Climate Crisis Commitments

St John's College acknowledges the current climate emergency as the defining issue of our time. As one of the largest Colleges of the University of Cambridge, St John's will take steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero before the UK Government's target date of 2050, with a steep reduction by 2030.

Addressing the climate emergency affects every element of our individual and collective lives. When faced with an enterprise as big and diverse as the College, with all its people, activities and operations, it can be hard to decide where to focus. 

The College has now adopted a series of commitments supported by an action plan in addition to a headline manifesto. 

'This global emergency cannot be ignored' - Master of St John's reveals action plan to tackle climate change 

Climate Crisis: Commitments and Action Plan

Climate Crisis Statement


St John’s College has committed significant resources in a variety of environmental areas over recent years with a great deal of success. These initiatives include measures to reduce energy consumption and emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), improve recycling (see College recycling points), and reduce water consumption.

The College has an Environmental Policy which directs College activities towards a sustainable approach and is in the process of preparing a Sustainability Framework. 

The Environment Committee was replaced in 2019 by a new Governance structure consisting of two committees: the Climate Crisis Committee will set strategy, identify goals and monitor performance, and the Sustainability Forum will bring together students, staff and Fellows and deliver a range of ‘bottom-up’ initiatives. 

An Energy Working Group has been established in 2021 to research, explore, develop, model and recommend energy transition measures to achieve the College’s agreed and published carbon reduction targets for its operational estate.

Click on the image below to see the full St John's College 2020 Climate Crisis Annual Summary in brief (2 pages).

CCC summary

Click on the image below to see the Sustainability Summary of Activities.

Sustainability update_Feb22




Sustainable Travel

Following the publication of the University of Cambridge's Sustainable Travel Guidelines in 2022, the College has established it's own Sustainable Travel Policies for Students, Staff and Fellows.



BioBlitz 7 May 2022

St John's BioBlitz 

Report by organisers Tom White, PhD student in Zoology, and Ed Lucas, JCR Environment and Ethical Affairs Officer, who is a second-year undergraduate in Natural Sciences

Thanks to the amazing work of the gardening team, the gardens at John’s are being increasingly managed to benefit biodiversity and wild species. It is not just the classic Cambridge lawns anymore - we’ve got areas of woodland, wildflower meadows, ponds and streams. There are breeding badgers and foxes on the College site (see this amazing video) and we’ve even recently installed bee boxes around the grounds to provide homes for solitary bee species.

On 7 May we held a BioBlitz in the College grounds to try and identify as many animal species as we could using the College gardens. The event was attended by several College members and their families, and with the help of local experts, we identified more than 60 animal species using the College grounds. Activities included moth trapping, pond dipping, bird walks and insect ID sessions.

Smooth newt from pond dipping
A smooth newt found while pond dipping.
Spider and electric toothbrush
The spider toothbrush trick in action.

Highlights included smooth newts and three-spined sticklebacks in the pond, 15 different bird species, a spider fooled by a vibrating toothbrush, and a range of butterflies, bees, beetles and wasps to challenge our ID skills. All sightings were uploaded to iRecord where findings are shared with the relevant monitoring bodies in the UK.

If you see any interesting animal or plant species in the College grounds, you can take a photo and upload your sightings to iRecord too. Other apps to try include iNaturalist, which can help ID species using its automatic identification functionality, and BirdNet, which can help automatically ID bird calls you hear around College.  

The event formed part of the College’s effort to achieve Platinum status in the Green Impact Awards. We’d like to thank the Zoology Department for loaning all the equipment, Rhona Watson for the moth trap, and to all the experts and College members who helped out during the day.

An alderfly photographed
An alderfly.

Climate Crisis Award

St John’s College Sustainability and Climate Crisis Award 2023

St John's College Climate Crisis Committee is excited to announce an open competition to fund a project contributing towards reducing the carbon footprint and improving sustainability at St John’s College. The award will consist of £2000 to cover the costs of the project.

We are open to any project that enhances the College’s sustainability goals. The project could form part of a coursework project (e.g. Part II, Masters, etc), if additional funding would allow you to expand your goals or gather more data.

The project should contribute towards the topics covered by the ‘Green Impact Awards’ run by the University. St John’s has won the highest award, Platinum for the last two years, and we hope the winning project will contribute towards retaining this.

The Green Impact themes are:

Biodiversity, Energy, Food, Water, Travel, Waste & Recycling, Communication, Wider Community

Your project should be primarily implemented by the applicants – we do not want to impose a major burden on college staff. However, the college is keen to support the winning project and will help where we can. Please state in detail anything you require from the college in order to make your project feasible. If you have questions on feasibility please contact d.bursar@joh.cam.ac.uk in the first instance.

Eligibility: The project should be led by a current student at St John’s College (undergraduate or graduate). Individuals or teams may apply, and team members could include students from other colleges. The Team could also be a college entity/society such as the JCR or SBR.

Budget: The proposal should include detailed costings of the way in which you will spend the £2000. Any available co-funding or support from other sources should be mentioned if available (but this is not a prerequisite).

Application: Your application should include a project title, names of all members of the project team, up to 1000 words project description and justification, and a fully costed budget.

Deadline: Applications must be submitted to d.bursar@joh.cam.ac.uk by 5pm on 31 January 2023.

Biodiversity: iRecord

Photo of a woodpecker and chick by Dr Joana Meier
Photo of a woodpecker and chick by Dr Joana Meier

Biodiversity @ St John's

We're very keen to know more about what animals inhabit St John's with us, so everyone can now record sightings of wildlife in the St John’s College grounds via iRecord

Sightings which note where and when a particular animal was seen are very useful to help us better understand the College site and biodiversity in Cambridge.

The University’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), published in 2020, aspires to build on the existing baseline biodiversity surveys and engage the University community in biological recording. Records of where and when particular species are seen provides a broader picture of the existing biodiversity of an environment and contributes to data sets used for research, conservation, and planning. Ongoing monitoring of wildlife will ensure we understand which species are using the estate and how this changes over time.

Anyone above the age of 13 can register for an iRecord account and once you join the St John’s College group you’ll be able to view a map of all the recent sightings.

So get out your best cameras and binoculars (human eyes are also fine) and let us know what you see!

How to record wildlife at St John’s:

  1. Download the iRecord App or visit the website.
  2. Create an account
  3. Select ‘Activities’ and find ‘St John’s College Cambridge’ or go directly to the St John's College group
  4. Select the star to add St John’s to your ‘activities’
  5. Submit evidence of wildlife sitings to iRecord
  6. Use ‘St John’s College, Cambridge’ as your location if you’re on the main site or the name of the road or area if elsewhere in Cambridge.

The University’s detailed user guide is available here



Environmental policy

St John's College acknowledges the current climate emergency as the defining issue of our time. As one of the largest Colleges of the University of Cambridge it will take steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero before the UK Government's target date of 2050, with a steep reduction by 2030.

St John’s College realises that sustainability is not a one-time organisational initiative but a deep-rooted outlook for the wellbeing of future generations. The College will therefore seek to continually improve its environmental performance and will routinely review its progress, and this policy, to position itself at the forefront of responsible environmental practice.

St John’s College will comply fully with all relevant environmental legislation and will actively promote environmentally conscious behaviour from all members of College staff, students, Fellows and guests. The College will continue to manage environmental initiatives and report to the College Council through the Climate Crisis Committee and Sustainability Forum. Implementation of initiatives will be through existing College structures and relevant Committees where possible.

Whilst considering all areas, the College will place particular emphasis on the following key topics:

Energy and Water Consumption

St John’s College will take steps to inform itself of excessive consumption in all areas and implement measures to mitigate this where practicably possible. The College will actively pursue all energy and water reduction initiatives that are deemed practical to implement. The College will incorporate energy and water efficient measures into its long-term strategic development. The College recognises the benefits of setting realistic targets and will announce such reduction targets at the earliest possible time.

Recycling and Waste Management

St John’s College seeks to divert waste from entering landfill by following the widely recognised Waste Hierarchy. It looks to reduce the amount of potential waste entering the College system (by purchasing items with reduced packaging), re-use items at all opportunities (utilising such schemes as composting), recycle unwanted waste (by correctly segregating waste into relevant streams), and only as a genuine last resort should waste be destined for landfill. The College will responsibly dispose of white goods, electrical appliances and IT equipment, in accordance with current legislation.

Sustainable Procurement

St John’s College will promote a purchasing policy that gives preference for goods and services from sustainable and environmentally responsible sources. The College works on the basis of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and recognises that each purchasing decision has an impact on the environment. The College aims to maximise the use of local business to reduce harmful emissions from excessive transport. The College will mitigate the use of hazardous substances in line with current legislation.


St John’s College will take steps to promote the use of environmentally friendly transport, both for business use and commuting to work/study. This includes encouragement for public transport, cycling, and a reduction in the use of College vehicles in addition to discouraging flying where possible and recommending use of the University’s offsetting scheme where relevant.


There are more ways to recycle waste in Cambridge than you might think. As well as standard blue recycling bins, which will take many items, other materials can also be disposed of in red British Heart Foundation bins and battery recycling buckets.

St John's is currently working to increase recycling rates and there are plenty of recycling points throughout College premises. Below is a map of where you can find recycling points on the main College site. All Hostels have independent recycling facilities, provided by the City Council.

Battery and printer cartridge recycling
Buckets and bags can be found in the JCR, SBR, Porter's Lodges and Library.

British Heart Foundation bags and bins
Books, bric-a-brac, cutlery, clothing, CDs, DVDs, handbags, electrical goods, leather goods, mobile phones, shoes. Bins are located in Cripps. Additional collection points are available at the end of Easter Term.

Collection points for Christmas cards and stamps can be found in Forecourt Lodge. Sand pots for cigarette butts can be found in designated smoking areas.

WEEE recycling
The College offers a WEEE recycling scheme. WEEE stands for Waste of Electrical & Electronic Equipment recycling - so anything that has a plug or needs batteries for power. There is a green bin located in the Maintenance Yard (at the end of Cripps Lane) for this purpose, and when full, this is emptied by Computer Disposals Ltd (CDL). We are able to accept all items which either have a plug or take batteries, such as kettles, microwaves, toasters, etc., as well as batteries. If you do have batteries that need recycling please drop them at Forecourt Porter’s Lodge or bring them directly to Vicky Jeffries in the Maintenance Office. For any queries please contact Vicky on  v.jeffries@joh.cam.ac.uk.

Vegware bins
Takeaway containers from the BDR are a plant-based product called ‘Vegware’. In order to be properly recycled, these are taken away to be commercially composted. Bins for Vegware are in the BDR as well as in Cripps and Forecourt.

recycling points map
what goes in your bins

Environmental timeline

In addition to the main projects listed, the College takes every opportunity during refurbishment work and routine maintenance to reduce its environmental impact. This includes items such as energy efficient light bulbs and boiler upgrades. This timeline will be updated as further projects emerge.

View the Environmental Timeline