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Is this a futuristic dystopian village or an anaerobic food processing plant?

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jane Picciano, who is a Sustainability Champion working in the Library Services Team at King’s.

King’s Food waste goes to Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which helps to meet the following Sustainable Development Goals:

This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!

I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.

This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.

Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.

The first stage for the food waste: the ‘mouth’ of the plant before reaching the ‘stomachs’ of the AD tanks.

Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.

Shredded plastic from the food waste packaging and plastic bags the waste was delivered in

We were told that most food waste recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and how easy it is to sift it out.

Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).

The food waste is now ready for a long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.

Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.

The pile of ‘chicken & rice’ (which is really a bland oatmeal mixture)

You will notice that all the tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to 4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the images below.

You can see the large motors on the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.

The two long implements you can see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the tank look like.

It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.

The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.

And this is the story of what happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!

If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.

The only thing I would strongly suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is overpowering and it lingers on clothes.

I can’t even describe it. 🤢

Jane Picciano, Sustainability Champion Gold, Maughan Library

Sustainability Week 2019

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 ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside student societies and staff Sustainability Champions, put on events with the aim to educate on various areas of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

Here is a summary of the week…

Sustainability Pop up: This Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We played lots of sustainability related games –
we quizzed you on how many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs you could remember and played the washing line game, where staff & students got the chance to win a Keep Cup and a free tea/coffee if they correctly guessed how long it took seven everyday items to degrade (from tea bags, to tin cans (hint: they rust!) to plastic bags). It was great to talk with staff & students about what interests you most within sustainability and we got the chance to update staff & students on some of the sustainability projects happening at King’s – for example, the Don’t Be Trashy project and behaviour change techniques aimed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in King’s halls of residences.

Josh & Ali from the Sustainability Team at the Sustainability Pop Up, Tues 12th Feb.

King’s VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. We hosted this event in collaboration with the King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society. There were lots of free samples from vegan producers, including vegan cheese (thank you Tyne Chease), chocolate (thanks to Raw Halo) snacks (thank you to Purl Pops, Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Freya’s Fruit Bars), Dairy Alternatives (thank you KoKo, Rebel Mylk and to a King’s Alumni own brand: Edenera!). Students and staff also brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, we discussed the environmental impact of the food we eat and general sustainability passions!

VegFest Vegan Product Samples, Fri 15th Feb.

Dr Bike: Cycling is not only an environmentally sustainable form of transportation, but one that is socially sustainable due to the value exercise has on physical health and overall well-being.

We want to encourage cycling in London and help make it as easy as possible for our staff and students. Therefore, we held four Dr Bike sessions across the King’s campuses. These Dr Bike sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff. Mechanics led the session and checked brakes, gears and chains, changed bike pads and gave advice and accurate quotes for whatever they couldn’t fix. There are many Dr Bike sessions happening across London every day, organised through Cycle Confident. To keep up to date with the latest session near you, follow Cycle Confident updates here.

Dr Bike at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA), Tues 13th Feb.

Film Screening: A Northern Soul: Sustainability often gets bundled into being thought of as purely environmental, with the social and economic sides to it often neglected. This year, for our final event of the week, we chose a film which demonstrated the importance of these two, often forgotten, pillars of sustainability. A Northern Soul is a documentary set in Hull, which follows one man, Steve, a warehouse worker on his journey through Hull in 2017 during its crowing year as the ‘UK City of Culture‘. We see Steve chase his passion of bringing hip-hop to disadvantaged kids across the city, through his Beats Bus. The film raises uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK, but does so while demonstrating the strength and charm of Hull’s residents in the face of this inequality. The film is available on BFI player.

Shot from the documentary ‘A Northern Soul’

GoodGym Run: King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Euston Food Bank. GoodGym volunteers helped to sort out the dry donations of cereal, biscuits and chocolate into sell by date to help ensure no food loss and effective allocation of items according to date. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to help the local community. To read more on GoodGym click here.  

GoodGym runners and walkers, Fri 15th Feb.

Gardening at the Maughan: The Library Services Sustainability Champions ran the gardening session at the Maughan to help nurture the 200+ trees which were planted in the garden at the start of December 2018, as part of National Tree Week and broader City of London Environment and Clean Air Strategies . Sustainability Week volunteers watered all the trees and
re-taped them to ensure their visibility, helped to replant some of the crab apple trees and gave the garden a quick litter pick – all in all, the garden got a good bit of T(ree)LC.

Left: Planting the trees in December ’18. Right: checking up on the trees & re-planting some of the growing crab apple trees.

Ethical Beauty Talk:  Stephanie Green from the Modern Language Centre spoke about how sustainable shea butter can empower women. Speaking from her experience living and working in Ghana she told the story behind the TAMA brand, made from natural shea butter. Lots of the beautiful vegan friendly soaps, creams and lotions were also available for sale at the session!

Zero- Waste Beauty Workshop: 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. The UN has stated that our use of plastic is creating a ‘planetary crisis’, and by 2050, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish. Read more here.

During the week, we held two zero-waste workshop sessions, co-hosted with the King’s Beauty Society. In these sessions, students learnt more about the global plastic-problem and the individual steps we all can do to make zero-waste living that little bit more achievable. Students got to make their own zero-waste coffee body scrub (using King’s Food own used coffee grounds – which would have otherwise gone to Anaerobic Digestion), lemon lip scrub and peppermint toothpaste!

Due to the demand, The Sustainability Team plan to host more events like this throughout the year. In the meantime, a post with the zero-waste beauty recipes will follow on the blog soon.

Top Left: Students with their coffee scrubs
Top right: Essential oils used for the toothpaste and lip scrub
Bottom Left: Breakdown composition of the coffee body scrub (1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 coconut oil)
Bottom Right: President of KCL Beauty Soc

Thank you to everyone who helped organise and took part in Sustainability Week 2019! We love meeting you all and hearing your feedback, ideas and passions. You showed King’s really can #MakeADifference!

King’s Sustainable Entrepreneurs: Woodsloth’s Bamboo Straws

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jonathan Hyde, Masters student at King’s studying an MA in Climate Change. This post aims to start a series of guest blogs highlighting how some of our students, staff and alumni in the King’s community are putting their sustainable passion & innovation into practice. 

Hi my name is Jonathan (Jonny), I study MA Climate Change at King’s and a passionate environmentalist.

This passion for the environment has led me to take a more pro-active stance towards achieving climate justice (fitting with the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and tackling environmental degradation on land and at sea (SDG 14 and 15).

Whilst away traveling, my partner Claire and I came to realise just how severe the plastic pollution problem really was. Plastic litter was polluting everywhere we went, whether it was a forest, a mountain or a beach – there was little escaping it. The beaches were particularly bad, and in one place we took part in a beach clean-up picking up countless straws. Yet, the next day it was just as littered!

It really opened our eyes to this issue. However, when we returned home we saw that actually we had been living in a sea of plastic all along, and that the UK had just as much as a problem.

However, when we were away we saw creative solutions to the problem. One in particular that we loved was the use of bamboo, and especially re-useable straws! We came to find out that bamboo is the perfect sustainable material, being the strongest, most durable, and most rapidly growing grass species in the world! It just so happened that Claire’s parents have copious amounts of bamboo growing in their garden. So, when we first visited them after returning home the bamboo straw production began!

In the beginning, I was just making them as gifts for friends and family, truly enjoying creativity in a way I had never done before. I feel that’s the real beauty of the sustainability movement – what it can creatively and innovatively inspire. The response was brilliant too; people loved them and encouraged me to start selling them. I then discovered my friend who lives close by also has a great amount of bamboo growing, so I began harvesting more, and experimenting with different designs and personalisation.

I established Woodsloth’s as an official business, as sales began to pick up.

Now, 6 months on, and 1 month into “official” business, I’ve created over a 100 straws. I’m delighted as that means over 100 straws aren’t going to end up in landfill or the sea! 100 down, 8 billion to go…and that’s just the number used in the UK!

I have an Instagram page (@woodsloths) and email (woodsloths@gmail.com) where I take personalised orders. I am also in discussions with the Union Shop to have a “King’s” and “KCL” edition on sale, as part of their sustainable and ethical Spring/Summer collection – so watch this space!

SDG 4: Education as the Passport to the Future

This week’s guest blog comes fifth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

 

A primary kid developing the newest app in his bedroom. A teenage boy creating an online platform to share social content. These are the success stories in the age of technology. However, such dreams don’t become reality without one essential ingredient: education. As Malcolm X once said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

SDG 4 = Quality Education

Education is key to reduce inequality and enable people to break the cycle of poverty. Education empowers people, it increases quality of life and stimulates tolerance. There has been a lot of progress towards this goal in the last two decades. In developing countries, the enrollment in primary education has reached 91 percent. But not all is done as 57 million children remain out of primary school. Inequality in opportunities is evident. Half of the children out of school live in Sub-Saharan Africa or in conflict affected areas. The vast majority are girls (1).

The Targets: Quality Education, Relevant Skills and Safe Environments

As the goal suggests, the first target is to ensure free, accessible, quality primary and secondary for everybody. As a result, literacy and numeracy must be dissolved. Other targets go beyond school-aged children aiming to make early childhood development and adult skills training’s accessible. Within education systems, all genders should be equal, and the emphasis should be on knowledge and skills that are needed to promote sustainable development. Moreover, schools should be a safe and inclusive environment, there should be more scholarships for developing countries and there should be better training to provide quality teachers.

 

Education, poverty and health

Education, poverty and health provide a ‘triangle dilemma’: whereas education improves children’s chances for escaping poverty whilst improving their health conditions, poverty and poor health are the main reason why many do not attend schools. The lack of education and health care robs millions of children of their futures (2). Poverty-prone communities in Tanzania, for example, have high changes to get infected by the parasitic disease ‘schistosomiasis’ due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Especially, school-aged children are vulnerable to the infection. To tackle this problem, a joint-project by UNDP and WHO setup drug distribution points in schools to prevent transmission of the disease and ensure vulnerable children don’t drop out school (3).

A lost generation: education during conflict

Education is a fundamental human right as per the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, out of the 7,4 million documented refugee children, only 3,4 million attend school. Attendance drops drastically; 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, 23 per cent of them are enrolled in secondary school and just one per cent attends university (4). The foundation Educate a Child aims to scale-up successful educational programs for refugees and promote innovative approaches. Their Bangladesh-based partner, for example, provides non-formal basic education in refugee camps. Thus far, they recruited 400 teachers, established 200 Transitional Learning Centres and educate 25,000 students (5).

 

A mismatch between skills and education

One of the biggest challenges in Europe is the disparity between what students learn in universities and the types of skills that are needed within the employment market. A business association articulated it as following: “Currently we have a skills gap; we have vacancies, but people are not trained to fill them. Business need to make education their top priority and present people with equal choices.” The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) aims to strengthen the quality, supply, image and mobility of apprenticeships in Europe.Through vocational education and training (VET) companies ensure their supply of future employees and students learn valuable workplace skills improving their future employability (6).

The goals are there for you as well!

The fact that you are reading this blog already gives you a privilege. I am assuming you have enjoyed primary and secondary schools, and most likely higher education. At a minimum level you are gifted with literacy. Use this gift to advance worldwide education:

  • Attitude – There are no ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ educated people, there are only ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ educated people. A value-based division is completely ridiculous, so ensure that your language reflects the appreciation of all forms of education.
  • Develop – Acknowledge your privileged position and make sure you keep on developing yourself. Attend your university classes; follow a skills training on coding; learn how to use Excel properly or drop in a conference on business ethics.
  • Tutor – An easy way is to tutor children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Private tutoring increases the income gap. To overcome this, you can support a pupil to get the most out of her/his education and help them build their future. There are different local charities (7).

References

Easy & Everyday Tricks to Reduce Your Plastic Use

This guest blog comes from Yukti Gopal, a third year Politics student from the Department of Political Economy.

 

The plastic we throw away in a single year could circle the earth four times. Every minute of every day, one million plastic bottles are used. It’s become an addiction. Plastic is everywhere and it’s almost as if we can’t escape it. The problem when we ‘throw plastic away’ there is no such thing as an ‘away’, it just ends up somewhere else, usually it’s the ocean. 8 to 14 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every single year. Needless to mention the disastrous consequences this has. Fortunately, we can all do something to reduce our plastic consumption and here are some easy tricks which you can implement in your everyday life:

1: Buy a reusable water bottle/coffee cup

The simple process of producing bottled water requires 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the actual container. Mind-blowing. We are lucky to live in London where tap water is safe to drink, so why buy plastic bottles?

2: Buy in bulk when possible

Some shops like ‘As Nature Intended’ offer a bulk section where you can buy everything from oats, rice, to seeds and trail mixes. You simply bring your own containers and fill them up. Not only is it cheaper to buy that way but it’s also an efficient way to cut single-use plastic food packaging. If you have access to a farmer’s market, stop by to buy your fruit and veg, there’s usually much less plastic food packaging involved!

3: Eat less seafood

I know this one can be a bit controversial but the sad truth is that while it is great to use reusable straws, the majority of plastic found in the ocean comes from fishing practices. To be precise, 46% of marine plastic waste comes from commercial fishing. Instead, you could get creative and try plant-based alternatives which are more sustainable.

4: Use reusable bags

This is such an easy one! We throw away more than 1 trillion plastic bags a year. I personally always have a reusable bag in the back of my bag in case I need to pop by the grocery store; they take literally no space, weigh nothing yet come in really handy! Incorporating these little swaps in your day-to-day are quite easy and don’t require much effort at all so join us, and be a part of the positive change!

King’s Becomes Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) Accredited

This January, King’s received the result of it’s first SRA final report, achieving a one-star rating at 59%.

King’s became a member of the SRA in 2016 and submitted it’s final ‘Food Made Good’ report in November 2018 before achieving its first result this January.

Background of the SRA

The SRA works with food establishments and universities to guide the route to running a more sustainable operation.

The SRA was set up in 2010 by two restaurateurs, Simon Heppner and Giles Gibbons, who identified that while food service businesses saw sustainability as important, there was no consistency in the way it was defined or addressed. The Esmee Fairbarn Foundation recognised the importance of the SRA and supported it as an initial funder. Since 2010, the SRA has since grown from 50 members, to over 8,000 in 2018.

Why King’s is a member of the SRA

The aim of the Food Made Good report and being a member of the SRA is to:

  1. Identify challenges
  2. Share successes
  3. Find solutions

Being a member of the SRA and undertaking the Food Made Good report helps King’s to identify areas for improvement, whilst also benefit from a platform to learn from other establishments and share successes. The result of the Food Made Good report comes with a ‘To Do List’ of actions to help us make the impact King’s has, a more positive one.

Food Made Good Report

The Food Made Good assessment comprises of three main sections: Sourcing, Environment and Society (as mirrored in King’s Sustainable Food Policy).

Within these three sections are ten areas the SRA look at to judge how Sustainable the food enterprise or institution is. These areas include: Supporting Global Farmers, Eat More Veg & Better Meat, Feed People Well, Waste No Food and Valuing Natural Resources.


King’s SRA Report 2018: Results

Below you can see the breakdown of scores King’s achieved in each of these 10 areas for 2018:

Some of sustainable achievements King’s and King’s Food have made across these areas to earn this one-star rating include:

  • All food waste goes to Anaerobic Digestion (AD)
  • 50:50 food saving scheme – all food that needs to be sold that day, gets 50% price reduction, 50 minutes before close.
  • All vegetable trimmings created during prep are used in cooking and coffee grounds recycled (AD or available to staff & students to take)
  • King’s Food incorporate sustainability training into the induction of new staff members
  • King’s Food are seeking to expand their social influence – for example, King’s Food chefs work with Charities such as the Felix Project.
  • Creation of a fully plant-based, vegan-friendly café.
  • All electricity purchased by King’s comes from renewable (wind) energy
  • Established a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food Steering Group (2016/17). This meets every 3 months and any interested member of staff or students can attend. (Email sustainabiliity@kcl.ac.uk if you would like to attend the next).

To read more on Sustainability at King’s, click here to read the first ever Sustainability Report (2016/17). Sustainability Report 2017/18 to come out mid this year.

Next Steps

The value of this report is that it provides tangible ‘To Do’s’ in each of these ten areas to improve the sustainability of King’s involvement in society, environment and sourcing.

Below shows the To Do List for ‘Supporting the Community’ (section: Society). This To Do List directly appeals to the Service Strategy at King’s, which brings focus to King’s’ responsibility and ability to get more involved with our local surroundings and communities, use our resources to strengthen ourselves and others and push the social side of sustainability further.

Another To Do List for ‘Feed People Well’ (section: society) can be seen below. Over the next year, King’s must emphasise effective training of staff and informing the customer to help nudge healthier, more sustainable meal choices.

To Do List for ‘Waste no Food’ (section: environment). This To Do List is not just about changing your practice but communicating sustainable practice more effectively and sharing this with other universities/food establishments.

King’s Sustainability Team and King’s Food are very proud of this result and look forward to responding to the actions in the To Do Lists. We will be ready to re-submit this year for our 2019 report, to gain our second…and possibly third, star.

SDG 3: Healthcare as a Human Right

This week’s guest blog comes fourth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

This month is all about wellbeing at King’s. Unfortunately, access and quality of healthcare is not always guaranteed. Article 25 of the UN Human Rights Declaration (1948) states that everyone has the right to a standard of living that enables health and wellbeing (1). Due to the lack of accurate and credible data, it is difficult to measure the current state-of-art of healthcare provision.

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing for everybody

Sickness and death are part of our natural cycle. However, there are many situations in which it can be prevented or cured. The number one cause of death are cardiovascular diseases. Amongst children under five, birth trauma’s, infections and bacteria lead to over 6 million annual deaths (2). Furthermore, there are large regional difference that mirror income disparity; the worst health situation can be found in Sub-Saharan-Africa and South Asia. As an example, maternal deaths are 14 times more likely to happen in developing countries and children are twice more likely to die before they turn five. Furthermore, developing countries still struggle with deadly diarrhoea contaminations caused by poor hygiene’s.

Reproduction, healthcare and medication

The first target is that everyone should have access to a good quality of healthcare and appropriate medications and vaccinations (3). Strengthening local capacities, for example; affordable care, educated doctors and hygienic hospitals, is a stepping-stone to achieve this. Moreover, women and children are central to accomplishing this goal. Some targets are, therefore, directed at issues such as reducing maternal mortality, preventing children’s deaths, eliminating substance abuse during pregnancy and easing access to sexual and reproductive services. Lastly, more general targets focus on issues regarding to common diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis, traffic deaths and diseases caused by pollution.

Every Women, Every Child

The health of women and children is essential to achieve sustainable development. Healthy women and children create healthy societies and healthy societies build healthy economies, stability and harmony. The project “Every Women Every Child” was set up in 2010 by Ban Ki-Moon and works with various partners to tackle gender related health issues (4). One of their projects, in collaboration with Unilever and USAID, aims to tackle infant deaths due to a lack of hygiene. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to make a habit out of washing their hands with soap on a regular basis (5).

Contraception and family planning

High on the Dutch development agenda, and close to my heart, is sexual and reproductive health-care. The Netherlands helps 1.8 million girls and women to access contraception by strengthening third countries’ healthcare systems and actively lobbying foreign governments. Central to our development policy is family planning. Besides the project “She Decides” of our minister Lilianne Ploumen (which I will tell you more about in SDG 5), we are part of the partnership “Family Planning 2020”. The aim of this partnership is to ensure that every girl and woman is able to freely and independently make the decision whether, when and how many children she wants (7).

No well-being without mental health

There is a growing awareness that mental health is crucial to achieve the SDGs (8). “One in four people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime, but the issue remains largely neglected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Mental health issues are strongly correlated with structural societal problems and too-often result in the neglect of human dignity and forced treatment. Potential solutions arise not only from within but also from outside the regular healthcare sector. The UK project “Time to Change” challenges the way we think and act around mental health in order to overcome shame and loneliness (9).

What can you do to achieve better health and well-being?

Healthcare is a worldwide problem. Start, therefore, with tackling a few health-related issues within in your own live, direct environment or broader society:

  • Take care of your own body. Eat healthy, exercise, drink in moderation and don’t wait around to visit a doctor. Moreover, make sure that you use contraception during sex, and only have sex without a condom if you are 100 percent sure you both are free of STDs.
  • Take care of your mind. Get enough rest and be aware of the signals of mental problems (10). One of the things I find useful is mindfulness (do you already know the Headspace app?). The online course “de-mystifying mindfulness” elaborates the clinical background of mindfulness in an accessible and academic way (11).
  • Challenge mental health stigma’s. Look at the “Time to Change” resource webpage and inform yourself about mental health issues. Start a conversation with your colleagues, be aware of stereotyping media coverage and call people out on their discriminatory behaviour.

Resources:

Volunteering Opportunity: Social Responsibility Audit Assistant

Committed to the idea of a socially responsible university?

Applications are invited for the role of Social Responsibility Audit Assistant in the ‘European Students Sustainability Auditing’ Project (ESSA).

We are recruiting for a diverse group of six students from King’s College London to participate in the project between February and March. The Social Responsibility Audit Assistant role is open to all current King’s students who have an interest in social responsibility and sustainability.

The successful students will complete two days of training in February 2019 in Edinburgh and will act as host students for an institutional social responsibility audit of King’s which will be undertaken by students from Edinburgh, Porto and Kaunas University’s from the 11th March until 15th March in London.

It is important that we have a diverse range of skills and academic knowledge, we therefore endeavor to select our team from a range of backgrounds and academic degree programmes. We encourage applications from protected characteristics for this role and students from widening participation backgrounds specifically.

Please note that we also have resources in place to ensure that support is available to students who may have any kind of additional support needs and/or face financial barriers to participation in this kind of initiative.

 

How to apply

To apply for this opportunity please email an expression of interest to sustainability@kcl.ac.uk. This should be no longer than 2 sides of A4 and should highlight: your interest in the project, how you fulfill the person specification, what you hope to learn from being involved in the project, and confirm your availability for the dates indicated in time commitment.

The deadline for applications is Monday 14th January 2019 at 9am. For successful applicants there will be an informal group interview/ information session on Friday 18th of January from 12pm-2pm.

If you are unable to make this group interview due to exam or other commitments, please let us know in your application.

If you have any questions about the role please email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk

 

Summary

The ‘European Students Sustainability Auditing’ Project is a European-Union (EU) funded pilot project that aims to learn more about social responsibility and sustainability in universities across Europe.

Social Responsibility Audit Assistants will play a key role in the project by hosting audit students and helping bring together the findings from the audit to report to the Service Committee, a senior University governance group.

Participating students will have the opportunity to gain new skills, knowledge and work experience by undertaking this role. Student auditors will receive training to enable participation in the audits, aiding their own understanding and developing their skills, as well as contributing to the advancement of social responsibility and sustainability in European Higher Education. Participation in this can also be reflected in your Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR).

Further information about the project is available online at www.essaproject.eu.

 

Person specification

The role is open to all students who have an interest in social responsibility and sustainability. The ideal candidate will possess the following skills and knowledge.

  • Good communication skills, both verbal and written, and confidence in face-to-face engagement.
  • Confidence to work independently and in a team and able to assist fellow team members to identify creative solutions to problems.
  • Good analytical and research skills
  • Excellent time management and leadership skills
  • Some knowledge of the workings of universities and of social responsibility and sustainability issues and initiatives.

 

Time commitment

Social Responsibility Audit Assistants will attend two days of training in Edinburgh in February on 7th and 8th of February and participate in an audit of King’s College London on week commencing 11th of March until 15th of March in London. All Audit Assistants will be expected to write a short blog piece, reflecting on their experience in the project. The total time commitment is approximately 8 days.

All approved accommodation, subsistence and travel costs incurred by the student Audit Assistants through the role will be covered by the project, at the relevant official EU rates.

 

Skills and experience gained

Successful students applying for the role will gain the following skills and experience.

  • Experience of working on an international project in a supported professional environment
  • Insight into effective social responsibility and sustainability education
  • Experience of communicating using a variety of different means
  • Knowledge and understanding of the auditing process
  • Ability to make evidence-based judgements
  • Experience in advanced level reporting
  • Ability to support and encourage others to perform
  • Leadership skills
  • Time Management
  • Team development
  • Project management.

 

Project partners

Partners in the project, which is led by the UK’s National Union of Students, include the European Students Union, the University of Porto and its students’ association, Kaunas University of Technology and its students’ association and the University of Edinburgh and its students’ association.

A Welcome from Ali Hepple, Sustainability Projects Assistant

Hello!

I am very excited to have recently joined the King’s Sustainability Team as their new Sustainability Projects Assistant. In this role, I am responsible for helping to raise awareness and embed sustainability throughout the university. This includes Sustainability Champions, which is a brilliant programme run in collaboration with the National Union of Students . It is designed to enable and empower staff to recognise the difference they can make on an individual level, both as a part of the King’s community and throughout wider society. This champions year (18/19) we have 324 staff champions. This is also the first year we will be having student assistants assigned to staff champions teams, bringing staff and student communities together around the common goal of making King’s and the wider society more sustainable and supported. If you’re interested in becoming a champion please get in touch!

My relationship with the university began in 2014, when I came down from the North of England to start my Geography degree at King’s. As a new student in London, I wanted to find programmes I could get involved in which combined community and environmental action. In my first year, this included the University of London’s Reduce the Juice programme. This involvement with the UoL Sustainability Team then led in my second year to developing my own initiative. This initiative was to make meals in UoL halls of residences more sustainable through the introduction of a daily vegan option. This not only replaced a meat based dish, but also responded to the dietary and cultural demographic of the halls’ residents and actively responded to feedback given in the student experience surveys. My work around sustainable food developed in my third year of university, working with the King’s sustainability team to get King’s College London a Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating. The SRA assessment is known as the ‘Michelin stars of sustainability’ and is based on three pillars of sustainability: Sourcing, Society and Environment. The assessment included a wide variety of criteria, from fair treatment of staff, our use of natural resources, food waste, community outreach and charity work, and food certifications. I am very happy to say that King’s submitted its final SRA assessment in November (2018) and will receive its SRA rating and sustainability action plan with the key areas to improve and guidance on how to do this in January 2019.

For my final year dissertation, I lived and worked on a Community Supported Agriculture farm in rural Sweden over the summer of 2017, this experience forming the body of my research. The farmers’ story was incredible, establishing their farm as the first CSA in Sweden (est. 2001) and made possible through the reliance on volunteer, largely international labour. Their approach to life was inspiring, teaching those who want to learn with open arms and passionately addressing the social and environmental justice issues around food. They struck a balance of community, environmental and social sustainability based around food that I had not seen or experienced before. It made a long lasting impression and it is something I would like to explore more within the UK.  

I am thrilled to continue my relationship with King’s as a member of the Sustainability Team and to use my experience as a student here to inform my decision making and areas of focus. I want to use my role in the Sustainability Team to enable more staff and students to get involved in sustainability at King’s, to help King’s progress as a leading sustainable institution, to strengthen the community of King’s and nurture the sustainable knowledge of staff and students who will go on to shape the future.

I am very much looking forward to continue engaging with staff and students, listening to input, and working to make King’s a leading university for sustainability together.

Eco Christmas Part III – Food

Food!

Food is a huge part of the Christmas festivities, so it’s important to get it right.

Buy Local

Buy local or buy less. Produce bought locally means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community, while minimising your carbon footprint. Shop at a local farmers’ market, or try growing some of your own vegetables where possible.

Buy Seasonal 

BBC Good Food and Love British Food have come up with helpful tables and advice of what is in season across all meat, vegetables, fruit and fish.

Package free

Buy your fruit and vegetables loose and ditch all the wasteful packaging. Investing in some vegetable bags could help you get around buying packaged fruits and vegetables if you don’t want lots of loose fruit/vegetables in your bag.

Try to avoid serving people with paper or plastic plates and cups if you are entertaining guests and use reusable crockery instead.

Pack all your goods into a re-usable shopping bag or re-use old plastic bags.

Buy Bigger

If you can, buy drinks in bigger bottles, large bottles will generate less waste than several lots of smaller ones.

Recycling your leftovers 

Don’t forget to put the vegetable peelings from your Christmas dinner in your food waste bin if your council provides one – if not, start a compost bin for your garden or donate your food scraps to local allotments/neighbouring gardens.

Read this Hubbub article on facts about freezing your food to mitigate food waste.

Try vegetarian/vegan Christmas recipes

51% of global greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture, therefore going plant-based is a powerful action we can take to reduce our contribution to climate change.

This recipe video by Bosh! which makes a vegan Christmas dinner including a portobello mushroom wellington, maple roasted veggies, balsamic sprouts, wholegrain mustard mash and the perfect roast potatoes, which show that going meat-free doesn’t mean missing out on a tasty dinner.

Avante Garde Vegan has an alternative wellington recipe here. While also providing a bounty of other plant-based recipes, such as Christmas pudding, Yorkshire puddings and a spiced hot chocolate. 

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