Today is the first day of the Totally Thames Festival, which means Maria Arceo’s artwork “Future Dust” is now open to the public!
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo has collected plastic from the banks of the Thames. The project was supported by the King’s departments of Geography, Chemistry as well as the Cultural Institute. Maria is passionate about archaeology and oceanography, and interested in the footprints humanity leaves on aquatic environments. Plastic is one of these modern footprints, with countless reports on the amount of plastic debris that ends up in the planet’s oceans.
Maria Arceo at Sustainability Week
As campaigns such as ZSL’s #OneLess, and Hubbub’s For Fish’s Sake London highlight, London is a city closely linked to the sea. Waste in the tidal Thames will eventually end up in the oceans, and after breaking down into microplastics plastic might end up back on our plates.
With her Thames Plastic project, Maria wants to show Londoners the real magnitude of plastic debris entering the Thames. Since September 2016, she has done over 40 beach clean-ups all over London. Some King’s students and staff joined her for a clean-up during Sustainability Week, and picked up a complete computer keyboard in the mud between Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge. After the beach clean-ups, the workshops to clean and sort the plastic in May and June provided a perfect opportunity to look at the curiosities Maria and her team of volunteers found in the Thames (some photos of her Somerset House workshop can be found here).
Now complete, the “Future Dust” installation is a giant human footprint, entirely made from plastic from the Thames. Starting today, the piece will travel along the Thames for the rest of the month. It is currently near Guy’s Campus, in Potters Field Park outside City Hall, SE1 2AA. Next, it will move closer to Strand and Waterloo campuses – it will be the Oxo Tower Courtyard (SE1 9PH) from Sunday the 3rd to Wednesday the 6th September. Details of all locations can be found on the poster below, or on the Thames Plastic website.
The 2nd August was Earth Overshoot Day 2017. This means that by this day, we have used more resources than the planet can renew in 2017, and emitted more CO2 than global forests can absorb.
The date for Earth Overshoot Day is not fixed. Instead, it is calculated* each year, changing as humanity’s ecological footprint changes. Looking at how the date has moved in recent decades reveals a worrying trend: Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier each year. While it was in November or later in the 1970s and 80s, it moved to August in the 2000s.
Earth Overshoot Day comes just days after an article published in Nature Climate Change suggests that based on current developments, there is only a 5% chance that we will meet the target to keep global warming below 2 degrees by 2100. This is the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Instead, there is a 90% chance that our planet will warm by 2.0-4.9 degrees by 2100, which could have potentially catastrophic impacts.
With this in mind, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint? As with many things, the first step could be measuring it. The Global Footprint Network has a calculator that allows you to work out your own Overshoot Day and ecological footprint. WWF also have a calculator that shows you the % of your share of carbon emissions you are using, compared to 2020 emission targets.
For many, flying and food will be the biggest contributors to our footprint. A transatlantic flight can emit as much as 1 tonne of CO2, and meat-heavy diets also carry a carbon price tag. As a university, King’s emitted over 35,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2015/16 – this is down 26% from 2005/06, but there is still work to be done to reach the target of a 43% reduction by 2020 and being ‘carbon free’ by 2025.
What can we do once we know how much we emit? There are many actions you can take to reduce your own environmental footprint. Why not try out some tasty vegan/vegetarian recipes? Or cycle or walk to university? You can also offset carbon emissions from your flights through various projects. The UN has also created the “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”, a guide with actions you could take from the sofa, in your home, or in your neighbourhood. Whatever you choose to do, it is important to remember that while actions may seem small, they add up to something big when millions of people around the globe commit to them!
*Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year) by humanity’s ecological footprint, and multiplying this by 365. More information here.
King’s College London operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) across all campuses. In 2016, this system was externally audited at Strand Campus, and certified with the ISO14001:2015 standard.
This year, Estates & Facilities have worked to extend the certification to all campuses, including Residences and sports grounds. Following a successful external audit of all campuses, the Environmental Management System is now ISO14001:2015 certified across King’s Estates & Facilities. Professor Ed Byrne announced the great news at this year’s Sustainability Awards.
Solar panels on the roof of GDSA
ISO14001 is an international standard which helps organisations use resources more efficiently and reduce waste. This achievement demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership for sustainability at King’s, which is apparent not only through the many initiatives underway, but through King’s Strategic Vision 2029, which has sustainability as one of the enabling foundations.
The EMS is at the heart of embedding sustainability at King’s, and takes a holistic view of the environmental impacts and risks arising from our activities. As well as minimising negative impacts, it drives improvement through identifying opportunities for King’s. One of the highlights noted in the audits were the opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. There is a lot of green space at our sports grounds, but even at our main campuses improvements have been made – such as the instalment of bird boxes and an insect hotel at Guy’s Campus.
On achieving the certification, Nick O’Donnell (Acting Director of Estates & Facilities) said: “We’re delighted to receive the certification, and are very pleased to be recognised for the progress we are making in reducing our impacts. This is a fantastic achievement for all operational teams in Estates & Facilities and for our service partners, working across such a large and diverse organisation.”
Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.
His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:
“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.
So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.
So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.
As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].
We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.
Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.
Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.
Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.
I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].
This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.
Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.
In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.
In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”
The annual King’s College London Sustainability Awards took place on Monday the 3rd July. The Awards highlighted the growing commitment and enthusiasm of the King’s community for sustainable development, one of the enabling foundations of Vision 2029.
During the ceremony, 45 teams comprising of over 200 Sustainability Champions were acknowledged for all their hard work in introducing sustainable practices into their workspaces over the course of the academic year. The ceremony also celebrated the efforts of staff and students who have made significant contributions to sustainable development across our operations, teaching, research and the wider King’s community.
Professor Edward Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the Awards by highlighting the importance of sustainability and the work of the Sustainability Champions. He also announced that King’s recently achieved the ISO14001:2015 certification for the Estates operations on all campuses, including residences and sportsgrounds. You can find out more about the certification in the Estates & Facilities news.
Kat Thorne, Head of Sustainability, then reviewed the progress King’s has made in sustainability over the last year. Over 200 Sustainability Champions have carried out over 1,500 sustainability actions, resulting in 45 teams receiving Sustainability Awards. At an operational level, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by 26% since 2005/06, despite significant growth during this time period. The furniture re-use project Warp-It has now saved over £50,000 in procurement costs. In relation to sustainable food, the university is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and has applied for Fairtrade University status.
The 45 Champions teams were then awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. This year, 18 teams achieved Bronze, 19 teams achieved Silver, and 8 teams were awarded Gold. In addition to this, we celebrated individual Champions, staff and teams who went above and beyond in their roles to embed sustainability into King’s.
This week is Bike Week 2017. The national week exists to encourage “everyday cycling for everyone” and show how cycling can be integrated into everyday life.
Cycling is a great way of getting around for a number of reasons. Not only is it a great sustainable mode of transport because it does not emit any carbon, it also has a range of health benefits. Cycling to university or work means you get daily exercise, and spend time outdoors rather than in a crammed tube carriage. For those concerned about the negative health impacts of air pollution, cycling is also a great option – experts advise that cyclists are less exposed to pollution than drivers, and the health benefits of cycling outweigh negative impacts caused by pollution.
King’s has implemented a range of initiatives to encourage staff and students to cycle more.
First, most campuses and halls now have secure bike storage to make sure bikes are protected against theft. If anything goes wrong with your bike, e.g. a flat tire, some campuses now also have bike repair stations. In addition to this, Dr Bike visit our campuses regularly – they came over for our Sustainability Week earlier this year. The Met Police have also paid King’s a few visits to mark bikes. If the worst happens and your bike disappears, having it marked and registered with the police means they will be able to track it back to you if it is found. To make sure you don’t miss any Dr Bike or Marking sessions, follow us on Twitter.
During Sustainability Week in February, we also gave a second life to bikes that were left behind in our bike stores. Following a quick health check by Dr Bike, they were auctioned to students and staff. As well as freeing up space in the bike stores, it helped more people to start cycling!
Until Sunday, the 11th June, Thames Plastic are taking over the Somerset House River Terrace with their Thames Plastic Lab.
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo and a group of volunteers (including Thames21, King’s staff, and students during our Sustainability Week) have collected plastic from the beaches of the Thames. They have then spent a few weeks at Canada Water, washing the plastic so it can be used.
Now, the project has reached the next stage: sorting it by colour so it can be used in an art installation as part of the Thames Festival.
The Thames Plastic Lab is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Departments of Chemistry and Geography, the Royal Society of Chemistry and artist Maria Arceo, supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. Throughout this week, they are inviting the public to come along and learn what kind of plastic ends up in the Thames, how it gets there, and what you can do. You can also pick a piece of plastic and ask for it to be analysed! In the end, all the plastic from the workshops will be turned into an art installation to raise awareness for the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. The Plastic Lab has been a great success so far, you can see pictures of the event on Twitter.
The Thames Plastic Lab will remain open until the 11th June.
Opening times are:
9th June: 16:00-18:00
10th-11th June: 11:00-18:00
More information can be found here. Make sure to drop in!
Our neighbours from Hubbub are currently also running their own campaign to combat plastic waste in the Thames. With #FFSLDN (For Fish’s Sake London, don’t drop litter!), they are trying to engage Londoners in a conversation about our littering habits.
For example, do you know what tidy littering is? It’s leaving your rubbish next to a bin, on top of an overflowing bin, or on a wall or ledge. It might seem innocent, but rubbish often falls off, gets blown away, and ultimately ends up in our great river. 300 tonnes of litter are cleared from the Thames every year – showing how important things like the Thames Plastic project are. Ultimately, plastic pollution becomes a very real problem for people. It is estimated that 70% of fish in the Thames have plastic in their guts, and plastic increasingly makes its way into our diets through fish that have swallowed small pieces of plastic. So next time you drop a piece of plastic, make sure it’s in a recycling bin!
If you have looked at the bins at King’s recently, you might have noticed our new recycling guides. King’s is committed to achieving a recycling rate of 70%, and our new recycling guidelines are a small part of the wider changes that have been happening behind the scenes in the last months.
New recycling guidelines
Throughout this summer, our new waste contractor Simply Waste Solutions will start collections at all campuses, beginning with Denmark Hill this week. Simply Waste Solutions will replace several current contractors, and help us deliver a more consistent service across King’s. This means no more differences in what can/cannot be recycled depending on campus!
In addition to the new bin signage, we have created a Waste A-Z to help make recycling as easy as possible. This guide can be found at internal.kcl.ac.uk/recycling. If you would like to see additional resources, or have questions about other waste types, please let us know!
Our contract with Simply Waste Solutions means we will now be able to tackle more waste streams. One of these is food waste, which is currently only separated at Strand. With the new contract, King’s Food will separate their kitchen waste at all campuses, and send the waste to anaerobic digestion. In addition to this, we will be able to extend our coffee cup recycling programme to more campuses.
30,000 coffee cups ready for recycling
The Maughan Library already has this programme in place as a result of taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, and other campuses can expect to see coffee cup bins pop up in the next months. Usually, only 1% of disposable coffee cups in the UK are recycled. With the Simply Cups programme, we can collect cups and Simply Cups will turn them into new products. So don’t be surprised if your coffee cup makes its way back to King’s looking very different (e.g. a canteen tray or pen).
So, what happens to our waste?
As long as it is not contaminated, everything in our recycling bins will be given a second life. Paying attention to the recycling guidelines is important, as recycling bags may be classed as “contaminated” if they contain non-recyclable waste. Contaminated bags may end up being rejected, so it is important to pay attention to what goes in the bin. A common doubt regarding recycling is how clean items like plastic pots should be when going in the recycling bin. Things like yoghurt pots and plastic bottles should be empty and not contain any food or liquids, but they don’t need to be spotlessly clean. A rule of thumb is that if you would happily stick your hand in the recycling bin after binning your item, and it could come out clean and dry, it’s good to go in recycling.
Our food waste goes to anaerobic digestion. This means that it will be put into sealed containers and broken down by natural micro-organisms. At the end of this progress, two products remain: biogas, to be used as fuel to generate renewable energy; and a nutrient-rich digestate, used as fertiliser.
Glass waste is sent to plants where it can be washed and sorted into colours. It is then melted and moulded into new products. As glass does not degrade through the recycling process, as paper fibres do, it can be used again and again!
The remaining general waste is not sent to landfill, but incinerated in energy-from-waste plants. The created heat is used to generate electricity (fed into the National Grid) and to heat homes. The remaining ash is collected and used as a material for road construction.
This means that with Simply Waste Solutions, we are able to send zero waste to landfill for all of our general, bulky and food waste.
Simply Waste’s chief mouser
Fun fact: On a recent visit, we met Simply Waste Solutions’ very own chief mouser – a former stray who just turned up and moved in one day. Here he is, roaming the waste yard and making sure everyone recycles properly.
Every year, King’s runs the NUS Student Switch Off competition in its halls of residence. The aim of the competition is to encourage students to save energy. We started the campaign in autumn with visits to every hall, and NUS continued it throughout the year with photo competitions, quizzes and lots of prizes.
At the end of each year, the hall that saved the most energy compared to the previous year wins a delivery of Ben & Jerry’s for their hall. This year, we upped the difficulty and added recycling scores to the mix. So on top of making sure they were energy-efficient, students had to take care with what they put in which bin.
This year, Champion Hill Residence were the lucky winners. They came second in the energy-saving ranking, but due to their great recycling performance they managed to take the overall trophy.
So on a sunny day last week, we headed down to reward Champion Hill residents for their effort. In total, we handed out 400 tubs of Ben & Jerry’s (as well as some vegan soy ice cream) to students! With exam period in full swing, this was a well-deserved break for many residents. See for yourself:
400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out
Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway
Ice cream time!
A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break
In addition to winning the Student Switch Off, Champion Hill also has a great range of sustainability initiatives. We have previously featured the Champion Hill Wormery on our blog, which exists in addition to composting bins. The courtyard also has a pond and a plot for a planned herb garden. Finally, Champion Hill also has a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) and solar PV panels on the roof, making sure the energy used in the halls comes from more sustainable sources!
King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.
Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.
The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:
Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have: the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.
In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.
In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.
Welcome to the blog of the King's Sustainability team! Our aim is to keep you informed about sustainability at King's including events and opportunities, as well as to inspire discussion and action on and around Campus. Please join the conversation!