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:
- biocentric point of view
- holistic approach (among faculties and all areas of sustainability)
- ecological design
- utilizing green space (grass areas) from gardens
- interfaculty communication and involvement
- environmental awareness and campaigning
- compulsory courses
- eliminate boundaries between culture and nature
- zero waste policy for long term goals
- intensive recycling, composting and re-usable materials
- all imports are subject to "cradle-to-grave" responsibilities
- cost effective, energy-saving devices used
- behavioural modification
- alternative sources (solar, wind)
- no vehicles on campus except emergency, service or disabled transportation
- increased parking fees
- better public transit system and subsidized passes for students
- discontinue pesticide spraying; use natural alternatives
- no salting of side walks or roads; use sand or gravel
- alternatives for chemical spraying indoors
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.
- reduce consumption
- natural treatment done on site
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.
- increasingly less waste leaving the campus until a zero waste policy is in complete effect
- less consumption of energy
- implementation of efficient energy conservation devices
- in-depth studies undertaken for alternative uses of energy (solar)
- increase parking fees substantially
- no cars on campus (enforced policy)