Category: Strand

Professor Edward Byrne speaks at the King’s Sustainability Awards 2017

On the 3rd July, the annual King’s Sustainability Awards took place at Strand Campus.

Professor Ed  Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.

His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:



“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.

So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.

So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.

As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].

We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.

Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.

Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.

Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.

I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].

This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.

Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.

In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.

In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”

Thames Plastic Lab

Until Sunday, the 11th June, Thames Plastic are taking over the Somerset House River Terrace with their Thames Plastic Lab.

Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo and a group of volunteers (including Thames21, King’s staff, and students during our Sustainability Week) have collected plastic from the beaches of the Thames. They have then spent a few weeks at Canada Water, washing the plastic so it can be used. plastic lab poster

Now, the project has reached the next stage: sorting it by colour so it can be used in an art installation as part of the Thames Festival.

The Thames Plastic Lab is  a collaboration between King’s College London’s Departments of Chemistry and Geography, the Royal Society of Chemistry and artist Maria Arceo, supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. Throughout this week, they are inviting the public to come along and learn what kind of plastic ends up in the Thames, how it gets there, and what you can do. You can also pick a piece of plastic and ask for it to be analysed! In the end, all the plastic from the workshops will be turned into an art installation to raise awareness for the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. The Plastic Lab has been a great success so far, you can see pictures of the event on Twitter.

The Thames Plastic Lab will remain open until the 11th June.

Opening times are:

9th June: 16:00-18:00

10th-11th June: 11:00-18:00

More information can be found here. Make sure to drop in!


Our neighbours from Hubbub are currently also running their own campaign to combat plastic waste in the Thames. With #FFSLDN (For Fish’s Sake London, don’t drop litter!), they are trying to engage Londoners in a conversation about our littering habits.

UNSDG #14For example, do you know what tidy littering is? It’s leaving your rubbish next to a bin, on top of an overflowing bin, or on a wall or ledge. It might seem innocent, but rubbish often falls off, gets blown away, and ultimately ends up in our great river. 300 tonnes of litter are cleared from the Thames every year – showing how important things like the Thames Plastic project are. Ultimately, plastic pollution becomes a very real problem for people. It is estimated that 70% of fish in the Thames have plastic in their guts, and plastic increasingly makes its way into our diets through fish that have swallowed small pieces of plastic. So next time you drop a piece of plastic, make sure it’s in a recycling bin!

Join the #SquareMileChallenge!

Today, Hubbub and Simply Cups launch the Square Mile Challenge across the City of London – and as King’s students and staff, you can take part!

Social Media card - 1The aim of the challenge is to recycle half a million paper coffee cups in the month of April. Coffee cups have been getting lots of bad press recently, as seven million of them are thrown away every single day – that’s 4000 a minute! The problem with this mountain of coffee cups is that less than 1% of them are recycled. While they are recyclable in theory, this does not happen in practice. The reason for this is the plastic lining inside the cup, which is almost impossible to separate from the paper. As a result, the coffee cups are either incinerated, or worse, end up in landfill.

So, what can we do about this?

This is where you can help. The Maughan Library will take part in the Square Mile Challenge, which means you will see cup-bins appear. These are specifically for your paper coffee cups. Once full, they are collected by Simply Cups, and taken to specialist recycling facilities. In a unique process of shredding the paper cups and blending them with recycled plastics, a new material is made. This is then turned into a range of things – everything from pencils to park benches. In fact, it only takes 1500 coffee cups to make a park bench!

It does not matter where your coffee cup came from. Starbucks, Pret, Costa, King’s Food – we’ll recycle all of them, as long as they are empty! With exam season fast approaching, we are sure the coffee-drinkers (or tea-drinkers, if that’s more your thing) at the Maughan can help the Square Mile Challenge reach the 500,000 cup goal. We will keep you updated with how many cups we have collected throughout the campaign.

There are five coffee cup bins around the library – two in the Rolls Café, two in the courtyard, and one by reception.

Not at the Maughan? Coffee shops all over the City of London will have special recycling bins throughout April. You can find them here!

If all this talk about 7 million wasted coffee cups made you want to do more than just recycle, it’s worth to bring your own cup. UNSDG #12And not just for the environment – it can save you money too! King’s Food will give you a free hot drink if you buy a KeepCup from them. If you already have one, you get 10p off your drink every time you use it. Starbucks will give you 25p off your drink if you bring your own cup, and Caffe Nero will give you double stamps for your loyalty card.

You can follow what is happening during the Square Mile Challenge by following Hubbub on Twitter, and keeping an eye on the hashtag #SquareMileChallenge.

Sustainability Week: The first three days

With Sustainability Week now in full swing, it is time to recap what happened so far, and what events you can still get involved in.


We asked students what they would do if they were Principal for the day

On Monday and Tuesday we took over the space outside the Great Hall at Strand with our Sustainability Roadshow. Representatives from King’s Money Mentors, Hubbub, Veolia, Thames Plastic, RSPB, EcoSoc, Abe & Cole and Amey joined us for this, and we got the chance to chat to students about sustainability at King’s. Among other things, such as our popular recycling game, we asked students to write down what they would do if they were Principal of King’s for a day. Ideas included switching to clean energy, providing recycling training and banning non-recyclable coffee cups. We will take this feedback and see what we can do about these suggestions to make King’s more sustainable!


Artist Maria Arceo and the Thames Plastic stall

Highlights of other events include our Vegfest, which saw around 100 students try plant-based food (including Sheese!). We also held a bike auction at Strand, during which 16 second-hand bikes found new homes. Dr Bike were also on site to provide bike checks, and will travel with us to the other campuses over the next two days. King’s Careers & Employability ran two successful events on how to start a career in the sustainability sector, giving students the chance to ask sustainability professionals for advice.

If you have missed our events so far, you still have the chance to take part! Sustainability Week lasts until Friday the 10th February, and there are still lots of events coming up.

Tonight, there will be a panel debate on whether overconsumption or overpopulation is the biggest problem we face.

On Thursday, we will take our Sustainability Roadshow to Waterloo Campus. There will also be a Clothes Swap Shop at Waterloo in the morning. In the evening, you can attend a free screening of Tomorrow (2015), or pitch your idea on how to make King’s more sustainable at the Geography Department’s Sustainability Challenge.

Finally, on Friday we move to Denmark Hill for a seminar on why healthcare professionals should care about climate change, and we will bring our Roadshow, bike fixing sessions and Clothes Swap Show with us.

For more information, check out the full schedule here. We are looking forward to seeing you at the remaining events!

“Space to Breathe” at Somerset House

Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.

BackPack2SmallThe exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.


Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack

One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!


Cycling to run the bar

By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.

Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.

Sustainability Week events announced!

As you might have seen across our social media channels, we have announced the details of Sustainability Week 2017, which will take place from the 6th to the 10th of February.

Under the theme of ‘Waste not, want not’, we are organising a week of exciting events with King’s Money Mentors, Careers & Employability, charities, ethical brands and student societies. Highlights include a Sustainability Roadshow visiting all campuses, bike auctions, panel debates and careers events focused on careers in sustainability. Check out the detailed timetable of all events below:

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For more information, including links to Facebook events, head to this page. We hope to see you at some of our events!

Watch: Principal Professor Ed Byrne’s speech at the KCL Sustainability Champions Awards 2016

On Tuesday the 5th July the annual Sustainability Awards were held at the Great Hall at Strand. The event represented the culmination of the Sustainability Champions scheme which has seen over 100 staff and students actively involved as Sustainability Champions. Their actions over the past year have affected almost 2000 members of staff across the University.

Professor Ed Byrne, the President & Principal of King’s College London, praised the leadership by staff and students in collectively working to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.


“I am really pleased to be with you tonight. I don’t think there is any more important task that any of us in our lives have, as far as society and the planet goes, than the sustainability agenda. It’s been prominent for most of my life but getting increasingly clear that for 8-9 billion people to live on this planet with reasonable qualities of life requires so many things to change.

Sustainability is crucial in itself, but as I have travelled the world and especially as I have visited India and China increasingly over the years I have come to realise that sustainable development is also important. It is not just about maintaining a relatively small number people in the west on a very high standard of living, we have to reach a stage where everyone on the planet has a reasonable quality of life in a sustainable way.

Now this is an immense journey from where we are now and I have a belief that universities are a crucial part of the journey. Part of that is obvious. The Millenium Sustainable Development Goals have been contributed to very significantly by an academic network around the world. We all know of fantastic individual institutions like the Earth Institute at Columbia which do fantastic work in planning for the future. At King’s we are forming an alliance most of you may have heard of called the PLuS Alliance with the University of New South Wales and Arizona State University. A contribution in a broader sense to sustainability and sustainable development is at the heart of this alliance. Now this is all a little bit esoteric in one sense, in research intensive institutions we can contribute ideas for the future, we can do modelling we can do planning, we can deal in technological advances that are all incredibly helpful. But at the end of the day we all have to do something else as well. And that is to make sure that our own impact on the world around is as friendly in an environmental sense as it possibly can be. And if universities are going to champion this we must also be champions of how we act and deal with things in the day to day so that our energy footprint is as modest as it possibly can be.

We are doing all of that at King’s and this is something that has been increasingly embraced by the King’s community led by our students, with fantastic leadership by the students but coming together more broadly with a cross university working group. We have been looking at every aspect of the story: how we run our buildings, how we use energy ourselves, what research and intellectual proposition we can give that help understand and improve these huge issues, how we can provide an example by developing more fit for purpose investment policies for our financial reserves to make sure that we are investing in environmentally friendly industries. The list goes on and on.

This isn’t about me. It’s not even about a small number of people. It’s about many, many people in our university community who are implementing changes on the ground, supporting our sustainability champions that we are here to honour but also for all of us in our everyday life who are doing things whether it is in our job description or not. From lab managers and office managers, cleaners who make sure our waste is recycled, managers who show leadership and support their staff, the engineers, the security staff who have a responsibility to make sure our waste goes in the right bins, making sure your lights are turned off when you leave your office at the end of the day. These all seem small actions and maybe individually they are small, but when you add them up collectively they add up to a commitment to do our very best to be as environmentally friendly as we can in our own energy footprint.

Now students are totally committed to this area. The expectations of our student body are increasing and thank goodness that’s the case. We have had student leaders really leading the university thinking in many aspects of sustainability and sustainable development. I have already alluded briefly to the work of the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee over the past year, the Ethics and Environmental Careers Conference that our students ran. I would also like to mention that our students have been heavily involved in social enterprises and student environmental societies. These are all fantastic developments.

I wanted to highlight how students can be involved with a range of examples: extending from the King’s graduate who is a paid intern who runs the scheme every year, as well as students who support the sustainability champions scheme directly and all of those that acted as auditors for our workbooks. It is clear that whatever they study, whatever faculty they’re in, our students should be able to leave King’s with an education that allows them to be part of the solution to the social, economic and environmental challenges our world faces.

As King’s gets larger, bigger as a university, we have to work on these issues even harder. It is a good thing our environmental impact is not growing at the same rate as our university is overall. So far we have a good track record on energy use. We have reduced our carbon footprint by 8.8 percent since 2005/2006 despite significant growth in staff and student numbers. But in order to achieve the reductions needed by the planet, 43% by 2020, we all need to think about how we can be even more efficient in how we use university resources, space and equipment. Give attention to your laboratory usage: look at integrating sustainable and efficient practices in our scientific practices generally across our research spectrum. Be aware that as KCLs research and environment are steadily growing, it is important that we restrain growth in our energy usage and that it is not growing at the same rate. We are starting on that journey but it is a journey and we are not yet where we need to be.

I would like to finish by thanking everybody in this room for your individual contributions. This is a community effort by the King’s community. The fact that we have so many champions coming through is just fantastic. On behalf of the King’s community, we look forward to seeing even more champions. Thank you all and let’s now enjoy the presentations to those that deserve it and have made such a contribution over the past year. Thank you.”

First Sustainability Forum 2014: Sustainable Start-ups

King’s students were given great ideas about social enterprises and how to start their own businesses last Thursday at the first Sustainability Forum.DSC_0005 small

The Sustainability Forum, which was held in Pyramid Room of Strand Campus, hosted two talks from Ento and Elephant Branded, a pair of university start-ups that are now innovative businesses based in London.

After a lively introduction about the Fossil Free campaign by Mark Horowitz, Sarah and Olivia opened the forum by explaining who the Sustainability Team are and what they hope the forum will achieve.

Ento (Japanese for insect) were the first to speak and argued that as the world’s population grows and countries become richer, other sources of food will be needed. Insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars could be the solution, as they are a more efficient food source than meat such as beef.

Ento is aiming to make eating insects more appealing to mass audiences by finding new ways to present them as food. They hope to slowly change the culture around insect food and introduce them into our everyday diet. Ento has partnerships with a farm in Spain who breed insects for human consumption, and organised a successful pop-up restaurant in 2013. They also sell products at speciality events and are planning to create a commercial product using crowdfunding.

The next speaker was Tim from Elephant Branded. Elephant Branded was started at university in 2011 and sells accessories hand-made by Cambodian communities using recycled cement bags. For every item Elephant Branded sells, a school bag or stationary kit is given to a needy child in Africa or Asia to help with their studies. In the past year Elephant Branded has snowballed, becoming more recognisable and selling in shops such as John Lewis. All of their profits currently go straight back into the business in order for them to expand the brand, with the founders not yet taking a salary.

Tim gave lots of advice to the students attending the forum, emphasising how important it was for universities students to take risks, especially on business ideas. Tim also stressed the point that Elephant Branded was not a charity, but a business, stating that “The more you make, the more you give away.” This highlighted the importance of financial sustainability: a social enterprise won’t last long without good foundations.

King’s students had lots of tough questions for the two companies, asking Ento about the appeal of their product, and Elephant Branded whether social products could ever challenge big brands. This helped for the discussion session which focused on how business could incorporate sustainability. This led to a livley debate about the nature of business and how monetary practices can be used to encourage certain types of behaviour.DSC_0008 small

Richard Milburn, a PhD student in war studies, who attended the forum said: “It was really good. My opinion is that business is the solution to the world’s problems. At the forum, you get interesting debate and multiple viewpoints. These examples of university start-ups are useful as it is encouraging. It provides inspiration and enables students.”

Sarah and Olivia were both pleased with the first forum, stating that “It was great to see two examples of how to transform a great idea into a practical enterprise, which is really useful for students.”

Overall the event was a great success, and the sustainability team were pleased to see so many students attend and are grateful to both sets of speakers. The next Sustainability Forum will be held in November and addressing the theme of ‘Well being, mental health and green spaces’.

Guest writer: Luke Graham