Momentum around sustainability is building.
In 2009, the University of Waterloo committed to taking further action alongside all Ontario universities as part of the Council of Ontario Universities Going Greener pledge. Since then, sustainability efforts have been flourishing on many campuses: new academic programs empower students to tackle pressing challenges, universities embed sustainable practices in their operations, and are increasingly using strategies to engage campus stakeholders.
At the end of October 2015, UWaterloo released its 2014 Environmental Sustainability Report, summarizing the progress our institution has made over the past five years to embed sustainability on campus. While there is still work to be done, the report showcases the success of Waterloo’s operations, in how sustainability makes its way into courses and research, and in how Waterloo engages staff, students, and the community. Some highlights include:
- Over 500 courses related to sustainability across all six faculties
- The new Master in Climate Change and Collaborative Water Program bring Waterloo’s count of sustainability-related programs to 58
- Over 230 researchers are exploring the scientific, technological, policy, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability issues
- Construction of Environment 3, the first LEED-Platinum building on an Ontario university campus
- A 7.5% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions per square meter
- The student-led Campus Compost, e-Waste recycling, and ongoing blue bin collections helped achieve a 10% decrease in waste-to-landfill in 2014
- Food Services has worked with suppliers so that 66% of hot beverages at University-run coffee shops are Fairtrade certified
- 13 student groups on campus engage their colleagues on campus, community, and global sustainability issues
- Waterloo has entered partnerships in the Regional Carbon Initiative and TravelWise, and students helped support the creation of the community’s first Climate Action Plan.
With a new President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, Waterloo is using our newest report as a foundation for a campus-wide sustainability strategy, which will outline further actions that will deepen our sustainable efforts across all areas of campus. These efforts, according to President Hamdullahpur, “are essential to Waterloo’s success over the long term.”
Moving forward, this strategy only grows more important. Local, provincial, national and global conversations are showing encouraging signs of positive action on climate change. The newly-released Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious, inspiring, and reflect the tight connection between the natural environment and economic and social prosperity. Working together across campus and with local partners, Waterloo will continue to improve the environmental sustainability of the University and our regional community.