Tag: 2018 (page 1 of 3)

Can fashion be sustainable?

Walking around London, we see countless advertisements for fashion retailers every single day. Especially today, on Black Friday, retailers are doing everything they can to convince us to spend more. But our love for fashion may be harming the environment: reports show that fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world.

To find out more, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is a parliamentary select committee made up of MPs from across the political spectrum, launched an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Last week, they held a public evidence hearing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, questioning fashion designers, upcyclers and innovators about how to fix the fashion industry’s environmental impact. We were in the audience for the hearing, and are bringing you our highlights of the morning’s discussions.

Source: Hubbub Foundation

The first thing that became evident was that there is no shortage of challenges to embedding sustainability into fashion. From ‘fast fashion’ being too fast to consider sustainable options to convincing manufacturers to return clothing scraps, fashion brands can face numerous obstacles. The good news is that there are plenty of ideas on how to change this. One interesting challenge is the scraps left over from pattern cutting. Designer Phoebe English told the audience to imagine a t-shirt, and then imagine the piece of fabric it was cut from. While the fabric offcuts used to be a resource and sold, they are now frequently discarded. But innovations are happening. In New York, non-profit organisation FabScrap collects this fabric waste and sells it to makers of all kinds (fashion students, sewists, quilters) at affordable prices. Some brands are also looking into zero-waste pattern cutting, where designs are laid out on the fabric in a way that eliminates cut-offs.

The hearing also showed that it’s not just brands who need to change, but also us consumers. The expert panel explained that even though clothes are becoming cheaper, we are spending more, as fast fashion leads us to buy larger quantities of increasingly disposable clothes. But while buying a new outfit may make us happy, the happiness from a new purchase typically wears off after three days. And if an item breaks, we often throw it away – adding to the tonnes of clothes sent to landfill in the UK every year. While some brands now offer free or paid repair services, this isn’t a widespread practice and the panel of experts felt that this was an area legislation could help push the industry in the right direction. One initiative could be making repairs VAT-free. Another idea was for the government to introduce better labelling for our clothes. In supermarkets, food is labelled with health warnings and information on its origin – but our clothes rarely contain warnings about the harmful chemicals they may have been treated with, or the environmental damage they caused.

Finally, sustainability in the fashion industry is not only about environmental sustainability. Increasingly, consumers want to know more about the social sustainability of their clothes. While the fashion industry provides employment for millions of women around the globe, the jobs are not up to scratch: pay is often poor, while working conditions are bad. Journalist Lucy Siege and founder of Eco-Age Livia Firth both pointed out that cheap clothes are only possible due to exploitation. In addition, Dr Offord MP explained that in a survey of 51 leading UK brands, 71% could not be sure that modern slavery had not occurred at some point in the supply chain. While the Modern Slavery Act was praised by the panel, many felt it does not go far enough in assigning legal responsibility. Organisations like IndustriALL Union are working to ensure garment workers everywhere in the world have the opportunity to join a union and fight for better working conditions.

With all these challenges, what can we as consumers do to make our fashion choices more sustainable?

Based on the information the panelists gave, we have put together our top tips for a more sustainable wardrobe:

  1. Buy less, but better
  • Say no to fast fashion! Try to only buy what you really love and know will wear, and try to buy better quality clothes that you can love for longer. While difficult to do on a student budget, vintage shops, charity shops and resale platforms like Ebay or Depop may help you find some bargains!
  1. Get yourself a new outfit for free
  • If you have some clothes you no longer want, why not try going to a clothes swap? You can usually bring clothes you no longer like, and swap them for other pre-loved items a t a clothes swap near you. If you live in King’s Residences, keep an eye out for any swaps your fellow students or the Residences Team are organising.
  1. It’s not just Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – you can also Rent
  • There are lots of places where you can now rent an outfit for a special occasion rather than buying it new.
  1. Repair and repurpose your clothes
  • If you can, try to repair your clothes instead of throwing them away, or alter them to give them a new look. There are more and more repair cafés popping up around the country, and some brands even offer repairs on their products.
  1. Look behind claims on labels
  • During the hearing, the panel pointed out that while terms like ‘organic cotton’ are protected, claims of ‘sustainable cotton’ may not be. As consumers, we can try to find out what is behind these claims to make sure brands are sticking to what they promise.

If you are interested in finding out more about the inquiry, all the latest information is available on the Environmental Audit Committee webpages. The next public hearing is taking place on the 27th November, and will include witnesses from various fashion retailers.  You can also watch the full footage of this public evidence hearing here.

 

 

 

 

Widening Participation taste-test plant milks

This week, the King’s Widening Participation team taste-tested a range of plant-based milks during a team breakfast. Their line-up included ‘milks’ like coconut milk and hazelnut milk, and staff tried them in their cereal, coffee and tea.

And the winner for the best taste was…

Hazelnut milk !

While all plant milks got good reviews from the team, hazelnut milk was the runaway favourite, especially in coffee.

If this has made you want to try a plant milk in your coffee this weekend, the great news is that these ‘milks’ are not only tasty, but they also save carbon emissions and water. Happy tasting!

 

Cycle to Work Day

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

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

Before you ride

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

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

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

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

On the road

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

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

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

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

Once you’ve arrived

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

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

 

Plastic free July 2018: what does it take to give up single use plastics?

The following guest blog comes courtesy of Sarah Bailey. Sarah is the Science Liaison, Public Engagement and Communications Manager for the Department  of Twin Research as well as their Sustainability Champion.

For those in the know, July is all about plastic free living. The challenge to ditch plastic for a month, run by the Marine Conservation Society in the UK, has gathered momentum as awareness about plastic pollution has increased.

I attempted Plastic Free July in 2017 but failed miserably. I thought I’d got everything covered, until a friend pointed out on day two that, yes, my toothpaste, moisturiser and shampoo all count as single use plastics. And that was just the tip of a plastic-shaped iceberg.

A year later, I decided I was going to give it a proper attempt. Would I make it through the month? What problems would I encounter? Would I become so desperate for sticky toffee pudding and cream one hungry evening that I’d forsake all my hard work?

Since 2017 I’d already started using a few plastic free alternatives, so I didn’t think it would be too much effort to make the final changes needed. But, of course, things aren’t ever quite that straightforward.

Firstly, there’s the cost. Bulk buy items are more expensive than their plastic wrapped counterparts, so I didn’t immediately replace all my store cupboard items. Loose fruit and veg are also pricey, though I didn’t falter and reach for the plastic covered stuff. Plastic free toilet roll is extortionate, so much so I didn’t even consider buying it.

Some things are just hard to buy plastic free. Cheese is one example, and boy, do I love cheese. My local cheese shop did put my purchases in paper bags, but when it’s cut from a big block wrapped in cling film it seems to miss the point. Yoghurt is a tough one too, but you can easily make your own.

There were some unexpected twists, of course. My Lush deodorant left me with a painful rash after a week of use, sending me back to my regular plastic-covered brand, and getting to the bar at a busy pub after an evening at the cricket resulted in a pint in a plastic cup. Sigh.

 

                                               Sarah’s plastic free swaps

It’s not all doom and gloom though; whilst many plastic free alternatives aren’t cheap, they do last a long time. My well-used first shampoo bar lasted six months, and my weird, grey, but utterly delicious Truthpaste will last me a while too.

There are also plenty of changes I’ve made very easily and will stick to. My shampoo bars, metal safety razor, ecoffee cup and shopping bags are all here to stay. Milk deliveries are oh-so-convenient, meaning I definitely won’t go back to plastic-covered milk.

I’ll keep shopping at my local fishmongers who give discounts for bringing your own containers, and I’ll even keep buying (some) bulk buy items from my nearest zero waste shop. Loose leaf tea from my local tea shop is also a winner; how I’ve missed using a teapot!

Living plastic free takes a lot of planning, at least at first. In our age of convenience, doing a weekly food shop is from a bygone age. There’s also a certain amount of willpower needed (Did I cave and buy sticky toffee pudding and cream one evening? Yes, yes I did), and the acceptance that for now, at least, plastic alternatives often cost more.

One thing’s for certain though; plastic pollution won’t go away with consumer action alone. I’ll keep doing what I can, and hopefully more people will too, but what’s urgently needed is action from legislators and manufacturers to remove single use, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics from our shelves, for good.

King’s is an accredited Living Wage Employer

We are happy to say that King’s has officially become an accredited Living Wage Employer. Our commitment to paying our staff members the London Living Wage is an integral part of Vision 2029’s Service Pillar, demonstrating our commitment to society and our staff.

While King’s has been paying the London Living Wage since 2014, we have only just been made an accredited Living Wage Employer.

What is the Living Wage?

The Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is based on living costs. While the government introduced its own ‘national living wage’ rate for staff over 25 years of age in April 2016, this was not actually calculated against what employees and their families need to live.

The real Living Wage is paid by over 4,400 UK business who believe in ensuring that their employees receive fair pay and can afford to live on that pay. For London there is a separate rate taking into account higher living costs in the capital.

What does it mean to be an accredited Living Wage Employer?

Being an accredited Living Wage Employer means that King’s is committed to paying the real Living Wage to all our directly employed staff. In addition, King’s ensures that are on-site contractors, such as cleaners, are paid the London Living Wage.  King’s is also committed to annual pay increases linked to the cost of living.

What does it mean for staff members?

Not only does it ensure that staff members earn enough to live on, accreditation has many other benefits:

  • 75% of current accredited employers say it has increased motivation and retention rates for employees
  • 58% say that is improved relations between managers and their staff
  • 86% say that is has improved the reputation of the business

We’re happy to say that King’s is committed to ensure that it’s staff members receive a fair, liveable wage.

King’s Sustainability Awards 2018

It’s been a busy year and last week on 10 July we had the pleasure of celebrating the achievements of everyone who has been actively involved in sustainability over the past year here at King’s.

The annual King’s Sustainability Awards ceremony took place at Bush House and we celebrated the passion and commitment of the 235 Sustainability Champions who have carried out 1,950 sustainability actions, nearly 500 more than the previous year.

45 Sustainability Champion Teams were awarded: 16 Bronze, 11 Silver and 18 Gold Awards.


We also celebrated with Special Awards for other staff and students from across the university who have worked to embed sustainability across operations, teaching and the wider King’s community.

Working Towards Gold: 1st Floor James Black Center Labs
Best at Recruiting New Champions: Cardiology, Pharmacy Teaching
Outstanding Achievement: 5th Floor JCMB, The Dickson Poon School of Law
Supporting King’s Food in the Sustainable Restaurant Association: Ali Hepple & Izzy Brayshaw
Supporting the Analysis of Sustainability Data: Analytics
Commitment to Embedding Sustainability: Operational Assurance
Commitment to Sustainability: Bouygues, CIS, Procurement, Servest
Commitment to Waste Reduction and Re-Use (via Warp It): Bush House Project Team
Commitment to Sustainability as Energy Champions: Abdul Lateef, Graham Camplin, Kurosh Bastani, Nick Gouveia
Consistently Achieving Highest Monthly Recycling Rates: King’s Sport
Commitment to Sustainable Campus Refurbishment: Natalie Littleson
Working to Embed Sustainability in Capital Development: Olga Ezquieta
Commitment to Implementing Sustainable Lab Practices: Oliver Austen
Commitment to Sustainability & Wellbeing: Robert Staton
Most Improved Recycling Rates: Stamford Street Apartments
Commitment to Biodiversity: Stuart Bailey
Going Above & Beyond: Library Services

Sustainability Awards 2018 – Staff and student champions

Serve to shape and transform

We welcomed Professor Jonathan Grant, Vice President & Vice Principal (Service) who thanked all involved for being the ones to motivate others and to stand up and make a difference to the environment and our local communities around King’s.  ‘Service’ is the term we adopted at King’s in our Strategic Vision 2029 to describe our commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. Professor Grant shared details of the King’s Service Strategy framework and explained that the Sustainability Champions are an integral part of the framework.   The Service Strategy framework will be launched and celebrated on 19 July and all King’s staff and students are welcome to attend.

Sustainability is important to our students

As part of the event we celebrated our students who’ve been involved with a video showcasing their actions over the past year which includes working with King’s Food as Sustainable Food Assistants, auditing our Sustainability Champions teams, taking part in Student Switch Off actions and competitions in King’s Residences, working as Sustainable Food Assistants and running social enterprises such as Zest and Fetch Ur Veg- who offer weekly organic veg box deliveries.

National Sustainability Awards

We saved a surprise for Awards day and our Library Sustainability Champions teams found out  that they had been nominated as finalists at the national EAUC Green Gown Awards, recognising the impact that they have had by making the libraries more sustainable for both staff and students. This year we now have 3 finalists at the Green Gown Awards, including Widening Participation’s Parent Power project and King’s Food for their work on ditching disposables.

THANK YOU

Thank you once again to everyone who has helped us make a difference here at King’s this year. The efforts of all those involved really do add up and help to achieve our university sustainability targets. Achievements this year include:

  • 30% carbon reduction achieved (by July 2017) which is keeping us on track to achieve the 43% carbon reduction goal by 2020 (2017/18 figures will be shared once available)
  • Improving waste recycling rates by nearly 10%
  • Reusing furniture and equipment internally at King’s – saving it from disposal and saving £96k in 2017/18
  • 36 events held by staff and students in Sustainability Week and Reduce Waste Week

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Sustainability Champion contact the Sustainability Team at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Training as a Climate Reality Leader

Hello from Maria from the King’s Sustainability team! For today’s blog, I wanted to share an exciting event I attended over the last three days.

This week, I attended the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps Training. The three day event is organised by the Climate Reality Project, founded by former US Vice President Al Gore. Its aim is to train people from all over the world to be leaders in the fight against climate change, and the training events were featured in 2017’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’.

In Berlin, over 600 new Climate Reality Leaders were trained over three days. The days included a number of presentations and panel debates on climate change and issues around it. As the first day of the training coincided with the first meeting of the German Coal Commission, coal was one of the key themes during the event. A panel on how Germany – and the rest of Europe – can leave coal behind in favour of renewables included an emotional account from a citizen whose village is due to make way for an expanding coal mine. You can read more about Germany’s disappearing villages here. Despite the need for Europe to move away from coal, another panel acknowledged the challenges countries relying on coal for energy face in their transition. Many European countries will need to look at how they can turn their economy around while ensuring former coal industry workers are ready to move into jobs in other industries.

One highlight of the training was to see Al Gore present his now famous slide deck on the climate crisis and its solutions. For over two hours, he explained the science behind climate change, the impact it has on the world right now – and will likely have in the future – and the solutions that already exist. While countless images of environmental destruction and disasters around the world may make it seem like there is no hope, recent developments in renewable energy show that it is not too late to change our path. For example, in June 2017 Scotland sourced 100% of its electricity from wind power for a whole month, and countries around the world are scaling up their solar capacity. In the UK, countless local authorities have pledged to go 100% renewable in the future. Hope was a defining theme of the training, with presenters and panellists reminding the trainees that it is possible to tackle the climate crisis.

A particularly inspiring moment showing changing attitudes was during a Q&A session on the climate crisis presentation. When the audience was asked to raise their hand if they do not own a car, the majority of the room raised their hand. You can see a picture of this moment here.

As a now newly trained Climate Reality Leader, I am excited to go out and campaign on climate change. Climate Reality Leaders are asked to complete Acts of Leadership following their training, which can include anything from giving a presentation to writing a letter to their elected representatives. The Leadership Corps is also a thriving community, with regional and local chapters organising meetings, and assisting and mentoring one another to tackle climate change together. This community element was also central to the three days of training, with each of us encouraged to meet and connect with fellow Climate Reality Leaders from around the world. It was inspiring to see so many people from different industries and all ages coming together to solve one big challenge!

If this has inspired you to become a Climate Reality Leader yourself, you can follow Climate Reality on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming trainings. The next one is due to take place in Los Angeles in August, with applications open now.

Win Prizes with Warp It

So far King’s has saved over £140,978 since we launched Warp It in 2016 and we’re giving you prizes to help to make that number even bigger!

How can you win?

We’re giving you prizes to share as many items as possible on Warp It. The user who uploads the most items by the 12 July 2018 will win a goodie bag of vegan treats!

What exactly is Warp It?

Warp It is a Freecycle style online platform that allows staff members from inside King’s to share unwanted furniture, office and lab equipment they no longer need. Every time an item is added to Warp It it is then available for staff members across King’s to claim, meaning that unwanted, good quality items are no longer being thrown away.

Did you know…?

Lab equipment can be put on to Warp It as well! Everything from electronic equipment to glassware can be shared and claimed on the platform.

Why is it important?

Warp It not only helps us to reduce the amount of waste that we produce, but it also saves users a large amount of time and money that they would otherwise have spent on purchasing new items. It helps to promote the ethos of reuse, reduce, recycle at King’s and encourages staff members to think about what they purchase, before they purchase it.

So far at King’s we have:

  • Saved over £140,978
  • Saved over 58,259kg of CO2, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
  • Avoided over 20,292kg of waste
  • Kept the equivalent of 25 cars off the road and saved 79 trees

Sign up to Warp It and start winning prizes today!

Thank you for a successful Reduce Waste Week

Well, what a week. We in the Sustainability Team had a raucous time shouting about waste as part of our Reduce Waste Week. Our aim was to reach out to the idle public and hit them with games, workshops and community events to engage, shock, and enlighten them to the growing waste problem and the need to REDUCE the amount we create in our everyday lives. Waste is a choice and not a given so we armed ourselves with facts, ideas and a giant raspberry costume and delved headfirst into the King’s community.

Our first event was a workshop on making your own toiletries. This DIY Lush event was fabulous with Sophia concocting a dreamy coconut and coffee grounds face scrub and a pure peppermint and bicarb toothpaste. All made with natural ingredients and in re-usable pots so we can say goodbye to Colgate and toothpaste tubes!

Our second event was the incredible Disco Soup. What is a Disco Soup you might ask? Well, we make soup – to Disco music! We hooked up with Plan Zheroes to scour Borough Market for food that was going to be thrown away by street vendors and collect it for donation. We then scurried back to set up shop in The Shed and had student volunteers prepare the veg while the marvellous SU chef cooked up a carrot soup, mushroom soup and coleslaw. We also manage to get our hands on two bins bags of artisan bread which usually sells at £4 a pop! It’s incredible the amount of food is thrown away – 25% of all farmed food is thrown away!!

Interspersed with these events we had pop-ups where we highlighted the issue of single-use items and how, if they’re not recycled or re-used, can stay in the environment for hundreds if not millions of years!!

In between all of this we were dressing up as fruit and pratting around, having a good time raising awareness about waste and how the only real way to solve the waste problem is to not create it in the first place.

Gain experience as an environmental auditor

The Sustainability Team is currently looking for volunteers to help with the environmental audits of our Office Staff Sustainability Champions on the 21st and 22nd of May. All volunteers will receive IEMA approved training and audit two staff champions. This is an opportunity to get training and auditing experience, valuable for future careers in sustainability and employability in general.

Both days will be split into two parts. The morning will consist of an IEMA approved training session. This will be followed by the auditing sessions, where volunteers will be paired up and visit Champions Teams to evaluate how they meet our sustainability criteria. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

To find out more and sign up, please email sustainability@kcl.ac.uk, confirming which of the days – or both – you are able to attend.

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