University of Waterloo Vision Statement

 
 Vision of Sustainability: Turn of the Century Transition

    It is the early years of the new millennium. For the past four decades environmental issues have risen and fallen in the minds and media of Canada. Our greener campus reflects both societal consciousness and revolutionary technology and policy.  The University of Waterloo is a microcosm of broader Canadian society: one that upholds environmental and social justice values as
the norm; one that implements strategies for living more lightly on the land; and one that simultaneously reduces resource use,
reduces waste and deepens an institutional  environmental ethic.  Recognizing that all members of the community are
interconnected, living and non-living, there is an emphasis on interdependence and personal accountability.  For this reason,
individuals have begun to live more simply and more efficiently, effectively abandoning the values of material wealth from the
past.  A new consciousness has developed in small pockets of committed individuals and spread persistently over the years to
influence and redirect the majority of departments within the University.  Awareness has manifest itself in action: people make
choices in areas such as transportation, lifestyle, and community structure to maximize sustainability.

Campus Transportation

    A new approach to single-drivers and carpooling has been implemented, whereby discount parking is available for regular
car-poolers of 3-4 people.  With a partial car ban on Ring Road, the University road network is made far more "cyclist friendly" and has designated bike lanes on all roads surrounding the campus.  Provision of safe walkways distinguished from bike paths
makes for a more comfortable transportation system that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists, while discouraging
driving to or around campus.  Bicycle racks as well as storage sheds and shower facilities are a common sight and mandatory
for each building.  Recycle Cycles, a working group on campus, facilitates the pick up of old bicycles in the K-W community
for donation to students at a reduced rate.  Bicycles are further made available in a rack and deposit system, where people can
rent a bike for short distances and recuperate their deposit upon return at any rental site.  The cycling club on campus has acted
as both facilitators for change and as a lobby group to municipal planners who agreed to retrofit major bike paths and roads
with solar powered coils that melt snow and ice, clearing paths without the use of salt or sand.  Pedestrians enjoy the use of
underground tunnels in harsh winter weather that connect residences to all campus buildings.  Even service vehicles, which are
sometimes necessary, have largely been replaced by bicycle couriers and bicycle security, while larger deliveries and services
have been combined wherever possible for greater efficiency. These vehicles are no longer gasoline run, but have switched to
alternative sources of fuel.  All in all transportation on campus has been transformed -  from a once dangerous, noisy and
polluting system - to one that relies on sustainable energy sources and integrates walkers, bikers and drivers in a
non-competitive way.

Wholistic Living

    Good examples of sustainable living can be found in the way residences and other campus buildings operate.  The changes to water consumption, recycling and food systems alone have been far exceeded by the recent demand for a wholistic approach to living. Living waste systems, using organic purification of waste water, are an inherent part of new buildings and are currently
being designed for existing structures.  Gray water is used for irrigation of organic gardens, while produce  is harvested for
campus food services.  What cannot be grown on campus directly is purchased from local sources that share the environmental
ethic of the University.  The use of turf grass is considered aesthetically unpleasant and labour-intensive; people choose to
landscape and naturalize campus green space in a way that uses native plant species, creates habitat, stabilizes creek banks and
is safe and pleasing to the members of the University community.  Not only are outside areas made "greener" but indoor
gardens, fountains, aquariums and terrariums add to a life-giving atmosphere.  As increasing numbers of people were shown to
be adversely affected by artificial lighting (opposed to sunlight) and darkness in winter, a shift was made to maximize windows in new buildings and renovate existing buildings to have skylights.  With increased solar exposure comes passive solar heating.
This would be one form of many renewable sources to provide energy to campus.  The tops of buildings have been equipped
with windmills and solar panels, while natural gas use is minimal.
 
    Other forms of waste have been reduced or eliminated, for example, each member of the community has a personal kit of
dish ware which has removed the need for any disposables.  Cafeterias requested new waste management systems that made
composting, reuse of leftovers and recycling part of daily life.  Excess food is regularly provided to soup kitchens and other
outreach groups in the community.  As the Green Guide's vision for college campuses in Canada states: "The trash bins and
recycling containers so common in the twentieth century have nearly disappeared.  Recycling is a standard part of [university]
life, but much more work has been done on reducing wastes at source" (National Round Table on the Environment and the
Economy, 1992).
 
    Computer labs, in the same vein as the cafeterias, made active decisions to drastically reduce the waste they produced.  By
removing computer printers from labs, and implementing a disk-assignment policy across the University, paper has become
virtually unnecessary.  Inter-departmental memos and mail, as well as off campus messages have become primarily electronic,
further reducing the need for paper.  The student newspaper, formerly called the Imprint, is now published exclusively on the
Web as "the Footprint."  Each department has followed steps to reduce waste to a bare minimum, while the old recycling
system has been dismantled.  Reducing and reusing dominate: recycling is now  initiated by production companies that are
obliged to consider the life-cycle of their goods.  Society does not produce the excessive quantities of waste that it once did due to a widespread consciousness that recognizes our bioregion's limits and curtails consumption only to one's needs.

 Intentional Community: thinking globally, acting locally
 
    In the new millennium campus, more than advanced technology and lifestyle changes reign.  It seems that Canadian culture has embraced a global perspective that encourages "developed" nations to model sustainability for poorer countries.  Through
greater education of citizens at all levels (not only educational institutions but workplaces and community groups) awareness
about sustainable resource use and the impact of ecological footprints became common knowledge.  As people became more
aware of their individual impact, they strove to build healthy communities that would support each other in the transition to
greener living.  Within these communities, cooperative housing became popular as families and students could share resources
and responsibilities.  Instead of individual ownership of materials, tools and appliances, people recognize the value of
communalism.  Sharing maintenance, chores and childcare equitably distribute the workload among many.  University staff,
faculty and students share this common ethic, which extends outside their living and working environment.

    Being aware of the immense power imbalances that contribute to social and economic disparity are part of the solution for
sustainability. The University of Waterloo is an important player in supporting fair trade initiatives, community cooperatives and
gender equity. Reducing poverty, disease and population growth are three factors which in the twentieth century were major
blocks to achieving global stability.  By this generation population has stabilized and food sources, due largely to vegetarianism,
are secured. With this global sense of security and recognition of limits, the competition for depleting resources has dwindled.
The 2000s are an age of wholistic living rooted in the respect for nature and all life.  In such a setting, personal and spiritual
growth are encouraged, while the value of healthy living  is high. The world is harmonious and  self-sufficient, for all people
recognize the value of life on an inter-dependent planet.

    Our project, grounded in the reality of 1998, draws on this vision for inspiration.  By imagining a sustainable campus system,
waste becomes an important area to examine and change.  The problems at the center of our study (contamination of recycling
and litter left for garbage) undermine sustainability, effectively blocking the University of Waterloo from achieving parts of this
vision.  Unless recycling is properly managed and behaviours reflect a responsible environmental ethic, then the integrity of the
entire waste system is threatened.  The motivation for our project is one shared by Watgreen, the campus environmental voice,
and the entire Environment and Resource Studies program that promotes a systems approach to analysis and encourages transition to a sustainable community. The starting point of this community is our campus.


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