Wake Forest University

Culture Archives Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

WAB Trips Offer Re-Connections

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Contributed by Alyshah Aziz (’16)

As a sophomore minoring in Environmental Studies, caring for the environment is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. Participating in the Knoxville, TN Wake Alternative Break trip served as an opportunity to reground my beliefs. Often, in our fast-moving technology-centered world, I have found myself becoming isolated from nature and its beauty.

Laura Coats and De’Noia Woods, recent WFU alumnae and current AmeriCorps members, hosted us in Knoxville and organized the activities for our trip. The heart of the work was service in areas of environmental conservation and waste reduction. Some service activities throughout the week consisted of packing Mobile Meals, laying the foundation for a disc golf course, carrying out a clean-up at Ijams Nature Sanctuary, working in an urban garden, and clearing more privet than I have seen in my entire life!

Our venture to the Queen City of the Mountains was quite unique compared to any other service trip I have experienced. Each WAB trip has a specific focus – some are more people-centered than others. For me, the WAB trip inspired the process of questioning, fostered independence, and allowed me to reconnect with nature. As a society, we benefit from many ecosystem services. Our unique adventures each day allowed me to see the raw beauty nature humbly provides for us. The primary goal was to help heal the physical environment. In turn, the hope is that the healthy environment is able to serve both humans and other living beings.

The work allowed time to think and to reconnect with our gracious hosts, Laura and De’Noia. It was interesting to hear their experiences during freshman and sophomore years at Wake, and find the similarities with my own experiences. Since Laura and I were both former EcoReps, she shared with me that she originally joined AmeriCorps with the hope that it would be similar to the EcoReps program we have on campus. Although she found her position in AmeriCorps working with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to be different from what she expected, it is still a very enriching experience.

As a current sophomore I have begun starting to ponder: Where do I see myself after I receive my four-year degree from Wake Forest? What people would I like to be surrounded by? While working in Pond Gap Elementary’s Garden, something Laura said really hit home. She shared that she has never been a part of a group of such like-minded individuals before. Transitioning from an EcoRep to an intern with the Office of Sustainability, I strongly feel that I have been able to better find my niche on campus through my encounters with students, faculty, and staff. I have met many interesting and refreshing students in my Environmental Studies minor courses and have been introduced to new activities, events, and perspectives to which I otherwise might not have been exposed.

I came to the realization that although many of my peers might not consider themselves environmentalists, we are the generation that consciously bikes more, drives less, promotes carpooling, and actively searches for local foods. My goals and values have solidified through my WAB experience; although I came into the trip with a passion for the environment, being able to interact with the environment in different ways each day was a refreshing experience. The beauty, strength, and wisdom of Nature never cease to amaze me, and I will always treasure these opportunities.

Toxic Drift Discussion with Pete Daniel

Friday, March 7th, 2014

toxic driftAs part of the History Department’s Engagement Series, we had the pleasure of meeting Wake Forest alumnus and distinguished historian, Pete Daniel. Dr. Daniel’s work covers a panoply of important cultural and historic issues from farming to civil rights and environmental degradation.

During our discussion of his book Toxic Drift: Pesticides and Health in the Post-World War II South., Dr. Daniel posited that our history with pesticides stems from the idea that nature is not good enough. This idea sparked an interesting interdisciplinary discussion that called up concepts from economics, literature, history, ethics, and civil rights. The breadth of the discussion should not have been surprising given that Daniel is a strong proponent of the liberal arts tradition and sees great value in thinking about issues across disciplinary divides.

Sustaining Life, Ideas & Communities

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

ApplesContributed by Jenny Miller (’14)

Fresh students are being sown this spring as the new course, Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability roots itself into the curriculum of Wake Forest University. Under the leadership of Professor Lynn Book, Dr. Angela Kocze and Dr. Wanda Balzano, students narrow their focus on female entrepreneurs as today’s largest and fastest growing minority group in agriculture. Students work with community partners of the Innovators in Residence program which highlights local entrepreneurs of the Piedmont region.

The course’s primary Innovators in Residence collaborators, Margret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, cultivated their farm, Beta Verde, where they grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables that are used for garden-to-table suppers at their home in Winston-Salem and are sold as delicious jams, pickles, and syrups. These “home sown” heroines also founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market which accepts EBT and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, providing a greater opportunity for people to have access to good food. These mother/daughter ventures provide insights that allow Margaret and Salem to serve as guides in matters of food traditions and food justice, regional economies, cultural diversity and environmental stewardship. It is through such symbiosis that the interdisciplinary course of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability has been able to help students better understand how women are impacting local and global communities while simultaneously forming a greater connection with food and place by learning beyond the gates of our own Forest.

The course will be hosting a collection of events throughout the spring semester that bring knowledge from the surrounding communities back to campus. The convivial environment of the course’s first event, SEED, was held last Wednesday on February 19th, and encouraged a certain quality of shared experience around food. This helped break the “busy” schedules of the Wake Forest community by providing an hour and a half of close conversation, local food tastings, live music, and shared stories. Margaret and Salem spoke of their love for people and place nurtured and sustained through their good food ventures. Together, they stressed the importance of sustaining a sense of place not only by protecting an area for the future, but also for the reclamation of an environment. The women addressed how the heritage of the Piedmont region was once previously occupied by apples which held a central place in the ecology of the land. The message of SEED focused on the importance of the restoration of these indigenous seeds if our community wishes to sustain the Piedmont land forward and to live in concert with an optimal environment that provides access to good foods. Working to make something that is close to disappearing abundant again is not an easy task.  The notion that all regional schools, colleges, and universities could choose their own variety of apple trees to be planted on their respective grounds was offered by Margaret and Salem as one example of attaining this goal.

Through the creative collaboration of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability and the Innovators in Residence program, a “biodiversity for the future” is encouraged that requires awareness and vigilance. This future envisions a change in dismissive and unthinking action towards a shared inspiration for students, administrators, and members of the Piedmont community to cultivate and protect the resources under our feet by reclaiming, stewarding, and taking pleasure in good food as a fundamental right for all people.

Diving into Conservation

Monday, February 24th, 2014

scubaContributed by Pam Denish (’15)

Last fall, I studied abroad in Bonaire, a small island in the southern Caribbean. The program focused on coral reef ecology and tropical marine conservation. I chose the program because I have always been passionate about marine biology and conservation, and I knew it would give me first-hand research experience in a beautiful location. Throughout the program I spent a lot of time SCUBA diving and learning about different marine ecosystems, the species that inhabit them, how human activities are threatening the oceans, and what can be done to protect them.

Among the most shocking of my experiences were beach clean-ups, during which we collected trash and disposed of it in the island’s sole waste management site. Many of the locations we cleaned were not popular recreational areas, but rocky shores and dense marshes. These places were overwhelmed by trash that had washed ashore from the ocean. I couldn’t help but think that if this much trash had been washed ashore, there must be much more still circulating in the oceans.

These trash collections caused me and my classmates to consider how we could encourage the public to reduce the amount of trash they throw away and teach them why it is important. We hosted a children’s environmental fair with booths showing the life in the oceans as well as suggestions for easy ways to reduce our impact, including recycling and creative ways to repurpose trash. We had an arts and crafts station where we made wallets and Christmas ornaments out of old boxes, and snow globes out of jars; the children were amazed by how many fun things could be made from trash. We also distributed flyers about how to reduce trash output by using reusable shopping bags and purchasing groceries with minimum packaging.

Another rewarding experience was the work I did once a week with children from a local after-school program designed to keep kids off the street. Through snorkeling activities and games, we taught them the basics about coral reefs and how humans affect the reefs. It was fun to see the kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm each week. I truly believe that if we can inspire children to care about sustainability and protecting the environment, then we have the ability to preserve and restore many beautiful and important ecosystems.

Going abroad enriched my life in many ways, and continues to do so. Not only did I get to experience and learn about my passion – the ocean – but I also learned that we have the power and responsibility to protect our environment. We are inextricably linked to the earth, and it is to our own benefit that we learn to live sustainably and protect it. This experience abroad imbued me with the spirit of helping the community to protect the environment and it definitely channeled the familiar and beloved spirit of Pro Humanitate.

A Theological Approach to Sustainability

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

When thinking about theological education, sustainability might not be the first word that comes to mind. The Wake Forest Divinity School, however, is currently adopting some changes that will influence sustainability learning outcomes for their students.

At the end of the spring 2013 semester, a group of Divinity School faculty participated in a retreat centered around the question “What would it look like to have a curriculum that takes full advantage of the places where we are located?” The result will be a gradual transformation of the curriculum to reflect what many refer to as a “place-based” education. By definition, place-based education is rooted in the unique culture, history, and ecology of the community.

The Divinity School has since introduced new courses that take full advantage of the place where we are located. For instance, in a class on worship and liturgy, in which the professor teaches about baptisms and communion, the students have been able to connect these sacred rituals to the place in which they are located. The class began with a trip to the Salem Creek, followed by a visit to the Water Treatment Plant. Divinity School Dean Gail O’Day notes that these trips aid the students in viewing water in a different way; they begin to think about the water theologically and have a newfound appreciation for it as a resource. The class also took visits to a community garden and a local winery in order to fully understand these resources from cultural, ecological, and theological perspectives.

This unusual approach to graduate education appears to be incredibly beneficial in several different ways. As expected, taking advantage of the “place” element of education has a positive impact on the students’ learning and in their preparation as leaders who understand issues members of their communities are facing.  Jill Crainshaw, professor of worship and liturgical theology, explains that effective religious leaders must be “deeply immersed in and knowledgeable about the people, history, and patterns of the particular places where they serve.” This curricular approach emphasizes the importance of a connection and understanding with the surrounding community, in hopes that they will take this strong foundation with them to the communities where they will serve in the future. According to Dean O’Day, “The better they understand the complexity of the world in which they live and in which they are going to serve, the better able they are to make informed decisions about what’s good for their community.”

The new curriculum also seems to instill a passion for sustainability and caring for the Earth. Dr. Crainshaw explains that through these place-based classes, students appear to develop “cosmocentric sacramentality” in which they “begin to see the many ways in which the world around them – both inside and outside of the walls of the church – is sacred.”  In this way, the Divinity School is not only shaping individuals who care for the people they are serving, but also about the environment they call home.  Dr. Mark Jensen, who received a grant from the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability to convene the curriculum retreat, is a leader in the ongoing curriculum changes. He says that an essential part of achieving their mission of developing “agents of justice, reconciliation and compassion” is exploring themes of sustainability and instilling the idea of the interlocking contexts of natural and built environments. Jensen quoted environmental writer Wes Jackson saying that we all need to “become native to the place in which we live” and take lessons from ecosystems that work harmoniously.

The developments across the curriculum complement a strong existing interest in sustainability within the school. An environmental theology student group called EcoTheo has grown in popularity over the past several years, convening regular meetings, contributing time to service projects, and working to incorporate principles of sustainability into everyday practices around the school. At their bi-weekly community lunches, students and faculty now use reusable plates and silverware, which the students wash, and food scraps are collected for composting after each meal.

A Food, Faith and Religious Leadership initiative offers to “equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.”

The Wake Forest Divinity School’s leadership is shaping the future not only of the communities in which its graduate students will serve, but of the wellbeing of life on the planet.

By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer

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

Sustainability through Place Values

Saturday, December 7th, 2013
Photo by WFU photographer Ken Bennett

Photo credit: Ken Bennett

Students in my fall 2013 Literature and the Environment seminar (ENG 341G) spent the semester exploring different sites of belonging through world literature. Their course work carried them through critical discussions on the anthropocene, bioregionalism, deep ecology, ecotones and general systems theory. In their final class unit, they targeted their analysis toward key issues of sustainability. Several groups of students got together to reflect on the ways sustainability connected them to different communities of practice. Prominent among such communities was Wake Forest.

In the following essays, students consider the ways environments are composed through participation. They urge other students to be more fully present in the ways they interact with their campus environment, and they propose solutions for more sustainable technological practices.  Other essays reflect on the ways Wake Forest has shaped students as engaged individuals; students consider the ways the college’s environs have provided a vital resource for their spirits. Though all these short essays are quite different in their approaches to place values, all share an important central insight:  Sustainability is something that needs to be grounded in communities of belonging.

By Dr. Judith Madera, Magnolias Project Participant 2012

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.

For God’s Sake, Care for the Earth

Friday, October 25th, 2013

“When you die, God will not ask you how old the earth is. He will ask you ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’”

In celebration of World Food Day, the WFU Divinity School’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative and the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability  hosted Richard Cizik for a discussion of what some refer to as creation care, or a scriptural call to care for God’s creation.

Cizik served for ten years as Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the top staff position in the organization. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” he expressed support for addressing climate change and sparked a national uproar within the evangelical movement. Soon thereafter, he was discharged from his post.

In his work as the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik is now empowered to address the interconnections between food, poverty, and climate change. He references Bob Doppelt’s book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking in saying that we cannot be good stewards of creation without understanding the systems that surround us. Global hunger is not simply a matter of inadequate distribution: floods, draught, poverty, the subjugated roles of women, and regressive global economic and agricultural policies all play a role in the inability of families and communities to access food.

According to Cizik, food and climate have become two of the most important issues to young evangelical voters. He believes that leadership on these issues requires bold action and a commitment to morally just behavior. In the conversion from climate denial to climate action, he witnesses a deny-deliberate-do-defend cycle. He sees more and more faith leaders making the conversion and answering the call to action because it is aligned with their intrinsic biblical values.

Read more about the event, and follow the thought leadership of Fred Bahnson, director of the WFU Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative in this Washington Post blog and at Salon.com.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

American Indian Insights on Creating a Sustainable Future

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Photo courtesy of Peter Tomasiello/Old Gold & Black

A diverse academic audience was prescribed a remedy for some of the defining environmental issues of the century when Winona LaDuke, American Indian political activist and founding co-director of Honor the Earth, spoke at Wake Forest in late September.

LaDuke’s heritage and experience – founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project in her Anishinaabe homelands in Minnesota, co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, former board member of Greenpeace USA, and two-time national office vice presidential candidate – provided a unique landscape for her lecture entitled “To Honor the Spirit of the Earth: Contemporary Indigenous Approaches to Sustainable Economies.” Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies, says “Winona LaDuke is a global leader and spokesperson in environmental sustainability. She offers a perspective and depth of knowledge that is rarely heard on our campus.”

LaDuke outlined what she identifies as the three most important issues regarding sustainability: climate change, peak oil, and food insecurity. She went on to describe how the current American view on sustainability and the environment is both flawed and unsustainable, saying “It seems like people don’t want to stick around for another 1000 years.” Rather than making viable public policy, we simply clean up the messes we make. She explained to the audience that Americans have an addiction, and that we partake in extreme behaviors, including fracking and mountaintop removal, in order to feed this addiction.

By highlighting various flaws she sees in our economy and the catastrophic consequences of our current behaviors, she urged the audience to spring into action, describing the changes she implemented in her own community: eating local foods, using renewable energy, and increasing the biodiversity of her crops. She emphasized that if her community, which has high rates of poverty, incarceration, and chronic illness, can do it, then the Wake Forest community can too. “You could sit here and pretend that someone else is going to do it. But as my culture says, ‘you are either at the table or on the menu.”

LaDuke’s lecture was a wake-up call for several attendees. As Dr. Wanda Balzano, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program articulated, “Not only is Winona LaDuke a role model for many women who are fighting for social justice, but she is also one of the most important voices of our time as an environmentalist, as an inspirational author, and as a feminist and political activist.” Her presentation will hopefully incite change in our Wake Forest community, and inspire us to plan for the next seven generations in everything that we do.

By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer