Category: Sustainability (Page 1 of 27)

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.

Meet the King’s Sustainability Team

As we approach a new academic year, we wanted to take the time to introduce ourselves – the people behind sustainability at King’s!

Kat Thorne – Director of Sustainability

Kat is the director of Sustainability at King’s and oversees all aspects of embedding sustainability across the college. Kat not only manages the sustainability team but decides on its overarching environmental aims and objectives. She also decides, with input from the wider Estates and Facilities team, on the projects and programs and strategies and actions plans required to deliver on those aims and objectives. She has nurtured the sustainability team to where they are today, ensuring that both staff and students are aware of the importance of their role in ensuring King’s reaches its net Zero Carbon Target by 2025. She held the same position at the University of Greenwich until 2013, helping the university achieve first place in People & Planet’s Green League.  

 

Nicola Hogan – Sustainability Manager (Operations)

Nicola’s main responsibility is ensuring King’s continues to be accredited with the environmental management system ISO14001 and that sustainability is built into the design and construction of any new buildings and refurbishments across the estate.  Nicola also manages several other and varied aspects of environmental operations at King’s ensuring each of the campuses environmental footprint remains a small as practicable.  Prior to joining the team, Nicola worked at Goldsmiths, University of London, the EAUC and the University of Limerick – in both managerial and research roles. 

 

Josh Pullen – Waste to Resource Project Coordinator

Josh is managing the Waste to Resources project which aims to increase the university’s non-hazardous waste recycling rate to 70% and increase the reuse of bulky waste such as furniture.

 

Maria Rabanser – Sustainability Officer

Maria manages the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) and works on the development of our Climate Action Strategy, as well as on sustainability data and reporting.

She graduated from the Department of Geography at King’s in 2015 and completed an MSc at LSE before joining the  Sustainability Team in September 2016.

 

Ali Hepple – Sustainability Officer

Ali’s main focus is around engagement, organising events, supporting the 500+ staff in the Sustainability Champions programme and students across the university on various projects.

She joined the Sustainability Team in October 2018 after completing her BA in Geography at King’s. During her degree, she supported the University of London’s Reduce the Juice programme, developed an initiative to introduce vegan meals in University of London halls, and supported King’s Food in submitting their first  Sustainable Restaurant Association rating.

 

Julie Allen – Energy Manager

Julie manages King’s Energy, which includes the utilities budgets and contracts, and leads on delivering, updating and monitoring the University’s Carbon Management Plan. She is continually searching for energy-saving opportunities to reduce King’s emissions and overall environmental impact.

 

 

Angeliki Karydi – Energy Management Coordinator

Angeliki joined King’s in December 2019, after completing her MA in Corporate Sustainability at Radboud University. She supports Julie as part of the energy team and is responsible for energy data analysis and reporting.

 

Jone de Roode Jauregui – Climate Action Assistant

Jone supports our work around climate action and the development of the Climate Action Strategy.

She recently completed her BSc in International Management at King’s,  during which time she was actively involved in the King’s CAN, as a sub-group member and team volunteer.

 

Rachel Harrington-Abrams – Climate Action Assistant

Rachel supports our work coordinating climate-related research and education across the university as part of the King’s Climate Action Strategy. 

She is also a PhD student in the Department of Geography, researching the multilateral governance of climate change adaptation decision-making, and works in the Sustainability team alongside her PhD for two days a week. 

 

Emily Read – Engagement Assistant

Emily supports the team with engagement and communications, and leads on the forthcoming sustainability podcast.

She is also completing her PhD in Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine at King’s.

 

Bethan Spacey – Engagement Assistant

Bethan supports the team with engagement and communications, and leads on creating digital content.

She is also a 3rd year BA English student at King’s, and former president of King’s VegSoc.

 

Helena Fazeli – Engagement Assistant

Helena supports the team with engagement and communications, and leads on the Sustainability newsletter and blog.

She completed her BA in Geography at King’s in 2020 and recently moved back to London after living in Chios, Greece and volunteering with an education-focused NGO working with asylum-seekers and refugees.

 

 

 

Sustainability Stories: Liza and Mia from Fetch Ur Veg

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

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

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

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

What does sustainability mean to you?

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

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

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

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

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

Could you tell us a little about Fetch Ur Veg?

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

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

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

Why did you decide to get involved and volunteer?

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

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

[Liza] – meditative and calming.

[Mia] I agree. It’s very therapeutic.

In what ways are you taking action on sustainability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sustainability Stories: Emily Read

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

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

What does sustainability mean to you?

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

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

What is the link between your studies and sustainability?

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

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

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

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

How are you taking action on sustainability?

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

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

What is something that gives you hope for the future? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Mason’s experience working with King’s Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sustainability Stories: Jone de Roode Jauregi

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I’m half Dutch, half Spanish. I grew up between the Netherlands and the Basque Country.

I’ve just finished up a BSc in International Management. I had the opportunity to spend a year abroad in my 3rd year, during which I spent the first semester in Sao Paulo in Brazil and then did a climate diplomacy internship at the Dutch regional embassy in Costa Rica. This past year, I’ve been involved with the Climate Action Network, and since April, I’ve been working as a Climate Action Assistant within the Sustainability Team.

What does sustainability mean to you?

I would say that my interest in sustainability has gradually grown over time. It is a topic I heard a lot about in school – to the point where I just got a bit tired of it. But my interest has definitely grown since then! In terms of what it means… it’s quite a broad topic. It’s not only about environmental sustainability but also social sustainability. For me, it’s really about how we can live in a way that we respect and care for the planet as well as other people.

In what ways are you taking action on sustainability? What would you recommend for other people who want to take action on these issues?

I’ve generally focused on being low-waste and adopting a mostly plant-based diet. Another thing I’ve tried to change is how I travel. Obviously, I really like travelling, and I have travelled quite a bit. But more recently, when it’s possible, I travel by train. And yes, it takes longer, but it’s actually quite nice!

I think most of these changes are really just about getting used to them. We’re all so stuck in our habits (me included!), but if you try something just once or see someone else doing it, you realise that it’s really not that difficult. The important thing is not to get too caught up in all of it. You don’t have to be perfect; focus on what is feasible for you. For example, I say I’m mostly plant-based because when I’m home in the Basque Country, there simply aren’t as many vegan options as there are in a city like London. Reducing your impact shouldn’t be filled with obstacles – because, ultimately, we really want changes to be sustainable in the long term.

How do you think we can bring more people into the movement?

I think there’s a huge lack of listening and conversing between people with differing views these days. Bringing more people into the movement should start by having conversations. I know it’s easy to say, but I’d like to try and understand where people who don’t care about sustainability are coming from and then find some middle ground. I think that would be way more effective. You know, really trying to understand what’s important to people, and then try and integrate sustainability into that.

How have you been involved with climate action at King’s?

When I came back from my year abroad, I wanted to continue working in sustainability. So when I saw the email announcing the creation of the CAN, I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. I became part of the Community & Engagement working group and the team of student volunteers helping to coordinate the network. Overall, it’s been really great, and I’ve met many people from across King’s who are so passionate about these issues.

I then began my role as Climate Action Assistant. It’s been really nice being part of the network from the start and now seeing how King’s Climate Action Strategy is being developed. I feel like I’m really part of the process and that I can actually contribute to thinking about how all of the recommendations from the subgroups come together. While it’s not a one-off document, and there will be opportunities to add do it, we have an opportunity to include as much as we can on climate action and ensure our strategy is driven by a climate justice approach from the onset.

It also makes me realize how much there is to do. King’s is just one university, and so many of our processes need to change. Imagine this on a global scale! However, on the flip side, during my day-to-day research, I encounter the amazing work of other universities, local councils, governments and companies. A lot is happening, so it’s very exciting to be part of this work.

What is something that gives you hope that we’re moving in the right direction?

Simply seeing everything that is happening. A quick Google search on net-zero carbon or climate action will give you a long list of companies, governments, organisations, and universities engaging with these topics. Knowing that so many people are willing to change – and are changing – gives me hope!

Another thing that gives me hope and that I’d like to see more of is collaboration. During my internship, my role was to prepare materials (presentations, comms content, etc.) presenting what Costa Rica has been doing, particularly its circular economy strategy. The materials were used to present at meetings and conferences with other stakeholders and countries. It all got me thinking about the importance of collaboration. Climate change does not respect borders, so it’s crucial to think about how countries can collaborate, work together and share their findings. There’s so much potential to learn from each other and exchange insights. It would be a pity for these efforts to remain isolated within a country. It would make everything so much richer and impactful. And that’s what I really liked about the CAN. King’s could’ve just asked a consultant to help them, which probably would have been a much faster and easier process. But by bringing together a diverse group of people, all from different backgrounds, the CAN will make King’s Climate Action Strategy so much richer and more impactful.

Where are you hoping to go next?

I’d love to work in sustainable development, perhaps at an international organisation or an NGO. It sounds a bit cliché, but I want to make a difference and have a positive impact. It really doesn’t have to be world-changing – even if what I do has a positive impact on one person or one community, I would feel fulfilled.

Once I’m done with ‘work’ life, I would love to open a vegan cafe with my sister. I know it’s still work (and probably not as easy as I think it’ll be), but I’d love to have a small one, somewhere surrounded by nature.

Could you recommend a resource (book, activist, documentary…) for anybody who’d like to learn more?

I’ve just started This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, and so far, it’s been fascinating. It addresses the system change we need to tackle climate change and gets to the root of many of the challenges we’re currently facing.

Another book I’d recommend is Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. It’s quite extreme in the sense that if you tried to copy everything the author has changed in her life, it would probably be quite overwhelming. But at the same time, she does a good job emphasising the need to find the right balance for yourself in terms of living zero-waste. She offers some really great tricks and inspiring ideas that can simply help you begin your journey to reducing your impact.

Finally, I really admire Greta Thunberg. To be so engaged at her age is really inspiring (especially when I think back to how I was at her age!).

Thank you, Jone! 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.

What would happen if we covered the Sahara Desert with solar panels?

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

In last week’s blog post, we alluded to the idea of covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels. While some of you may have had this idea before, others may have spent the past week captivated and wondering why it hasn’t been done yet. Well, aside from the fact that we simply don’t need that much energy, as we mentioned last week, there are several other reasons why we won’t do it. Read on to find out.

Why is this even an idea?

The Sahara Desert is one of the most exposed places on Earth to the sun’s rays. So, the idea is that if we could gather all that energy, we could power the world. In reality, we would harvest so much more energy than we could ever possibly need. According to Forbes, solar panels covering a surface of around 335km2 would actually be enough to power the world – this would cover just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert.

What would happen?

Outside of electricity generation, this could have several consequences. First, the light colour of the Saharan sand serves the purpose of reflecting the sun’s light and heat back into the air. By covering this, we would be ensuring that more sunlight is absorbed, thus prompting a rise in ground temperature. Warmer air then rises to higher altitudes and condenses as clouds that will then fall as rain, completely transforming the desert as we know it.

Why is this an issue?

The planet works based on a series of well-balanced systems, and this could completely upset the apple cart. The Amazon Rainforest, for example, is reliant on the mineral-rich sands blown from the Sahara for nutrients. Without these, the Amazon will not receive enough nutrients to survive, and its downfall could be accelerated. Furthermore, the increased heat in the desert won’t end there. It will be transported worldwide through weather systems, resulting in less rainfall for the Amazon and more unstable weather in regions such as North America or Asia.

What’s the silver lining?

We don’t need 100% of the Sahara to be covered in solar panels. Even 20%, which is the amount that would kickstart these impacts, is not needed. Instead, a series of smaller solar farms covering 1.2% of the surface should be enough to generate enough electricity without having such extreme impacts on the environment.

But is it feasible?

It is probably not realistic to expect political cohesion and economic investment to quickly make such a concept a reality. However, if projects such as the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco continue to show good results, there is no reason why a series of independent projects cannot be set up over a longer time period that could meet our energy needs.

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

Sustainability Stories: Bethan Spacey

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

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

What does sustainability mean to you? 

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

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

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

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

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

Where are you hoping to go next?

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

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

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

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

King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

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

We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to cover the Sahara Desert in giant solar panels to resolve our renewable energy issue. No doubt you will have seen utopian constructions of what this could look like. For instance, David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet provided an example of how a future powered by renewable energy could look. But in Morocco, that future is already here, and they’ve taken that interest in Sahara solar panels seriously too. Check out this image of the world’s largest concentrated solar power project, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex:

When was it built?

Construction began in May 2013. There have since been two expansion productions also commissioned, one in 2018 and one in 2019. It was funded by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the cost of a cool $3.9 billion, though this funding came from several investors, including the World Bank.

How does it work?

Here’s the cool part! Noor I uses Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) to produce energy. Essentially, this means that a series of mirrors divert sunlight into something that retains that energy to be used later. The unique part about Noor I is that it uses molten salt to store energy, meaning that energy collected during the day can also be released at night.

The complex has upgraded on this for Noor II and III, which can store energy for up to 8 hours. Noor II uses a slightly different technology: parabolic troughs, or concave mirrors to the rest of us, to reflect the sun’s rays. Noor III, meanwhile, has a solar tower that collects the energy reflected from the mirrors (pictured).

Finally, Noor IV, which has not yet been commissioned, will use photovoltaic panels as we know them, so we will be one step closer to finding out what will happen if we fill the world’s hottest places with solar panels.

How much energy does it produce?

Noor I alone produces 370GwH per annum, with Noor II producing 600GwH and Noor III 500GwH and combined, they cover 6,178 acres. To put that into context, global energy usage was 171,240TwH in 2019. It would seem then that Noor is just a drop in the ocean, but consider that the Sahara Desert is 2.273 billion acres. It would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand, which would require 719,674 acres of the Sahara… Now, that really is just a grain of sand.

A couple drawbacks and limitations include the need to regularly clean the solar panels (even more so because of the sandy environment), which requires large amounts of water and the challenge of transporting power over great distances and political will.

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

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