Environmental Sustainability Strategy: A Year of Action

Environmental Sustainability Update

Our University has a critical role to play in developing a sustainable world for us and for generations to come. It has been one year since the release of the University of Waterloo’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and the progress we’ve made in our 2025 goals is well underway and making a difference.

We educate, we research and we aim to inspire the world with what we do at our University. As a vast community of students, faculty, staff and alumni we need to set an example for responsible and sustainable practices and we are doing just that. The 2017-2018 Environmental Sustainability Report, that was recently released, is our way of keeping the University accountable as we strive to create positive and lasting change at Waterloo.

Making Progress

We are a large and diverse institution, which means our Strategy had to incorporate all aspects of what we do. This includes goals and objectives that cover Academics, Operation, Engagement and Governance and Benchmarking.

Here are a few of the milestones we’ve made as an institution:

  • 527 courses offered focused on or related to sustainability
  • 485 faculty members conducting research that advances the global Sustainable Development Goals
  • Reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 17.1% per square metre since 2010
  • Decreased water use 8.3% per square metre since 2015
  • Diverted 42% of waste from the landfill
  • 22.6% of food purchases local or certified for sustainability

These indicate important progress towards the objectives we have set through our Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which are aggressive, but attainable and appropriate with the scale of the challenges we face. We’ve already met our goal of reducing our water use by 5% per square metre and like many other objectives, this is only the beginning. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to read the 2018 report to learn more about our progress.

This represents tremendous effort from many departments. From Plant Operations to Food Services, Central Stores to Housing and Residences, student clubs and societies to our Green Office network, and from research institutes to academic departments and of course the Sustainability Office, action is multifaceted. As we look back on the progress we’ve made over the past year together, there is a great deal to look forward to in the future.

Exciting new projects scheduled for 2019 include ongoing upgrades to our waste and recycling systems, and major retrofits to high-efficiency lighting.

We can all work together to make our university more sustainable and I thank every staff, student and faculty member who has made sustainability a priority on campus.

SDSN Canada Launch

While sustainability is a key initiative for our University, this year also brought Waterloo into the greater national and global arenas of sustainability. We became the host institution of the newly created Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada in May 2018, bringing our University into the centre of a national and global effort of sustainability. Our University will continue to be a major driver for Canada and the world in making strides towards the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their embedded targets.

Creating an environment that embraces for a more prosperous future will take more than policies alone. Every purchase, every decision and every action we take as an institution must be made through the lens of sustainability. While sustainability is one of my key priorities I urge you to join me in making Waterloo the most sustainable institution possible.

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