Category: Service

Black History Month & Sustainability

Black History Month & King’s 

Although Blackness is not limited to one year of the month, Black History Month represents an important moment to highlight the Black community, including the incredible things they are doing, as well as the struggles many are still facing.  

Across King’s, many events around Black History have been taking place this month. This includes the Visible Skin exhibition focused on Black portraiture and events organised by different faculties including The Black Heroes of Mathematics. You can also read amazing blog posts from the King’s community, including Helena Mattingley’s blog (Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s) reflecting on what makes the cut into history curricula; Sarah Guerra’s poem (Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s) about what she is proud to be; and Kirsten Johnson’s poem (Student Experience Manager in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities) about being proud to be intersectional. The IoPPN Race Equality Network also developed this amazing self-directed learning programme to encourage the community to dedicate 5-20 minutes every day to reading, watching or listening about often intentionally forgotten Black History. Check out what else the university is doing around Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and follow @KCLdiversity to stay up to date. 

Black History Month & Sustainability 

How are Black History and Sustainability connected? 

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. A study in 2016 showed that London’s Black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the first person (9-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah) to have air pollution listed as a cause of death was black 

Why is this the case? Francisca Rockey offers a straightforward answer: environmental racism. 

“Systemic injustices translate into environmental and socio-economic inequalities. It is not coincidental that inner city areas, heavily populated by black people are also found to be subject to long term exposure to pollutants. Environmental racism is when neighbourhoods, densely populated by black and brown people, are burdened with a disproportionate number of environmental hazards such as toxic waste and other sources of environmental pollution that lower the quality of life.”

But this is not the only way the black community is being impacted by the climate crisis. King’s PhD student Elias Yassin wrote an eye-opening blog post last year about the struggle to centre racial justice in the climate movement. He shared his experience as a Black climate activist, formerly with Extinction Rebellion (XR), and the challenges to make climate movements truly inclusive of activists of colour. 

Being a climate activist of colour in an overwhelmingly white climate movement is exhausting. Consistently, I have found myself pushed to the margins of XR UK because of a persistent disregard for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPoC).” 

Indeed, people from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds are often invisible in climate protest. According to Kids of Colour – a platform for young people of colour to challenge the everyday, institutionalised racism that shapes their lives – climate protests are not always aligned with the realities they live. While thousands of school students around the world went on strikes as part of the Fridays For Future movement, not everybody had this privilege. “The school strikes have been fantastic to witness, but it is also a privilege to be able to skip school,” said one representative of Kids of Colour. For protests organised by Extinction Rebellion, economic inequality also plays a key role: “Can you imagine giving up 10 days [of work] to sit in central London? It is absolutely not feasible for those in low-paid jobs,” said Ms Kissi-Debrah 

Despite this sad side of the story and the urgent need for climate justice, there is also a lot to celebrate around black history and climate this month. The World Economic Forum shined a spotlight on the following five Black heroes of the environmental movement: 

  1. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
  2. Robert Bullard, who has campaigned against harmful waste being dumped in predominantly Black neighbourhoods in the southern states of the US since the 1970s.
  3. John Francis the ‘Planetwalker’, who stopped taking motorised transport and walked everywhere for 22 years.
  4. Dr Warren Washington, one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change.
  5. Angelou Ezeilo, who set up the Greening Youth Foundation to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. 

This is only a snippet of the incredible black people in the climate movement. Some are more in the spotlight, while others carry out a lot of hard work and great initiatives in the background. But they are all equally important.  

Although Black History Month might be coming to an end, on 1st November Black History will be equally as important to think about and celebrate, including in the climate movement. Real sustainability and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion are inseparable. 

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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

King’s ranked top ten in the world for societal impact

King’s was ranked 9th in the world in the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking. The ranking, which was first released in 2019, measures universities’ societal impact and work towards achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At King’s, we use the SDGs to illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the term ‘sustainability’, looking beyond only environmental sustainability and including social and economic sustainability. We are a signatory of the SDG Accord, and both the Environmental Sustainability Report and Service Report use the SDGs as a framework to show how our initiatives are making an impact.

The THE Impact Ranking looks at various measures of how universities contribute towards all 17 SDGs. This includes research, education, as well as policies and initiatives run by the university. For each university, the three SDGs it scored highest in are counted towards the ranking, as well as Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. For King’s, the SDGs we contributed most towards are:

  • Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals
  • Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Goal 3, Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Goal 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

For Goal 17, King’s was ranked 4th in the world, highlighting the impact of our partnerships across the world, as well as our reporting against the SDGs. We have also maintained a high rating for our contribution to Goal 3, ranking 11th in the world. This is a testimony to our medical research, education, as well as initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Our biggest increase in score this year was for Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. As well as research and education, sustainable practices and our contribution to arts and heritage have significant impact on our score in this category. This includes encouraging sustainable campus to travel, as well as following sustainability standards for new buildings. Free-to-visit exhibition spaces like the Science Gallery, the Arcade at Bush House or the Exchange at Bush House North East Wing are also highlighted in this part of the ranking.

We are proud to have maintained our top ten position in the ranking this year, particularly as the number of universities taking part increased from 462 to 766. You can find the full THE Impact Rankings 2020 here.

King’s Global Day of Service

Each year in March, students, staff and alumni take part in a range of volunteering activities across the world as part of King’s Global Day of Service.

This year, King’s Global Day of Service is on Wednesday 25th March (to celebrate the day King’s was founded) but any volunteering activities that take place throughout March can contribute to GDoS volunteering hours.

King’s is the first university in the UK to run Service events at this scale and the King’s GDoS activities represent our commitment to serving local, national and international communities.

The 2019 GDoS involved 190 volunteers in nine Service events in London and fifteen international events, across five continents. In total, 635 Service hours were completed, with an estimated economic impact of £5,000.

Find out more about what you can get involved in at King’s and across London this 2020 GDoS, here.

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #2

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

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

Mapping the SDGs: Biomedical Engineering at King’s  

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

Evaluation

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Why we went green for our Service Day

This guest blog comes courtesy of Erk Gunce, PA to King’s Chief of Staff and Team Administrator in the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) department.

As the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) team, we are proud to report that, we did it! We broke free from our daily routines and went into nature. No, we are not stuck to our desks and no, we are not addicted to our screens. We did leave the office and we did have fun – and I personally ensured that nobody was checking their emails on their phone!

A few weeks ago, 30 colleagues from the SPA team took a day out of work to volunteer for a local charity. We were able to take a day off, thanks to the Service Time policy. As part of this scheme, all King’s staff can spend one day per year volunteering for another organisation. We chose to support the environmental preservation work of Groundwork London, and took the opportunity to get to know our team members better. Groundwork set us a variety of tasks over the day. These included designing and building a hibernaculum – a protective refuge for reptiles and insects. Hibernacula (pause for applause), allow insects to seek refuge from temperature changes, especially over the winter for protection against the cold. We also made use of loose wood from coppiced willow trees to create hedging, used as a fence to mark the outer barriers of a natural space, instead of relying on non-natural fencing material.

Building a hibernaculum for small mammals, insects and reptiles in the winter (above, left), finished hiberanculum (above, right)! 

Coppicing wild willow trees (above, left) and turning branches into a natural hedge (above, right)! 

Why did we do this?

Because, sustainability!

This opportunity allowed us to do our bit by giving back to nature. It was very heart-warming to see our team addressing their previously non-green habits: colleagues traveled in using their bikes, no disposable cups were used and we made sure we recycled the leftovers from our lunch.

Because, Service!

In line with King’s Vision 2029 ‘to make the world a better place’, this was a fantastic opportunity to give back to nature by building shelters for vulnerable creatures and making use of natural items to build natural fencing. Through taking a day out to support a charity, we also made clear our dedication to support non-profit organisations with their environmental efforts.

Because, team building and wellbeing!

Another crucial aspect of our day off was our commitment to improve the morale of our team and make everyone feel valued. The digital era can easily distract us from the beauties of nature. Encouraging our colleagues to spend a day immersed in a green space was an opportunity to boost their wellbeing. One of the challenges of being a large team is that staff might not know all their colleagues, or they may be mere acquaintances. After the event, staff commented that they had met new faces, got to know their colleagues better and enjoyed learning about each other’s personal hobbies and interests. Hence, it really wasn’t just about environmental support but equally a community building opportunity.

‘The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve done in ages. A brilliant combination of team building, physical exercise, a deeply gratifying sense of achievement and the feel-good high of helping to preserve and enhance urban habitation for native birds and animals’.  – Scott Davison, SPA staff member

Here’s to hoping for more Service days – for our communities, for our staff and for a better world.

Want to use your Service Time to volunteer for a charitable cause? Get in touch with service@kcl.ac.uk for advice.

King’s Joins ESSA Project on University Social Responsibility

King’s College London is glad to announce its participation in the Erasmus+ funded ESSA Project. This 3-year project has been developing a more flexible approach to student learning, assessment and certification across Europe’s higher education sector through providing an opportunity to engage with a real-world issue that is of considerable significance to many of them – social responsibility.

The ESSA Project is led by the UK’s National Union of Students, supported by the European Students’ Union, working with the University of Edinburgh (UK), the University of Porto (Portugal), Kaunas University of Technology and the Students’ Associations of these universities (EUSA, AEFPCEUP and KTUSA).

The project makes use of the Benchmark Standards for University Social Responsibility across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), and strives to effectively engage students as active agents of their own learning.

A cohort of 20 students from the three participating universities have been trained as Social Responsibility Auditors in a student-centred, action-reflection learning based programme. From the 11th to the 15th March, they delivered an audit of King’s, complete with an audit report that provides the university with recommendations for improvements in the sphere or university social responsibility. During the audit, they examined King’s policies and procedures, interviewed senior staff, and conducted a focus group with King’s students.

8 students from King’s have also been trained as Social Responsibility Audit Assistants, and supported the visiting students throughout the audit of King’s.

Visiting students will be awarded a Level 6 European Qualification Framework Certificate in Social Responsibility Auditing following satisfactory completion of the training, the linked audit and the assessment of an individual e-portfolio of evidence of learning.

The ESSA Project itself will provide an innovative Open Education Resource (OER), to be launched in summer 2019, that will provide universities across the European Higher Education Area to deliver the programme.

Students Auditors from Edinburgh, Porto and Kaunas University

For more information, consult www.essaproject.eu