the beautiful vegan friendly soaps, creams and lotions were also available for sale at the session!

Zero- Waste Beauty Workshop: 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. The UN has stated that our use of plastic is creating a ‘planetary crisis’, and by 2050, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish. Read more here.

During the week, we held two zero-waste workshop sessions, co-hosted with the King’s Beauty Society. In these sessions, students learnt more about the global plastic-problem and the individual steps we all can do to make zero-waste living that little bit more achievable. Students got to make their own zero-waste coffee body scrub (using King’s Food own used coffee grounds – which would have otherwise gone to Anaerobic Digestion), lemon lip scrub and peppermint toothpaste!

Due to the demand, The Sustainability Team plan to host more events like this throughout the year. In the meantime, a post with the zero-waste beauty recipes will follow on the blog soon.

Top Left: Students with their coffee scrubs
Top right: Essential oils used for the toothpaste and lip scrub
Bottom Left: Breakdown composition of the coffee body scrub (1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 coconut oil)
Bottom Right: President of KCL Beauty Soc

Thank you to everyone who helped organise and took part in Sustainability Week 2019! We love meeting you all and hearing your feedback, ideas and passions. You showed King’s really can #MakeADifference!

Eco Friendly Christmas Part II – Gifts

Gifts

There are many sustainable gifts you can buy your loved ones – for example:

Are they a foodie?

You could buy your loved one’s sustainable gifts such as great Fairtrade chocolate or coffee.

For example, Seed & Bean, Meaningful Chocolate, Rawr Choc or Grumpy Mule coffee. 

Are they into health and wellbeing?

Sustainable Yoga mat

Exercise helps to nurture wellbeing but lots of yoga mats are made from PVC and other harmful materials.

This brand does amazing biodegradable yoga mats made with vegetable fibres that look pretty too!

Liforme is also a great brand making sustainable yoga mats. However, they are on the more expensive end, but will still make a great investment for an avid Yogi wanting to invest more into their mat and the environment.

Homemade gifts

Why not make them something special and personalised?

For example, a homemade candle. Candles are very simple to make, click here for a simple, step-by-step tutorial on how to make one.

Plant-based waxes such as rapeseed or soy are the better option compared to paraffin waxes which can pose health risks. When paraffin is burnt, carcinogenic compounds (such as Acetaldehyde, Benzene, Formaldehyde) are released into the air. Plus, the use of paraffin encourages the discovery, refinement, distribution and consumption of crude oil. 

Plant wax candles also last longer than paraffin, are less likely to be blended with additives, are biodegradable and also vegan-friendly.

Some good waxes can be found here. Don’t forget you will also need to buy wicks – these can be bought from local haberdasher, which is also more sustainable through the support of local business, reducing delivery miles and reducing reliance on companies such as Amazon – which has questionable staff-treatment.

Making your own candles is great and it allows you to tailor the scent to the favourite smell of the person receiving the gift. You can buy a range of natural oils from Lavender (which is calming),  Rosemary (thought to boost memory and mental function) to frankincense (calming and extra-christmassy!). You can browse a range of natural oils available to purchase here and here 

Do they need to get the hint…?

If you are being driven crazy by someone’s unsustainable habits – why not nudge them in the right direction and give them some sustainable tools they can use in their daily life to make their life less wasteful and more efficient?

Reusable cup

Keepcup online allows your to design your own personalised cup. This sustainable nudge could be made special by designing their cup with their favourite colours.

Eco-lunchbox

The brand, ecolunchware makes lunchboxes from organic wheat straw – reducing plastic while helping your loved-one reduce food waste and save money (so long Tesco meal deals).

Bamboo straws

If your mate is always putting a plastic straw into their Christmas cocktail – why not get them a bamboo or metal straw which they carry with them to bring out when needed? 

Support a charity

Charities such as Amnesty International have a great catalogue of gifts – from an ‘Immigrant Cookbook‘ of which a portion of the profits will go to the Migrants Rights Network, to a bird nesting box and hanging planters. 

Wrapping Your Gift

There are many  brands which make wrapping paper out of recycled paper such as ‘ReWrapped‘. Gift bags such as this one are also great – as they can continuously be reused and save you lots of wrapping up time! 

If you receive a large gift – save the wrapping paper from it and use it for next year when you’re wrapping up future gifts. 

No Gifts

If you want to cut the consumerism of Christmas back – why not use the money you would have spent on the presents for a day out with your loved-one instead?  

Since last Christmas, my family and I decided to do this instead of giving gifts. Well, we give one gift each. But compare this to 10-20 gifts from the previous years this is quite a cutback. The pilot last year actually worked really well. My dad in particular was very hesitant, as he thought giving only one gift would make it seem like he didn’t care. However, this one gift Christmas taught him doing something together as a family actually allows you to share your love, excitement for Christmas and create memories together that gift-giving on Christmas morning doesn’t quite achieve. Opening gifts on Christmas morning is always enjoyable, but the memories and stories of trips and events done in replacement those gifts, to me, are much more powerful as well as long-lasting less wasteful. The no-gifts or one-gift Christmas may not be for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about and discussing with your loved-ones as an idea.

Eco Friendly Christmas Part I – The Tree

1. Artificial Tree or Real Tree?

Artificial 

If you can get a second hand one, fake. You can find these from sites such as Ebay, Gumtree or Freecycle.

However, a 6-foot artificial tree produces 40kg of emissions (if thrown into landfill), compared to a real tree which creates only 3.5kg of emissions (if it’s chipped or incinerated). Therefore, if a second-hand artificial tree is not an option, real trees are the more sustainable option.

Real 

You can make sure your real tree has been grown sustainably by looking for the FSC-certification. The Forestry Comission can tell you where your nearest Christmas trees are available to buy near you. And even better, one that’s also certified by the Soil Association – i.e. one that is organic and pesticide free. There are also over 400 Christmas tree growers across the UK registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, where trees are grown according to strict guidelines (for example, being required to use sustainable seeds to protect local wildlife).

The Christmas Forest is small and independent family business who provide sustainable trees from 10 sites across London. Every tree cut after its nine-year growing cycle is replaced, and for every tree sold, another is donated so it can be grown by a family in Africa through Tree Aid.

Once Christmas is over, you can contact the council who can collect your tree in January and shred it into chipping or use it for compost. Check your council pick up dates here.

Tree rental is also a new option which is becoming more available – although, still tricky to come by. It works by you renting the tree from your local garden centre/nursery, and they will pick it up after Christmas to bring back and allow the tree to grow further. Check at your local garden centre to see if this is an option – whilst helping to raise awareness at these centres that this is a demand consumers want to see more of in the future.

Blog Series: SDG 2 – Food is Life

This week’s guest blog comes third 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.  

Are you ready to rescue food? That is the motto of a Dutch restaurant called ‘InStock’. In response to the fact that one third of food production is wasted, they decided to create dishes solely with the unsold products from local supermarkets (1). Although we produce enough food to feed everyone, one in nine people (815 million) still go to bed on an empty stomach. After a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again because of conflict, droughts and disasters.

The Targets: Ending Hunger and Achieving Food Security

The targets underpinning SDG 2 address the access to and production of food, while supporting rural development and protecting the environment. By 2030, all people must have access to safe and nutritious food, and all forms of malnutrition must be ended. Malnutrition can, amongst other things, lead to growth cessation for young children and unborn babies. Furthermore, the agricultural productivity and income of small-scale food producers must be doubled in a sustainable way. Importantly, food production must be able to maintain ecosystems and the diversity of seeds, plants and animals, whilst being resilient to climate changes. Additionally, investments in agricultural should be strengthened, trade restrictions corrected, and extreme food price volatility limited.

The Situation: From Hunger to Health?

If current trends continue, the targets set in SDG 2 will be largely missed by 2030 (2). Malnutrition sits awkwardly with the large amount of food waste and increased levels of overnutrition and obesity. There are large in-country and intra-country differences, most notably between developed and developing countries. In the later, almost 13 percent of the people are undernourished, with peaks in Asia (33 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (23 percent). Alarmingly, poor nutrition is still the case of nearly half of deaths in children under five. To increase food security, governments must top up their spending on small farms, crop diversity and women’s access to agricultural resources.

 

The food security crisis in Yemen

An occurrence of food insecurity which illustrates the link with conflict and climate change, is Yemen (3). Yemen is ravaged by ongoing levels of conflict between the Yemen Government, backed-up by Saudi-Arabia, and Al Houthi opposition forces. Although the food security crisis in Yemen has been building up since 2004, recently the country has started to receive media attention as the situation was officially classified as a famine. Depreciation of the Yemeni riyal (YER) has resulted in continuously increasing prices of food and fuel, mainly affecting vulnerable parts of the population. The situation has been worsened due to the Tropical Cyclone Luban and the second outbreak of cholera. Of the 29.3 million inhabitants, approximately 17.8 million are food-insecure with 8.4 million severe cases. Without international action, the prognosis is that the crisis will deepen even further…

Universities Creating Partnerships for Zero Hunger

A Conference at the University of Wageningen (4) posed the question: How can we create partnerships that can rid the world of hunger and malnutrition? Insights included that there is a need for a good institutional environment allowing farmers to practice sustainable agriculture. What is more, malnutrition is not only an issue in developing countries. Even though healthy food might be available, it can be affordable to certain communities or there is a lack of knowledge on how to differentiate between unhealthy and healthy options.  Interestingly, Lawrence Haddad, director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, emphasized on making hunger uncomfortable for governments: “hunger and malnutrition are the result of choices about how we use our scarce resources. You can choose to use those resources differently”.

What can you do?

As a consumer, you have great power to increase food security. Use that power! A great initiative that empowers you to contribute to SDG 2, is the Chefs’ Manifesto Action Plan (5). Although targeted at restaurants, their lessons are relevant for everybody:

  • Know your food. Find information, for example on: (a) the ingredients in your products i.e. are these grown with respect for earth and oceans? Are the products seasonal? (b) the supply chain i.e. how many intermediates are there? How fair are workers’ wages? and (c) animal-welfare of diary, meat and fish products i.e. do producers ensure good living conditions?
  • Buy responsible. With the relevant knowledge, use your purchasing power to ensure sustainable production. Try to buy products from local producers through farmers markets, buy less meat and fish, eat seasonal fruit and vegetables and inform about the products at your favourite restaurant or lunch cafe.
  • Nourish yourself, friends and family. Good nutrition starts with yourself! Ensure your meals are nutritious and share this habit with your environment. And whilst you’re at it, plan your meals so there is no need to waste.

References:

  1. Do you want to know more about this concept? Please visit their website here.
  2. If you want to read more about progress towards SDG 2, you can visit the UN website here or the UNSTAT website here.
  3. To get an overview of the humanitarian and food crisis in Yemen, I used the fact sheet of USAID, which you can read here.
  4. Luckily for you, the whole conference is captured by video and available here.
  5. You can read more on the chef’s manifesto here.

Can fashion be sustainable?

Walking around London, we see countless advertisements for fashion retailers every single day. Especially today, on Black Friday, retailers are doing everything they can to convince us to spend more. But our love for fashion may be harming the environment: reports show that fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world.

To find out more, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is a parliamentary select committee made up of MPs from across the political spectrum, launched an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Last week, they held a public evidence hearing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, questioning fashion designers, upcyclers and innovators about how to fix the fashion industry’s environmental impact. We were in the audience for the hearing, and are bringing you our highlights of the morning’s discussions.

Source: Hubbub Foundation

The first thing that became evident was that there is no shortage of challenges to embedding sustainability into fashion. From ‘fast fashion’ being too fast to consider sustainable options to convincing manufacturers to return clothing scraps, fashion brands can face numerous obstacles. The good news is that there are plenty of ideas on how to change this. One interesting challenge is the scraps left over from pattern cutting. Designer Phoebe English told the audience to imagine a t-shirt, and then imagine the piece of fabric it was cut from. While the fabric offcuts used to be a resource and sold, they are now frequently discarded. But innovations are happening. In New York, non-profit organisation FabScrap collects this fabric waste and sells it to makers of all kinds (fashion students, sewists, quilters) at affordable prices. Some brands are also looking into zero-waste pattern cutting, where designs are laid out on the fabric in a way that eliminates cut-offs.

The hearing also showed that it’s not just brands who need to change, but also us consumers. The expert panel explained that even though clothes are becoming cheaper, we are spending more, as fast fashion leads us to buy larger quantities of increasingly disposable clothes. But while buying a new outfit may make us happy, the happiness from a new purchase typically wears off after three days. And if an item breaks, we often throw it away – adding to the tonnes of clothes sent to landfill in the UK every year. While some brands now offer free or paid repair services, this isn’t a widespread practice and the panel of experts felt that this was an area legislation could help push the industry in the right direction. One initiative could be making repairs VAT-free. Another idea was for the government to introduce better labelling for our clothes. In supermarkets, food is labelled with health warnings and information on its origin – but our clothes rarely contain warnings about the harmful chemicals they may have been treated with, or the environmental damage they caused.

Finally, sustainability in the fashion industry is not only about environmental sustainability. Increasingly, consumers want to know more about the social sustainability of their clothes. While the fashion industry provides employment for millions of women around the globe, the jobs are not up to scratch: pay is often poor, while working conditions are bad. Journalist Lucy Siege and founder of Eco-Age Livia Firth both pointed out that cheap clothes are only possible due to exploitation. In addition, Dr Offord MP explained that in a survey of 51 leading UK brands, 71% could not be sure that modern slavery had not occurred at some point in the supply chain. While the Modern Slavery Act was praised by the panel, many felt it does not go far enough in assigning legal responsibility. Organisations like IndustriALL Union are working to ensure garment workers everywhere in the world have the opportunity to join a union and fight for better working conditions.

With all these challenges, what can we as consumers do to make our fashion choices more sustainable?

Based on the information the panelists gave, we have put together our top tips for a more sustainable wardrobe:

  1. Buy less, but better
  • Say no to fast fashion! Try to only buy what you really love and know will wear, and try to buy better quality clothes that you can love for longer. While difficult to do on a student budget, vintage shops, charity shops and resale platforms like Ebay or Depop may help you find some bargains!
  1. Get yourself a new outfit for free
  • If you have some clothes you no longer want, why not try going to a clothes swap? You can usually bring clothes you no longer like, and swap them for other pre-loved items a t a clothes swap near you. If you live in King’s Residences, keep an eye out for any swaps your fellow students or the Residences Team are organising.
  1. It’s not just Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – you can also Rent
  • There are lots of places where you can now rent an outfit for a special occasion rather than buying it new.
  1. Repair and repurpose your clothes
  • If you can, try to repair your clothes instead of throwing them away, or alter them to give them a new look. There are more and more repair cafés popping up around the country, and some brands even offer repairs on their products.
  1. Look behind claims on labels
  • During the hearing, the panel pointed out that while terms like ‘organic cotton’ are protected, claims of ‘sustainable cotton’ may not be. As consumers, we can try to find out what is behind these claims to make sure brands are sticking to what they promise.

If you are interested in finding out more about the inquiry, all the latest information is available on the Environmental Audit Committee webpages. The next public hearing is taking place on the 27th November, and will include witnesses from various fashion retailers.  You can also watch the full footage of this public evidence hearing here.

 

 

 

 

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