University Support For Student Project Sparks Change across Waterloo
Learn how a university sustainability centre supported student efforts and transformed a region. Wilfrid Laurier University shares its experience.
and Chris DePaul could not have predicted the wide-scale impact their independent study project would have. The undergraduates from Wilfrid Laurier University
studied carbon policy and conceptualized how a local not-for-profit could help businesses in Waterloo Region, Canada reduce emissions beyond regulatory requirements. Dr. Barry Colbert
, director of the P&G Centre for Business & Sustainability
(P&G-CBS) at Wilfred Laurier, guided their research. P&G-CBS then provided funding to turn the students’ research into reality.
Using this seed funding, Morrice worked with a dozen volunteers to launch Sustainable Waterloo Region
(SWR) in 2008. In just four years, SWR has become a self-sustaining not-for-profit with over 50 member organizations. It employs six full-time staff and is supported by over 50 volunteers. SWR’s flagship program is the Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI), which helps local organizations reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RCI membership enables organizations to make formal GHG reduction commitments and provides access to an online tool for quantifying and reporting on emissions. RCI members also receive complimentary passes to educational workshops and collaborative learning events
hosted by SWR. Finally, online tools offer companies technical
support for activities related to emission reduction.
To date, RCI members have committed to reduce carbon emissions by 45,000 tonnes over the next 10 years. Most importantly, they’re taking action and are on track to achieve those commitments.
In addition to the Regional Carbon Initiative, Sustainable Waterloo Region is working with local government on activities that include climate change forecasting, sustainable transportation initiatives and policy engagement. SWR is also in the midst of starting a national not-for-profit, Sustainability CoLab
, which seeks to enable similar approaches to business sustainability in communities across Canada.
Dr. Barry Colbert shares the benefits of supporting student projects:
- Centre recognition and funding: Sustainable Waterloo Region was incubated at the Centre for Business & Sustainability and its tremendous success reflects well on the centre. SWR’s success has helped the centre to attract additional external funding.
- Quantitative environmental benefit: Sustainable Waterloo Region is enabling organizations to reduce their environmental footprint. The regional commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 45,000 tonnes is the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road.
- Change in sustainability dialogue: Sustainable Waterloo Region has created awareness that carbon reduction and climate change are important not only to Waterloo Region citizens, but are also business priorities. The organization promotes collaborative learning and facilitates dialogue between business, academia and local government. Every spring, SWR releases a year-end report to celebrate the commitments and accomplishments of individual RCI members, as well as the leadership shown by members collectively. This approach has started to move local sustainability dialogue from finger pointing to collaboration and action.