Started by the Church of England to encourage churches and cathedrals to take climate action, the Eco Church award was awarded to Rochester Cathedral in recognition of its efforts towards sustainability and conservation.

The cathedral gardens

The cathedral gardens are meticulously maintained, some areas using instructions from the Middle Ages. However, recognising the importance of biodiversity, the cathedral now manages its lawns to differ in length, encouraging a diverse range of plants and insects.

Insects are ensured to have a habitat over winter as logs and sticks are strategically piled to create homes for them as the piles rot.

Additionally, the cathedral has built 4 bug hotels for other life, such as spiders, to live throughout the harsh wintertime.

In the past 3 years, the cathedral has gained 2 beehives to support wildflower pollination, and the beeswax collected is used in the candles sold in the shop.

Beyond this, management and planting of certain plants, such as stinging nettles, has been used to help insects such as caterpillars, and a new pond has been installed. The Head Gardner has the expertise to plan and monitor these schemes.

To monitor the success of their insect biodiversity schemes, the cathedral also conducts regular bird surveys. Over 26 species of bird have been identified, some even nesting onsite.

Even the tools used are more environmentally friendly. The cathedral's mowers are powered by eco fuels, and a lot of their equipment is electric. They also avoid using sprinklers and hosepipes in favour of collecting rainwater in water butts to water their plants.

Running the cathedral

While the cathedral recognises the importance of replacing its gas heaters with electric ones to reduce carbon consumption, it has completed several assessments and check-ups to manage their carbon emissions from the gas heaters while the replacement process is underway.

Additionally, it has recently replaced all regular lightbulbs with LED bulbs to boost efficiency and reduce carbon consumption. The cathedral is also investigating the possibility of installing solar panels on one of its roofs.

To limit the amount of waste sent to landfills, general rubbish and recycling bins have been strategically placed throughout the cathedral.

The cathedral has also significantly reduced paper waste, follow the Waste Hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, by:

  • increasingly having digital meetings
  • no longer distributing hard copies of meeting papers
  • having clear monitoring of printer use by departments.

Organic waste from the gardens is composted correctly.

More on the Rochester Cathedral website.

A large artwork of the earth in Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Cathedral hosted Luke Jerram’s ‘Gaia’ in May 2022.