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.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Haz Feliks, staff member in the King’s Business School. Haz leads the King’s Business School digital education services, ensuring on-campus and off-campus programmes are supported in the development and delivery of e-learning content. They co-ordinate the technology-enhanced learning team working alongside CTEL to facilitate: academic and student engagement and co-design of the online learning environment, faculty and centre TEL initiatives for analysis, hardware and software solutions, baseline and template process, and bench-marking and school-wide change projects.
Previously a vegetarian for around 12 years I’ve now been vegan for just over five. I actually made the transition with a friend after speaking to what felt like must have been the only vegan in Aylesbury, a city of over fifty thousand people. There were the usual hurdles like not wanting to give up cheese and I still remember my surprise at the revelation that dairy wasn’t necessary for good health! It’s been an exciting and interesting journey and it now feels like everyone including businesses and institutions are trying it.
I find it hard to believe the growth and progress that has been made so far. I work in digital education and I’m an engineering enthusiast who’s very excited with the prospect of technology facilitating post animal agriculture and animal-free economies. I love to imagine the possibilities of a world that transitions to plant-based products and services to benefit animal welfare and the environments we all live in.
Vegan outreach has also been an ever-evolving part of my activities over the last three years. I have found working with others to take part in public conversation, vegan-friendly food promotion and event organising for the movement very rewarding. I do hope many more people make the move to living kindly in their own way, and that it benefits them as much as I think it has done my health and well-being.
On 20th September many of you will have joined in or seen the Global Climate Strike taking place.
Here in London, King’s staff and students took to the streets and joined those demanding our decision-makers to take immediate climate action.
King’s encouraged staff to join in with the strike and the President and Principal of King’s, Professor Edward Byrne AC and Vice President and Principal for London at King’s, Baroness Deborah Bull, joined staff and students on the Strand.
Above shows Professor Edward Byrne AC (centre), President and Principal of King’s College London and Baroness Deborah Bull,
Vice President and Principal (London) at King’s (far right), at the climate strike on the 20th September.
Sustainability at King’s over the last year has seen major progress, and on the 19th July, we celebrated the efforts and achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in helping to make King’s a more sustainable university this past year.
The annual ceremony took place on the 8th floor terrace in Bush House. We celebrated the commitment and passion of the 327 Sustainability Champions who have carried out 2,762 sustainability actions, nearly 812 more than the previous year.
Sustainability Champions 2019
62 Sustainability Champions Teams were awarded: 25 Bronze, 9 Silver and 29 Gold Awards. (In the table, yellow shows office teams, green are residence teams and blue indicates lab teams).
We also celebrated staff, students and groups in the Special Awards category, for members across the university who have achieved particular success in embedding sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.
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 champions for being the ones to motivate others and to stand up and make a difference to the environment and local communities around King’s. ‘Service’ is a large part of sustainability at King’s. The term was adopted at King’s in July 2018 in the Service Strategy, forming part of the Strategic Vision 2029 to emphasise King’s’ commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. Professor Grant praised the champions and their actions which are integral to this strategy over the past year (for example:
Geography labs have been making their own air quality monitors and are working with SMSS to go into local schools to build and walk around their local area to map clean air routes and devise clean air walking route for pupils and their parents/guardians.
Maughan library champions planted 202 trees in the Maughan library garden as part of the Mayors London Tree Planting Weekend (1 & 2 December).
King’s Policy Institute sustainability champion, Rebecca Brown, established the first Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA) conference in March.
King’s Food & Venues promoted and carried out a beach clean on the banks of the Thames – copious of cable ties and fish soy sauce packets were found!
Science Gallery London grafted cacti in their ‘SPARE PARTS’ exhibition – the remaining cacti have now been donated to KCLSU to find a new home in the student common area!
Sustainability with our students
As part of the event we celebrated our students who’ve been involved with a ‘Sustainability Showcase’. Lizzie Ayles, Climate Change MSc student spoke on her passion to combat the climate crisis and why the champions programme is important to her and her involvement in the programme in the student auditing opportunity which takes place each May. Morgan Larimer, Events Officer in the newly established King’s Energy Co-op spoke on why the co-op was formed and their plan of action to help King’s reach it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. You can join the energy co-op by contacting them via email or on Facebook.
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
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
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 last in a series of three blog posts from Isabella.
Sustainability in Estates & Facilities
Student Accommodation / Residences
Fit for King’s
Asset Improvement & Space planning
The United Nations state that good health is essential to sustainable development, and thus, King’s highly encourages healthy living and well-being. SDG 3 is the most popular within the department and maps across almost every division.
SDG 8 focuses on energy productivity. Given the number of computers, projectors and TVs across the university campuses it is vital that the Estates & Facilities department minimises the amount of energy consumed.
Income equality affects staff and students as it may prevent them from pursuing opportunities. SDG 10 states empowering lower income earners is vital, and Kings are taking many approaches to work on this. In some areas, for example, the Estates & Facilities department gives discounted rates to those with lower income.
An SDG also commonly shared across the department is SDG 11. To face the rapid growth of cities and increasing rural to urban migration, it is vital to focus on sustainable development. As Estates and Facilities manage the venues, residences and space planning in the university this SDG addresses this department most than the others at King’s.
SDG 12 is also implemented in almost every division. Aside from meeting the social responsibility and service targets, King’s also focuses on environmental aspects. It is important that we reduce our ecological footprint by adjusting our consumption and production methods. This goal is being achieved in the way King’s manages the world’s shared natural resources and disposes of toxic waste and pollutants. SDG 13 is also quite similar to 12. In managing our consumption and production methods, the human impact on climate change is reduced.
King’s is ranked as the world’s 14th most international university with over 40% of students being from outside the UK. The university focuses on establishing an inclusive community where students from abroad feel they are welcomed. This maps out SDG 16 which encourages peace and unity.
SDG 17 explains that the SDGs can only be realized with strong partnership and cooperation. To achieve this on a global scale we must begin locally. The Estates & Facilities department does so by raising awareness of sustainability and service to staff and students.