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Sustainability at Wake Forest

Archive for the ‘Campus’ Category

Case Study: Wake the Library

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

library toolkitIf you are a Wake Forest University student or a member of the alumni body, you may be familiar with the “Wake the Library” program hosted at midnight in ZSR throughout the week of finals every semester. You may be less familiar, however, with the work of ZSR Green Team captains Mary Scanlon and Peter Romanov, as well as Mary Beth Locke and other ZSR Sustainability Committee members, to make the event sustainable.

Their collective efforts are featured in the newly published resource “Focus on Educating for Sustainability: Toolkit for Academic Libraries.” In the chapter Teaching by Doing, the leaders discuss their commitment to decrease the amount of waste produced at the event. Check it out for yourself.

drink wine/ save the planet/ feed the hungry

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Contributed by Elizabeth Barron                 WFU ’93, Lecturer in French

In the interest of sounding a little less unbearably flippant, I did change the official title of this February 2014 WFU conference to “Viticulture and the Environment,” but in my head and heart it remained “drink wine/ save the planet/ feed the hungry.”

The drinking wine part was expertly handled by Olivier Magny, a Parisian wine specialist who started his own wine tasting school after graduating from a top business school. He led a group of faculty, students, and one alumnus in a wine-tasting, following a talk by Professor Wayne Silver on “The Neurobiology of Wine Tasting (and Smelling).” So we drank a little wine. That was the easy part.

Magny’s work seems to have started from a sense of pleasure, but his own study of wine also led him to an awareness of the conditions in which grapes are grown and more specifically, soil health. He writes in his book Into Wine, “Studying how vineyards were farmed has helped me grasp that the importance of the soil actually goes far beyond wine, and that the implications of mistreating it are also much more far-reaching than we think.” Farming practices have the biggest impact on soil health, and there is much that deserves to be questioned in our current agribusiness practices. These issues are addressed in a rather international light in the documentary “Dirt,” which a small group of us watched together and then discussed. The politics behind agribusiness practices are daunting at best. In the spirit of a hummingbird analogy put forth by this film, both WFU EH&S Technician Justin Sizemore and Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri had ideas for addressing our individual carbon footprints.

I like to think of the following ideas as “Dr. Zimeri’s Eco Challenge.” Anne Marie Zimeri is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Science Department at the University of Georgia. One of the courses that she teaches is a first year seminar in which she gives her students an assignment to collect and record data related to behavior changes they make to lower their environmental impact. She has the students select a pledge topic according to their own interest, related to one of the following areas: 1) Vegetarian / vegan 2) Transportation 3) Single use disposables 4) Composting / packaging 5) Water conservation 6) Electricity 7) Local / organic. For example, if students were electing to go vegetarian or vegan for a week, they would include before and after data relating both to how much meat they consume, and to the food miles, water use (in the production of meat vs. vegetables and fruits) and carbon footprint. More detailed information on this will be part of an upcoming publication by Dr. Zimeri. Like the hummingbird, we can only do what we can do in decreasing our impact, one rain barrel, solar water heater, backyard garden and bike ride at a time. So we learned a little about saving the planet.

It was the welcome presence of Shelley Sizemore, Assistant Director of Campus Life and Service that allowed me to add feeding the hungry to the list. Technically, we only fed our hungry selves that night, but I learned more about some ongoing campus and local efforts, including Campus Kitchen that distributes prepared but unserved food through local agencies including the Shalom Project, an outreach network started by Green Street United Methodist church that provides food, clothing, medical services and networking to the community. Wake Forest also has its own garden that both provides Campus Kitchen with fresh produce and also helps Wake Forest students (and I would add, faculty) better understand and influence the social, environmental, biological and political consequences of food production and consumption. So we could be part of feeding the hungry, if we’re not already.

I like the three-fold nature of my not-really-the-title-except-yes-it-is, because it reminds me of just how interconnected everything is. Even starting from the position of a possible urban sophisticate enjoying his or her own glass of wine can logically lead to soil health, then to the importance of environmental stewardship, then to food production and distribution. So, next time you swirl and sip, think about where the contents of your glass were originally grown.

Bottoms up.

For more musings on the theme “Drink Wine/Save the Planet,” visit Dr. Barron’s blog.

Comfortable Conservation

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

North_Campus_Dining_Hall_14Spring semester is here: new classes, new students, and the highly anticipated opening of North Campus Dining Hall. The 21,000 square foot-facility was designed and constructed to LEED-silver standards. From equipment to furnishings, it showcases some unique – even one-of-a-kind – sustainable design features.

John Wise, Associate Vice President of Hospitality & Auxiliary Services at WFU, who helped oversee the project, emphasizes the value of creating a building that does more than just meet the functional needs of campus: “Beyond simply meeting the needs of a growing student population, it is important that we create an environment that showcases sustainable practices that students can adopt and learn about now, so that when they leave Wake Forest, they will bring an understanding of what’s possible with them.”

Energy and Water

Behind-the-scenes technical features create a relaxed campus hangout that is also energy efficient. The variable air volume heating and cooling system and exhaust hoods are expected to be at least 12 percent more efficient than a standard system. A leading-edge, real-time exhaust hood system will also reduce energy use in the kitchen. Fluorescent and LED lighting, combined with occupancy sensors in numerous spaces, lower the electricity load of the building as well. Dual flush toilets and low flow faucets, part of the campus standard adopted four years ago, reduce water usage in the facility.

On the South side of the dining hall, a unique solar photovoltaic “awning” covers an outside seating area. This, the third small-scale solar array on the WFU campus will provide up to 10 kilowatts (kW) of power during peak hours. Numerous wide-framed windows also allow natural light to fill the space, reducing electric lighting needs.

The facility’s real-time water and energy footprint can be viewed online or on screens in the building via WFU’s building dashboard system.

Waste

All of the dining hall’s pre-consumer and post-consumer waste (e.g. vegetable peels, food scraps, and biodegradable napkins) are fed into a state-of-the-art pulper. The industrial pulper macerates food waste, from banana peels to chicken bones. With water that is recycled through the system, the ground “meal” is transported out of the kitchen into bins that are collected regularly by Gallin’s Family Farm. “The pulper is the first big step towards the campus-wide goal of developing a comprehensive pre and post-consumer composting program,” says Megan Anderson, WFU Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager.

An electronically monitored, direct plumbed waste oil management system filters and pumps fryer oil to a sealed outdoor storage tank with the touch of a button. This feature reduces the possibility of oil spillage and contaminations, maintaining the quality of the oil so it can be efficiently repurposed into biodiesel.

Furnishings

Carefully chosen furnishings contribute to the comfort and sustainability of the space. The project team collaborated with local companies for the construction and sourcing of the majority of the furniture: Bistro ’34 lunch chairs and tables were created in Winston-Salem and High Point, cushioned banquettes were sourced from Newport, TN, Starbucks lounge furniture was built in Hickory, NC, and communal oak tables were cut and milled in Lincolnton, NC. The most local of all of the furnishings, however, are the four benches that line the atrium. The wood for the seats was milled in Durham and comes from oak trees that were removed from the project site; the frames were crafted in Winston-Salem.

Landscaping

To get to the dining hall from points south, visitors cross a unique pedestrian bridge. Although also visually pleasing, the bridge was required in order to preserve several of the heritage trees that surround the atrium of Farrell Hall. A traditional walkway would have resulted in significant root cutting and soil compaction, likely killing the trees.

David Davis, Associate Director of Landscaping Services and member of the WFU Tree Care Plan Committee, commented on the bridge: “I think this project makes a strong statement about the university’s commitment to preserving heritage trees.” The native, low-irrigation landscaping that surrounds the building also reflects a holistic approach to low-impact design and operation.

While all of these features translate into quantifiable energy and water efficiency, they also signify something greater: a comfortable space that supports the wellbeing of its occupants and the environment.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator

Update: Dining & Food Systems

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Dining_Stars_Large

What does it mean to incorporate principles of sustainability into campus dining services? Because the possibilities are so far ranging, we chose to adopt a common set of sustainability metrics developed specifically for higher education. In its version 1.2, the Sustainability Tracking Assessment Rating System (STARS) requires tracking food and beverages that meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Grown and processed within 250 miles of the institution
  • Third-party certified (USDA Certified Organic, Marine Stewardship Council Blue Ecolabel, Food Alliance, Fair Trade, Certified Humane Raised and Handled)

History

Leading up to the development of our campus sustainability goals, WFU Dining Services (operated by ARAMARK) reported that 4% of what they spent on food served to the Wake Forest community met the STARS  v1.2 criteria for sustainability.

In a 2012 follow up STARS assessment, that percentage increased to 10.78.

For the fall of 2012, monthly purchases averaged 14% (11.25% came from with 250 miles; 2% was certified fair trade; .5 %was USDA certified organic; and less than 1% was certified by the marine stewardship council).

Progress and Goals

Based on the rate of increase of “sustainable” purchases for dining from 2011 to 2012, WFU Dining Services agreed to set a goal of an average 20% “sustainable” purchases by 2015. Within that 20%, we set sub-goals of at least 10% grown and raised in North Carolina and 5% USDA certified organic.

By the fall of 2013, WFU Dining Services reported having reached an average 16% “sustainable” purchases, with 11% coming from North Carolina and 5% certified by the USDA as organic.

According to Kate Ruley, WFU Dining’s Nutrition Director, “Serving safe, nutritious and quality food is a top priority in our effort to deliver great experiences for our customers at Wake Forest University.  As we work towards our commitment of 20% sustainable purchases, we must ensure that all farmers, vendors and suppliers adhere to a set of strict safety measures. This presents challenges from time to time.  However, our regional supply chain team works with farmers, distributors and vendors on these safety measures as well as availability and pricing so that such sustainable options can become standard solutions.”

What’s Next

Beyond the 2015 goals, WFU Dining Services is preparing to evaluate its purchases against the recently-released STARS 2.0 standards. These exclude “products from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), products that have minimal nutritional value (e.g. soda, chewing gum, candies made predominantly from sweeteners), and products from producers that have been convicted of one or more labor law violations within the previous three years.” Based on current suppliers, these new exemptions would substantially reduce the percentage of purchases that would meet the criteria for “sustainable” purchases in WFU Dining.

As was reported last week in the NYTimes, the demand for humanely raised animal proteins is on the rise – on campuses, in restaurants, and with individual customers. US pork producers are trying to develop production models to meet the growing demand.

The inclusion of more humanely raised animals in its supply chain could help WFU Dining Services maximize their commitment to food safety. According to the Times article, “ the number of cases of trichinosis in the United States has plummeted as the number of pastured pigs has increased…according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 10 cases of trichinosis attributed to pork products from 2002 to 2007, seven were linked to commercially raised pigs.”

Other recent food safety concerns, like the Seattle Times report of cockroach infestations at one Foster Farms plant in California, follow last fall’s salmonella outbreak on the West coast. With the preponderance of producers relying on low prices to drive demand for their products, it is difficult to factor animal welfare and employee wellbeing into their production models.

WFU Dining Services works to balance customer preferences, campus sustainability goals, pricing that keeps Wake Forest’s meal plan affordable, and food safety. It’s a difficult balancing act that relies on careful attention to measuring the costs and benefits of every purchasing decision.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

WFU Area Bike, Ped, Transit Study Complete

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Trans_map

As was reported last week in the Winston-Salem Journal, Alta Planning + Design delivered a final set of recommendations for improving safety and access for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders in the two-mile radius surrounding the Reynolda campus. The 88-page report is available to the public on the study’s website: walkbikeridewfu.com.

The report recommends five priority areas for improvement and a set of policies that the university should adopt to support more active modes of transportation.

Results of a campus-wide transportation preferences survey factored into the study results, as did feedback from multiple Winston-Salem community stakeholder meetings, interviews with Wake Forest faculty, staff, and students, and contributions to an interactive study area map and public input session.

The final report was presented to the local urban area transportation advisory committee, to the public at an open meeting for feedback, and to the Wake Forest administration. Proposed improvements involve NC DOT-owned and maintained roadways, locally-owned roadways, and university property. Any improvements will require ongoing cooperation and public-private partnership funding.

At the public meeting, city council members Denise D. Adams and Jeff MacIntosh both expressed support for implementing the recommendations, which would improve safety and enhance opportunities for active modes of transportation in both of their respective wards. The council members urged residents to send letters and emails of support for the projects.

The study was administered by the City-County Planning Board with input and support from the WFU Office of Sustainability. The partnership process has served as a model that could be replicated in other high-traffic areas around Winston-Salem, including other universities, colleges, and hospitals.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

Faces of Sustainability: Alan Winkler

Friday, January 17th, 2014

From lamps to pianos, if you have moved or discarded furnishings on campus in the past few years, chances are you have met Alan Winkler, Surplus Coordinator for Wake Forest University. With a passion for keeping anything reusable out of the landfill, Winkler collects, catalogs, stores, and delivers myriad furnishings and recyclable waste streams across campus.

Before Winkler was hired, surplus property was managed by Michael Logan, Manager of Strategic Sourcing in Procurement Services. Although Logan was successful in finding placements for some pieces through a basic surplus listserv, both Facility and Campus Services and Procurement Services recognized the system could do much more. “I am really thankful that we have leaders and a responsive administration on campus that recognized it wasn’t the best that the university could do,” said Logan.

What was a bare bones effort when Winkler arrived is now a thriving, well organized waste diversion program. “The surplus program was my baby,” Winkler said. With a background in logistics, Winkler tackled the substantial surplus inventory that had built up prior to his arrival. In the first year alone, the program helped the university avoid nearly $440,000 in expenses, mostly in avoided landfill fees and avoided expenses for new furnishings. In addition to cost savings, the program generates substantial resource savings: nearly 100 tons of waste have been diverted from the landfill in less than two and a half years. November 2013 also marked the first-ever WFU surplus sale. With over 200 pieces of surplus property sold to members of the Wake Forest community, this successful event could well turn into an annual offering.

Last year, Winkler began collecting electronic waste for recycling as well. Through established relationships with organizations like Goodwill, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, which houses the surplus property program, continues to find safer and more cost effective ways to divert potentially harmful waste streams, like electronics and toner cartridges, from landfills.

Winkler hopes to see even further expansion down the road. “The next step is to have the space, time, and staff to include office supplies in the program.” In its current configuration, the surplus program is only available to faculty and staff. Such an expansion would make some of the supplies available to students as well.

Whether the task of the hour is moving staff and faculty offices, helping a customer outfit a new office with gently used furnishings, strategically placing new recycling bins, or coordinating collection of inkjet and toner cartridges for recycling, Winkler can be counted on for courteous customer service and a commitment to Wake Forest’s campus sustainability goals.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator

Chemical Inventory Generates Savings

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Beyond meeting regulated health and safety requirements, a new chemical inventory tracking system at Wake Forest provides a useful means of minimizing laboratory waste on campus. The system catalogs the thousands of different types of chemicals – from acetone to dimethyl sulfoxide – stored in academic buildings and laboratories, facility storerooms, and supply closets. The system can also be used to track the maintenance and calibration schedule of various pieces of laboratory equipment, which helps prevent premature breakdowns.

Although hazardous waste is collected routinely on campus, this inventory system identifies how chemicals should be disposed of, and under which deadlines, in a systematic way. This was previously difficult to monitor given the widespread distribution of chemicals across campus.

To date, it has been difficult for faculty and students from physics and chemistry to neuroscience and health and exercise science to know what chemicals colleagues in other departments might already have procured. In the past, this has meant that the purchase of both hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals has been duplicated. Exacerbating the problem, faculty and students are often left with surplus supplies due to minimum purchasing requirements.

Now, with the new system in place, a professor or graduate student can easily check online to see what each department already has in storage, before making any purchases.

Steve Fisenne, Associate Director of Environmental Health & Safety, had a major role in bringing the new system to campus and is particularly excited about the benefits it brings. “Implementation of this system will allow the university to uncover opportunities in sustainability, waste reduction, cost reduction and efficiency,” while complying with, “regulatory requirements and providing a safer working environment.”

By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern

Solving Problems across Disciplines

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
Screenshots of the prototype application

Screenshots of the prototype application

This past fall, undergraduate health communication and software engineering students were asked to work together to design an application that would improve accessibility around Wake Forest’s campus.

From wheelchairs to long boards, students considered the unique ways people maneuver around our 340 acres each day. One student team chose cycling, a theme proposed by the Office of Sustainability that supports our campus-wide transportation demand management goals. The collaboration showcases the advantages of faculty working transdisciplinarily to solve big problems and the benefits of engaged learning for sustainability.

“Working with the theme of sustainability was interesting,” said Jesse Akman, a junior who developed an application for cyclists with his partner, sophomore Adelina Cato, “we ended up looking at a lot of statistics about bikes saving CO2 and alternative transportation options.”

Akman, a Computer Science and Philosophy double major, took the Health Communication course with Professor Steve Giles as an elective. Cato registered because it applied to her pre-med requisites.

The application’s map-like format is interactive and specific for bike users, explained Cato. It is similar to Ride the Wake, a smartphone application developed by another computer science class that provides users with a real-time locater map for the shuttles that transport students to and from off-campus apartments and other locations.

Giles and Professor of Computer Science, Paul Pauca, realized how beneficial collaboration could be after working together on a grant proposal to develop a smoking cessation application.

“We both knew that our disciplines complemented the other,” said Giles, “but we struggled to really understand what the other person did within his discipline.”

By connecting the two classes, the computer science students were challenged to think about health problems and user interaction with an application, while the communication students learned how to develop the actual technology that makes their creative ideas possible.

Pauca, who bikes to work and stores his set of wheels in his office each morning, explained how groups such as Akman’s had to understand how different people approach biking and what major barriers might prevent them from doing so, such as motivation, convenience, or even physical barriers, like stairs.

“For me, it’s transportation, but if I am elder, I would want to make sure I take the path that is safer,” said Pauca.

Pauca’s youngest child inspired his first experience developing an application when he was diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins Syndrome. Named VerbalVictor for his son, Pauca’s program helps to reduce the high price and bulkiness of existing tools available to people challenged by the genetic disorder. VerbalVictor can be downloaded to a smartphone for just $11.99.

Though this semester’s student applications are not ready to sell in an online application store, they are still significant achievements. “The process itself has educational value,” said Pauca, “and it also allows students to create something of value to society.”

According to Giles, the goal for the application is to build it for Wake with the hope that it could ultimately be replicated for other college campuses.

“I’m hopeful we can do this again in the future,” said Giles on the coming together of the two classes, “and perhaps be more strategic in building this collaboration into other courses.”

 By Sydney Leto (’14), Staff Writer

Are You a Champion?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Have you or are you preparing to facilitate a change to a sustainable practice on campus? Have you implemented a new sustainability initiative in your area? If so, you might be a winner!

This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.

In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:

  • resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
  • academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
  • service and social action, and
  • bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).

We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.

Refilling Stations Flow through Campus

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Refilling stations are becoming the norm at Wake Forest University, with a total of 46 water bottle refill stations across campus. What started with 2010-11 Choose to Reuse intern Frannie Speer, a grant from Brita’s Filter for Good program, and a pilot refill station outside the Office of Sustainability in Reynolda Hall, has propelled into a campus-wide initiative.

A strong show of support from students, faculty, and staff has spurred the installation of refilling stations throughout campus. The impetus to install a station in Greene Hall originated from administrative assistant Tara Ogletree, in the Department of German and Russian. “I thought that having the refilling station installed on the third floor of Greene Hall would be a small contribution to our growing eco-friendly campus.” In another show of departmental backing, the Office of Budget and Financial Planning co-sponsored the installation of the refilling station outside the Fresh Food Company in 2012. Residence Life & Housing installed stations in nearly every residence hall this year.

Each water bottle refill station located around campus has a built-in sensor that starts the flow of chilled, filtered water from an overhead port when a bottle is placed in front of it. The refill stations are “no-touch” and provide immediate feedback that tracks the number of “disposable plastic bottles” that are avoided through use of the refill station.

The amount of waste refilling stations reduce is one of many benefits to having the stations on campus. Additionally, water from the refill stations does not bear the same transportation fuel waste burden as bottled and distributed water, nor does it generate the same resultant greenhouse gas emissions. When compared to single-use plastic water bottles, that are sometimes shipped internationally, this equates to notable emissions reduction. Looking at the bigger picture, it translates to better air quality and natural resource management, all of which contribute to a healthier environment.

It is clear that refilling stations have much to offer campus — convenient, good tasting, filtered, chilled hydration. As Ogletree puts it, simply, “Hopefully, the installations will encourage others to participate in the program and promote healthier lifestyles.”

 By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator