Category: Staff (Page 1 of 7)

Sustainability Month 2021 – Round-Up #4

This blog is the fourth in a series of four posts on Sustainability Month 2021.

SWEET & SUSTAINABLE: FAIRTRADE VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE BAKING CLASS WITH KING’S FOOD 

Ending the month on a sweet and sustainable note, we learned how to make King’s Food’s delicious Fairtrade vegan and gluten-free brownies.  

This event, along with the Fairtrade Fortnight Launch event we hosted on 22 February,  marked the Fairtrade Fortnight festival which ran from 22 Feb to 7 March 

What is Fairtrade Fortnight? 

Fairtrade is about better prices and working conditions for producers, as well as improving local sustainability. By working with farmers, businesses and consumers, Fairtrade sets social, economic and environmental standards for food production. 

In addition to bringing awareness to the Fairtrade accreditation and its impact on producers, this year’s festival focused on ‘Climate, Fairtrade and You,’ delving into the complex links between farmers, global food productionwhat we put in our plates and the climate crisis. If you’d like to learn more about these issues, catch up on the wonderful events from this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight.  

What is King’s doing to support Fairtrade?  

All teacoffee and chocolate at King’s and KCLSU is certified as Fairtrade. King’s Food has also worked to remove unsustainable brand such as Coca Colato more ethical and Fairtrade brands, such as Karma Cola. KCLSU even stocks some Fairtrade certified alcohol in the SU bars! King’s Sustainability Team, King’s Food and KCLSU run a quarterly Sustainable Food & Fairtrade Steering Group. This is open to any student or staff member at King’s to suggest sustainable ideas/projects and this is also where progress, such as King’s’ Fairtrade accreditation is reported on.  

 

Recordings of the events can now be found on our Kaltura.  

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter. 

Sustainability Month 2021 – Round-Up #2

This blog is the second in a series of four posts on Sustainability Month 2021.

#TAKEACTION HACKATHON 

King’s Sustainability hosted our first-ever Sustainability Hackathon! 

Hackathons provide an opportunity for a group to work together to discuss and develop real solutions to a problem.  

We presented 4 sustainability challenges we want to tackle at King’s and attendees contributed thoughtful and insightful ways forward: 

  • How can we further support diversity within the field of sustainability (from the education of school pupils, college and university life and into careers)? 
    • Elevate and highlight sustainability role models from a diverse range of backgrounds. 
    • Recognize and discuss the interconnected roots of the climate crisis and racial and social oppression. 
    • Move beyond the over-individualistic approach to sustainability that is largely inaccessible for many, by meeting people where they are and widening the range of ways people can get involved. 
    • Seek to better understand and remove the barriers facing different people from getting involved in sustainability.  
  • What should an online open-access sustainability-focused Keats module at King’s look like? 
    • Make this module part of King’s Experience Awards or offer credit so that the module adds value to students’ educational experience. 
    • Create an interactive module with optional levels of engagement. 
    • Ensure the module includes relevant topics for students across faculties – why should students be interested? 
  • How can King’s Sustainability improve its communications to engage more students? 
    • Better communicate what King’s is already doing and achieving. 
    • Connect to students by relating sustainability to their area of study and creating easy-to-digest and engaging content. 
    • Invite students and staff to share their sustainability stories. 
    • Run campaigns, competitions and giveaways to incentivize more students to engage with sustainability. 
  • How can King’s encourage students to have more conversations about sustainability?
    • Create an environmental series of Campus Conversations, a podcast or a seminar series, open to all and covering a range of topics within sustainability. 
    • Host community get-togethers for discussion and debate around specific topics – “Sustainability Socials. 
    • Collaborate with societies and other parts of King’s to embed sustainability in campaigns and initiatives. 

Do you have any thoughts, ideas or solutions about how to tackle these challenges? Let us know! 

 

CLIMATE ACTION PANEL 

On the 26th of February, we hosted the King’s Climate Education Panel. Climate Education has been a popular topic at King’s for a while – the KCL Climate Action Society has been running an education campaign, the King’s 100 discussed it last year, and the Climate Action Network has dedicated the Students & Education sub-group to the issue.   

This panel was a chance to hear from the experts. Our panel was made up of Professor Adam Fagan, Professor of European Politics and Vice-Dean (Education) in SSPP, Dr Kate Greer, Research Associate in the School of Education, Communication and Society, Sigrið Leivsdottir, President of KCL Climate Action Society and Taimi Vilkko, Vice-President and Treasurer of the KCL Climate Action Society.   

We covered a range of interesting issues during the session: the need to go beyond teaching just knowledge about climate change and instead also teach how to take action and live with climate change, supporting staff if they are asked to embed climate into their programmes, and that we may not need everyone to be on board just yet as long as we have a group of dedicated leaders and followers. There were also a few ideas on actions King’s can take right now, such as reaffirming our commitments to climate change, and even influencing higher education policy on climate teaching as we move towards hosting COP26 in the UK later this year.   

The Students & Education group of the King’s Climate Action Network is excited to potentially take some of these suggestions forward and propose them for the King’s Climate Action Strategy.

 

Recordings of the events can now be found on our Kaltura.  

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter. 

What is energy?

This guest blog comes from Rebecca Lindsay, BA Philosophy and Spanish student and Sustainability Champion Assistants (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

The world of energy often feels like a world of jargon. Emissions, baselines, decarbonisation – what does it all actually mean?

In the most basic terms, energy is “the ability to do work.” So when we talk about energy, we’re talking about electricity, gas, diesel and other types of power. King’s energy is also responsible for managing King’s water usage.

When reducing your carbon emissions, it’s important to consider energy efficiency. Essentially, the more efficient an appliance is, the less energy it uses to do the same amount of work. Energy = Power x Time. Some quick GCSE physics revision for you there!

But higher energy usage doesn’t always mean less efficient. It’s also important to change where we get our energy from – to decarbonise. Decarbonisation, simply put, aims to reduce our economy’s reliance on carbon and fossil fuels. Solar, wind and hydropower are all examples of renewable alternatives.

There are lots of benefits to switching to renewable energy sources – not just for your bank account! Here are just a few:

  • It creates more jobs.
  • It diversifies energy sources, meaning less importing and a stronger economy.
  • It’s cheaper! Carbon is a finite resource and increasingly expensive, whereas renewable energy is more widely available.
  • Most importantly, it reduces our impact on the planet and helps slow global warming.

Long story short: save money, save the planet.

How to we use energy at King’s?

As a research-heavy university, we use a lot of energy. So it’s up to us to be responsible with where we get it from.

Our shift to renewables is well under way. Since October 2017, all electricity directly purchased by King’s has come from 100% UK wind energy.

Both Great Dover Street Apartments and Champion Hill, two of King’s residences, have solar panels. Not only saving money, but also reducing our impact on the planet.

In Autumn 2019, King’s was one of 20 universities to sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with onshore wind farms in Scotland and Wales, the first deal of its kind in the country!

Universities also make lots of investments, often in fossil fuels. King’s, however, has committed to divest from all fossil fuels by the end of 2022, and to invest 40% of its funds in investments with socially responsible benefits by 2025.

We’re also developing a Climate Action Strategy alongside the King’s Climate Action Network to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2025.

As you can see, there’s lots to be done. With target deadlines fast approaching, the emphasis on clean energy has never been greater. It’s a great time to get involved! For information on how to support us, email us over at energy@kcl.ac.uk.

Energy at King’s

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Rebecca Lindsay, BA Philosophy and Spanish student, who are both volunteering as Sustainability Champion Assistants (SCA’s), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Introduction to King’s Energy

Welcome to King’s Energy Department! We’re excited to be working alongside the Sustainability Team to make King’s a more environmentally-friendly place. We have so many projects in the works – and much more to come – so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

Who are we?

Julie Allen is King’s Energy Manager. She manages the utilities budgets and contracts, and leads on delivering, updating and monitoring the University’s Carbon Management Plan. Julie’s been here since 2019, and previously worked as the energy manager at Nando’s. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a Nando’s Black Card (yet).

Angeliki Karydi is the Energy Management Coordinator at King’s. She joined in December 2019 after completing her MA in Corporate Sustainability in Radboud University. She supports Julie as part of the energy team and is responsible for energy data analysis and reporting.

My name is Mason and I’m an MA Politics and Contemporary History student at King’s. I want my time here to be progressive and that’s why I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA) and help King’s to achieve its energy goals.

I am Rebecca, I’m a 2nd year student here at King’s and I study BA Philosophy and Spanish. I’m very passionate about combating the climate crisis, so I’m very excited to join the energy team as an SCA this semester.

What do we do?

It’s really important to us that King’s students are aware of the steps we’re taking to reach our carbon goals, as well as how they can make changes in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprint.

Rest assured we’re leading by example. Here are some of our recent achievements:

  • 100% of directly purchased electricity at King’s comes from renewable sources.
  • King’s surpassed the Higher Education Funding Council target of reducing emissions by 43% by 2020, instead reaching a 49% reduction.
  • We’ve been awarded £1.8 million by The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to further fund efficient energy.
  • In 2019, the King’s Energy Cooperative won the KCLSU Environmental Impact Award for engaging students with sustainability and energy.
  • King’s aims to be net-zero carbon by 2025.

And much, much more. Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting lots of information on our various projects, and ways in which you can positively impact the planet.

How can I get involved?

We’d love to hear from you! Please email us at energy@kcl.ac.uk with suggestions or inquiries. Otherwise, be sure to subscribe to the King’s sustainability newsletter and follow them on Instagram – that’s where we’ll be!

COVID & the environment

This blog comes from Nicola Hogan, Sustainability Manager at King’s.

In all likelihood, the majority of people across the globehappily waved goodbye to 2020.  

It was the start of a new decade that filled us with excitement and anticipation as we, yet again, committed to a series of new year’s resolutions that would result in better versions of ourselves. 

We could never have anticipated that within 3 months we’d have succumbed to a global pandemic. Akin to a sci-fi storylinethe Covid-19 pandemic ended up being responsible for the deaths of over 2 million people worldwide. The spread of the virus was reported hourly across various news channels with updates from world leaders on their decisions as to how best to mitigate its spread. Face masks were mandatory inside of public spaces and people were asked to stay at home, only travelling if absolutely necessary. Social distancing became the norm.  

When it was reported that the source of this pandemic likely originated from the wet markets of China, exposing the capture and export of exotic animals for human consumption, we were horrified. Seeing animals that have no place in western society, let alone as a food source, being taken from their habitats, our commitment to stop the trafficking of exotic animals and the destruction of their ecosystems seemed to galvanise. Images of caged pangolins and bats made us more aware of the urgency of protecting exotic wildlife and of their natural habitats. 

But was this enough to make us boycott these industries? Did the cause of the pandemic make us think about what and how we are consuming

Not being able to shop on the high street simply made us switch to shopping online. Amazon and eBay  reported an increase of sales by an average of 33 % since March 2020 – as everything from face masks to hand sanitiser was sold by the billions. But it wasn’t just COVID related products that were being bought online. Wcompensated and comforted ourselves during these strange times by purchasing non-essential everyday items too. 

Bath salts and board games topped the list as did puzzles and Nintendo switches as we entertain ourselves while also indulging in much needed self-care – but are we conveniently forgetting to care for the planet at the same time? 

year later there is light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine has been found and its rollout across the world has started 

So what will life, post pandemic, look like? Are we likely to revert to our prelockdown consumer habits as the message from mother nature is forgotten? Or will we, after having been forced into new ways of livingno longer take for granted our basic freedoms? 

Zoom meetings have replaced travelling for work but experts in the travel and hospitality industry have predicted that more personal trips will be taken in 2021/22 to make up for the cancelled holidays of 2020. 

It is at this pointthe first month of a new year that we should ask ourselves the following questions. 

(iHow did we get to this point in the first place and (ii) how do we make sure never return to it? 

(iii) What promises to live more sustainably did we make at the start of the lockdown and did we      
       keep them?   

(iv) Are our 2021 resolutions pandemic inspired or will it all depend on what the year brings? 

It is reported that the yearlong lockdown made us more reflective of our lives and what is important to us. For most people that came back to spending quality time with loved ones and asking ourselves what do we really want from our life’? For me, a fairer and more ethical world should be part of that ‘want’ – a planet whose climate isn’t changing because its being choked by CO2or who can no longer support its sea-life because it’s filled with pollutants. 

2020 will hopefully serve as a reminder for generations to come of what can happen when excessive pilfering of the natural environment is allowed to continue unchecked. Sustainability is a daily commitment to ourselves firstly and then to the planet. It’s a resolution worth keeping and a mindset worth nurturing.

References:

https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief 

https://www.earthday.org/6-lessons-coronavirus-can-teach-us-about-climate-change/ 

https://www.edie.net/news/7/In-charts–How-coronvirus-has-impacted-sustainability-professionals/ 

https://time.com/5808809/coronavirus-climate-action/ 

Join the King’s Climate Action Network

Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon 

An image of solar panels at King's, with the text "Join the King's Climate Action Network"

King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.  

The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university. 

We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change: 

  • Zero carbon estate (energy and water use, sustainable construction) 
  • Procurement and waste (purchasing policies and data, waste management) 
  • Travel (flights, business travel and commuting) 
  • Responsible investment (divestment from fossil fuels, investment in socially responsible funds) 
  • Students & Education (formal and informal education on climate change and sustainability) 
  • Community & Engagement (creating a positive impact as part of our net zero carbon target) 
  • Zero carbon research  

Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.  

We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here. 

The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or visit the sustainability webpagesTo join the network, please register your interest here. 

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

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.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., 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. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

Sustainability Week 2020

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 how to ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside students, student societies, staff Sustainability Champions and charities, put on events with the aim to educate and inspire around various topics relating to sustainability (whether that be social, environmental or economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

We had a total of 522 people come to take part in the events throughout the week.

Here is a summary of some of the events we had throughout the week…

GEOGFEST

GeogFest’ was a charity event for King’s staff and students, organised by GeogSoc and the Geography Sustainability Champions to raise money for the International Tree Foundation.

The event took place in the KCLSU bar The Vault on Friday 7th February as an early kick of to Sustainability Week.

There was entertainment from the Worn out Shoes ceilidh band formed by academics from across the Geography department, PhD candidate George Warren and a dance materclass by UG student Pia Fletcher.

There was a live count of the money raised through the night, in total the Geography department raised £243.38 for the ITF, which will be used to help offset the flights from second year Portugal and Morocco fieldwork trips.

 

DIY lip balm & craft your own zero-waste products

Gathered in the KCLSU zero-waste store, Nought, 24 students got together to learn how to make their own zero-waste lip balms (recipe here – made without the honey) and how to crochet their own face scrubbie, instructed by King’s Energy Manager and star crafter, Julie Allen.

During sustainability week, Nought held a competition to win a zero-waste hamper for all those who spent over £10 – so this event was also a chance for the students to stock up on their essentials to be in with a chance to win!

A Green Threaded Corridor

Artist and Goldsmiths University student, Margaret Jennings came to Kings to deliver ‘A Green Threaded Corridor: Tree Art Workshop’. The workshop started with a conversation about our natural environment in the middle of Guy’s campus memorial garden and an insight into Margaret’s background and artwork. This was followed by a silent walk around the gardens, taking notice of the trees and life which surrounds them.

Natural materials from the gardens were gathered and used in the art section of the workshop. The art was inspired by our individual tree stories (e.g. a cherry tree in a grandfathers garden or the grief you feel when a tree is cut down) – the art could be painting, drawing, poems. These were passed around and altered by others – as a comment to nature and its ever evolving state.

The art and poems created in the workshop will form the body of Margaret’s research at Goldsmiths university – alongside other university and community group tree stories.

The event ended with planting a Birch sapling on Guys Campus gifted by Goldsmiths University. This will form part of a tree corridor, as King’s will be mirroring this by gifting an Alder tree to Goldsmiths University.

 

King’s Think Tank: Post-Environmental Regulations Debate

See the blog post below, for an event summary from the Director and Researcher of the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

Vegan Sushi Class

King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society ran a vegan sushi class at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA) café. Over 30 students came to learn how to make their vegan sushi from scratch – how to cook the perfect sushi rice, prepare the vegetables, tofu or tempeh and do the perfect sushi roll.

Circular Economy Workshop with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

On the final day in Sustainability Week, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation came to deliver a workshop on circular economy.

They gave attendees an overview of what the circular economy is, and what businesses and services using circular economy principles may look like. As it was Valentine’s Day, they tasked students with coming up with circular economy alternatives to common Valentine’s presents, including re-used cards and potted flowers.

 

 

Sustainability Week Event Review: Environmental Regulations & Policies in a Post-Brexit Era

This guest blog comes from Mathilde Funck Brentano and Irina Tabacaru who are the Director and Researcher at the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTRE), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.

The Energy & Environment policy centre began the event with an audience-directed poll, featuring the question: ‘Do you think the UK should move forward with stricter environmental regulation after Brexit?’. After some time to reflect, the majority responded in favour of stricter regulation.

Following the survey, the panel began by discussing whether the UK should uphold European environmental standards after Brexit. While the speakers displayed little confidence in the ability of the current UK government to expand environmental regulations, all three argued in favour of furthering the existing policies. Drawing from his experience as a specialist advisor in the drafting of environmental legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, Professor Lee highlighted the importance of compromise in reaching higher-level objectives in environmental regulations. In order to enable effective policies to be successful, the accessibility of environmental regulations ought to be improved. The discussion also mentioned the importance of changes in consumption habits to match governmental policies. Mr. Bartha expressed optimism regarding the United Kingdom’s prospects after Brexit. As he noted, one of the European Union’s main weaknesses is its bureaucratic aspect, and the fact that European policies are not implemented by all member states evenly. For example, member states in Eastern Europe respond differently to environmental policies than those in Northern or Western Europe. The United Kingdom now has the possibility to expand sustainability-related regulations more freely across its territory, and avoid the European Union’s precautionary principles in the drafting of legislation, as well as the excessive allowances of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Conversely, Mr Ainslie underlined the apparent lack of ambition demonstrated by the British government in regard to green policies, particularly when compared to European targets. The speakers also discussed the necessity of a kerosene tax, given the considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by air transport.

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The discussion continued around the themes of Energy and Air Pollution. There was considerable disagreement between the speakers regarding the use and safety of shale gas as a potential alternative energy resource for the UK. The speakers’ views also diverged on the possibility of the UK reaching one hundred percent renewable energy use in the near future. Professor Lee also mentioned the importance of the UK finding its position concerning access to EU energy and, more importantly, pan-EU energy sources.

Our speakers expect that air quality standards will be upheld in the United Kingdom, despite its departure from the European Union. The British government has been tried several times by the European Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality standards. There is considerable public awareness on the topic, with approximately 28,000 to 36,000 pollution-related deaths in the UK every year. The necessity of tight cooperation between Westminster and local governmental bodies was put forth, as well as the urgent need for further enforcement.

Following the panelists’ discussion, the floor was opened to questions. The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion and interacted with the three panelists, raising a variety of issues, including the possibility of an EU-level meat tax. A captivating debate occurred regarding the theme of individual responsibility for climate change, as opposed to corporate and governmental responsibility. The high costs of sustainable and organic products, which represent a true burden for the average consumer, were extensively considered. The topic of waste management was also raised, following China’s decision to close its borders to foreign waste. Our panelists disagreed regarding the existence of the concept of ‘cyclical economy’, especially with reference to vehicles’ lithium ion batteries.

We would like to thank our three speakers for participating and sharing their thought-provoking insights with us. We would also like to thank the King’s Sustainability Team and KCLSU for their support in organizing our panel event. A big thank you also goes to our audience for being incredibly dynamic and engaged in the discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to King’s Think Tank events in the future!

Vegan Story #2 – Jessie Hardcastle

This guest blog comes courtesy of Jessie Hardcastle, staff member working as the Fit for King’s Manager within the Estates & Facilities Department. 

Jessie’s Vegan Story

When I joined King’s in June 2009 I quickly thought “what a wonderful place to work” – you know when you just find yourself looking forward to getting out of bed in the morning to see your colleagues? I knew this was my kind of place, filled with my kind of people.

10 years later in a very different job and working alongside completely different people I still think that. For lots of reasons. But certainly when Vision 2029 rolled out and the university announced that we are striving to make the world a better place all my personal values (which definitely also drive me at work) hummed happily.

Recently King’s has kept me humming happily even more than usual – because it doesn’t seem to matter which campus I’m on, I can find a vegan breakfast, vegan lunch and perhaps even more importantly – vegan cake for “elevensies”. I use to venture more onto the high street to find vegan options (there are plenty of options there too!) but frankly, the variety of options at King’s tends to be better.

I went vegan for a fairly common reason – I didn’t like the idea of killing an animal for a meal myself, and I didn’t want someone else to do it for me. And when I looked into it, other animal products were not separate to but part of that same industry.

This was a little over 18 years ago when I was still living in Auckland. Without wishing to sound like your plant-based-gran, I can’t help but tell you that “back in those days we didn’t have things nearly so easy.”

I remember one evening, not long after going vegan, I complained to my Mum the only thing I could eat in the fridge were three peppers. “At least there is a red, a green and a yellow one” she said!

Thankfully I enjoy a lot more variety than that now. And despite how that sounds, my family actually quickly became very supportive. I’ve also very rarely had any stigma from my friends and colleagues that wasn’t meant in good humour.

The biggest change in my life recently was giving birth to a baby girl in September 2018. I was secretly worried I might have a small baby that people would claim to be malnourished because of my vegan diet. Enter Charlotte Grace, weighing a whopping 9lb 14oz and quick to dispel that myth. Now a healthy sized toddler, she’s has a good appetite, definitely thriving and eating a wide variety of food. She shared some veggie sushi with me the other day, bravely trying new food without the bat of an eye. That might have been a different story if I’d includes the wasabi mind you.

Going vegan is so clearly linked with my other life choices, that how I spend my money, time and energy can help shape the world I want to live in. And for me, that includes working for an organisation that wants to make the world a better place.

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