As my four months of co-op is wrapping up with Sustainable Waterloo Region, I can take a step back and look at what not only the organization has taught me, but what I think I’m taking from it. What I knew from the start was that it takes effort, communication and collaboration from organizations, and the community to make a tangible change in sustainability across Waterloo Region. But I never really knew what communication and collaboration could consist of.

Communication amongst organizations about the initiatives they are taking to decrease carbon emissions is vital in taking a lead in advancing sustainability. The minute one person throws out an idea, it opens up the doors for many others to be inspired, and follow the example. With several organizations telling each other, and asking questions about what they can do to increase their businesses sustainability, you’ve got people talking about the right things that can lead to big changes. Communicating goes hand in hand with collaboration; speaking or educating others about initiatives at events, online, word of mouth, through phone calls or over a croissant.

As mentioned above, collaboration can come in many ways. Whether it’s working with another organization in a joint project to reduce emissions, or simply connecting with other people who are trying to do the same thing you are (install solar panels or track employee commuting) at an event. I have further learned about how important it is to network and reach out to those who can help. There are a number of opportunities for employees of various organizations to communicate with each other about the areas of sustainability that they are having trouble with, and I didn’t realize how important that is. One such opportunity is through Peer2Peer sessions that we host with Communitech. I’ve seen members through discussion learn new ways to make changes in their organization that they may have never thought to do so before. Collaboration can bring can also provide answers and simplify problems that at first seems much more complex.

All in all, it’s been great to see so many people come together through Sustainable Waterloo Region, to want to advance the environmental sustainability across Waterloo Region. I’ve seen it through the ever-growing number of organizations joining the RCI or through the amazing volunteers at this organization who make it hard not to be inspired to do more. Most importantly I have learnt how simple it is make a difference through communication and collaboration.