From our ancient listed buildings and quadrangles to our sweeping gardens and Meadow, Christ Church is home to some of Oxford’s most important natural spaces. We have been custodians to these special spaces for nearly five centuries and recognise our unique responsibility to safeguard them for the next half-millennium. 

As a seat of learning, we also recognise our duty to respond to the incontrovertible conclusions of the world’s climate scientists. Read on to learn about the action we are taking today – our efforts to enrich our local environment, enhance energy efficiency, shrink our carbon footprint and make our historic buildings fit for the future. 

Green gardening practices

Under the stewardship of Head Gardener John James, our Gardens Team is at the forefront of modern sustainable gardening and land management practices. 

Spotlight: restoring our floodplain meadows

John James’ remarkable success in restoring the Christ Church floodplain meadows won him plaudits in the University of Oxford Vice Chancellor’s 2023 awards for environmental sustainability, as well as in the press. The project, carried out in partnership with the Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project, saw the return of lost floodplain meadow flora through the spreading of green hay taken from an ancient floodplain meadow near Eynsham, Oxfordshire. 

Meadow restoration

An article in the Financial Times tells of the transformation: 

“The meadow at first sight appears to consist mainly of grasses. But, as James reaches the middle of the field, a tapestry of wild flowers reveals itself. The purple-blue pincushion heads of devil’s bit scabious and the burgundy lollipop flowers of great burnet dance against a yellow foil provided by meadow buttercup, hawkbits and yellow rattle.” 

– Jim Cable, Financial Times


Learn more about Christ Church Meadow
Spreading hay on the floodplain meadow

We are committed to enhancing the biodiversity of our natural inheritance, establishing wildflowers in Christ Church Meadow and our gardens through sowing and reduced mowing, monitoring and protecting common spotted and pyramidal orchids on site, maintaining wildlife corridors for small species such as badgers through our estate, and planting dozens of trees each year. (Even our students get involved!) But this is not all that sustainable gardening entails. We must also strive to limit the impact of our land management through decarbonisation and waste reduction. 

Thermal panels in the glasshouse
Heating our glasshouse

We have made and continue to make considerable strides toward carbon neutrality. Our large glasshouse is now heated by an air-source heat pump, itself powered by sustainable means as we set out below. The energy needs of the glasshouse are then significantly reduced through the use of thermal screens. 


Many of our tools – from our lawnmowers and chainsaws to our blowers and strimmers – are now electric and we are in the process of electrifying our fleet of vehicles, with plans to join the University of Oxford Car Benefit Scheme. Our Clerk of Works now uses an electric van. 

Our electric tools and vehicles are charged at our Works Compound, which in turn makes use of a solar array, mentioned below. 

Electrified lawnmowers at Christ Church
Rainwater harvesting
Harnessing rainwater

The capacity of our rainwater harvesting systems has recently been doubled. Such systems have proven to be a great success, ensuring that no mains water has been used in the gardens at any point in 2023. 


We recycle nearly all of our green waste. Through the use of our composting bays, we process our grass cuttings, herbaceous plant matter and other green material, generating mulch that is then returned to the gardens. 

The silage clamp

Boosting energy efficiency

At Christ Church we are determined to maximise energy efficiency and shrink our carbon footprint – a significant challenge given our commitment to the protection of our historic buildings, most of which are Grade 1 listed. The balance we strike is guided by our Responsible Ownership Policy for Property

Our energy efficiency measures reflect our dedication to our net-zero goals. Some of the measures are to be expected: almost all of our light bulbs are now LEDs, with activity sensor-controlled lighting being rolled out wherever their use is reasonable (for instance, in offices and stairways); insulation has been improved insofar as regulations protecting our listed buildings permit this; and we have swapped out gas boilers for electric boilers where possible. 

Other steps we have taken reflect the scale of our ambition and our willingness to adopt innovative solutions on our journey to net zero. 

Heating student rooms
Smart heating

We have installed EcoSync smart thermostat systems in our residential blocs, enabling us to centrally monitor and control the temperatures in College bedrooms and to avoid heating unoccupied rooms. 

Solar array

We have retrofitted photovoltaic cells on the roof of our Works Compound buildings. This solar array substantially supplements electricity use in the compound, where we have added chargers for electric vehicles and tools, as well as meeting some of the energy needs of the Visitors Centre. 

Works Compound solar array

Between its installation in mid-2021 and the end of October 2023, the Works Compound solar array has generated 60.8MWh of electricity, saving approximately 11,770kg of carbon dioxide – equivalent to planting 712 trees. We have plans to increase our solar panel coverage, having now also added cells to part of the Liddell complex of buildings, and having requested permission to add solar cells to part of Tom Quad. 

Perhaps our most significant undertaking in our journey towards carbon neutrality has been the construction of an extensive ground source heat pump. 

Liddell ground source heat pump

Spotlight: the Liddell ground source heat pump

In 2022–23 Christ Church undertook a substantial project to provide a new source of heating and hot water to its portion of the Liddell Building, containing 69 student rooms, ancillary areas and the common room. It was decided to install two 80kW ground source heat pumps below a playing field.

The historic playing field, bequeathed to Christ Church by Henry VIII in 1546, was selected in part due to its lack of ecological value: the project, which required the boring of more than 50 holes at a depth of 68 metres, had minimal impact on our wild spaces. 

The playing fields have now been restored to their former state, the ground source heat pumps providing a 66% reduction in energy consumption, saving over 24,800kg of carbon dioxide each year. 

Our other initiatives

Recycling and waste reduction

Our recycling and waste reduction endeavours are not limited to our gardens. Christ Church is committed to recycling as much of its waste as possible. We have banned single-use plastic on site and have implemented a comprehensive recycling scheme, as set out as set out in our Recycling Policy

As well as the materials mentioned in our Recycling Policy, we now recycle our coffee grounds. With the help of Eumelia, our coffee grounds are collected by eco-couriers Pedal & Post and used in a variety of innovative carbon-cutting ways. 

We are also signed up to OxFarmtoFork, reducing food and packaging waste while supporting the local economy and community. 

As well as minimising waste, we are determined to lessen the impact of the materials and products we use. Our Housekeeping Team, for instance, now uses eco-friendly cleaning products. 

Eco Church certification

In August 2023 Christ Church Cathedral was awarded Eco Church certification. See our news article celebrating the award

Current students

Are you a current student at Christ Church? If so, see how you can support our sustainability efforts. Members of the University of Oxford community should also view the University's Be energy friendly campaign

Christ Church Sustainability Sub-Committee

If you have ideas about how Christ Church could be more sustainable, we want to hear from you. To have your ideas presented to our Sustainability Sub-Committee, contact our Steward.