Category: Students (Page 2 of 11)

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.

A welcome from Katie Gard, King’s Climate Education Assistant

Photo of KatieHello!

I’ve recently joined King’s Sustainability Team as their Climate Education Assistant, and I’m really excited to have taken on this new role. Part of my responsibilities includes developing educational resources which can facilitate climate engagement, including the KEATS Module Seminar Series and our Vision for the Future workshops, which will take place in 2022.

Prior to working at King’s, I taught in multiple international schools and most recently worked as an Academic English Tutor at the University of Exeter. I also volunteer within the Child’s Rights sector, in which climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent part of the conversation. My work experience has allowed me to meet so many people across the world and taught me that addressing climate change effectively is dependent on the needs of different individuals, societies, and communities. It has also shown me that there are many perspectives on how we can address climate change, which I hope means that there are many solutions, too.

During the pandemic, I decided to change my career and am now studying Social Sciences at King’s. It’s great to be part of the sustainability initiative at my own university. Given that I’m studying Social Sciences, I’m mostly focused on the societal aspects of sustainability, an example of which is climate justice. I believe that climate initiatives must also consider, and strive to mitigate, the degree to which climate change will further exacerbate social inequalities. I believe that ensuring equity shouldn’t only occur when addressing the negative impact of climate change but should also be enacted within any potential solutions. One of my personal aims within this new role is to ensure that social sustainability is central when discussing climate.

I look forward to meeting many people across the King’s community as we work to make the university more sustainable.

Sustainable education at King’s: what’s new?

What is King’s doing to strengthen sustainable education? Find out about three key projects we are working on at the moment below.

KEATS Sustainability Module

King’s Sustainability has launched an online, open-access, interdisciplinary KEATS sustainability module, aiming to offer everyone, no matter their field, a broad understanding of sustainability.  The module is being put together by a team of incredible students, staff and King’s alumni. This year will still be a pilot, but with the involvement and support of this year’s enrolled students, we hope to officially launch it as a finalised module in the new academic year. This pilot year, we have been releasing a new content section every two weeks.

So far, content on “what is sustainability”, the climate crisis, and sustainable food are live. There is also a section with tips on how to take action and an overview of our favourite sustainability resources. The contents include engaging short videos, text, and padlets to encourage discussions. There is also a short quiz at the end of each section to test participants’ knowledge, and evaluation forms to continue to shape the module according to people’s feedback.

Boost your knowledge of sustainability and help shape sustainable education at King’s by enrolling via this link By signing up, you will test the sustainability module and shape it with your feedback and ideas.   

Sustainability Seminar Series

Alongside this module, we have been hosting a Sustainability Seminar Series which is running throughout the academic year covering some of the biggest topics in sustainability. It offers the entire King’s community an opportunity to learn more about climate science, justice, sustainable agriculture and much more from seminal speakers in the field. Through these monthly 90-minute sessions, participants get the opportunity to fully engage with the subject in the breakout room discussions and Q&As with the speaker. The series aims to be interactive, empowering and motivate everyone to take action!

The first seminar featured climate expert Dr George Adamson on Bringing Climate Change Home. He discussed how we can address climate change at the scale of the everyday by understanding climate change as an interaction between place, personal history, daily life, culture and values. You can watch the lecture hereThe second seminar focused on climate, perception framing, and culture. We were joined by Dr Joachim Aufderheide from the Philosophy Department who helped us think critically about the concept of sustainability, understand how different disciplines tend towards different conceptions of sustainability, and consider moral issues around sustainability. You can watch the recording here 

The next seminar on the 25th of January 2.00-3.30 PM will focus on “Rethinking the Economy for a Sustainable Future”. We will host a very special panel with experts Enrich Sahan (Business & Enterprise Lead at the Doughnut Economics Action Lab), Julia Steinberger (Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Lausanne), and Vincent Liegey (spokesperson for the French degrowth movement). Save the date to make sure you do not miss out on this special session.  

Sign up for the series here.

SDG Curriculum Mapping

We are also very excited to have embarked on a new journey: mapping out all modules at King’s alongside the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). All students and staff can sign up as volunteers to support this project. It is a great opportunity to find out where environmental and social sustainability currently sits within the curriculum at King’s while building key skills such as auditing, research, and analysing data. 

The first training session led by SOS-UK took place on 13th December, where participants were trained to do a guided audit across programmes and modules and equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to do the mapping. The full volunteer description is available here. 

Register your interest here.

We want to hear from you (chance to win £500!)

We want to hear from you!

All King’s students are invited by SOS-UK to take part in a survey on the skills you gain while at university. The short survey will take about 15 minutes to complete, and students will be entered into a draw to win £500 or one of 10 £50 runner-up prizes. The closing date is the 14th November 2021.

To take part in the survey log on to https://online1.snapsurveys.com/UniSkillsSurvey

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.

KCL Cycling Club

This club is for everything bikes! From city cruiser commuters to weekend warriors and lycra-clad bike lovers, this club is for anybody who likes to get on two wheels.

The KCC is much more than a cycling club, it is a cycling community.

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.

 

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