With concerns of climate change continuing to rise, the importance of finding innovative, environmentally sustainable alternatives has become a necessity. Heavy usage of non-renewable resources and an expanding carbon footprint are but a few of the many compromises taken in favor of quick, easy, and cheap means of operation. Subsequently, university graduates are expected to face a multitude of changes in the workforce due to a rapidly changing climate. The University of Waterloo has responded by forming the Accelerating Integration of Sustainability into Curriculum Project. The Curriculum Project aims to normalize environmentally sustainable competencies and systematically integrate them in all curricula within the University of Waterloo to prepare students for new environmental standards within the workforce.  

Several members in the Conrad Grebel University College community have played a significant role in putting the Curriculum Project into action. Current Grebel student Ceileigh McAllister, along with recent graduate Emma Kirke, began this push by creating the petition to make sustainability a part of every program at UWaterloo. “Climate action and other sustainability challenges require a full societal effort, so it only makes sense that sustainability is integrated across all disciplines,” Ceileigh explained. The list of Grebel contributors continues: Abby Loewen, a Grebel alum, is the Sustainability Curriculum Specialist in charge of leading many of the project's operations at UWaterloo, including developing deliverables, coordinating meetings, and researching or gathering information on campus. Maya Morton Ninomiya, currently living at Grebel, connected with Ceileigh at the Sustainable Education Summit in fall of 2022. From there, Maya also joined the Curriculum Project and is one of the many students striving to increase sustainability at UWaterloo. 

“Grebel allowed me to connect with other students who shared this passion,” said Maya. “It presented several clear avenues of how I could make a targeted impact, not only on Grebel, but on the University of Waterloo as a whole.” 

“The staff at Grebel, particularly Paul Penner, were very supportive of the initiative that I undertook in my first year, regarding implementing reduction targets. This gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to influence positive change,” noted Ceileigh.  

Increasing environmental sustainability becomes an easier task when the initiative sprouts from a unified community, like Grebel. “Grebel fostered an environment where I could see how students in different disciplines can work together on a joint topic,” Abby remarked. “Together, we can study a common issue, but then apply it uniquely in the context of our studies.”  

“Everyone at Grebel – students, staff, and faculty – are members of the larger community,” said President Marcus Shantz. “We're excited about the sustainability curriculum initiative from University of Waterloo because it aligns with so many of Grebel's goals and values. We hope that students do more than acquire technical knowledge. University should create opportunities for all students to confront big questions and grapple with issues that are important to humanity as a whole.” 

Maya and Ceileigh are also members of Grebel’s Green Team, which includes students, staff, and faculty who meet regularly with Sustainable Waterloo Region advisors to formulate methods of reducing Grebel’s carbon footprint. The team is aiming to reduce Grebel’s greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030, with the first step of replacing the College’s heating and cooling systems. The Green Team’s efforts to make Grebel a more environmentally sustainable residence have already received positive encouragement; they were awarded the “Rookie of the Year Award” in 2022 for their reduction in carbon emissions.  

A gaze outside Grebel’s residence reveals more of the Green Team’s environmental work, where a pollinator garden was recently planted by Grebel student Eva Booker on her summer coop term. The garden provides food and habitat for a variety of pollinating insects, in addition to splashing the campus with beautiful, calming colors. That is the lasting image that Grebelites like Ceileigh, Maya, Abby, and the many other UWaterloo students and faculty involved in the Curriculum Project want to create: one that is beautiful, environmentally friendly, and a reflection of the many hands coming together to create positive change. 

By Jiho Mercer

Ceileigh McAllister

Ceieleigh McAllister

Maya Morton Ninomiya

maya morton

Abigail Loewen

Abigail Loewen