Environmental Sustainability at St Antony's

Shireen Measuring / Barbara Surveying

Environmental Sustainability at St Antony's

10 November 2021

Dr Tanya Baldwin, Bursar, updates us on the newly-formed St Antony's Green Impact Team.


When I arrived in the College as Bursar in April 2020, one of items on the long ‘to-do’ list was to improve our environmental sustainability. To tackle this, we set up a small working group comprising students, staff and Fellows, and set to work.

It soon became clear, through discussions among the group and surveys of staff, Fellows and students, that there were a plethora of great ideas for day-to-day actions that we might take – to improve our recycling, stop cutting the grass, or reduce meat consumption in the Hall, for example – but that, as a group, we were not very well informed about where our efforts should be best directed in order to make a material difference to our carbon footprint or the world around us.

In order to tackle this bigger issue, the group reported to Governing Body in Trinity Term 2021 and, as part of its report, requested funding to engage an external consultant, 3Keel – Sustainability advisors. 3keel will work with us to ensure that we do understand where our biggest impacts are, and they will support us to reach consensus on how to tackle these. They now have reams of data to review (on energy use, travel, food consumption, purchasing and more), and they are also beginning to engage in consultation with our community; they have spoken to the working group already and had a conversation with Governing Body in mid-September.

Meanwhile, the day-to-day efforts have not stopped. Our small, time-limited working group has been transformed into a Green Impact Team who continue to work together and will aim for a Bronze Award under Scheme next year (Green Impact | Sustainability (ox.ac.uk)).

The College also took part in a biodiversity audit run by the Conference of Colleges during the early summer. This year’s audit was a pilot for what we hope will become an annual survey. A group of student volunteers scoured the main site recording land use, soil types, tree species and girths, birdsong and worm numbers. Special thanks are due to Waco Yokoyama for initiating the survey, to Yuran Shi, Barbara Mikulasova and Alice Baldock for turning up at 5am to listen to the birds, and to Shireem Azam for hugging and naming over a hundred trees. We used online apps for bird (BirdNET) and tree (Flora Incognita) identification. These were a great help to us in learning more about the flora and fauna in our grounds, although accuracy was sometimes an issue – we weren’t convinced that there really was a red-legged partridge on site! We delighted nonetheless in the dawn chorus of doves, pigeons, blue tits, goldfinches, blackbirds and dunnocks. Horse chestnuts predominate around the Old Building, but there is a rich diversity of plants from around the world across the site, very fitting for an international college. Japanese plants such as bamboo, fatsia and wisteria surround the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, while the Investcorp Building is dwarfed by our largest tree, a redwood cedar with a girth of 482 cm. One surprise was that we found no earthworms under the recently re-landscaped quadrangle, which had had only a few weeks to recover from the bulldozers. We hope that this will have changed when we repeat the survey next year, and that biodiversity will increase year on year as we advance sustainability in all aspects of college life.