I spent a recent -afternoon on University of Waterloo’s campus meeting with Mat Thijssen, UW’s Sustainability Coordinator. He’s a tall, soft-spoken, and articulate man who respects data as much as he does the environment. He strikes me as exactly the type of sustainability professional you’d expect to see at UW.

On the heels of the university’s sustainability report, we talked about the university’s approach to community involvement, how they’re progressing in the RCI milestones, and Mat’s larger vision for sustainability on campus. Here are the top 8 things you should know:

  1. UW is striving to integrate within the Region of Waterloo and developing various relationships. The researchers at the university have lots of expertise that benefit the greater population. There is an environment of collaboration and innovation on campus with researchers from all six facilities participating in various research groups including the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change, Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy, and Water Institute.
  2. The newest building to join the Faculty of Environment complex is the EV3 building, which is a great example of sustainable building design. It is LEED platinum certified, topped with a green roof and solar panels, surrounded by permeable pavement & native gardens, and has a living wall cleaning the inside air. Makes sense that it is home to The School of Environment, Enterprise and Development and The School of Planning. All new buildings on campus are designed to meet LEED Silver criteria.
  3. Students and communities alike have been asking the university tough environment-based questions for years. UW, seeing the legitimacy in these questions and seeing the leadership opportunity, recently hired Mat as Sustainability Coordinator to support programs on campus. Sustainability is one of the five pillars of the university’s community engagement framework and UW is committed to positively impacting community in this area. Mat helps out through tracking and reporting made available to the public.
  4. In addition to Mat’s role, UW deepening the institutional support for sustainability on campus. They’ve launched the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability – comprised of students, faculty, staff, and administration – to provide advice to the president about campus sustainability programs. The Committee is also a great example of multi-disciplinary work and this ensures environmental progress represents the university as a whole, not just individual departments.
  5. UW is known on the world stage, and because of this, attracts many international students and Canadian students from outside the region. Not all students coming to campus know about recycling or have the same recycling infrastructure in their hometown that Waterloo does. As such, some groups on campus are experimenting with sign design to improve visual cues and increase the ease of sorting recyclables.
  1. In terms of their GHG reduction target, UW completed an institutional caron inventory to understand baseline trends and progress as part of the sustainability report. As an Observing Organization of the Regional Carbon Initiative, they’re sitting on the Regional Carbon Initiative Milestone # 2. This milestone is all about putting together a plan to reduce GHG emissions by understanding their GHG inventory and importing their utility info into the RCI’s Carbon Accounting Tool. A climate change target will be an important component of the campus’ emerging sustainability strategy.
  2. Tracking energy use is an important step to a healthy environment, but leading organizations don’t stop there; they also promote healthy community options. UW promotes the use of bus and biking within student communities. UW’s student card, the WATcard, acts as a Universal Bus Pass (or U-Pass) for all students – (including graduate students!) With 30,000 people traveling to the university on a busy day, they are happy to take congestion off the road. UW has also joined TravelWise to support staff and faculty commuting.
  3. UW published their latest sustainability report , you can check it out here !

This is just a snippet of our conversation with Mat. There’s so much more to learn about the University of Waterloo’s vision for sustainability and community involvement.  Track their progress in the RCI here or shoot Mat a question here. If you’d like to hear him share more, let us know and we’ll see if we can cajole Mat into speaking at one of our events.