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7.4.5 Colleges/Universities


7.4.5 Colleges/Universities

How You Can Make Choices That Treat the Earth Well

The University of Waterloo’s WATgreen Program



In the early 1990s, a group of students and faculty at the University of Waterloo decided it was time to make their campus a more environmentally-friendly place. They consulted widely including with prominent environmental educator Dr. David Orr and made a proposal to their university president for an initiative entitled Greening the Campus. The president was immediately supportive. The university created a program called WATgreen, a campus-wide greening project designed to make the university more environmentally sustainable, or as they put it, “a true ecosystem in harmony with its environment.”

The WATgreen project had two equally important benefits. First, it gave students, staff and faculty a chance to work together to improve the quality of their environment. Second, it did so in ways that actually saved money in running the university.

The Waterloo program had another important goal: to make their campus greening successes a model for other universities to follow.

Greening for Credit

A first important piece of the university “greening” project was the introduction of a second-year course called Greening the Campus. It helped students recognize environmental effects of campus life which could be improved by projects. The course let students and faculty work together in designing real ways to make the university more environmentally sustainable. Making environmental activity part of a course was very effective in making environmental planning and action a required part of UW learning and getting a course credit for it!

The university president provided staff to assist students in their environmental projects. This support began with a waste management coordinator who eventually became an Environmental Officer for the university. This staff support made the students able to connect with other staff members and integrate their projects into the environmental management of their university.

Greening as Study

The University of Waterloo found that environmental protection was related to many areas of study. WATgreen projects helped students learn about recycling, energy, solar power, vehicle use, water consumption, the impact of chemicals on the environment and the human psyche! Their studies covered everything from technological or systems-oriented to social studies related to education, attitudes and behaviour.

A partial list of student projects included projects on:

  • Air Quality
  • Attitudes and Awareness
  • Changing What We Consume
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Greening Departments
  • Landscape Practices
  • Policy and Planning
  • Waste Management
  • Transportation
  • Water

For details on these projects, visit the WATgreen site at www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowast/WATgreen/projects.html

The “official” nature of Waterloo’s greening project made WATgreen a voice to the entire campus on the benefits of environmental responsibility. Students taking greening courses invited all students, faculty and staff to help work on environmental issues facing their university.

The students also had a chance to take a close look at how a large educational institution works its infrastructure, policy-making, management, decision-making, and choices for change. They acquired a special kind of practical “know-how” that they could take with them into their lives and their work after graduation.

The UW Climate Change Education and Awareness Program

The University of Waterloo recognized awareness and action on climate change as an important part of their campus greening effort. They applied to Environment Canada’s Climate Change Action Fund, and were granted $25,000 to carry out a campus-wide Climate Change Education and Awareness Program (CCEAP).

The CCEAP focused its efforts on sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the science of climate change. A series of events was organized to educate the campus population about the issue of climate change, and offer practical advice on how each person can play a role in rethinking their life habits to prevent it.

Key activities include a Climate Change Fair, an Interfaculty Symposium on Climate Change, Weekly Public Lectures, a Climate Change Expo, an Alternative Car Day (including displays of solar and hybrid cars), Brown Bag Lunch Seminars, a Pledge Competition, and a fundraising Coffeehouse to raise funds to continue the project after government funding ran out. The project also included the creation of a special university climate change website to spread the word to the whole campus. The UW Climate Change website is at www.climatechange.uwaterloo.ca/index.html.

Waterloo’s Faculty of Environmental Studies

The University of Waterloo has one of Ontario’s leading faculties of Environmental Studies. A list of the courses offered at this faculty are listed on their website at: www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowast/envedu.html



  1. What is the WATgreen program and how does this help the University of Waterloo?
  2. What topics did the University of Waterloo students learn about while doing the WATgreen projects?
  3. a) What is CCEAP? Hint visit the website.
    b) List 3 websites you could use to find out climate change information.
    HINT SEE website resources.