By 2019, ensure undergraduate students from any program of study will have the opportunity to learn about sustainability in their courses
Progress: Mostly complete
Waterloo has a strong foundation of sustainability courses across campus at the undergraduate level. The Faculty of Environment’s efforts to develop a campus-wide online fundamentals course and create a Sustainability Diploma will help illustrate these course offerings and increase access and interest among students.
Sustainability courses and courses related to sustainability
Actions and accomplishments
- The Faculty of Environment began development of a Sustainability Fundamentals online course, which is available for any student on campus to provide an introduction to sustainability theory and challenges
- The Faculty of Environment began development of a Sustainability Diploma as an additional designation that any student could complete on top of their major area
The course inventory is based on course descriptions within the undergraduate and graduate calendars, with a specific emphasis on environmental sustainability. As part of the 2016 report, the Sustainability Office also reached out to department chairs for academic units that offered these identified courses, to verify or modify the course inventory. The definitions provided by AASHE STARS criteria were provided to chairs to determine whether the course content met those criteria, and which are provided below for reference. In the current report, the Registrar’s Office provided a full export of all courses within the 2017/18 academic calendar, including descriptions. The Sustainability Office searched through this list and matched all courses that had previously been validated by department chairs, and added or removed courses as necessary based on changes to the academic calendar.
Cross-listed courses were treated as one total course and were weighted equally across the departments (i.e., 0.5 allocated to Geography & Environmental Management and 0.5 allocated to Earth Sciences for a shared course).
Limitations and Exclusions:
- Course descriptions are not exhaustive, and it is possible that there are many more courses that have units, modules, or case studies related to environmental sustainability that were not included in the description.
- Some department chairs did not respond to requests for validation in 2017, in which case the original inventory was used. Approximately 81% of courses were verified.
- Special Topics courses were normally excluded from the count, unless the description provided a list of specific topics that could be related to environmental sustainability. Transfer courses, high school courses, Laurier courses, and any courses that appeared in the calendar but were noted not to be offered until future years, were also excluded.
- The academic calendar lists all courses that are available at the University of Waterloo, but does not indicate whether they were actually scheduled.
STARS defines courses as follows:
Sustainability-focused courses are courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenge. This includes:
- Foundational courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability as an integrated concept having social, economic, and environmental dimensions. Obvious examples include Introduction to Sustainability, Sustainable Development, and Sustainability Science, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability.
- Courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on the application of sustainability within a field. As sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic, such courses generally incorporate insights from multiple disciplines. Obvious examples include Sustainable Agriculture, Architecture for Sustainability, and Sustainable Business, however courses may also count if their course descriptions indicate a primary and explicit focus on sustainability within a field.
- Courses in which the primary focus is on providing skills and/or knowledge directly connected to understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges. A course might provide knowledge and understanding of the problem or tools for solving it, for example Climate Change Science, Renewable Energy Policy, Environmental Justice, or Green Chemistry. Such courses do not necessarily cover “sustainability” as a concept, but should address more than one of the three dimensions of sustainability (i.e. social wellbeing, economic prosperity, and environmental health).
Courses that include sustainability refers to courses that are primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporate a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, include
s one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrate s sustainability issues throughout the course. While a foundational course such as chemistry or sociology might provide knowledge that is useful to practitioners of sustainability, it would not be considered to be inclusive of sustainability unless the concept of sustainability or a sustainability challenge is specifically integrated into the course. Likewise, although specific tools or practices such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or engineering can be applied towards sustainability, such courses would not count unless they incorporated a unit on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, included a sustainability-focused activity, or incorporated sustainability issues throughout the course.
By 2025, identify and implement flexible strategies for 5 programs of study to more deeply integrate sustainability within the curriculum
Description: Some efforts have been initiated to link sustainability concepts and issues to specific disciplinary competencies in parts of the campus. This has built some initial momentum and can generate knowledge and experience for other academic departments, however further effort will be needed to accelerate progress.
Actions and accomplishments
- Sustainability Office completed research on characteristics of curriculum integration, and gathered examples from other institutions on sustainability competencies across disciplines.
- The School of Public Health and Health Systems began preliminary discussions on curriculum integrations and mapping possible opportunities and linkages with sustainability.
- The Faculty of Engineering launched the Architectural Engineering program, as a collaboration between Civil Engineering and the School of Architecture. The program has a major focus on energy efficient and low-carbon buildings.
By 2025, every startup emerging from supporting programs at Waterloo will have access to tools and training to embed sustainability into their emerging business plans and models
Description: The launch of new programs and expansion of existing programs to connect students with resources indicates promising initial progress. Further effort can be made to define, develop, and advertise tools and resources for participants within existing entrepreneurship programs.
Actions and accomplishments
- In early 2018, Velocity and Waterloo International supported the World’s Challenge Challenge, where student teams picked one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and pitched their idea to a global problem
- In 2018, Waterloo partnered on the launch of the evolvGreen collaborative workspace for clean economy entrepreneurs in the new evolv1 building, in cooperation with Sustainable Waterloo Region, the Accelerator Centre, the City of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier
- The GreenHouse social innovation incubator opened its new space in the building addition at St. Paul’s
.GreenHouse facilitates and supports social-purpose startups and social-change initiatives
- Velocity expanded its entrepreneurship support by launching Velocity Start @Environment, a space for students from any program to connect with startup coaches and workshops to grow their business ideas