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By 2020, Waterloo broadly distributes timely and audience-relevant information about sustainability initiatives and opportunities within the campus communit
About the guide
The Sustainability Office developed the Sustainability Guide to help you live a sustainable lifestyle, whether you are new to sustainable living or looking for ways to improve your current sustainable behaviours.
This digital guide is divided into two main sections: exploring sustainability and general resources. The first section will explore various topics, resources and actions to incorporate in your life. The second section will provide general resources on sustainability if you’re interested in exploring further, including blog posts, books, documentaries and more, as well as resources to connect with local groups, businesses, and organizations that are helping to make Waterloo Region more sustainable.
This section will provide an introduction to a range of specific sustainability topics, introductory resources to learn more and practical ways to incorporate simple, sustainable behaviours into your life. We have included resources to suit various learning and accessibility needs, so whether you prefer listening, watching or reading, we hope you’ll find resources that work for you. While the list of resources included is not exhaustive, it provides many great starting points for you to explore!
Reducing my emissions
Shift:Neutral, our first institutional Climate and Energy Action Plan, outlines how the university plans to achieve carbon neutrality and increase energy efficiency across campus. Note that many of the other topics also contribute to climate action, because climate change is an all-encompassing theme.
- What is a carbon footprint? by You Matter [read]
- What Are Carbon Footprints by FuseSchool [watch] (CC)
- The Changing Climate of Waterloo Region – infographic by the University of Waterloo [read]
- TED Talk: This country isn’t just carbon neutral – it’s carbon negative by Tshering Tobgay [watch] (CC)
- Talking Carbon Footprinting by Talk Policy To Me [listen] (transcribed)
- Are carbon offsets the answer to climate-altering flights? by the David Suzuki Foundation [read]
- University of Waterloo Climate and Energy Action Plan [read]
- Measure: Discover your current carbon footprint and get tips for reducing your personal emissions through Project Neutral
- Participate: Join a climate action-oriented group like Youth Action on Climate Change which hosts regular virtual activities like media clubs, blog writing workshops and more
- Reduce: Use these 35 tips from Colombia University to start reducing your carbon footprint.
- Educate: Promote climate change education and action on your social media accounts
- Set goals: Set personal goals to reduce your contribution to climate change, such as a goal for reducing your carbon footprint by the end of 2021
Sustainable clothing purchases
Fast fashion – the cheap, mass-produced “in” clothing that changes every season – is highly unsustainable, with environmental and social impacts. Supporting “slow” fashion is a way to directly combat this unsustainable system in your everyday life, while still expressing yourself through your clothing!
- The true cost of fast fashion by The Economist [watch] (CC)
- Project Trashion: Sustainability is always in fashion by WUSA [read]
- Bangladesh building collapse kills more than 230; Joe Fresh clothing, other brands made at site by The Star [read]
- Guide to Consignment Stores by The Simple Dollar [read]
- Capsule wardrobes by Good on You [read/watch] (CC)
- TED Talk: 3 creative ways to fix fashion’s waste problem by Amit Kalra [watch] (CC, transcribed)
- Thrift: Visit a thrift or consignment store for pre-loved goods at lower prices; use this map of Kitchener-Waterloo for used clothing stores in the area
- Shop certified: Look for garments from companies with third-party certifications that ensure ethical, sustainable production practices – use the EcoLabel Index to learn what labels are used in the textile industry
- Donate: If you have textiles from clothing and other materials that you no longer have use for, donate them! Some places will even accept textiles for recycling that are no longer wearable. Places like Value Village and Goodwill can recycle your textiles.
- Minimize: Follow Pinch of Yum's capsule wardrobe starter guide to create your own capsule wardrobe
- Swap: Host a clothing swap with friends, family and/or your community! Also check if your community is hosting one; student societies at UW often host them, as have businesses around Waterloo, such as at Seven Shores. The WSP Clothing Store will be taking over these starting in the Fall 2021 term.
- Do not conduct a clothing swap while COVID-19 restrictions are in place
Enhancing diversity and inclusivity
Sustainability goes beyond the environment. It also includes fostering diverse, equitable and inclusive social systems. Read the Strategic Plan to learn the University's specific equity-related goals. The University's Equity Office is working towards making campus policies and programs more accessible and inclusive every day with the support of diverse staff, student and Faculty members. The Equity Office also has many resources and tools available to inform you about your rights and available supports related to equity. In addition, check out the Indigenous Initiatives Office's resources and research, available to the public. With regards to accessibility, check out the on- and off-campus accessibility resources provided by Accessibility Services.
- What is environmental racism? by Clear the Air [listen]
- Canada also has an environmental racism problem by The National Observer [read]
- Gender equality in Canada by PLAN International [watch](CC)
- 15 ways to improve diversity and inclusivity in the workplace by SocialChorus [read]
- TED Talk: The economic injustice of plastic by Van Jones [watch] (CC, transcribed)
- Challenging Systemic Barriers: The Equity Lens by Wellbeing Waterloo Region [watch] (CC)
- Get informed: Read the University’s Strategic Plan to learn about what diversity and inclusivity priorities UW seeks to accomplish over the next 5 years
- Explore: Explore the groups, services and resources in Waterloo Region that are serving to increase accessibility and equity in the community
- Attend lectures: Watch Equity4Who’s virtual teach-in on how to make the University a more inclusive and equitable place
- Get mentored: Join UW RAISE's Mentor-Mentee program (follow their Instagram account to know when applications are due)
- Learn history: Explore the Periodic Table of Canadian Black History
- Shop: Support a BIPOC-owned business in KW or in your home community - check out this Waterloo Region BIPOC-Owned Shopping Guide created by Explore Waterloo Region
Waterloo Region has both seen an increase in population growth and residential energy consumption in recent years, and while the data is not yet available, residential home energy use has likely surged since March 2020. Learn more about the University's energy goals and targets in the Climate and Energy Action Plan.
- Where does Canada get its electricity? by Natural Resources Canada [read]
- Managing costs with time-of-use rates by the Ontario Energy Board [read]
- March is for Energy Conservation by Jenna Phillips [read]
- The Biggest Lie About Renewable Energy by ASAP Science [watch] (CC)
- Five reasons to be optimistic about clean energy in 2021 by the United Nations Development Programme [read]
- Indigenous activists support cancellation of Keystone XL pipeline project by CBC News [watch] (CC)
- Rent mindfully: Live in a student condo or apartment? Save on Energy shares ways to reduce your energy use as a renter
- Conserve: Read Reep Green Solution's Home Energy 101 blog with dozens of posts on energy saving ideas
- Study: Explore the clean energy research being done by the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy
- Get reimbursed: Check out the Energy Affordability Program offered through Save on Energy which offers energy assessments, toolkits and more
- Audit: Get a Home Energy Audit offered by Reep Green Solutions
- Shop smart: Shop for appliances and other household items that have the ENERGY STAR label, which certifies that it is an energy-efficient product
Choosing healthy & sustainable food
Food is something you consume every day, so incorporating sustainability into your food choices is an excellent way to make an impact. Learn more about sustainable food choices on our Food web page.
- What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it? by Harvard Medical School [read]
- Feeding Nine Billion: Local Food Systems by Dr. Evan Fraser [watch] (CC)
- 4 world cultures and religions that embrace plant-based eating by Greenpeace [read]
- Because Everybody Eats: Exploring Sustainable Food Systems for a Better World by Handpicked: Stories from the Field [listen]
- Fairtrade: How does it protect the environment? by Divjot Singh [read]
- What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? by Clear the Air [read]
- Shop local: Check out the St. Jacobs or Kitchener Farmers Market (open during the pandemic)
- Caffeinate consciously: Visit a coffee/tea shop that supports sustainable, ethical production practices, such as Aroma Café, Distinctly Tea, EcoCafé St. Jacobs, Seven Shores, or Smile Tiger Coffee Roasters
- Minimize meat: Check out this interactive database for plant-based/plant-friendly restaurants in KW by Happy Cow
- Reduce waste: Reduce avoidable food waste with UW Food Services’ list of kitchen and grocery resources, which have tips for meal planning, grocery shopping, food storage and more
- Grow small: Learn to grow microgreens at home with Maison Verte
- Support farmers: Explore the list of CSAs in KW to find the one that is closest to you
- Advocate: Join the Food System Roundtable WR, a community group that meets virtually to champion for healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems within Waterloo Region; you can contact them through their Facebook page
- Nourish: Make sure you are getting all and enough essential nutrients with this Vegan Nutrition Guide by Virginia Messina
Growing nature around you
How we manage land impacts the local environment and biodiversity. Choosing sustainable care practices, including the plants you grow and ways you tend to the land, can support local species and increase resilience to extreme weather events. Learn more about the University's landscaping initiatives on our Grounds web page.
- Why biodiversity matters by In the Zone Gardens [scroll down page to watch the video] (CC)
- More sustainable (and beautiful) alternatives to a grass lawn by Natural Resources Defence Council [read]
- Lawn Order by 99% Invisible [listen] (transcribed)
- What is Xeriscaping? by Standard-Examiner [watch] (CC)
- Planting native trees, greenery can cool off your backyard by UW Media Relations [read]
- Identify: Use the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s website to learn how to identify and report invasive species, too!
- Grow drought-tolernt: Check out these drought-tolerant plants that are suitable to grow in Ontario's climate and soils
- Grow together: Build a community garden, or encourage a local community centre to create one
- Collect: Install a rain barrel for watering your lawn and garden
- Manage: Plant a rain garden to support biodiversity and manage stormwater at the same time with Reep Green Solutions'
Support mental health and wellness
In addition to improving social systems, sustainability means taking care of your health and wellbeing. Campus Wellness is helping spread awareness and enhance accessibility to mental health and wellness services across campus.
- Talking mental health: in the classroom and beyond by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families [watch] (CC)
- How can nature benefit my mental health? by Mind for Better Mental Health [read/watch] (CC)
- TEDxVancouver: The Happy City Experiment by Charles Montgomery [watch] (CC)
- Managing mental health and eco-anxiety by Clear the Air [listen]
- Mental Health included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals by the World Health Organization [read]
- Start practicing: Use Tiny Buddha's blog post with 45 self-care practices for inspiration to start your self-care journey – they demonstrate just how diverse self-care activities can be!
- Seek help: Explore the University’s mental health resources to see how UW can support your wellbeing
- Be mindful: Download one of these free mindfulness apps to help you start practicing mindful living
- Get trained: Participate in virtual mental health training programs to help you better recognize, escalate and/or support peers with struggling with their mental health – these skills are especially useful for individuals in leadership positions
- Talk: Use Erin Murray's tips for talking to family members about mental health when it's a challenging subject to discuss
- Explore resources: Download Behind My Mind's Mental Health Resources guide for accessible services and resources across Southern Ontario
- Contribute: Submit feedback to UW's Committee on Student Mental Health (CoSMH) about mental health services on campus and beyond
Commute and travel sustainably
According to ClimateActionWR, transportation is the single largest source of emissions in Waterloo Region (49%). There are many ways to reduce the impact of your transportation needs in Waterloo, from public transit to active transportation routes and more. Learn more about our campus transportation initiatives on our Transportation web page, and explore TravelWise to learn about initiatives in the Region. Also, if you are excited to explore the world once the pandemic is over, take this opportunity to learn about sustainable tourism options!
- Sustainable Transportation: Why is transportation important? by the David Suzuki Foundation [read]
- Sustainable Urban Mobility by WWF [read/watch] (CC)
- Ted Talk: 7 principles for building better cities by Peter Calthorpe [watch] (CC, transcribed)
- Waterloo Region earns Sustainable Communities Award for ION LRT project by Global News [read]
- Tourism’s Water Footprint infographic and the 2016 Global Tourism Dashboard by Professor Susanne Becken, Dr Char-lee McLennan and Kiri Stinson [read]
- Carbon offsets: everything you need to know by Seaside with Emily [read]
- How to Ensure Destination Sustainability and Resilience Post COVID-19 by Place Brand Leaders Podcast [listen]
- Use public transit: The GRT buses and LRT ION train transit passes are included in your student fees, so you can hop on and off of public transit at your leisure! Employees are also eligible for a 15% discount on a GRT/ION corporate pass. You can also plan your trip using their virtual trip planning tool.
- Explore trails: Check out Waterloo Region’s many walking/cycling trails; plan your trip using one of many maps of the urban and rural parts of the Region
- Support accessibility: See what the City of Waterloo is doing to enhance the accessibility of active transportation
- Brainstorm: Plan your post-pandemic (emphasis on POST-pandemic) trips to sustainably managed destinations, starting with these Canadian destinations by Study Canada
- Build community: Join Zwift, a free app for connecting with community members passionate about cycling, walking, running and other forms of active transportation
- Plan: Use your UW credentials to take advantage of TravelWise, the Region of Waterloo’s tool for trip planning, carpool planning, the Emergency-Ride-Home program and more
- Offset: Use this carbon offsetting blog post by Seaside with Emily to learn about how to reserach and buy carbon offsets
- Be inspired: Check case studies from around the world on how sustainability is being incorporated into the tourism industry
- Make a list: Create a set of criteria for yourself when selecting places to travel/stay and companies to support, and use this list for your future travels
- Be respectful: Learn about the norms and culture of the place you will be visiting
Reduce your waste
Learn about the University's waste reduction goals in our Shift:Zero Waste Management Plan. At the same time, municipalities around the world have similar goals – so whether you live in residence, in Waterloo or in another Region, your efforts to reduce your waste and sort properly contribute to broader efforts.
- by the Global News [read/watch]
- What is Zero Waste? by the Recycling Council of British Columbia [read]
- The Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Living by Going Zero Waste [read]
- 10 Reasons Why Zero Waste Is a Primary Climate Solution by the Northeast Recycling Council [read]
- Five common misconceptions about recycling by Clear the Air [listen]
- University of Waterloo Zero Waste Action Plan by the Sustainability Office [read]
- Shop: Support zero-waste stores or places that allow you to bring your own containers, including Legacy Greens, Full Circle Foods, , and Zero Waste Bulk (online shopping available for all locations)
- Challenge yourself: Take the Sustainability Office's Zero Waste Challenge during the Fall term, or at any time during the year
- Explore: Check the Bring-Your-Own-Container (BYOC) directory for Waterloo Region – make sure to contact each business to find out whether they offer their BYOC program during the pandemic
- Track progress: Use the interactive Zero Waste Checklist tool to keep track of your progress towards a zero-waste lifestyle
- Learn skills: Attend a virtual item repair workshop to prolong the life of your personal belongings and check out @4repairKW on Instagram for tips on how to fix simple household items
- Support community: Check out the KW Library of Things, a place to borrow items like tools, garden equipment, kitchen appliances, camping gear and more – you can also donate your own items to benefit others in the community (currently offering curbside drop-off during COVID-19)
- Work together: Register for ShareWaste if you live in an apartment to find places to drop off organics waste in the community, or allow apartment residents to drop off organics at your home
Conserve your water
Both the University of Waterloo and Region of Waterloo have established goals for reducing water demand, increasing water efficiency, and educating the community on responsible water use practices. We use water at home every day for cleaning, personal care, cooking, gardening and more. Learn more about our water conservation initatives on our Water web page, and check out what Reep Green Solutions is doing to promote water conservation in the community.
- How PolyGone Technologies is tackling microplastics by the Sustainability Office [read]
- Hundreds evacuated as new water crisis hits Ontario First Nation facing country’s longest boil-water advisory by CTV News [read]
- Solutions to the Global Water Crisis by the World Resources Institute [listen]
- Our Global Water Crisis, Explained by Our Changing Climate [watch] (CC)
- Conserve: Use Wai Water's list of 100 ways to conserve water to help reduce your water consumption at home
- Mindfulness: Be conscientious when using water! Take short (less than 5 min) showers, wash clothing in cold water and only run laundry machines/dishwashers at full loads
- Set goals: Use the Region of Waterloo’s Water Conservation Tips Sheet for setting more in-depth, targeted goals
- Audit: Get a free home water audit from Reep Green Solutions
- Efficiency: Search for appliances that have low-flow, low-flush water settings such as faucets, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, showerheads, etc.
- Consume: Purchase food products with a small water footprint, or opt for alternatives that have the lowest water footprint of the varieties available
- Capture: Install a rain barrel for watering your lawn and garden
General sustainability resources
If you’re interested in exploring any of these topics further, we’ve curated a list of blogs, books, podcasts, and more to help you get started. We’ll continue to add to this list over time.
Do you have a resource to recommend that you don’t see on this list? Email it to us at email@example.com and we can include it!
- Clear the Air - simple, sustainable actions, tips and stories for students
- Eco Warrior Princess – sustainable fashion, beauty, wellness and more
- – sustainability tips for the home life
- Melanin and Sustainable Style – sustainable fashion that prioritizes BIPOC inclusion and intersectional environmentalism
- Old World New – inclusive, diversity-focused, sustainable lifestyle tips led by BIPOC leaders
- – sustainable travel and seafood/fisheries
- – transforming your home and everyday life to include more sustainable choices
- #futuregen: Lessons from a Small Cntry by Jane Davidson (2020) – the story of how the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—the first piece of legislation on Earth to place regenerative and sustainable practice at the heart of government – was created
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) – an artistic merging of Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Kimmerer uses her personal stories to share how these two worldviews can synergize
- Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future by Mary Robinson (2018) – a collection of stories illustrating the environmental and social challenges of climate change, written in such a way to inspire readers and create hope for the future
- Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2002) – an introduction to the cradle-to-cradle manufacturing model that can promote circular economy systems
- Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth (2017) – seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does, and how we can pursue circular economics by breaking our addiction to growth
- On Fire: The Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein (2019) – a collection of essays serving as a call to action to address climate change and economic inequality
- Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Edited by Paul Hawken (2017) – an extension from the Drawdown initiative, this book proposes 100 suggestions for tackling climate change at all levels and by all actors
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) – the revolutionary story of how pesticides harm the environment, serving as an instigator for modern environmentalism
- The Human Age: The World Shaped by Diane Ackerman (2014) – exploring the role of humans in the world and their interactions with other species
- This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge by Tzeporah Berman (2012) – a memoir of one of the most well-known environmental activists as she lives through the creation of ForestEthics, PowerUp Canada and GreenPeace
- We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran (2019) – making an argument for how a plant-based diet (or even one plant-based meal each day) can profoundly change our impact on the planet
- An Inconvenient Truth (2006) – one of the first popular documentaries highlighting the impacts of global warming, with celebrity appearances and presented by Al Gore
- Before the Flood (2016) – Leonardo DiCaprio travels the world in this National Geographic film to understand how climate change transforms our lives and how the science is manipulated for public perceptions
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014) – highlighting the negative environmental impacts of the livestock industry and its implications for individual consumers
- I Am Greta (2020) – sharing the story of the world-renowned Greta Thunberg, a young climate activist that began her journey simply through school strikes
- Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2015) – the infamous podcasters explore how different people live out minimalistic lifestyles, emphasizing how it is a lifestyle anyone can pursue
- The Biggest Little Farm (2018) – following the real-world adventures of a couple striving to create a sustainable farm just outside of Los Angeles, California
- The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy (2018) – a roadmap for the type of “revolution” that is needed to transform our world, especially our economy, towards long-term sustainability
At the University of Waterloo
- @enjoyyourfoodrd – University of Waterloo’s Registered Dietitian, Nicole Pin, shares affordable recipes, sustainable food choices and more
- @sdgimpactalliance – the Sustainable Development Goals Student Hub, located right at the university of Waterloo
- @stpgreenhouse – learn about GreenHouse, the on-campus incubator that supports students in developing social and environmental innovations
- @uwecologylab – education about ecological restoration and nature with free virtual events
- @uwenergynetwork - learn about and participate in discussions on renewable energy with fellow students
- @uwraise - a studen-run group on Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity
- @uw_wisc – the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre that supports Indigenous students at Waterloo
- @wusasustainability – the main platform for WUSA’s sustainability initiatives on campus
In the community
- @communityfridgekw – a free, accessible community fridge in KW that reduces food waste, makes food available to those in need, and fosters community connections
- @_ctablog – accessible sustainable living from a student perspective
- @intersectionalenvironmentalist – approaching sustainability from a holistic, inclusive perspective
- @mverte.ig – a local microgreen business teaching you about the benefits of microgreens and how to grow them
- @plantiful_kw – plant-based eating tips, product and restaurant reviews in the KW area
- @plantbasedrelationship product and restaurant reviews in KW, plus tips for eating plant-based in a relationship (also applicable to roommates, friends and family)
- –youth-led nonprofit promoting climate justice & political action in what is currently Canada
- @sustainablemarket.ca – a KW-based online farmers market with local pickup
- @thestarfishca – celebrating the efforts of Canadian youth to protect the environment
- @zerowastebulk – tips for zero waste living, products in-store, plus posts on intersectionality, mental and physical health and wellbeing
Jobs, volunteering, clubs and socities
- Canada Summer Jobs
- The Working Centre Youth Job Connection
- Youth Job Bank – Government of Canada
All University of Waterloo students (including non-Co-op students) can access WaterlooWorks employment opportunities in the “Other Jobs” tab on your dashboard.
- Climate Action Waterloo Region
- Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region
- rare Charitable Reserve
- Reep Green Solutions
- Sustainable Waterloo Region
- Sustainable Youth Canada
- Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth
For more organizations, including those in the Waterloo-Wellington corridor, visit the ecoKW Directory.
University of Waterloo clubs and organizations
- – "stories for the climate curious"
- A Sustainable Mind – interviews with sustainability leaders of diverse backgrounds
- – simple sustainability tips and interviews for young leaders
- – intersectional sustainability
- Handpicked: Stories from the Field – sustainable food systems
- – explores the climate crisis and what we can do collectively
- Inner Circle – circular economics in the modern world
- – practical sustainability, including zero-waste
- MIT Energy Initiative – conversations about innovations in clean energy
- – living a “slow,” low-consumption lifestyle
- WAT's Sustainable? - the official podcast of the Sustainability Office
- Inspiroue – focusing on conscious consumerism and intersectionality between environmental and social issues
- – minimalist and low-waste living tips
- – low-waste, plant-based cooking
- – sustainable fashion, plus conversations about greenwashing, conscious buying and more
- Naturally Mermaid – DIY, zero-waste recipes for personal care products like shampoo, deodorant and more
- – sustainable, slow living, with an emphasis on imperfect sustainability
- Thrifts and Tangles – ethical, sustainable clothing and BIPOC businesses
Did we miss anything?
Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what topics, resources or businesses we missed that you would like to see included in this guide!
If you want to download a summary version of this guide, check out our previous Sustainability Guide, available as a PDF for download.