Jan 11 2016

Three things I learnt at COP 21

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Fannie Delavelle - small



Is it such a bad thing that the UN climate agreement isn’t legally binding?   And how does climate change affect gender equality, and migration?  Now the dust has started to settle on the COP 21 climate summit, Fannie Delavelle looks more deeply into some of the issues that were glossed over by the headlines.   


  1. Gender equality

As a result of intense civil society mobilisation, the key question of gender was addressed in the final text.

Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change in developing countries, partly as a result of their pre-existing socio-economic vulnerabilities. The mention of gender in the agreement, while not legally binding, goes a long way in ensuring the mainstreaming of gender issues in climate change projects and in spurring interest and investment in gender specific initiatives such as those conducted by UN WOMEN.

This inclusion is in large part the result of extensive civil society outreach during the negotiations. Most notably, the draft agreement highlights the importance of promoting gender balance and commits to establishing a new committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance. This represents quite an achievement considering the lack of women in leadership positions at the conference – only 26-33% of heads of national delegations were female. As Mary Robinson, the former UN human rights chief and Ireland’s first female president, declared in an interview: “This is a very male world [at the conference]. When it is a male world, you have male priorities”.


  1. Migration

 Migration is an increasingly key issue in today’s world, in many cases intrinsically linked to climate change. In Central America, many communities are being forced to leave their homes as a result of sudden or slow onset disasters, and the links between security challenges and natural resource scarcity in the Middle East have often been highlighted.

Including migration in the text was an important step forward to foster decisive international cooperation to develop a legal status for climate migrants, and to improve the management of migration flows -topics which have so far proved controversial -. While challenges remain, COP21 provides a stepping stone to leverage concrete solutions for climate migrants.


  1. Voluntary does not mean ineffective

One of the major points of contention highlighted by civil society groups following the negotiations concerns the voluntary nature of the text, particularly regarding mitigation efforts by developed countries. The last-minute replacement of “developed country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction target” by “should” in Article 4 Paragraph 4, as a result of United States pressure, deprived the text of its binding nature.

This substitution, which was undertaken minutes before the text’s adoption, and subtly mentioned by French Foreign Minister Fabius as a “typo” made by sleep-deprived UNFCCC employees, entirely modified the nature of the agreement. While one might argue that this outcome was the result of a last minute U.S. negotiating tactic rather than a typo, I am of the opinion that the agreement’s voluntary nature is less of a challenge than it has been portrayed.

Firstly, a legally binding agreement would likely have had to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and other national assemblies. This would have represented a major obstacle for its implementation, considering the politically charged nature of the issue in the U.S. and the continuing strength of climate deniers in policy-making circles (56% of the conservative Republican electorate say there is no solid evidence of climate change).

However, the power of shaming and social pressure should not be underestimated. A large number of international agreements rely on countries’ desire to ensure good relations with their counterparts. These simple rules of social interaction guarantee the respect of international agreements by each party. Furthermore, the transparency and reporting requirements set out in the text provide another tool to ensure implementation: civil society, through public opinion, will become an enforcer of the agreement, offering an effective vehicle toward compliance.

Finally, the voluntary nature of the agreement is likely to encourage the adoption of more ambitious national targets over time. Negotiators of an international agreement are often faced with a trade-off between its ambition and its legal strength: the more binding the agreement, the less likely negotiators are to make ambitious pledges. In the case of climate change, privileging ambition over legal strength will allow for a ripple effect to take place: as innovation in clean technologies intensifies, and as green policies such as the deployment of infrastructure for electric cars prove successful and profitable, stakeholders will be more likely to regularly ratchet up –and attain- their pledges over time, thereby reaching a more ambitious outcome than would have been achieved through a binding mechanism.

Fannie Delavelle graduated from a dual Master’s degree in International Political Economy between the LSE and Sciences Po Paris. Following a placement at the European Commission, she was appointed trade attachée at the Embassy of France in Washington DC in 2015. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fanniedelavelle

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Nov 17 2015

Sustainable development in Nigeria

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Thomas Israel MayomiNigeria currently faces a number of inter-connected sustainable development challenges – pollution from the oil industry, land-use change, flooding, as well as the need for economic diversity and enhanced public infrastructure.  Thomas Israel Mayomi, prospective LSE Development Studies student, unpacks these complex issues.

Land-use change, flooding and food

Nigeria, located in the sub-saharan region, is facing serious sustainability challenges.  To start with the causes of these issues, it is a general fact that rising population increases the pressure on the available resources in a country. Nigeria, as the most populous country in Africa and around seventh in the world, has been affected by this pressure.  The ratio of people to square kilometre is rising especially in major cities like Lagos, Porthacourt, Abuja and Kano.  The cost of land in these major cites has escalated to the extent that an average working class citizen may not be able to afford a plot of land with their entire life earnings.  The effect is that only the affluent class can afford to live conveniently in these areas, without having to feel the strain of lack of electricity, air and land pollution and even the poorly planned structure of towns.  One cannot help but wonder what the situation will look like by 2050, when Nigeria’s population is expected to challenge those of India and China.

As a result of this rising population, my major problem for future generations is how they would meet their food needs.  More arable lands are converted daily to shelters and sites for commercial purpose just to meet what Abraham Maslow described as the “psychological needs”.  Aside from these factors, a number of natural disasters, particularly floods, have ravaged the country since 2012.  Flooding has destroyed a lot of farms and agricultural settlements in the middle belt region of the county.  There was also a massive degradation of lands suitable for cultivation and housing.  The combined effect of these is that the ability to meet food needs in the near future is in jeopardy. Given that most countries are facing similar challenges, the prospect of importing food may not be viable, both in terms of availability of produce and finance.

Public infrastructure and economic diversification

Another reason why we should be worried about our tomorrow, is the lack of infrastructural development, especially in the areas of power and transportation.  Development is crucial if a country intends to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.  This is because with the high unemployment rate and the population explosion, there is serious need to refocus the economy on a private sector-led growth.

We have to do this, since the government cannot continue to create fictitious jobs just for the sake of providing employment opportunities.  Ideas like this have led to wastage of resources and massive depletion of government revenue which should have been channeled to productive ventures.  Consider the advance countries of the world, even those with relatively lower population, they have all developed their transportation sector with great emphasis on high speed trains, public buses and airports.  I am particularly interested in the use of high speed trains especially the underground ones as they save space, cause less disturbances and augur well for the sustainability we crave for.

These problems partly arose as a result of the country’s heavy dependency on crude oil revenue from the volatile international oil market. Past attempts at diversification of the economy have failed, due to either lack of political will, or poor development planning. This raises the question about the ability of its future generations to meet their needs as its reserve of the “black gold”, as it is commonly known, has been estimated by the World Bank to become fully exhausted by 2030.


A closely related issue is the impact of environmental pollution in Nigeria.  There has been a high correlation between water pollution and oil exploration activities.  In fact, oil companies have already been fined for oil spillages and other unethical behaviours which can adversely affect future generations.  This includes gas flaring, which is indeed disheartening. This gas is capable of generating billions of revenue for the country but, the sole desire to explore only crude oil, diminishes an alternate source of revenue for not this generation alone, but their progenies too. It is increasingly likely that the future generations may find it hard to meet their foreign exchange need if this practices are not curtailed.

Also, the impact of air pollution is of utmost importance. There has been a recent increase in the use of personal vehicles and power generators.  (The sound of various generators harmonizing in a particular street is now a major sight.)  This harms local air quality (through the emission of particulates and nitrous oxides), and well as releasing CO2.  They might also contribute to the hot nature of the most highly populated cities, as I observed on my recent trip to Lagos.  There is an urgent need to streamline the emissions of these gases.


Let me conclude by providing certain realistic solutions towards ensuring sustainable growth. it is important, that the government lay foundations for a diversified economy. It won’t be an easy task for the new government since a lot should have been done earlier, but this can be achieved by improving the transportation, communication and capital markets. These sectors, when efficient, would make the business environment more friendly to other (non-oil) sectors.  In addition to improving the transportation sector, people should be encouraged to use public means of transportation to reduce hazardous gas emission to the atmosphere.  However, this will only be possible if the public means of transportation are improved in terms of its convenience and subsidized prices. The result of this is that traffic congestion would be reduced, and in turn, less burden on existing resources.

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Nov 9 2015

8 things I learnt at Energy Live 2015

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Jon Emmett


The Energy Live 2015 conference line-up looked like a who’s who of movers and shakers in the energy world, starring MPs and policy makers, industry leaders, consumers, energy managers and more.  Jon Emmett went along to join the debate.


  1. We need to solve the ‘energy trilemma’

We face a three-cornered challenge:

  • Keep the lights on
  • Keep energy prices affordable
  • Decarbonise the economy

Adjust one variable, and the others change too.  Balancing all three, whilst keeping everyone happy(ish), will look like Mr Tickle juggling flaming swords inside an MC Escher painting.

Andrea Leadsom MP. Photo:  Sarah Lee for The Guardian

Andrea Leadsom MP.
Photo: Sarah Lee for The Guardian

  1. Energy Minister: ‘renewables have come of age’

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom MP argued that the renewables industry is now mature enough to go it alone without subsidy, and denied that government cuts have been too deep and fast, despite the £26bn annual hand-outs still given to fossil fuels.

  1. Are there still jobs in renewable energy?

The Energy Minister also denied that recent policy shocks have put renewables jobs at risk, hailing the renewables sector as a “Very expanding industry” and insisting that opportunities continue to grow despite recent headlines, citing the foundation of new colleges to train the energy industry workers of tomorrow.  Encouraging for students and graduates considering careers in the sector.

  1. Hold onto your dreams  

    Lord Gus O'Donnell. Photo:  Jane Mingay

    Lord Gus O’Donnell.
    Photo: Jane Mingay

Lord Gus O’Donnell spent decades working at the most senior levels of government, advising four successive prime ministers and leading the Civil Service – so I was expecting a rather formidable character.  He turned out to be refreshingly open, and came across as really… nice.

He’s also clearly retained his sense of purpose, and is now behind the Global Apollo Programme (along with LSE’s own Prof Nicolas Stern), which aims to do for climate change what JFK did for the Apollo moon landings – give it a giant boost to make it a national priority.  They’ve proposed solutions to key challenges, and are asking governments to allocate 0.02% GDP over the next 10 years to help achieve them.

  1. Investors need long-term confidence

Joan MacNaughton (Executive Chair, World Energy Council) said governments need to get better at planning over longer timeframes than the five-year political cycle, in order to give more certainty to investors in new tech and infrastructure by providing a fuller understanding of potential long-term risks.

  1. Policy levers need calibrating

MacNaughton also argued for more evidence-based policy.  She said it’s fair enough to withdraw subsidies to renewables – but only if you signal in advance what the ‘trigger points’ will be, transparently specifying what market conditions will lead to certain levels of cuts, and over what time periods.

Ed Davey & Sumit Bose  Photo:  Energy Live News

Ed Davey (former Energy Secretary) & Sumit Bose (Editor of Energy Live)
Photo: Energy Live News

  1. Ed Davey – ‘Osborne is steering energy and climate policy’

Former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey was quizzed on his time in the Coalition, his future in politics, and energy policy, all over a glass of wine (or was that two?).  His verdict:  the Tories are “Making it up as they go along” on energy.  He also accepted that he would also have cut renewables subsidies had he still been in power – “But it’s about how you do it”.  He also urged the audience not to criticise Amber Rudd (current Climate Change Secretary) – as George Osborne is calling the shots at DECC, and no one in the Conservative Party wants to challenge their possible future leader right now.

  1. Prof Averil MacDonald Photo:  Reading University

    Prof Averil MacDonald
    Photo: Reading University

    More women role models could boost equality

Professor Averil MacDonald has spent 35 years campaigning to encourage more women and girls into science careers.  She’s found that although women excel in STEM subjects at school and university, they’re put off entering male-dominated scientific / engineering fields (like the energy industry) because they perceive it’s just ‘not for them’.  MacDonald’s solution:  the sector needs more women practitioners, to show aspiring women energy managers that it’s not just something they have an abstract ability to do, but a viable and exciting career choice.


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Oct 5 2015

Grow Dat: phoenix from the floods

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Jeanne Firth smallGrow Dat is a community farm in New Orleans, founded in 2011 on the site of a former golf course that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Jeanne Firth, one of the farms founding members, has just started a PhD at LSE on food security and equality, and reflects on her role in this unique project. 

Before returning this fall to the LSE, I had the honour of helping start an NGO called the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Grow Dat is a 7-acre sustainable urban farm in the heart of New Orleans’s City Park. The mission of Grow Dat is to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food. 30% of the food grown is our Shared Harvest – food that is donated to or shared with those in New Orleans who need it most. The other 70% is sold by youth employees at farmers markets, to restaurants, or to members of our CSA (community supported agriculture weekly box) to generate income for the program. Founded in 2011, we now have over 150 youth alumni and grow over 12,000 lbs of food each year.

At Grow Dat, youre not just learning about food, but youre also learning about yourself. I feel like I really discovered who I was and I became more confident in what Im able to do. Its really a life-changing experience, through the work of food.
– 2012 Graduate

Photo:  Grow Dat

Photo: Grow Dat

We recruit and hire an intentionally diverse group of teenagers from 10 partner schools across the city. Youth employees, called Crew Members, complete a 20-week Leadership Program at Grow Dat. Over the course of the 20 week intensive job training program, each youth employee earns $1,650 and spends 50% of their time in leadership training to enhance their capacity to communicate, solve problems and work in diverse settings. Focused on three core elements—sustainable agriculture, umoja (unity – self & community), and food justice training— graduates leave with transferable skills that support them in work, home and school settings.

Photograph:  Grow Dat

Photograph: Grow Dat

Graduates can stay connected to Grow Dat by applying for tiered-leadership positions in our Advanced Leadership Program (ALP), a rigorous fall training program which prepares youth to lead next year’s Leadership Program. These Assistant Crew Leader positions require youth to manage and teach their peers, further fostering their leadership development. In addition to leadership positions within the organisation, we offer both educational and career support services for graduates. A variety of alumni events throughout the year offer graduates opportunities to stay connected to one another and to our community.

..the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.
-Wendell Berry

At Grow Dat Youth Farm, we use chemical-free farming methods to build a resilient sustainable agricultural system. To us that means producing food by supporting natural ecological systems and stewarding natural and human resources for the future. Located on a former golf course, we do not use chemical-based pesticides or fertilisers. Instead, we utilise techniques such as cover cropping, composting, companion planting, farmscaping and crop rotation to stimulate micro-biological activity and soil health.

Photograph:  Grow Dat

Photograph: Grow Dat

Seven retrofitted shipping containers constitute our Eco Campus and house our offices, teaching kitchen, youth locker rooms, composting toilets, cold storage, post-harvest handling area and farm tool storage. The bioswale under the front wooden walkway directs excess water into the bayou, managing water sustainably and preventing flooding. The Eco Campus was built and donated by students and staff at the Tulane City Center, part of Tulane University’s School of Architecture. It has received attention nationally for the beauty, sustainability and function of the design, including 2014 AIA Louisiana Honour and Members Choice Awards, a 2012 SEED Award, and a 2012 AIA New Orleans Design Award of Honour.


‘I want there to be a place in the world where people can engage in one anothers differences in a way that is redemptive, full of hope and possibility. Not this In order to love you, I must make you something else.’ 
– bell hooks

Being on the founding team of a new organisation was an incredible experience. In 2011 we launched our program by borrowing 1/4 acre of a community garden plot, partnering with one high school, and hiring 12 youths. Five years later, we now inhabit our own 7-acre farm and Eco Campus, partner with ten diverse high schools, and hire over 50 teenagers a year. I will continue to be involved with the project as a consultant and facilitator in our new HIVE – our research and training arm which will teach internal and external audiences in our methods and approaches.

Photograph: Dacia Idom

Photograph: Dacia Idom

Learn more at www.growdatyouthfarm.org and in this short film http://growdatyouthfarm.org/our-video

About Jeanne Firth: After completing an MSc in Gender Development and Globalisation at the LSE in 2010, Jeanne moved to New Orleans and joined the founding team of Grow Dat Youth Farm. Jeanne served as the organisation’s Program Manager and then as Grow Dat’s first Assistant Director. She is currently pursuing a MPhil/PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies, focusing her research on food systems and equity issues.

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Sep 21 2015

Cycling to LSE from Sidney Webb Hall

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Diana Martinez-TorresSo you’ve just started at LSE;  you’ve met your new flatmates; you’ve even worked out how to operate the washing machine.  Now, how are you going to travel into uni each morning?  If you’re thinking of cycling, Diana Martínez Torres, LSE MSc student in City Design and Social Science, gives an insider’s take on cycling in London.

When we arrive to London to live – one of the most challenging experiences at LSE – there are a lot of things to think about and manage.  One of them is what mode of transport to use to go to the LSE?

My decision during my academic year was to ride the bicycle.  In this post, I would like to share with you the route that I followed to go to LSE and four tips to make this experience more enjoyable.

Some Tips:

  1. Pay attention

Be aware that traffic in England goes in the opposite direction to other countries.  So drive on the left side instead of the right. Especially during the first days, please, keep your attention in this point – it is really important.

  1. Signal

London is a big, cosmopolitan city. Therefore you are not alone on the road. There are a lot of people: bus drivers, car drivers, taxi drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians. It is always important to signal your manoeuvres on the bike.  For example, if you want to turn right, you must signal with your hand your turn.
Signal - v2

  1. Lights

When you cycle after dark, you need to put lights on your bike to improve your visibility.

Bike lights

Bike lights

  1. Rain is not the problem

Rain and cold are not a problem – the problem is not having adequate clothes! It’s handy to have a good jacket for when it rains, as well as warm clothing – though you don’t necessarily need to put your warmest clothes at the beginning of your route, as after five minutes cycling you will be warm.

From Sidney Webb Hall to LSE

This route took me 15 – 20 minutes to cycle into campus.  It allowed me to do some physical activity each day, save money, save time and enjoy the city.

My route began at Sidney Webb Hall Residence (159 Great Dover Street). Sidney Webb has two places to keep your bicycle safe.

When you set off, turn right out of the front door and take Great Dover Street. After 30 metres, you turn left onto Trinity Street. This street is quiet and calm. You will encounter in the middle of the street a fence to block the transit to cars but it allows the transit of bicycles. It is a good idea to calm the traffic in a residential area, and let you continue your journey.

Fences across Trinity Street

Fences to calm traffic on Trinity Street


Cycling along Trinity Street you will pass a King’s College London building.  Then, you reach a crossroads with traffic lights – go straight ahead, and follow Great Suffolk Street, which is a 20 mph limit street.  15 metres after the next set of traffic lights, turn left into Webber Street. Again, this is a calm street. Along this street, you will find a great piece of cycle parking, which is practical and educational. I love the idea and the colour as well.

Cycle parking on Webber Street

Cycle parking on Webber Street


Continue straight ahead until Webber Street becomes Cornwall Road. Then you will pass underneath a bridge.  A very useful point here: below this bridge, there is a free bicycle pump.

Bike pump on Cornwall Street

Bike pump on Cornwall Street


Carry straight on until you reach the end of Cornwall road, then at the T-junction, turn left onto Upper Ground.  Keep going and you will see Waterloo Bridge after 100 metres.  Pass under the bridge and immediately turn left, to take a cycle path up to Waterloo Bridge.

Bike path up to Waterloo Bridge

Bike path up to Waterloo Bridge


At the top of the slope, turn left to get onto Waterloo Bridge.  Look out for buses and cars as you do so.  Then continue cycling over the bridge to cross River Thames.  This was my favourite point of the journey.  I remember feeling the fresh air on my face, and I enjoyed the wonderful views of London.

At the other side of the bridge, you will reach a set of traffic lights in about 200 metres.  Turn right at the lights onto Aldwych.  This area will be familiar to you!  Follow Aldwych round, and on your left you will find Kingsway.  Get off your bike and cross the junction on foot, then walk up Kingsway to Portugal Street to get into the LSE campus.  Click here for a map of the campus, and here for a guide to LSE cycle parking facilities.

Useful links and info:

Transport for London cycle route maps

TfL cycle hire

Cycle Streets (journey planner)

London Cyclist (cycling blog)

About the author

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

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Sep 2 2015

Meet your new sustainability engagement officer

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Madeleine DwyerHello LSE! My name is Madeleine Dwyer, and I’m very excited for the year ahead as the new Sustainability Engagement Officer in the Sustainability Team. First I’ll tell you a little about myself, before I race off into what I want to achieve this year.

Originally from Scunthorpe, I recently graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Experimental Psychology, but have been interested in sustainability ever since I wrote a pleading letter to the Prime Minister to save the polar bears when I was 10. I was closely involved in many environmental and social sustainability initiatives whilst at university, starting the ‘Bristol Knititiative’ (a project to get the local community to knit for homeless people) in my final year at university, before having the confidence to believe that a psychology student like me could go into a career in sustainability.

My recent experience on an internship with Initiatives of Change has also greatly affected how I aim to approach increasing engagement with staff and students on issues of sustainability, and I hope that I can bring these new methods and ideas into my work this year!

I aim to deliver a smooth and organised Green Impact campaign that has a focus on engagement – getting staff and students to really think about sustainability issues beyond just blindly turning off lights (even though that’s great too). I also want to weave together relationships between new areas of sustainability and other seemingly disparate disciplines, like hosting events that explore the relationship between sustainability and art.

This year is sure to be an interesting one in terms of sustainability events at LSE, so I look forward to seeing many of you our future events!

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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.


GreenMatch.co.uk is an online service providing free price-comparisons of green energy sources from a wide range of suppliers.


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

Jun 25 2015

LED lighting and the Lindy Effect


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.    

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

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: , ,