Category: Students (Page 1 of 9)

Meet King’s sustainable student groups and societies

This blog post provides a brief overview of some of the sustainability-focused societies and student groups at King’s. Read on to hear about their goals, how they engage students and how you can get involved. Find out more about all the societies and student groups at King’s on the KCLSU webpages.

KCL Climate Action Society

KCLCA aims to unite students from across the university to bring awareness on climate change and encourage action. Founded in 2019, the society quickly grew to become a large community of individuals who are all passionate about taking action and making change. Follow the society’s Instagram for updates on events, news stories and delicious plant-based recipes!

“The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. […] Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.”Anna Peran, co-founder of KCLCA.

KCL Environmental Society

KCL EcoSoc is dedicated to connecting students who share a passion for the environment, to providing opportunities to learn about environmental issues and campaign for change.

Past events have included webinars on Climate Change, Culture and Communication and Environmental Justice, a live cook-along with celebrity chef Max LaManna, as well as the London Energy Idea Challenge (organised in collaboration with 4 other London universities).

Find them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

KCL Vegetarian and Vegan Society

KCL VegSoc brings together like-minded people interested in vegetarian and vegan food and lifestyles.

They are hosting their first event of the year on Sunday, September 26th: KCL VegSoc x What the Pitta. Join them to meet the society and enjoy some great (discounted) vegan food! Follow VegSoc on Instagram for more information and updates.

Hear from Bethan Spacey, outgoing president of the society, on her experience with VegSoc – “My first year in KCL VegSoc was brilliant. The year began with a What The Pitta social and I got to meet lots of people. Regular socials/food outings were held, as well as events like a sushi-making class, film screenings and talks. My favourite event was a volunteering trip to Friends Farm Animal Sanctuary, where we got to spend time with the animals. Last academic year, because I had enjoyed my experience with KCL VegSoc so much, I decided to apply for a committee position and ended up in the role of President. Unfortunately, this year was online, so we were very limited in what we could do, but our goal was to approach vegetarianism and veganism from a number of different perspectives: looking at the ethical implications, the environmental ramifications and the how it effects your health. Being online, however, meant that we were able to get some massive speakers for events such as Gene Stone and Carol J. Adams.”

King’s 4 Change

King’s 4 Change aims to encourage the King’s student community to act together for power, social justice and political change.

Recent campaigns run by King’s 4 Change include Just Transition, which focused on thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive and attentive to the experiences of all people. Their Energy Campaign aimed to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy prodivers.

As put by King’s 4 Change co-founder Abigail Oyedele, “our aim is to train students in community organising methods […]. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.”

Find out more.

Students for Global Health KCL

Those of you who are familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will know that sustainability encompasses much more than environmental concerns. Specifically, SDG 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” focuses on global health.

The King’s branch of Students for Global Health UK aims to empower students to envision a fairer and more just world in which equity in health is a reality for all, as well as take action on these issues. Last year, they hosted an incredible range of events covering themes such as Decolonising Healthcare, Global Mental Health, and Social Determinants of Health. Follow their Instagram for updates, resources and other informative posts, and sign up to their mailing list.

Fetch Ur Veg

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-run cooperative providing weekly veg bag deliveries. Their overall goal is to encourage a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for students.

“Our main goal is to offer a more sustainable way of getting your vegetable groceries and maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and encouraging yourself to cook with different ingredients. Each bag comes with a leaflet with recipes and cooking tips. Contrary to the supermarket, the vegetables you get are still covered in dirt. So you get an overall healthier diet, with a diverse set of vegetables that are not stripped of their nutrients or chemically processed and cleaned, and it just really makes you appreciate the food a lot more!” – Mia Lewis, outgoing president of Fetch Ur Veg.

In addition to delivering weekly veg bags, Fetch Ur Veg offer volunteering opportunities to interested students and staff. Join them if you’re looking for a break from coursework and want to spend a couple hours outdoors, packing vegetables with a lovely group of people in Kentish Town. Follow them on Instagram for updates!

KCL Women and Politics Society

The Women and Politics Society aim to promote and enhance women’s leadership and influence in politics. Through discussion panels and conferences, the team hope to inform and inspire young women and others to participate in politics and engage in advocacy. Follow them on Instagram for more information.

The society also runs its own online magazine, The Clandestine“a platform to lift those who have been forced into secrecy, up into that which is public.” 

King’s Think Tank

King’s Think Tank is Europe’s largest student-led policy institute. It aims to provide a platform for students to engage with the world of policy and organises policy workshops, panel discussions and lobbying trips.

KTT run a blog with critical analyses of past and current issues, as well as publish their annual policy-recommendation journal, The Spectrum.

With seven policy centres, including the Education, Energy and Environment or Global Health centres, students interested in sustainability can write for the blog or policy journal.

KCL XR

The King’s branch of Extinction Rebellion. Their long-term goal is to combat the climate crisis and they collaborate closely with the broader XR Universities network.

KCLXR is still a relatively young society – join them to help them grow and meet like-minded individuals.

Sustainability Stories: Liza and Mia from Fetch Ur Veg

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-run vegetable bag cooperative at King’s. If you would like to sign up, volunteer or join the committee, follow @FetchUrVeg on Instagram.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your background?

[Liza] I’m a third-year BSc Nutrition student, and I’m originally from Belarus.

[Mia] I’ve just graduated with a BA in International Relations. I’m from Osaka, Japan and the UK.

What does sustainability mean to you?

[Liza] Sustainability is about maintaining a balance. It’s about how long and beautifully we can live and coexist with nature and maintain the diversity of the natural world.

[Mia] Sustainability is about caring about where things come from, how you’re using them, how long you’re using them and not taking them for granted. Also, remembering that the Earth doesn’t belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.

Is there a specific turning point you can identify that sparked your interest in sustainability?

[Liza] It started quite early on for me because I was in a school in Moscow that was incredibly sustainability-driven – which is quite funny to think about now because Moscow was and is not a very sustainable city. We were taught about recycling even though there weren’t any recycling systems in Russia, and everyone was encouraged to drop the personal drivers and use buses instead. So, I was conscious of it but never really cared that much. I really started caring because of my mother’s friend. She started promoting a healthy lifestyle from a food perspective, and I had terrible acne when I was younger, so eating healthily became a way for me to deal with my skin. And eventually, I caught onto the impact of food and the importance of eating sustainably.  So yeah, I didn’t like see a picture of a seal with plastic and think, wow, poor seal. It was probably more of an egotistical way of getting into sustainability, hahaha.

[Mia] I think I started noticing sustainability after I went vegan. I decided to become vegan because it seemed fun and interesting, and then a friend told me about the sustainable benefits of a plant-based diet, and I was like, wow, that’s a great addition to this new diet.  And from there, it was like a domino effect.

Could you tell us a little about Fetch Ur Veg?

[Mia] FUV was founded by two alumni of King’s, inspired by a similar initiative at a French university. I think students can find it difficult to find good quality vegetables or cook sustainably, or they’re just put off from cooking because it seems expensive to buy all the ingredients at once. But what the veg bag does is you don’t have to choose the vegetables – you get seasonal vegetables from local farmers which is more sustainable and at a discounted price. A weekly veg bag costs around £7.00 a week. If you have a small appetite, it’s just enough for two people, but if not, it’s perfect for one person. And if you volunteer, you can also get some extra veg on the side for free, which is always quite nice!

Our main goal is to offer a more sustainable way of getting your vegetable groceries and maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and encouraging yourself to cook with different ingredients. Each bag comes with a leaflet with recipes and cooking tips. Contrary to the supermarket, the vegetables you get are still covered in dirt. So you get an overall healthier diet, with a diverse set of vegetables that are not stripped of their nutrients or chemically processed and cleaned, and it just really makes you appreciate the food a lot more!

[Liza] Coming from my nutritional science background, I’ve been reading a lot about gut health and the importance of diversity in your diet. Experts recommend eating 30 different plant-based foods a week… and because FUV’s offering really follows the seasons, you’re guaranteed to get a larger diversity of veg.

Why did you decide to get involved and volunteer?

[Liza] I keep trying to remember how I found FUV… I remember really wanting to find a way to buy local veg that didn’t involve travelling to a farmer’s market (which aren’t always close by or accessibly priced).  So when I saw this wonderful scheme (which I thought was a genius idea), I bought a veg bag and then signed up as a volunteer, and it sort of kicked off from there. I also thought it would be a great way to meet some cool fellow vegetable lovers! So I guess it’s like my love for vegetables that piqued my interest. I don’t know how many people can relate to that, hahaha?

[Helena] You touched upon an aspect of the community, and I think that was the strong pull for me. London is such a big city, and I feel like we’re very disconnected from where our food comes from – you know, it just lands in our supermarkets all cleaned and packaged. But other options aren’t necessarily as accessible. So FUV was just an obvious yes for me. But the other thing I was drawn to was the opportunity to volunteer and spend a couple hours each week, outside, just packing vegetables with a lovely group of people. It was always such a great way to get away from coursework, to feel the fresh air, feel connected to others, to the food I’ll be eating, to get my hands dirty. It’s very –

[Liza] – meditative and calming.

[Mia] I agree. It’s very therapeutic.

In what ways are you taking action on sustainability?

[Mia] A lot of me being sustainable comes from actually being quite frugal. So there are certain things I haven’t bought in years, such as kitchen towel or clingfilm – I’ll just use a cloth or cover it with another bowl or plate. When I’m in London, I use apps like Karma, Olio or Too Good to Go. Karma and Too Good To Go allow you to buy leftover produce or goods from stores at a reduced price, so they’re great if you live in a busy city with lots of surplus food. Olio lets you give produce you won’t use to people in your community. For example, if you buy a bottle of cordial and try a little but don’t like it, you can put it on Olio, and someone from your community will come and pick it up. So those are great ways to shop more sustainably, tackle food waste and save money!

If you’re an international student, your friends will probably move around a lot. Everyone always has awkward bits of salt or some cling film or soap, etc., things that they don’t want to take with them. So you can always help them out by taking those, and it’s a perfect way to just keep things going around. I really think the best thing is to just try and make do with what you have and see how far you can go with one product.

If you make one change, it inspires you to make another one, and another one and it keeps going. Take it slowly, and don’t bash yourself for using one piece of plastic sometimes because it will not be perfect. It’s the same with being vegan. I don’t think anyone should be forced to be vegan 100% of the time, and in many places, you just really can’t be vegan 100% of the time. So I just suggest that people be maybe 5% more sustainable than they were last week and then just keep increasing that number, in ways that are convenient for you.

I would add that with FUV, our goal is not to make people become vegan. We just hope that the bags will inspire you to have one plant-based dish a week and try new recipes. And when you try plant-based foods, don’t focus on how/if it’s similar to meat; approach it with curiosity and awe that we’re able to make some really creative foods. Like how on earth did someone think to mix tapioca starch and three flavourings together and make it taste like fish? It’s insane. Being curious and enjoying the process is the most important thing.

Can you recommend a resource (book, activist, documentary, social media account) for people who’d like to learn more?

[Liza] Ooh, ok, I have to say Ottolenghi. I mean, he’s like the God of vegetable cooking. So his recipes have been hugely inspiring for me and have allowed me to discover how to cook so many different vegetables.

[Mia] I really love the Zero Waste Japan account – it’s run by a mum of two young kids, and it’s quite wholesome. Everyone probably knows Max Lammana, Alice Aedy and Jack Harries – they’re all really great activists. But I tend to prefer Japanese resources in English because while it’s crucial to be bold and make really clear statements about how we can be more sustainable, I personally think that taking a more gentle approach encourages many more people to make small changes. Whereas activists can sometimes be quite daunting because they’re so passionate about the subject, and even if it’s for a really great cause, I think it can create a barrier for people who are sceptical about this subject. If you’re looking for Asian vegan recipes, @okonomikitchen and @chez.jorge are great!

What is something that currently gives you hope for the future?

[Mia] From the time I moved to London, which was only three years ago, I think the amount of vegan options has quadrupled.  People I know are huge meat eaters, people who you didn’t expect will be like, oh, that’s interesting. My grandma recently bought regular lasagna for everyone else, but she saw all the M & S plant kitchen options and bought me 6 different things to try over the weekend. Living sustainably has become integrated into many aspects of our lives. It’s so easy to focus on the negatives, but many little changes really add up to a lot.  I think we just need another big push, and I believe sustainable lifestyles will become the norm. I think that everything is moving in the right direction, considering that people who probably had no idea about sustainability a few years ago have at least a small idea now.

[Liza] I’m a bit more pessimistic… Maybe renewable energy will have a breakthrough, or a miracle kind of battery for electric cars that isn’t bad for the environment will be invented that isn’t also bad for the environment. Yeah, still waiting for a miracle, I suppose.

Thank you, Liza and Mia! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

 

Sustainability Stories: Emily Read

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a final year PhD student, in the Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine programme. Before this, I did my undergrad in Biology at Imperial and then moved to King’s to complete my master’s and now PhD. About two years ago, I became involved with sustainability at King’s by becoming a Lab Sustainability Champion, and more recently as a Sustainability Engagement Assistant with the Sustainability Team.

What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, it means caring. Caring about the planet, caring about other people, having empathy, trying to improve the situation around you, and being conscious of the state things are in, what your impact is and trying to mitigate it. I’ve always cared about the natural world. From a young age, watching David Attenborough documentaries, I became fascinated by the wonderful diversity of life. That made me think about studying biology – because biology’s at the core of all of this.

More recently, it has taken on a more personal meaning. During the pandemic, I’ve had time to reflect on what is important to me and what I want to do moving forward. It’s given me the headspace to think you know actually, I have to do something about sustainability and the environment. I can’t work in any other field really.

What is the link between your studies and sustainability?

I was astounded by the amount of waste I produced. I think anyone who works in a lab is conscious of the amount of waste they produce in terms of single-use plastics. It’s the same with the amount of energy we use: one -80 degree freezer uses something like the equivalent of a house in terms of energy (and we have 100s of these on the floor). That, for me, was a big “wow” moment. And it’s not really something that’s in the public understanding. There are a few articles that have said yes, scientific research uses lots of plastic and energy but it isn’t something that is spoken about very much. That’s why the Sustainability Champions scheme is so great!

To someone who isn’t really sure about how sustainability is relevant to them, I would say that it’s relevant to everyone and everything. It impacts everything. For example, if you’re studying a disease, there’s a high chance that it’s related to people’s wellbeing. You know – are they living in poverty? Do they have access to healthcare? Are they living in a polluted environment? It feeds into everything. And again, that’s highlighted in the diversity of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Why wouldn’t you make small changes that can make a difference? Like changing lab freezer temperatures from -80 to -70 has no impact but saves huge amounts of energy. It makes no sense not to do it.

Generally, I think that it’s not that the changes themselves are hard, rather, a lot of people aren’t aware of what they can do. Communicate, get people involved and don’t make them feel isolated, alienated or judged.

How are you taking action on sustainability?

I think personal changes have been an easy starting point. I started eating less meat and dairy and am now pretty much vegan. Making the choice not to fly when there are alternatives. Avoiding plastic, fast fashion. Those steps were for me relatively straightforward, and I am completely aware that making those personal changes is facilitated by my privilege. But if I have that privilege, I should use it. Again, it’s not helpful to think of it in terms of “oh why isn’t someone making those personal changes?” – people are doing what they can and we should keep encouraging them to continue doing just that.

I’ve also tried to make changes at work because that’s where I have more skills and will probably have the most impact and influence. Of course, larger-scale movements are important. But I think it’s also important to think: what is my skillset? What can I do? How can I use my skillset to the best of my ability to have the biggest impact?

What is something that gives you hope for the future? 

I think a lot of people have said this as well, the pandemic does feel like a turning point. It feels like this field is getting more and more funding, more and more interest. It’s becoming bigger and bigger. I think there will be jobs and opportunities in this field that didn’t exist five years ago. And it’s just growing at an exponential rate, which is really exciting. One thing that excites me is the ecological diversity side of things, specifically, this rewilding movement. I think it’s really interesting, how our natural spaces are now being left to their own devices and the impact that is having on biodiversity. And it’s now becoming more accepted and recognised! Finally, all of this collaboration – between different countries, different interests – it’s happening in a way that it’s never really happened before which I think is really exciting.

And finally, can you recommend a resource, book, inspiring individual/activist for anyone who’d like to learn more?

There’s a book called Wilding by Isabella Tree. It’s fantastic. It talks about the wilding movement, how it works, how successful it can be. Depending on your interests, I’d recommend looking into various activists – those listed in our Earth Day posts are a great start. How to Save a Planet podcast is also really good because it covers different aspects of sustainability.

Thank you, Emily! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

Why should you become a Sustainability Champion Assistant?

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant, supporting the King’s Energy Team.

With a new academic year approaching, you may be thinking about how you can get involved in sustainability at King’s. While many students come to university eagerly anticipating joining societies, less think about volunteering. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. When I became a Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), I had little idea of what it would entail. But here I am to explain why you should become an SCA for King’s Energy.

Clock volunteering hours

Did you know that at KCL you can log your volunteering hours on an online portal for an award? You could receive a bronze, silver or gold award for your efforts which is not only a personal pat on the back but would also be viewed favourably when included on your CV. It should be noted that you can mix-and-match volunteering experiences so you won’t only be reliant on King’s Energy, but over an academic year, you can easily attain a Gold award just through being a Sustainability Champion.

Learn new things

I’ll be honest, when I was allocated to King’s Energy, I whipped out the old CGP GCSE Physics revision guide to refresh my knowledge. However, prepare to be surprised. You will work with experts in the field who have extensive experience working in their field. I’ve been working with the Energy Team for 6 months, and I feel like a bonafide expert already, so you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily you will pick up information. Another thing that may surprise you is just how versatile the topic of energy is and how it links with so many different things around us.

Gain experience doing something you love

No, I don’t mean energy. We don’t expect you to love energy (although you may just fall in love with it along the way), but you likely have a skill that we are looking for. For me, that skill is writing. I love writing but it is so difficult to gain experience in a low-pressure environment. Enter King’s Energy. Whether your skill is writing, social media marketing or team management, there is a role for you here.

Make a positive impact

How could I ignore this one? As I mentioned, energy is all-encompassing, and it’s becoming an increasingly important issue in the modern world. Not only will being an SCA enable you to learn more about this crucial matter, but you will also be raising awareness and spreading that knowledge in an impartial, non-political way. In other words, you will play a vital role in the education of climate issues and, in doing so, help protect the future of our planet.

There you have it – my top four reasons to become an SCA!

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

Bethan’s experience living in one of our Sustainable Living Communities

This blog comes from Bethan Spacey, Sustainability Engagement Assistant and BA English student. 

My name is Bethan and I’m an (about to be) third-year English Student. For my first year at King’s College London, I lived in Wolfson House in one of the Sustainable Living Communities (SLCs).                                                                                            

The SLC I lived in was one of the zero-waste flats, and I was lucky enough to get to do this in its pilot year. In this blog I will talk a bit about what SLCs are, the ones that are on offer, and my experience. 

SLC is an initiative being run by King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability to facilitate the sustainable education, living and community of change-makers. The programme works alongside ResiLife to bring sustainability-focused events, themed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into King’s halls.  

For 21/22, they’ll be running vegan and zero-waste SLCs. The vegan or zero-waste SLC members live in a designated flat in one of King’s residences and will have support and specific events and activities to complement the respective lifestyle choices.                                              

My experience with SLCs began when I received an email about a zero-waste project that they would be running in a small number of flats in my allocated student accommodation, Wolfson House.  I had been interested in a zero-waste lifestyle for a while – even giving it a go in my hometown – but I had never been successful. At that time, I was living low waste: I’d massively reduced my plastic usage and was purchasing more consciously, but there were still major factors that were inhibiting my progress, such as money, living with my family and resources (living in a small village in South Wales).  

This was one of my concerns: that I’d enter one of the zero-waste flats keen, but not quite good enough. I was worried that I’d make mistakes and be reprimanded or fall out with my peers, or that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the requirements of complete and total zero-waste. I applied anyway and was quickly allocated a place. 

When I arrived at the flat, I discovered that the other people that had opted into the scheme were just like me – some with even less experience living a zero-waste lifestyle. This was reassuring. It was also, to my surprise, a mixture of people regarding backgrounds, genders and ages. This I was also glad about, as I was worried that choosing to enter one of these flats would be choosing to pigeonhole myself and only interact with a certain kind of person.  

I attended the first SLC event after settling into the flat and was gifted a bag of zero-waste goodies, such as a reusable cup and a mason jar. I have these things to this day, so it is sufficient to say that they have helped me out on my zero-waste journey. In between SLC events, leading the lifestyle of our choosing within our flat was up to us; staff were not sent to police if we were living ‘zero-waste enough’. This made me feel like I had the space to learn and grow without judgement. Luckily for me, Wolfson House was right next to King’s (now sadly closed) zero-waste store, Nought! This was perfect: not only could I get zero-waste products near my accommodation, but I could also get them at a student-friendly price. This store has since shut, but I’ve been surprised at how many zero-waste or bulk food stores you can find in London that aren’t insanely expensive. Some of the bigger Lidls even have sections where you can buy nuts in bulk! 

I attended several SLC events before an early covid-related departure in March. My favourite was the Vegan Christmas potluck, an event at GDSA where everyone brought their own dish and we all shared food. I got to chat with quite a lot of people from the different residences hosting SLCs, as well as eat some yummy food. Meeting people in the other residences was great because although I ended up in a zero-waste SLC, I would have happily partaken in a vegan one, so it meant that I got to meet more people with similar interests.  

As I mentioned, my year got cut short when the UK went into its first lockdown, and we were all sent home in March. However, I loved my experience in Wolfson House and more specifically, in a zero-waste SLC. I would recommend the experience to anyone already living attuned with either one of the zero-waste or vegan lifestyles, but also just to anyone interested. For me, it was a great way to officially begin my zero-waste journey with someone holding my hand and giving me useful advice and insight. 

Applications to join one of the Sustainable Living Community flats are now open. Join the SLC Facebook group for updates on how to apply!

 

 

 

Mason’s experience working with King’s Energy

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Those of you who are regular readers of our weekly blog posts may notice the same name every week next to the title – that’s me. You may be questioning what I actually do, why I volunteer for King’s Energy and how I keep churning out these posts – or not. But I will tell you anyway.

To be completely honest, I didn’t sign up to volunteer as a sustainability champion because I was particularly passionate about being an ecowarrior. In fact, I didn’t even sign up at all. My girlfriend signed me up because she felt some volunteering experience would look good on my CV. I must confess, I wasn’t pleased. I interpreted that I would be collecting rubbish in my already limited spare time. When I was assigned to King’s Energy, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. To give you some background info, I studied History as my BA and Politics and Contemporary History as my MA – nothing “sciency” and very little to do with energy.

But I attended the first meeting with the team, consisting of two permanent members plus whichever sustainability champions have been coerced into joining. When I started, there were two of us. Neither of us knew a thing about energy. You would think it is quite over-awing being dropped in a call with two people who work and have extensive experience in the field, but they’re completely normal people who are relaxed and accommodating, creating a laid-back, low-pressure environment. Additionally, they had no initial expectations of us. Instead, they allowed us to establish what roles we wanted to take on – enabling us to play to our strengths. Finally, the role did not involve hours of scouring the beach for litter. Instead, I spent an hour a week partaking in our virtual team meetings and around the same time researching and writing blog posts.

When it comes to this part of the role, you agree as a team what the post will be about, but the content and how you write it is entirely up to you. There is also the opportunity to create graphics for social media, but if you were to see some of my attempts, you would understand why I stuck to writing. In terms of researching and writing posts, as I mentioned, it is not terribly time-consuming, and it is actually interesting. Energy is not just about telling people to turn the lights off; it covers how it is generated, the impacts of this and educates you on how energy affects your life. It is a topic of huge importance, and quite simply, there is no better place to educate yourself on this than working with King’s Energy.

Six months on from being forcibly signed up, I am here advocating the role. As my girlfriend initially suggested, it will take pride of place on my CV, but it has been so much more than that. I have gained valuable writing experience and been exposed to a potential future career.

The Sustainability Champions Assistant programme is an opportunity open to all King’s students to help the King’s Sustainability Team deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme. Find out more here

Sustainability Stories: Bethan Spacey

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Bethan and I’m a 20-year-old English student from Wales. I’m vegan and I like fitness and dance.

What does sustainability mean to you? 

To me, sustainability means ensuring the world of my children and fighting for the future of the human race. It is not something that I take lightly, and I feel a responsibility to do what I can on a personal level to ensure this future. On a spiritual level, I also feel like people are really disconnected, so I welcome the idea of living symbiotically with nature.

How are you getting involved and taking action on sustainability and the climate crisis? How can others take action on these issues?

I eat plant-based and try to shop without plastic where possible: this looks like getting a veg box each week and buying things like nuts and grains in bulk at a zero-waste store. Activism has also played a key role in my sustainability, as it is key to notice the massive impact that only a small number of corporations have on the planet. On a university level, joining eco-conscious societies is the perfect way to introduce anyone to climate activism; I went to my first XR march with KCL XR. My advice would be to acknowledge your personal impact (your carbon footprint and way of life), whilst remembering that no one can be perfect – especially living under capitalism – and to lobby the government and big corporations.

How do you think we can bring more people around these issues? 

I think we need to get rid of perfectionism – the idea that some people cannot partake in sustainability because they insert behaviour’. Sustainability looks like different things for different people.

Where are you hoping to go next?

I would like to work in a social justice orientated NGO, like Choose Love, perhaps in a role like project management. Ideally, however, I would like to be on the front lines and conversing with the people that are affected by these issues. A particular interest of mine is the intersection between social injustice and the climate crisis, in climate refugees. So, a job working with people affected by this issue would be perfect!

Can you recommend a resource, book, inspiring individual/activist for anyone who’d like to learn more?

I’d have to recommend ‘Earthrise’. They have a lot of great resources on their Instagram account, and I have followed each of their journey’s individually – all are very inspiring people.

Thank you, Bethan! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

Sustainability Stories: Anna Peran

Hey guys! My name is Anna and I’m here to talk about my views on sustainability and my experience of it at King’s. Originally, I’m from France and moved to London in September 2018 to start my BA in Geography. I’m now graduating from King’s, and these past three years have been such a time of growth for me. There are so many things to be said, but here’s a short selection.

When I first got here, I knew as much about climate change as your average French high schooler, that is to say: not much, and not nearly enough to start caring. That said, I was already vegetarian, and had made that choice for environmental reasons, about a year prior to coming to London.

In my first semester at King’s, I took a compulsory module on the changing natural environment that ended up changing the academic and career path I had envisioned thus far. Learning about the science of climate change, its societal causes and consequences, and the intricacies in between simply became fascinating to me. The more I learnt, however, the more the lack of political action surrounding environmental issues became frustrating.

I went to an event at the beginning of the second semester, where the guest speaker was a representative of COP24 who came to discuss the decisions that had been taken in Warsaw that year. I expected a lot from this event. It was after all about the institutions that were meant to actively be solving this issue. I distinctly remember the emphasis that was put on the framework developed and agreed upon at the COP for ‘future policy-making’, introduced as perfect to tackle the ‘future realities of climate change.’ To say I was disappointed would be the least. I remember thinking to myself, what about present realities? I realised how inadequate our current institutions were to answer the environmental challenges we now face. For one, they worked on different time scales and levels of complexity. From a mainstream perspective, climate change sounds simple: too many carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming with downsides to nature and society. That simplicity is deceptive. Reducing emissions is a given, how to do so is another story. Socio-economic and political dynamics must be considered, touching upon so many other issues, and making it all the more complex. Questions asked by a worried audience that day remained unanswered.

From this point on, making sense of governance to solve our contemporary challenges, especially from an environmental perspective, became the focus of my human geography degree. One thing about me though: I am deeply passionate and simply cannot let go of the causes I care about. I get that from my mum, who always reminded me that my voice matters, by listening and using her own. When it came to climate change, the situation was and remains so pressing I could not learn about it in class without taking any action in return. My thought process was simple: who am I to complain about people not taking action with the platform they have if I myself do not use mine, however small it is. I also thought: how am I going to react when I’m 50 and teens ask me if I knew what was happening and if I did anything to prevent it? I chose to take action so that one day I could say, no matter the outcome: I did everything I could. And that’s how KCL Climate Action society started, with the help of my wonderful friend Poppy who also studies Geography.

I believed that like me, once people would get a better understanding of climate change, they would start to care, and take action. Climate change remains very abstract for many people, as a global issue that expresses itself in local ways, as a natural phenomenon that results from societal doings, as human-induced but not human-controlled. The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. As founder and president, it required a lot of work, motivation and organisation to start and get the society known, among students, academics and staff members alike. It taught me more than I had hoped for and in a year, KCLCA’s community grew from a couple of people to 900 students, with guest speakers from all over the world. Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.

I must say, however, that my vision of taking action has changed between the start of KCLCA and now. When I was president last year, I poured all of my energy into the society, but things take time and sometimes the results weren’t there, because not many people showed up to events at first, and there were many small initiatives here and there from other groups but it was hard to rally everyone and join forces. Halfway through the second semester, I was exhausted and let’s be honest, a bit depressed. I was drowning under alarming news, reports, and documentaries and I felt like things were staying the same, that our species was simply running to its end. And taking so many others on its way. I looked around me, looked at London, and how everything seemed so unsustainable, everywhere. It was a very oppressive feeling, and one I still get often.

I think there is a point, for everyone that cares about the situation and tries to do something about it, where you ask yourself: what’s the point? You don’t eat meat, you buy second-hand clothes or from sustainable brands, you buy local, you cycle everywhere. You look around: nothing has changed. That’s when community matters. That’s what KCLCA is here for, and so many other groups elsewhere. You can rest, and you need to. And if no one has told you yet: you’re doing a great job. We cannot change the past, we can only do something about now and the future. But this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Yes, the situation is pressing, but sacrificing your health and wellbeing won’t help. And that’s true of any other situation.

I think in these moments where things get overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the present reality, on what you physically have around you rather than everything happening elsewhere. Put your phone down, try and have a chat in person with a loved one, pick up a book you like, have a nice workout, take care of yourself in whichever way you can or like. Sometimes we need to anchor ourselves for a bit in order to stay afloat. That’s what I did this year and the committee did such an amazing job. They got things done, they made the events happen, they got the campaigns going, kept our social media active. And I am so grateful for this. Sigrid, our president this year, has been fantastic. The whole team really. I wish I could have done more, but I did what was best in that moment. The society will keep on going, and that’s quite something. Because so many students are going to learn so much from it and take it to the ‘real’ world after that. I intend to do so now, as I graduate.

In short, it’s about balance and community. That’s the essence of sustainability. For ourselves, for our society and for the environment.

That is one of many things the Western world notably needs to understand from Indigenous communities at the forefront of climate action.

 

For anyone interested, easily accessible resources include:

On our relation to nature:

Readings:

Videos and Documentaries

On the natural world itself:

Documentaries

  • Our Planet (2019). Available on Netflix.
  • Chasing Coral (2017). Available on Netflix.

On the science of climate change:

 

Thank you, Anna! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

Sustainability Stories: Abigail Oyedele

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m Abigail, and I have just finished my BSc in Global Health and Social Medicine.

My journey here was a bit unexpected. I originally wanted to study Medicine, and Global Health was my backup choice. Not getting into Medicine was a huge disappointment, but I realised pretty early that I was meant to be in this degree programme. I really enjoyed learning about global health and social challenges, and more generally, I was excited just thinking about the possibility of learning something new.

My journey to more practical engagement with social issues started when I joined the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) in my second year. Before that, I had read a lot about historical issues and social inequality, but I always felt like there was nothing I could do. These problems were simply too significant for any of us to solve – it was quite a depressing view of the world! But through CLA, I heard about community organising and all the practical ways people are bringing about change in their communities. This was a pretty profound shift for me – to see that you don’t have to be passive about things. So I joined Citizens UK and founded King’s 4 Change, and my time at King’s became pretty much all about community organising.

What does sustainability mean to you?

My thinking around sustainability definitely didn’t start with the environment or climate change. Climate change was actually relatively low on the list of things I cared about because there are so many other pressing issues.

Initially, I was drawn to sustainability in the context of development, specifically the progress of lower to middle-income countries. I am interested in improving the sustainability of their institutions and services and disrupting cycles of dependency on foreign aid. My dream is for these places to have more sustainable institutions and be able to stand on their own feet and show the world that, in fact, they can provide for themselves.

This links to why I love organising. In organising, we talk a lot about agency and power – feeling that you can bring about change and act for yourself rather than depend on other people to do things for you. This is what I first think of when I think about sustainability.

Could you tell us more about King’s 4 Change?

We’re now an official society at King’s! Our aim is to train students in community organising methods and act as a bridge between them and the wider Lambeth and London Citizens alliances. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.

One of our campaigns was called Just Transition. In the first stage, we did a lot of listening. We wanted to hear about people’s experiences of climate change and the main problems impacting their lives. When you hear about global warming, it can seem quite abstract, especially in London, where we’re not experiencing floods or extreme weather. But it is impacting us in various ways. For example, people living in poorly insulated homes waste a lot of energy, which is obviously bad for the environment, but they also spend more money on energy bills. Through the work that I’ve done around climate change, I’ve realised that the solutions and options to become more sustainable are often catered to people who are maybe quite well off. So, a big part of our Just Transition Campaign was thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive.

The campaign we’re currently running is called Fair Energy. The aim is to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy providers. This is what really brought me into the environmental side of sustainability – realising that many of these issues aren’t just the big sensational ones we always hear about in the news but are actually really close to home.

We’re now working on a mental health campaign with the aim of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health and improving services at King’s, so stay tuned for more on that.

During your time in community organising, what has been your greatest learning?

I have learned about the power of relationships. I used to think of relationships solely in the context of my family and friends. But you can have relationships that are meaningful, effective and useful that go beyond your circle of friends. Through organising, you get to meet so many people from so many different backgrounds and find common interests with people you never expected. For example, the life of an older white, middle-class person feels so far from my lived experience. By just talking to them and getting to know them, you realise that, in fact, we do care about the same thing and we can work together. This is something I’m going to take forward because it shows you should never assume that you will have nothing in common just by looking at someone. You just have to take that first step and talk to them.

Where are you hoping to go next?

As I mentioned, I’m really interested in development. I have an offer to do a masters in Development at LSE but have deferred it for a year.  I would like to pursue development as a career, and from what I’ve learned, it is the kind of career for which you can gain experience in lots of different places. So I’m pretty open – maybe I’ll work in government or for a charity, in policy, research or consulting. Nothing I’m doing now was in my original plan – plans change, but you always end up in a good place! Development is what I’m most passionate about, so hopefully, I’ll end up there.

What gives you hope for the future?

In the same way that I fell in love with organising, when we do teaching or workshops, people are like, “Wow, this has been so great, this is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do”. Knowing that there are students and staff at King’s who have really enjoyed learning about organising and will take King’s 4 Change forward when I leave King’s gives me hope. As long as people want to organize and want to deal with the issues that affect their communities and not admit defeat in the face of these substantial problems, then hope is not lost.

Can you recommend a resource for people who would like to learn more?

I recently read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Washington was born into slavery in America, but emancipation happened when he was quite young, and he made it his life’s work to educate and bring up the black race in America. I found the book hugely inspiring! These days, the political divide can be full of friction and quite tense, and people aren’t very willing to listen to the other side or think through their ideas. However, I found his perspective on race relations between black and white Southerners very harmonious. He really considered the point of view, needs and thoughts of white Southern Americans. I found that really inspiring – for someone born into slavery to be so forgiving and so patient – and it very much applies to our current situation and reaffirms the importance of organising and listening.

Thank you, Abigail! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

Sustainability Stories: Thomas Eve

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Thomas, and I’m a 2nd-year neuroscience student and Sustainability Champions Assistant. I come from rural Dorset in southwest England. I enjoy most things that involve food, particularly cooking and gardening.

What does sustainability mean to you? 

Sustainability is simply about making the world a better and fairer place for everyone. This includes future generations, all countries, and every aspect of life to a certain extent.

How are you getting involved and taking action on sustainability and the climate crisis? 

I’ve made big changes in my life, particularly focusing on what I eat – I’ve almost gone vegan but not quite there yet. I try and research more sustainable options for anything I need to buy, but at the moment, it’s mainly looking at what I can recycle. I began to make these changes a couple of years ago, so I’ve tried to engage my family and change some of the ways they do things (to differing degrees of success).

Being a Sustainability Champion Assistant was an opportunity to have a wider impact and work with people who share my enthusiasm. It also allowed me to learn about sustainability in labs specifically, so I’m aware of what I can do in my career. I hope to continue taking opportunities like these to help others and contribute more widely to improving sustainability, alongside gaining new knowledge that I can use and share with others.

In what ways does sustainability link to your degree?

Sustainability is engrained in most things we do, perhaps not explicitly, but it’s always something that can be considered. In terms of my degree, most biological research is done so that things that benefit living things can be developed, be it drugs or GM crops. In this way, it directly contributes to our health, food and other topics which intersect with sustainability. Labs are also very wasteful places, so more sustainable practices need to be implemented.

How do you think we can bring more people around these issues?

Climate change is a massive issue and something that needs to be addressed by everyone in the near future; it’s not enough to simply wait for the effects to be visible because they’ll be irreversible by then. If you took all the effects climate change will have and told someone they would all suddenly happen next year, they would take immediate action. But because the effects slowly develop over time, people don’t see it as something that requires anything major. Systematic changes are needed in how we currently live. Of course, such massive changes scare many people, but I believe they’ll be worth the effort, and we’ll be much better off afterwards.

It’s difficult to make people aware whilst not appearing to go overboard and make people tired of hearing about climate change. Making the knowledge accessible and specific to people’s interests could help, e.g. giving science students ways to be more sustainable in the lab. Some things need to be made compulsory, but they can’t be too much effort for people or else it turns them off. Being more positive always helps, focusing on how the environmental issues can be solved by being proactive rather than simply trying to avoid disaster.

Can you recommend a resource, book, inspiring individual/activist for anyone who’d like to learn more?

To be honest, I haven’t watched or read a lot of sustainability-related things. But anything by David Attenborough gives you an appreciation of nature and why you should actively work to preserve it. My advice would be to look into anything you’re particularly interested in or enjoy and how you can make it more sustainable. For example, I love cooking, so I’m always on the lookout for new vegan recipes. There’s information on anything on the internet and a growing amount of documentaries on sustainability issues, so a little bit of research can help you find interesting resources to teach you more. I’d also recommend looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals because I wasn’t aware of these and everything they encompass until a few months ago. Sustainability is about more than just plastic and carbon dioxide.

Thank you, Thomas! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

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