1.1 Problem Statement

For our "Greening the Campus" project, we examined the University of Waterloo Bookstore's stationary department. The Western world is characterized by high levels consumerism, and many of the products which we purchase are produced, manufactured, processed and marketed through environmentally and socially unsound processes. Many products are made abroad, and as a result Western consumers have lost control over the systems upon which we depend for our subsistence. In this context, it is very hard to make purchasing decisions that enforce concepts of sustainability.

The issues associated with purchasing practices are quite complex both in their origin and potential solution. However, the consequences of unsound purchasing affects people and the environment at both the local and global level. In order to change current systems, policies and attitudes must change. It is important to note which factors influence purchase decisions, to research sustainable purchasing, and to educate the public on its role.

The University of Waterloo is a community, or "a society of people linked together by common conditions, functioning as one organism, with each part being responsible to all others" (Oxford Dictionary). The Bookstore is visited by many members of our community, therefore we decided to use it as a model for examining sustainable purchasing. As textbook purchases are often mandatory for courses, we felt that they do not represent the majority of purchasing decisions. However, the stationary department contains approximately three thousand items, many of which are not required for courses (Feil). By raising public awareness and focusing on the "ethical bookstore", we hope that more students will become aware of the implications of purchasing decisions.

1.2 Definition of Sustainability

In order to carry out our study, we defined sustainability according to three criteria:



Environmentally and Socially Sound Purchasing

1.3 Goal

To use the University of Waterloo Bookstore's stationary department as a model to encourage sustainable purchasing policies.

1.4 Objectives

To evaluate which factors influence people's purchasing decisions.

To research the importance of buying locally made products produced in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

To educate the public on the importance of buying locally.

1.5 Limitations

1) Time

Because we are co-op students, we will not be on campus in September. Therefore, we cannot take an active role in the educational component of our project.

2) Financial Cut-Backs

Due to financial cut-backs, Larry Feil is the only employee responsible for purchasing in the Stationary Department. He does not have time to research the environmental and ethical background of every individual manufacturer.

3) Large Number of Products in Stationary Department

As the Stationary Department contains over three thousand items, it is very difficult to research every product and evaluate each one's sustainability

4) Suppliers

Manufacturers sell their products to suppliers, who in turn change manufacturers depending on changing costs. Therefore, the task of researching products in the stationary department is even more complex.

1.6 Assumptions

1) Education, Awareness and Action

We believe that education is the link between awareness and action. The premise behind this is that once a group of people becomes aware of an issue, education on the relevance of the issue is needed in order for action to take place.

2) Ripple Effect

We believe that if we can change the attitudes of at least one person, their attitudes will, in turn, affect others. Eventually, social change will spread throughout most of the population.

1.7 System Identification and Assessment

The system that we examined is the operation of the UW Bookstore's stationary department. The operation of this system is driven by the demands of the students (inputs), the processes by which the demands are fulfilled (throughputs), and the final fulfillment of these demands (outputs). The actors involved in the workings of this system are therefore the students, faculty, suppliers/companies, and the administrative department of the bookstore. The demands that the UW Bookstore administration must deal with are the services with which the students are given, as well as the quality and price of products. The administrative staff must find companies and suppliers which provide good quality, price, and reliability which will in turn impact the satisfaction of the consumers, thus completing the feedback loop.System Study Diagram


2.1 Fulfilling Objective #1; Survey

We designed a survey to find out what factors influence customers' purchases. We had the UW Bookstore's sales staff hand out surveys to over 100 customers, and analyzed the results.


produced survey

got approval from human research and bookstore

talked to bookstore employees to explain survey distribution

made drop boxes for surveys and placed in bookstore

collected and analyzed completed surveys

ranked factors in terms of responses

2.2 Fulfilling Objective #2; Research

We conducted background research using the Internet, consumer guides, information from WPIRG and Global Community Center, magazines, newspaper articles and other resource material.


researched bioregionalism

researched self-reliance

researched environmental and social issues related to manufacturing

discussed the criteria used by consumer guides to evaluate organizations

discussed the purchasing power of consumers

2.3 Fulfilling Objective #3; Public Awareness

We wrote an article for the Imprint and the Gazette discussing the importance of environmentally and socially sustainable purchasing practices. The article will be submitted and printed in September.

We have created a display for a window at the UW Bookstore entrance which will be displayed during the first two weeks in September. It includes information about sustainable purchasing practices, and will display steps taken by the bookstore to provide locally, ethically, and environmentally sustainable products.


made display for Bookstore window for early September

obtained information from bookstore on recent steps to promote sustainability

wrote newspaper articles

reserved radio spot on campus station

designed poster

got permission to place posters in the Student Life Center, Village I & II and the Church Colleges

2.4 Key Contact People

Larry Feil
UW Bookstore, Stationary Manager
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 5439
Fax: (519) 747-2859

May Yan
UW Bookstore, Director
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 5221
Fax: (519) 747-2859

Patti Cook
UW Waste Management Coordinator
Davis Center 3125
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 3245


3.1 Survey Rationale

A survey was designedto assess the current level of action among the University of Waterloo community regarding purchasing locally made, environmentally and socially sustainable products. The main objective of the survey was to evaluate what major factors nfluence consumers' purchasing decisions. Results f rom the survey determined that education is needed to promote the importance of sustainable purchasing practices. Some questions were designed specifically to provide quantitative data for the UW Bookstore.

Survey question results were used to compare the level of concern among consumers with regards to a variety of purchasing factors. The survey determined if consumers are willing to pay a certain percentage more for a locally made product and how much more. The question relating to the level of concern about where a product is made illustrated the degree of awareness of buying locally. Two questions specifically addressed the environmental aspect of purchasing by asking consumers to rate how the amount of packaging and recycled content affects their purchasing decision.

Questions were included to establish if customers are influenced by brand names and if this is more important than perceived reliability and durability of a product. To judge the impact of aesthetics on purchasing, questions relating to `the look` of a product and package were asked.

To fully maximize the effects of our educational plan we determined the breakdown of customers in the UW Bookstore. Knowing what percentage of customers are students, staff, faculty or alumni affected the methods of education and awareness chosen. A question on the survey asking if in-store promotions affected purchasing determined if promotional campaigns must go beyond the confines of the actual store.

For the director and purchasers of the UW Bookstore, a question about how much more the average customer is willing to spend on a locally made product was included.

3.2 Sample Size

According to the Registrar's Office, the number of students enrolled for the spring term was 4,505 full-time and 3,440 part-time (Lynn Crema, Registrar's Office). Using these statistics, it was decided that our goal would be to reach at least 1% of the student population. We only used the statistics for students as a guideline because these are the main users of the UW Bookstore . The time that we were conducting the study (more than half way through the term) was not a very busy time for the bookstore, thus limiting the possible size of the sample. 110 surveys were printed in order to ensure 100 would be completed.

3.3 Survey Distribution

After receiving approval from the Off0ice of Human Research 110 surveys were printed. In order to get a more accurate sample we had them distributed and filled out by actual customers in the UW Bookstore (instead of randomly on campus). The Bookstore was very cooperative and allowed us to place drop boxes at all three cash registers. Bookstore staff were made aware of the project and asked customers to fill out the survey while paying for their purchase. A cover letter was posted by the drop boxes explaining that it was a student project and the cashiers reiterated this to those taking part. After three days the 110 surveys had been distributed and 103 had been filled out. The Bookstore staff were very co-operative in helping us distribute the surveys.

Please Indicate whether you are a:

Student:________ , Faculty: _______ , Staff: _______ , Other: _______

Question #1

On a scale of 1 to 5 rate your level of concern for each of the following factors when purchasing a product.


1-Very important , 2-Important, 3-Somewhat important, 4- Not very important, 5-Not a concern


1. aesthetics of product (results in graph form)
2. amount of packaging (results in graph form)
3. in store promotion (results in graph form)
4. price (results in graph form)
5. recycled content of product (results in graph form)
6. warrantee/guarantee (results in graph form)
7. where it is made (results in graph form)
8. familiarity with product (past purchases) (results in graph form)
9. brand name (results in graph form)
10. aesthetics of packaging (results in graph form)
11. reliability/durability (results in graph form)

Question #2

How much more would you pay for a Canadian made product as opposed to a foreign-made product?

No more, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%+

3.4 Breakdown of Sample

Chart - Breakdown of Sample

Willing to Pay More ?

The majority of respondents, (54%) stated that they would be willing to pay at least 10% more for a product that was made in Canada. We came to agreement that there was not overwhelming support for buying locally if it meant paying more, so we decided to focus on education to increase the proportion of people that would be willing to pay more. Since the demand for locally made goods is present, but not overwhelming, we cannot expect the Bookstore to look for more local suppliers at this point in time. We therefore will focus our efforts on raising awareness through educating the 46% who were not willing to pay more.

Chart - Willing to Pay More?

Where Products are Made

This question was asked to determine whether or not customers considered the origins of products. 45% were either rarely or not concerned, which we related to a lack of education and awareness. There is therefore a large number of people lacking the awareness we feel necessary to make informed purchasing decisions and we decided to target this audience. Our education will be general in scope and widespread in the intentions of reaching a large and diverse number of people rather than only a select few.

Chart - Where Products are Made

Environmental Concerns

Two questions were specifically designed to tackle issues and areas of environmental concern. Customers were asked to rate their levels of concern regarding recycled content and amount of packaging. These questions were used to reinforce the validity and the importance consumers place on environmental concerns when making purchasing decisions. The accompanying chart illustrates how levels for each of the two factors were similar. About 73% of customers were concerned with these environmental factors. Therefore we conclude that the Bookstore should continue to place emphasis on purchasing Canadian products made with recycled content and products that exemplify minimized packaging.

Chart - Environmental Concerns

Aesthetics of Products and Packaging

There are no significant correlations between aesthetics of product and packaging and consumer buying decisions. Less than 26% of the people surveyed often or always considered the aesthetics of the product or of the package. This suggests that the Bookstore should not weigh their decisions very heavily on these factors, especially when comparing locally made products with ones that they currently carry.

Chart - Aesthetics of Products and Packaging

Name Brands Versus Reliability and Durability

Customers were asked to rate their level of concern regarding well known and advertised Name Brands and their perceived reliability or durability. Only 32% of the respondents considered Brand Names often or always, while 92% considered reliability often or always. These questions were asked to determine the extent, if at all, to which consumers based their purchasing decisions on Brand Names. We will advise the bookstore based on what we found in the survey, that people are less concerned with what name is present on the product but value more so the actual reliability of the product. Locally made products without a major label or brand name should not be discounted when considering alternative manufacturers.

Chart - Brand Name vs. Reliability/Durability


As expected, price was rated as being of extreme importance by almost all customers surveyed. However Chart 15 and 16 show that customers, although they heavily consider price, are willing to spend more on products manufactured in Canada.

Chart - Importance of Price and Willingness to Pay More

Previous Purchases

We acknowledge that past purchases do play an influential role and may be an impediment to change. The frequency with which stationary type purchases are made becomes habitual in nature. Through our educational component, we must act as facilitators to try and reintroduce customers to products that they do not purchase normally, and to aid them in taking more of an active role in their shopping. We would like the University of Waterloo community to make sustainable purchasing decisions because they are aware, not because of what they previously purchased. 95% of respondents stated that they somewhat, often or always considered products that they had purchased before when encountered with the same situation.

Chart - Importance of Previous Purchases

In Store Promotion

Our original plan was to simply promote the purchasing of locally made products and the concepts of self-reliance and bioregionalism within the bookstore itself. However the results of our question concerning whether or not in store promotion played a role in influencing consumer decisions, caused us to quickly discard this notion. The results of this particular question proved to us that this method alone would not be highly effective. Only 48% of people surveyed would be at least somewhat concerned with in-store promotions. Thus we decided to expand our focus and complement the in store promotion by utilizing additional external sources, such as newspaper articles in the Gazette, the Imprint and informative posters.

Chart - Importance of In-Store Promotion

Warranty and Guarantee

When purchasing products, people look for a warranty or a guarantee to ensure that the companies who manufactured the product are willing to stand behind their product in the event of problems or dissatisfaction. A reputation built from trust and a willingness to take responsibility for the satisfaction of the customer is what keeps people buying those very same products. The rating of 90% of people who are somewhat, often or always concerned is understandable and indicative of the already eluded to, importance of price. More local companies may have very stable and reliable guarantees for their products and it may be even more feasible to get in contact with these manufacturers if you find that you are dissatisfied as a customer. It is entirely more convenient to travel to a neighbouring city to get a camera lens replaced than to ship the lens across to another country, which is time consuming and costly.

Chart - Importance of Warranty and Guarantee

to continue final report.....