Category: Water (page 1 of 2)

Biodegradable reusable water bottles now available at King’s

King’s branded reusable water bottles are now available to purchase at King’s Food outlets from 2 October 2017.

These reusable plastic bottles are biodegradable, helping to further reduce our environmental impact and improving our sustainable catering. The King’s water bottles are available to purchase for £2.90.

BottleWe are supporting the #OneLess bottle campaign to reduce the amount of single-use water bottles that are used at King’s. Adults in the UK use almost 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year, which is approximately 150 per person. There are a number of water fountains at the university, and though disposable cups can be found at King’s Food outlets, staff and students are encouraged to bring their own reusable bottle or purchase one of the King’s reusable bottles.

This year there have been a number of other sustainability achievements at the university. King’s became a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and in August was awarded with Fairtrade University status. Fairtrade food and drink that is available to purchase at King’s Food venues includes tea and coffee, sugar, muffins, chocolate and more. Coffee cup recycling bins were also introduced across the university in September to tackle the issue that disposable cups cannot be recycled with standard mixed recycling or paper recycling.

Tips about eating and drinking sustainably can be found on our Sustainability pages. There is also a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group which meets regularly and is open to all. If you would like to find out more, please contact

King’s achieves ISO14001:2015 certification

King’s College London operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) across all campuses. In 2016, this system was externally audited at Strand Campus, and certified with the ISO14001:2015 standard.

This year, Estates & Facilities have worked to extend the certification to all campuses, including Residences and sports grounds. Following a successful external audit of all campuses, the Environmental Management System is now ISO14001:2015 certified across King’s Estates & Facilities. Professor Ed Byrne announced the great news at this year’s Sustainability Awards.

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

ISO14001 is an international standard which helps organisations use resources more efficiently and reduce waste. This achievement demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership for sustainability at King’s, which is apparent not only through the many initiatives underway, but through King’s Strategic Vision 2029, which has sustainability as one of the enabling foundations.

The EMS is at the heart of embedding sustainability at King’s, and takes a holistic view of the environmental impacts and risks arising from our activities. As well as minimising negative impacts, it drives improvement through identifying opportunities for King’s. One of the highlights noted in the audits were the opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. There is a lot of green space at our sports grounds, but even at our main campuses improvements have been made – such as the instalment of bird boxes and an insect hotel at Guy’s Campus.

BikeManMaughanLibrary420x280On achieving the certification, Nick O’Donnell (Acting Director of Estates & Facilities) said: “We’re delighted to receive the certification, and are very pleased to be recognised for the progress we are making in reducing our impacts. This is a fantastic achievement for all operational teams in Estates & Facilities and for our service partners, working across such a large and diverse organisation.”

Professor Edward Byrne speaks at the King’s Sustainability Awards 2017

On the 3rd July, the annual King’s Sustainability Awards took place at Strand Campus.

Professor Ed  Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.

His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:



“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.

So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.

So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.

As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].

We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.

Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.

Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.

Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.

I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].

This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.

Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.

In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.

In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”

Thames Plastic Lab

Until Sunday, the 11th June, Thames Plastic are taking over the Somerset House River Terrace with their Thames Plastic Lab.

Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo and a group of volunteers (including Thames21, King’s staff, and students during our Sustainability Week) have collected plastic from the beaches of the Thames. They have then spent a few weeks at Canada Water, washing the plastic so it can be used. plastic lab poster

Now, the project has reached the next stage: sorting it by colour so it can be used in an art installation as part of the Thames Festival.

The Thames Plastic Lab is  a collaboration between King’s College London’s Departments of Chemistry and Geography, the Royal Society of Chemistry and artist Maria Arceo, supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. Throughout this week, they are inviting the public to come along and learn what kind of plastic ends up in the Thames, how it gets there, and what you can do. You can also pick a piece of plastic and ask for it to be analysed! In the end, all the plastic from the workshops will be turned into an art installation to raise awareness for the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. The Plastic Lab has been a great success so far, you can see pictures of the event on Twitter.

The Thames Plastic Lab will remain open until the 11th June.

Opening times are:

9th June: 16:00-18:00

10th-11th June: 11:00-18:00

More information can be found here. Make sure to drop in!


Our neighbours from Hubbub are currently also running their own campaign to combat plastic waste in the Thames. With #FFSLDN (For Fish’s Sake London, don’t drop litter!), they are trying to engage Londoners in a conversation about our littering habits.

UNSDG #14For example, do you know what tidy littering is? It’s leaving your rubbish next to a bin, on top of an overflowing bin, or on a wall or ledge. It might seem innocent, but rubbish often falls off, gets blown away, and ultimately ends up in our great river. 300 tonnes of litter are cleared from the Thames every year – showing how important things like the Thames Plastic project are. Ultimately, plastic pollution becomes a very real problem for people. It is estimated that 70% of fish in the Thames have plastic in their guts, and plastic increasingly makes its way into our diets through fish that have swallowed small pieces of plastic. So next time you drop a piece of plastic, make sure it’s in a recycling bin!

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

It’s Coffee Week!

This week is UK Coffee Week, so we are taking the chance to talk about some of the great sustainability things happening in the coffee world. The industry often gets bad press, with environmentally damaging and exploitative farming methods, and often wasteful habits at the consumption end (disposable coffee cups, anyone?).

Luckily, there are now many initiatives trying to improve this image, and make the industry more sustainable. Last weekend I visited the London Coffee Festival, and picked up a few interesting things:

UK Coffee Week:

Rather than just an excuse to drink lots of coffee (not that we need an excuse for that…), this is a week-long fundraising campaign by coffee shops all over the country. Participating coffee shops raise money for Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water to coffee-growing communities. Coffee is water-intensive to grow, but those growing it often have little access to clean water and sanitation. So far, the project has raised £600,000 and provided clean drinking water to over 24,000 people. Find out more about coffee shops taking part on this map.

Fairtrade and more:

Coffee production is often exploitative and environmentally damaging, but it seems both coffee shops and customers are looking for ways to change this. Among the many coffee shops selling Fairtrade coffee, there are a few that have set up their own, direct trading schemes. As part of the festival, Union Coffee delivered a talk on how they make sure their coffee is from sustainable sources. This includes working with the same producers over many years, paying a premium on top of Fairtrade prices, and training employees to audit their supply chain. Many see this as a win-win situation: farmers receive a stable income and are able to improve their produce to sell it for higher prices in the future, and buyers have reliable sources and increasingly better products. While this might only work as long as consumers are happy to pay higher prices for premium products, it is certainly an interesting new direction.. Other coffee roasters sourcing their coffee directly from producers are Pact Coffee or Cafédirect.

Ditch the disposable cup

Following a lot of media attention in the last few months, disposable coffee cups were a big topic. Hubbub and Simply Cups took their Square Mile Challenge to the London Coffee Festival, installing three of their iconic yellow cup-bins, as well as smaller bins and posters around the venue. With significant quantities of disposable cups given out during the festival, the bins were in high demand!

As well as using the cup recycling facilities, visitors could hear about alternatives to disposable paper cups. Biodegradable and compostable cups were on show, as well as many reusable coffee cups. If you have been to the cafés on campus, you have probably seen the King’s College London KeepCups on sale. They were represented at the London Coffee Festival, and showed off the impressive number of universities that sell branded reusable cups on campus. With many companies now offering reusable cups in all shapes and sizes, disposable cups will hopefully be a thing of the past!

Social Media card - 1Interested to know what happens at King’s? The Maughan Library is currently taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, which is aiming to recycle 500,000 coffee cups by the end of April. If you are having coffee there, make sure you look out for the special coffee cup bins (and watch this space for future developments on other campuses)! King’s Food also offer a discount on hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup. King’s is also working towards becoming a certified Fairtrade University.


World Food Day Blog Post Banner - Wendela SvdL

One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in destructive weather events, such as floods and hurricanes.

At the same time, the global population is growing steadily at a rate of 1.13% per year (this is currently estimated to be an average change of 80 million people per year!). Global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. There is a constant increase in the number of mouths to feed and the world’s resources are struggling to meet such a heavy demand.

According to the World Bank, the number of impoverished people will grow from the current 702 million to around a billion by 2030. Out of this increase, 100 million will become poor solely because of food price increases caused by climatic change. Agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions.

Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

This is why this year’s global message for World Food Day 2016 is:World Food Day Theme - Wendela SvdL

World Food Day Blog Post - Wendela SvdLAt the UN Sustainable Development summit in September 2015, 193 countries pledged to end hunger in the next 15 years. With unprecedented speed and breakthroughs such as the US and China’s ratification, the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change is set to enter into force. This also entails the global goal for achieving zero hunger by 2030 – an ambitious goal and one that cannot be reached without addressing climate change.

Our collective task is now to turn commitments into action on the ground. Everyone has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change; even individuals such as yourself – staff and students at King’s – can make a difference. We shouldn’t be waiting around for countries to act but

start living by the change we want to see in the world.

Here are a number of easy actions that you can take to help improve the shocking reality of our consumption behaviour (source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

Number 1 - Wendela SvdL

Did you know livestock contributes to nearly two thirds of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 78% of agricultural methane emissions? By being a conscientious and ethical consumer and changing simple day-to-day habits such as your meat consumption, little effort on your part can have an impact on a larger scale! Start by trying to eat one all-veggie meal (including pulses like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas) instead of one meat meal a week. Way more natural resources are used to produce the meat on the supermarket shelves than plants or pulses, especially water! Millions of acres of rainforest are also slashed and burned to create grass pastures for livestock, so that we can eat a burger… Say no to your weekly steak and discover some new meals that might surprise you!

Number 2 - Wendela SvdL

Over 1/3 of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. That equates to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. All this food waste causes methane to be emitted during the rotting process, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide! Whenever you have leftovers, don’t throw them away! Ask for a doggy bag and bring last night’s dinner for lunch into work/lectures. In supermarkets, pick the ugly fruit and vegetables that might otherwise go to waste, if you are using it that same day. Funny fruit and veg are often thrown away because they don’t meet cosmetic standards, but in fact, they taste the same! There are also some great ways to share your food with others who may be hungry. OLIO is an app that allows you to connect with people who may have a surplus of something and allows you to share your surplus with (other) hungry students.

Number 3 - Wendela SvdLDeforestation and forest degradation account for an estimated 10-11% of global GHG emissions. In the digital age that we live in, there is no need for King’s to be printing as much as it does. Collect scrap paper and use it for drawing and notes. At the start of the new academic year, shop for notebooks made out of recycled paper! When you buy paper – printer paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. – make sure they are forest-friendly and try to buy furniture that is made from sustainably sourced timber. Little things like that can reduce our environmental footprint and make a big difference.

For more tips on what you can do to improve food security in the future, check out the U.N.’s pages on World Food Day, 2016! Enjoy some meat-free meals and have a great weekend!

KCL Sustainability: Green Labs

While King’s has been greatly investing in its broad sustainability agenda, there has also been a drive to innovate in our laboratories. Despite covering just over 10% of our floor space, our labs are spread across all 4 campuses and use a disproportionately large amount of energy and water, as well as produce dangerous chemical waste.

To address this untapped area, Kings has invested in over the past 18 months in a post to lead in this area as well as invested in the projects highlighted. Here are just some of the scheme’s we’ve recently implemented to improve the efficiency of King’s labs.

 Savawatt Installations

This £38,000 installation project saw 584 Savawatt controls being installed into our research fridges and freezers which saves about £15,000 each year (and roughly 68 tonnes of CO2) meaning it pays back its cost in about 2.5 years.

Green Impact: Lab Sustainability Champions

Just like in our King’s offices, our lab staff take part in an awards programme which helps reduce energy, water and general waste across the labs. They also get audited for their work at the end of greeni_logoeach year for an award promoting an environment of commitment to sustainability.

This year 20 teams are participating which is the most laboratory teams for any university in the UK.

Drying Cabinet Exchange

33 old uninsulated drying cabinets were consolidated and replaced by 28 insulated efficient models, paying back our investment in 4 years and achieving £15,000 of annual savings.

blogfumecup Fume Cupboard Management Policy

Already applied to new fume cupboard installations, this technical policy will take over a year to implement but will result in hundreds of thousands of pounds saved!

Cold Storage Policy

Our laboratories are subject to a ‘Cold Storage Policy’ which is used at other universities such as Oxford amongst others. This promotes efficient, safe and sustainable practise for using the research laboratory fridges and freezers.

Current/Future Endeavours

  • Continued installation and refurbishment of fume cupboards and ventilations systems
  • Introduction of Warp-it system for redistributing unwanted resources warpitamong other institutions such as UCL who have been very successful with the system
  • Joint UCL/KCL procurement mini-tenders

 More to come!

Look to our case studies on our labs page for summaries of all the above projects and plenty more to come, including a variety of small projects lead by local lab staff (timer installations, equipment exchanges, UPS installation, freezer warm-ups, waterless condensers and more).

If interested in our growing collection of case studies see here:

You can also contact our Research Efficiency Officer Martin Farley (

Water Saving Week 2016

Hey All

meFirstly thanks to everyone who contribute or came along to a fantastic Green Week. Our surveys showed there’s a desire to improve King’s food sustainability which we will discussing and as soon as solid plans are known we will make them public here and elsewhere.

Secondly I’m Charles Pegg, the new Sustainability Projects Assistant here at King’s taking over from Rhianne Menzies.

watersavingweeklogoWater Saving Week

Next week, starting Monday the 21st of March we’re celebrating water saving week.

Water saving week is hosted by Waterwise and this is its second year. This year it has partnered with Watersafe, more information can be found on their official site here.

From 1pm to 2pm on Tuesday the 22nd we are having a talk co-organised with students in the KCL Geography department:

Water @ King’s: Work and Research

An event outlining water sustainability at King’s both in regards to how the university operates and its transitioning to more efficient water use, as well as the sorts of water sustainability and security research the geography department is active in.conderser

A great example of pioneering water saving techniques in research spaces is our recent purchase of new waterless condensers. When employed, they can save 1.5 million litres of water per year. Kings is proud to be one of the first institutions making use of such technologies.

When: Tuesday 22nd March, 13:00 to 14:00pm

Where: Pyramid Room, 4th floor, K4U.04, King’s building, Strand

Feel free to come along, there will be time at the end for questions.

The Facebook event page is here

Student Auditors Wanted:

We have a unique opportunity available for those free on Thursday March 31st. We are in need of auditors to be trained in reviewing the work our staff sustainability champions have been doing this past year. By doing this you can:

  • Make King’s a more sustainable environment
  • Gain transferable skills and knowledge associated with auditing which are sought after both in the environmental sector and beyond
  • Improve their CV with valuable skills
  • Have a fun day learning these skills with like-minded students
  • Do a course that’s IEMA approved
  • Learn more about everyday and workplace sustainability issues

If you consider yourself thoroughly interested you can email me at or the sustainability team at

Remember you can keep up to date with King’s Sustainability news on our

Facebook Page

Twitter (@Greenreggie)

Tales of an Aspiring Sustainable Citizen

[This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Robert Zlokower, a MSc student in Sustainable Cities. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]
Humble beginnings

The rainy monsoon season.

This was when the ancient ‘sangha’ – as the Buddhist community was and still is called – would settle down, coming together in huts or shelters to meditate and study together.

We are like them. The rainy season marked a change in the climate. And the settlement is like our campus. But rather than paralyse from fear or deny the climate, the sangha used it as a time to grow together. The same applies to today.

Climate change is the best thing to happen to humanity.

At no other time have we had such a clear knowledge of our potential apocalypse than now. When past speculations may have been based on visions and scriptures, today’s predictions are based on scientific evidence. So we really know what we’re up against.

So too do we know the solution: a society based on sustainable principles and technology. A society based not on war, but on working together for the common good. Technology that we actually already have, but just hasn’t been diffused enough yet. The sun’s increasing UV rays are actually a golden chance for humanity to band together. In order to save ourselves, we must commit to the biggest act of selflessness – that is saving nature.

This obstacle is an opportunity.

The 1968 photo of Earth from space ignited consciousness of humanity as ‘global’ and fuelled environmental movements. For sustainability, action is taken not only on a global scale, but also at national, city, community and citizen-levels. To be completely upfront, I’m only in the humble beginnings of sustainable citizenship. My desire started out of frustration when I went to B&Q home supply a few years ago to get a solar-PV panel for my shed, and the staff replied, “a what panel?” I was working in media at the time, managing a forum for the world’s opinion-leaders to debate sustainability, climate change and dwindling resources. I wanted to put these global problems into practical on-the-ground solutions.

Much of my activity is actually daydreaming. Any D-I-Y I undertake generally results in excessive man hours made up of swearing and broken timber (both accidental and purposeful). And as an impoverished student, I can barely afford a discounted pint at the student union, let alone investment in low-carbon technologies. Still, I’ve been inspired to have a go, so at least that’s a start. Here’s what I’m personally looking into as an aspiring sustainable citizen….

The boat life

I recently moved off-grid onto a narrowboat in the canal. I cruise along the Regents Canal and Lea River.


The rooftop solar-PV array

I had the boat fitted with solar photovoltaic panels to charge my on-board batteries. This in turn powers my lights (mainly LED), water-pump and most appliances. To conserve energy, I try to keep to 12-volt appliances, and I leave my fridge off in the winter (I cool perishables either next to my water tank or on my deck). I periodically take on board drinking water from water points along the canal. I’d like to look into collecting and filtering rainwater from my roof. So with limited electric and water on board, I need to be consciously frugal with my resources. Or use my resources wisely – for example, when I cruise the boat, the engine heats the water tank, so it’s the perfect opportunity to later take a shower and wash the dishes.

My engine, apparently the same as in a London taxi, runs off of diesel. At some point, I’d like to explore an alternative fuel, for example used Cooking Oil. In the meantime, every time I run the generator for a high wattage appliance, I’m reminded by the noise and fumes that I’m sucking up fossil fuels. When you turn on your electric iron, are you aware that a power plant somewhere in the distance is guzzling up in 2 and a half minutes a finite resource that took a 2 and half million years to produce?


And the beautiful rooftop garden

For heat, I have a solid-fuel stove. I collect wood chips for kindling from the rubbish heap of a woodcutter at a local hardware store. And I saw spare wood from a local city farm in exchange for volunteering as a gardener. The volunteer work also garnered me a discount with the locally-sourced vegetable service.

I got a composting toilet fitted, so I don’t need water to flush and I can convert the waste to fertilizer. I also have bokashi bins to compost food waste. Eventually I would like to use these wastes to fertilize the canal towpath or my garden on the rooftop, where I also store my bicycle (Btw, King’s College buildings have showers, which helps after long-distance cycling!). I’d like to explore building a small chicken-coup into the front deck of the boat.

Living the canal life means I’m usually surrounded by nature – marshes, woodland, fields, swans, geese, ducks, fish. It helps me as a city-dweller appreciate planet earth. And without a TV on board, I’m no longer brainwashed from TV commercials to buy useless junk that wouldn’t even fit in my little abode anyway!

I’m interested in applying for a mooring at a sustainable narrowboat community in a basin in East London. In the meantime, due to canal regulations I must change moorings every 2 weeks, which actually pushes me to explore a different neighbourhood every time (perfect for a KCL geography student such as myself!).

My goal with this boat is to get as close as possible to being an off-grid self-sufficient microcosm. I also own a house in East London that I’m renting out, but I eventually would like to convert it into a carbon-neutral bed & breakfast – replete with solar-PV panels and batteries, rainwater collection, composting toilet and composting boxes in an urban garden and whatever else I can do to make it off-grid like the narrowboat. A friend warned me I should watch out that someone might steal my ideas. I say bless the thief! If he can kick-start some sustainability quicker than me, then my hat’s off to him!

I’m inspired by Dick & James Strawbridge’s “Practical Self Sufficiency: The Complete Guide to Sustainable Living.” But to be honest, I really could do with a bit of help! At least it’s an opportunity to make some friends and have fun getting creative.

Sitting here in the boat typing this blog post, the rain pattering my steel rooftop, I’m reminded of the sangha, settling from sweeps of rain splashing their huts. I look out my window; a swan floats along night-time waters. Does the swan think about climate change the same way I do? Does she realise it’s a chance for unselfishness, compassion, camaraderie and fun?

The swan dunks her head into the water.


– Robert Zlokower (

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