The characteristics of a sustainable University would be a more integrated lawn care system, a closed recycling system contained on campus, incentives for non-waste food services practices, as well as incentives for biking and disincentives for car use.
In order to have the UW campus become a more sustainable environment there needs to be a greater attempt at finding alternatives for the maintenance of the campus lawn areas. Currently a large portion of the campus is simply turf grass that requires mowing and fertilizing, only a small quantity of the campus is naturalized lawns such as the Dorney Garden or Seagram Meadow. In attempting to create more naturalized lawn areas there are many problems that arise such as safety and upkeep. With a more intensive focus on these alternatives, progress and compromise can be made; hopefully resulting in a greater portion of naturalized lawn areas within the campus while still maintaining the integrity and safety of the campus itself. Another step towards sustainability would be a more lucrative and possibly profitable composting program. The current program has no policies nor enough manpower to turn over enough compost to meet the fertilizing needs of the campus. It may be possible to expand the campus composting program to the city of Waterloo, maybe accepting compost from residents in order to better the actual compost turnover. The main progressive step towards sustainability is education for students, faculty and staff of the University. Only by inviting insights and ideas from all facets of the University can advancement of a sustainable UW be possible.
Being sustainable on campus includes the promotion of recycling and reusing of wastes produced. In order to achieve a completely sustainable University of Waterloo, products utilized by the staff and students should be kept in a closed loop system. The products brought into the system would be recycled to be used over and over again by the U of W population. An example of this would be to initiate an ‘on campus’ recycling facility to deal with the campus recycling materials. Eventually this would increase the use of recyclable materials thus cutting the costs of non-recyclable products. Recycling is a major project that is currently in use by the U of W population, but there are various aspects of this recycling program that can be improved for future use. The libraries on campus are a good example, it is a commonly known fact (among the students at least ) that food and drinks sneak there way through the library doors. Although it is a rule not to have these objects in this area students, especially during exam time, eat food there. It would obviously be a good idea to provide recycling bins for disposing of recyclable materials in the garbage. Although, there are signs prohibiting this behavior, since it is actively practiced it is better to be prepared than ignorant. Many people, even Environmental Studies students, do not have the necessary knowledge on proper recycling procedures. (recyclable products and where recycling bins are located) As a sustainable campus, U of W should provide short educational programs or displays for students to improve their recycling and reusing habits. Signs above recycling bins indicating what can be thrown into the blue box may stop various unrecyclable materials from being deposited in the wrong place. Regular pick ups of popular recycling bins that may fill up quickly may deter some people from throwing cans, bottles, and papers in the garbage instead of finding the next available recycling bin. Sustainability as it applies to recycling on campus means to try to provide all types of recycling services, wherever possible on campus and to enforce and improve current practices. If U Of W can reuse and recycle the majority of its’ products for future use on campus, then the University would be functioning more sustainability.
Food services throughout the University create a large proportion of the waste created by the University as a whole. We must educate the general public about opportunities that exist to reduce the amount of waste created by the food services located on the University campus. In order to do this we must emphasize the importance and benefit that can be achieved by reducing the waste created on campus. Materials used in some food services are non-recyclable and therefore sit in landfills for a long period of time before they decompose. An example of this is Styrofoam coffee cups. These cups do not decompose and people should all be aware of this. Lug-a Mugs are an excellent option that is available to replace these Styrofoam cups. Lug-a Mugs can be reused, greatly reducing waste. For example, if you buy one coffee a day for the eight months of school you throw away roughly 160 cups a year. Food services should provide incentives for students to purchase lug-a mugs by giving a ten percent discount on every coffee purchased. Food services can profit from selling the cups by using cups to advertise their store. These stores will be amazed by the number of students that will start to buy coffee from them simply because of their environmental initiative. All on campus stores and residences should be informed of the excess garbage that is created and can in turn be reduced. This will not only reduce garbage but may also reduce operational costs. Individuals currently living in colleges and villages should become informed of the food services they are provided with. They should provide initiatives or ideas on how to reduce the waste created by the residents on campus, and provide them to the directories of residence. Finally , people should be informed of the possible uses of compost material. For example, composted food is an excellent fertilizer for soil and can actually improve soil quality and therefore increase crop yield.
In order for transportation to be a sustainable characteristic of the UW campus, significant changes would have to be made to present systems. A sustainable transportation system at Waterloo University would be different from what we presently have in that there would be a large increase in the number of people utilizing bicycles as a means of transportation. In order for this to occur there have to be incentives offered to all users of the university facilities. These incentives could include more bike racks located closer to buildings on campus, better snow removal in order to encourage the use of bicycles in the winter, well maintained bike paths throughout the campus and to the village residents to make the school more accessible for people using this mode of transportation. A well located bike center that students could use for repair information, parts, bike trail maps and additional forms of assistance would also help increase the number of people utilizing bicycles. Disincentives could be used in order to decrease the number of people coming to school in cars, especially single occupancy vehicles. To discourage actions such as these we could increase the cost of parking and convert parking lots located close to main buildings into lots for bike racks. Special consideration would be given to Handicap drivers. It is necessary to recognize that the elimination of all cars as a means of transportation to campus is not realistic. Therefore, a communication network(possibly on the Internet) should be set up so people who must commute to the university have a means of contacting each other to arrange for car pooling. This network could be centralized within faculties where more people may know each other, or University wide which would increase the number of people available to commute with. Throughout all of these changes it is important to educate people about the changes that are being made and inform them about why if is important to make these changes. Students and faculty involvement is critical for our Waterloo campus to become more sustainable.
A sustainable UW would decrease its waste output, making the quantity of waste substantially less then present. Recycling and compost would run as a closed loop system, keeping all of UW’s reusable materials within our campus in order to regenerate the materials. Natural lawns would be a more integrated part of lawn care making sure to have them presented in a safe manner. Necessary regulations should be implemented in order to create a more sustainable transportation system in and around Waterloo University.