Tag: London (page 2 of 2)

Building the Open City

SomersetBeing in the centre of London, our campuses are predominantly urban spaces. However, there are ways sustainability and biodiversity can be built into the city.

To give people the opportunity to find out more about this, Open City have organised Green Sky Thinking.

Green  Sky Thinking is a week-long programme of open events around how to design a more sustainable London. During the week, there are 50+ events, ranging from site visits to presentations.

It runs from the 15th to the 19th May 2017, and registration for sessions is open.

To find out more about the programme, visit the Green Sky Thinking Website.

Don’t buy it – Warp It!

Last week, King’s re-launched the reuse platform Warp It. Originally opened to staff in 2016, Warp It works like a university-wide Freecycle. Staff can add unwanted furniture, research equipment and more to the online portal. Users can then claim these items for free. This means unwanted, good quality furniture is no longer thrown away. Instead, it is given a new life somewhere else in the university, reducing waste and saving money.

So far at King’s we have:

  • Saved over 17,000kg of CO₂, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
  • Avoided over 7 tonnes of waste
  • Kept the equivalent of seven cars off the road, and saved 24 trees
  • Saved over £40,000

KCL E&F WARP IT - TWITTER 1 - 1024x512At the moment, Warp It is only open to staff. If you are interested in signing up and start reusing furniture, please visit the internal Warp It pages.

It’s Coffee Week!

This week is UK Coffee Week, so we are taking the chance to talk about some of the great sustainability things happening in the coffee world. The industry often gets bad press, with environmentally damaging and exploitative farming methods, and often wasteful habits at the consumption end (disposable coffee cups, anyone?).

Luckily, there are now many initiatives trying to improve this image, and make the industry more sustainable. Last weekend I visited the London Coffee Festival, and picked up a few interesting things:

UK Coffee Week:

Rather than just an excuse to drink lots of coffee (not that we need an excuse for that…), this is a week-long fundraising campaign by coffee shops all over the country. Participating coffee shops raise money for Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water to coffee-growing communities. Coffee is water-intensive to grow, but those growing it often have little access to clean water and sanitation. So far, the project has raised £600,000 and provided clean drinking water to over 24,000 people. Find out more about coffee shops taking part on this map.

Fairtrade and more:

Coffee production is often exploitative and environmentally damaging, but it seems both coffee shops and customers are looking for ways to change this. Among the many coffee shops selling Fairtrade coffee, there are a few that have set up their own, direct trading schemes. As part of the festival, Union Coffee delivered a talk on how they make sure their coffee is from sustainable sources. This includes working with the same producers over many years, paying a premium on top of Fairtrade prices, and training employees to audit their supply chain. Many see this as a win-win situation: farmers receive a stable income and are able to improve their produce to sell it for higher prices in the future, and buyers have reliable sources and increasingly better products. While this might only work as long as consumers are happy to pay higher prices for premium products, it is certainly an interesting new direction.. Other coffee roasters sourcing their coffee directly from producers are Pact Coffee or Cafédirect.

Ditch the disposable cup

Following a lot of media attention in the last few months, disposable coffee cups were a big topic. Hubbub and Simply Cups took their Square Mile Challenge to the London Coffee Festival, installing three of their iconic yellow cup-bins, as well as smaller bins and posters around the venue. With significant quantities of disposable cups given out during the festival, the bins were in high demand!

As well as using the cup recycling facilities, visitors could hear about alternatives to disposable paper cups. Biodegradable and compostable cups were on show, as well as many reusable coffee cups. If you have been to the cafés on campus, you have probably seen the King’s College London KeepCups on sale. They were represented at the London Coffee Festival, and showed off the impressive number of universities that sell branded reusable cups on campus. With many companies now offering reusable cups in all shapes and sizes, disposable cups will hopefully be a thing of the past!

Social Media card - 1Interested to know what happens at King’s? The Maughan Library is currently taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, which is aiming to recycle 500,000 coffee cups by the end of April. If you are having coffee there, make sure you look out for the special coffee cup bins (and watch this space for future developments on other campuses)! King’s Food also offer a discount on hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup. King’s is also working towards becoming a certified Fairtrade University.

Join the #SquareMileChallenge!

Today, Hubbub and Simply Cups launch the Square Mile Challenge across the City of London – and as King’s students and staff, you can take part!

Social Media card - 1The aim of the challenge is to recycle half a million paper coffee cups in the month of April. Coffee cups have been getting lots of bad press recently, as seven million of them are thrown away every single day – that’s 4000 a minute! The problem with this mountain of coffee cups is that less than 1% of them are recycled. While they are recyclable in theory, this does not happen in practice. The reason for this is the plastic lining inside the cup, which is almost impossible to separate from the paper. As a result, the coffee cups are either incinerated, or worse, end up in landfill.

So, what can we do about this?

This is where you can help. The Maughan Library will take part in the Square Mile Challenge, which means you will see cup-bins appear. These are specifically for your paper coffee cups. Once full, they are collected by Simply Cups, and taken to specialist recycling facilities. In a unique process of shredding the paper cups and blending them with recycled plastics, a new material is made. This is then turned into a range of things – everything from pencils to park benches. In fact, it only takes 1500 coffee cups to make a park bench!

It does not matter where your coffee cup came from. Starbucks, Pret, Costa, King’s Food – we’ll recycle all of them, as long as they are empty! With exam season fast approaching, we are sure the coffee-drinkers (or tea-drinkers, if that’s more your thing) at the Maughan can help the Square Mile Challenge reach the 500,000 cup goal. We will keep you updated with how many cups we have collected throughout the campaign.

There are five coffee cup bins around the library – two in the Rolls Café, two in the courtyard, and one by reception.

Not at the Maughan? Coffee shops all over the City of London will have special recycling bins throughout April. You can find them here!

If all this talk about 7 million wasted coffee cups made you want to do more than just recycle, it’s worth to bring your own cup. UNSDG #12And not just for the environment – it can save you money too! King’s Food will give you a free hot drink if you buy a KeepCup from them. If you already have one, you get 10p off your drink every time you use it. Starbucks will give you 25p off your drink if you bring your own cup, and Caffe Nero will give you double stamps for your loyalty card.

You can follow what is happening during the Square Mile Challenge by following Hubbub on Twitter, and keeping an eye on the hashtag #SquareMileChallenge.

The UK and the SDGs: A look back at the UKSSD conference

Earlier this month, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) held their annual conference in London. The theme this year was how to translate the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into actions in the UK.

UNSDG #18The conference started with a keynote speech by Amanda MacKenzie OBE, who highlighted the importance of getting everyone involved. When the SDGs were unveiled, she ran a campaign to get word about them out there. One of the key messages of this was the importance of using simple language everyone understands. This is why she refers to the goals as Global Goals rather than SDGs, claiming the term SDGs “sounds like something you would see your doctor about”. By calling them the Global Goals and making them accessible, we should be able to take millions of small, simple actions, together adding up to significant change.

Prior to the event, key partners of the UKSSD sent an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking what the government is doing, and will do, to work towards the SDGs. Lord Bates, Minister of State for the Department for International Development, took to the stage to respond on behalf of the government. He claimed that with Brexit, the SDGs can provide an important framework for the UK to face outwards again.

One aspect that was highlighted several times throughout the day was that the SDGs do not only apply to the developing world. Dr Graham Long from the University of Newcastle did extensive research on how the UK is doing compared to the goals – with the conclusion that there is work to be done within the UK too. For example, many see Goal 1 (No poverty) as only applying to the developing world. However, Dr Long showed that over 15% of households live under what is considered the poverty line in the UK. Similarly Goal 2 (Zero hunger) is not only about the absence of hunger – it is also about the presence of good nutrition.

So how can we achieve the goals and targets associated with them?

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Dr Jake Reynolds presenting his plan to ‘rewire’ the economy

According to Dr Jake Reynolds from CISL, it is all about ‘rewiring’ the economy. At the moment, sustainable businesses face many challenges, and one could argue that the game is tilted against them. We need to change this to a system where sustainable businesses have the advantage. Dr Reynolds presented his 10-task plan to make this happen, calling to the government, business and the financial sector to implement changes.

Talking about how businesses can have an impact and implement changes, another session focussed on leadership within organisations. While we often talk about wanting change to happen, few of us make changes themselves, and even fewer are ready to lead change.

In the afternoon, John Elkington chaired a panel discussing ‘Transforming lives’. One main point from the discussion was the importance of having a positive message. Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer’s Plan A said that to achieve the SDGs, we need to get people excited about them. Trewin Restorick from Hubbub reinforced this, sharing some of the positive and fun campaigns the charity Hubbub has run over the last year. As they are our next-door neighbours at Somerset House, you might have noticed us sharing some of their great ideas (including #BrightFriday and the Square Mile Challenge we will be taking part in). Another idea that was mentioned during this panel debate was that of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – if you have followed our Sustainability Week, you might have heard her speak at our successful Overpopulation vs Overconsumption debate.

Overall, the conference gave attending businesses a good insight into why the SDGs matter, both at home and abroad, as well as how they can support them by promoting them in their organisation. As was repeated many times during the conference, we need everyone involved if we want to stand a chance at achieving the SDGs – this includes government, business, and every single one of us.

20161010 Olivia's Personal Blog UNSDGs (photo in blog post)

Sustainability Week: The first three days

With Sustainability Week now in full swing, it is time to recap what happened so far, and what events you can still get involved in.

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We asked students what they would do if they were Principal for the day

On Monday and Tuesday we took over the space outside the Great Hall at Strand with our Sustainability Roadshow. Representatives from King’s Money Mentors, Hubbub, Veolia, Thames Plastic, RSPB, EcoSoc, Abe & Cole and Amey joined us for this, and we got the chance to chat to students about sustainability at King’s. Among other things, such as our popular recycling game, we asked students to write down what they would do if they were Principal of King’s for a day. Ideas included switching to clean energy, providing recycling training and banning non-recyclable coffee cups. We will take this feedback and see what we can do about these suggestions to make King’s more sustainable!

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Artist Maria Arceo and the Thames Plastic stall

Highlights of other events include our Vegfest, which saw around 100 students try plant-based food (including Sheese!). We also held a bike auction at Strand, during which 16 second-hand bikes found new homes. Dr Bike were also on site to provide bike checks, and will travel with us to the other campuses over the next two days. King’s Careers & Employability ran two successful events on how to start a career in the sustainability sector, giving students the chance to ask sustainability professionals for advice.

If you have missed our events so far, you still have the chance to take part! Sustainability Week lasts until Friday the 10th February, and there are still lots of events coming up.

Tonight, there will be a panel debate on whether overconsumption or overpopulation is the biggest problem we face.

On Thursday, we will take our Sustainability Roadshow to Waterloo Campus. There will also be a Clothes Swap Shop at Waterloo in the morning. In the evening, you can attend a free screening of Tomorrow (2015), or pitch your idea on how to make King’s more sustainable at the Geography Department’s Sustainability Challenge.

Finally, on Friday we move to Denmark Hill for a seminar on why healthcare professionals should care about climate change, and we will bring our Roadshow, bike fixing sessions and Clothes Swap Show with us.

For more information, check out the full schedule here. We are looking forward to seeing you at the remaining events!

“Space to Breathe” at Somerset House

Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.

BackPack2SmallThe exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.

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Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack

One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!

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Cycling to run the bar

By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.

Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.

Part 3 of 3: What can I do about air pollution?

Welcome back to our series on air quality! In previous posts, we focused on why pollution matters and what the main causes are in London. In this final part, Timothy Baker from the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s offers his advice on how individuals can protect themselves from pollution, and what they can do to help clean up London’s air.

Living in London, we are exposed to varying levels of pollution every day. As Tim Baker discussed in the first part of this series, the places where we are most exposed might be surprising – such as inside our cars or taxis. Although walking or cycling may be better for our health than being inside a car, we are still exposed to pollution. We asked Tim Baker what the method for reducing this exposure was, and he suggested planning routes carefully:

“It’s actually all common sense. If you avoid the traffic when walking or cycling somewhere, you will dramatically reduce your exposure levels. Even just going one street back from the main road will probably halve your pollution exposure. It’s as simple as that.”

To make this easier, the ERG’s London Air website offe_DSC6991rs street-by-street pollution maps, enabling Londoners to plan a route avoiding the most polluted areas. The team is also planning a mapping service that would automatically give users the least polluted route to their destination. Those most at risk, such as people suffering from existing respiratory problems, should check pollution forecasts before undertaking strenuous tasks outside, and potentially wait if pollution is expected to clear later in the day.

There is also a range of things our expert Tim Baker believes individuals can do to contribute to tackling pollution in London. As a large proportion of pollution is due to transport, the first step is not using a car to get around the city. Cycling or walking to work would reduce traffic, often get people to their destination quicker, and even though cyclists are exposed to pollution, Tim Baker claims the health benefits of cycling offset the risk of exposure. Another option is to take public transport. Responding to a recent initiative to publish air quality data on polluted days at bus stops, the expert welcomed the idea and said:

“At the end of the [air quality] message they should add ‘Thank you for doing something to help’. Because if someone sees it at a bus stop, they are already helping the problem by using public transport.”

If driving is necessary, people should think carefully about what kind of cars to get.
While cars powered by alternative fuels may be more environmentally friendly than those powered by petrol or diesel, they are still expensive. Engine size should also be kept in mind. “If you’re looking for what is going to have the least impact [on air quality], and is a cheap vehicle, it’s probably currently going to be a small petrol engine”, says Tim Baker. Finally, something that King’s, businesses and even households should reconsider is the necessity of having items delivered as soon as possible. Many deliveries are not required immediately, and instructing companies to wait until several items can be delivered at once is an easy way to reduce traffic on the roads. At London Bridge, local businesses suggested to have consolidated deliveries at night, and have campaigned to keep their streets pedestrianised during the day. As more and more businesses get involved and even help fund measuring equipment, the expert says everybody else will hopefully follow soon to help combat pollution in London.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nThis was the final part of our series on air pollution in London. We would like to thank Timothy Baker for taking the time to answer our questions and share his advice with us. For regular updates on air quality in London, visit the ERG’s London Air website and Twitter. To keep in touch with the Sustainability Team, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Part 2 of 3: The causes of London’s pollution problem

Welcome back to our series on air quality! Last time, we talked about why air pollution matters. Today, the focus will be on the main causes of air pollution in London – and why the Volkswagen emissions scandal might have had some positive consequences after all. Again, Timothy Baker from the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s has shared his knowledge with us, and given us his expert view on what governments should do to tackle pollution. 

When it comes to the causes of pollution, many might be quick to blame large vehicles such as lorries. But according to Tim Baker, one of the main culprits for air pollution in London are diesel cars. They were often seen as the more environmentally friendly option compared to petrol cars, but while technology in petrol has improved rapidly in recent years, diesel cars have lagged behind. “The Department for Transport tested the 15 most popular diesel vehicles, and on average they were 4 to 7 times over the legal limit”, says Tim Baker in our interview. Petrol cars on the other hand only achieve somewhere around 10% of the emissions they are legally allowed to achieve, he claims. ITF066044RGB75Under certain conditions, many diesel cars will also switch off their emission controls. Legal loopholes enabled them to do this when the outside temperature falls below 18°C. While manufacturers claim this is to protect the engine, average temperatures in London mean this causes significant problems for the city’s pollution levels, as cold periods are often when pollution builds up. This is made worse by the rising number of diesel vehicles on London’s roads.

“What we have seen is that the advances in technology in some vehicles have been massively offset by the change in fleet, especially in London. 10 years ago, probably around 15% of cars on the road were diesel. The year before last, more than half of the registered new cars were diesel.”

Some weather conditions can also contribute to higher pollution levels. Pollution can build up when it is not windy, and some of the worst pollution episodes happen on cold, foggy mornings when pollutants are trapped close to the ground. In addition to this, London’s geographical location means it may also be exposed to pollution from continental Europe. This is usually the case during spring, when wind carries pollution from the Netherlands, Belgium or France to London. However, the opposite is true for large parts of the year, carrying emissions from South East England to continental Europe. IND053Therefore, even local pollution might require cross-border efforts to be tackled effectively. “It’s also someone else’s local emissions. And where are our local emissions going when they are not causing us a problem? They are going to somebody else”, says Tim Baker.

To solve London’s pollution problem, he says governments need to be brave, and not afraid to make difficult decisions. “Everyone says it’s the lorries. But if you actually want to solve the urban pollution problem in London, in a stroke, it’s ban diesel cars”, Tim Baker tells us in the interview. While this might be a drastic measure, he believes the public is now more aware of just how bad diesel vehicles are for air quality. “The Volkswagen emissions scandal did more for publicity than anything that has been done in the previous years of trying to get the story across”, the expert tells us, explaining that when the first London sites exceeded annual limits earlier this year, the press coverage had changed compared to previous years. “Usually they are calling us to explain why air pollution is bad for you. That didn’t happen this time – they actually started their articles with ‘We know air pollution is bad for you, it’s diesel that is causing it’.” As much of the changes to London’s car fleet have happened in the last 10 years, Tim Baker believes these changes should be reversible over the next 10 years. However, he is not sure governments are ready to do this:

“Is it likely to happen? Probably not. It should be possible, but I suspect there isn’t the bravery. I hope I’m proved wrong”

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nThe next and final part of our air pollution series will focus on the actions each individual can take to both protect themselves from pollution, and to help clean up London’s air. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, as well as the ERG’s Twitter and website for regular pollution updates and forecasts. 

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