Cu-ZrO2 is demonstrated to be a highly effective catalyst for the transfer hydrogenation of methyl levulinate to γ-valerolactone, using methanol as the hydrogen donor. The emergence of several new strategies for synthesising green methanol, underlines its potential as a sustainable hydrogen source for such transformations. Transfer hydrogenation of methyl levulinate over Cu-ZrO2 was determined to proceed through a two-step ‘hydrogen borrowing’ process. The first step involves methanol dehydrogenation (rate limiting) and the second, levulinate reduction. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that methanol can be used effectively as a hydrogen source for such transformations when a suitable catalyst is employed.