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Student Dissertation Projects

King's Sustainability team welcomes ideas from undergraduate or postgraduate students who would like to work on any aspect of sustainability in Estates and Facilities as part of a research project.

There are a number of questions we are working on that may be an interesting research project. 

We can offer an initial discussion around the challenge we have, and can provide data where it is available or suggestions where to obtain it, then students would be expected to plan and deliver their project with support from their supervisor. 

Interested students can email Sustainability@kcl.ac.uk with any initial ideas, which could be from the list below or something completely different!

Current challenges:

1. INVESTIGATING FAIRTRADE, TRADE JUSTICE OR ETHICAL CONSUMPTION ISSUES  

Students from any discipline can help us understand how can we better integrate issues of Fairtrade, trade justice or ethical consumption into university operations.

This could involve working with our Procurement team to assess, rank and improve impact through the supply chain on issues such as clothing and uniforms, food, IT and electronics, construction supplies, working with social enterprises. 

Other possible dissertation questions could include from the following or any other topics: 

  • Food system reform or food inequality 
  • Sustainability and procurement 
  • Sustainable fashion industry 
  • Modern slavery and supply chains 
  • Communities and sustainability 
  • Social justice and cities 

2. Education for Sustainability / Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

We are committed to ensure all students, reglardless of course or discipline, recieve a sustainable education while they are at King's. 

There are many different approaches in how to embed sustainability in HE, it is difficult to know which route is best and which will have the most impact.

Research into sustainable education involve: 

  • Conducting a literature review what other universities are doing.
  • Project plan of how to integrate learnings from other institutions into King's courses and extracurricular activities.
  • Assess and evaluate impact of current attempts to embed sustainability into King's education (such as the KEATS Sustainability & Climate module, SDG Curriculum Mapping project, Sustainable Living Communities).

3. BEHAVIOUR CHANGE (moving from awareness to action)  

This could involve several sustainability topics, investigating how we can effectively encourage behaviour change in King's students and staff. It would involve carrying out research to understand:  

  • How willing are people to change their behaviour and adopt more sustainable options?  
  • What communications and messaging are most effective?  
  • Is there a difference between different groups of people?  
  • What would encourage the change?  
  • What are the barriers to people adopting change?  
  • How would they feel about different approaches the university could take?  

Sustainability behaviour change topics could include reducing single-use plastics, reducing energy use, encouraging sustainable consumption, switching to active travel, reducing waste, and many others.  

 

4. CLIMATE ACTION  

King's has ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, and make a positive contribution to climate action. There are opportunities to investigate how organisations like King's can take climate action, what makes climate action meaningful or impactful, which actions may have the biggest impact etc.  

Our work as part of the King's Climate Action Network covers a wide range of climate issues: construction, energy consumption, biodiversity, procurement, waste, travel, education, student engagement, community engagement, responsible investment, and research. We welcome proposals looking at any of these areas, as well as overarching themes such as climate justice and climate governance.  

 

5. CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND WASTE REDUCTION 

King's is committed to following the waste hierarchy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and embedding circular economy principles into our decisions. There are opportunities to investigate how this, or other elements of the forthcoming Waste and Resource Strategy and Action Plan, can be implemented. Potential topics include:  

  • How can King's embed circular economy principles into its procurement and operations?  
  • How can we reduce waste from various waste streams (e.g. cardboard, food, paper) and in different locations (e.g. laboratories, kitchens, student residences) 
  • How can we engage students and staff in reducing waste and increasing recycling?  
  • Which key procurement and waste streams should we target? 

 

6. REDUCING PLASTICS  

Help understand and quantify how much single-use plastic we use across King's to gather a baseline, and start to define what is essential single-use, and what could be substituted or replaced. 

This would ideally involve assessing 

  • Where single-use disposable item are used, 
  • How much, 
  • Why are they used, 
  • How are they disposed, 
  • What re-usable alternatives there could be, 
  • How willing people are to substitute? 

 

7. CARBON OFFSETTING 

With many organisations pledging net-zero targets or carbon neutrality, offsetting is becoming more common. It is also a highly debated issue, with concerns around 'greenwashing', effectiveness at removing carbon from the atmosphere, and ethical concerns around land use. Potential projects could investigate how, and if, organisations should use offsetting in meeting their climate targets.  

 

8. SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN & PROCUREMENT 

There are several opportunities to investigate how public sector organisations, large organisations, and universities like King's can improve supply chain sustainability. This could take the form of investigating a particular supply chain (e.g. food, IT, services) for key sustainability issues and good practice, and analysing how this can be improved at organisations like King's through policies and procedures, or measures such as categorisation in procurement catalogues.  

 

9. HYBRID WORKING AND SUSTAINABILITY 

Increasing numbers of workers are adopting hybrid working patterns, including many staff at King's. This means they split time between working in the office, and working from home. Hybrid working could have a range of positive and negative impacts on sustainability, and projects could investigate the impact of hybrid working on a variety of issues:  

  • Carbon emissions: how to calculate emissions from hybrid working, how they compare to fully working in the office or fully working from home, and whether there are other sustainability impacts to consider 
  • Travel: what impact does hybrid working have on travel and commuting, air pollution, and cities' carbon emissions?  
  • Social impacts: How does hybrid working positively or negatively impact different groups? 

10. MEASURING BIODIVERSITY  

How can biodiversity be improved and championed in an urban area such as central London? This could investigate King's campuses or other urban areas, and consider how space for biodiversity can be created, how existing habitats can be improved or protected, the benefits biodiversity can have on the city and people, and how biodiversity can be embedded into construction projects.  

 

11. CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF TAP WATER TO REDUCE SINGLE USE WATER BOTTLES  

How can we encourage more people to drink tap water and use water refill points, and not be put off by taste or perception? What myths would we need to dispel? What differences are there between different groups? 

 

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