Category: Sustainability (page 1 of 18)

A winning idea – How to make fashion more sustainable

This week’s guest blog comes from Cristina Zheng Ji. 

Every year, the Policy Institute encourages students and staff to pitch their policy ideas to a panel of experts. This year, the overall winner was second year Political Economy student Cristina, with her pitch to make the fashion industry more sustainable. We met up with Cristina to talk about what inspired her to take part, why sustainability in fashion is important, and how consumers can influence industry.

What inspired you to take part in Policy Idol?

Cristina: One of my lecturers suggested it as a great opportunity, so I decided to look at it. I had two ideas for a pitch, but narrowed it down to this one.

What is the Environmental Cost Labelling System?

C: It’s a labelling system to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing production. This would involve using the traffic lights system: red for the highest environmental cost through to green for the lowest and apply it to four categories of impact – water use, energy use, scope to recycle, and whether it is biodegradable.

What inspired you to do a pitch on sustainable fashion? Did you come across sustainability in your degree?

C: I was inspired by a YouTube video I saw on how there is an increased accumulation of plastic fibres in the environment. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic break up in a washing machine cycle and get into water streams. The numbers were astonishing: a washing load can realise up to 700 000 fibres in a single wash. This made me think about how people can reduce or change their consumption of polluting clothing – for example to pieces that don’t release plastic fibres. After looking deeper into the issue, I also found out that disposable fashion caused other severe environmental damages, too. Sadly, information about the impact of clothes on nature is not easily available, so I thought it would be useful to do something to aid consumers when they go shopping. I narrowed the environmental factors down to four categories, which can be changed after feedback from experts. I was also inspired by the traffic lights system in the food industry which colour coded food to provide nutritional information at a glance.

Sustainability is a general interest of mine, but not a formal part of my degree. Sometimes people around you also have a good influence – at home my parent’s generation wasn’t as aware of recycling, but coming to university my friends are very aware. And climate change is a huge issue with a wide range of threats, so it’s good to focus on sustainability. My other idea was also on climate change.

Why is fashion so important?

C: Many people are not aware of how polluting the industry is – it is the second biggest polluter in the world after the oil industry and bigger than shipping and aviation industries combined. We know that cars, shipping and flying have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but we don’t know about clothing. With the fast fashion model of ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ – where we buy clothes, wear them two or three times, and then throw them away –, people buy and dispose a lot of clothes. In Britain, more than 300 000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. And people will still buy fast fashion as it’s a habit and generally affordable to most, but I believe that once people are aware of it, they might change their behaviour.

I think it is important to give consumers the choice. The idea for the pitch came from the idea of ‘nudging’. Some people see nudging to be paternalistic; however, it preserves people’s freedom to choose according to their own preferences. With the Environmental Cost Labelling System, options of good/neutral/bad are given, so if people want to make the ‘bad’ environmental choice they can do this, but one day they might choose the ‘good’ option instead. For those who have not thought the green issues much yet, the labelling could nudge them towards the better option. And for those who already choose a ‘green’ lifestyle, a lack of relevant information in the fashion industry makes this difficult. Ethical and sustainable fashion is often expensive. If we target the high street with this labelling system, we can bring sustainability to consumers without them having to research brands they don’t know, or spend more money.

Do you think this will lead companies to change their practices?

C: I think it will do. A change in the consumer purchasing behaviour can lead to a change in the manufacturer’s behaviour as they see an increase in demand in sustainable clothes and a decrease in unsustainable ones. Companies also have something to gain from this. If consumers switch to more sustainable brands, it will reward brands working on sustainability.

And companies know that sustainability is important, and that they can’t go on like this. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. make denim from cotton, but know that an uncontrolled and irresponsible resource use of this is wasteful and unsustainable. They are now working towards a circular economy where they encourage the consumer to take their old clothes and shoes back to the stores to be recycled.

What would the system look like, how would it work?

C: The four categories are a starting point – these could be changed after expert reviews. The information would be on clothing tags. Most clothes have a price tag, and also an additional one with information on the brand, or for example one I saw only says ‘We are denim’ 10 times. To replace this, I have designed a tag that has the Environmental Cost Labelling System with the traffic lights on it. In the food industry, the traffic lights labelling is not mandatory, so different brands may set their own standards. If this were to be made mandatory for clothing, and there was a universal agreement of standards for each colour, this could be powerful. There are already websites and non-profits out there that collate information on sustainability of clothing – we could work with them.

Just having a label to simply say ‘sustainable’ isn’t enough. There are so many aspects related to sustainability, and the Environmental Cost Labelling System would allow consumers to consider which aspects are the most important to them when they go shopping – e.g. energy use, water etc. The traffic light system also tells us about intensity, and not just pass/fail – it gives more power to the consumer.

 

After winning the overall prize at this year’s Policy Idol, Cristina is now looking at working with the Policy Institute to take her idea further. We hope that in the future, we might see this labeling system on the clothes we buy!

SDG 5: Gender equality – “I am a Nasty Woman!”

This week’s guest blog comes fifth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

On International Women’s Day the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London released a study on attitudes toward gender equality around the world (1). Results showed that 52 percent of the respondents believe that there are more advantages to be a man than a woman. Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, reflected: “people rightly believe gender equality has not gone far enough. While the issues we prioritise may be different country by country, there is a real consensus that men must play their part if we are to achieve true parity between the sexes.”

The targets: Gender equality and the position of women

Even though the term gender equality suggests different forms of gender identification, SDG5 concentrates primarily on the position of women and girls in society (2). The targets focus on private and public domains as well as economical, social and political positions. Foremost, all gender-based discrimination and violence must be eliminated. Furthermore, unpaid labour, such as domestic responsibilities, must be acknowledged to ensure social security; women must have access to contraception; and policy around gender equality should be enforced. Additionally, women must have the same economic property rights and the same opportunities for leadership positions as men.

The current situation: Numbers versus reality

Globally, there has been some progression in certain areas of gender equality. For example, the participation of women in parliament increased from 13 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2017. Furthermore, the number of child marriages slightly decreased, however, 650 million girls and women today were still married in childhood. Progress has been slow; for example, there has been a 1% change in the percentage of senior management roles held by women globally in the last 10 years. In some sectors progress has even been reversed; the percentage of female ICT specialists in the EU has decreased by 6%. Note that numbers only tell part of the story. A lot of gender-based violence and discrimination remains hidden due to shame, taboos or the lack of data availability.

Lacking leadership from the West: The case of the Netherlands

Gender inequality is something that is apparent in both poor and rich countries. My birth country, the Netherlands, for example, dropped from the 16th to 32nd place in the world rankings. Countries such as Moldavia and Mozambique have catch up. This is largely due to the weak political and economic position of women as well as the growing inequality in income and health. To illustrate, there is a gender pay gap of 16 percent, female parliamentarians dropped to 37 per cent and only 26 per cent of management positions is filled by women. A national hero is our former minister Lilianne Ploumen. With her organization She Decides, she fights for sexual and reproductive rights, and even filled in the gap of anticonception supply caused by the Global Gag Rule of US president Trump.

The new feminism: I am a nasty woman

The good news is that the attention for women emancipation is on the rise. In response to comments by Trump such as “grab them by the pussy” and “those are just nasty women”, multiple protests have been organized. For example, the Women’s March in Washington during which actress Alshley Judd performed a poem of teenager Nina Donovan titled “nasty woman” (3). Another example is the hashtag #MeToo which sought to increase awareness for sexual intimidation after several scandals of sexual coercion in Hollywood. Global governance organizations have introduced informal projects as well, to illustrate European Union and the United Nations have founded the Spotlight Initiative to combat violence towards women and girls (4).

Abby Wambach and the Wolfpack

A book on this topic to watch is from Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion (5). Based on her experience as a top athlete, she argues that: “it’s time for women to know the power of their wolves and the strength of their pack”. If we keep on playing by the old rules of leadership, we will never change the game. In the book Abby creates a new set of rules to help women unleash their individual power as well as to unite with other women and create a new world together. To do this, we need to make failure fuel, lead from wherever you are, champion other women and demand what you (and others) deserve!

Step up: Be a champion for gender equality.

Because gender inequality is often socially constructed, the most important thing you can do is to step up for your rights and/or the women in your direct environment. It is not ok if a female colleague is payed less than her man colleague, it is not ok if a female colleague is never nominated for promotion nor is it ok if colleagues make jokes about women in the kitchen or sexual intimidation. Furthermore, there are various initiatives you can support. For example, HeForShe has several projects about online violence towards women and breaking through taboos on sexual health (6). Remember, gender equality is EVERYONE’s business.

Notes:

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 2

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

Month 3: December & Christmas

Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.

  • Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
  • Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
  • I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?

Verdict: Definitely easy and fun

 

Month 4: January & Food

Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.

  • Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
    • Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
    • Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
    • Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
  • Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
  • This one is definitely a journey but there’s so much reward in being thoughtful about food. Some things I’m still working on:
    • Bringing in lunch to work from home consistently
    • Pushing my vegetarianism a bit closer to veganism, which I’ve started by treating cheese as more of a delicious treat than a daily staple
    • Just cooking better food: Anna Jones has been a great help here on seasonal recipes especially!

Verdict: High impact and mostly fun!

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 1

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

This journey starts in October, when I joined On Purpose, I started at King’s and took the WWF carbon footprint test for the first time. Horrified, I learnt that annually I was using 200% of my share of the world’s resources.

That same month we were flooded with news of an upcoming climate catastrophe following the IPCC special report and changing jobs had left me with a new work-life balance, with both time and mental space to think about what it might be possible to change.

So I set myself a challenge: Every month for the next year I am going to change one lifestyle factor to be more sustainable, and I’m going to try and maintain (or grow) the change for the rest of the year, in what will hopefully be an exponential curve towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Since then, I have made changes to how I get around, how I eat, how I supply my house with basic essentials and even how I dress. I’m healthier, happier and feel more connected to my local area. I’m also more informed about environmental issues and the incredible work being done to tackle them globally.

It’s now six months in and when I recently re-took the WWF carbon footprint test I got a score of 125%. I’d never have guessed it could be both fun and easy to make that scale of change.

This is what surprised me most: it doesn’t need to be hard, it doesn’t need to be a sacrifice. There are a growing number of social enterprises making sustainable decisions genuinely more convenient and more fun than their less-green alternatives, and I’ve shared some of the ones I’ve liked below.

The first thing I had to do was pick where to start. At a basic level, my criteria was:

  1. What is easy?
  2. What is high impact?
  3. What is fun?

By focusing on things that are easy and fun, I’ve built momentum for the things that are harder, like divesting pensions, and looking for alternatives to short-haul flights. The easy stuff is a great place to start; there are so many things that you change once and they’re done for good.

Month 1: October & Commuting

Switching my commute from bus to bike.

  • It’s now March and I’m still cycling every day!
  • I have saved at least £60 per month on bus fares
  • I have gained 30 mins per day in commute time, because cycling is genuinely the quickest way for me to get to work
  • I have lost weight and feel far fitter than I’d anticipated from an additional 30 minutes of daily cycling
  • I feel a lot more connected to my local area: I notice new spaces as I cycle past them in a way I never did on the bus

Verdict: Easy, high impact and fun!

 

Month 2: November & Home

Changing household habits and spending patterns; from energy providers to toiletries.

  • This is one I’ve added to every month, and I’m still collecting recommendations: The full list of things I’ve tried and would recommend is below if you’re interested!
  • To highlight the real game changers:
    • Sanitary products switched to Thinx in a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
    • Energy provider switched to Bulb, which has only ended up costing us 20p more per month for a fully renewable energy plan and some of my friends who switched are saving money.
    • We now have greener versions of bulky items like laundry detergent, washing up liquid and toilet paper delivered: It’s cheaper, more convenient and the Who Gives A Crap toilet paper especially is more fun!
  • And possibly my favourite sustainability tip of the year has been trying to wear a new outfit every day – without duplication – for as long as possible, to stretch and make you be a bit more creative with your wardrobe. The verdict after 80 days and counting:
  • I’ve rediscovered all kinds of stuff in the back of my wardrobe and found new combinations of things that work together, so I’m not remotely tempted to go shopping and buy more clothes
  • I’ve been (I think!) dressing better, because I’m thinking about it not just throwing on any old thing
  • I’ve sketched my outfit each day, to make sure I don’t duplicate, and so have the beginnings of a little outfits menu, which is nice and, who knows, might make me dress better in future!

Verdict: Varied, but on the whole easy, high impact and fun!

 

To be continued…

Apps to Help You Go Green

Eco-Friendly Search Engines

Ecosia

Ecosia is a certified B Corp and was founded in 2009. It’s mission to mission to cultivate a greener world and has the goal to plant one billion new trees by the year 2020.

Ecosia does this by donating at least 80% of its advertising income to tree planting programs in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, and Peru. It currently has 7 million active users and has planted over 52, 000, 000 trees so far.

Using the app (or desktop search engine) is an easy way to make a difference.

(Ecosia also doesn’t sell your data to advertisers nor have third party trackers, unlike other some of the larger search engines…)

Tackling Food Waste

10 million tonnes of food is chucked away in UK every year. That’s equivalent to wasting £17 billion or £700, on average per household.

Olio

Olio is part of the ‘food sharing revolution’. This app connects people who have food to give away. There are 907,000 people have joined the Olio platform, and so far, has saved 1,218,03 portions of food!

To advertise food: download the app, snap a picture, give the item a short description & when and where the item is available for pick-up.

Too good to go

This app allows food outlets (Restaurants, Cafés,  Bakeries etc.) to advertise any food they have left over at the end of the day– to be sold in Too Good To Go’s ‘magic bags’ for heavily discounted prices.

So far, Too Good To Go has partnered with 1,488 stores (such as Yo! Sushi and Paul) across the UK, saving 479, 094 meals from the bin (equivalent to saving approx. 958,188 Kg of CO2). To learn more about Too Good To Go, watch their video here.

Plastic Reduction

Refill

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. 

The Refill app locates sources of free drinking water wherever you are. In London there are  over 900 refill stations. Around King’s, there are over 42 refill points around Strand, 38 near Waterloo, 17 around Guys , 10 by St Thomas’ & 4 close to Denmark Hill.

Using Refill helps to reduce use of disposable plastic water bottles (nearly half of the bottles in the UK are not recycled, with more than 15 million littered) and save carbon emissions connected to the disposable plastic production. Refill also receives 13p for every refill logged on the app, which goes towards planet protecting campaigns.

(The King’s App can also help you locate re-fill station inside of each King’s campus).

Keep your refillable bottle with you and you’ll never go thirsty again!

Sustainable Fashion

Good On You

Good On You gives you ethical ratings to over 1,000 high street fashion brands. These ratings encompass not just  environmental sustainability (e.g. assessing the company’s energy and water intensity, chemical use and disposal), but social sustainability; analysing factors such as child and forced labour, worker safety, freedom of association and payment of the living wage. Good On You also builds the rating around if any animals are used (reduced scores linked to the use of angora, down feather, shearling, karakul and exotic animal skin/hair, wool and leather).

Users can feedback and make requests of the brands.

Read more on how Good On You and how they rate here.

Growing Food System Insecurity

This guest blog comes courtesy of Chloe Foster, third year undergraduate student in the War Studies Department and Student Assistant to the Social Science Public Policy (SSPP) Sustainability Champions. 

Climate change is set to impact our lives in a variety of ways, but one particular global system is set to experience drastic consequences. Our current food system is not secure enough to sustain the challenges of the future because of increased extreme weather conditions, decreased biodiversity and increased emissions. A model developed by Anglia Ruskin University found that if ‘do-nothing’ trends continue, by 2040, the global food supply will be facing food epidemics and mass insecurity.  This prediction suggests that SDG 2, Zero Hunger is not as achievable as previously thought. Whilst the aforementioned future challenges are not the whole list, this blog post will explore these main areas impacting global food security.

Extreme Weather Conditions

As the Earth’s temperature has risen, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased. Among others, these events include heat waves, drought and flooding. In autumn of last year, Nigeria faced huge flooding which directly impacted on food security and created shortages of rice. The USA has also experienced extreme weather recently; Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused mass devastation of civilian, commercial and agricultural property. Whilst these natural disasters often pose an immediate threat to human safety, they also threaten crop growth and yields. Climate change is set to reduce harvest yields by 11% on average globally by 2050 and compound the already problematic state of food security. Research conducted by Oxfam found that weather-related shocks have the potential to cause huge spikes in food prices and the average price of staple foods, like cereals, could more than double in the next 20 years.

(Source – Oxfam Issue Briefing, GROWING DISRUPTION, Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger, September 2013)

Upcoming event – A new 30-year record of global wildfire activity from the AVHRR GAC archive

22 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Decreasing Biodiversity

The Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report in February of this year, detailing the increasing loss of biodiversity and its vital role in our food systems. The microorganisms (such as insects, birds and fungi), animals (like hedgehogs) and plants act as fertilisers, pollinators and purifiers of the environment, ensuring the healthy growth of the world around us.  However, changes in the environment have led to biodiversity loss and the increased risk of increased food insecurity. Almost 1/3 of fish stocks are over fished, around 26% of breeds of livestock are at risk of extinction and 24% of wild food species numbers are decreasing.  However, biodiversity-friendly practices are being increasingly using in agriculture and conservation efforts are increasing across the globe. Whilst these efforts will reduce the speed of biodiversity loss, sustainable frameworks should be used more by governments to formalise these attempts. King’s is promoting biodiversity across its campuses. At Guy’s, there are insect houses and bird boxes, at the Strand campus events are often held on the subject and the installation of green walls and greener spaces are being looked into.

Upcoming event – Biodiversity conservation in the 21st century: Lessons from northeastern China

15 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Emissions

The agricultural sector contributes to global warming in many ways. Research by Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, concluded that agriculture (including deforestation needed to create farmland) is responsible for roughly a 1/3 of global greenhouse gasses. The production of meat and dairy produce 51% of worldwide global emissions alone and their consumption is set to double between 2001 to 2050. These shocking figures highlight how our diets have a direct relationship to our carbon footprint and our responsibilities as consumers to make more eco-friendly choices. Changing our diets to be more plant-based and seasonal is an easy and effective way to live more sustainably. The Fetch-Ur-Veg scheme at King’s is a great way to get involved with this. With the scheme you get a weekly bag of amazing seasonally and locally produced fruit and vegetables, delivered straight to the Maughan library! If you’re stuck for recipes, take inspiration from their Facebook page!

Concluding Thoughts

Whilst these issues have solutions based in systemic change, there is still power in the individual. As such, I would still promote small changes that can be made to everyday life to reduce your impact on the earth. Eating a more plant-based diet, using more emission-friendly travel and being kind to the world around, individuals can also have a big impact, locally and in the bigger picture. Using http://www.footprintcalculator.org to work out your ecological footprint is a good place to start your sustainability journey!

King’s Venues Volunteer at Buses 4 Homeless

This guest blog comes courtesy of LaiHa Diamond and Craig Jennings, who are Sustainability Champions working for King’s Venues

Over a month ago King’s Venues met Buses 4 Homeless CIC at The HBAA annual dinner. Dan Atkins touched our hearts with his passion on his mission to provide a low cost holistic solution to homelessness by creating beds, providing food and learning in decommissioned buses. The Buses4Homeless mission is to provide 14,600 nights sleep a year, in the warmth of the converted double decker buses.

The buses will be refurbished to create sleeping , dining and learning areas. (Image: Buses4homeless website)

 

As part of the King’s Service Strategy, all King’s Staff get a day off dedicated to Service. As part of this, King’s Venues team took on the task to help Buses4Homeless to transform four buses donated by Stagecoach, which were left stationary in bus depots without use for several years, and would have eventually been scrapped.

The Buses4homeless mission is to help those affected overcome the issues which led to them being homeless. The aim is to help develop skills and get into apprenticeships and training and eventually into work. The buses will take 40 people at a time, helping build stability and a sense of community.

Strategy of Buses4homeless (Image: Buses4homelss website)

 

King’s Venues & Food team helping at Buses4homeless!

It was a great day of service with the team delivering 4 volunteering days to the charity. For more information about Buses4Homeless, please take a look on their website http://buses4homeless.org. 

Is this a futuristic dystopian village or an anaerobic food processing plant?

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jane Picciano, who is a Sustainability Champion working in the Library Services Team at King’s.

King’s Food waste goes to Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which helps to meet the following Sustainable Development Goals:

This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!

I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.

This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.

Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.

The first stage for the food waste: the ‘mouth’ of the plant before reaching the ‘stomachs’ of the AD tanks.

Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.

Shredded plastic from the food waste packaging and plastic bags the waste was delivered in

We were told that most food waste recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and how easy it is to sift it out.

Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).

The food waste is now ready for a long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.

Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.

The pile of ‘chicken & rice’ (which is really a bland oatmeal mixture)

You will notice that all the tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to 4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the images below.

You can see the large motors on the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.

The two long implements you can see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the tank look like.

It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.

The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.

And this is the story of what happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!

If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.

The only thing I would strongly suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is overpowering and it lingers on clothes.

I can’t even describe it. 🤢

Jane Picciano, Sustainability Champion Gold, Maughan Library

Sustainability Week 2019

Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside student societies and staff Sustainability Champions, put on events with the aim to educate on various areas of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

Here is a summary of the week…

Sustainability Pop up: This Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We played lots of sustainability related games –
we quizzed you on how many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs you could remember and played the washing line game, where staff & students got the chance to win a Keep Cup and a free tea/coffee if they correctly guessed how long it took seven everyday items to degrade (from tea bags, to tin cans (hint: they rust!) to plastic bags). It was great to talk with staff & students about what interests you most within sustainability and we got the chance to update staff & students on some of the sustainability projects happening at King’s – for example, the Don’t Be Trashy project and behaviour change techniques aimed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in King’s halls of residences.

Josh & Ali from the Sustainability Team at the Sustainability Pop Up, Tues 12th Feb.

King’s VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. We hosted this event in collaboration with the King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society. There were lots of free samples from vegan producers, including vegan cheese (thank you Tyne Chease), chocolate (thanks to Raw Halo) snacks (thank you to Purl Pops, Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Freya’s Fruit Bars), Dairy Alternatives (thank you KoKo, Rebel Mylk and to a King’s Alumni own brand: Edenera!). Students and staff also brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, we discussed the environmental impact of the food we eat and general sustainability passions!

VegFest Vegan Product Samples, Fri 15th Feb.

Dr Bike: Cycling is not only an environmentally sustainable form of transportation, but one that is socially sustainable due to the value exercise has on physical health and overall well-being.

We want to encourage cycling in London and help make it as easy as possible for our staff and students. Therefore, we held four Dr Bike sessions across the King’s campuses. These Dr Bike sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff. Mechanics led the session and checked brakes, gears and chains, changed bike pads and gave advice and accurate quotes for whatever they couldn’t fix. There are many Dr Bike sessions happening across London every day, organised through Cycle Confident. To keep up to date with the latest session near you, follow Cycle Confident updates here.

Dr Bike at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA), Tues 13th Feb.

Film Screening: A Northern Soul: Sustainability often gets bundled into being thought of as purely environmental, with the social and economic sides to it often neglected. This year, for our final event of the week, we chose a film which demonstrated the importance of these two, often forgotten, pillars of sustainability. A Northern Soul is a documentary set in Hull, which follows one man, Steve, a warehouse worker on his journey through Hull in 2017 during its crowing year as the ‘UK City of Culture‘. We see Steve chase his passion of bringing hip-hop to disadvantaged kids across the city, through his Beats Bus. The film raises uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK, but does so while demonstrating the strength and charm of Hull’s residents in the face of this inequality. The film is available on BFI player.

Shot from the documentary ‘A Northern Soul’

GoodGym Run: King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Euston Food Bank. GoodGym volunteers helped to sort out the dry donations of cereal, biscuits and chocolate into sell by date to help ensure no food loss and effective allocation of items according to date. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to help the local community. To read more on GoodGym click here.  

GoodGym runners and walkers, Fri 15th Feb.

Gardening at the Maughan: The Library Services Sustainability Champions ran the gardening session at the Maughan to help nurture the 200+ trees which were planted in the garden at the start of December 2018, as part of National Tree Week and broader City of London Environment and Clean Air Strategies . Sustainability Week volunteers watered all the trees and
re-taped them to ensure their visibility, helped to replant some of the crab apple trees and gave the garden a quick litter pick – all in all, the garden got a good bit of T(ree)LC.

Left: Planting the trees in December ’18. Right: checking up on the trees & re-planting some of the growing crab apple trees.

Ethical Beauty Talk:  Stephanie Green from the Modern Language Centre spoke about how sustainable shea butter can empower women. Speaking from her experience living and working in Ghana she told the story behind the TAMA brand, made from natural shea butter. Lots of the beautiful vegan friendly soaps, creams and lotions were also available for sale at the session!

Zero- Waste Beauty Workshop: 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. The UN has stated that our use of plastic is creating a ‘planetary crisis’, and by 2050, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish. Read more here.

During the week, we held two zero-waste workshop sessions, co-hosted with the King’s Beauty Society. In these sessions, students learnt more about the global plastic-problem and the individual steps we all can do to make zero-waste living that little bit more achievable. Students got to make their own zero-waste coffee body scrub (using King’s Food own used coffee grounds – which would have otherwise gone to Anaerobic Digestion), lemon lip scrub and peppermint toothpaste!

Due to the demand, The Sustainability Team plan to host more events like this throughout the year. In the meantime, a post with the zero-waste beauty recipes will follow on the blog soon.

Top Left: Students with their coffee scrubs
Top right: Essential oils used for the toothpaste and lip scrub
Bottom Left: Breakdown composition of the coffee body scrub (1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 coconut oil)
Bottom Right: President of KCL Beauty Soc

Thank you to everyone who helped organise and took part in Sustainability Week 2019! We love meeting you all and hearing your feedback, ideas and passions. You showed King’s really can #MakeADifference!

King’s Sustainable Entrepreneurs: Woodsloth’s Bamboo Straws

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jonathan Hyde, Masters student at King’s studying an MA in Climate Change. This post aims to start a series of guest blogs highlighting how some of our students, staff and alumni in the King’s community are putting their sustainable passion & innovation into practice. 

Hi my name is Jonathan (Jonny), I study MA Climate Change at King’s and a passionate environmentalist.

This passion for the environment has led me to take a more pro-active stance towards achieving climate justice (fitting with the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and tackling environmental degradation on land and at sea (SDG 14 and 15).

Whilst away traveling, my partner Claire and I came to realise just how severe the plastic pollution problem really was. Plastic litter was polluting everywhere we went, whether it was a forest, a mountain or a beach – there was little escaping it. The beaches were particularly bad, and in one place we took part in a beach clean-up picking up countless straws. Yet, the next day it was just as littered!

It really opened our eyes to this issue. However, when we returned home we saw that actually we had been living in a sea of plastic all along, and that the UK had just as much as a problem.

However, when we were away we saw creative solutions to the problem. One in particular that we loved was the use of bamboo, and especially re-useable straws! We came to find out that bamboo is the perfect sustainable material, being the strongest, most durable, and most rapidly growing grass species in the world! It just so happened that Claire’s parents have copious amounts of bamboo growing in their garden. So, when we first visited them after returning home the bamboo straw production began!

In the beginning, I was just making them as gifts for friends and family, truly enjoying creativity in a way I had never done before. I feel that’s the real beauty of the sustainability movement – what it can creatively and innovatively inspire. The response was brilliant too; people loved them and encouraged me to start selling them. I then discovered my friend who lives close by also has a great amount of bamboo growing, so I began harvesting more, and experimenting with different designs and personalisation.

I established Woodsloth’s as an official business, as sales began to pick up.

Now, 6 months on, and 1 month into “official” business, I’ve created over a 100 straws. I’m delighted as that means over 100 straws aren’t going to end up in landfill or the sea! 100 down, 8 billion to go…and that’s just the number used in the UK!

I have an Instagram page (@woodsloths) and email (woodsloths@gmail.com) where I take personalised orders. I am also in discussions with the Union Shop to have a “King’s” and “KCL” edition on sale, as part of their sustainable and ethical Spring/Summer collection – so watch this space!

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