What is Sustainability?

There is no set definition of sustainability because sustainability is an idea which belongs to those who have vision of a different society. Commonly, this vision includes actions which ensure future accessibility to a healthy ecological environment with developed social policies.

Sustainability is not a means to an end but an on-going process which struggles to achieve and maintain a visionary's goals.

The University of Waterloo is in the initial phases of creating a sustainable campus. Combining the efforts of students and faculty, many environmental problems have been identified. Students in large have contributed by initiating projects which increase the awareness of environmental degradation. This has been done through extensive research, proposed alternatives and project implementation.

However, there are many barriers to achieving sound environmental practices on campus. Limited finances and lack of incentives are the most prominent barriers. Presently, the university focuses on short term benefits. Long term visioning in terms of investment and overall well-being is necessary in the progress of sustainability. For example, most of the university's water is recyclable. In order to recycle the waste water, the technology necessary is deemed unaffordable by the university. The cost would be five-fold greater the annual cost of water. Recycling the water would greatly reduce water bills, allowing this investment to pay itself off in a relatively short period. Furthermore, long term costs would be greatly reduced, benefiting both the environment and the financial situation of the university.

In addition, other characteristics of sustainability would include:


Land Use


Waste Reduction



Chemical Use


Due to the fact that sustainability is a process and can not be achieved, guidelines are necessary to ensure actions are channeled with sustainability as the ultimate goal.

Some indicators that the University of Waterloo is on the right path would be:

The University of Waterloo is facing the challenge of environmental responsibility. The direction taken at present, is leading us to a more sustainable campus. With visioning, set goals and positive action taken, sustainable practices are foreseeable in the future.