Category: UN Sustainable Development Goals (Page 1 of 8)

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: 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: “Big Battery” Technology

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 discussed the UK’s challenges when it comes to adopting renewable energy. One of these is combatting intermittency and increasing the efficiency of wind and solar power. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a potential solution: batteries. No, not the Duracell Bunny. Big batteries. Batteries for storing energy. Intrigued? Read on to discover more.

What is “big battery” technology?

Think of your phone battery. You plug it into the mains, it charges, and the charge is retained for a period of time. The theory here is very similar. Instead of having periods of over-and undersupply, renewable energy can instead be stored in large-scale battery facilities. It can then be fed back into the grid.

What are the advantages?

The main advantage of “big battery” technology is that they minimise energy wastage, making investments in renewables far more attractive. Batteries can even out the energy harvested by renewables over the year, so your household isn’t dependent on 365 days of sun. In addition, if you have one in your own home, the energy will be stored rather than returned to the grid, decreasing your reliance on the grid and reducing the stress on the grid itself. Another advantage is that even with limited capacity, battery storage can be used to power homes via the grid in emergencies or in times of power outages instead of using natural gas.

Is it available already?

Yes and no. This technology is available for home use (for those who generate their own electricity) but is not yet widely available on an industrial scale. However, that is changing. California, for example, has a 300-megawatt lithium-ion battery already up and running and another 100-megawatt battery due to become operational this year. Because of these initiatives, more funding is being allocated to developing this technology.

What about the UK?

The UK and Europe as a whole have been a little slower to become convinced by the merits of this technology, and so there are no fully operational battery storage facilities in the UK yet. However, the development of several facilities is underway. The largest of these is in Essex, on the Thames Estuary, where InterGen has gained planning permission for a 320MW site at the cost of £200m. It will also have the potential for further expansion, up to 1.3GW. This would make it ten times the size of other projects also underway in the UK and able to power over half a million homes in the event of a power outage.

So, “big battery” technology really is just big batteries. It remains to be seen just how effective they are in the long term. Still, it seems a crucial element of transitioning to renewable energy sources will be to store this energy when there is no demand for it, and batteries are currently one of the best ways to do so.

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

A Plastic Free July Q&A 

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

What is Plastic Free July? 

Plastic Free July is an initiative that was set up in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation. They aim to help people globally take action on plastic pollution by encouraging them to refuse single-use plastic and reduce general plastic consumption. The movement has inspired the participation of approximately 326 million people in 177 countries. As a campaign, Plastic Free July takes a multifaceted approach, giving tips on plastic reduction and elimination in multiple sectors, such as personal life, work, schools, events, businesses, communities and local governments. Their ethos highlights the necessity of small acts amounting to a big difference and inclusivity of people, ideas, vision and approaches.  

Plastic Free July is solution-focused. The website hosts practical tips in various areas of life to eradicate single-use plastic. You can also ‘take the challenge’ via their website, which means pledging to give Plastic Free July a go. Their website gives the option to participate for one day, one week, for all of July, or from now on.  

Why is it important? 

Reducing or eliminating your plastic consumption is more important now than ever with a burgeoning climate and ecological crisis. Current estimates approximate 8 million pieces of plastic to be entering our oceans every day. This plastic threatens diversity in endangering all marine life, causes contamination within food chains, and jeopardizes the future of our existence, with the oceans giving us 50-80% of our oxygen.  

At current rates, the world produces 381 million tonnes of plastic waste every year – a figure that is expected to double by 2034. That is more than the weight of the entire human population, which stands at roughly 316 million tonnes. This is a terrifying statistic and visual – we will soon, quite literally, be swimming in our own waste. What’s more, 50% of this plastic is single-use, and only 9% of it is recycled. We are in a cycle that we cannot sustain – that the earth cannot sustain – so our work is cut out for us.  

What can I do to reduce my plastic usage? 

To answer this, we can borrow from the Plastic Free July campaign and its sections: personal life, work, schools, events, businesses, communities and local governments. There are many ways you can reduce your plastic and many areas in your life in which you can have this objective. Sometimes, starting small with your personal life is the easiest. Here are ten tips to reduce your plastic: 

  1. Buy foods in bulk or visit zero-waste stores with refillable containers 
  2. Opt for plastic-free fruits and vegetables where possible 
  3. Take reusable crockery with keep cups, bottles, metal straws, etc. 
  4. Switch out your single-use toiletries for sustainable alternatives e.g.cotton pads, cotton buds, wet wipes, etc. 
  5. Take reusable shopping bags
  6. Check the ingredients in your gum! Many chewing gums include a type of plastic (synthetic rubber)
  7. Reuse containers, e.g. refilling shampoo bottles, keeping takeaway containers, keeping old jars to put things in, etc. 
  8. Switch out plastic kitchen items like cupcake cases, cellophane and sponges for a sustainable alternative 
  9. Check what your cosmetics packaging is made from (some brands also have schemes where you can send bottles/packaging back to be reused) 
  10. Reduce some plastic usage second-hand; get your friends and family involved. Share the knowledge!

It is also worth mentioning that we need lots of people doing this imperfectly instead of a few doing it perfectly. There is power in numbers and acknowledging the agency we have in making the world a better place is both empowering and key to creating change. 

What is King’s doing to reduce their plastic usage? 

Whilst personal behaviour and action are important, institutional change is pivotal in achieving our goal. King’s as an institution acknowledges this and is taking crucial steps to support this goal. King’s has several recycling and waste-reducing initiatives. As you may be aware, if you are reading this blog, King’s has an entire Sustainability Team dedicated to goals such as these. At King’s, we aim to recycle 70% of our waste. We achieve this in an abundance of ways. One of these ways is through our WarpIt scheme. Warp-It is an online sharing platform for used materials/goods, which can then be posted and claimed by King’s staff. Items included are IT equipment, furniture, lab materials, and plenty more.  

Another way is through addressing plastic usage in our laboratories. King’s is legally and financially obligated to implement the waste hierarchy: to reduce the university’s environmental impact, ensure legal compliance and minimise waste disposal costs. This includes all waste from labs. King’s labs are assessed through the accredited Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), and we have many Sustainability Champions working within our labs. 

In addition to this, King’s Sustainability Team organizes the Climate Action Network (King’s CAN): a notable plastic-related sub-group in this is the group focused on procurement and waste. We also have a number of Sustainability Champion Assistants working in respective departments to tackle these sustainability-related issues on a faculty level. And finally, there are many inspiring individuals across King’s involved in sustainability through students societies and groups. You can find out more about this by checking out some of our ‘Sustainability Stories’ on the blog or some of our Weekly Spotlights on Instagram. 

Click here to find out more about what King’s is doing. 

King’s Energy: The Climate Change Committee 2021 Progress Report – Findings and Recommendations

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

Welcome back to the King’s Energy blog post! Last week the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their 2021 Progress Report to Parliament – read on to see what they found and their recommendations for the future.

Energy Use in 2020

Global energy use fell by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels, mostly accounted for by significant declines in more “advanced” economies. In addition to this welcome decline, the energy we are using has become cleaner as we are also becoming gradually less reliant on fossil fuels as an energy source. According to the report, oil use has fallen by 9% – predominantly due to less demand for oil for transport. Electricity demand also decreased, meaning coal consumption fell by 4%, while gas usage also fell by 2%. However, these figures do not tell the full story. Not only has electricity demand fell, but 29% of the electricity used derived from renewable sources – that’s a 27% increase on 2019 levels. To put that into context, that is the largest growth rate on record, and it means that the total low-carbon generation share is now 39%.

Forecast for 2021

All of that sounds great, so what’s the catch? Well, these figures have been impacted in no uncertain terms by the pandemic and, with the effects of that expected to die down (fingers crossed) over the next year, the CCC are not so optimistic for 2021. They expect energy usage to bounce back, rising 4.5% in 2021, which would bring it 0.5% above 2019 levels. Equally, CO2 emissions are expected to rise by around 5%, falling just short of 2019 levels. However, there remains significant uncertainty about these predictions as it depends on the course of the pandemic and how countries recover from it.

Future Recommendations

Among their 32 pages of recommendations, the CCC advise Parliament of the following when it comes to energy:

  • Consult on reforms to electricity pricing to remove disincentives to electrification by 2022.
  • Consider the introduction of a carbon tax aimed at curbing rising emissions from energy from waste by 2022.
  • Create a clear incentive for manufacturing facilities to switch to low-carbon energy sources by 2023.
  • Improve the collection and reporting of industrial decarbonisation data to allow for progress to be monitored more effectively, particularly on energy and resource efficiency by 2022.
  • Provide a stable long-term policy framework to support sustained energy efficiency and heat pump growth as a priority.
  • Implement improvements to the Energy Performance Certificate by 2022.
  • Improve the consumer charging experience and making smart charging accessible, appealing and cost-effective for as many electric vehicle users as possible as a priority.

So there you have it. In short, progress has been made over the past couple of years. Still, we have a duty as individuals to build back from the pandemic in a more energy-conscious way. At the same time, we are also reliant on the authorities to commit to the changes listed moving forward. Read the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 Report to Parliament here.

 

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

Sustainability Stories: Thomas Eve

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Thomas, and I’m a 2nd-year neuroscience student and Sustainability Champions Assistant. I come from rural Dorset in southwest England. I enjoy most things that involve food, particularly cooking and gardening.

What does sustainability mean to you? 

Sustainability is simply about making the world a better and fairer place for everyone. This includes future generations, all countries, and every aspect of life to a certain extent.

How are you getting involved and taking action on sustainability and the climate crisis? 

I’ve made big changes in my life, particularly focusing on what I eat – I’ve almost gone vegan but not quite there yet. I try and research more sustainable options for anything I need to buy, but at the moment, it’s mainly looking at what I can recycle. I began to make these changes a couple of years ago, so I’ve tried to engage my family and change some of the ways they do things (to differing degrees of success).

Being a Sustainability Champion Assistant was an opportunity to have a wider impact and work with people who share my enthusiasm. It also allowed me to learn about sustainability in labs specifically, so I’m aware of what I can do in my career. I hope to continue taking opportunities like these to help others and contribute more widely to improving sustainability, alongside gaining new knowledge that I can use and share with others.

In what ways does sustainability link to your degree?

Sustainability is engrained in most things we do, perhaps not explicitly, but it’s always something that can be considered. In terms of my degree, most biological research is done so that things that benefit living things can be developed, be it drugs or GM crops. In this way, it directly contributes to our health, food and other topics which intersect with sustainability. Labs are also very wasteful places, so more sustainable practices need to be implemented.

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

Climate change is a massive issue and something that needs to be addressed by everyone in the near future; it’s not enough to simply wait for the effects to be visible because they’ll be irreversible by then. If you took all the effects climate change will have and told someone they would all suddenly happen next year, they would take immediate action. But because the effects slowly develop over time, people don’t see it as something that requires anything major. Systematic changes are needed in how we currently live. Of course, such massive changes scare many people, but I believe they’ll be worth the effort, and we’ll be much better off afterwards.

It’s difficult to make people aware whilst not appearing to go overboard and make people tired of hearing about climate change. Making the knowledge accessible and specific to people’s interests could help, e.g. giving science students ways to be more sustainable in the lab. Some things need to be made compulsory, but they can’t be too much effort for people or else it turns them off. Being more positive always helps, focusing on how the environmental issues can be solved by being proactive rather than simply trying to avoid disaster.

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

To be honest, I haven’t watched or read a lot of sustainability-related things. But anything by David Attenborough gives you an appreciation of nature and why you should actively work to preserve it. My advice would be to look into anything you’re particularly interested in or enjoy and how you can make it more sustainable. For example, I love cooking, so I’m always on the lookout for new vegan recipes. There’s information on anything on the internet and a growing amount of documentaries on sustainability issues, so a little bit of research can help you find interesting resources to teach you more. I’d also recommend looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals because I wasn’t aware of these and everything they encompass until a few months ago. Sustainability is about more than just plastic and carbon dioxide.

Thank you, Thomas! 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 – Transport and energy: what’s the link?

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

London is famed for its red double-decker buses, but those of you with a keen eye may have noticed that some of these are turning green… According to Transport for London (TfL), London’s 9,500-strong bus fleet attracts a daily ridership of 6 million people on a weekday across 673 routes. In this blog, we explore the link between transport and energy and what is being done to reduce emissions in this area.

The relationship between transport and energy

It is simply impossible to talk about energy without mentioning transport. The transport sector was responsible for over 24% of global emissions in 2016, and this figure has been growing year on year. In the UK specifically, this number peaked in 2007 before a slight decline but has been rising again since 2013. The root cause of the problem is unquestionably road vehicles, which account for 72% of global transport emissions.

The concern with transport is not limited to vehicle emissions either. The transport sector is heavily reliant on oil as an energy source, with over 53% of global primary oil consumption in 2010 being used to meet 94% of the total transport energy demand. The good news? This reliance seems to be decreasing. Energy consumption by the transport sector has shrunk to 31% in the years since. There is, however, still a long way to go.

What is being done?

In London, the focus has very much been on targeting these road vehicles. You may have heard of certain initiatives such as the Congestion Charge Zone, the phasing out of diesel taxis or “Ultra-Low Emission Zones”. While these have had a positive impact, more action is needed, and more action has been promised.

Mayor Sadiq Kahn has committed to ensuring 80% of all Londoner’s trips be made by foot, bicycle or public transport by 2041. To achieve this, there are plans to expand the cycle network and continue to enforce “Ultra-Low Emission Zones” and building on the Toxicity Charge (T-Charge). This would include incorporating central London into a “Zero-Emission Zone” by 2025 to be expanded to a London-wide zone by 2050. Additionally, from next year all new double-decker buses will be hybrid, electric or hydrogen, while it is hoped that the entire bus fleet will be completely emission-free by 2037.

What can you do?

As a London resident, you can do your bit by avoiding driving in the city (although we’re sure not many students plan on driving around London). Of course, we would encourage walking or cycling (though always carry an umbrella!) for short distances, and public transport for longer ones.

What is King’s doing?

Tune in to our #TakeoverTuesday tomorrow (Tuesday 29 June) on the King’s Sustainability Instagram. We will be filling you in on what King’s is doing to help.

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

Finding your sustainable career path and practical next steps

This blog post was originally written for and posted to the King’s Careers blog. If you’re looking for more careers advice, we invite you to look at the wonderful collection of resources, blog posts, and wider services the Careers team offers. 

Young people are as passionate as ever about working in the field of sustainability. However, the field remains a difficult one to break into, and the pandemic has placed additional challenges on job seekers. This blog offers practical steps to help you reflect and consider how you can embed sustainability into your career planning.

Throughout this blog, I define a job in sustainability as a job that overlaps, in some way, with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Defining your sustainable career path

  • What about sustainability interests you?

Originally defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, sustainability can be understood as a framework for thinking about societal development across a wide variety of interconnected issues. As a result of this rather general definition, sustainability has become somewhat of a buzzword that means many different things to many different people.

Have a think about what sustainability means to you. You could be passionate about environmental issues, human rights, social justice, global health or food systems. And while you may be passionate about more than one specific area of sustainability, a good place to start is narrowing down what about sustainability interests you, which topic(s) drive you, what you are most knowledgeable about.

  • Who would you like to work for?

Similarly, a “job in sustainability” does not fit into one mould. Sustainability cuts across many industries. You could work in government, charity, business, finance, consulting, research, filmmaking, fashion, marketing etc. Sustainability could be the core focus of your work or simply represent a small aspect, and you could be searching for a job in sustainability because of your values or because of your knowledge base, or both. For example, you could be an administrator or accountant who aspires to work for a company or NGO that promotes sustainability in its core mission. Or you might have studied and gained experience in a related field such as geography, environmental science, biology, human rights, gender studies etc. and aspire to work in this given field.

  • What is your skill set?

While employers value passion, they’re also looking for skills. So thinking about how you fit into sustainability also means reflecting on your skills. Think about your technical skills (climate change, climate modelling, engineering, business, management, communications, knowledge of a particular industry, etc.) and soft skills (innovation, commercial/business awareness, creativity, systems-thinker, teamwork, leadership, etc.), as well as how you can develop these. With each opportunity and experience, think about what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy, and reflect upon the skills you’ve learned and developed.

Thinking about how your answers to the above questions intersect will help you better define your next steps – further work experience, graduate studies, volunteering? 

Tips for building experience for a career in sustainability

If you’ve been offered an internship or entry-level job in your chosen field, congratulations! If you haven’t, that’s ok too! There are many things you can do to gain experience and further your employability in the diverse fields around sustainability. All of the below can help you build experience and should be highlighted on your CV. And, of course, you’ll also meet new people, build your network, and open up new and exciting doors for your future! 

  • Consider a skills-building job.

Getting a job in your chosen field is never easy – even more so during the pandemic. However, it’s important to remember that, for many people, career paths don’t follow a straight line. Fortunately, because sustainability links to so many different areas, finding a job that can help you develop technical skills and/or transferrable skills that all employers value will undoubtedly help you move forward in your career. Additionally, gaining industry knowledge will provide you with a greater understanding of the need for sustainability in your sector. Finally, remember that every organisation and industry can be more sustainable, so why not consider joining (or creating) a sustainability working group within your current organisation? Even if your job doesn’t naturally fall within the realms of sustainability, you can always find ways to incorporate it!

  • Develop your knowledge about sustainability.

Make sure you’re familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Take an online course – Coursera, Future Learn and Open University are great places to start.

Another way to develop your knowledge and hone your analytical and communication skills is by researching and writing about sustainability – you could become a guest blogger for the King’s Sustainability blog or start a social media account about something you’re passionate about.

  • Volunteer for or join a local community organising group.

If you can, volunteering is a great way to develop skills, learn more about the sector, and network. Check out the KCLSU volunteering pages for opportunities, and follow Service at King’s on Instagram for more opportunities.

  • For the next academic year, make the most of the opportunities at King’s.

From the Sustainability Champions Scheme, King’s Climate Action Network and sustainable societies to King’s Think Tank, King’s Civic Challenge and King’s Entrepreneurship Insitute – there is always something happening at King’s. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, create it yourself with the help of the Student Opportunity Fund!

Make sure to follow the King’s Sustainability on Instagram to keep up to date with opportunities. And feel free to get in touch with us if you’re interested in learning more about opportunities to get involved.

Some recommendations for job search ideas and resources:

  • King’s Careers KEATS services.
  • The Kickstart Scheme – for those aged 18-25 on Universal Credit (many organisations and NGOs are hiring through the programme right now).
  • Charity Jobs
  • Guardians Jobs Environment
  • Environment Jobs
  • LinkedIn – set up weekly alerts for specific organisations and/or job titles (i.e. research assistant, communications intern, etc.). Many individuals also post weekly or monthly job boards… searching #jobfairies is a good place to start.
  • The Bloom send out a weekly jobs newsletter.
  • Bookmark the companies and organisations you’re interested in and keep checking their job pages!

Finally, thinking about the future during a pandemic can be difficult. Make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health, and reach out to support if you need to (you can read more about King’s mental health help here).

 

King’s Energy: Smart homes – how energy-saving are they?

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

I’m sure many of you have seen adverts or promotions for some form of “smart home” technology. They are becoming increasingly popular and in-demand, but is this just because they seem like a cool idea? Or do they actually save energy? We’ve done the research for you, so read on and find out!

What are smart homes?

Simply put, smart homes are residences that use internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating. Many new homes are being built with the capacity for them to become smart homes, while older homes can be retrospectively fitted with the right technology.

What makes them “smart”?

Smart homes allow you to monitor and control anything in your home which is linked to your WiFi. That may sound like you’re the smart one there, but smart homes do have some features which make them truly intelligent. For example, using sensors, they can tell when somebody is in a home or a room and control the lights or heating accordingly. They can also track your behavioural patterns to identify the perfect amounts of water or energy for certain activities. Based on these patterns, many smart homes will also offer you recommendations on saving energy every day. That’s truly smart.

Can they help save energy?

The simple answer is yes, but it depends on the individual. A smart home can only provide information and optimise with the tools at its disposal. It is up to the homeowner to give it more tools to use and a better environment to use them in. Put simply, if your water meter is not linked to your smart home, then it will have no impact on your water usage. It can take time to get everything hooked up and become comfortable with all the features.

What can be done to help my smart home?

Several things can be done to make homes more suitable for smart home technology, so these may well be worth looking out for when it comes to investing in your first home:

  • Insulation – A properly insulated home will make heating and cooling much easier and more energy-efficient, thereby making life much easier for a smart home.
  • LED bulbs – As we mention most weeks on this blog, LEDs use much less energy than most other types of lightbulbs. They are also extremely durable and can be easily connected to smart homes.
  • Solar panels – An expensive investment, we know. However, this one shows that while you can save energy, if your energy is still sourced from fossil fuels, for example, then the environmental benefits are minimal. Solar panels will also reduce reliance on grid electricity, and even more so if you also invest in a home battery which will retain and store any excess energy. So, if you are thinking of purchasing a smart home, think long-term and make sure your home is ready before making that investment.

So, there you have it, smart homes have the potential to be extremely effective in terms of saving energy, but much of that depends on how you use and complement it. If you have seen them advertised and dream of having one in your future home, then don’t worry; they can be really great for the planet, but you should ensure the correct infrastructure is in place before taking the plunge.

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

Refugee Week 2021 – Climate Refugees  

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

June 14th – June 20th is Refugee Week. This is a week that occurs annually and throughout the UK to increases awareness of the plight of refugees and the socio-political shifts that incite displacement and inspire action to help people and change systems that hinder those who have been forced to flee their homes.   

This year’s theme is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone,’ inspired by the Martin Luther King quote, “They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom… We cannot walk alone.” It is a theme intended to promote togetherness, with the official website proposing it as “an invitation to extend your hand to someone new”.   

The last century has seen a series of refugee crises: starting with World War II and continuing with conflicts like the Somali Civil War, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the Syrian Civil War, and sadly, numerous more. The UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 80 million refugees globally: that’s the equivalent of London’s entire population almost nine times. Some of the predominant factors forcing people to leave their country are persecution, war and violation of human rights.   

Unfortunately, there are even darker days on the horizon, with the worst refugee crisis we have ever seen being anticipated. Except for this time, it is not because of any war or conflict; it is because of the climate crisis.   

Experts estimate a potential 1 billion refugees by 2050, with the predominant reason shifting to the climate crisis. A staggering figure, accounting for 13% of the world’s current population. What’s more, the individuals and groups dislocated by this environmental disaster may not receive the same benefits and legal perks (that are already lacking) that refugees receive because they will not qualify as ‘legal refugees’ under current Refugee Law. This calls for a rapid expansion of the definition of refugees, with concrete legislative follow-up.  

This is not a crisis that will occur in the decades to come, but one that has already started. Between 2008 and 2016, over 20 million people per year were forced from their homes by extreme weather, such as wildfires. There are already climate refugees. There are entire countries already at risk of rising sea levels; in 2014, the President of Kiribati, an independent island in the Pacific Ocean, bought up land in Fiji in fear of the island’s submersion. Farmers in Kenya are struggling to maintain their livelihoods with volatile climate stressors, such as droughts and floods, destroying crops and killing livestock. It is an issue that disproportionately affects marginalised groups of people. 80% of people presently displaced by the climate crisis are women, and people of colour are most likely to be exposed to toxic levels of pollution and unclean water. As much as what we all have in common is the Earth, we are not in the same boat. We are in the same ocean, perhaps, but some are in cruise ships and others in splintered paddle boats.  

Acknowledging the disparities between different groups of people is key in our process of “extending a hand”. We may only practice effective altruism and successful activism after first educating ourselves on the facts and nuances of the issue. We cannot address social justice issues without addressing the climate crisis. We cannot address the climate crisis without addressing social justice issues.  

Whilst the message of community is critical, ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ enters a whole new context when the catastrophe that looms calls not only for the unity of people but also living in respect of and in harmony with nature; we cannot walk at all without the oceans and the rainforests – our collective lungs. Our freedom is, as King expanded, inextricably linked, in this case, to the freedom of the planet: freedom from resource depletion, soaring fossil fuel emissions, and unsustainable levels of destruction. It is these things that have caused the climate crisis, and it is these things that are exacerbating the refugee crisis. Where this is not an equal fight, it is also not one of equal blame; whilst the local and generational residents of the global south remain victims of the consequences, the global north has been responsible for 92% of all emissions since 1850and just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all emissions. Systemic change is pivotal in addressing both crises, and we will not achieve our goal without it.   

However, yes, we cannot walk alone. We must lend a hand to one another and foster our interconnected humanity. We must also lend a hand to nature: perhaps by getting our hands dirty and participating in regenerative agriculture, or perhaps by litter-picking on the beach. Overall, this year’s Refugee Week calls for the celebration of the synergy that is the foundation of life on Earth and the correlative actions and reactions of people and the planet.  

 

#TakeAction this Refugee Week by seeking out initiatives near you. KCL STAR is a student-led society at King’s, which hosts several voluntary projects. You can also get involved at King’s by supporting King’s Sanctuary Programme and King’s refugee sponsorship scheme

 

« Older posts