Category: Sustainability (Page 1 of 22)

COVID & the environment

This blog comes from Nicola Hogan, Sustainability Manager at King’s.

In all likelihood, the majority of people across the globehappily waved goodbye to 2020.  

It was the start of a new decade that filled us with excitement and anticipation as we, yet again, committed to a series of new year’s resolutions that would result in better versions of ourselves. 

We could never have anticipated that within 3 months we’d have succumbed to a global pandemic. Akin to a sci-fi storylinethe Covid-19 pandemic ended up being responsible for the deaths of over 2 million people worldwide. The spread of the virus was reported hourly across various news channels with updates from world leaders on their decisions as to how best to mitigate its spread. Face masks were mandatory inside of public spaces and people were asked to stay at home, only travelling if absolutely necessary. Social distancing became the norm.  

When it was reported that the source of this pandemic likely originated from the wet markets of China, exposing the capture and export of exotic animals for human consumption, we were horrified. Seeing animals that have no place in western society, let alone as a food source, being taken from their habitats, our commitment to stop the trafficking of exotic animals and the destruction of their ecosystems seemed to galvanise. Images of caged pangolins and bats made us more aware of the urgency of protecting exotic wildlife and of their natural habitats. 

But was this enough to make us boycott these industries? Did the cause of the pandemic make us think about what and how we are consuming

Not being able to shop on the high street simply made us switch to shopping online. Amazon and eBay  reported an increase of sales by an average of 33 % since March 2020 – as everything from face masks to hand sanitiser was sold by the billions. But it wasn’t just COVID related products that were being bought online. Wcompensated and comforted ourselves during these strange times by purchasing non-essential everyday items too. 

Bath salts and board games topped the list as did puzzles and Nintendo switches as we entertain ourselves while also indulging in much needed self-care – but are we conveniently forgetting to care for the planet at the same time? 

year later there is light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine has been found and its rollout across the world has started 

So what will life, post pandemic, look like? Are we likely to revert to our prelockdown consumer habits as the message from mother nature is forgotten? Or will we, after having been forced into new ways of livingno longer take for granted our basic freedoms? 

Zoom meetings have replaced travelling for work but experts in the travel and hospitality industry have predicted that more personal trips will be taken in 2021/22 to make up for the cancelled holidays of 2020. 

It is at this pointthe first month of a new year that we should ask ourselves the following questions. 

(iHow did we get to this point in the first place and (ii) how do we make sure never return to it? 

(iii) What promises to live more sustainably did we make at the start of the lockdown and did we      
       keep them?   

(iv) Are our 2021 resolutions pandemic inspired or will it all depend on what the year brings? 

It is reported that the yearlong lockdown made us more reflective of our lives and what is important to us. For most people that came back to spending quality time with loved ones and asking ourselves what do we really want from our life’? For me, a fairer and more ethical world should be part of that ‘want’ – a planet whose climate isn’t changing because its being choked by CO2or who can no longer support its sea-life because it’s filled with pollutants. 

2020 will hopefully serve as a reminder for generations to come of what can happen when excessive pilfering of the natural environment is allowed to continue unchecked. Sustainability is a daily commitment to ourselves firstly and then to the planet. It’s a resolution worth keeping and a mindset worth nurturing.

References:

https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief 

https://www.earthday.org/6-lessons-coronavirus-can-teach-us-about-climate-change/ 

https://www.edie.net/news/7/In-charts–How-coronvirus-has-impacted-sustainability-professionals/ 

https://time.com/5808809/coronavirus-climate-action/ 

Sustainable & Ethical Christmas Shopping

If sustainability, ethics and fairness are things you want for Christmas, then putting in a bulk order at Amazon is probably not the best way to help achieve them.

During the crisis we’ve seen a shift to online and this trend is going to be on steroids this Christmas,” says Tim Hunt, co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine.

Amazon, taking a large share of these online orders, has frequently been exposed for avoiding paying tax, as well as it’s highly unsafe and inhumane working conditions. 

Instead, if you can, consider buying from businesses that put sustainability and ethics at the forefront.

Ethical Consumer is an amazing website and magazine which helps to cuts out the noise and gives you information on which businesses have been naughty or nice this year. They cover everything from high street clothing retailers, bookshops, health and beauty products, to which are the most ethical supermarkets.

The Living Wage Foundation has also compiled a great Living Wage Gift Guide for 2020.

This year, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on small businesses. Therefore, if you can, it’s more important than ever to support your small, local businesses.

Charities have taken a huge hit since the pandemic started, with fundraising events cancelled and shops forced to close. Many of the larger ones have online stores worth checking out – Sue Ryder has a big collection of new homewares, kids’ stuff and wooden Advent calendars, while British Heart Foundation sells through eBay and offers secondhand items including games consoles and mobile phones. Amnesty International and Oxfam have good choices of Fairtrade and ethical products, from chocolate to furniture.

Finally, if you are shopping online, someone has to deliver it. If you buy locally, the retailer might deliver itself, and in a city it could even be by bike. Otherwise, you won’t usually get to choose who delivers to you. There are some green options: Ethical Superstore runs a scheme where you can add £1 to your order to support a tree-planting charity to offset some of the emissions from your order, and Etsy says it offsets all of it deliveries.

Environmental Management System Audit

This blog comes from Nicola Hogan, Sustainability Manager at King’s.

Earlier this week King’s became re-accredited on the ISO140001:2015 EMS external audit for 2020.

This year, because of the pandemic, the audit was split into two stages – the first stage being carried out in April online via Teams meetings and by emailing requested documentation to the auditor.

The second stage was conducted outdoors at The Denmark Hill campus and the JCMB at Waterloo Campus.

At both locations, external areas of buildings were audited for general tidiness of waste areas and housekeeping, as well as each of the sites plant rooms and lighting systems.

Overall, our score was just a few OFI’s (Opportunity for Improvements) – mainly relating to waste and tidiness etc, with no minor or major non-conformance’s.

The Sustainability Team are very pleased with the score and the auditor has recommended continued accreditation of the standard to King’s.

The next audit will take place from April 12th to 15th 2021 when the Waterloo Bridge Campus and Maughan Library at Strand Campus will be audited.

Apply to become a Sustainability Champion Assistant!

Want to gain skills to help you start a career in sustainability? This is your chance to help make a difference here at King’s.

Join staff and students in the Sustainability Champion scheme aimed at celebrating and recognising environmental achievements whilst also providing a framework to improve the environmental performance of King’s College London. The scheme is part of Green Impact, an environmental awards programme run by the National Union of Students. Last year King’s College London had 70 teams participate and this year would like the programme to be bigger than ever!

Objectives of a Sustainability Champion Assistant:

Support and motivate a staff Sustainability Champion team by helping to implement and improve sustainability initiatives in their department or faculty. Staff teams seeking student support this year include: King’s Food, Energy, Procurement, International Development, Dickson Poon School of Law.

Key skills gained for students:

  • Experience of working on a national project in a professional environment
  • Knowledge of environmental management techniques of offices and academic institutions
  • Insight into effective behaviour change methods
  • Experience of communicating using a variety of different means
  • Ability to support and encourage others to perform
  • Events management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Time management
  • Project management

Apply

Please find the full role description on the KCLSU here.  

Please fill out the application form. You are also welcome to send your CV to alexandra.m.hepple@kcl.ac.uk.

The deadline for applications is midnight on the 4 December 2020.

Fair Energy Campaign – Citizens UK

On 11 November Christopher Mitchell, medical student at King’s, and James Asfa, Citizens UK Lead Organiser for South London Citizens, delivered a Lunch & Learn about the Fair Energy Campaign.

You can watch the session back here. 

The Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign is an exciting opportunity to help lead a new campaign at King’s fighting for inclusive climate justice by helping communities switch to fair and green energy suppliers.

The campaign is looking to build a team who will help peers and communities around King’s to switch energy suppliers, saving money and cutting carbon emissions in the process. This team will likely be a major component of a nationwide campaign, the aim of which is to put pressure on the Big Six energy suppliers to abandon exploitative pricing policies and offer renewable tariffs.

A short summary of the campaign goals can be found here.

Contact fairenergy@citizensuk.org to join the movement.

 

Sustainability Awards & Launch 2020

Sustainability at King’s over the last year has seen major progress, and on the 13 October, we celebrated the efforts and achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in helping to make King’s a more sustainable university this past year.

This year, the annual ceremony took place on via a Microsoft Live Event. We celebrated the commitment and passion of the 527 Sustainability Champions.

70 Sustainability Champions Teams were awarded:

  • 21 Bronze
  • 11 Silver
  • 4 Working Towards Gold
  • 34 Gold

Office Teams:

  • The Policy Institute (Bronze)
  • Department of Geography (Gold)
  • International Development (Bronze)
  • School of Global Affairs (Silver)
  • King’s Business School (Bronze)
  • Entrepreneurship Institute (Bronze)
  • Literature & Languages (Silver)
  • Arts Cluster (Culture, media & Creative Industries, Digital Humanities, Film, Music, Liberal Arts), (Bronze)
  • Science Gallery London (Bronze)
  • Arts & Humanities Research Institute (Bronze)
  • The Dickson Poon School of Law (Gold)
  • Fundraising & Supporter Development (Gold)
  • Melbourne House (Bronze)
  • Guys & Waterloo Chaplaincies (Bronze)
  • Deans Office (Bronze)
  • Research Management & Innovation Directorate (RMID), (Bronze)
  • Kings College Students Union (KCLSU), (Gold)
  • Admissions & Student Funding (Silver)
  • King’s Worldwide (Bronze)
  • Library Services, Waterloo (Gold)
  • Library Services, Strand (Gold)
  • Library Services, Guys and St Thomas’ (Gold)
  • Library Services, Denmark Hill (Gold)
  • Social Mobility & Student Success (Gold)
  • King’s Food & Venues (Working Towards Gold)
  • King’s Sport Health & Fitness (Gold)
  • Lavington Street, Estates & Facilities (Gold)
  • Guys Operations & Hard Assett Management (Gold)
  • Strand Operations, Estates & Facilities (Gold)
  • Centre for Inflammation Biology & Cancer Immunology (CIBCI), (Bronze)
  • Division of Women & Children’s Health (Gold)
  • Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology (Gold)
  • JBC offices (Bronze)
  • IoPPN Main Building Offices (Gold)

Residence Teams:

  • Champion Hill (Silver)
  • Stamford Street Apartments (Gold)
  • Wolfson House (Silver)
  • Great Dover Street Apartments (Gold)

Labs Teams:

  • Department of Geography (Gold)
  • Chemistry Research labs, Britannia House (Gold)
  • Cardiology Labs, JBC (Gold)
  • Giacca Lab (Gold)
  • Nikon Imaging Centre (Gold)
  • Cardiovascular Research, The Rayne Institute, St Thomas’ (Working Towards Gold)
  • Division of Women & Children’s Health (Gold)
  • The Rayne Institute, Denmark Hill (Bronze)
  • Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology (Silver)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences – DNA labs (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences – Drug Control Centre (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –3.123 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.132 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.134 (Gold)
  • Department of Analytical Environmental & Forensic Sciences –4.182 (Gold)
  • Nutrition Sciences (Silver)
  • Transplantation & Mucosal Biology (Lord Labs), (Gold)
  • Centre for Inflammation Biology & Cancer Immunology (CIBCI), (Silver)
  • Chantler Sail Centre (Bronze)
  • Guys Multi-Disciplinary Labs (Silver)
  • Diabetes Research Group (Bronze)
  • Dermatology Labs (Silver)
  • Medical & Molecular Genetics (Bronze)
  • Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine (Bronze)
  • Randall Centre for Cell & Molecular Biology (Bronze)
  • Dissecting Room (Working Towards Gold)
  • Innovation Hub, Guys Cancer Centre (Silver)
  • Centre for Host-Microbiome & Host Interactions (CHMI), Hodgkin Labs (Bronze)
  • Social Genetic & Development Psychiatry labs (Gold)
  • Wolfson CARD (Gold)
  • Basic & Clinical Neuroscience labs (Working Towards Gold)

We also celebrated specific individuals or teams in the Special Awards category, who have achieved particular success in embedding sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.

Special Awards:

  • Oliver Austen
  • Fatima Wang
  • Richard Burgess
  • Dr Emma Tebbs, Dr Helen Adams and George Warren,
  • King’s Procurement Team
  • Beth Fuller
  • Katherine Horsham

THANK YOU!

Thank you again to everyone who has helped us make a difference here at King’s this year. The efforts of all those involved really do add up and help to achieve our university sustainability targets.

Achievements this year include:

  • 42% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2020), keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by the end of 2020.
  • Improving waste recycling rates to an overall recycling rate of 69%.
  • 53 students trained and got involved in the Sustainability Champions programme – as both Sustainability Champion Assistants (SCA’s) to staff teams and/or as IEMA Sustainability Auditors.
  • 22 events held in Sustainability Week (Feb 2020). Staff and student champions attended these events, helped to promote and event put on their own events and campaigns in this week.
  • Established the King’s Climate Action Network – a network to bring staff and students together to help shape the net-zero carbon strategy for King’s, to be achieved by 2025.
  • The third King’s Sustainability Report (2018/19) published this Summer.
  • King’s awarded 9th in the world for Social Impact in the THE Rankings.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

King’s Community Garden (Guys campus) updates

The Strawberries (top left) are thriving in their reclaiming container!
The chard from earlier in the year has self seeded (bottom left) – the seedlings have now been thinned out and transplanted. The Strawberries are thriving in their reclaiming container.
We have an abundance of sage (top right). Great for lots of autumnal recipes involving pumpkin and butternut squash!
A little Bay leaf tree (bottom right) is also having a growth spurt, among some wild weeds which have reclaimed the container in lockdown (to be put on compost heap soon).

Join the King’s Climate Action Network

Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon 

An image of solar panels at King's, with the text "Join the King's Climate Action Network"

King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.  

The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university. 

We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change: 

  • Zero carbon estate (energy and water use, sustainable construction) 
  • Procurement and waste (purchasing policies and data, waste management) 
  • Travel (flights, business travel and commuting) 
  • Responsible investment (divestment from fossil fuels, investment in socially responsible funds) 
  • Students & Education (formal and informal education on climate change and sustainability) 
  • Community & Engagement (creating a positive impact as part of our net zero carbon target) 
  • Zero carbon research  

Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.  

We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here. 

The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or visit the sustainability webpagesTo join the network, please register your interest here. 

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

King’s and KCLSU achieve Fairtrade University status

We are excited to announce that following our Fairtrade Audit in May, King’s and KCLSU have officially been awarded Fairtrade University status!

As you can read in our last blog post, King’s is part of a new scheme led by the Fairtrade Foundation and the NUS, and this was our first year of being audited. Our target was to get accredited and earn one star this year, which we have achieved.

Our Fairtrade University accreditation is valid for two years, but that doesn’t mean we’ll lean back now. We’re already working on updating our Fairtrade policy, will continue our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group remotely soon (get in touch with us if you would like to join!), and are starting to put together an action plan to achieve our second star in the next audit.

 

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