The following study was done as part of the University of Waterloo course, ERS 285-Greening the Campus, which is under the supervision of the WATgreen team. This course allowed us, Environmental and Resources Studies students, to put our knowledge to use on the University of Waterloo campus.

In order to make the University of Waterloo campus a more environmentally friendly place, we first need to understand how the different components of the campus function and interact. The following study focuses on one small aspect of the campus, the student newspaper, the Imprint. Before conducting this study, we, as students, noticed that a large quantity of Imprints remained untouched even as the next week's newspapers were delivered. We mentioned this to our project supervisor and learned that the University's Waste Management Department received complaints in 1994 from the City of Waterloo regarding the large quantity of Imprints accumulating at the recycling depot (Cook, 1995). Thus, we conducted our study to discover if an excess number of Imprints were being printed and unnecessary waste was being generated. As environmentally concerned students, we investigated the Imprint system on the University of Waterloo campus, and made recommendations for possible improvements.


Sustainability implies using natural resources to satisfy the needs of one generation in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations to fulfill those same needs. What we do on the university campus has direct effects on the community, other parts of the world, and even the future. We can begin to have a positive effect by first understanding and then reducing our ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is a measure of the amount of natural resources that humans require to maintain their current consumption level. The smallest ecological footprint has the least impact on the environment and is therefore more sustainable. Through a better understanding of the origins and disposal methods of our resources and their subsequent effects, we can determine appropriate management techniques which will balance our needs with those of nature. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary that the present systems on campus, such as waste, be analyzed and that changes, directed towards sustainability, be recommended and followed through.

In order to evaluate the Imprint's system, we developed the following criteria for sustainability:

1. Closed loop system
The Imprint system should mimic a closed loop system as much as possible. A closed loop means the system uses the waste from its processes as a resource. The Imprint newspapers, after use, should either be reused or recycled. After they are sent for recycling, they should be incorporated into products being sold on the market.

2. Reduction of waste at source
The number of Imprint newspapers printed should reflect the actual number used by readers.

3. Environmentally sound materials
The newspaper should be printed using non-toxic inks on paper containing post-consumer waste .

4. Supporting the local economy
To minimize the use of fossil fuels for transportation, local enterprises should be involved with the production and disposal of the Imprint. Preference should be given to environmentally responsible companies closest to campus.

Due to time restraints, only the first two criteria of sustainability were discussed in detail.


The goal of this study was to determine the sustainability level of the Imprint system. To achieve this goal, the following objectives have been fulfilled.

1. Identify the life cycle of the Imprint
This entailed an investigation of the full life of the Imprint from paper production through to its ultimate disposal (see Figure 1). Because of time constraints and the limited resources of our group, we focused on the final stages of distribution and disposal on campus. An understanding of the life cycle helped us gain the knowledge necessary to reach the following two objectives.

2. Determine quantities
In order to determine whether an unnecessary quantity of waste was being generated, we had to determine if there was an excess number of Imprints printed. Thus, we identified how many papers were printed, distributed, and needed. This information helped us establish how well the Imprint system met our criterion of reduction of waste at source.

3. Determine disposal methods
Monitoring the disposal practices of Imprint readers and of custodians employed by the University of Waterloo was useful in determining the Imprint's proximity to a closed loop system. Ideally all Imprint newspapers should be reused or recycled.

4. Recommend sustainable alternatives
Finally, by using the information obtained through the completion of the above objectives, we proposed recommendations to the Imprint's staff concerning ways to improve the newspaper's level of sustainability.