A sustainable UW campus has a lot to do with attitude change. No matter how many systems are designed or how many laws will be passed, nothing will succeed without first changing the attitudes of the students and staff of UW. This is a major initiative, and it begins with incorporating sustainability courses in every faculty on campus. Sustainability courses would focus on teaching students the importance of environmental initiatives on campus, and how each individual can contribute to positive change. Environmental success involves participation from all disciplines, including engineers, business students, chemists, biologists, english majors etc., so that environmental issues are addressed from all perspectives. Ultimately, these people will carry their environmental thought processes out into the working world.
Creating an interest in and respect for the environment is the second step towards sustainability. If students and staff are unaware or uninterested in various campus environmental concerns, these concerns will not be given the attention they deserve. This type of environmental awareness could be fostered with informative and accurate media attention. Involvement from both on and off campus newspapers, the internet, television and radio will provide necessary publicity of UW's outstanding effort to meet present and persistent environmental challenges.
An informed and motivated team of staff and students is needed to take on various changes necessary for a sustainable U of W. Issues in need of attention include:
Waste Management is an issue of vital importance on the U of W campus. One area that needs attention is Food Services. On the sustainable campus, food would be bought from local farmers and food cooperatives, supporting the local economy. Less meat would be served in order to make the most efficient use of the food chain. The minimal beef, chicken and pork would also be bought from local farmers with considerations made to how the animals were raised.
This would all have to be integrated gradually over the years, fulfilling a quota each year to buy locally grown vegetables and locally raised meat. As the years progress, a sustainable relationship between the campus and local farmers will be created, resulting in a give and take, balanced agreement. Food services would have a system of composting within their kitchens, as well as in the dining areas. Students would be encouraged to use the cafeteria's dishes and cutlery reducing the need for disposable containers and plastic forks and knives. If a situation arises where dishes are being stolen by students, a program will be introduced where the students will wash the dishes in the cafeteria. The purpose of this is to introduce the student to the full life-cycle of the resources they use and to teach them the importance of returning the dishes, so that non-reusable dishes will be spared. The few throw away utensils offered would be recyclable. This would greatly reduce the amount of food and related waste on campus.
Waste in the various buildings on campus would also be a focus in the sustainability initiative. In the various laboratories, efforts should be put toward the proper disposal or reuse of hazardous chemicals, as well as the recycling of lab glass. Offices on campus would use less paper for memos by utilizing the e-mail system and all photocopiers would have a working two sided photo copy option.
In order to discourage the amount of automobile use on campus, a number of initiatives will be instituted. There will only be access to one parking permit per automobile. This cancels the amount of intra-campus driving (i.e. from residence to campus) and eliminates the dependence on automobiles that some students have. Similar to the proposed idea of last year, concerning mandatory bus passes, Kitchener Transit will subsidize bus passes for students, who will pay the remainder in their tuition. Kitchener Transit will also offer special routes, offering direct and quick access to campus from high-volume areas. Once this transit system is instituted, it will be more beneficial to take the bus to school, rather than drive (in time and in money). Increased mobility access for bicycles will be another main feature on a sustainable UW campus, especially in the spring term. This includes bike paths throughout the campus, allowing cyclists freer mobility between classes and eliminating the fear of running over students and staff who are walking.
Re-fitting the buildings on campus will be a major feature of a sustainable UW campus. This includes low-energy light bulbs in the classrooms and timers for nighttime use (reducing energy waste at night). Alternative energy sources will be used as much as possible, including solar and wind power. The Faculty of Engineering will make this a top priority. Additionally, water use must be sustainable. Low-flow toilets will reduce the amount of water flushed to the sewers. Faucets and shower heads will have water saving devices installed, and a system (again the responsibility of the Engineering Department to maintain) or reusing as much clean water as possible will be in place. General Services will be revamped over the course of 10 years, in order to learn and apply all of the above services.
It is clear that a sustainable UW is some years away from being a reality. That does not mean that it is unattainable. In order for progress to be made, a major attitude shift will be necessary. In addition to revamping the waste management, passing transportation "laws" and refitting buildings, we have to teach the staff and students of UW what it means to be sustainable. Like our world renowned engineering and computer science programs, UW will be a major leader in sustainability issues in the coming century. Through word of mouth advertising, and an onslaught of media attention, a sustainable UW campus will be the forerunner for other campuses and offices worldwide.
Last Updated: June 21, 1997 cmd, reh, akm