The Imprint Footprint Team
University Of Waterloo
Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Our View of Sustainability on Campus

Our vision of a sustainable campus is one where the management of the campus relies on an ecosystem approach. This concept includes the themes: the ecosystem as "home", everything is connected to everything else, sustainability, understanding places, and integrating processes. Our focus is on sustainability which, involves the theory that “we have not inherited the earth from our ancestors, but are borrowing it from our grandchildren" (Crombie, 1992).  Our ultimate goal is to turn the University of Waterloo into a sustainable society.  A sustainable society is one that manages its economy and population size without doing irreparable environmental harm (Miller, 1998).

Sustainability can effectively be accomplished by establishing the campus as a self-reliant entity with minimal input from the City of Waterloo. However, it is unrealistic and unreasonable to envision a campus that can exist completely independent of the surrounding city and region, therefore, the campus should be recognized as a subsystem of the greater area. As a part of a larger system, the campus must be able to communicate with the City of Waterloo. This communication would encompass all ecological, political, social, and economical issues affecting residents in both areas. By including the surrounding society, students would have the opportunity to be involved in a larger community.

 All resources, ideally, would only include those that are able to regenerate at the same rate as the campus consumes them. Any non-renewable resources would be avoided whenever possible. This would make the campus’ consumption fairly independent and hopefully, it would be able to generate most of its own resources.

Characteristics of a sustainable University of Waterloo are those that reflect an ecosystem.  An ecosystem is "a functioning unit of nature that combines biotic communities and the abiotic environments with which they interact" (Art, 1993). In the case of the campus, biotic components include flora and fauna as well as humans. The abiotic components involve air, land, and water out-of-doors as well as inside the University’s buildings. In order to manage the relationship between the biotic and abiotic components within the campus ecosystem, many technological innovations and a new social awareness of ecological issues must be introduced.

By using specific examples, the characteristics of a sustainable University of Waterloo can be demonstrated. Waste produced on campus is of particular concern. Such waste may exist in the form of plastic wrappings, paper, aluminum pop cans, liquid substances poured down drains, and even emissions from buildings. Although the amount of waste produced on campus has been drastically reduced in the past decade, improvements can be made. By adding technology to further reduce contaminated air and water, and increasing awareness with regards to ecologically sensitive products, ecologically conscious management programs can be implemented. For example, kitchen and cafeteria organic wastes ought to be composted on-site. In this sense, the compost could be returned to the campus in the form of fertilizer. Also, plates, utensils, and cups could be reused. This could be accomplished by adding dishwashing facilities at all food service stations. Such stations would also be required to sell items that are fully recyclable. These examples demonstrate how such programs would help maximize awareness on campus and minimize impacts on the biotic and abiotic systems. Other means of social awareness would include the promotion of the 6R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, reject, replace, and repair. Ideally, systems concerning the waste management programs on campus would follow an ecosystem approach in order to attain a sustainable society.

Energy conservation and efficiency are vital to sustainability on campus. Many practices can be applied to this concept, for example, transportation and electricity issues. Transportation around campus although somewhat necessary can be radically reduced. There seems to be an abundance of vehicles making up the University of Waterloo’s fleet. Excursions across the campus ought to be maximized so that the least amount of trips could support the maximum number of deliveries. Ideally, it would be possible to independently produce electricity to power the campus. This can be done on a large scale by applying innovative technology such as solar or wind power to the campus.  Also, by using energy efficient fixtures in all campus buildings, electricity can be conserved and the need for power will be reduced.

Water is another issue of concern for a campus striving to be sustainable. In this case, water must be considered throughout the entire system. The water entering the campus must be clean and healthy.  Once on campus, it must be used conservatively and efficiently. Upon release, the water must not be contaminated in any way, nor can it vary in temperature from its initial state. Also, in every possible case, wastewater must be reused. For example, excess water could be applied to the campus’ gardens or for heating purposes.

The University of Waterloo will be recognized as a sustainable society when improved health is noted among those that teach, learn, and live on campus.  Also, the quality of air, land and water must be recognized as being in top condition. Once this state is achieved, the University of Waterloo community will benefit from the safe and healthy environment that they have made possible.

A sustainable campus will only be achieved by extreme changes and a strong devotion to ecosystem health.  Improvements would be implemented according to changes in ecosystem approach ideals, and new technologies. By evolving the University of Waterloo in such a way, it could become a distinguished leader and could assist all communities in developing their own sustainable societies.

Works Cited

Art, Henry W., ed., The Dictionary of Ecology and Environmental Science. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993.

 Crombie, David. "The Ecosystem Approach", from Regeneration: Toronto’s Waterfront and the Sustainable City. Toronto: Queen’s Printer of Ontario, 1992.

 Parks, Pleasures and Public Amenities Work Group. Parks, Pleasures and Public Amenities. Toronto: Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Waterfront, 1989.