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 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:
What is easy?
What is high impact?
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 Thinxin 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 tipof 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!
Over a month ago King’s Venues met Buses 4 Homeless CIC at The HBAA annual dinner. Dan Atkins touched our hearts with his passion on his mission to provide a low cost holistic solution to homelessness by creating beds, providing food and learning in decommissioned buses. The Buses4Homeless mission is to provide 14,600 nights sleep a year, in the warmth of the converted double decker buses.
The buses will be refurbished to create sleeping , dining and learning areas. (Image: Buses4homeless website)
As part of the King’s Service Strategy, all King’s Staff get a day off dedicated to Service. As part of this, King’s Venues team took on the task to help Buses4Homeless to transform four buses donated by Stagecoach, which were left stationary in bus depots without use for several years, and would have eventually been scrapped.
The Buses4homeless mission is to help those affected overcome the issues which led to them being homeless. The aim is to help develop skills and get into apprenticeships and training and eventually into work. The buses will take 40 people at a time, helping build stability and a sense of community.
Strategy of Buses4homeless (Image: Buses4homelss website)
King’s Venues & Food team helping at Buses4homeless!
It was a great day of service with the team delivering 4 volunteering days to the charity. For more information about Buses4Homeless, please take a look on their website http://buses4homeless.org.
This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!
I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.
This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.
Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.
Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.
We were told that most food waste
recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable
bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch
and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops
everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than
plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look
closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and
how easy it is to sift it out.
Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).
The food waste is now ready for a
long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the
luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first
and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one
of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.
Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.
You will notice that all the
tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process
collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold
back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to
4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem
with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the
You can see the large motors on
the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make
sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at
body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and
heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.
The two long implements you can
see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the
tank look like.
It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.
The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.
And this is the story of what
happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!
If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.
The only thing I would strongly
suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is
overpowering and it lingers on clothes.
I can’t even describe it. 🤢
Jane Picciano, Sustainability
Champion Gold, Maughan Library
I am very excited to have recently joined the King’s Sustainability Team as their new Sustainability Projects Assistant. In this role, I am responsible for helping to raise awareness and embed sustainability throughout the university. This includes Sustainability Champions, which is a brilliant programme run in collaboration with the National Union of Students . It is designed to enable and empower staff to recognise the difference they can make on an individual level, both as a part of the King’s community and throughout wider society. This champions year (18/19) we have 324 staff champions. This is also the first year we will be having student assistants assigned to staff champions teams, bringing staff and student communities together around the common goal of making King’s and the wider society more sustainable and supported. If you’re interested in becoming a champion please get in touch!
My relationship with the university began in 2014, when I came down from the North of England to start my Geography degree at King’s. As a new student in London, I wanted to find programmes I could get involved in which combined community and environmental action. In my first year, this included the University of London’s Reduce the Juice programme. This involvement with the UoL Sustainability Team then led in my second year to developing my own initiative. This initiative was to make meals in UoL halls of residences more sustainable through the introduction of a daily vegan option. This not only replaced a meat based dish, but also responded to the dietary and cultural demographic of the halls’ residents and actively responded to feedback given in the student experience surveys. My work around sustainable food developed in my third year of university, working with the King’s sustainability team to get King’s College London a Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating. The SRA assessment is known as the ‘Michelin stars of sustainability’ and is based on three pillars of sustainability: Sourcing, Society and Environment. The assessment included a wide variety of criteria, from fair treatment of staff, our use of natural resources, food waste, community outreach and charity work, and food certifications. I am very happy to say that King’s submitted its final SRA assessment in November (2018) and will receive its SRA rating and sustainability action plan with the key areas to improve and guidance on how to do this in January 2019.
For my final year dissertation, I lived and worked on a Community Supported Agriculture farm in rural Sweden over the summer of 2017, this experience forming the body of my research. The farmers’ story was incredible, establishing their farm as the first CSA in Sweden (est. 2001) and made possible through the reliance on volunteer, largely international labour. Their approach to life was inspiring, teaching those who want to learn with open arms and passionately addressing the social and environmental justice issues around food. They struck a balance of community, environmental and social sustainability based around food that I had not seen or experienced before. It made a long lasting impression and it is something I would like to explore more within the UK.
I am thrilled to continue my relationship with King’s as a member of the Sustainability Team and to use my experience as a student here to inform my decision making and areas of focus. I want to use my role in the Sustainability Team to enable more staff and students to get involved in sustainability at King’s, to help King’s progress as a leading sustainable institution, to strengthen the community of King’s and nurture the sustainable knowledge of staff and students who will go on to shape the future.
I am very much looking forward to continue engaging with staff and students, listening to input, and working to make King’s a leading university for sustainability together.
Wednesday 15 August is Cycle to Work Day, an annual celebration of cycling. The aim is to get people to cycle to work for at least one day, and encourage people who might not have cycled before to see how brilliant it can be. Pledge to cycle to work and win prizes!
To help you on Cycle to Work day we’ve put together some helpful hints and tips:
Before you ride
Plan your route: You can download brilliant apps like CycleStreets, which have been specially designed to plan the best routes for cyclists. You can choose your route based on whether you want quick, balanced or quieter routes, and they will even tell you how much CO2 you’ve avoided. Beware of using Google Maps, it can often give you the quickest routes, but might also send you down a busy motorway!
Take a class: Your local council will normally organise free cycling skills classes from beginner skills to practising out on the road and even cycling at night.
Track your ride: There are a multitude of apps you can use to track your ride from Strava and MapMyRide which can tell you everything from how many calories you’ve burnt, to how you compare to fellow cyclists in your area. Remember to link your fitness app to King’s Move to get rewards whenever you exercise.
Have the proper gear: Make sure you are wearing a helmet and protective clothing. Have lights on the front and back of your bike, especially when cycling at night and in winter.
On the road
Follow the rules of the road – don’t be tempted to run red lights, even if there is no one there.
Keep your eyes and ear open – Look to your left and right whenever you turn. Don’t wear headphones, hearing is crucial when you’re cycling.
If there isn’t a bike lane, stick to the middle of the road – don’t be afraid to make yourself big on the road, it’s much more dangerous to be cycling in the gutter.
Be careful on turns – never undertake, especially on turns. Large vehicles won’t be able to see you.
The following guest blog comes courtesy of Sarah Bailey. Sarah is the Science Liaison, Public Engagement and Communications Manager for the Department of Twin Research as well as their Sustainability Champion.
For those in the know, July is all about plastic free living. The challenge to ditch plastic for a month, run by the Marine Conservation Society in the UK, has gathered momentum as awareness about plastic pollution has increased.
I attempted Plastic Free July in 2017 but failed miserably. I thought I’d got everything covered, until a friend pointed out on day two that, yes, my toothpaste, moisturiser and shampoo all count as single use plastics. And that was just the tip of a plastic-shaped iceberg.
A year later, I decided I was going to give it a proper attempt. Would I make it through the month? What problems would I encounter? Would I become so desperate for sticky toffee pudding and cream one hungry evening that I’d forsake all my hard work?
Since 2017 I’d already started using a few plastic free alternatives, so I didn’t think it would be too much effort to make the final changes needed. But, of course, things aren’t ever quite that straightforward.
Firstly, there’s the cost. Bulk buy items are more expensive than their plastic wrapped counterparts, so I didn’t immediately replace all my store cupboard items. Loose fruit and veg are also pricey, though I didn’t falter and reach for the plastic covered stuff. Plastic free toilet roll is extortionate, so much so I didn’t even consider buying it.
Some things are just hard to buy plastic free. Cheese is one example, and boy, do I love cheese. My local cheese shop did put my purchases in paper bags, but when it’s cut from a big block wrapped in cling film it seems to miss the point. Yoghurt is a tough one too, but you can easily make your own.
There were some unexpected twists, of course. My Lush deodorant left me with a painful rash after a week of use, sending me back to my regular plastic-covered brand, and getting to the bar at a busy pub after an evening at the cricket resulted in a pint in a plastic cup. Sigh.
Sarah’s plastic free swaps
It’s not all doom and gloom though; whilst many plastic free alternatives aren’t cheap, they do last a long time. My well-used first shampoo bar lasted six months, and my weird, grey, but utterly delicious Truthpaste will last me a while too.
There are also plenty of changes I’ve made very easily and will stick to. My shampoo bars, metal safety razor, ecoffee cup and shopping bags are all here to stay. Milk deliveries are oh-so-convenient, meaning I definitely won’t go back to plastic-covered milk.
I’ll keep shopping at my local fishmongers who give discounts for bringing your own containers, and I’ll even keep buying (some) bulk buy items from my nearest zero waste shop. Loose leaf tea from my local tea shop is also a winner; how I’ve missed using a teapot!
Living plastic free takes a lot of planning, at least at first. In our age of convenience, doing a weekly food shop is from a bygone age. There’s also a certain amount of willpower needed (Did I cave and buy sticky toffee pudding and cream one evening? Yes, yes I did), and the acceptance that for now, at least, plastic alternatives often cost more.
One thing’s for certain though; plastic pollution won’t go away with consumer action alone. I’ll keep doing what I can, and hopefully more people will too, but what’s urgently needed is action from legislators and manufacturers to remove single use, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics from our shelves, for good.
We are happy to say that King’s has officially become an accredited Living Wage Employer. Our commitment to paying our staff members the London Living Wage is an integral part of Vision 2029’s Service Pillar, demonstrating our commitment to society and our staff.
While King’s has been paying the London Living Wage since 2014, we have only just been made an accredited Living Wage Employer.
What is the Living Wage?
The Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is based on living costs. While the government introduced its own ‘national living wage’ rate for staff over 25 years of age in April 2016, this was not actually calculated against what employees and their families need to live.
The real Living Wage is paid by over 4,400 UK business who believe in ensuring that their employees receive fair pay and can afford to live on that pay. For London there is a separate rate taking into account higher living costs in the capital.
What does it mean to be an accredited Living Wage Employer?
Being an accredited Living Wage Employer means that King’s is committed to paying the real Living Wage to all our directly employed staff. In addition, King’s ensures that are on-site contractors, such as cleaners, are paid the London Living Wage. King’s is also committed to annual pay increases linked to the cost of living.
What does it mean for staff members?
Not only does it ensure that staff members earn enough to live on, accreditation has many other benefits:
75% of current accredited employers say it has increased motivation and retention rates for employees
58% say that is improved relations between managers and their staff
86% say that is has improved the reputation of the business
We’re happy to say that King’s is committed to ensure that it’s staff members receive a fair, liveable wage.
It’s been a busy year and last week on 10 July we had the pleasure of celebrating the achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in sustainability over the past year here at King’s.
The annual King’s Sustainability Awards ceremony took place at Bush House and we celebrated the passion and commitment of the 235 Sustainability Champions who have carried out 1,950 sustainability actions, nearly 500 more than the previous year.
45 Sustainability Champion Teams were awarded: 16 Bronze, 11 Silver and 18 Gold Awards.
We also celebrated with Special Awards for other staff and students from across the university who have worked to embed sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.
Working Towards Gold: 1st Floor James Black Center Labs
Best at Recruiting New Champions: Cardiology, Pharmacy Teaching
Outstanding Achievement: 5th Floor JCMB, The Dickson Poon School of Law
Supporting King’s Food in the Sustainable Restaurant Association: Ali Hepple & Izzy Brayshaw
Supporting the Analysis of Sustainability Data: Analytics
Commitment to Embedding Sustainability: Operational Assurance
Commitment to Sustainability: Bouygues, CIS, Procurement, Servest
Commitment to Waste Reduction and Re-Use (via Warp It): Bush House Project Team
Commitment to Sustainability as Energy Champions: Abdul Lateef, Graham Camplin, Kurosh Bastani, Nick Gouveia
Consistently Achieving Highest Monthly Recycling Rates: King’s Sport
Commitment to Sustainable Campus Refurbishment: Natalie Littleson
Working to Embed Sustainability in Capital Development: Olga Ezquieta
Commitment to Implementing Sustainable Lab Practices: Oliver Austen
Commitment to Sustainability & Wellbeing: Robert Staton
Most Improved Recycling Rates: Stamford Street Apartments
Commitment to Biodiversity: Stuart Bailey
Going Above & Beyond: Library Services
Sustainability Awards 2018 – Staff and student champions
Serve to shape and transform
We welcomed Professor Jonathan Grant, Vice President & Vice Principal (Service) who thanked all involved for being the ones to motivate others and to stand up and make a difference to the environment and our local communities around King’s. ‘Service’ is the term we adopted at King’s in our Strategic Vision 2029 to describe our commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. Professor Grant shared details of the King’s Service Strategy framework and explained that the Sustainability Champions are an integral part of the framework. The Service Strategy framework will be launched and celebrated on 19 July and all King’s staff and students are welcome to attend.
Sustainability is important to our students
As part of the event we celebrated our students who’ve been involved with a video showcasing their actions over the past year which includes working with King’s Food as Sustainable Food Assistants, auditing our Sustainability Champions teams, taking part in Student Switch Off actions and competitions in King’s Residences, working as Sustainable Food Assistants and running social enterprises such as Zest and Fetch Ur Veg- who offer weekly organic veg box deliveries.
National Sustainability Awards
We saved a surprise for Awards day and our Library Sustainability Champions teams found out that they had been nominated as finalists at the national EAUC Green Gown Awards, recognising the impact that they have had by making the libraries more sustainable for both staff and students. This year we now have 3 finalists at the Green Gown Awards, including Widening Participation’s Parent Power project and King’s Food for their work on ditching disposables.
Thank you once again to everyone who has helped us make a difference here at King’s this year. The efforts of all those involved really do add up and help to achieve our university sustainability targets. Achievements this year include:
30% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2017) which is keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by 2020 (2017/18 figures will be shared once available)
Improving waste recycling rates by nearly 10%
Reusing furniture and equipment internally at King’s – saving it from disposal and saving £96k in 2017/18
36 events held by staff and students in Sustainability Week and Reduce Waste Week
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So far King’s has saved over £140,978 since we launched Warp It in 2016 and we’re giving you prizes to help to make that number even bigger!
How can you win?
We’re giving you prizes to share as many items as possible on Warp It. The user who uploads the most items by the 12 July 2018 will win a goodie bag of vegan treats!
What exactly is Warp It?
Warp It is a Freecycle style online platform that allows staff members from inside King’s to share unwanted furniture, office and lab equipment they no longer need. Every time an item is added to Warp It it is then available for staff members across King’s to claim, meaning that unwanted, good quality items are no longer being thrown away.
Did you know…?
Lab equipment can be put on to Warp It as well! Everything from electronic equipment to glassware can be shared and claimed on the platform.
Why is it important?
Warp It not only helps us to reduce the amount of waste that we produce, but it also saves users a large amount of time and money that they would otherwise have spent on purchasing new items. It helps to promote the ethos of reuse, reduce, recycle at King’s and encourages staff members to think about what they purchase, before they purchase it.
So far at King’s we have:
Saved over £140,978
Saved over 58,259kg of CO2, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
Avoided over 20,292kg of waste
Kept the equivalent of 25 cars off the road and saved 79 trees