This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.
Month 3: December & Christmas
Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.
Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?
Verdict: Definitely easy and fun
Month 4: January & Food
Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.
Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Chloe Foster, third year undergraduate student in the War Studies Department and Student Assistant to the Social Science Public Policy (SSPP) Sustainability Champions.
Climate change is set to impact our lives in a variety of ways, but one particular global system is set to experience drastic consequences. Our current food system is not secure enough to sustain the challenges of the future because of increased extreme weather conditions, decreased biodiversity and increased emissions. A model developed by Anglia Ruskin University found that if ‘do-nothing’ trends continue, by 2040, the global food supply will be facing food epidemics and mass insecurity. This prediction suggests that SDG 2, Zero Hunger is not as achievable as previously thought. Whilst the aforementioned future challenges are not the whole list, this blog post will explore these main areas impacting global food security.
Extreme Weather Conditions
As the Earth’s temperature has risen, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased. Among others, these events include heat waves, drought and flooding. In autumn of last year, Nigeria faced huge flooding which directly impacted on food security and created shortages of rice. The USA has also experienced extreme weather recently; Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused mass devastation of civilian, commercial and agricultural property. Whilst these natural disasters often pose an immediate threat to human safety, they also threaten crop growth and yields. Climate change is set to reduce harvest yields by 11% on average globally by 2050 and compound the already problematic state of food security. Research conducted by Oxfam found that weather-related shocks have the potential to cause huge spikes in food prices and the average price of staple foods, like cereals, could more than double in the next 20 years.
(Source – Oxfam Issue Briefing, GROWING DISRUPTION, Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger, September 2013)
22 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report in February of this year, detailing the increasing loss of biodiversity and its vital role in our food systems. The microorganisms (such as insects, birds and fungi), animals (like hedgehogs) and plants act as fertilisers, pollinators and purifiers of the environment, ensuring the healthy growth of the world around us. However, changes in the environment have led to biodiversity loss and the increased risk of increased food insecurity. Almost 1/3 of fish stocks are over fished, around 26% of breeds of livestock are at risk of extinction and 24% of wild food species numbers are decreasing. However, biodiversity-friendly practices are being increasingly using in agriculture and conservation efforts are increasing across the globe. Whilst these efforts will reduce the speed of biodiversity loss, sustainable frameworks should be used more by governments to formalise these attempts. King’s is promoting biodiversity across its campuses. At Guy’s, there are insect houses and bird boxes, at the Strand campus events are often held on the subject and the installation of green walls and greener spaces are being looked into.
15 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)
The agricultural sector contributes to global warming in many ways. Research by Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, concluded that agriculture (including deforestation needed to create farmland) is responsible for roughly a 1/3 of global greenhouse gasses. The production of meat and dairy produce 51% of worldwide global emissions alone and their consumption is set to double between 2001 to 2050. These shocking figures highlight how our diets have a direct relationship to our carbon footprint and our responsibilities as consumers to make more eco-friendly choices. Changing our diets to be more plant-based and seasonal is an easy and effective way to live more sustainably. The Fetch-Ur-Veg scheme at King’s is a great way to get involved with this. With the scheme you get a weekly bag of amazing seasonally and locally produced fruit and vegetables, delivered straight to the Maughan library! If you’re stuck for recipes, take inspiration from their Facebook page!
Whilst these issues have solutions based in systemic change, there is still power in the individual. As such, I would still promote small changes that can be made to everyday life to reduce your impact on the earth. Eating a more plant-based diet, using more emission-friendly travel and being kind to the world around, individuals can also have a big impact, locally and in the bigger picture. Using http://www.footprintcalculator.org to work out your ecological footprint is a good place to start your sustainability journey!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
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 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 email@example.com if you would like to attend the next).
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.
Food is a huge part of the Christmas festivities, so it’s important to get it right.
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 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.
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.
Exercise helps to nurture wellbeing but lots of yoga mats are made from PVC and other harmful materials.
This brand does amazing biodegradable yoga mats made with vegetable fibres that look pretty too!
Liforme is also a great brand making sustainable yoga mats. However, they are on the more expensive end, but will still make a great investment for an avid Yogi wanting to invest more into their mat and the environment.
Why not make them something special and personalised?
For example, a homemade candle. Candles are very simple to make, click here for a simple, step-by-step tutorial on how to make one.
Plant-based waxes such as rapeseed or soy are the better option compared to paraffin waxes which can pose health risks. When paraffin is burnt, carcinogenic compounds (such as Acetaldehyde, Benzene, Formaldehyde) are released into the air. Plus, the use of paraffin encourages the discovery, refinement, distribution and consumption of crude oil.
Plant wax candles also last longer than paraffin, are less likely to be blended with additives, are biodegradable and also vegan-friendly.
Some good waxes can be found here. Don’t forget you will also need to buy wicks – these can be bought from local haberdasher, which is also more sustainable through the support of local business, reducing delivery miles and reducing reliance on companies such as Amazon – which has questionable staff-treatment.
Making your own candles is great and it allows you to tailor the scent to the favourite smell of the person receiving the gift. You can buy a range of natural oils from Lavender (which is calming), Rosemary (thought to boost memory and mental function) to frankincense (calming and extra-christmassy!). You can browse a range of natural oils available to purchase here and here.
Do they need to get the hint…?
If you are being driven crazy by someone’s unsustainable habits – why not nudge them in the right direction and give them some sustainable tools they can use in their daily life to make their life less wasteful and more efficient?
There are many brands which make wrapping paper out of recycled paper such as ‘ReWrapped‘. Gift bags such as this one are also great – as they can continuously be reused and save you lots of wrapping up time!
If you receive a large gift – save the wrapping paper from it and use it for next year when you’re wrapping up future gifts.
If you want to cut the consumerism of Christmas back – why not use the money you would have spent on the presents for a day out with your loved-one instead?
Since last Christmas, my family and I decided to do this instead of giving gifts. Well, we give one gift each. But compare this to 10-20 gifts from the previous years this is quite a cutback. The pilot last year actually worked really well. My dad in particular was very hesitant, as he thought giving only one gift would make it seem like he didn’t care. However, this one gift Christmas taught him doing something together as a family actually allows you to share your love, excitement for Christmas and create memories together that gift-giving on Christmas morning doesn’t quite achieve. Opening gifts on Christmas morning is always enjoyable, but the memories and stories of trips and events done in replacement those gifts, to me, are much more powerful as well as long-lasting less wasteful. The no-gifts or one-gift Christmas may not be for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about and discussing with your loved-ones as an idea.
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!
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.
Are you interested in helping to promote sustainable food at King’s, as well as gaining experience at running a unique enterprise?
Fetch Ur Veg is a student-led food co-op, providing fresh, organic vegetable bags to students and they are currently looking for new committee members to take over from next year. As a committee member you will have the opportunity to gain practical experience on how small enterprises are run, as well as encouraging healthy, sustainable lifestyles to students on campus.
Fairtrade Fortnight puts a spotlight on trade, and the benefits fair and ethical trade has on the lives of farmers and workers who grow our food. It takes place from the 26th February to the 11th March 2018, with a variety of events happening around the UK – including at King’s.
The King’s Sustainability Team is excited to welcome Ketra Kyosiimire from the Ankole Coffee Producer’s Cooperative Union Ltd (ACPCU) in Uganda to King’s for this Fairtrade Fortnight event.
Ketra is ACPCU’s accountant, giving her an oversight of all coffee production and sales, Fairtrade contracts and investment of the Fairtrade Premium in business improvements and community development. She’s also a farmer herself, and will speak about her experience of international trade and the difference Fairtrade can make from the producer’s perspective.
ACPCU is an organisation supporting 17 Fairtrade certified cooperatives across southwest Uganda. There is a mixture of subsistence and commercial farmers in these multi-ethnic communities. Agriculture is the main source of income, and with assistance from Cafedirect, they have organised into a strong Union. They have created job opportunities, involved women and youth in their activities, and developed skills and long-term peace in their communities. ACPCU members now manage their coffee from farm to export; by avoiding intermediaries, members can maximise their incomes.