At Sustainable Waterloo Region, we’re celebrating a milestone – we have recently welcomed our 50th member organization to the Regional Carbon Initiative. These new members demonstrate that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is registering as a priority in many leading institutions within our community.
In the past six weeks,organizations such as Stantec and Grand River Hospital have joined the Regional Carbon Initiative. With each addition comes a particular set of challenges in tackling their environmental footprint. Apart from the technical challenges of compiling data and identifying opportunities for reductions, some of the biggest challenges to overcome can actually be attitudinal. How do a few environmental champions in an organization, especially a large organization, inspire buy-in across the spectrum of stakeholders?
This challenge will certainly be evident in the case of our newest Regional Carbon Initiative member, the University of Waterloo.
When you factor in students, faculty and staff, the uWaterloo community includes over 30,000 members – many of which are like myself and have a passion for sustainability – the opportunity to create impact and inspire change increases greatly. I’d be naive to think that the hard part of the journey is over and that uWaterloo is going to magically cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half over night. There isn’t going to be a memo from our President with a list of easily implemented steps but, the thing to focus on is that the university has decided that they’re willing to work together in order to try. That in itself is something I’m happy to stand behind and be proud of.
The largest challenge of this partnership will be educating and informing members of the University of Waterloo about the benefits of joining the RCI, and more so, inspiring the whole community to take part in these collective efforts to become more environmentally sustainable. We’re not just talking about top level administrators either. We’re talking about people like me, my co-workers, co-op students, our students, our undergraduate and graduate student governments, our researchers, and our faculty.
This issue isn’t exclusive to uWaterloo either. It’s a challenge that every member organization within the Regional Carbon Initiative faces and has faced. There are members within the RCI that are heavy hitters with large influence across Waterloo Region such as, Wilfrid Laurier University, Sun Life Financial, the Region of Waterloo, and others that require this same buy-in from the members of their communities.The addition of these members, has allowed an essence of collaboration, and learning from peers to develop– with some guidance from us in the form of events and resources.
As a member of the University of Waterloo community for the past seven years, both as a student and now as staff, I realize what a perfect partnership this is. As leaders in their respective fields and institutions that empower their members to be the change the world needs, knowing that the two places I call home will be working in tandem to do something for the better is something that I am incredibly proud to be a part of.