Category: Wellbeing (Page 1 of 2)

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!

Vegan Story #2 – Jessie Hardcastle

This guest blog comes courtesy of Jessie Hardcastle, staff member working as the Fit for King’s Manager within the Estates & Facilities Department. 

Jessie’s Vegan Story

When I joined King’s in June 2009 I quickly thought “what a wonderful place to work” – you know when you just find yourself looking forward to getting out of bed in the morning to see your colleagues? I knew this was my kind of place, filled with my kind of people.

10 years later in a very different job and working alongside completely different people I still think that. For lots of reasons. But certainly when Vision 2029 rolled out and the university announced that we are striving to make the world a better place all my personal values (which definitely also drive me at work) hummed happily.

Recently King’s has kept me humming happily even more than usual – because it doesn’t seem to matter which campus I’m on, I can find a vegan breakfast, vegan lunch and perhaps even more importantly – vegan cake for “elevensies”. I use to venture more onto the high street to find vegan options (there are plenty of options there too!) but frankly, the variety of options at King’s tends to be better.

I went vegan for a fairly common reason – I didn’t like the idea of killing an animal for a meal myself, and I didn’t want someone else to do it for me. And when I looked into it, other animal products were not separate to but part of that same industry.

This was a little over 18 years ago when I was still living in Auckland. Without wishing to sound like your plant-based-gran, I can’t help but tell you that “back in those days we didn’t have things nearly so easy.”

I remember one evening, not long after going vegan, I complained to my Mum the only thing I could eat in the fridge were three peppers. “At least there is a red, a green and a yellow one” she said!

Thankfully I enjoy a lot more variety than that now. And despite how that sounds, my family actually quickly became very supportive. I’ve also very rarely had any stigma from my friends and colleagues that wasn’t meant in good humour.

The biggest change in my life recently was giving birth to a baby girl in September 2018. I was secretly worried I might have a small baby that people would claim to be malnourished because of my vegan diet. Enter Charlotte Grace, weighing a whopping 9lb 14oz and quick to dispel that myth. Now a healthy sized toddler, she’s has a good appetite, definitely thriving and eating a wide variety of food. She shared some veggie sushi with me the other day, bravely trying new food without the bat of an eye. That might have been a different story if I’d includes the wasabi mind you.

Going vegan is so clearly linked with my other life choices, that how I spend my money, time and energy can help shape the world I want to live in. And for me, that includes working for an organisation that wants to make the world a better place.

Vegan Story #1 – Haz Feliks

This guest blog comes courtesy of Haz Feliks, staff member in the King’s Business School. Haz leads the King’s Business School digital education services, ensuring on-campus and off-campus programmes are supported in the development and delivery of e-learning content. They co-ordinate the technology-enhanced learning team working alongside CTEL to facilitate: academic and student engagement and co-design of the online learning environment, faculty and centre TEL initiatives for analysis, hardware and software solutions, baseline and template process, and bench-marking and school-wide change projects.

Previously a vegetarian for around 12 years I’ve now been vegan for just over five. I actually made the transition with a friend after speaking to what felt like must have been the only vegan in Aylesbury, a city of over fifty thousand people. There were the usual hurdles like not wanting to give up cheese and I still remember my surprise at the revelation that dairy wasn’t necessary for good health! It’s been an exciting and interesting journey and it now feels like everyone including businesses and institutions are trying it.

I find it hard to believe the growth and progress that has been made so far. I work in digital education and I’m an engineering enthusiast who’s very excited with the prospect of technology facilitating post animal agriculture and animal-free economies. I love to imagine the possibilities of a world that transitions to plant-based products and services to benefit animal welfare and the environments we all live in.
Vegan outreach has also been an ever-evolving part of my activities over the last three years. I have found working with others to take part in public conversation, vegan-friendly food promotion and event organising for the movement very rewarding. I do hope many more people make the move to living kindly in their own way, and that it benefits them as much as I think it has done my health and well-being.

Fetch Ur Veg – subscribe & volunteer

This guest blog comes courtesy of Helena Fazeli, Geography Undergraduate and part of the student team running Fetch Ur Veg. 

Local, seasonal, organic vegetables delivered straight to the Maughan  

FetchUrVeg is a student-run scheme that organises weekly deliveries of vegetable bags. For £7 you get a selection of 5 seasonal, local and organic vegetables – enough to provide the bulk of your weekly groceries. 

“I joined because I wanted to find an affordable way to buy my groceries whilst knowing they were from sustainable sources. After starting, I continued because I loved the small and wholesome community as well as cooking with vegetables I usually wouldn’t buy!” – Mia 

Why should you join?  

 1. SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS 

All vegetables are locally sourced, from independent producers. 

2. LOW CARBON 

What you get has therefore travelled less. 

 3. LOW FOOD WASTE 

Everything ordered is used up – help reduce our huge amounts of food waste. 

4. LOW PLASTIC WASTE 

Cut down on plastic packaging 

5. EAT MORE VEGETABLES!  

Eat a more plant-based diets and reduce your carbon footprint 

 6. TRY NEW INGREDIENTS 

Each week is a surprise assortment of vegetables – get creative with your cooking. 

 

How does it work?  

Signups open every two weeks, at which point you sign up for two weeks at a time —> Signups are open now (until 15/01) for the deliveries on the 22nd and 29th of January HERE – make sure to add two bags to your basket before checking out!) 

 

Want to get involved?  

We’re always looking for volunteers to come join us – even if just a few hours over the term. We have two volunteering shifts a week: 

 

The morning shift (9-11) takes place at Kentish Town vegbox and you’ll help pack all the bags. It’s a great way to spend two hours outside every week, connecting with like-minded people and helping support this wonderful community co-op. Morning volunteers are welcome to take any surplus vegetables home, as well as stay for a home-cooked meal at the end of the shift.  

For afternoon shifts (12-14) you’ll be stationed at the pickup location in the Maughan. 

If interested, fill out the form below HERE or get in touch! 

Green wall unveiled at Orchard Lisle & Iris Brook

The living wall is a pioneering project designed to filter air at the campus and enhance biodiversity. It contains 73 native and non-native species, and the plants have been carefully curated to provide year-round biodiversity impact. This includes 30 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) approved flowering species and 18 RHS approved pollinating species, which are proven to support an increased insect population. The wall is also designed to improve air quality, with variations in plant size allowing for air movement to pass through the foliage, which acts as an urban air filter. Plants with hairy, waxy or sticky leaves trap particulates like PM10 and PM2.5 and hold them until they are washed away by rain. The appearance of the wall is likely to change throughout the year, with different plants flowering, and species naturally evolving around the wall.

These are some of the plants you can spot on the wall: lavender, rosemary, holly, strawberry trees, sage, wildflowers, honeysuckle and sword ferns. The living wall is also home to several bird boxes, insect boxes, and even a bat box.

Rainwater from the rooftop will be collected and circulated through the wall to irrigate the plants, and the fyto-textile system that holds the plants allows the water to be distributed evenly through the living wall.

The living wall was funded through the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Business Fund, which has awarded £200,000 to create a Business Low Emissions Neighbourhood in the London Bridge area. The initiative is led by Team London Bridge and Better Bankside, and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, who own Orchard Lisle, will support the upkeep of the living wall.

To read more about the living wall, and to see the full planting plan, visit Team London Bridge.

Apps to Help You Go Green

Eco-Friendly Search Engines

Ecosia

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

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

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

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

Tackling Food Waste

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

Olio

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

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

Too good to go

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

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

Plastic Reduction

Refill

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

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

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

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

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

Sustainable Fashion

Good On You

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

Users can feedback and make requests of the brands.

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

Zero-Waste Beauty

During Sustainability Week 2019, we held two collaborative zero-waste beauty workshops with KCL Beauty Soc. Students got the chance to make their own zero-waste body scrub using used King’s Food coffee grounds, peppermint toothpaste and lip scrubs.

The recipes to each of these below, so you can make these at home too.

Coffee Body Scrub 
  • 1 Cup coffee grounds 
  • 1 Cup sugar 
  • 1/2 Cup fair trade coconut oil
  • Peppermint Oil (optional, add as many drops as you like)
  1. Soften or melt the coconut oil (coconut oil has melting point of 24 °C)
  2. Mix all ingredients together well and store in a re-usable, airtight container or mason jar.
Lip Scrub 
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 3/4 tablespoon of coconut oil 
  • 2 drops of lemon oil 
Toothpaste 
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil 
  • 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • Peppermint Oil (optional, add as many drops as you like) 

 

Cycle to Work Day

Wednesday 15 August is Cycle to Work Day, an annual celebration of cycling. The aim is to get people to cycle to work for at least one day, and encourage people who might not have cycled before to see how brilliant it can be. Pledge to cycle to work and win prizes!

To help you on Cycle to Work day we’ve put together some helpful hints and tips:

Before you ride

Plan your route: You can download brilliant apps like CycleStreets, which have been specially designed to plan the best routes for cyclists. You can choose your route based on whether you want quick, balanced or quieter routes, and they will even tell you how much CO2 you’ve avoided. Beware of using Google Maps, it can often give you the quickest routes, but might also send you down a busy motorway!

Take a class: Your local council will normally organise free cycling skills classes from beginner skills to practising out on the road and even cycling at night.

Track your ride: There are a multitude of apps you can use to track your ride from Strava and MapMyRide which can tell you everything from how many calories you’ve burnt, to how you compare to fellow cyclists in your area. Remember to link your fitness app to King’s Move to get rewards whenever you exercise.

Have the proper gear: Make sure you are wearing a helmet and protective clothing. Have lights on the front and back of your bike, especially when cycling at night and in winter.

On the road

Follow the rules of the road – don’t be tempted to run red lights, even if there is no one there.

Keep your eyes and ear open – Look to your left and right whenever you turn. Don’t wear headphones, hearing is crucial when you’re cycling.

If there isn’t a bike lane, stick to the middle of the road – don’t be afraid to make yourself big on the road, it’s much more dangerous to be cycling in the gutter.

Be careful on turns – never undertake, especially on turns. Large vehicles won’t be able to see you.

Once you’ve arrived

Park your bike securely: Check online to see where you can park your bike at King’s.

Need a shower? King’s has shower facilities at all our campuses.


Sophia Courtney, Sustainability Projects Assistant

How to find the least polluted route in London

This week, Spotlight featured the City Air app, developed by the Environmental Research Group at King’s. The app helps users find the least polluted route between two points in the city, using the ERG Nowcasts. You can read the Spotlight article and watch a short video on the app here.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nIf you want to find out more about air pollution in London, you can check out our three-part series on air pollution, featuring an interview with Tim Baker from the ERG.

You can try out a web version of the City Air app here.

 

“Space to Breathe” at Somerset House

Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.

BackPack2SmallThe exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.

BackpackSmall

Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack

One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!

CycleSmall

Cycling to run the bar

By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.

Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.

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