Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017. The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon.
King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.
The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university.
We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change:
Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.
We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here.
The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the sustainability webpages. To join the network, please register your interest here.
To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.
If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):
Finally, make sure to get in touch with us at email@example.com if you have any questions/ideas – and make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Newsletter to keep updated on events, volunteering opportunities and more!
This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!
We are excited to announce that following our Fairtrade Audit in May, King’s and KCLSU have officially been awarded Fairtrade University status!
As you can read in our last blog post, King’s is part of a new scheme led by the Fairtrade Foundation and the NUS, and this was our first year of being audited. Our target was to get accredited and earn one star this year, which we have achieved.
Our Fairtrade University accreditation is valid for two years, but that doesn’t mean we’ll lean back now. We’re already working on updating our Fairtrade policy, will continue our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group remotely soon (get in touch with us if you would like to join!), and are starting to put together an action plan to achieve our second star in the next audit.
King’s has been an accredited Fairtrade University since 2017, when we re-certified after a few years of not taking part in the scheme. As part of the Fairtrade University scheme, we passed a new Fairtrade policy (as well as a Sustainable Food one), and set up our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group. Many sustainability initiatives around food were first discussed in this Steering Group, and the Fairtrade University award pushed us to look at how we could improve further.
So when the Fairtrade Foundation and NUS teamed up to revamp the award scheme and run it jointly, we signed up to be in their 2018-20 cohort.
The new scheme asked us to go beyond the five commitments outlined in the original programme, and focus on five areas of action:
It also required us to create a Fairtrade Action Plan, which is available on the King’s website here.
As part of the new Fairtrade University scheme, we made lots of improvements over the last two years. All coffee and tea served by King’s Food was already Fairtrade-certified, and in the case of coffee, also organic and Rainforest Alliance-certified. But when it comes to other products, King’s Food have increased the amount of Fairtrade ranges they sell. For example, orange juice sold by King’s Food is now Fairtrade-certified. While they have previously sold Fairtrade snacks like brownies and cookies, many of the cakes you find in King’s Food cafés are made on site by chefs now. Since last year, Fairtrade cocoa is being used to make these treats. During Fairtrade Fortnight, they also introduced Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate at their outlets, with the team from Tony’s coming along to hand out samples. The Fairtrade University Award is a joint programme between King’s and KCLSU, so KCLSU have also made improvements to their sourcing. The drawstring bags on sale at Nought are made from Fairtrade cotton, and KCLSU even serve Fairtrade rum at some venues.
We have also started including questions about Fairtrade and Sustainable Food in our induction survey in King’s Residences, results of which you can find on our Fairtrade page. In addition, we welcome students doing dissertations on Fairtrade and ethical trade issues at King’s, and are happy to support students wishing to carry out research on this with access to data. We also supported staff member Rebecca Brown in setting up the Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA), a new association between universities which aims to bring the issue of sustainability and labour exploitation in supply chains into the public conscious. In March 2019, King’s hosted the inaugural UAMSA conference, which was a great success. You can read more about UAMSA in this blog post by a student volunteer who helped organise the conference.
Previously, the Fairtrade Foundation audited the universities – but under the new scheme, students are trained by the NUS to become auditors. Four King’s students were chosen to audit King’s this year, and in late May, carried out an audit of King’s by interviewing members of the Sustainability and King’s Food teams. We are now awaiting their final report, and are looking forward to hearing how we have done!
Many of our initiatives around Fairtrade and sustainable food, including sourcing of new products, our coffee cup levy and donation of leftover packaged food were discussed in our Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group over the last couple of years. The group is attended by the Sustainability team, King’s Food and KCLSU, as well as any interested students and staff members. There is an open invitation to join the group meetings, which take place every three months. To get an invite to the next meeting (likely to take place online at the end of July), email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are excited to announce that our 2018-19 Environmental Sustainability Report is now available. It showcases the wide range of sustainability initiatives at King’s, and reports back on our sustainability commitments and targets. You can read the full report on the King’s website.
King’s was ranked 9th in the world in the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking. The ranking, which was first released in 2019, measures universities’ societal impact and work towards achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At King’s, we use the SDGs to illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the term ‘sustainability’, looking beyond only environmental sustainability and including social and economic sustainability. We are a signatory of the SDG Accord, and both the Environmental Sustainability Report and Service Report use the SDGs as a framework to show how our initiatives are making an impact.
The THE Impact Ranking looks at various measures of how universities contribute towards all 17 SDGs. This includes research, education, as well as policies and initiatives run by the university. For each university, the three SDGs it scored highest in are counted towards the ranking, as well as Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. For King’s, the SDGs we contributed most towards are:
For Goal 17, King’s was ranked 4th in the world, highlighting the impact of our partnerships across the world, as well as our reporting against the SDGs. We have also maintained a high rating for our contribution to Goal 3, ranking 11th in the world. This is a testimony to our medical research, education, as well as initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Our biggest increase in score this year was for Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. As well as research and education, sustainable practices and our contribution to arts and heritage have significant impact on our score in this category. This includes encouraging sustainable campus to travel, as well as following sustainability standards for new buildings. Free-to-visit exhibition spaces like the Science Gallery, the Arcade at Bush House or the Exchange at Bush House North East Wing are also highlighted in this part of the ranking.
We are proud to have maintained our top ten position in the ranking this year, particularly as the number of universities taking part increased from 462 to 766. You can find the full THE Impact Rankings 2020 here.
Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around how to ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside students, student societies, staff Sustainability Champions and charities, put on events with the aim to educate and inspire around various topics relating to sustainability (whether that be social, environmental or economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!
We had a total of 522 people come to take part in the events throughout the week.
Here is a summary of some of the events we had throughout the week…
GeogFest’ was a charity event for King’s staff and students, organised by GeogSoc and the Geography Sustainability Champions to raise money for the International Tree Foundation.
There was entertainment from the Worn out Shoes ceilidh band formed by academics from across the Geography department, PhD candidate George Warren and a dance materclass by UG student Pia Fletcher.
There was a live count of the money raised through the night, in total the Geography department raised £243.38 for the ITF, which will be used to help offset the flights from second year Portugal and Morocco fieldwork trips.
Gathered in the KCLSU zero-waste store, Nought, 24 students got together to learn how to make their own zero-waste lip balms (recipe here – made without the honey) and how to crochet their own face scrubbie, instructed by King’s Energy Manager and star crafter, Julie Allen.
During sustainability week, Nought held a competition to win a zero-waste hamper for all those who spent over £10 – so this event was also a chance for the students to stock up on their essentials to be in with a chance to win!
Artist and Goldsmiths University student, Margaret Jennings came to Kings to deliver ‘A Green Threaded Corridor: Tree Art Workshop’. The workshop started with a conversation about our natural environment in the middle of Guy’s campus memorial garden and an insight into Margaret’s background and artwork. This was followed by a silent walk around the gardens, taking notice of the trees and life which surrounds them.
Natural materials from the gardens were gathered and used in the art section of the workshop. The art was inspired by our individual tree stories (e.g. a cherry tree in a grandfathers garden or the grief you feel when a tree is cut down) – the art could be painting, drawing, poems. These were passed around and altered by others – as a comment to nature and its ever evolving state.
The art and poems created in the workshop will form the body of Margaret’s research at Goldsmiths university – alongside other university and community group tree stories.
The event ended with planting a Birch sapling on Guys Campus gifted by Goldsmiths University. This will form part of a tree corridor, as King’s will be mirroring this by gifting an Alder tree to Goldsmiths University.
See the blog post below, for an event summary from the Director and Researcher of the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.
King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society ran a vegan sushi class at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA) café. Over 30 students came to learn how to make their vegan sushi from scratch – how to cook the perfect sushi rice, prepare the vegetables, tofu or tempeh and do the perfect sushi roll.
They gave attendees an overview of what the circular economy is, and what businesses and services using circular economy principles may look like. As it was Valentine’s Day, they tasked students with coming up with circular economy alternatives to common Valentine’s presents, including re-used cards and potted flowers.
Each year in March, students, staff and alumni take part in a range of volunteering activities across the world as part of King’s Global Day of Service.
This year, King’s Global Day of Service is on Wednesday 25th March (to celebrate the day King’s was founded) but any volunteering activities that take place throughout March can contribute to GDoS volunteering hours.
King’s is the first university in the UK to run Service events at this scale and the King’s GDoS activities represent our commitment to serving local, national and international communities.
The 2019 GDoS involved 190 volunteers in nine Service events in London and fifteen international events, across five continents. In total, 635 Service hours were completed, with an estimated economic impact of £5,000.
Find out more about what you can get involved in at King’s and across London this 2020 GDoS, here.