What Does Sustainability Mean on Campus?

Our vision of a sustainable University of Waterloo campus is comprised of many different, but equally important areas. The concept of sustainability is all encompassing. We have considered the characteristics of sustainable campus under sub-headings that represent areas that we feel are important.

Natural Environment: A healthy and vibrant natural environment cultivates an appreciation for non-human living species. It is an integral part of reforming individual attitudes towards the environment. We would like to see:

Waste: This is a very broad criterion, since it embodies the production, reduction, diversion and disposal of waste. Measures that could have been undertaken include:

Transportation: This area of sustainability is centered around reducing the use of automobiles. The automobile is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, a reduction in automobile use would help reduce carbon dioxide production. Our sustainable campus of the future would have:

Classroom Education: The integration of environmental issues into the curriculum of all University programs is vital to the establishment and maintenance of a sustainable campus. In the future we would like to see:

Resource Use: While this area is directly linked to waste, it may be useful to view the use of water and electricity in its own category. A sustainable campus would:

The campus would begin to become a sustainable living and working environment when predetermined measures and indices are at the appropriate levels. There are a variety of measures and indices that could illustrate whether real change has occurred.

The first category of measures and indices would be quantitative in nature:

The second set of measures and indices would be based on qualitative analysis:

The natural environment on the campus today exhibits a great deal of potential that suggests it could be measurably better. A sustainable UW would have a lot less high-maintenance turf and more low-maintenance ground cover. The reflecting pool in front of the health services building would not look murky and devoid of life?

A sustainable campus would be different from today's campus in that a real shift in attitudes had changed. This would form the underlying impetus behind physical changes like a reduction in waste production and resource use. There exists on the campus today, a perceived sense of animosity between students in engineering/math and those in environmental studies. Both sides should see each other as a partner in finding solutions and not as the problem. A sustainable UW community would recognize the legitimacy of both engineering and ES students, this is not the case at present.

Another troubling difference in today's situation from a sustainable UW is the level of apathy and indifference towards environmental issues. This is not something that can be easily treated by an educational campaign. The cause of apathy and indifference in this case is not because of ignorance, but rather a prevailing condition in the rest of the community. There appears to be a sense of detachment from the problem and the cause of the problem.

To achieve this vision of a sustainable UW campus, a university code, or policy should be drawn up. It would be the embodiment of student, staff, and other community members' vision of a sustainable UW. Once this model is successful in reaching its stated goals, then the University could become an example for other communities to follow.

Last Updated: May 22,1997 rsl