Environmental stewardship involves not only caring about waste, production, recycling and other more direct impacts that people have on the environment. It also includes the relationship that people have with the earth and the surrounding environment; more specifically the campus landscape and the campus community. The local environment and landscape is very important to sustainability for the future. An increase in knowledge and awareness of the local environment will produce further environmental stewardship (Evergreen, 2000).

Many people forget how closely they actually live with the environment. It seems as though people almost see it as a competition to control the earth and the living things that grow from it. Landscaped turf is also associated with wealth, prosperity and beauty. That is probably the reason why it is common to see acres and acres of grass in subdivisions, in parks, around urban areas, surrounding parking lots or sidewalks and -most importantly to this project - throughout campuses. Grass areas are aesthetically pleasing, can be laborious to maintain however, but they are the norm within North America (Johnson, 2001). Nevertheless, turf is not as sustainable as it may appear and is also not environmentally conscious. In fact, it is "wasteful of our drinking water and our non-renewable resources, irresponsibly destructive of our native plants and animal species…" (quoting Lorrie Otto, Johnson, 2001: 125). The traditional lawn also requires use of potentially toxic chemicals, is an agent of air and water pollution, and, further, lawn management adds to noise pollution (Johnson, 2001).

Within the last decade, landscaping design companies, horticulturalists, environmental groups, and even some governments have started to promote alternatives to turf grass for more environmentally sound practices (Johnson, 2001). These alternatives have frequently consisted of planting a monoculture of trees, replanting a field setting, or planting tiny gardens with a wide array of different flowers (Evergreen, 2000). This is a big step for people in the landscape maintenance field; however, there is more to naturalization than simply planting vegetation. The next step needs to be towards knowing more about native plants for different regions or ecosystems, creating plant communities, and working with existing areas through restoration.

Naturalization can be defined as an area made to grow on its own, allowing all existing natural plants to flourish, or introducing native plants to an area and turning it into a ‘natural’ (without intense maintenance) area where plants can begin to grow, rather than traditional turf, given that they have been introduced (Johnson, 2001).

For years, staff, students, and professors at the University of Waterloo have been trying to make the campus environmentally friendly. There have been many good efforts as part of courses and even from individuals volunteering through groups around campus, however there was a lack of organized community and a structured committee. So with the idea of focusing everyone’s efforts towards the environment, a committee was formed in 1991 called WATgreen (WATgreen website, 1996). The committee then focused on a range of environmental issues on the University of Waterloo to promote sustainability, including Waste Management.

The WATgreen Task Force for Turf Management was formed in 1992, to "review the current practices of turf grass maintenance at the University of Waterloo and to determine the existence and viability of new or alternate practices" (WATgreen website, 1996). Hopefully in the future the campus will be completely sustainable, environmentally conscious, and completely naturalized. The University of Waterloo can be the leader in environmental stewardship rather than being non-sustainable, an over-consumption of resources and a monoculture of trees it was in the past (see table 1).


Past, Present and Future Landscaping on the University of Waterloo Campus:

The Change Towards More Sustainability




  Before 1991


  2002 and on

~ grass, trees

~ buffer zones around Laurel Creek and other natural areas

~ no herbicide, pesticide or fertilizer use

~ monoculture of non-native trees

~ more bushes, rather than simply trees and grass

~ all small tedious open spaces naturalized with native plants

~ ecologically unsound practices

~ turf islands now gardens

~ all turf islands, berms, slopes, valleys, etc. are naturalized

~ future not considered (sustainability)

~ native plants with some non-native trees and vegetation

~ landscape sustained and sustainable practices continue for the future

~ strong herbicide/pesticide use

~ sustainable, thinking of the future costs and some of the campus landscape

~ low maintenance, very low consumption of resources (if any at all)

~ maintenance of grass right up to the edges of Laurel Creek and other areas

~ less herbicide/pesticide use


~ no buffer zones

~ less maintenance and resources



Source: WATgreen Website, 2001.



1.1 Purpose

The purpose of this research project has been to understand people’s perceptions towards naturalization on campus and understand the role they play when decisions are made to change the campus landscape. There are many areas on campus that could potentially be naturalized. One hypothesis of this research was the idea that there are barriers regarding the implementation of more natural areas. Students, who are the majority of members in the campus community, have an impact on decisions made about the campus and the University because they are the ones who will be most directly affected. One question addressed by this research was how much influence do the students have when it comes to landscaping decisions and to what extent do they contribute to the lack of progress with respect to natural areas? This study’s intention has been to identify and examine the barriers to implementing more naturalization on campus and to recommend how decision-makers can overcome these barriers in order to attain greater sustainability of the landscape.

Specifically there are these objectives:

    1. Rationale

The sustainability of this campus is directly connected to the landscape. There are areas on campus that are difficult to maintain, time consuming, and consist of many hours of labour (Hassan, 2000). These areas include parking lot berms, small turf islands, small grassy areas beside buildings, and other small, resource consuming, turf areas that could be converted into naturalized areas. If more naturalization is implemented on campus, it will add diversity to the landscape, sustain the land for future use by other students or other organisms, and conserve resources that are currently being used to maintain the turf landscape. The attitude towards turf is changing and people, such as Plant Operations, students, faculty and staff, understand that there are more desirable alternatives for the UW campus landscape. However, there are still not as many ‘natural’ areas as there could be. My research question is "What are the barriers to further naturalized landscaping on campus and to what extent are students contributing to this?" To implement more naturalized landscaping, barriers that are stopping change need to be uncovered, understood and overcome.

  2. In the early 1960’s, when what is now known as, the University of Waterloo campus was first expanded, the Waterloo College was being converted to a University. The dominant landscape outlay for the area was grass and trees (Shepard, 1967). The original landscape that was used required large amounts of resources, energy, labour and time to maintain. However, that was the ‘style’ at the time and people found the landscape aesthetically pleasing. Since the landscaping needed a large amount of resources to maintain, the look of the campus revealed wealth. The university’s founders wanted a campus that looked affluent (Shepard, 1967). As the school grew, Plant Operations became responsible for planting trees and grass, rather than the architects, who were originally responsible for the landscape surrounding their building. The original vision of the campus landscape was to be "clean-cut, straight-line university" with no ivy growing on building walls or stray plants surrounding the buildings (Scott, 1967). In 1991, there was a change to the objectives of maintaining the campus; Plant Operations was directed to maintain the landscape as a "park-like" setting (Scott, 1967). This meant that, along with the grass and trees, the landscape could also include grassy meadow type areas. This was a big step towards a more sustainable landscape; however, there were still many steps to go to reach a fully sustainable landscape.

    In July of 1992, the University of Waterloo Campus Master Plan was developed with the purpose of maintaining and enhancing the quality of the South Campus, providing a strategy for the management of North Campus, and creating new goals, with respect to environmental sustainability, for the campus landscape (Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Ltd., 1991). At the time when the Master Plan was created attitudes towards turf landscaping were changing and people were accepting more ‘natural’ areas, with more native plantings and less clean-cut landscapes. The Master Plan suggests that "naturalized, low maintenance settings to be established" (Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Ltd., 1991). The Plan also proposes a sense of continuity and coming together of the landscape on campus (Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg, 1991). These recommendations will all contribute to a sustainable landscape on campus. However, this plan only suggests what should be changed, rather than suggesting how to actually implement the proposals.

    With the help of the WATgreen committee and the ERS Greening the Campus research projects, the campus landscape is slowly moving towards sustainability. However, there are still many areas on campus that would benefit from increased naturalization, in order to bring together a sense of continuity, and to save money, time, resources and labour.

    2.1 Native Plant Species Suitable for the Campus

    Waterloo is part of the Carolinian Plant Life Zone in Ontario. This region has a wide range of habitats with a variety of native plants (Johnson, 2000). On the University of Waterloo campus alone, there are a number of different terrains and habitats in which native plants can grow. Some of these include: wetland communities around Laurel Creek; prairie habitat where there is little to no shade; woodland habitats where trees around campus provide a moist shady environment for smaller plants; or any combination of these three (Hassan, 2000). To increase the campus’ sustainability, careful decisions need to be made about hardy, native perennial plants that will flourish in this specific region and under the different environments with little maintenance.

    For the wetland community around Laurel Creek or other wetland type habitats around campus there are many native species that could be used for this region (Bywater et al., 1995). These species consist of Arrow arum (Peltandra virginica) a swamp and marsh plant that can be planted just below the water’s surface or along the water’s edge. The Blue flag (Iris versicolor) 1 to 3 feet tall, likes moist soil, and produces blue flowers in late spring and early summer (Johnson, 2000). Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) will grow at the edge of water with purple pink flower clusters from June to August and attracts monarch butterflies (Johnson, 2000).

    For the full sun to part sun habitats there are a variety of native prairie plants that can thrive on campus. These sunny habitats are the little turf islands between paths, or areas around buildings that do not receive shade. Some native plants for these habitats include Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis); in the fall it has yellow blooms that are aesthetically pleasing. It is a self-sowing, hardy perennial, which is drought tolerant; it is a low maintenance plant (Johnson, 2000). Another good prairie plant is the Lupine (Lupinus perennis). From May to July, this flower has spikes of blue pealike blossoms and throughout the growing season will only grow to about 2 to 3 feet in full mounds. The Lupine is also a host plant to the provincially rare Karner blue butterfly (Johnson, 2000). Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is also a good native plant for the sunny habitats on campus. This plant is an early bloomer, however it produces long feathery hairs or puffs of grey mauve seeds and fruits later in the growing season. The Prairie smoke will grow to a height of about 6 to 18 inches and it thrives best in dry soil (Johnson, 2000).

    The woodland environment will need hardy native plants, which thrive in shady, moist areas and are usually groundcovers or low bushy foliage. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a woodland groundcover with curled leaves covering the flowering stem and white flowers in early spring that do not last very long. This plant spreads relatively well and will go dormant in midsummer if it is a dry season (Johnson, 2000). Another versatile species is the Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis). It is a rapid spreader that will cover a large amount of area to cover problem areas. It has white flowers and leaves that surround the stem as well. The Canada anemone thrives in moist woodland part shade environments and also in full sun areas (Johnson, 2000). Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Wild ginger (Asarum canadense), described below, are two other woodland groundcovers that can be used on the campus.


For part of the primary research for this study, a site has been planted and used as an example for a questionnaire about students’ perspectives of naturalized areas on campus. The methodology is explained in more detail under the Methodology section of this report. This section describes the pilot site and the history behind it, which is important to this study and the idea behind naturalization.

The newly planted site is on North Campus property behind the Optometry Building (see figure 1 & figure 2; appendix A). The site is approximately 44 square meters on an incline and is mostly shaded. The area has a slope percentage of 43% (Daigle et al., 1996). There is a risk of erosion, which was taken into account when the native groundcover was chosen for the area.

Rise = 63N Run = 145N

Rise y Run = Slope %

63 y 145 = 43%

The site is relatively small. It was easiest to choose two or three plants and allow them to spread throughout the area. This also allows for less maintenance as the plants are growing naturally. The site will require some watering and weeding for the first growing season. This will increase diversity, attract other wildlife and cut down on resources for a previously difficult to maintain site.

For the plant site proposal the extensive list of criteria below was followed:

Criteria for Planting Area

See Figures 3 and 4 for a reference of the above criteria before and after the planting of vegetation.

This criteria list was created specifically for this site but also includes criteria that Plant Operations use consistently throughout the campus for landscaping changes (Hassan, 2000).


3.1 History of the Site

The proposed planting site was recommended by Plant Operations as a current problem area for maintenance and aesthetics. The area, as mentioned above, is on an incline of about 43% so it was difficult to maintain as turf area. It cost the Plant Operations time, labour and resources that could have been used more efficiently elsewhere. Approximately two years ago, the Plant Operations decided to convert the turf grass to a more natural area so that it looked better and did not create a lot of maintenance. Daylilies were planted on the slope and mulched almost immediately. However, the daylilies did not survive a full growing season and the Plant Operations left the site to decompose naturally (Les Van Dongen, Personal Communication). The daylilies are native plants that like shade and are a good slope stabilizer. The area may have been mulched too soon. Another factor that may have played a role in the failure of the daylilies was some left over weed and grass roots that existed in the soil when the lilies were initially planted. The weeds took over before initial maintenance could take place and thus overgrew the flowers, inhibiting their chances at survival. At the beginning of this research project the site was filled with left over daylilies, old mulch, weeds and brown grass; the area was unsightly and would benefit from new plantings (see figure 3). During this research project, the site was converted to a small, natural native woodland community.





FIGURE 3 The Site Before Planting















    1. The Proposal

Taking into consideration the list of criteria and the specific site location, the planting site contains groundcovers of a woodland part sunlight nature. The area consists of 5 Virginia creeper (Pathenocissus quinquefolia) perennial plants that spread quickly, which allows for less maintenance and more coverage. The plant develops red leaves in the fall and dark-blue berries that last into the winter. It is aesthetically pleasing, hardy, long lasting, shade tolerant and will not grow higher than 1m so as to ensure the feeling of safety to students and professors. The Virginia creeper also attracts many birds, including the Red-headed Woodpecker (Primeau, 1996). Also included in the planting proposal was three of the woodland plant Wild ginger (Asarum canadense). This plant does well in open woods and also grows well in full sun. It is hardy, will not grow higher than 1m, long lasting, quickly spreads and is a perennial. This plant is also aesthetically pleasing with white flowers in the spring and leaves that surround the stem (Johnson, 102). The other groundcover that was planted on the site is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). This woodland native sends up curled leaves in early spring with white starlike flowers. These three native species will create a good woodland community in the small area. The newly planted site will now need one full growing season to blossom and spread fully, and in the meantime it will need to be watered regularly and maintained (see figure 4).



FIGURE 4 The Site After Planting














There are three components linking the campus landscape system, as in most environmental issues. These three include social, economical, and ecological factors. These three components are used collectively to manage the University campus landscape (see table 2). However, one or two of the components are considered more than the other when maintaining the campus landscape.

These two components are economical and social (see figure 5). The aesthetics of the campus is a very important part of the changes that happen - and do not happen - with the campus landscape. That is one of the foremost factors acting on decisions with the landscape. The landscape needs to be aesthetically pleasing for the students and professors attending the university everyday, the parents, family and graduates visiting for convocation and other activities, and also potential students coming to visit to take a look at the campus. People’s perceptions of the campus control how much naturalization actually occurs and at what rate. Decision-makers such as the President, feel that areas with a lot of natural plantings, trees, bushes, and long grasses look unattractive for people visiting the campus and also people using the campus daily. In the past, when decisions were made, ecological factors were not taken into consideration, even though it is an important aspect of the landscape. The campus landscape is firstly a natural environment, and only second is it an economical feature. However, even now ecological characteristics are still taken into consideration only after social and economical characteristics have been satisfied when making decisions for landscape changes.





























Components of the University of Waterloo Landscape













use of land (ie- for leisure or sports activities)


human and environment community interacting







educational uses







Source: (Hassan, 2000)







The process of changing turf areas to natural areas is best handled as a slow process, so that the landscape gradually changes over time without any quick drastic changes that may disturb some people.







FIGURE 5 Environmental Issues Systems Diagram of Decision-Making Characteristics


ECONOMIC - aesthetics

- safety

- decision-making - use of land (sports/leisure)

- maintenance - educational issues

- labour - awareness

- costs

- time


- sustainability

- ecosystems

- diversification

- human/environment relationship










4.1 Landscape and Decision-making Systems

There are two systems incorporated with the campus landscape, however, they work together to create one system. The first system is the purely human aspect, decision-making (see figure 6). This system consists of a hierarchical system of people working on campus making decisions about landscape changes. Any changes that are decided and made to the landscape begin and end in this system. The three people that make and finalize the decisions are Tom Galloway, Jerry Hutten and Les Van Dongen. The decisions are not passed on to anyone in a higher position, such as the President of the university. Although the President does have control over the landscape changes and big decisions on campus, he does not have a daily involvement with the Plant Operations decisions. If a landscaping project requires funding over and above the yearly budget of $27,000, then a proposal will be shown to Dennis Huber the Vice-President, General Services and Finance and he will make the final decision on funding and the proposal design (Les Van Dongen, Personal Communication). This hierarchical system is used to make decisions of what areas to naturalize, approve proposals, and reach all other decisions regarding the campus land. The other system is the landscape itself and all the human and environmental factors acting with it (see figure 7).

More naturalized areas on campus will contribute to greater sustainability by promoting increasing biodiversity, attracting wildlife, reducing water use, eliminating need for pesticides and fertilizer, creating a low maintenance alternative, supporting local and regional identity, working in partnership with the natural surrounding environment, and decreasing use of resources (Newbery, 1999). Not only will these factors lead to sustainability in our local environment - the campus landscape — but they will also help with sustainability regionally and slightly even globally. This is true because there will be less use of pesticides which contribute to bad air quality, contaminate surrounding soil and water and which will eventually run through to the Grand River watershed and the Great Lakes. Also, with the reduced use of lawnmowers - because of the reduced turf areas - there will be less consumption of gas as well as less output of gas contributing to bad air quality, which is a regional and global problem.

If there are more naturalized areas on campus, the economic, social and ecological system may shift somewhat. The ecological or environmental aspect may increase in importance, if people’s perspectives change and more naturalization is carried out and accepted on campus.



    1. The Actor Groups

The entire campus community has some interaction with the campus landscape, whether it is direct or indirect. However, not all of the community has direct involvement in decision-making regarding the landscape. The core actors in decision-making are (as shown in figure 6) Tom Galloway, Director of Plant Operations, Jerry Hutten, Supervisor of Grounds Crew, and Les Van Dongen, Supervisor of Grounds Crew. These three people are always involved in decisions about changes to the campus landscape and they are involved daily with maintenance of the campus landscape.

There are supporting actors who are also very important in making decisions, but they are not constantly involved and usually play a less direct role. The supporting actors are Dennis Huber, Vice-President General Services and Finance (as shown in figure 6) and David Johnson, President of the University. These two actors will be called if there are large funding decisions to be made and any other large decisions with respect to landscaping. These actors can make a significant effect on landscaping decisions, even though they are not constantly in direct involvement.

Shadow actors include students, staff, professors, visitors, and prospective students. These actors will be affected by decisions made about the campus landscape, because they are the actors who are regularly on campus and interact with their local environment. However, these actors are not directly involved in making decisions about landscaping changes. They are however indirectly involved because the decisions that are made about the landscape have to please the actors who most often use the land. When making decisions about the landscape, the core actors and the supporting actors take into consideration how shadow actors will respond to the changes. This research project focused on what was restricting these shadow actors from participating in decision-making.







FIGURE 6 Decision-making Hierarchical System in Plant Operations


Dennis Huber

Vice-President, General Service and Finance Big Budget

Changes of the


Director of Plant Operations

Tom Galloway

Supervisor of the Grounds Crew Supervisor of the Grounds Crew

Jerry Hutten Les Van Dongen

Seasonal Workers Carry out decisions

Equipment Grounds Equipment Grounds

Operators Maintenance Operators Maintenance



FIGURE 7 University of Waterloo Landscape System

studying reading


Leisure Activities



Prospective Students sitting/lounging

& Visitors Land Use

Other Interactions between the campus community

labour time


Maintenance UW Students

Landscape (staff and faculty)









community stability

natural future




land use


This study has included four types of research to complete triangulation (see Figure 8) and for a thorough examination of the barriers of naturalization on campus (Palys, 1997). The four methodologies that were conducted for this report are: i.) secondary research, of past WATgreen projects, books with background information on native species and alternatives to traditional landscaping; ii.) questionnaires; iii.) key informant interviews; iv.) the pilot planting site on North Campus.

FIGURE 8 Triangulation for This Study


Secondary research

Pilot Planting


Key informant questionnaire








Study results





5.1 Secondary Research

A list of references appears at the end this final report. The references have provided background information of naturalization on campus, history of the University and the campus landscape, native plants that would grow healthy in the campus landscape, and historic plans or policies for change on campus.

    1. Interviews
    2. This study includes seven key informant interviews and personal communications. The interviews provide the opportunity to hear from respondents directly - instead of guessing about thoughts. There are seven people who have given interviews for this study. The key informants include Patti Cook, Waste Management Co-ordinator, Les Van Dongen, Supervisor of Grounds Crew, Jerry Hutten, Supervisor of Grounds Crew, Tom Galloway, Director of Plant Operations, Larry Lamb, Ecology Technician, Jeremy Lundholm, a University of Guelph graduate student in plant ecology and ecological restoration, and Steve Murphy, Professor in ERS.






    3. Questionnaire
    4. The questionnaire for this study was used to understand students’ perspectives of naturalized areas. The students’ perceptions were then compared with the presumed perceptions that the interviewees have about students. Many questions in the questionnaire referred specifically to the planted site; however, some questions also referred to the campus landscape and safety issues in general (figure 9; appendix B). The perceptions that are expressed in the questionnaires show whether students care about their local environment and if they notice their surroundings. The responses to the questionnaire worked well with the responses of the interviews and were put together to understand the barriers to more naturalized landscaping and students’ participation.

      The questionnaire was distributed in Optometry students’ mailboxes, with the help of Debbie Clermont, an Optometry professor. The sample size was only 40, since Optometry students do not attend class in the spring term, apart from the fourth year class. The response rate was only 22.5%, which works out to nine returned surveys out of 40.







    5. Planting

Naturalizing a specific site was important for this study, as an example for the questionnaire, and also as a means to promote more naturalization. The new naturalized site is also important because it adds a hands-on action-oriented aspect to this study. Planting the site behind the Optometry Building addressed the objective of learning about which native plants would grow best in the campus environment (shown in section 1.1). Knowing which native plants to use on campus is also a large part of naturalization, because sustainability will not be reached if the plantings on the natural sites do not survive. Knowledge on the part of those carrying out the decisions about landscaping changes is important to keep the campus sustainable and allows for a stronger sense of environmental stewardship.

    2. Students’ Perceptions and Influence
    3. Students do have indirect influence when it comes to decision-making on campus since the students pay tuition to facilitate the operation of the university. There is a mixed reaction towards natural areas on campus; a diversity of opinions from a diversity of students. Complaints about natural areas on campus have been noted, as well as some compliments. The Dorney Garden is one such natural area that has caused some reaction when it was implemented (Patti Cook, Personal Communication). There were many complaints by students, faculty, and staff that the area looked "messy" and that it should be "cleaned-up" (Patti Cook, Personal Communication). However, now the complaints and uproars have died down as people on campus begin to accept it. The campus community has adapted and accepted the sudden change, and they are willing to live with it now. Other areas that have caused some anxiety for the campus community include the buffer zone slowly implemented around Laurel Creek. The campus community simply thought that Plant Operations and Grounds Crew forgot to mow around the edges. However, as is obvious, the buffer zone has stayed and people now accept the change. Although it is unclear as to how many people are informed about the benefits and reasoning behind the buffer zone (Patti Cook, Personal Communication).

      The people using the campus daily are mostly concerned with safety issues. People will only complain if plantings make them feel uneasy or there are branches across paths or other hazardous situations that need to be cleaned up (Jerry Hutten, Personal Communication). The campus community does not generally feel the need to either complain or compliment about the landscape (Jerry Hutten, Personal Communication). The lack of complaints or compliments increases the communication gap between Plant Operations and the students, and further creates perceived conceptions for both actor groups.

      Other than the odd complaint and the indirect tuition influence, students have no direct contact with Plant Operations when decisions are made about the landscape. On the other hand, the more active students interested in the sustainability of the campus or environmental issues in general can have direct, personal contact with Plant Operations because of certain courses and volunteer groups such as WPIRG (Tom Galloway, Personal Communication).

      The questionnaires in this research illustrated that 100% of the students surveyed notice natural areas on campus (see Figure 10, Appendix D). This means nine out of nine students notice their campus surroundings and are aware of their local environment. This brings students one step closer to environmental stewardship and caring for their local, as well as the global, environment. Of those nine participants, eight (or 88.9%) of them thought that natural areas were aesthetically pleasing. The participants specified that trees, flowers, ferns and bushes look better than simply turf landscaping. Participants who like natural settings enjoy colourful flowers, low plants like shrubs, and shady trees. These three qualities can be being characterized as safety (low bushes), function (shade), and bright clean looking species (exotic-looking flowers); all the characteristics that past studies have shown to be most important (Hassan, 2000). This point of view may pose as a problem with acceptance in future proposed natural areas, since students seem to be accustomed to well groomed bright looking gardens. Naturalized areas that will help increase sustainability may not look "clean" or may not even have exotic-looking flowers, however they should still be accepted as natural areas.

      As specified above in this report, naturalized areas will require less maintenance, non-renewable resources, time, and money. However, the questionnaires suggest that almost half of the students surveyed believe that turf areas take less time, maintenance, money and resources to uphold. When asked what the disadvantages were to natural areas as opposed to turf areas, 4 respondents said either more maintenance, more resources, or more time would be required as opposed to turf landscaping. One respondent, out of the 4, believed that a natural area would be less maintenance because there would be less mowing. This suggests that not enough students are informed about landscaping and the benefits of naturalized areas as opposed to turf areas.

      There were 5 out of 9 respondents that are partial to turf landscaping. However, out of those 5, 3 of the respondents also like a mix of both turf and natural areas. This restates that turf landscaping is the norm in our society — mentioned in the Introduction section - and everyone easily accepts and enjoys the "beauty" of turf landscaping. The fact that the 3 out of the 5 respondents fond of turf landscaping also take pleasure in a mixture with natural areas, gives hope to a campus wide acceptance of implementing future natural areas. The societal norms can be adjusted, so as to increase acceptance of naturalized areas.

      There were only 6 respondents that noticed the newly planted area and could respond specifically about the area. The other respondents who did not pass the planting site only answered general questions about natural landscaping on campus. So of the 6 respondents who could answer questions about the planting site, 5 (83.3%) thought that the planting was aesthetically pleasing and all 6 (or 100%) felt safe walking past the site. This suggests that colourful, but native, hardy plants can be planted on campus to increase sustainability, while still being aesthetically pleasing and perhaps increasing acceptance. However, as stated in the above paragraphs, natural areas may not be colourful, but the campus community still should be able to accept them. Analysis from the responses for the safety questions suggest that, since all the respondents that passed the planting site felt safe, the criteria for safety concerns were fulfilled. The plants on the site will grow no higher than 1m, and so the site should always emit a safe environment for students, faculty, and staff in the future.


    4. Barriers
    5. Surprisingly, barriers identified in the interviews do not include budget. The Plant Operations yearly budget is approximately $27,000, as stated above in section 4.1. Even though this budget includes everything from landscaping alterations to regular maintenance to unexpected repairs, money is not currently a concern or barrier hindering more naturalized areas (Les Van Dongen, Personal Communication).

      The interviews with the decision-makers in Plant Operations showed that maintenance was not a barrier either for implementing more naturalization. They are aware of the benefits towards natural landscaping and the decrease in resources, time, maintenance and labour.

      New plantings on campus do not occur at a specific rate or in any definite manner. They arise as students or professors bring forward recommendations; as new construction occurs; when problem areas arise; or any other opportunities (Tom Galloway, Personal Communication). This information suggests that there are no specific, strong barriers impeding more naturalization on campus. It also suggests that there is nothing encouraging more naturalization for the campus either. So there may not be institutional barriers to overcome, but there is still action that can be taken to aid in increasing naturalized areas.

      There are concerns that Plant Operations have with more natural areas on campus, but they do not stop naturalization projects, they simply impede the rate at which turf areas are converted.

      Acceptance from the campus community is a large issue with respect to the rate of naturalization (Patti Cook, Personal Communication). Plant Operations understands that natural areas left unmowed or newly planted native species could be strongly rejected. A representative sample of students’ perceptions, with respect to naturalization on campus, however, is not known. There is a mix of opinions throughout the campus community with respect to naturalization on campus, which is to be expected since there is such a diverse population of students (Tom Galloway, Personal Communication). This suggests that there may be a consensus that could be reached regarding naturalization to make both Plant Operations, and students happy, as well as increase sustainability of the campus.

      Aesthetics is an important concern as well, when new sites for planting are considered. As suggested in section 6.1, aesthetics is an important factor for students with respect to the campus landscape. Plant Operations is aware of this as well. The campus landscape is particularly important regarding people outside of the community visiting the campus, including potential students and their parents, or family and parents coming to the campus to see their child graduate (Patti Cook, Personal Communication). Again, this suggests that our society sees well-manicured turf landscaping as ideals of beauty, wealth and prosperity (Steve Murphy, Personal Communication). Which are characteristics that would attract potential students to the University, impress visiting parents, and make citizens proud of their local academic institute.

      Another concern - that was evident in both interviews and questionnaires - for the Plant Operations as well as the students, is safety for the campus community. Big bushy naturalized areas are seen as scary and dark (Steve Murphy, Personal Communication). Students feel safer when plantings are low to the ground and thin (as opposed to bushy). In the past, there have been concerns about the buffer zone around Laurel Creek because it is large and bushy (Bywater et al., 1995). Since safety is only a concern, this suggests that it can be overcome by planning sites so that vegetation grows no higher than 1.25m and is not too bushy.

      Other concerns that are taken into consideration when planning future naturalized sites include providing a microclimate (wind reduction or shade creation), wildlife habitat, educational functions, and topography.


    6. Sources of Error in the Study Design

There are some sources of error in this study design that could not be overcome due to time constraints and accessibility. First of all, the generalizability of the survey sample is limited. Since only Optometry students were surveyed, the results cannot be generalized to the rest of the campus, as the perceptions of the entire campus community. The questionnaire part of the study was very centralized and specific to the planting site.

The sample size for the questionnaire was 40, however only 9 questionnaires were returned and so the ecological validity may not be very high.


Within the context of Environmental Stewardship, this project’s goal was to promote naturalization, unveil barriers stopping naturalization on campus, and understand people’s perceptions of naturalized areas.

There are many criteria that play a role in decision-making about the campus landscape, however, there are no immediate institutional barriers stopping naturalization. Students’ perceptions are a concern when changes are considered, but they are not usually consulted directly. Plant Operations consider areas that are hard to maintain, unsightly, and time consuming for naturalization. As opportunities arise, plantings are done; however there is no set pattern to how often areas are converted from turf (Tom Galloway, Personal Communication).

Given that there are no institutional barriers stopping naturalization on campus, apart from students’ acceptance, turf areas should be converted easily and regularly. Naturalization should be a fairly easy feat to maintain throughout each growing season.

Students’ concerns for safety, aesthetics and acceptance should be taken into account, however, for future natural sites.

If the campus community is informed of the benefits of naturalized landscaping as opposed to turf landscaping, then acceptance could be increased. Dealing with this concern would allow for the rate of naturalization on campus to increase. As the questionnaires suggest, many students believe that natural areas will require more maintenance than traditional turf areas. However, since this is not the case, students may further accept natural areas when they understand the reasoning behind converting turf to natural landscaping.

Plant Operations should also take into consideration making a naturalized site as aesthetically pleasing as possible to address those concerns of students. In a high traffic area, a naturalized site should be visually pleasing with bright coloured flowers and nice looking plants. However, in areas where there is less pedestrian traffic, native plants without flowers or bright colours can be used. Mulch also makes an area less "messy", and many students already accept it as a clean-cut look for gardens (Hassan, 2000).

Safety concerns is the most important factor when considering new natural areas. These concerns can be easily addressed when planning a future natural site. The area should consist of native plants that grow no higher than 1.25m and thin in vegetation (rather than bushy) so that people cannot hide within the shrubbery (Hassan, 2000). The natural areas should also not be too close to paths or any other high pedestrian traffic areas (Bywater et al., 1995). With these suggestions in mind, the safety concern can be overcome and should not be an excuse for limiting naturalization on campus.

Since people’s perceptions are the main factors that weigh decisions about the landscape, Plant Operations should also be informed about what exactly those perceptions are, rather than assuming what they are. Those who use the campus obviously need to be informed for naturalization to be increased and accepted. Still, decision-makers in Plant Operations need to be informed as well about the campus community and what their ideas are. Perhaps a campus wide survey would help Plant Operations to better understand the campus population’s perceptions and concerns towards naturalization. When the two groups work more intimately together, then both needs of the campus community — such as safety, aesthetics, and acceptance - and the campus landscape — decreased use of pesticides, resources, and labour - can be met in an attempt to promote Environmental Stewardship.

The University of Waterloo’s landscape plays a large role in the sustainability of the campus and the local environment. To sustain the landscape for future users to enjoy and to preserve the natural surroundings, actions need to be taken now. Naturalization as opposed to turf grass is a good way to increase overall sustainability. Naturalized areas will add diversity, increase native species heritage, attract wildlife, reduce over consumption of resources, reduce pesticide/herbicide use, save money, bring humans closer with their local environment, increase knowledge and awareness of people’s local environment, and overall increase sustainability of the campus for the future. Hopefully, while people become aware of the benefits of natural areas, they will also become aware of the detrimental practices of turf management. If people learn about the effects of turf continuation, they may convey that to their community and a chain reaction of awareness may occur.

People may begin to understand their direct relationship with the environment and increase Environmental Stewardship in their community as well as the campus. If this occurs, people will begin to understand that they are simply part of the natural environment and realize that they do not have to control their natural surroundings. Allowing grass to grow into a prairie field or a forest community can be seen as beautiful and people will understand how it will increase sustainability. If people on the campus and the surrounding communities can understand naturalization and its benefits, then they can make a difference and help sustain their local environment for future generations to come. So since there are no institutional barriers stopping more naturalization on campus, then implementing natural areas should be an easy approach to increasing sustainability. Students need to be more informed about the benefits of naturalization, Plant Operations needs to clearly understand students’ perceptions and concerns about naturalization, and the two actor groups need to work together to help increase the sustainability of the University of Waterloo campus.



















The recommendations take into consideration the students’ concerns from this study. Students’ safety and acceptance are two key factors with respect to implementing future naturalized areas on campus. Since the Plant Operations does not currently have a specific plan to increase naturalized areas on campus, there are not many areas, or future plans, being converted from turf landscaping. A timeline and policy may initiate more action towards implementing natural areas, and streamline plans for future projects. A guideline or policy may also help further student projects and increase naturalization on campus for greater sustainability. With a guideline, students working on projects will better understand concerns and be able to contribute to addressing concerns about naturalization.

The information given in this report will hopefully be able to assist Plant Operations in increasing the sustainability of the campus landscape by increasing naturalization.