Sustainability on Campus

Within the next 50 years, the newly planted seedlings are mature trees which are home to squirrels, chipmunks, a variety of birds and other creatures native to the Southern Ontario Environment. A quick jaunt down a cobblestone path leads either the UW Woodlot or Food Services Vegetable Garden. Winding Laurel Creek is barely visible amidst the tall stalks of natural vegetation and Columbia Lake is no more.

Such environmental characteristics as listed above are but a small part of the larger University of Waterloo campus as a "sustainable" system. Despite skepticism of the reality of sustainability, we have adopted sustainability as a conceptual framework by which to achieve our vision of UW 2045, spring term. This vision encompasses several systems including those of food, water, waste and energy, physical structures, the natural campus environmental and communications within the campus boundaries.

I Systems

(a) Food

Food is a very important but rather neglected system on campus. It is our belief that the necessity of food overshadows the need for the distributors (i.e. food services) to incorporate efficiency and wasteless principles into the system. A sustainable campus food system as we see it, includes organic vegetable production on presently unused campus lands. These areas would be managed by students in the process of fulfilling their natural campus service degree requirement.

Privatizing campus food services would further promote a sustainable UW campus. In doing so, increased competition among food distributors would force these food companies to engage in more "environmental" practices. for example, reduced packaging, lugger mug giveaways are but a few sustainable business tactics.

(b) Water

Water is an integral part of the sustainability practices at UW in 2045. The system will include the use of grey water, downspout disconnection (as established in the winter of 1995 as a result of a WATGreen project!), rain water storage for non-consumptive uses such as irrigation and the retro-fitting of plumbing devices including toilets and taps.

All on campus toilets, water taps, and shower heads, including those in all residences will be replaced to provide maximum efficiency. The toilets in 2045, will use little or no water. (Presently, 6-gallon toilets are the most efficient.) Taps and shower heads will be motion activated.

(c) Waste

Many initiatives have been started on campus as of the present. Thus in 2045, waste disposal techniques will be extensions of present techniques and the integration of new technologies. However, before new technologies can be implemented, complete professional waste audits of the entire campus will be necessary to establish areas of maximum and minimum waste. Composters will be distributed as frequently as recycling bins are presently as well as an increase in the number and distribution of both.

(d) Energy

Buildings included in the campus energy system will be retro-fitted with more efficient lighting to 2045 standards. New buildings will also be designed to maximize natural lighting through large windows for example.

Currently, most UW energy consumption stems from heating heating and cooling systems. New buildings will be built with solar heating, and existing buildings will be converted to incorporate solar heating mechanisms. Similarly, ivy will cover exterior of buildings to act as a natural insulator for both heating and cooling.

Within campus housing buildings, students will be responsible for energy costs through a user-pay system. An increased awareness of energy consumption will result.

II Physical Structures and the Natural Campus Environment

Buildings on the 2045 campus will be built around the natural environment. For example, a tree will not be removed to accommodate a building. Rather, the building will stand around the tree. In addition buildings will be restricted within the Ring Road, compacted together to decrease the amount of development imposed on the physical environment.

Cobblestone paths will be characteristic of the UW campus, replacing the present asphalt walk and roadways. In doing so, the amount of infiltration allowed will increase and the campus albedo will be decreased.

Ring Road will no longer be plagued with cars, buses and trucks. the road will be restricted to UW service vehicles and emergency vehicles, which will operate on efficient fuels such as electricity, propane or perhaps even hydrogen.

The UW natural environment will include the naturalization of Laurel Creek through the allowance of buffer zone growth which will not be cut back as it presently is. Native animals will have free run of the land and the introduced Austrian Pines which are characteristic of the 1995 UW campus will be replaced with a variety of Native Species to ward off disease.

This natural campus environment will be maintained by UW students as part of their mandatory natural campus service degree requirement.

III Communications

The academic requirements of the university will be less paper-based. Essays and assignments handed in on magnetic media will be required over the former "paper" method. Computer rental systems will be established to provide for those students and faculty in need of computers. Similarly, all computers will be bought favouring a system of stewardship whereby the manufacturer is required to take back all damaged and computers, and re-use or recycle parts.

All memos and notices will be posted on the UW Computer Network Bulletin Board discouraging the use of paper signs and notices.

IV Sustainability

UW's sustainability will be measured by a series of monitored indicators. Such indicators include:

  • biological/ecological indicators
  • economic indicators
  • societal indicators
  • It must be noted however, that we see sustainability not as a final goal but rather a continuing process. Thus, it will never be possible to sit back claiming sustainability has been achieved. Rather, it will always be a continual process of maintaining and adapting under dynamic conditions.


    The aspects that have been discussed are all characteristic of the UW campus we envision for 2045. These elements that will constitute the sustainable University of Waterloo illustrate the differences that are visible between the campus in 1994 and as it evolves in 2045.