Telling Stories about Sustainability #KentGlobalOfficers

This year the Sustainability team is working with the International Partnerships team and their amazing Global Officers program as part of the GOLD Project. We are collaborating to embed sustainability throughout the program due to the overlaps and linkages between Internationalisation and Sustainability.

As part of this, we delivered a session recently to the Global Officers about the sustainability challenges we are currently facing and how storytelling can be an important advocacy role in sustainability campaigning bridging the gap between abstract problems and real life human impacts.

Global Officer Sara Said, 1st year, BSc Biomedical Science with a Sandwich Year, shared the following story:

This is about my experiences I thought would be interesting to share.

Back in school in Kenya while I was doing my A-levels, I was the president of the Interact charity club where we would help underprivileged communities in Kenya by implementing both short-term but mostly focusing on long term solutions. There was this one school we visited within a village with over 1000 students who did not have access to clean water, where the parents would have to walk a long way with buckets just to be able to get water.

There was just something about seeing it in-person how happy they were during the opening of the solar-powered borehole we built on their school grounds that made me appreciate how lucky some of us are to be able to have access to clean water and not worry about getting sick from the water we drink.

There was also a public primary school we visited to donate some desks, chairs and food items which opened my eyes to the inequalities within the education system including the conditions and environment in which some students are forced to learn in due to it being the only one the parents can afford to send their children to. The classrooms were cramped up with more children in a class than they were desks, and the classrooms not having sufficient light or enough resources for all the children. I have included a few pictures I managed to take during the event I hope will be helpful for you to be able to envision it.

 

All these experiences during the charity events and public schools I was lucky to have visited heavily influenced me to take such a great importance in bridging such inequalities and taking an interest in sustainability.  It inspired me to do one last event before moving to university which would help to solve an existing problem. My team and I partnered with another charity organisation and initiated the “pad a girl” initiative solely because we had heard from many public schools that most of their girls could not afford sanitation products and had to stay home and miss school when they were on their periods because of this. We were saddened by this and did our absolute best to help them by providing each girl with 3 months supply sanitary products in 3 schools and also providing empowering and motivating talks to the girls.

This initiative is still ongoing and being developed further by the new members who took over. We found a way to help communities by also combining the projects with tackling the Sustainable Development Goals.


If you would like to share your sustainability story please just email it to sustainability@kent.ac.uk

 

Celebrating Black Environmentalists #BlackHistoryMonth

Sustainability has always been based off of equity. Equity for the planet and people. Without social equality and justice we cannot have environmental sustainability.

The sustainability/environmental movement must be more vocal against systemic racial violence, injustice and inequalities, committing to listen, learn and take action. It is also a time to reflect on issues within the sustainability community.

We know that those most affected by climate change are the poorest and tend to be from the Global South and black and minority ethnic communities, so why does the environmentalist movement lack diversity?

These conversations can be uncomfortable, but we should feel uncomfortable about the current situation. As people who care about the world we live in, we should be actively engaging with this issues and seeking to dismantle the systems that have led to such injustice and inequality for our fellow humans and the environment we rely on.

To mark Black History Month we wanted to share the voices of black environmentalists and celebrate their work. In all the work we do we will continue to seek out more representative voices and sources to provide a fuller picture of delivering sustainability globally.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson – marine biologist and conservation strategists, founder of Ocean Collectiv and is an adjunct professor at New York University


“Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden.”
Read Ayana’s piece for the Washington Post on how racism is derailing environmental action here – https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/im-black-climate-scientist-racism-derails-our-efforts-save-planet/

Dr Robert Bullard – described as the father of environmental justice, he is a Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environment Policy at Texas Southern University.


“America is segregated and so is pollution. Race and class still matter and map closely with pollution, unequal protection, and vulnerability.  Today, zip code is still the most potent predictor of an individual’s health and well-being.  Individuals who physically live on the “wrong side of the tracks” are subjected to elevated environmental health threats and more than their fair share of preventable diseases. Still, too many people and communities have the “wrong complexion for protection.” Reducing environmental, health, economic and racial disparities is a major priority of the Environmental Justice Movement.”

Read more about Robert and his work at https://drrobertbullard.com/

Leah Namugerwa – 15 year old climate change activist and Fridays for Future striker

“Today I was moving door to door distributing food I found these children very tired with jerrycans full of water on their heads. They walk two kms to fetch water. They barely have food. I followed them to their home and donated 15kgs of maize flour. They were happy.”
Read more about Leah here https://therising.co/2020/01/02/leah-namugerwa-climate-activism/ and follow her on twitter @NamugerwaLeah

Wangari Maathai  (1940 – 2011) – author of “Unbowed” Professor Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contributions to sustainable development and peace. She founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.


“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”
Find out more about Wangari’s work and legacy here: https://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai

Zakiya McKenzie – PhD candidate with the Leverhulme Trust-supported Caribbean Literary Heritage project at the University of Exeter researching Black British journalism in the post-war period. Zakiya is a writer and storyteller and was the 2019 writer-in-residence for Forestry England during its centenary year. In Bristol, she was 2017 Black and Green Ambassador

By choosing me for the role, Forestry England have explicitly shown that they are committed to hearing and sharing marginalised voicesBy extending the pen and platform to me they have actively validated my voice to the nature and nature writing public. It’s easy for people to think I’ve got here just because I’m black, that’s fine for now but, holla at me when you’ve actually read what I produce and say that with a straight face. The ‘sharing’ is really important here; Forestry England have a huge operation and are an authority on British nature.”
Read her beautiful poems for the Forestry Commission here: https://www.forestryengland.uk/zakiya-mckenzie

Oladosu Adenike – Ecofeminist and leading Nigerian Climate Activist who heads the “ILeadClimate” movement for peace, security and equality in Africa

“In Africa, climate change is no longer a threat but a reality. Invariably climate change is now a global reality. I’m not only worried about the future but the present because any action we take will bind us all. The hope therein is that the climate movement has the face of young people because the youth are tomorrow’s adults. Remarkably, women and girls are at the forefront of the fight for climate justice.”

Read more from her speech during Ecocide, a performance art event in Stuttgart, Germany here: https://www.environewsnigeria.com/climate-change-nowhere-is-safe-if-africa-isnt-adenike-oladosu-warns/

Food & Fashion? Improving sustainable consciousness – my realisations, experiences, and what I’ve learnt incorporating sustainable practices into my lifestyle.

I’m Bilal Hussain, a Politics & International Relations graduate and Global Officer at the University of Kent. I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned from my experiences so far and working together with students and staff at the University of Kent to build a greener future for all!

For many like myself, trying to incorporate sustainable lifestyles is a notion that is met with complaints about the difficulty and impracticality that has long been associated with greener life choices. Prior to the UN setting out the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 there was arguably a level of ignorance and dismissal towards sustainable alternatives in our daily lives, something that I personally am accountable for as well. Fast forward to 2021, we now have more variety and accessibility to greener technologies, transport, and diets but more importantly a stronger awareness within our societies of the real-world impact climate change has had. My own journey to improving my sustainable consciousness was filled with realisations that it was in fact not as hard as I thought, and that making a small adjustment to my daily lifestyle choices would help make big changes to achieving a greener future. The two big ways I saw this unfold in front of me was in my food and fashion choices.

A problem that I often encountered was trying to incorporate a greener, more sustainable diet. As a fairly active person, one of the things that put me off sustainable options was the lack of meat-free protein alternatives that were actually enjoyable. However, as time as gone on and the meat-free industry has started to revolutionise and innovate further I discovered a greater and more affordable variety of options that not only tasted great but, in some cases, better than the meat versions! Some of my favourites include the Vivera Vegan Shawarma and Richmond’s Meat-free sausages. My adventure into the world of sustainable eating on the recommendation of a friend quietly started to become part of my regular food shop and I even found myself trying more sustainable foods at restaurants compared to my usual orders. As a Muslim this was extra encouraging for me because I had to often choose the vegetarian options because there was a lack of halal choices. So, for me and I’m sure many Muslims, the greater availability of vegetarian alternatives has made the realm of food much more exciting in the UK than ever before! This gradual adjustment to incorporating an environmentally friendly diet occurred unconsciously simply because I found myself actually enjoying the alternatives, which is perhaps a testament to the improvements of meat-free products in recent times. I started to become more conscious of making more sustainable choices in my diet, seeking out plant-based recipes and trying them with friends. I will say that not all the alternatives are the best sometimes, banana peel pulled pork being an interesting experiment to say the least! I’ll be honest I haven’t totally committed to a meat-free lifestyle just yet and I still enjoy the foods I liked before, but I have faith in the growing variety and quality of sustainable alternatives that will allow me to enjoy and incorporate more into my diet. The main thing is, to make a growing conscious effort to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle helped me to realise that it wasn’t as hard as I thought!

Another example where I realised how sustainable practice was right in front of me was when it came to fashion. I, like many my age these days, enjoy wearing reworked clothes and clothes made using sustainable materials. I was already buying clothes from independent businesses that were committed to giving part of their profits towards greener causes. As someone who also sells clothes, I was naturally recycling old packaging, something that I didn’t even consciously realise was a sustainable practice in daily life. Personally I had shopped sporadically at so-called ‘fast fashion’ stores, and as I realised the environmental damage that was caused from over-shopping at these places I couldn’t help but naturally move towards buying more sustainable clothing, whether that was materials, reworked, or just second hand. All of a sudden alongside the wave of greater awareness of sustainable fashion I realised that I had subconsciously been practicing sustainability in my fashion as well, which like my journey with food made me realise that sustainable practice isn’t as difficult as I once thought.

Of course, it is worth noting that these actions are of small significance in the greater process – I am not claiming to have saved the planet because I had vegan food one time! Instead, the point I want to make is that sustainable practice in our daily lives is very much doable, and that every person that consciously makes an effort no matter how small keeps us all going in the right direction in reducing the damage we do to our environment. The ever-growing variety and quality of sustainable lifestyle options around us thanks to innovations in technology are helping make everyday activities more sustainable. The move towards electric vehicles for example is gradually becoming a norm for us (I don’t know about you, but I am seeing a lot more Tesla’s and charging ports nowadays!). I have also found that becoming more conscious in behaving sustainably can help others also realise that these small actions can collectively make a huge difference, particularly those who perhaps do not see the point as I was in a similar mindset not so long ago. Regularly reminding yourself for doing a small sustainable behaviour as doing a favour to the environment sounds odd, but you actually feel a lot better about yourself and the world around you! Consciously making sustainable choices and realising that it isn’t as difficult as we thought will help us all gradually transition to a greener future for us and generations to come, and this is particularly encouraging with the developments and innovations in the products that are available to us. As we have greater varieties, quality, and importantly accessibility to just as good if not better alternatives for our daily lives hopefully we can naturally incorporate sustainable practice into how we live our lives. The small mindset adjustment of “how can I help the environment” when making our lifestyle choices can make a powerful change to achieving a more sustainable society without us even realising.

Plastic Free July Inspired Films for Families

Cross posted from The Gulbenkian’s original blog

———————————————————————————————————–

Kick start environmental conversations with your family this Plastic Free July with our family film screenings of Moana and Ponyo!

In Moana, the daughter of a Polynesian Chief undertakes an oceanic odyssey to save her endangered isle from environmental devastation enlisting the aid of the legendary demigod Maui along the way. Moana and Maui’s quest to restore ecological balance and preserve traditional culture highlights how indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by global warming.

Talking Points: Protecting our land and indigenous tribes, climate change, and natural resources.

Book Tickets for Moana – Sun 18 July, 3pm

Fantastic for younger children, Ponyo is a colourful story of a little boy who befriends a magical fish, who evolves into a young girl.  An environmentalist twist on the little mermaid tale from Studio Ghibli, touching on themes of pollution, global warming, personal responsibility and rising sea levels.

Talking Points: Rising sea levels, climate change and pollution.

Book Tickets for Ponyo – Sun 25 July, 3pm

Find out more about Plastic Free July and how you can join the global movement to reduce plastic pollution so we can have cleaner streets, oceans and communities.

Also as we look ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, check out the new release Japanese animation Earwig and the Witch from the creators of Studio Ghibli favourites Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro.
Tickets for family film screenings are £3.50 / Baby on laps(0-18months) +£1

How Technology Can Support Environmental Activism

Guest post: Jane is the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she shares practical tips on how to live a greener life. 


Technology drives the modern age. Since the pandemic, we spend more time staring at screens than ever before. Laptops now help us access education safely from anywhere in the world.

The benefits of technology are evident, and individuals wonder how they may expand. When developing or supporting a social movement, many citizens turn to the web. Though this may present conflict, it also promotes community and action.

Slacktivism to Activism

Society once viewed social media-driven activism as “slacktivism.” The term derives from two words — activist and slacker. Individuals believed social media campaigns were lazy, supporting a cause through simple measures rather than true devotion.

The past few years proved a different use for social media in activism. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more exposed society to the harsh reality of the world.

Technology and Environmental Activism

The online environmental movement has significant effects. In the early years, corporations capitalized on eco-conscious development, spreading misinformation for profit. Cooperatives offer alternatives to proprietor-owned companies.

Rather than working to please investors, environmental cooperatives focus on their mission. They may work with individuals to generate beneficial change. Online spaces provide everyone with a place to speak, regardless of their financial background.

Social Media

Before social media, movements remained local. Today, they can become international overnight. A few tweets and posts generated a significant turnout at Standing Rock.

In 2016, the U.S. government announced plans to install a pipeline crossing the Missouri River. Officials mapped the pipeline route, allowing it to run beneath Lake Oahe. The lake is the Sioux Reservation’s primary water source, and an oil stream could pollute it, causing adverse environmental and health effects.

Individuals on and around the reservation used internet posts to gain the attention of environmental activists. They used #NoDAPL to signify the movement. People from all around the U.S. saw #NoDAPL tweets and posts, making the trip to the reservation with food, medical supplies and other aid.

Social media also provides a supportive space for individuals to connect and get help. At times protesting, researching and connecting can feel defeating. Online communities allow mental stress and isolation to dissipate.

Many environmental activists used social media to distribute a message in lockdown. Greta Thunberg planned a school strike on Earth Day in 2020, and, due to the pandemic, she asked individuals to remain inside. Rather than leaving school to protest, Greta took the day off virtual classes and raised environmental awareness online.

Various activists utilize education, exposing society to ecological degradation. Many people use Facebook live and IGTV to share their values and goals, influencing others to volunteer in local protests. This technique displayed success through the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Film

Video technology exposes individuals everywhere to environmental degradation. Film experts developed the documentary “Chasing Coral” to expose marine damage caused by climate change. The video shows footage of global coral bleaching.

When coral experiences stress from temperature, light or nutrient changes, it expels algae and turns white. The degression leaves it susceptible to disease and death. “Chasing Coral” offers suggestions for lowering society’s contribution to the issue.

Another documentary, “RiverBlue,” breaks the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) wall between fashion consumption and production. The fast fashion industry contaminates 70% of freshwater sources in China. “RiverBlue” explores various regions of Asia, exposing the harm our blind purchases cause.

Another river in Bangladesh located near textile mills and leather tanneries holds the record for most localized pollution. Tanneries utilize harsh chemicals, disrupting the nervous systems and hormones of workers. Few individuals know of these environmental harms when they go shopping. Filmmakers use powerful footage to expose society and promote a response.

Online Voting

The pandemic generated the e-ballot era. Some people preferred to vote from their laptops or phones rather than in person. Though online petitions may lack government legitimacy, they gain success in other realms.

Online petitions successfully raise environmental awareness. Coupling this activism method with community outreach programs, protests, phone calls, organized media campaigns and more can create change. It also helps those without voting rights have a say.

Small Actions, Big Impacts

We are past the days of slacktivism, finding various uses for technology in environmental activism. Though some of the online efforts appear small, together, they generate a significant impact. Like Bernie Sanders and Greta Thunberg, many individuals successfully increase climate awareness and reach voters using technology.

National Gardening Week: Cultivating a green space at home or in your office

Whether you are working from home, studying remotely or back on campus, there is a simple way of improving your space and creating a routine that is good for you and good for your plants, without the requirement of a garden.

The benefits of having plants indoors are numerous. They do not just look good, there are proven benefits for your health by having house plants around your working environment.

Plants can reduce stress and anxiety and data from scientists, including NASA, has confirmed that many houseplants can purify the air around us. Just the sight of greenery or the sense that you are surrounded by natural things can foster calmness, improved memory and a reduction in stress.

However, some people find the thought of caring for houseplants a bit stressful in itself, and some have seen many former houseplants make their way to the compost heap after struggling to survive in their homes or offices.

Below are some of the easiest plants to keep alive no matter what your office/desk space is like. Hopefully, these will convert even the most hesitant of would-be plant keepers!

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Can survive very well in low light and will tell you when it needs water by drooping its leaves – perfect for people who tend to over water their plants. Peace lilies just need some food during the summer and deadheading of flowers that have faded – chop those brown flowers off!

Peace lilies are great at removing ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde from the air but careful if you have pets about. Lilies are incredibly poisonous!

Snake Plant (Sanseveieria)

Will survive happily in barely any light but will also flourish in bright indirect sunlight. They thrive on neglect so if that is your style of plant parenting, then this is the plant for you! Snake plants tend to grow slowly so are not going to suddenly take up a lot of space and will actively remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air.

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos)

Pothos plants are dramatic, fast growing and virtually indestructible! They are great for people that want an instant lift to their space and can be brought back from the dead by creating cuttings from the plant and starting again. Pothos’ like some humidity, so get a cheap mister or spray bottle and she will appreciate a light mist a couple of times a week.

There are some wonderful youtube channels and other resources that will help you find the right plant for your space and give you advice on how to help the plant flourish. Some of my favourites include:

  • Crazy Plant Guy
  • Planterina
  • And Christopher Griffin (aka Plant Kween) who if you search for, is in lots of other videos and also has a great Skillshare class that includes cultivating a routine

Cultivating a routine

Once you have a plant, or many plants, in your space it is important to create a stress free plant care routine that works for you and your plant. Your plant will need watering as well as occasional feeding, checking for pests and problems, misting where needed and pruning and repotting when the time is right.

By creating a routine to care for your plants, not only are you giving them the care they need, but I find, the time I spend weekly carrying out their basic maintenance is a great time for my own mindfulness and relaxation. At last count I have 37 houseplants and so it takes me about 45mins a week to get round them all, checking their soil, watering them and making sure they are happy. That is 45 minutes where I am completely focused on a simple task that brings me joy for the whole week being surrounded by healthy plants. 45 minutes where I am completely in the moment and not worrying about anything else.

Your routine could be as simple as Monday morning, when you make that first cup of tea, spending 5 minutes whilst you wait for your tea to cool, checking how your snake plant is getting on and giving it a drink.

Best place to find house plants

If you have a friend or colleagues that loves houseplants, chances are they are cultivating new plants from cuttings/propagation. You may be able to get some starter plants for free or a small charge. There are lots of great websites for plants but these can be quite pricey so I would recommend some smaller independent shops. Two that I like in East Kent are Marmarmargate and the Plantlet Shop. If you have any other recommendations, please do let me know, especially if you know of any places in the Medway area.

I would suggest avoiding some of the larger garden centres/DIY stores for houseplants as often they are root bound and where they have been allowed to sit water are often suffering the beginnings of root rot which is setting you up for failure if you are not confident in dealing with this.

I hope that this National Gardening Week gives you the inspiration and motivation to start creating your own cultivated green corner, even if it is on your desk.

University sets new zero carbon target

By 

The University has set a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040 but is already planning how to engage students, staff and other stakeholders to achieve this target earlier – by 2035.

Our Executive Group has agreed the new target following a review of our current emissions, building performance, financial resources and available technologies.

The target applies to scope 1 and 2 emissions (gas, electricity and University-owned vehicles) by 2040 at the latest, with scope 3 emissions (including business travel, emissions from waste and water) targeted for net zero by 2050.

The new target will be a key objective in the University Sustainability Strategy currently being developed by our Sustainability Steering Group. It builds on a carbon emissions reduction target set in 2010, which aimed to reduce emissions by 23% by 2020 and was achieved a year early.

Next steps

A Carbon Management Plan will set out the roadmap for achieving the new target, stating how we will reduce carbon emission across the whole institution, from buildings and operations to teaching and research. Progress will be monitored by our Sustainability Steering Group, chaired by Richard Reece, DVC Education and Student Experience.

Catherine Morris, Environmental Adviser at Kent, comments: While technologies such as renewable energy generation and decarbonised heating systems will play a large part in achieving the target, ultimately, it is people’s behaviours’ and activities that drive the demand for energy. By adopting a whole-institution approach to carbon management, we hope to reduce demand alongside supporting our staff and students to adopt low-carbon lifestyles and to contribute to local, national and global sustainability efforts.’

Getting involved

The Sustainability Team is keen to hear what you think about its sustainability plans. Have your say now via our sustainability consultation, which is open until the end of April.

Staff can also get involved by becoming Futureproof sustainability champions and students have the option to become sustainability ambassadors.

Further information is available on our Sustainability webpages.

Picture shows: John Kingsland, Energy Engineer, Estates Department.

Kent People: Landscape and Sustainability teams

By Alice Allwright

Ahead of National Gardening Week 2021 (26 April-2 May 2021) we talk to Chris Wright, the University’s Landscape and Grounds Supervisor, and Emily Mason, Sustainability Coordinator.

 

Tell us about your roles and a typical day?  

Chris: I coordinate maintenance of the University’s natural spaces – everything from grass-cutting, bed and shrub maintenance, to woodland and pond management and looking after memorial trees and benches. I also oversee management of our sports facilities, working with staff and students on projects that use our green spaces.

A typical day starts with briefing my ten-person team on what needs doing across our 300-acre Canterbury campus. My responsibilities include overseeing planning for future works and developing our new Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy. We work alongside the sustainability team to ensure our management plans align with biodiversity enhancement and support natural space for wildlife as well as people.

Emily: I support sustainability projects across our campuses and provide expertise on specific sustainability topics like biodiversity management and behaviour change solutions. One of my projects is the Kent Community Oasis Garden, which I oversee in partnership with East Kent Mind.

Because my role is so varied, I don’t have a typical day, but I often work with our Sustainability Champions, who embed sustainability into their work. Both Chris and I recognise how lucky Kent is to have beautiful campuses for staff and students to enjoy.

Who else is involved in looking after our green campus?

There are many volunteers and sub-contractors who help look after our campus.

Subcontractors support our woodland management by carrying out coppicing rotations on our behalf. Students and staff help with litter picking, biodiversity monitoring, supporting our Hedgehog Friendly Campus project and using the green spaces for educational purposes. Student societies provide feedback and ideas of how we can improve the site alongside the Staff Sustainability Champions network.

We also work with Grounds teams from other universities sharing best practice on sustainable management techniques.

What can you tell us about the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG)?

KentCOG is a partnership community garden run by East Kent Mind and the University. It recognises the important role outdoor spaces play in supporting good mental health. KentCOG provides a space for students, staff and the community to learn about growing sustainable food in a calming outdoors environment. It runs practical and digital workshops on ecotherapy, dealing with low mood and anxiety.

The partnership ensures continuity throughout the year with community members keeping the garden going when students aren’t on site.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

All Landscape and Grounds staff were stood down during the first lockdown to reduce numbers on campus. This coincided with the start of the growing season, so when we returned we prioritised restoration of central areas.

During lockdown 2, we were partially furloughed again, meaning our usual winter management didn’t happen, but we’ve planned our Winter 2021 programme to catch up by the end of year. Our contractors were able to continue coppicing, so our woodland and tree management plans are still on track.

It’s been hard, but the team have coped very well. We hope people have come to value outdoor spaces even more during the pandemic and will enjoy the campuses’ beautiful landscape when they return.

KentCOG has been closed for most of the pandemic. However, volunteers are now working to restore the site, so we can reopen for events this summer and, hopefully, permanently in September. We have run digital sessions in lieu of practical gardening and will be shortly launching a series of wellbeing workshops for students during the exam term.

As more of us start returning to campus, what can we expect to see?

We’re keen to emphasise the use of outdoor spaces as safe places for staff and students.

We’re collaborating with Kent Sport in restoring the nature trail at Canterbury, which they’ve publicised alongside their marked-out running routes. We’ve also recently installed a new walking trail from the Canterbury campus to the KentCOG following the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and are developing walking tours led by staff from Landscape and Grounds and the Sustainability Team.

Areas on campus have been marked to be developed as wildflower meadows over the next year. We’ve also commissioned the building of new hibernaculas, providing shelter for important pollinators and other insects. We’ve planted bulbs across 1,000 sq m so people can enjoy seeing new plants popping up over the seasons. Alliums are due next!

We are also hoping to work with the University of Greenwich to enhance green spaces at Medway and create a walking route linking both ends of the campus

How can staff help look after our campus green spaces and the KentCOG?

Staff are invited to complete our consultation on the Landscape and Biodiversity of our campuses – we’re keen to have lots of ideas for our new Landscape and Biodiversity strategy.

Volunteers are welcome at our open sessions at KentCOG. We’ll let you know as soon as we re-open – in the meantime, you can join our mailing list by emailing kentcog@kent.ac.uk.

You can also find out more about what we do and get in touch via our social media accounts:

Sustainability Instagram/Twitter

Landscape and Grounds Instagram/Twitter

This is a repurposed version of a blog post and may differ from the original. View the original blog post.

Book Review: What Can I Do (about the climate crisis)? Jane Fonda tells you

Guest post: My name is Hannah Maple and I am a third year Psychology student. Studying this subject has expanded my interests so much. I think it’s really important to learn about the world you live in and understand how your actions influence it.


Jane Fonda is a controversial character but one of her many admirable qualities is how committed she is to elevating voices and influencing causes she is passionate about. Her most recent cause is the Climate Crisis.

Her demonstrations are called Fire Drill Fridays, whereby she and other activists rally in Washington D.C. and commit civil disobedience, risking arrest to stand up for the climate. Their website is full of content from experts on all issues climate: https://firedrillfridays.com.

In the fight to raise awareness she has written a book called “What Can I Do?”. The book outlines the issues raised at the various rallies that took place between October 2019 and January 2020. There can be a lot of confusion about what you, one individual, can do to help the climate crisis and the abundance of issues it refers to. Jane’s book ‘What Can I Do?’ outlines everything so perfectly, step by step of what causes can help and what role you can play.

On reading this book there were so many areas that I didn’t even consider being related to the climate crisis. Ignorance is bliss. But this book has certainly motivated me to get more involved in any way I can, and I just wanted to share the things I have learnt, and encourage you, if you haven’t already, to maybe have a read of Jane’s book.

Some of the issues she raised and what actionable steps we can take:

The Oceans

One of the most common areas discussed when on the topic of climate change is the ocean. The ocean absorbs so much heat as a consequence of global warming and almost half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean so we need to protect it (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ocean-oxygen.html). In addition to the heating of the waters, it is well understood that many fishing practises are unsustainable and damaging to the areas in which they fish, destroying the ocean beds and habitats.

Furthermore, an area I had never heard of or considered before was the unethical employment of these fishing boats and the human trafficking practises that occur on some.

Actionable steps:

– Eat less fish.

– Use less plastic, particularly single-use plastics

– Write to officials to let them know you care about this issue and you expect them to also care.

Water

Access to clean, safe water was recognised by the UN as a human right in 2010 (United Nations, 2010) but there are so many people that don’t have that and it’s predicted that the vital resource is going to become even more scarce. According to WWF, by 2025 it is predicted that two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages.

Water supplies are being polluted and others drying up. We need to protect this vital resource, needed to sustain life.

The blue communities project is working hard to support the UN Sustainable development goals (particularly, 1 No poverty, 2 Zero hunger, 3 Good health and wellbeing, and 14 Life below water). The idea is to adopt the mindset that water is a public good, “shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all”. These Blue communities are popping up all over the world. https://www.blue-communities.org/About_the_programme

Actionable steps:

– Buy less plastic water bottles, use refillable bottles.

– Avoid using hazardous house cleaners and pesticides that pollute water systems

The Money Pipeline

While movements are being made towards cleaner energy there are still expansions taking place in the fossil fuel industry and our banks are supporting them. One movement, led by students, encouraging colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel organisations has had a huge influence on the development of the fossil fuel industry. Divestment and protesting has become a serious threat to the fossil fuel industry and their ability to bring in money. This is a huge success.

Jane lists some of the big banks still investing in fossil fuels but have a look online. Greenpeace’s article: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/barclays-banks-climate-change-fossil-fuels/

So much was covered in the book, there is no way you could summarise all of it, these are some of the other topics discussed in the book:

– Health and the climate

– War, the military and the climate

– Women and the climate

– Migration and human rights

– Jobs and a just transition

– Plastics

– Fossil fuels

Jane’s book covers a lot of issues prevalent in the US but that doesn’t mean the same isn’t happening here. The particular organisations she raises may not be applicable to us in the UK but there are many organisations here that are doing wonderful things, we just need to go out and find them. For example, Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk.

I found Jane’s book really interesting and so inspiring. I hope you have a look https://www.waterstones.com/book/what-can-i-do/jane-fonda/9780008404581

Do You Say ‘What If’ At the Checkout? – My Journey Towards More Sustainable Consumption

My name is Lucy Lavender, and I am a final year Politics and International Relations student with an interest in communications and conflict analysis. Outside of my studies, I am a Global Officer under the GOLD programme for the university’s Dean for Internationalisation, aiming to promote global engagement and increase cultural awareness. I’m also passionate about upcycling and love spending my time repurposing or altering unwanted clothes and materials into new designs. I’m looking forward to getting involved working with the Kent sustainability team and hope to help simplify the complicated world of sustainable living!


DVDs, books, clothes, shoes, folders, a memorable receipt from that one café I used to go to every Friday in Winter of 2019, or in other words; my ‘stuff’. The confirmation that I am someone who keeps up with fashion, who is interested in non-fiction and enjoys peppermint tea. The ‘evidence’ to my claim of who I am. But how can choosing my ‘stuff’, impact both myself the rest of the world?

In 2015, the United Nations set out a UN Resolution called Agenda 2030; a set of 17 targets, all interdependent upon one another, named the ‘Sustainability Development Goals’. They aim to address our biggest global problems, such as Climate Change, poverty and hunger, alongside building economic growth, stronger institutions and community. The goals create a framework of collective action, to be adopted by charities, institutions, states or individuals, willing to grow towards a more sustainable future. But tackling such immense tasks on an individual level can seem overwhelming to say the least.

Or is it? At the beginning of March 2020, I was living in Prague, having packed one large suitcase in September to last me a year. When the COVID19 pandemic hit, I was faced with having to cram as much of the unjustifiable amount of extra clothes, souvenirs and random leaflets I had collected over my study abroad into the same suitcase – so much extra stuff I had originally decided that I would have to go home for a weekend in April and June and then, donate to charity in order to get everything home. But of course, with all plans out the window, and no shops open to buy extra luggage, I had one day to decide what I definitely wanted and what to leave behind.

Surprisingly, the process was easy, for someone who loves ‘stuff’ I immediately knew what I wore, what I liked and what I wanted the most. Stuff I had worn for years and no longer liked as much, stuff I didn’t really wear, stuff I only wore on certain occasions, stuff I had just accumulated without making a conscious decision became clear. These items found themselves packaged into (embarrassingly) three bin bags and a box, to be left for my landlord to send to me at a later date – only fitting for a year such as 2020, my landlord accidently donated everything.

So, all this ‘stuff’ ended up donated and out of my life for good. Although the initial loss of one beautiful coat and the cumulative cost of everything haunted me for a while, I felt, overall, much lighter. I found myself looking at ‘stuff’ with a new attitude. Where I would once see my copy of ‘The Aristocats’ on DVD (a film I have not seen in years, nor do I even have a DVD player that works to watch it anymore) and think ‘what if it’s worth something one day?’ or ‘what if DVDs come back?’ I now saw something I was holding onto, that I knew, would not be something I’d pack in my last-minute suitcase.

In fact, the more I thought about my stuff, the more I saw a pattern occurring; over half of my stuff is a ‘what if’. A ‘what if I want to wear that one day?’ ‘what if that is worth something?’ ‘what if I want to read that?’ all outnumbering the ‘definite’. Even a lot of my recent purchases were based on ‘what if I have an interview one day?’ ‘what if I regret not buying it?’ or ‘what if I can sell it?’ and most of the things that fitted into the ‘what if’ category were things that sit around, just like the things I let go of on my journey back from Prague, that I felt so much lighter without.

So, since this time, I have decided to question my purchases. If I feel as though it is a ‘what if’ purchase, I know it is impulse and, in most cases, going to become another piece of my ‘stuff’ that sits untouched in my room. I feel more in control of my spending and equally all the better for it. As if that wasn’t benefit enough, the enormously intimidating task we discussed earlier; of making a difference individually towards the UN’s SDG goals, becomes something I have found myself invested in working on.

Saying no to such ‘what ifs’ has not only allowed me to be more selective about the stuff that I bring into my life, but allowed me to cut down my individual consumption massively, helping to work towards SDG no. 12 ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’. With charities beginning to refuse clothing donations due to COVID19 and stock room saturation after being on the receiving end of lockdown spring cleaning, even pre-pandemic, with 700,000 tonnes of clothing being sent to UK recycling centres each year. Shifting our focus from how we dispose to how we consume has never been more important. By analysing our purchases, we become more responsible consumers, and so, I encourage you to try it. The next time you are at the checkout, question if your purchase will lead to a ‘what if?’ or if it already is a ‘what if’ in the first place. Perhaps even more importantly, would you pack it in your last-minute suitcase?