Aug 12 2015

Volunteering opened my eyes and enriched my university experience

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Laura Price’s work as Fundraiser and Student Liaison Co-ordinator for FoodCycle earned her a nomination for LSE’s 2015 Volunteer of the Year award. FoodCycle LSE was also named LSE Voluntary Organisation of the Year at the 2015 LSE Volunteers Awards in the summer term. Organised by the LSE Volunteer Centre, the awards recognise the outstanding contribution of student volunteers. We’ve been catching up with some of the Department of Government students who were nominated for their work supporting charitable organisations. Laura (BSc in Government) tells us how volunteering enabled her to develop new skills and see how small grassroots projects can help tackle society’s big problems.

What is Foodcycle UK?

In the UK, at least 400,000 tonnes of surplus food is thrown away at retail level each year, and much of this is perfectly edible. At the same time, around 4 million people are affected by food poverty and many in our communities are suffering from social isolation. That’s where FoodCycle comes in. We collect surplus food from supermarkets and other retailers – mainly fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread – and turn these ingredients into tasty and nutritious meals which our guests can enjoy in a safe and welcoming environment. We also try and educate those around us about food waste and the resources that go into producing what’s in their cupboards to encourage people to value their food. It’s pretty eye-opening to think that if we stopped wasting food it would be the CO2 equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road!

What projects have you been involved in as volunteer?

Every year our hub has to raise enough funds to ensure the project is a success and is financially sustainable, so as Fundraising Coordinator I’ve been initiating and planning the team’s fundraising through events, sponsored challenges and other community fundraising. In November, we promoted the Breadline Challenge (living off a food and drink budget of £2.10 a day for a week) to LSE students which was a huge success, raising over £600. We’ve also sung carols, sold Christmas Cards, catered for Oikos Society’s Sustainability Conference, and FoodCycle Society held a fantastic Bake-Off in March. I have also been involved in promoting FoodCycle LSE on campus through assisting the society with events, awareness raising programmes, and by maintaining our relationship with the Volunteer Centre andSustainable LSE, who have provided much support to our cause.

I am just one volunteer at one FoodCycle Hub, but nationally we all form a growing network of people intercepting as much food as we can and turning it into meals for those in need, all the while bringing people from all walks of life together. It’s a fantastic model and our network is growing every day.

What have you learnt from volunteering and how have these skills contributed to your experiences at the LSE?

Volunteering as a hub leader has been a great learning curve and has really enriched my university experience. I have gained a variety of skills, from leadership to teamwork to time management, all of which have helped me to approach my studies and my other extra-curricular commitments much more effectively. I am definitely much better at organising things now – which is saying something for someone who is naturally very disorganised! I have also noticed my confidence has improved a great deal. When I started as a regular volunteer for FoodCycle I would never have seen myself being able to lead a team in a kitchen, yet now I really enjoy the responsibility and have found that I’m much more outgoing than I used to be. Being a hub leader has also made me realise the huge social benefits that come from being involved in group projects and has definitely encouraged me to get more involved with activities and societies on campus this year.

Has volunteering inspired any future plans after you finish your BSc?

Definitely – being a part of a community project has inspired me to look for work opportunities in this area as well as the NGO sector. It can be very frustrating studying about all these problems we see in the world and wondering what on earth we can do to tackle them. Volunteering has opened my eyes up to the sort of solutions that small-scale organisations can provide through on-the-ground, grassroots projects and being a part of one is immensely rewarding. Whatever happens, I will continue to fight against food waste where I can!


FoodCycle LSE combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen space to create nutritious meals for people at risk from food poverty and social isolation.  Follow them on Twitter – @FoodCycleLSE

LSE Volunteer Centre is part of LSE Careers, visit their website to find out more about getting involved with volunteering at the LSE.  Follow them on Twitter – @LSEVolunteering

Many thanks to the LSE Government Department, who originally published this article on their blog on 31 July 2015.  Follow them on Twitter – @LSEGovernment

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Jul 15 2015

Why does the UK waste more food than any other EU country?

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Maria EvertBritish households chuck away a staggering 7 million tonnes of mainly edible food and drink each year – but why?  And what can we do to reverse this situation?  Maria Evert, Intern at GreenMatch, finds out…

Reportedly, the UK wastes more food than any other European country, and that has put the government and supermarket chains under a lot of pressure to reduce the alarming levels of food waste.  Politicians are facing growing calls to initiate legislation to ban supermarkets from discarding the oversupply of food, following similar regulations in France.  It is vitally important to take actions, since wasting food is not only morally repulsive, but has also severe economic and environmental consequences.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) was created in 2000 with the objectives of preventing the food waste, and encouraging sustainable use of resources in the UK.  Wrap’s research shows that there is a problem of excessive food waste in the UK, although the waste problem is also profound in the rest of the developed world.  The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food that is needed by the nutritional needs of their populations.

infographic food waste - pt 1


A recent study by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers pointed out several factors that contribute to creating a food waste, such as defective harvesting, poor logistics, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free marketing campaigns that seduce people to overbuy food, and consumer expectation for perfect looking goods.

Shockingly, nearly half of the food supply goes to waste during the process of getting the food from the farm to your plate. Up to 30% of Britain’s vegetable crop is never even harvested, because its physical appearance does not match established standards. There are also growing difficulties with meat and fish wastage. Each year, 2.3 million tons of fish, which equates to 40% – 60% of all fish caught from the North Sea, are discarded. Either these fish are the wrong size or species, or simply subject to the ill-governed European quota system.

infographic food waste - pt 2

Almost 50% of discarded food comes from households.  Britons dispose of 7 million tons of food and drink from their homes every year – the majority of which is still edible.  Wasting this food costs the average household £470 annually, soaring to £700 for a family with kids.  This is equivalent to British families throwing away six meals per week.

At the present day, the grocery and retail sector has a voluntary agreement with the British government to minimise both food and packaging waste, but ministers do not have much faith in these compulsory targets.  Although most of the large British supermarket chains already donate edible goods to local charities, it is only Sainsbury’s that has set a nationwide scheme in place.  MPs are currently anticipating a debate where the possibility of introducing legislation to tackle food waste will be discussed.  Campaigners also emphasise that the easiest way to limit food waste is by taking action at home – by changing consumption habits, and planning meals beforehand.

infographic food waste - pt 3

Advice to avoid food-waste:

  • It is never too late to change your habits. Even small steps in conquering food waste will benefit everyone. Ignoring the food waste problem does not affect only the ones who are malnourished – it is causing other interrelated problems, such as unnecessary pollution and global warming.
  • When visiting a supermarket, it is a natural tendency to choose the best looking fruits and vegetables. However, it would be considerate to choose the misshapen ones that are otherwise probably destined for the bin.
  • Try to buy just the things you need, serve smaller portions and understand the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates.
  • Feeding food leftovers to pigs, instead of directing it to anaerobic digestion, which is currently the preferred UK government’s option, can save approximately 500 times more CO2 Sadly, under European laws, it is forbidden to give food waste to pigs. Meanwhile, regulations in Japan and Korea make it mandatory to feed some food waste to pigs. is an online service providing free price-comparisons of green energy sources from a wide range of suppliers.


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Jun 25 2015

LED lighting and the Lindy Effect

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Rory profile pic - smallAre LEDs just an off-white flash in the pan?  Or are they the lighting solution of the future?  Rory Wilding – Commercial Director of Which LED Light, and passionate about behavioural economics – says the answer lies in a theory called the ‘Lindy Effect’, and the surprisingly long history of LEDs…


The Lindy Effect

To understand the implications of the ‘Lindy Effect’ on low-energy lighting, we need to define what it is.  According to Wikipedia, the Lindy Effect means that for a technology or idea, every additional day it exists implies a longer life expectancy.  This is in direct contrast to human and animal life, where every additional day implies a shorter life expectancy.

The theory first came from American popular culture author Albert Goldman in a 1964 article called ‘Lindy’s Law’.  The article stated that the expectations of TV comedians’ future success are directly proportional to the total amount of time they have been on TV in the past.  The legendary mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot picked up the idea again in 1984, when he coined the term ‘the Lindy Effect’ to describe how the future life expectancy of something (e.g. a person’s career) which is not itself alive (or ‘perishable’) but is bound by the lifespan of its producer, can be predicted from past trends.

More recently, the outspoken philosopher and statistician Nassim Taleb extended the idea of the Lindy Effect: non-perishable things that have been existence for a long time can be considered more likely to survive than new things that haven’t passed the test of time.

LED lights

With respect to LED lighting technology, Taleb’s argument could be framed as saying that since LED technology is new, it is likely to only be a passing trend.

But if we look at the history of the LED bulb we can understand this technology is far from new.  The phenomenon of ‘electroluminescence’ – a material emitting light due to the passage of electrical current or a strong electric field – was first discovered in 1907 by HJ Rounds.  This led to the invention of the light emitting diode (LED) in 1927 by a Soviet inventor called Oleg Losev – so LEDs are far from a recent discovery.

LEDs are different from incandescent light bulbs, which rely on electricity heating up a wire filament and producing light as a by-product – a highly inefficient process.  But as LED lighting technology and electroluminescence is more complex than incandescent technology it was tricky to produce an LED that could produce white light.  As a result we have relied on the mass production of incandescent lightbulbs and have thus come to see lighting based upon perishable items with a short lifespan.  The 2014 Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to the team behind the invention of the blue LED, which has enabled the bright white LED light sources that are starting to penetrate consumer mass markets today.

Lighting behaviour through the ages

The idea of lighting up the dark to create a sense of safety is likely as old as the human species.  The idea of getting more efficient at doing this is also very fitting with the sense of striving for better living conditions that seems to define the human race. We first created this illumination through fire, then candle and gas light, to incandescent, and today LED light.  Step-changes in efficiency took place along every change in technology along the way.

What perhaps has not evolved at the same rate is our ability to make rational decisions when it comes to choice, and how this can result in sub-optimal outcomes when finding a way to illuminate our environment. I have argued elsewhere that the lighting industry could benefit from lessons learnt in behavioural economics, and maintain that this holds true. People really struggle to understand why they should pay ten times up-front for what they see as a disposable commodity.

This can be tackled if the industry makes a real effort to educate and explain the total cost of ownership of both types of lights so people can make an effective decision. Behaviour change is notoriously difficult – especially when it involves the reinforcement of habits.  LED lighting offers advantages here too – because these lights last 25 years users can just fit and forget them.  A one-time decision to use a time-tested piece of technology can reduce the cost of our energy bills, and ultimately reduce our impact on the planet.


If long-established technology is likely to stick around for longer than new products, and LEDs have already been around for nearly 100 years, we could be seeing a lot more of LEDs in the future.  But in order to realise this vision, humanity as a whole needs to get better at making rational, long-term decisions, by making use of more durable and energy-efficient technologies.


Rory Wilding is the Commercial Director of Which LED Light – visit their blog for further reflections and news on LED lighting.    

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Mar 26 2015

Life as a Green Impact Project Assistant

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Estates GIPAs32 LSE students volunteered with our Green Impact programme this year as Project Assistants, helping staff to ‘green’ their  office environment, working on projects including designing posters and conducting environmental audits.  Here 2 students- Benoit Spiess  and Kelly DeVore – take a look at why they chose to get involved in the project and what they’ve enjoyed about being the GIPAs for Estates Division.

What is a Green Impact Project Assistant? 


Estates Green Impact team showing off their exchanged Christmas goodies as part of their reuse project.

Green Impact Project Assistants (GIPAs) are LSE students who have shown interest in improving the environment and have completed training about the Green Impact Project.  They’re helpful for departments who want to get involved in the Green Impact Project for various reasons.  The GIPAs are convenient, versatile, and provide support for LSE departments who want to improve sustainability.  The GIPAs are also easy to reach and available whenever they are needed to help with the projects’ tasks. On top of that, they are an intrinsically motivated and dedicated workforce who want to help: They voluntarily signed up to get involved in Green Impact. The fact that they are young students with diverse backgrounds makes them a valuable source of new ideas for any department.  Some of the skills they will bring  include thinking ‘outside of the box’, providing support and reminders for various projects, and bringing a positive attitude.  Last but not least, they will bring in new skills that could be potentially useful for any department, including languages, social networks, and software skills.  All in all, a Green Impact Project Assistant is a necessity for any department, because they bring in fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and diverse abilities.

Becoming a GIPA

Becoming a GIPA is a great opportunity to have a significant positive impact on the environment by engaging in green projects under a flexible program. It allows students to get to work within various departments and meet people who work at LSE.  This results in various people from different backgrounds and countries bringing perspectives together to come up with fresh ideas, work on projects, and accomplish goals.  Also, it allows students to learn about available resources and opportunities, such as the rooftop gardens and beekeeping.  Seeing the department’s commitment and enthusiasm towards the Green Impact Project is truly inspiring.

The workload for the Project Assistant’s is flexible, and doesn’t interfere with the students’ studies or other obligations. There’s a lot of freedom in how the student can fulfil the diverse, assigned tasks and the departments are very flexible regarding deadlines.  For example, the assigned department might request help with creative tasks, such as creating posters for a green action, writing an article, or thinking of new ways to complete the Green Impact tasks.

Overall, being a Green Impact Project assistant is a creative, flexible, and enjoyable job, which preserves the environment by increasing awareness and completing projects.  More importantly, it’s a rewarding position that brings different perspectives together and makes LSE more sustainable.



Posted by: Posted on by Vyvyan Evans Tagged with: , ,

Mar 4 2015

Salad Party: Salad at a party?!

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SCloots - smallWhat’s a salad party?  How do you host one?  And is there ever such a thing as too much hummous?  [No, there isn’t. Ed.]  Stephanie Cloots, Projects Support Officer in the LSE Management Department, explains all.

While many sceptics balked at the idea of a party and salad in the same phrase, we have had great success with our series of Salad Parties hosted by the Department of Management’s Green Impact team.

So, what is a Salad Party? It’s a potluck-style lunch where all attendees bring a salad ingredient (or two) to share with the group. One member of the team coordinates the menu, by managing a spreadsheet with various potential items to bring and compiling RSVPs with what would be contributed. We have typically had between twelve and fifteen people attend, creating a vast buffet of over twenty healthy choices for each individual’s personal salad.

Photo source:

Photo source:

We purposefully focused on sustainable vegetarian ingredients. Our team shared information on the positive impacts of eating sustainably, as well as timely information on what is currently in season.

We timed our first salad party with National Vegetarian Week highlighting the benefits of eating less meat both for the environment and for health reasons. According to data from the Vegetarian Society, on average, people living in developed countries eat their own weight in meat every year.  Livestock farming is arguably responsible for 20% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, and uses precious limited water resources.  The salad party served as a great introduction for people on how much variety a vegetarian diet can have, as well as the strong environmental impact of each food decision.

Our second salad party was held just after the New Year, benefitting from the typical health-related New Year’s Resolutions.  This provided an easy route for people to try to alter their eating habits in a fun and supportive work environment.  Our “Meat-free Monday” Salad Party also encouraged people to look for small ways, even if only once per week, to reduce their meat consumption.

While other social gatherings of the Department typically revolve around happy hours or alcoholic beverages, participants praised these events for providing an opportunity to meet with other co-workers in a relaxed context and support healthy eating habits.  Our Green Impact’s future vision is to organise one salad party each month with more education about buying local foods and sharing healthy and sustainable recipes.

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Feb 24 2015

LSE Green Week 2015

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Vyvyan EvansVyvyan Evans, LSE Sustainability Assistant, looks back at an action-packed Green Week, featuring Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, cycling lessons, beehive signing and more…

We did it again!  Another wonderful Green Week at LSE. The annual event, which this year took place in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, invited us to share some love with our planet and raised awareness of climate action in schools, colleges and universities across the country.

Seb Bruhn and Nadia Raslan from LSESU launch Green Week

Nadia Raslan and Seb Bruhn from LSESU launch Green Week

Dr Bike

Dr Bike

This year’s highlights include cycle training throughout the week, to improve cyclists’ confidence on the London roads, Feel Good Food days run by LSE Catering, and a Dr Bike maintenance session to mend those creaks and squeaks. There was also a lecture on ‘Environmentalism through the lens of faith’, and a debate on divestment from fossil fuels.

Students were invited to make their own Green Pledge.  There were film screenings of Cowspiracy, a critical look at the global meat industry, and Trashed, a provocative documentary that highlights the throw-away nature of today’s society and investigates the ecological effects of our

Pledging to recycle... properly

Pledging to recycle… properly

waste.  The film examines a fundamental element of modern culture, the disposal of what our society defines as ‘waste’. It is a problem influenced by nearly every person on this planet, most of whom never consider the consequences or the implications to our biosphere.

The topic of how much waste we produce was made very clear on Wednesday when we saw a morning’s worth of waste displayed on Houghton Street.  (In fact, this huge quantity of refuse was just four hours’ worth of waste from only half of the buildings on campus!)   This visual display allowed staff and students to really reflect on the quantity of waste each of us produces, whilst thinking of the alternatives and small things that can be adjusted in your daily routine to cut down your trash.  For example using a reusable water bottle (and filling up at one of our 64 water fountains on campus of course), only printing what you need, donating books to friends or giving them to the Sustainability team to distribute to charities.

One morning's waste!

One morning’s waste!



Cycling for smoothies

Cycling for smoothies

LSE Food Cycle Society had a stand highlighting food waste, which was also accompanied by our famous Smoothie Bike, where many staff and students created pedal-powered fruity delights.  Two gardening workshops took place, one at Passfield hall of Residence and one on Connaught House, to plant some bee-friendly nectar-filled plants.  Following our competition to paint our new beehive, students and staff were invited to sign the hive, with many signing – including LSE Director Craig Calhoun.

LSE Director Craig Calhoun signing the new beehive

LSE Director Craig Calhoun signing the new beehive

Amelia Sharman of the LSE Beekeeping Society

Amelia Sharman of the LSE Beekeeping Society









Students were able to get involved in recycled textile fashion workshops, and create masterpieces to be shown off at the Ethical Fashion Show.

The week of eclectic events came to a brilliant climax with a talk from the leader of The Green Party Natalie Bennett, who gave an overview of green ideals and goals, and took many questions from the floor, sparking some exhilarating discussion.

The importance of initiatives such as Green Week cannot be overstated.  Although there are many ongoing sustainability projects and initiatives at LSE on campus and in Halls, shining a spotlight on such issues as recycling, carbon emissions and biodiversity for the whole week re-engages and reinvigorates staff and students, it sparks debate and encourages change.  So whether you’re all loved up this Valentine’s Day or still seeking your perfect match, I hope you don’t forget to love your planet.

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Feb 18 2015

4 things I learnt during Green Week

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  By Mary Leong, MSc Media and Communications student at LSE.

1. Bees!

Someone (commonly mis-attributed to Einstein) famously said that humans wouldn’t survive for much longer if bees died out.


Thankfully, LSE Bees is doing its part with four small colonies of European honeybees living on the rooftops of Connaught House and Passfield Hall, with a new one to be introduced soon. They provide a great learning opportunity and also produce some delicious local honey!

2. We generate an awful lot of waste.

30 million tonnes of household waste in the UK annually, to be specific. Here’s a pretty staggering photo of rubbish collected from three buildings in three hours at LSE.


Some of it is recycled and composted, but most of it ends up in landfills. I’m making a conscious effort to be better about composting, as mucky as it can get in our halls kitchens!

3. It takes over 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton T-shirt!

Most of it comes from the water needed to sustain “thirsty crops” such as cotton. While there are industry initiatives to reduce the amount of water used in the growing of cotton, you can reduce your environmental footprint (and save money!) by buying second-hand clothes, donating your old clothes, and air-drying your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer.


4. Rooftop gardening

Despite our central location in the city, there are several rooftop gardens on various buildings across campus. During the summer, these gardens are home to tomatoes, plums, peas, courgettes, lettuce, and lots of other fresh fruits, veggies, and bee-friendly crops. Delicious!



This article originally appeared on the LSESU blog on 16th February 2015. 

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Jan 28 2015

U.S. Bees

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J.Fry - profileJohn Fry is an LSE alumnus (MSc International Relations, Politics of the World Economy, 1994), and now keeps bees in Washington DC.  Here he shares his experiences of beekeeping in the US, including laws that banned beekeeping, and a nifty trick to control varroa mites…

People around the world think of Washington, DC as little more than the location of the White House and the US Federal government. But socially conscious citizens engage in a wide range of activities that make the DC Capital Region a great place to live. One of those activities is beekeeping.  From 1981 until 2012, it was illegal to keep bees in the District because of a misguided law that forbade bee hives within 500 feet (150 meters) of a home. Beekeepers risked fines and confiscation of their colonies. But a 2012 law focusing on sustainability now permits legal beekeeping and brought backyard hives out of the shadows. Bee hives are now on the roofs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and colonial row houses in Georgetown. Even the British Embassy has one.

Either legally or illegally, hundreds have taken up beekeeping over the past few years. Since 2011, 200 spots have filled quickly for beekeeping classes taught by the DC Beekeepers Alliance and the Northern Virginia Beekeeping Teaching Consortium. Dozens of “newbees” are also on waiting lists.  The eight-week course teaches sustainable beekeeping with either Langstroth or Kenyan top bar hives, using a minimum of chemicals or antibiotics. Instructors provide practical tips for building hives, acquiring bees, and keeping them alive.  Mentors answer questions for new beekeepers after the colonies are set up in beeyards. Langstroth hives are more common because bees in Kenyan top bar hives have trouble surviving the cold winter months. Top bar hives are built horizontally rather than vertically; vertical hives seem to retain heat better as it rises from the cluster.

John Fry and son tending the hives.

John Fry and son tending the beehives.

Because of its population density, Washington, DC has no commercial farms so bees are unlikely to encounter pesticides such as neonicotinoids.  Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a rare occurrence among urban beekeepers in the DC Capital Region because we are not exposed to pesticides and the bees are not trucked around the country for pollination. Occasionally, a beekeeper will lose a colony because a neighbor sprayed for mosquitos, but summer spraying has declined significantly over the last few years. The public is more aware of the negative impact on pollinators such as native bumble bees and honey bees.

Honey bees in the DC Capital Region suffer most from varroa mites and small hive beetles. Beekeepers who are reluctant to use chemicals to lower their mite loads try natural remedies such as shaking powdered sugar through the hives to encourage cleaning behavior among the bees.  But these methods have a limited effect.  More recently, beekeepers have started removing queens from the hives once a year during a period of heavy nectar flow, normally 15 April through 15 May locally. By halting the brood cycle of the colony, varroa mites stop breeding as well.  Removing the queens also discourages swarming, leaves more room in hives for honey production, and allows for the creation of nucleus colonies, known as “nucs”.   A nuc is very popular as a reliable starter colony and sells for up to $150 (£100).

John Fry with his beehives

John Fry with his beehives.

Small hive beetles are an emerging pest for local beekeepers, and we are still working through solutions to the problem.  Strong colonies can drive small hive beetles to the top and bottom of the hives, where they are caged in propolis enclosures or dropped through steel mesh to the ground. But weak colonies need additional assistance.  Beekeepers typically use beetle traps between hive frames which are filled with vegetable oil.  Bees drive the beetles into the traps and they drown.

The demand for local honey has never been greater, with direct to consumer sales topping $11 per pound (£16 per kilogram). Consumers are keen to use local honey to lessen the effects of pollen allergies. Honey types include acacia, sourwood (a delightful honey with an anise aftertaste), and tulip poplar (an amber honey with a slight molasses taste). Many beekeepers also use beeswax and propolis to make candles, lip balm, lotion bars, and propolis throat sprays. The community of beekeepers warmly welcomes new members, and we help each other through mentoring programs. Even with ongoing challenges, the future of urban beekeeping in Washington, DC is very bright indeed.

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Jan 16 2015

My experience as a Green Impact Project Assistant at the Peacock Theatre

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Diana Martinez-TorresDiana Martínez, LSE MSc student in City Design and Social Science, gives the lowdown on her work as a Green Impact Project Assistant, helping to make the Peacock Theatre at LSE more sustainable.  She has discovered a building that is energy-efficient, and which is cutting its water consumption with some unusual toilets… 

I am interested in issues related to sustainability. For this reason, last term I decided to explore the different projects related to sustainability at LSE and to support one of them.

One of the projects that caught my attention was Green Impact. Green Impact is an environmental accreditation and award scheme run by the National Union of Students in more than 60 universities and colleges and 100 student unions across the UK, as well as a growing range of other public sector organisations including local authorities and NHS trusts. The aim is that staff and students are working to embed sustainable behaviour in their departments.

How does it work?

Green Impact focusing on supporting people to take simple actions to make small environmental changes in their workplace, and rewarding them for their efforts. Teams from departments across the organisation compete against each other.  It follows an annual cycle, and at the end of each year, they are audited to receive awards for their efforts and their performance and might achieve a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum standard.  At LSE, each team has a student Green Impact Project Assistant (‘GIPA’)to provide support with coordinating and completing the tasks.  I am supporting this project and was assigned as a GIPA to the Peacock Theatre team.

Some tasks of the Green Impact Project Assistant

My tasks as a project assistant include:

  • Motivating Green Impact team members.
  • Helping write a departmental ‘green newsletter’.
  • Putting up posters.
  • Conducting online research on issues and initiatives that arose from team meetings.
  • Uploading evidence to the online workbook.

At the beginning of December 2014 I was visiting and talking with the Green Impact team leader at the Peacock Theatre about the activities of the project.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the job that the team had already done to make the theatre more sustainable. Looking at some information about the building, one can see its capacity is enormous, with a hall that can host nearly 1000 people.  Despite being a rather old building (built in 1960), the theatre scores well on energy use, and is fairly energy-efficient when compared with other buildings of a similar age in London.  Its energy efficiency certificate gives it a ‘B’ rating, which is above average for buildings of this type. The theatre achieved this level after some tremendous improvements over the last couple of years.

Reducing water use at the Peacock Theatre

One of the questions that I asked the project leader was about the measures to save water.  The theatre is in daily use for plays and other performances, lectures, conferences, LSE open days and more.  This constant use implies very high water consumption, especially in toilets.

The Peacock Theatre refurbished its toilets in 2013 in order to be more sustainable.

Toilet at Peacock Theatre

Toilet at Peacock Theatre

LSE worked together with Propelair.  This is a British company that has revolutionised the toilet with a 1.5 litre flush, using 84% less water than a standard toilet.  Moreover, it uses 80% less carbon. The main benefit of the new toilet according to the company is its water saving capacity.

An average household with a nine-litre toilet flushes around 110 litres of water down the pan every day. Toilets in offices, schools and public conveniences account for an ever-greater proportion of total water use. Despite these water usage levels there has been little innovation in toilet functionality for many years.

In addition to superior performance and significant environmental benefits, replacing an old toilet by an air-flushed toilet makes economic sense as water bills can be reduced by several hundred pounds per year, depending on usage. Moreover, as the air-flushed toilet is recharged faster than a classical toilet, it can be used more frequently, which implies a saving in toilet space in commercial buildings.  This is particularly significant in buildings that are used by large crowds in short intense periods, such as the Peacock Theatre .

The table below shows the annual savings which could be achieved based on the type of property, the number of flushes per day and the region of the country:

  Commercial Residential
Litres per flush saved 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5
Flushes per day 50 95 10 20
Days 260 260 330 330
Litres of water saved per annum 97,500 185,250 24,750 49,500
Cost savings
Thames Water area £194 £368 £49 £98
South West Water area £511 £971 £130 £259


How does an air-flushed toilet work?

The diagram below shows how Propelair toilets work. Propelair patented a new method using displaced air, called POWA™ technology, Propelair®, that produces a powerful, high-performance flush. The mechanism uses a small amount of flush water, which is forced out of the bowl using air pressure.  This is similar to the kind of toilets one encounters on aeroplanes.

toilet mechanism


This term at the Peacock Theatre

I am very excited and motivated to continue supporting the Green Impact Team at the Peacock Theatre, to help them achieve their goals in the coming term.  I am sure I will learn a lot from the innovative approaches they have taken so far.  And I hope we can further reduce the impact of the LSE infrastructure on our environment.


About the author

Diana Martínez Torres is an LSE Masters student in City Design and Social Science. She is convinced that sustainable mobility influences the quality of life of people, and transforms cities into more human, equitable and liveable places.  Diana’s website is, and she can be found on twitter:  @CitiesForUs.

Posted by: Posted on by Jon Emmett Tagged with: , , ,

Dec 12 2014

LSE’s sustainability journey

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It’s not enough to have a general idea.  You must also know how to put it into practice.

These were the words of William Beveridge (LSE Director, 1919-1937) in a speech to LSE students in 1931, where he argued that rigorous study of the social sciences should be brought to bear upon the key challenges of our society.

Dr Victoria Hands, 2009

Dr Victoria Hands, 2009

Fast forward to 2004, and LSE’s ongoing mission to ‘walk the talk’ of its research and teaching led the School to employ its first Environmental Coordinator to improve its environmental footprint. Dr Victoria Hands, who had recently completed a PhD at LSE on sustainability in urban planning, took on the challenge. She demonstrated that major environmental and financial benefits could be achieved through better management of the School’s energy and waste.

Laying the foundations

In 2005, LSE Director Howard Davies (himself a keen cyclist), launched LSE’s Environmental Sustainability Policy.  This was the first time LSE formally recognised the environmental impacts on its own doorstep, and committed to creating positive change – not just by continuing to produce excellent environmental research, but through reducing its carbon footprint, producing less waste and communicating about these issues. The LSE Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment was founded in 2008, as was the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy – both chaired by Professor Lord Nicolas Stern, just two years after the publication of the famous Stern Review of the economics of climate change, which continues to have global resonance.

LSE's Sustainability team in 2009

LSE’s Sustainability team in 2009

By this time, Dr Hands had already established LSE as a sustainability leader among universities, spearheading groundbreaking projects that have by now become standard practice in the Higher Education sector. Projects like our halls re-use scheme ‘Relove’ – where students moving out halls at the end of each year donate items that they would otherwise discard, saving them from waste and offering them to new students. Dr Hands also built up the Sustainability Team, taking on two dedicated Sustainability Officers. The existing Waste Officer role was also brought in and likewise all utilities were now dealt with by a dedicated Carbon Reduction Manager, ensuring that energy-saving opportunities would be embedded.

Enhancing the campus

LSE emits 19% less CO2 per area of campus floorspace in 2014 compared with 2005. Initiatives like 2011′s new recycling system increased recycling rates from 37% to 58% and resulted in the School sending zero waste to landfill.

LSE waste sent to landfill

LSE waste sent to landfill

Julian Robinson oversaw the major renovation of the New Academic Building in 2008, which achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’, a high standard of sustainable design. He became Director of Estates in 2009 and sustainability became a key element of the continual improvement of LSE’s campus and residences.

The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, 2014

The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, 2014

Five years on, when the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre opened its doors in 2014, it was only the 17thbuilding in the world to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ – the highest available mark of sustainable design. The building is only one of a growing number of LSE buildings to be kitted out with energy saving (and energy-generating) measures including solar PV panels, LED lighting (automated with motion sensors), CHP boilers, and improved building management controls. Water-saving fittings are being rolled out across the LSE estate, such as dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, taps activated by infrared sensors – and most recently a vacuum-powered toilet that uses 85% less water per flush than standard toilets. LSE’s teaching also features a strong sustainability streak, popping up in all manner of courses and climate change has been part of LSE 100 since it launched in 2009. It situates climate change as one of the key challenges of our times, and includes a lecture from Nicholas Stern on how to manage the economic and policy dilemmas it has brought.

LSE sustainability awards cabinet

LSE sustainability awards cabinet

2009 also saw LSE recognised as the second most sustainable university in the UK by the annual People and Planet Green League. LSE has now received a ‘first class’ degree for the last five years in a row, and we’re looking forward to the results of this year’s League. Our environmental work has also won a raft of other awards – as seen in this photo! One award LSE is particularly proud is ISO 14001 certification – an international standard demonstrating that we have robust systems to continually improve our environmental impacts – which we have held since 2012.


Working together

LSE is a complex place, and a big part of School’s sustainability story has been our ongoing work to make better connections between departments. A big part of this has been ‘Green Impact’ – a competition for LSE departments to take the most actions to ‘green’ their offices, which has enjoyed several hundred participants since it started in 2010.

LSE rooftop gardening harvest

LSE rooftop gardening harvest

The LSE bees have also captured people’s imaginations. Since beehives were first welcomed to Passfield Hall in 2010, the LSESU Beekeeping Society has established more hives there and on the roof of Connaught House; 200 jars of honey were harvested in autumn 2014. (Yum!) The bees are well nourished by various greenery that has been introduced on campus over the last few years, including five roof gardens as well as a green wall, brown and green sedum roofs, and window boxes. LSE installed bike maintenance stands on campus in 2013, with tools for cyclists fix their own bikes. This was made possible by the LSE Sustainable Projects Fund, which was begun in 2011 to support student and staff projects to improve sustainability on campus each year, and is funded by a 10p ‘tax’ on bottled water sold at catering outlets. From the micro-level to the global – LSE’s unique public lecture programme has hosted some of the world’s leading voices on sustainability issues, including Mary Robinson, Dr James Hansen, and many more.

The future…

Returning to William Beveridge, he said in 1930 that “The life of the School has always been a life of adventure, the breaking into new fields of study and the attacking of old problems by new methods.”  Perhaps in the case of sustainability and climate change, we’re dealing with some new problems as well as old ones. But we’ll have a go at dealing with them just the same. Back in the present day (2014), we’re proud to be able to look back at a decade of sustainability at LSE and see how far we’ve come.  We look forward to seeing what the next 10 years will bring.

By Jon Emmett, LSE Sustainability Projects Officer

This post originally appeared on the LSE History Blog on 10th December 2014.

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