Students carelessly toss trays full of disposable fast food containers in the garbage; fossil fuels burn to heat buildings and power motor vehicles; material goods are purchased and disposed of with no thoughts given to reuse. These activities threaten the carrying capacity of our earth. A healthy world requires that our actions are of a benign nature. This requires that sustainable practices become the pinnacle of everyday existence.
Sustainability is not a utopian state of being. It can assume various forms and should be viewed as a continuous process. The world is perpetually changing, therefore sustainability is an incremental progression that never ends; a constant evolutionary process. A community working towards sustainability must take into consideration the biophysical environment, as well as the socio-economic and political dimensions of society. In order for the University of Waterloo community to become sustainable, each of these aspects must be integrated into all university systems.
Through the use of backcasting, a sustainable university that appears and operates much differently than the present campus can be envisioned. Various systems presently exist within the university. To work towards sustainability, each of these systems must be revolutionalized.
The University of Waterloo, along with Wilfred Laurier University and the Universities of Guelph, MacMaster and Western, will amalgamate their resources, thus increasing the efficiency of each of the systems.
This holistic view can be seen as comprising of three components: the head, the heart, and the hands. The head represents the intellectual component that is required; the knowledge of existing problems and the possible solutions that can be followed in order to realize a vision of sustainability. The heart is the emotional dimension of wanting and desiring the vision to be achieved. The hands are the actual carrying out and implementation of the vision. All three of these components are equally important--a hierarchy cannot exist among them. A University of Waterloo campus that has attained each of these goals will be on it s evolutionary path towards sustainability.
The existing surplus storage area on campus holds many possibilities in terms of integrating systems. A re-use centre can be developed from the surplus centre and would exemplify the type of change required to realize a sustainable vision of the campus. It will facilitate the adoption of a holistic approach, where each of the goals of head, heart, and hands must be attained. A project such as this will instigate the integration of systems by reducing waste in each of the departments and serving as a source of goods for all components of the university system, including the faculties, students, professors, and the various campus services. In order to proceed towards sustainability, one-way output systems must be converted into cyclical loops. A re-use centre operates under this exact premise. What would normally be thrown away, or simply remain as stored "waste" may be entered back into the system as a useful item.
As stated earlier, sustainability is a process. In order for the campus as a community to move toward sustainability there must be examples which set the stage for all of the university departments to follow. The reuse centre is an attempt to set that example. By beginning to integrate the departments through the re-use centre a line of communication will have been opened, thus preparing for further integration. Once the systems begin to evolve it will become clear to each and all departments that the goal od sustainability is valuable and essential.