Category: Sustainability Champions (Page 1 of 8)

Community Garden week at King’s

It’s King’s Community Garden week!🌳

King’s Community Garden (Guy’s Campus) was setup by Oli Austen – Sustainability Champion and senior technical officer in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine.

Oli set up the space as gardening is a great way to connect with nature (especially for city dwellers), and evidence for the positive impact of gardening is always growing. A report by the King’s Fund in 2016 found many health benefits of gardening, including significant reductions in depression and anxiety. The Royal Horticultural Society website also lists advantages such as improving cardiovascular health and promoting a healthy diet🌸

Since its creation the garden has been tended to by undergraduate and postgraduate students, professional services staff, academics, technicians and KCLSU staff🌱

You can get involved with the community garden in the future by emailing oliver.austen@kcl.ac.uk.

Why is there a lack of renewable energy use in the UK?

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


I recently worked with the team behind King’s sustainability module on the section on energy. 

Side note: If you haven’t heard of it, where have you been? For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s a great open-access resource that brings interdisciplinary knowledge from both students and staff. Don’t be put off if you don’t have any understanding of sustainability, the module aims to provide something for everyone. So, even if you have a strong knowledge base, it covers a lot of areas; you’re guaranteed to learn something new. Check it out here.

Anyway, as part of my research for it, I learned that in the UK (as of December 2020), renewable production generated 40.2% of total electricity produced in the UK; around 6% of total UK energy usage. This last number surprised me. The 2020s are supposed to be the decade of green action with the UK having a strategy in place for decarbonising all sectors of the economy to meet a net-zero target by 2050. So it made me wonder: why is there a lack of renewable energy use in the UK? Well, here’s what I found out:

First, the UK has a regressive approach to funding low-carbon transitions. The energy is currently being funded by levies on the energy bills of consumers. As it stands, 27.9% of energy bills go towards the construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure. Consequently, those who spend more on energy bills relative to their income contribute more to the low-carbon transition. Let me be clear, as I’ve expressed in another blog post, this has not caused the current energy price crisis. But, as prices rise with the increased cost of living, if these bills cannot be met, the transition will be held up. There’s nothing just about that. 

As a result, the UK sector doesn’t receive enough support to produce and manage energy. According to data from the Office of National Statistics released on the week of the 14th of February, the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy has failed to grow since 2014. In the same period, employment in areas such as manufacturing low-carbon technology, energy supply and construction has actually dropped by 28,000 and is currently roughly 207,800. Particularly concerning is that areas such as onshore wind and solar energy, which are essential components of a low-carbon energy mix, have been hit the hardest. It would be easy to place blame at the door of Coronavirus, but it looks like businesses in these areas were struggling in 2019. Even in relation to offshore wind, the UK’s flagship renewable source, energy production isn’t as high as might be hoped. Despite historically high energy output from wind farms in Scotland, the UK generates less than its counterparts in Europe.

Another reason that the UK is struggling to increase renewable energy’s contribution is storage. With much renewable energy being reliant on weather conditions, inter-seasonal storage remains a core challenge for the industry (and not just the UK). As such, there needs to be a lot of investment in energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries are expected to dominate the storage boom. On this front, the UK has started to invest. It has been recently announced that one of Europe’s largest battery storage facilities is set to be built in Scotland and is due to be operational in 2024. The Green Battery Complex will comprise two 400 MW facilities, each providing 800 MWhrs of energy storage capacity. However, capacity is measured in hours instead of days or weeks. As a result, looking forward, the UK would be wise to invest in other energy technologies such as green hydrogen, ‘gravity’ storage, and ‘cryogenic’ batteries.

In terms of other things the UK must consider when looking to the future, it must place localism at its heart, promoting community energy developments and supporting households. This is both in terms of reducing energy waste such as insulation as well as initiatives like solar panels that reduce the need for grid-supplied energy. 

Correction from previous blog post.

In a blog post from 2021, titled “King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex”, the author outlined that it would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand. The actual number is 116.

Thank you to Assoc. Prof. Johan Montelius from Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) for identifying this and bringing it to our attention.


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.

Should the war in Ukraine mean the end of gas?

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


On the 24th of February, Russian troops initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This attack has led to widespread condemnation of Putin and his crony regime. It has already caused huge amounts of deaths – much of which has been civilian – displacement and destruction of property.

In response, increasing numbers of sanctions have rightly been placed on Russia to try to undermine its war efforts. These have included excluding some banks from the SWIFT payment system and the seizing of oligarchs’ assets, such as massive yachts. One surprise reaction to Russia’s declaration of war was the decision by the new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. For those of you that want to impress your friends with knowledge about Nord Stream 2, it is an $11billion undersea pipeline that would allow for the direct transportation of Natural Gas from Russia to Northern Germany. While the pipeline itself had been completed, it was not active. 

It was a surprising move as Scholz had avoided saying that this was likely until the decision was announced. Yet, while it is commendable and welcome, it isn’t an end to Russian gas imports. Indeed, the activation of the pipeline has not been ruled out, it is just suspended for now. In the meantime, the EU and the UK continue to send millions of pounds a day for natural gas, which is being used to fund the invasion of Ukraine.

The war has exposed the unfortunate position that Europe finds itself in; it is dependent on Russia for the natural resources, oil and gas, that keep the lights and heating on. Now the price of these natural resources is not just the environmental damage they cause and the increased cost of living they are fuelling (as if these weren’t bad enough); they are also funding a literal war in Europe.  

There have been calls that the right response is to resume fracking with “vigour”. What a benefit of Brexit that would be; increased risk of earthquakes and flammable water! Instead, now, more than ever feels like the right time to urgently move away from these sources of energy. What’s the alternative? Well, renewable energy. Of course! It’s encouraging to see that Germany has already started down this path. Shortly after announcing the halt to Nord Stream 2, Germany outlined that it is bringing its target of 100% energy from renewable sources forward by 15 years (from 2050 to 2035). This is possibly a challenging commitment considering that it is already set to exit nuclear power in 2022 and coal-fired power by 2030. But, it is also essential for the environment, Germany’s economy and national security.

Other countries would be wise to follow suit. Here in Britain, we are set to import more than £2bn worth of Russian liquified natural gas imports this year, despite the best efforts of dockers from Kent. The recent order to ban ‘all ships with any Russian connection whatsoever’ doesn’t cover the origin of the cargo, including fossil fuels that may have been sourced from Russia. This approach must change. In dropping Russian oil and gas, the UK government must look at renewable energy sources to replace them. It can follow the example set by the Netherlands which was able to cut gas demand by 22% in two years with renewables. At the same time, the UK must roll out measures to insulate homes, install heat pumps and reduce the cost of renewable energy.


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 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!

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

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

King’s Energy: A guide to eco-friendly energy suppliers in the UK

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

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can both switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy and support your community in doing so, check out the Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign, as well as how student group King’s 4 Change is supporting the campaign at King’s

If you’ve kept up with our blog you will know we have devoted a lot of time to making switching energy providers as easy as possible for you. Of course, we would also prefer energy efficiency to be at the forefront of your mind when switching. As such, we’ve selected a few companies to review so you don’t have to!

How do I know if a company is eco-friendly?

Unfortunately, greenwashing is rife, so it can be difficult to make sure you’re not just falling for a marketing ploy when you think you’ve found the perfect company. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Carbon Offsetting – Many companies which call themselves “green” simply offset the carbon they produce, for example by planting trees. We have criticised this in the past but if done alongside other measures it can also be a positive.
  • Energy Source – Companies are obliged to tell you where their energy comes from. As much as possible, look for tariffs that offer renewable energy.
  • Tariff – As mentioned, the energy source often depends on the tariffs offered. Make sure to check these to see which best fit your needs in terms of usage, cost and of course, efficiency.
Octopus Energy

Octopus has a wide range of tariffs which can be confusing for those who haven’t read our blog! However, if you choose the “Super-Green” tariff then they will provide you with 100% renewable energy in addition to carbon offsetting. To help with costs they will also reward you and a friend with £50 when you switch.

Green Energy UK

Green Energy UK are the only UK energy company to offer 100% “Green” gas as well as 100% renewable energy so in that sense they are the best pick. However, they are on average 38% more expensive than other suppliers so get a quote before you make the decision to switch.

Outfox the Market

Outfox the Market is the cheapest supplier of renewable energy. They offer 100% renewable energy, from wind power, but because they are less established than their competitors they are also lower-rated by customers. Make sure to read reviews online before deciding in this case.

Bulb

One of the more-established eco-friendly energy companies in the UK, Bulb offer 100% renewable energy, from hydro, solar and wind power, as well as 100%  carbon neutral gas. They are also, on average, 17% cheaper than the “Big Six.”

Ecotricity

Ecotricity is the UK’s vegan energy supplier, offering 100% renewable energy. They are approved by the Vegan Society and support anti-fracking campaigns as well as Extinction Rebellion, so if you are passionate about helping environmental causes then they could be the right provider for you. However, they are relatively expensive so again make sure to get a quote before deciding.

So there you have it, these are the 5 we selected to look at this week. If you know of another environmentally-friendly supplier, let us know in the comments below!

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

How to reduce, reuse, and recycle your way to a more sustainable lab

This guest blog comes from Dr Nicola Harris, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry

Lab-based research is not sustainable. If you work in a lab, think about how many tips, gloves and plastic tubes you throw away every day and then think about how many labs in the world do the same. In fact, labs are estimated to be responsible for 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. Unfortunately, alternatives to single-use plastics in the lab can be hard to come by or are labour intensive, and safety concerns mean that clinical and contaminated waste needs treating – usually by energy-intensive incineration or autoclaving (or both).

As well as the need to reduce plastic waste, CO2 emissions, electronic waste and over-consumption are also all problems with lab research. Labs use 10 times more energy than offices and 4 times more water.

We are all familiar with reduce, reuse, recycle at home – but how can we apply these in the lab? Here are some tips to help your lab move towards being more sustainable while our suppliers catch up. These tips are primarily based on my own experiences in life sciences research – I do protein-based research, with a lot of molecular biology and RNase-free work. Check out My Green Lab and LEAF for more tips!

Reduce

Probably the most important step to take right now, with the biggest impact.

New equipment – do you really need it? Can you borrow someone else’s? Does another group need something – can you share and buy it together instead of getting one each?

Reagents. If you need something, double check you don’t have it already tucked away at the back of a shelf before ordering more (a lab inventory is very useful for this). Do other groups have some you can borrow?

Consolidate autoclave runs. Does it only run when full?

Reduce lab energy consumption. Turn Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezers up to -70 °C, using around 30 – 40 % less energy than -80 °C. Regular defrosts will also help freezers consume less energy. Shut fume hood sashes when not in use – a single fume hood uses the same amount of energy as a household. Turn other equipment off when not in use – most things don’t need to be on overnight and at the weekend (turning off also increases the lifetime of the equipment).

Use pipette tip refills instead of new boxes. You can autoclave refilled boxes yourself, and tip refills come in RNase-free filter tip varieties too!

Improve sterile technique. Reduce plastic waste by using a glass or metal cell spreader – these can be sterilised with ethanol and a flame and are as sterile as a plastic disposable spreader (in my opinion more sterile, as people’s hands go in and out of the packet for the disposable ones!).

Think about what you are doing and why. Protein research does not really need tips to be sterile, for example. Buffers generally don’t need to be filtered and autoclaved, and the purest water isn’t necessarily required.

Reuse

Glass alternatives. Many single-use plastics have glass alternatives that can be washed and reused. Buffers can be made in glass bottles instead of plastic tubes, and cell cultures can be grown in autoclaved glass bottles. Reusing glass many times over will result in fewer emissions, even if it needs autoclaving. Remember that disposal of contaminated plastics requires autoclaving or incineration anyway – so you might as well autoclave glassware instead.

Plastics can be washed out and reused. This may not be an attractive option, however, as it is fairly labour intensive.

Re-home old equipment. If you need new equipment, there are options to buy equipment that other labs no longer need (for example from Warp It and Richmond Scientific). Similarly, if you no longer need some equipment then it can be used in someone else’s lab.

Recycle

Unlike at home, recycling in a lab can be difficult. Waste contractors can be unhappy about taking waste that could be contaminated – but it is worth talking to them about it if you are able to.

Plastic reagent bottles. Check the resin type (1, 2 and 5 are most commonly accepted), remove the hazard label and wash out thoroughly for recycling.

Uncontaminated card and paper. The easiest thing to recycle from labs – packaging in particular.

Take-back schemes. Lots of companies do take-back schemes – for example, New England Biolabs take back their cold shipping polystyrene boxes, and Starlab take back their pipette tip boxes and tip wafers. Check with your suppliers to see if they offer any take-back schemes (or encourage them to start one!).

Ice packs. Most life sciences labs will be familiar with the huge pile of ice packs that can build up in a dusty corner of the lab. Good news – 2B Scientific recycle ice packs.

One step further

The above examples are some easy-to-follow tips – there are many more things that can be done to make your lab greener. For example, you can talk to companies about their sustainability policies, challenge them on their plastics, and feedback about their packaging. You can also liaise with your waste contractor to find out how they feel about recycling. Check My Green Lab and LEAF for bigger-scope ideas to improve your lab sustainability.

Take away messages

  • It’s ok to start small
  • If you are new – don’t be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions
  • Go for ‘easy wins’
  • Switch suppliers to support greener companies (e.g. we switched to New England Biolabs for our DNA purification kits and 2B Scientific for protein expression kits)

Don’t worry if you can’t do much – lab culture can be hard to change, and you may not have much control over how things are done in your lab. But every step helps – try something, and your example may encourage other people to take greener steps too!

A big thanks to LEAF and the King’s Chemistry sustainability team for the inspiration and ideas to make our lab greener.

Find out more about King’s Lab Sustainability Champions here.

Resources

My Green Lab https://www.mygreenlab.org/

LEAF https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainable/staff/labs/take-part-leaf

Richmond Scientific https://www.richmondscientific.com/

Warp It https://www.warp-it.co.uk/

Starlab https://www.starlabgroup.com/GB-en/about-starlab/sustainability.html

2B Scientific https://www.2bscientific.com/

New England Biolabs https://www.neb.uk.com/news/the-neb-shipping-box-recycling-programme

 

King’s Energy: LED light bulbs – What are they and why is King’s switching to them?

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

 

The LED, or Light Emitting Diode, is a relatively new form of lighting that works through an electrical current passing through a microchip, illuminating the diode, and the result is visible light. To prevent performance issues, the heat LEDs produce is absorbed into a heat sink. No doubt you will have heard plenty about LEDs, not least through our previous blog posts, but why is it so important that we change all King’s lighting to LED?

The advantages of LEDs

First, in terms of practicality, LEDs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are ‘directional’ sources, meaning they concentrate light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent bulbs which emit both light and heat in all directions.

Next, the lifetime of an LED gives it a huge advantage over its market counterparts. Where the lifetime of a CFL or incandescent bulb is adjudged to be when it is “burnt out,” LEDs do not burn out. Instead, they experience something called “lumen depreciation,” whereby their brightness dims slowly over time. Therefore, their lifetime is a prediction of when they will be 30% less bright than when you purchased them.

Now to the technical part, but don’t worry I’ll keep it simple for now. LEDs are much brighter than the other options on the market. Some LEDs can reach 90+ in the Colour Rendering Index (more on that later). In addition, you can also choose which colour you would like and sometimes you can even change colour!

Last but not least, LEDs are much more energy-efficient than any alternative on the market. Not only do they last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, meaning you can minimise both production and waste, they also use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They are more expensive initially, but they pay for themselves many times over in savings over their lifetime. It’s no wonder then that King’s are trying to modernise our light sources by switching to LED across all facilities.

CRI & Colour Temperature

If you are considering investing in LEDs, you may come across the acronym CRI (Colour Rendering Index) and hear about colour temperature. First, the CRI refers to the quality of the light. It is judged out of 100, with 100 representing sunlight. Think of it this way, if you have a light with about 70 CRI it may simply reflect off your lecturer’s bald head. If you had a light of 90+, you’d be able to see every liver spot and mole – scary stuff!

Now, in lighting, when we talk about colour temperature we do not mean if a light is hot or not. Instead, we refer to the colour of the light, measured in Kelvins. Usually, you can get LEDs that range from 3000K (warm, yellowish light) to 6000K (cool, white light) but you can also get RGB (Red-Green-Blue) where you can change colours at will!

What is King’s doing?

Here at King’s we’ve set some ambitious energy targets and switching to LED is one way we can become more energy efficient. We’ve already begun the switch, but there’s still a long way to go, and here’s where we could use your help. If you notice any old incandescent bulbs anywhere around campus please reach out to let us know. You never know when one may have slipped through the net.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Appreciating our local green spaces

This guest blog comes from Abbie Russell, Engagement Officer and Sustainability Champion at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN). With contribution from Louise Bolderstone, James Hollands, and Annicka Ancliff.

With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of ‘Nature’, we couldn’t not talk about our local green spaces – the value they bring. For some of us, visiting the local park has been a highlight of the day or the week during lockdown. There’s a lot of research, including IoPPN research, that suggests that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities is beneficial for mental wellbeing. 

One thing I do miss about working on campus is going for lunchtime walks through the park (shout out to Ruskin Park near Denmark Hill Campus!) with colleagues. It was so nice, that the Bee Team (aka IoPPN Main Building Sustainability Champions) organised regular lunchtime walks, the Ruskin Park Appreciation Walks, and we would be joined by colleagues from all over the faculty. It was a great chance to network, share ideas, research, and meet new people.

When lockdown hit – we decided to keep the conversation going online, with Teams meetings and a refresh of the Yammer group. We changed the name to Local Park Appreciation. This allowed us to open up this space to the entire King’s community and it now has 111 active members.

In this blog we explore some of the groups favourite local green spaces.

Hilly Fields, South East London (Abbie Russell, IoPPN)

My favourite thing about South East London is the number of great parks and amount of green space. I’ve recently discovered Hilly Fields since moving to a new house and it’s my new favourite sunrise spot. From the top of the hill, you can see for miles – trees in one direction, and city in the other.

Hilly Fields is in Brockley and is surrounded by lots of other green spaces: One Tree Hill, Ladywell Fields, and Peckham Rye Park.

Beckenham Place Park (Louise Bolderstone, Research Management and Innovation)

In the last year I have got to know Beckenham Place Park even better as it has been the focus of my weekends and I have walked in it with a friend most weeks, although prior to that I was a regular visitor. My appreciation and knowledge of this wonderful place has expanded in an equal proportion to the contractions of my horizon.

The park has benefited from additional funding in the last few years contributing to a place that provides a variety of activities for everyone, from open water swimming to exploring the ancient woodland to relaxing with some food or drink from the onsite café. However, its true value lies in the space afforded to everyone to enjoy by virtue of it being the largest park in the borough and at times, it feels like the entire borough is trying to squeeze in.  That does not detract from enjoying its beauty though because there is always a way to find a solitary path. I get a sense of calm from walking around and seeing all of the different plants, trees and greens offering a counterbalance to the craziness of the world during these last months. I love the twisted trees that have stood there for so many years and I have comfort knowing they have been there through many trials and continue to stand.

I have witnessed a transformation in the park’s popularity in the last year but its natural lifecycle has continued regardless.  The bluebells are nearly out again, after the carnival of daffodils.  Snow has surprised everyone and covered the open greens and settled gently in the woods. The parakeets continue to reign supreme and the wild meadow areas have sprung up and down again hosting kaleidoscopes of butterflies and hardworking bees.  There is peace and life co-existing simultaneously in this place and it brings me joy to see the old and the new living in harmony.  No matter what the next year brings, I know that Beckenham Place Park will be there.

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Greenwich Park (James Hollands, Registry Services)

During lockdown, the importance of getting outside and seeing green spaces has never been more important – both for our physical and mental health.  As I live in Woolwich, one of my favourite walks has been walking along the Thames Path to Greenwich, and then walking along around Greenwich Park.

Located near to the River Thames in South-East London, the park is open all year round and is listed as Grade I on the Register of Historical Parks and Gardens.  During London 2012 it was used for Olympic equestrian events as well as the Modern Pentathlon.  The park has a large sweeping green space which means even when the park is busy, you can walk around it easily.  The park is home to several tree and plant species, which means that even in wintertime, there is something out in bloom, and it also has lovely clean fresh air.

The park is on 2 levels, and at the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory, which the prime meridian passes through.  There is also a beautiful view at the top of the hill from which you can see Canary Wharf and the National Maritime Museum.  I love to be able to sit and look at these views, whilst enjoying the tranquillity of the park.

I would recommend giving the park a visit.  It is a short walk from Greenwich railway station, Greenwich Pier, and multiple bus routes.

                                 

Southwark Park (Annicka Ancliff, Research & Development, IoPPN)

In the last few months, Southwark Park has been my favourite walking/running spot. I used to follow the Thames Path on walks but since there are more people out and about I have preferred the park to avoid the crowds.

There was one run in particular which will always stay in my memory and that was the other day. It was so sunny and the park was buzzing, I saw a few runners and other people either using the outdoor gym or doing other fitness activities. In the course of my run, I was greeted by a tiny puppy which was an absolute delight and then a little girl offered (or possibly showed) me a flower I kept running past her but shouted my thanks at her.

It has been so nice to see people enjoying the parks more as the weather has improved and the lockdown has been eased.

What about your own local parks? Let us know and get involved online.

All King’s staff and students are welcome to join the Local Park Appreciation group on Yammer.

 

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