Category: Waste (Page 1 of 5)

King’s is re-certified with the international standard ISO14001 for our environmental management system

This update is brought to you by Nicola Hogan, King’s Sustainability Manager for Operations.


King’s was recently re-certified with the international standard ISO14001 for our environmental management system.

For those of you not familiar with the international standard, it provides a framework that the King’s Estates and Facilities team can follow for guidance on best environmental practice, and subsequently submit evidence of their environmental performance. The system and its evidence are then audited by an external auditor for certification to the standard.

The recertification was awarded by NQA after one of their auditors carried out a 6-day external audit of 4 of our sites (Bush House, Guy’s Campus, Honor Oak Park and Great Dover Street Apartments). He also audited our various EMS documents, for further evidence of adherence to the ISO:140001 standard.

The auditor, who has audited King’s before and knows the campus quite well, was particularly impressed with the extent to which we communicate with staff and students via social media and newsletter. Being re-certified with this standard is important to King’s as it confirms our operations have considered their impact on the environment, minimised it where practicable and that we remain compliant with relevant legislation year on year.

An example of reduced impact on the environment includes evidencing that our recycling rates have improved and our bins are not contaminated, that our buildings source their energy from solar panels, that several of our lightings are LED and that lights and electrical equipment are not left on unnecessarily. The auditor also interviewed various staff at each site and commented on how knowledgeable everyone was about how their sites operated.

Aside from physical evidence, the auditor also needed to see that we were keeping important and relevant documentation up to date, that we were making changes in line with changes in legislation and that external global activities such as climate change, COP26, COVID and fuel supply shortages had been considered. Examples of such documents are our list of objectives and targets, our compliance register, our aspects and interested parties, and an up-to-date Environmental and Sustainable Policy that refers to the EMS.

The Sustainability Team are delighted at being re-certified but agree that we should not rest on our laurels. While our overall score was very good, the auditor identified several areas that he considered ‘opportunities for improvement’. The wider estates and facilities teams will be working hard to make those improvements and to identify where we can make further changes that will reduce our carbon footprint further. We will be audited again in March 2023, and have already started preparing for another successful audit. 

So if you are wondering what you can do to contribute to a smaller carbon footprint, feel free to send suggestions to Sustainability@kcl.ac.uk. Alternatively, if you see resources being wasted across the estate, e-mail ask@kcl.ac.uk.

New student-led initiative: Freecycle

King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability are trialling a new initiative this year called Freecycle. Items such as bedding and cookware will be donated by current residences and reused by students moving in after summer. The goal is to minimise waste while providing students with essentials without a price tag. Tasks will include sorting out and distributing items. Volunteers will be able to call dibs on certain items and there might be free food involved. If interested, please fill out this form to receive more information.

This is initiative has been led by Kindness Ezekwe who is a BSc Accounting and Finance student at King’s Business School and part of the Students & Education subgroup of King’s Climate Action Network.

Sustainability Month 2022: a true celebration

What a month! Throughout February, we welcomed hundreds of people to more than 20 social and educational events focused on taking action around the Sustainable Development Goals. Organised by students, staff members, and alumni from across disciplines, this month was a true celebration of the breadth of sustainability and the King’s community’s involvement in it.

We learned to reflect on our stories in the climate and nature crisis and got inspired to take action in the events on volunteering, recycled glass, plant-based diets, and greener ways to grow your veg. We learned how we might address the climate crisis from a policy perspective, what digital start-ups can do to advance the SDGs, and what some of the main inequality issues are in South Korea. The interconnectedness of environmental and social sustainability was highlighted during the panel for climate justice and the event on the climate crisis and refugees, and we learned how we might go about translating that into education. The Shots for Hope exhibition and the Visions for the Future workshop series helped us to stay hopeful in the face of the climate crisis.

The month brought people together socially in events such as the sustainability quiz night, stitch and pitch, and the show the love campaign, as well as professionally in the interdisciplinary sustainability research forum and the London Student Sustainability Conference. The events on careers in sustainability helped students explore the breadth of what this means for their future.

If you missed an event, you can find the event recordings here. Not all recordings have been uploaded yet, but we aim to do so as soon as possible. We will also be posting event summaries and reflections on our blog over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those. If you have any feedback you would like to share, please fill out this feedback form. If you would like to write a blog post on an event you organised or attended, feel free to get in touch.

Too Good To Go from King’s Food

This guest blog comes courtesy of Ellie Blackmore, Marketing & Content Coordinator for King’s Food.


For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, half a kilogram of food is wasted. Whether that’s scraps, leftovers or food past it’s Best Before date, it’s a growing problem, especially in the capital.

Graphic showing a paper bag with the Too Good To Go logo and below text reading "We've got magic bags that need rescuing. Download Too Good To Go to save a meal today"Many individual restaurants are taking a stand against food waste with the help of charities and businesses aimed at tackling the problem. At King’s Food, we recently teamed up with Too Good To Go – an app that allows users to reserve a ‘Magic Bag’ of food from restaurants all over the UK, for 1/3 of the retail price.

 

Too Good To Go was founded in 2015 and now has 7.2 million users across Europe and North America, with 8.2 million Magic Bags being rescued so far. According to Too Good To Go, “saving one Magic Bag from being wasted saves 2.5kg of CO2 equivalent – the same as would be produced by charging 320 smartphones” – that’s a lot of CO2 for a bag of croissants and sandwiches! While it was disappointing to not see food waste feature more at COP26, businesses are taking this issue into their own hands. Not only does food waste cost the environment; it costs businesses money too. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Program), food waste from UK restaurants adds up to £682 million a year.

Too Good To Go offers an innovative way to not only prevent food waste, but help restaurants cut some of their losses too, something that is all too important after the pandemic took its toll on the hospitality industry. The app is used by some of the biggest names in London convenience food – Pret, Starbucks, Greggs and Costa. Delicate pastries and baked goods from places that would normally be out of a student’s budget are more accessible via the app too – try the famous brownies from Konditor, decadent cheesecakes from Orèe and seeded spelt rolls from Planet Organic.

So, how do you use it? It’s so simple to help reduce food waste and get a discounted meal from your favourite restaurant!Picture of a paper bag with a croissant, apple, sandwich, and a breakfast pot. Download the app here and search for your favourite restaurant or cafe in your local area. King’s Food has 9 outlets listed across all campuses. Since joining the app in August 2021, 211 Magic Bags have been rescued from our cafes. On top of this, our outlets offer 50% off food that’s about to hit its Best Before date, 30 minutes before closing. So, if you’re not after a whole bag of goodies, you can head to Chapters (Strand), Wohl Cafe (Denmark Hill), or any of our cafes to grab a bite right before they close.

Reducing food waste in these ways is the best of both worlds – food doesn’t go to waste, and you don’t go hungry on the journey home. All while saving money. Bon appétit!


Note: Magic Bag and 50% off stock depends on availability. Some days, there is no stock left to reduce – this is a good thing! Less stock leftover = less waste.

 

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: Grant funded – ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens’

This guest blog comes from Julie Allen, Energy Manager at King’s.

In June 2020, KCL (along with Arizona State University, Dublin City University and City University of Hong Kong) submitted a grant application to GCSO (Global Consortium of Sustainability Outcomes) for a proposal to create a Certification for Sustainable Kitchens – and we got the grant!

In March this year, our interim findings were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, in a paper entitled ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens: a systems approach for a More Sustainable Food Service Sector.’

I’m a published Author!

To break it down, here is a little background.

I have many years of experience in the commercial catering sector. There are always efforts to address food waste, OR energy consumption, OR water consumption, but never anything to look at the whole life cycle of the food going through a commercial kitchen. So that’s what we did. Our role at King’s was to provide energy consumption data from King’s Kitchen (which is excellently managed!). We also had to manage the expectations of our colleagues in other universities, as there can be a huge difference between theory and practice.

The paper looks at the impact of food on the climate – from the water used to grow the food, the transportation carbon miles, the energy to grow and prepare it, the amount of waste generated (not only from food preparation but also packaging) – and an analysis of a particular meal from field to fork. It’s been a fascinating journey looking at how different countries, organisations and sectors produce and sell food, even down to expectations around metering (we were asked to meter each tap until I explained it would take the whole grant!).

It’s been a fantastic journey, which isn’t over yet – we’ve had an extension until December 2021, so watch this space for further developments!

If you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch.

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

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

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

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

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

Reduce

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

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

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

Consolidate autoclave runs. Does it only run when full?

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

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

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

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

Reuse

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

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

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

Recycle

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

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

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

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

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

One step further

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

Take away messages

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) at King’s

King’s Environmental Management System (EMS): ISO14001.

In April 2020, King’s was successfully re-accredited with the Environmental Management System (EMS) ISO14001. If you’re wondering what that is exactly, it’s an internationally recognised accreditation scheme that acknowledges how efficiently and sustainably an organisation is managed.

The organisation in this instance is King’s College London and the efficient and sustainable management is managed by the Sustainability Team with actions carried out by the wider Estates and Facilities team.

The EMS works on the principal of ‘taking concerted action for continual improvement’ – so similar to making improvements with anything in life – King’s will gather baseline data of its operations, identify where improvements can be made and then take action to continually improve those operations.

Evidence of good environmental performance is documented for both hard services (maintenance of electrics, plumbing, HVAC, etc) and soft services (cleaning, catering, security etc). The EMS also looks at existing operational procedures, ensuring actions are carried out safely and efficiently, thereby avoiding any negative environmental impacts. Examples include the correct procedure for composting of cut grass and tree trimmings from the sports fields, a procedure for storing fuels (oils, diesel and petrol) and for monitoring their use and the storage and use of chemicals etc.

An EMS also looks at how we communicate with stakeholders, examines our plans and policies for leadership, planning, staff training and ensures King’s are at all times legally compliant with environmental legislation.

If you’re wondering how you can support King’s ongoing ISO14001 accreditation, becoming a Sustainability Champion is a great start! Being an active Sustainability Champion who contributes to existing sustainability projects will ensure the College is continually improving. The engagement hours of staff and student activities are reported in a bi-annual EMS review meeting, and quiet often, Sustainability Champion projects overlap with operational activities for clean air, carbon and energy reduction and community engagement. This is an ideal opportunity for student sustainability champions to get some ‘real world experience’ which of course can be added to their C.V.

Outside of being a Sustainability Champion, the most effective way of supporting King’s EMS is simply for individuals to live more sustainably. Every individual act of sustainability on campus has a direct impact on operations – particularly those associated with energy and waste. As energy consumption and waste remain the College’s top environmental negative aspects, all efforts made to reduce both will help King’s reach our target of being Net Zero Carbon by 2025.

Below are tips on how to live more sustainably.

  1. Become a Sustainability Champion.
  2. Reduce your intake of meat consumption – consider having it only once a week. Even better consider going vegan.
  3. Walk, Cycle safety where possible and of course, weather permitting.
  4. Dress for the weather; wear warmer layers during winter and cooler clothing during the summer.
  5. Switch off electrical devices when not in use and plug out chargers when not charging a device.
  6. Dispose of waste in the correct bin – either the food bin, recycling bin or general waste.
  7. Use reusable coffee cups when ordering coffee to go – it’s cheaper too and perfectly safe!
  8. Grow a plant(s) in your room /office/home.
  9. Join any of the various King’s sustainable societies – plenty of sustainability actions can be done online and outdoors obeying the ‘space and face rules’
  10. Shop sustainably – either from a charity shop or from an accredited ethical and sustainable company. Preferably a local one too.

 

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

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

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

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

What is intersectional environmentalism?

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

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

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

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

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

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

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

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

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