What Does Sustainability Mean On Campus?

A major obstruction to the achievement of sustainability on any scale is human laziness. Current technology has provided us with the capability of recycling materials, reducing waste, and providing environmentally friendly products. It is the individuals who are ignorant to the magnitude of their actions who, by not practising sustainable values, in fact inhibit them. It is the ideology that most of the human race has in common: more is better. This economic short- term thought drastically alienates surrounding systems which are as complex and with which we share a connectedness. These systems include social, ecological, cultural, racial and more. More money, more products, more technology? This is clearly a short-sighted answer to a long-term problem. More knowledge is the answer. Provide the education to counteract environmentally negative ideologies. Indicators of this active behaviour on campus are the "Lug A Mug" campaign, blue boxes, and recycled paper products. All of these things are being increasingly accepted as the norm. What the consumer wants a manufacturer will provide. This puts the emphasis on the individual to make informed responsible and sustainable choices.

Once the general public/consumer possesses the knowledge to make responsible choices they must assert that power and make judgments based on the new ideology. Instead of being a follower, be your own leader. A pro- active approach to environmental responsibility requires a concern and understanding of the system which you function within. An informed consumer is a wise consumer. Refuse to buy products which do not meet the standard of an environmental ethic. Indicators of this on the UW campus are research groups such as WPIRG and a composter in the Environmental Studies coffee shop. We can help to create a sustainable world by being sustainable individuals.

Sustainable development has become the catch phrase of the nineties; the decade where being environmentally friendly is all the rage. The Brundtland Commission, in its famous work "Our Common Future", defined sustainable development as that which "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Although this definition has gained worldwide acceptance, it is missing an important element: society must be socially, as well as physically and economically, sustainable. In other words, we must adjust our attitudes, values, and beliefs about the environment and our relationship with it if the human race is to ever continue to see new generations.

Environment and resource studies 285 has scaled down the enormous task of creating a sustainable earth to a tangible "greening the campus" project. Our task is to apply our definition, as described above, to the University of Waterloo Campus as best we can by studying a workable chunk of the UW microcosm. What would a sustainable UW campus look like? For a start, its graduates would possess an inherently holistic perspective. Graduates would not only be knowledgeable in their chosen fields of study, but would also be aware of the social and environmental consequences of their actions. Curriculums would include material from other departments (such as environmental studies) in an effort to teach student to see beyond their own limited spectrum. We must instill a sense of responsibility for the environment and our actions in regard to it.

UW's excellent chemical engineering program produces scientists capable of creating new chemical substances. Paramount to this should be the knowledge to evaluate the environmental and moral implications of these chemical frankensteins. Have they the training and experience to see beyond the excitement of professional recognition to possible contamination of our earth? Our hope is that they will care, and feel responsible enough to stop themselves. Our campus can only be considered sustainable if we have taught our students how to recognize implications proactively. UW must incorporate into its programs effective methods of biophysical and social assessment. Our present generation must learn how to meet their own needs without creating a resource debt that cannot be repaid.

The foundation for solving environmental issues exists in accurately analyzing the fundamental causes giving rise to problems. From this perspective, addressing the source of an issue rather than treating its symptoms becomes the best method of problem-solving. Key issues arise in all varieties and sizes. It is our belief that the resolution of one component of a problem can induce a chain reaction wherein other components are positively altered, and the entire dilemma (in its decreasingly powerful state) may then be tackled more easily. We believe that our "greening the campus" project is the first step in attacking UW's environmental issues from their very source. In dealing with waste-related issues, we feel that the university should play an active role in not only ensuring that its own waste is reduced, but that external sources minimize the amount of waste they leave behind. Although it is easy enough to point the finger at someone else, the university should enforce its values as ademately in its purchasing and business agreements as it does within its curriculum. The practice of promoting environmental initiative without first demonstrating it completely discredits and mocks the valuable knowledge which has been passed on from this institution to many others. By taking responsibility, whether it be through contracts, research, or boycott, the university of Waterloo will place itself at the forefront of sustainable campus development and set an example for future generations to follow. . . ."in harmony with truth".