Article was originally published in Waterloo's Daily Bulletin.
Waterloo’s sixth annual Eco Summit took place on November 20, coinciding with the release of the 2019 Environmental Sustainability Report. The theme, Building Hope, was interwoven with the goals of the Summit to connect with others, celebrate our progress and be inspired to go further. The attendees and presenters included students, faculty, staff and community members. Sustainability was examined from both a strategic vantage point and through the local, grassroots actions that are shifting us towards a greener campus culture.
James Rush, Vice-President Academic and Provost, provided opening comments and spoke about the recently released 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, which includes strengthening sustainable and diverse communities as one of its three major themes. Afterwards, three case studies that are changing attitudes and making our campus more sustainable were presented by faculty, staff and students. James Nugent, a lecturer from the Faculty of Environment presented on the Diploma in Sustainability, which allows students to learn about sustainability no matter which program they’re in. Giovanna Zinken, Associate Director, Environmental Services discussed initiatives in place that will divert waste from landfill, such as multi-stream waste receptacles that make sorting easier. By 2025, the University is aiming to divert at least 60 per cent of campus waste from landfill. The Shift Zero initiative aims to make us a zero-waste campus by 2035, diverting 90 per cent of waste from landfill. Three students, Farah-El Shayeb, Joanna Gao, and Saad Arif Qadeer presented on the Green Residence Ambassador program, an initiative that allows student ambassadors to model green behavior and set the standard for their peers.
An anticipated part of the Summit for Waterloo staff is the Green Office Awards, which were introduced this year through a video presentation by President Feridun Hamdullahpur. The Green Office program empowers bottom-up action from departments on campus and awards sustainable achievements. Since its launch in 2016, 24 departments have been awarded either bronze, silver or gold for efforts to make their offices greener, and over 45 departments are actively participating in the program. Maggie Chang, a student in Environment, Resources & Sustainability and coordinator for the Sustainable Campus Initiative, was also awarded one of the first ten Living Planet Leader designations from WWF Canada.
Finally, a panel discussion moderated by Mat Thijssen, Sustainability Manager, wrapped up the Summit. Panel members included Beth Eden, a student in Environment & Business; Easton Page, WatPD staff with Green Office gold certification; Nadine Ibrahim, a lecturer in Civil & Environmental Engineering; and Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director at Reep Green Solutions. Discussion topics included the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, making a difference locally and internationally, and the rise of green cities.
The event ended with a vegetarian lunch and a call to action for those in attendance to take things further and model the sustainable world they would like to see.