Category: Students (Page 1 of 10)

Mental health and sustainability – what’s the link?

This blog post has been adapted from a post written last year by Helena Fazeli for Mental Health Awareness Week. Trigger warning – this blog discusses mental health and suicide.


Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022) is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems. The theme this year is loneliness and the week aims to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental health and the practical steps we can take to address it.

How do mental health and sustainability intersect?

#1 SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all

One of Sustainable Development Goal Three’s (SDG 3) targets is to “reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being”. Awareness of the importance of addressing mental health has increased in recent years, and rightly so: depression represents one of the leading causes of disability, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29-year-olds, and people with severe mental health conditions are at risk of premature death due to preventable physical conditions (WHO, 2021). Additionally, individuals with mental health conditions may face stigma, discrimination and human rights violations. 

While SDG 3 focuses explicitly on mental health, achieving this target requires progress across all 17 SDGs. Mental health and wellbeing are intricately linked to challenges such as poverty, inequality, work, education, gender, infrastructure, air pollution, access to quality green spaces, peace etc. Not only do these factors increase the risk of poor mental health, but they also impact the accessibility and quality of mental health services. 

One example is emergency contexts, including natural disasters, conflict and forced migrationduring which many individuals will face temporary distress. In the longer term, the prevalence of common mental disorders generally doubles in a humanitarian crisis due to increased poverty, lack of security, separation from family, community and home, and trauma. Overall, it has been estimated that 1 in 5 people living in an area affected by conflict will have a common mental health condition. Finally, it is important to note that climate change is expected to exacerbate many of these issues, thus causing greater and wider distress, which leads us to our next topic… 

#2 Climate change and mental health

When you think about climate change, mental health might not be the first thing that comes to mind. We often discuss climate change on a global scale, in terms of physical processes and tangible, measurable impacts. However, it both directly and indirectly impacts individuals’ and communities’ mental health and psychological well-being. 

Indeed, climate change and its associated impacts (rising sea levels, changing temperatures, extreme weather patterns, wildfires, droughts, food and water insecurity, etc.) put at risk a range of phenomena that people and communities value and rely on in their daily lives, both material and non-material, from homes, landscapes and ecosystems to cultural traditions, livelihoods, identities and social cohesion… From forced displacement to gradual changes in an environment, feelings of loss – loss of place, loss of identity, decreased sense of self – can arise. And, as mentioned above, these impacts are more acutely felt in communities and populations where climate change intersects with pre-existing health conditions, socioeconomic inequities and unequal power dynamics. 

#3 The rise of eco-anxiety 

As with many crises, the climate crisis is causing (justifiably) strong emotional responses, in people and communities around the world. Amongst inspiration and hope for change, feelings of anger, hopelessness, guilt and fear are common and natural. 

Eco-anxiety refers to the stress caused by “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold” or the “feelings of helplessness, anger, […] panic and guilt toward the climate and ecological crisis”Force of Nature has been studying the occurrence of eco-anxiety amongst youth globally. They found that amongst 500 respondents, over 70% had experienced feelings of hopelessness in the face of climate change. 

In recognition of the interconnectedness between the health of our minds, bodies and planet, last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme was indeed nature. This demonstrates how sustainability refers not only to environmental sustainability but also to social sustainability.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the climate crisis, be kind to yourself, and connect with your loved ones and your community. However, if symptoms of anxiety are interfering with your ability to function well and feel good, we encourage you to seek professional help. Here are some ways you can find support at King’s: KCLSU’s wellbeing eventsPositive PeersCounselling and Mental Health supportBlack Students TalkOut-of-hours counselling. You can also find resources here and here

Get involved this Mental Health Awareness Week

Join the Mental Health & Climate Change seminar (13 May)

What are the links between mental health and climate change? What is eco-anxiety? And how can we go about overcoming this?

To mark the UK mental health awareness week, King’s Sustainability will be joined by neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer for a lean-forward seminar on mental health & climate change. According to Kris, the best way to combat eco-anxiety is opening up pathways to action, to give the sense that we are not powerless and that we can indeed do something that is meaningful and can make a difference.

Kris will briefly explain the brain basis of eco-anxiety before diving into interesting break-out room activities exploring how to cope with it. Join this interactive seminar led by an expert on eco-anxiety to build your own eco-anxiety “toolkit” by identifying what your personal pathway to action might be in a safe, positive environment.

Kris is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s Department of Neuroimaging and the Director of the UCL Climate Action Unit.

This seminar is part of a series that runs monthly between October ‘21 and June ’22 covering some of the biggest topics in sustainability. If you would like to stay in the loop about upcoming seminars, please sign up here. These seminars are linked to the KEATS Sustainability module which we are piloting this year. You can enrol on the module here.

KCLSU’s Take Time Out (3-20 May)

Take Time Out is taking place until the 20th of May and aims to encourage you to schedule in some time, away from your studies, to boost your wellbeing, take a break and connect with the King’s community. See all events here.

More opportunities at King’s

This coming week, King’s wants to focus on what we can do individually and as a community to foster connections and support each other. Access King’s gyms and BeActive programme for free and join the events on journaling, connecting with charities, a virtual coffee morning, or one of the mindfulness sessions. Find out more here.


Some further reading on the topic

Tackling social inequalities to reduce mental health problems: How everyone can flourish equally

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance 

The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health 

Caring for the environment helps to care for your mental health 

Mental health and the environment 

Mental health and wellbeing in the Sustainable Development Goals 

The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development 

This Must Be the Place: Underrepresentation of Identity and Meaning in Climate Change DecisionMaking

Place identity and climate change adaptation: a synthesis and framework for understanding

“From this place and of this place:” Climate change, sense of place, and health in Nunatsiavut, Canada

Examining relationships between climate change and mental health in the Circumpolar North 

New student-led initiative: Freecycle

King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability are trialling a new initiative this year called Freecycle. Items such as bedding and cookware will be donated by current residences and reused by students moving in after summer. The goal is to minimise waste while providing students with essentials without a price tag. Tasks will include sorting out and distributing items. Volunteers will be able to call dibs on certain items and there might be free food involved. If interested, please fill out this form to receive more information.

This is initiative has been led by Kindness Ezekwe who is a BSc Accounting and Finance student at King’s Business School and part of the Students & Education subgroup of King’s Climate Action Network.

Cycling in London event & survey

Two photographs showing a bike mechanic looking at a bicycle in the courtyard of Bush House.On 3rd March, a cycling event was held at Bush House as part of Sustainability Month to increase awareness and understanding of how students and staff can get started with cycling in London.

The event consisted of a “Dr Bike” session, where external bike maintenance mechanics provided free bike health checks, advice, and small fixes (fully funded by Westminster City Council).

Students were also on hand to provide information to help others get into cycling, particularly focusing on commuting to campus. They discussed where the bike lockers are on campus and how to access them, information offered by external organisations (for example, TFL cycle safety pages and relevant council pages for cycle buddy schemes), and KCL’s Cycling club.


Two photographs showing a bike mechanic looking at a bicycle in the courtyard of Bush House.

The COVID pandemic forced us to rethink how we travel to campus. Cycling was identified as being a safer, more sustainable mode of travel that also supports wellbeing. King’s is keen to support our ‘new ways of working’ so identifying where improvements to cycling provisions need to be made is central to that.

To help us identify what those improvements might be, please could you take this 5-minute survey by 17 May? Your responses will shape how we grow the estate to meet everyone’s needs. Please direct any queries to Ruonan Zhang.

The Careers & Employability Festival starts next week!

How does sustainability tie into a career in healthcare or arts & entertainment? What jobs lie in the environmental sector?

Join this Careers & Employability Festival to hear from professionals who studied subjects from clinical medicine to museum studies to geography and are now part of the Greener NHS Programme, own sustainable fashion businesses, work in climate finance, renewable energy, and more. They will be discussing how they incorporated sustainability into their careers.

Sound intriguing? Find more information and sign up here.

12 April: Be a sustainability changemaker in any and every career.
14 April: Assessing your future organisation’s commitment to sustainability.
26 April: Build your employability for a sustainability career.

An update from Jone de Roode Jauregi, King’s Climate Action Assistant

Hi all!

Photo of JoneMy name is Jone and I am a Climate Action Assistant in the Sustainability Team. I graduated from King’s with a BSc in International Management in May ’21 and have been working in the Sustainability Team since. 

My journey with the Sustainability Team started in my final year at uni when I joined the King’s Climate Action Network. It was a great experience working together with people from across King’s and brainstorming actions to make King’s more sustainable – both on- and off-campus. 

It was also during this year that I got the opportunity to learn more about sustainability in my studies, for example through the interdisciplinary Sustainability in Practice module and by writing my dissertation about sustainable behaviour during COVID-19. I also did a year abroad as part of my studies, during which I spent 5 months studying in Brazil and 5 months doing a climate diplomacy internship at the Dutch Embassy in Costa Rica.  

Sustainability considerations play a big role in my personal life too. My diet is largely vegan, I mostly buy seasonal and local products and I rarely waste food; I travel as much as possible by train (e.g. from London to my family in the Netherlands or Spain) and I cycle in London; I buy in zero-waste stores when I can (e.g. at the food co-op Fareshares near Elephant & Castle which is run by volunteers); I limit the number of purchases I make (reinventing my grandma’s clothes was a great exercise); I switched to a renewable energy tariff; I use water, electricity and heating sparingly; I’m changing banks to a more ethical one; I raise the sustainability topic with friends and family, sometimes sign petitions and join marches, and I vote for parties which prioritise addressing the climate crisis and other SDGs, etc. For me, the key part lies in doing as much as I can to contribute to a better world through my individual actions, without restraining myself in such a way that it burdens me disproportionately. 

In my role as a Climate Action Assistant, I have been supporting the development of the university’s Climate Action Plan, the running of the King’s Climate Action Network, the creation of the KEATS sustainability module and seminar series, and the mapping of climate education and research across King’s. I also support the Sustainability Team’s comms and I look after our blog and newsletter. And I jump in here and there when things come up. 

I’ve been enjoying the work so far and I am excited to work on many more sustainability projects with the King’s community. I do not know yet where the future will take me, but I am keen to contribute to finding ways to live more sustainably taking better care of both people and our planet. 

An update from Rachel Harrington-Abrams, King’s Climate Action Assistant

Image of RachelHello everyone!

I am a Climate Action Assistant in the Sustainability Team and have worked in this role over the past year to grow the climate research community and interdisciplinary strategy at King’s. I am also a second-year PhD student in the Department of Geography, studying multilateral governance and decision-making on adaptation policy, particularly in situations of extreme environmental change where relocation or resettlement may be utilised. As a climate researcher myself, I am personally invested in building stronger connections with researchers across disciplines and scaling our impact as a university. As a result, I have been able to identify areas for improvement based on the experiences of fellow researchers and support efforts to unite the climate research community as part of the Sustainability Team.

Prior to beginning my PhD in 2020, I spent six years working on and studying different dimensions of climate and sustainability policy. After graduating from university, I spent two years in The Climate Group’s New York office, supporting businesses and sub-national to set shared climate action goals, develop renewable and energy efficiency targets, and evaluate their own impacts and those of their value chains. I earned my MA in Environmental Policy in 2019 from Sciences Po Paris, where I continued to explore the dimensions of sustainable transitions, including financing for climate adaptation, decarbonisation of the grid, and sustainable resource governance.

Now through my PhD, I consider the high-level policy decisions that define how governments manage adaptation. As part of the Sustainability Team, I support our research community to connect, inform, and respond to these and other dimensions of the climate crisis. I contribute to the development of the university’s Climate Action Plan and the work of the Zero Carbon Research group within the Climate Action Network. I also help coordinate the Climate Hub, one of our existing interdisciplinary research centres based on SSPP and facilitate networking and interdisciplinary partnerships across departments. I am currently involved in setting up a new network for PGRs studying climate change at King’s and am contributing to the ongoing development process for the university’s climate and sustainability research strategy.

While I primarily focus on climate research, as part of the Sustainability team I have been able to engage with other areas of our Climate Action Strategy and the work of the CAN. I have explored the costs and benefits of offsetting for net-zero emissions, and the decisions made in this area by our peer institutions; I also contributed to our efforts to map our current footprint for climate and sustainability education across the university. I was also incredibly fortunate to be able to attend COP26 alongside a colleague both for my own research and as a representative of the Sustainability team. My time in Glasgow provided a unique chance to connect with climate researchers at other UK institutions and build stronger connections with other Sustainability practitioners working within universities.

A goodbye from Bethan Spacey, the Sustainability Team’s Engagement Assistant

Selfie of BethMy name is Bethan Spacey and I am a 3rd-year English student and Sustainability Engagement Assistant (SEA). I have been in the SEA role for over a year but am unfortunately leaving now to focus on my studies. It has been an incredible experience and taught me a lot of skills that I will take through to my professional life after graduation.

I started the role in January 2021 and dove straight into the deep-end with Sustainability Month coming up that February. This was a great opportunity for me to get stuck in and involved in a massive Sustainability Team initiative – creating graphics and videos, writing blog posts, managing social media and email communications, etc.

Throughout my time in the team I’ve been able to do this and more, working on various projects and initiatives like Sustainable Living Communities, Shots for Hope and getting our podcast – Spotlight on Sustainability – off the ground. Over the course of the year, I’ve also been involved in writing newsletters, managing video projects, public speaking, interviewing people, liaising with organisations inside and outside of King’s and more.

My main job, however, has been to manage our social media. This has meant producing graphics and videos, writing captions, organising our communications plan and schedule, engaging with the King’s community and collecting data through interactive stories e.g. Instagram polls.

As a part of my role, I introduced weekly spotlights. These are weekly social media posts where we highlight an individual or group at King’s that are doing incredible work within the field of sustainability: joining the Sustainability Team really opened my eyes to how much fantastic sustainability work was already happening. at King’s, so I thought that this would be a great opportunity to foreground that work. I also introduced accessibility features like image descriptions and content warnings, with the goal of making our work as accessible as possible. In addition to this, I relaunched our YouTube channel and encouraged more videos on our social media, as I believe that videos are a quick and easy way to learn about new things and may be more suitable to my generation than lengthy posts or captions.

Despite all of the wonderful experiences and skills that I acquired, I would say that the top one was really understanding what it means to be in a team. I learnt quickly that everything operated at its smoothest when everybody was aware of their personal roles and communicated with each other effectively. I also learnt that it is important to ask for help when you need it; other team members were always willing to step in or provide assistance.

It was a very valuable experience for me and, working within a university, the team understood my obligations to my degree. I would recommend it to anyone who had the opportunity!

Sustainability Month 2022: a true celebration

What a month! Throughout February, we welcomed hundreds of people to more than 20 social and educational events focused on taking action around the Sustainable Development Goals. Organised by students, staff members, and alumni from across disciplines, this month was a true celebration of the breadth of sustainability and the King’s community’s involvement in it.

We learned to reflect on our stories in the climate and nature crisis and got inspired to take action in the events on volunteering, recycled glass, plant-based diets, and greener ways to grow your veg. We learned how we might address the climate crisis from a policy perspective, what digital start-ups can do to advance the SDGs, and what some of the main inequality issues are in South Korea. The interconnectedness of environmental and social sustainability was highlighted during the panel for climate justice and the event on the climate crisis and refugees, and we learned how we might go about translating that into education. The Shots for Hope exhibition and the Visions for the Future workshop series helped us to stay hopeful in the face of the climate crisis.

The month brought people together socially in events such as the sustainability quiz night, stitch and pitch, and the show the love campaign, as well as professionally in the interdisciplinary sustainability research forum and the London Student Sustainability Conference. The events on careers in sustainability helped students explore the breadth of what this means for their future.

If you missed an event, you can find the event recordings here. Not all recordings have been uploaded yet, but we aim to do so as soon as possible. We will also be posting event summaries and reflections on our blog over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those. If you have any feedback you would like to share, please fill out this feedback form. If you would like to write a blog post on an event you organised or attended, feel free to get in touch.

A welcome from Lavinia Allen, King’s Sustainability Project Assistant

Hello everyone!

I have recently joined the Sustainability Team as a Sustainability Projects Assistant. In this role, I work closely with the Sustainability Officer as well as students and staff from across King’s to deliver the university’s sustainability objectives. I am responsible for raising awareness and understanding of sustainability throughout the university through staff and student engagement. I mainly do this through supporting the Sustainability Champions network, which is designed to highlight that staff can contribute to sustainability, regardless of their background. This network now has over 500 members!

My journey at King’s began in 2017 when I joined to study BSc Geography. This three-year course covered a range of topics from Biogeography and Ecology to Natural Hazards and Climatic Variability. During this time, I was lucky enough to undergo fieldwork in Spain during my first year, and Morocco during my second year.

Studying Geography confirmed my love for learning about and tackling environmental issues, more specifically climate change. As such, I then went on to study MSc Climate Change: Environment, Science and Policy at King’s for one year. Although this course was fully online due to Covid, I thoroughly enjoyed the year. In my favourite module, the Fundamentals of Climate Change, I learnt about the negative emission technologies required for us to reach our carbon targets. During my master’s degree, I also undertook an internship with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL London Zoo), where I researched the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and the most suitable ways to sustainably manage the ecosystem.

The past four years of studying added to my passion for tackling environmental issues. To that end, I am excited to continue my journey with King’s as a member of the Sustainability Team!

How should we respond to rising energy prices?

This guest blog comes courtesy of Marco Hacon, the Energy Team’s new Sustainability Champion Assistant. 


A picture of power masts around sunset.On the 5th of January, a group of twenty Conservative MPs and peers published a letter in the Sunday Telegraph calling on Boris Johnson to tackle the rocketing cost of living. I don’t make a habit of reading the Sunday Telegraph. But, the article was forwarded to me by a friend and, having been charged with writing a blog entry on energy, I thought it would make the perfect subject for my first piece. 

In the letter, the writers helpfully remind us that “high energy prices… are felt most painfully by the lowest paid.” Of course, it’s hard to argue with this reasoning. But, it would be easier to think there’s no ulterior motive had this not come from the same people who refused to maintain the £20 universal credit uplift.

Indeed, the letter was organised by Craig Mackinlay, the chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny group. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re a group of plucky politicians intent on keeping the government in check against net-zero commitments. Unfortunately not. They claim that “we have almost uniquely caused our energy prices, through taxation and environmental levies.” The implication? That Britain’s environmental policies are to blame. These are the same policies that are currently to just hit net zero by 2050, arguably too late to stop significant damage.

So, here’s my take on what has really caused the increase in energy prices and what can be done to prevent further increases. First, the increase is a result of a combination of factors. Primarily, the combination of rapid global economic growth after the COVID recession, an incredibly cold and lengthy winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), and lower than necessary supply. 

This lower than necessary supply is the result of decreased global investment in oil and natural gas infrastructure after their price dropped in 2014 and 2020 and delays to essential maintenance because of global lockdowns. This is felt more acutely in the UK, which only has the lowest gas storage in Europe capacity to hold 2% of its annual usage in storage (compared with France and Germany at 25%) after closing sites such as Rough storage. This has left it at the mercy of global wholesale energy markets. These aren’t currently in the UK’s favour with LNG demands from Asia having jumped to avoid blackouts and to keep industries operational, particularly after events like Fukushima. Add weak investment in low carbon energy technology and sources, such as renewables, biofuels, energy efficiency and electricity grids, and you can see why supply hasn’t been able to match soaring demand.

It is worth mentioning that geopolitics is also at play. Although they don’t directly supply the UK, exports from Russia’s state-owned Gazprom, which usually provides one-third of Europe’s gas, are at a six-year low. While the company claims this is because of low storage levels and increased domestic demand, it is quite a coincidence that this comes at the same time as heightened tensions with Europe over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The upshot doesn’t look pretty. In Britain, after an initial price cap rise (the maximum price suppliers can charge customers on a standard tariff), about 15 million households saw their energy bills rise by 12% in October. This trend is set to continue with predictions of a further 50% increase after a cap review in April. To cover the costs of failed energy suppliers, the average energy bill could go to almost £2,000 a year, up from £1,138 in 2021. Of course, businesses are also impacted, especially for industries that rely heavily on gas and oil.

To solve this problem, it would be misjudged to cut environmental levies and remove energy taxes. In fact, the opposite is required, greater investment and emphasis on clean energy would reduce reliance on other sources and increase overall resilience to shocks. In the short term, the most vulnerable people and businesses require financial support. After all, is it their fault that a free and competitive energy market has failed them?


Photo of Marco HaconMarco Hacon is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics and Development here at King’s. Before this, he worked in a few start-ups and scale-up companies with social purposes, where he gained a basic understanding of sustainability. He is a strong believer in a just and equitable clean energy transition. He is excited to write about this as well as more King’s-related energy topics for the team’s blog. He also wants to help develop toolbox talks for King’s staff and teams that centre on how to use energy sustainably.

« Older posts