Grass and trees outside Village 1


Maintain all University grounds according to sustainable landscaping standards, and develop plans for remediation and preservation of specific natural areas of concern by 2025

Supporting SDGs

SDG 11 - sustainable cities and communities SDG 15 - life on land

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Sustainable Land Care Standard Consultations

Waterloo has many longstanding efforts to integrate sustainability considerations in how it maintaints its grounds and natural spaces. As part of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy, the University is looking to standardize these into a set of core actions that will increase clarity and transparency, as well as build opportunities for continuous improvements.

Over the past two years, a collaboration between the Sustainability Office and Grounds Services has reviewed best practices, spoken with other campuses, and researched other standards that can be adapted to the University of Waterloo. We have now completed a draft of this standard.

A vibrant and healthy environment is a key part of a sustainable campus, and that requires programs and policies to manage our campus lands. Find out more about Waterloo's current and historical efforts:

Native species

ArtsEnv GardensIn 1997, Plant Operations worked with faculty and students to develop a list of plant species that were native to our geographic area and climate zone. Since then, all new plantings have come from this list. Native species help reduce invasiveness, require less maintenance, improve tolerance to climate conditions, and can have higher resilience to local wildlife. They also provide important habitat and food for our local pollinators!

For a list of native species in Waterloo Region, visit In The Zone Gardens, a resource from WWF-Canada and Carolinian Canada.

Pesticide use

CampusPlant Operations phased out all pesticide use across campus by 1998. With the exception of sports fields, which need to be treated for safety purposes, the grounds team manages weeds through natural methods such as:

  • Planting native species
  • Hand-weeding
  • Using hot water to kill off weeds

Green roofs

Green RoofGreen or "living" roofs are an excellent strategy to handle storm water and improve the natural beauty of the campus. The following buildings have green roofs:

  • Centre for Environmental and Information Technology
  • Engineering 5
  • Environment 3
  • Hagey Hall (new addition)
  • Quantum Nano Centre

Permeable pavement

Garden permeable pavementPermeable pavement helps control runoff during heavy rainfall.  When a lot of rain hits hard surfaces such as concrete, it picks up speed and can overwhelm municipal stormwater systems. This can cause flooding and erosion.

In 2014, Sustainable Campus Initiative led a demonstration project next to the Davis Centre to control this runoff. The pavement stones allow water to seep through, slowing its travel and allowing gradual release. This project was made possible by the Dean of Math, Math Endowment Fund, Math Society, Federation of Students, Plant Operations, Oaks Pavers, and Helmutz Interlock.

The Arts-Environment Gardens between Hagey Hall, Environment 1, and Psychology also uses permeable pavement to improve natural irrigation.

Green spaces

Duck on Green SpaceWhether for studying, relaxing, or throwing a Frisbee, green spaces are an important part of a modern campus environment. UWaterloo's campus master plan is designed to maintain existing open areas by moving new buildings and development to the edges of campus. Learn more about how the Campus Master Plan is shaping a vibrant and sustainable future for UWaterloo.

Waterloo's wild side

  • Bridge over Laurel CreekLaurel Creek: On the west side of South Campus, Laurel Creek meanders down from the village green and passes under three bridges between UWaterloo and the affiliated colleges. It’s home to herons, geese, ducks, and more, and offers a relaxing space for contemplation.
  • Environmental Reserve: The UWaterloo Environmental Reserve lies just across the road on Columbia Street. This 109 acre space has sports fields, forests, meadows, and of course Columbia Lake. Established on university lands, the reserve provides teaching, research, public education opportunities, protected habitat for wildlife, and a legacy for future generations.
  • Arts/Environment Garden: In the green space between Hagey Hall, the PAS building, and EV1 lies a little-known paradise.  The Arts/Environment Garden contains smaller theme gardens with beautiful plants, benches, and sitting areas, making it the perfect spot for studying, relaxing, or eating lunch on a sunny afternoon. Visit the Xeriscape (low water), Zen, Local, Spring, and Fern and Moss gardens and see for yourself.
  • Wildlife on campus: From infamous geese that cause traffic jams to red squirrels that once wedged their pinecones into a university van, there is lots of wildlife to see around the campus. Check out the Ecology Lab for workshops, contests, and more info on flora and fauna around UWaterloo.