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.


University Administration, Maintenance and Services

The university administration system must reduce the isolation of its bureaucratic hierarchy and function in an increasingly cooperative and open environment. Maintenance will be carried out with the underlying philosophy that the campus is part of a natural ecosystem. Natural landscaping and non-polluting cleaners will be the norm. Service systems will no longer provide materialistic services, but revert to a new focus on products and services which have minimal impact upon the environment.

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.


There will be freedom and equality of opportunity to obtain high quality education. Expertise in all areas of knowledge will be readily available through the internet. Computers will be commonplace, and people that do not own one will have easy access to one. Scholars, faculty and students will continue to be specialized in their particular fields, but there will be a greater awareness and integration of all aspects of life, particularly environmental issues..

Food and Waste

Food will be grown on campus or obtained from local sources that practice sustainable and organic agricultural methods. Waste systems will include only waste that can be reintroduced into the system, such as that which can be composted, recycled or reused. There will be an elimination of items that are directly shipped to landfills. Composting, recycling and re-use centres will be located directly on campus; thus, no waste will leave the university system.

Energy and Waste

Energy and water systems will operate in a closed loop fashion. Energy systems within the university will shift from non-renewable resources to natural and renewable sources such as solar energy or heat harvested from composting. Water purification will occur directly on campus using natural methods such as solar aquatics. Water use will be reduced and made more efficient through the use of water efficient fixtures


The university will be closed off to all vehicles, with the exception of bicycles and some service and emergency vehicles. A public transit terminal will be located north of Columbia Street, behind the optometry building. The university's only parking lot will be located beyond the transit terminal and will be very costly in order to deter the use of private automobiles.

Vision Analysis

In order to attain this future vision, it is necessary to integrate each of these components to create one continuous flowing system within the entire university. For example, maintenance will not function as an entire separate unit, but rather, become part of a system that considers all other aspects of university life. In order to bring this vision of integration and sustainability to reality, a holistic view needs to be abopted by all aspects and systems of the university.

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.

Closing Remarks

Achievement of sustainability on campus must begin with individual dedication to the holistic approach before it can advance towards a community-wide goal. The re-use centre will aid individuals in all aspects of the system, understanding (head), desiring (heart) and implementing (hands).

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.