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Events - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

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Congratulations Class of 2016 Interns

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Alyshah was recognized for her Sustainability Leadership at the annual Champions of Change awards ceremony.

Alyshah was recognized for her Sustainability Leadership at the annual Champions of Change awards ceremony.

Alyshah Aziz graduated Cum Laude with a major in Politics & International Affairs and a minor in Middle East & South Asian Studies. Alyshah served as an Alternative Transportation Intern for six consecutive semesters. She is working as a Business Analyst within Deloitte’s Federal Human Capital Consulting division.

Alyshah’s reflection on the internship: My internship with the Office of Sustainability helped me strengthen my skills in research, writing, marketing, and creativity. My time in the office and my friendships with Dedee, Hannah, Annabel, initiative co-sponsors, and interns are invaluable to me. My biggest takeaway that I will always carry with me is to think critically of what I read, hear, and see. The weekly intern meetings taught me to listen to what I hear and/or see and then investigate. My internship has lead me to view the world and all the activities of humankind from a holistic perspective. 

Graduates Commit to Living Green

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Graduating Sustainability Interns Stewart Rickert and Alyshah Aziz host the sixth annual Green Grad pledge.

Graduating Sustainability Interns Stewart Rickert and Alyshah Aziz host the sixth annual Green Grad pledge.

Over 200 WFU graduates made an enduring commitment to sustainability by signing the Green Graduation pledge, an opportunity that over 100 other colleges and universities offer their graduates. All signatories received a reusable travel mug to reinforce sustainable habits.  The mugs are printed with Wake Forest’s Green Graduation pledge: I pledge to take into account the social and environmental consequences of any future endeavors and to work to improve the sustainability of the communities in which I work, live and play.

This is the sixth year that Wake Forest graduates have participated in the nationwide pledge movement.

Graduates who missed the initial opportunity to commit can come by the Office of Sustainability during our Homecoming reception in the fall to sign the pledge and/or grab a reusable mug.

Campus Sustainability Awards Honor Champions of Change

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

campusawardsThe Wake Forest University Campus Sustainability Awards presentation was held on Earth Day– Friday, April 22, 2016–in the Green Room of Reynolda Hall. A combination of students, faculty, and staff who have demonstrated or initiated successful sustainable practices on campus were recognized as Champions of Change.

Two individuals were honored with special awards for their meritorious leadership. Green Team captain for Reynolda House, Dan Rossow, was recognized for his work in producing zero-landfill receptions and developing recycling education for staff and visitors. Sustainability intern Alyshah Aziz, Class of 2016, was honored for her successful work in implementing the Re-Cycle bike sharing program for Wake Forest.

Wake Forest University Provost Rogan Kersh and Executive Vice President Hof Milam recognized the following award recipients in four categories: Teaching, Research and Engagement; Resource Conservation; Service and Social Action; and Bright Ideas.

Tree Tags on Campus Mark Arbor Day Celebration

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

wfu-tree-tags-2016How valuable are trees to you? Some of the yellow tree tags you’ve seen around campus offer the calculated value of ecosystem services that the trees provide. Others offer the general positive benefits of trees in our landscape. Still others offer sentiments from treasured authors about the inestimable value of our beloved trees.

The WFU Arbor Day Celebration takes place on Tuesday, April 19th from 4:00-6:00pm at the Reynolda Village trailhead. We will roll up our sleeves to plant some more trees and clean up the streams and forests that line our beautiful campus. Everyone who registers will enjoy a cookout following the service; vegetarian options available. This event takes place rain or shine, and is sponsored by Greeks Go Green, Landscaping Services, WFU Residence Life & Housing, Student Engagement, and the Pro Humanitate Institute.  To register for this event, click here.

Students Moderate Civil Discourse at NC Power Dialog

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

power-dialog-studentsBy Lauren Newton
MA in Sustainability Candidate

Last week, the North Carolina Power Dialog allowed students to participate in civil discourse through a different lens: their own. The US has made a climate commitment of 30% cuts in global warming pollution by 2030. Unfortunately, energy-related issues in the United States have been politicized to the point that young stakeholders often feel disempowered and forced to accept the status quo of political stalemate.

The mission of the national Power Dialog was to allow 10,000 students to engage in face-to-face dialog with state officials and energy experts in more than thirty states nationwide. Students and faculty for North Carolina’s dialog hailed from Wake Forest, Appalachian State University, Duke University, Guilford College, and NC A&T University.

The student participants of the Power Dialog were given the opportunity to speak up, for their opinions must be strongly considered when making critical decisions about the planet’s future. Wesley Skidmore, a sophomore at Wake Forest who is majoring in physics and mathematics, reflected on the experience: “The Power Dialog provided me with an excellent opportunity to engage in a complex discussion about North Carolina’s energy regulations, and gave me a chance to voice my qualms and opinions to representatives from the companies and agencies who will play a large part in determining North Carolina’s future plans for energy.”

The event was attended primarily by undergraduates from participating colleges and universities. Graduate students, however, played a critical role. Students in the Applied Sustainability class in Wake Forest’s M.A. Sustainability program collaboratively developed an issue guide prior to the event to help guide moderated breakout discussions. “My experience as a graduate student in Sustainability has allowed me access to a debate I’m usually excluded from…” explained Kelsey Gaude, a graduate student at Wake Forest.

The issue guide was informed by a series of in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in civil society, government, and the energy sector. For example, Gaude interviewed stakeholders from NC A&T University’s Center for Energy Technology and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute: “They believe the topic is critical, so anyone willing to engage is an ally.” The following perspectives emerged on how North Carolina could proceed in meeting the US climate commitment:

1. Stay the current course toward GHG reductions
2. Increase efficiency in our buildings and infrastructure
3. Increase the deployment of renewable energy technologies
4. Increase education and advocacy for greenhouse gas reduction

M.A. candidates acted either as moderators or scribes in each of three breakout sessions to discuss these themes. Scribes were challenged with the task of accurately capturing participant perspectives and stories in just a few words. For M.A. Sustainability candidates, who could have been considered “experts” in the discussion but served as neutral moderators, without adding personal commentary, was equally challenging.

While the dialog succeeded in giving students access to powerful stakeholders like the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the US EPA, it was at times difficult for students to embrace their own power and voice. In one breakout session, for example, the conversation was at times dominated by sparring between the state’s primary utility provider and another expert stakeholder. While the dialog’s intentional foray into civil discourse was applauded by several industry and governmental stakeholders, the instinct for some to engage in a more polemical debate was difficult to resist.

Once breakout sessions concluded, participants from all three groups rejoined for a collective debrief on action items. Increased education and advocacy were identified as emerging priorities for North Carolina, and staying the current course toward GHG reductions is simply not enough. “Different minded people were able to find common ground, which was a fantastic way to see how progress can occur,” concluded Gaude. Students of all ages should continue to develop confidence in their ability to communicate across difference, to view complex issues from multiple perspectives, and ultimately to discover viable solutions–for they have the greatest stake in the future of the planet.

View the North Carolina Power Dialog photos below on Flickr.

North Carolina Power Dialog


Submit a Nomination – Campus Sustainability Awards

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Campus Sustainability Awards LogoNominations for the Campus Sustainability Awards are now open! Students, faculty and staff who have demonstrated or initiated successful sustainable practices on campus are eligible. Nominate yourself or someone else as a Champion of Change in one of the following categories:

  • Resource Conservation
  • Academics and Engagement
  • Service and Social Action
  • Bright Ideas

Nominations will be evaluated based on demonstrated ways the nominee has advanced the WFU campus sustainability goals, measurable impact among constituents and other criteria. Click here to learn more about the award categories, winning criteria and previous winners. To nominate yourself or someone else, complete the online nomination form by 5:00pm on Monday, March 28, 2016. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on April 22, 2016.

North Carolina Power Dialog

Friday, February 26th, 2016

NC_PD_2The NC Power Dialog will engage North Carolina college and university students in meaningful dialog with regulators, legislators, representatives from the energy sector, and peers about the federal Clean Power Plan and, more generally, opportunities for a renewable energy future for North Carolina. The Dialog will be held Thursday, April 7th, 2016, from 5:00 – 8:30pm at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

The program will include a brief opening panel discussion with state regulators and representatives from the energy sector, moderated by students in the Wake Forest MA Sustainability. Participants will break into smaller dialog groups to discuss perspectives on North Carolina’s opportunities to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Following the group discussions, participants will reconvene to discuss common themes and opportunities with the panelists.

Click here to learn more about the NC Power Dialog and to register to participate.


Truth, Lies, and Politics Panel Sparks Debate Among Experts

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

“If you elect people who don’t believe in government […] and the system fails – it’s the classic self-fulfilling prophecy.” Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, was among three experts who came to Wake Forest on February 16 for Truth, Lies, and Politics: Ideology, Rationality, and Choice in an Election Year, a panel discussion hosted in Wait Chapel.


Truth, Lies, and Politics panelists Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Dr. Keith Payne and Professor Jed Purdy

The discussion, moderated by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Presidential Endowed Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest, exposed the ways that mistrust in the idea of government, is not only toxic, but also erroneous in its inception. “Sewing that mistrust is part of a political program that actually produces the government that it tells you is already there,” explained Jed Purdy, Professor of Law at Duke University.

Each panelist brought a unique perspective on the obligations citizens have to be informed about issues like climate change and economic inequality, the impact of media on our democracy, as well as the relationship between ideology and belief.

Harris-Perry challenged panelists with a series of thought-provoking questions aimed at considering whether we are inclined to understand others’ choices when our perceptions are obscured by the rhetoric we hear. Dr. Keith Payne, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose lab studies how inequality shapes the human mind, argued “I think we have to meet people where they are in terms of what’s moving them emotionally. This is done with individual story-telling as opposed to the kind of science we base those stories on.”

Panelists debated the way individuals respond to apparent facts and figures set forth by the media. Oreskes made clear the distinction that “climate change is not a scientific disagreement,” stating that we simply “have a political disagreement about what to do about it.” Oreskes, whose research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, suggested the real question becomes, “How do we understand people’s choices in a world where those choices are structured by rhetoric, by advertising, by think tanks who we know promote disinformation?”

Alyshah Aziz, a Politics & International Affairs major from the class of 2016, described the panel as a “refreshing change of pace,” noting that of all the panels at Wake Forest she has attended, she has never seen “such honest conversation and disagreement between panelists that included cutting into one another’s sentences, especially not in Wait Chapel.” Ideological polarization is difficult to talk about when everyone agrees, and “this panel was one for the books,” Aziz said.

Dr. Adrian Bardon, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest, reflected on the panel as a whole, stating, “It is hard to see how we can make progress on issues of urgent public interest if ideological polarization prevents different groups from agreeing on a basic picture of the problems at hand. This is why the issue of polarization and the science communication environment may be the most important issue we face.”

The panel was co-sponsored by Wake Forest’s Office of Sustainability, the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, Department of Philosophy and the Thomas Jack Lynch Philosophy Fund, Department of Psychology, School of Law, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Department of Communications, Wake the Vote, College Democrats, The Arch Society, The Euzelian Society and Student Environmental Action Coalition.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Click here to read an article about the panel published in Old, Gold and Black.

View the event video below.



Professors attend Paris climate talks

Monday, December 7th, 2015

This article was originally published by the WFU News Center.  

Knox and Catanoso lay out Road to Paris – Photo by Ann Nguyen

Knox and Catanoso lay out Road to Paris – Photo by Ann Nguyen

Wake Forest University Professors John Knox and Justin Catanoso are attending the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, as representatives from more than 190 countries seek to work out a new international agreement on climate change. 

Known as COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties is the annual meeting of all countries that want to take action for the climate. The conference started Nov. 30 and continues through Dec. 11. Knox and Catanoso leave this week.

Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law and serves as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Catanoso is director of the university’s journalism program and is a veteran journalist supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Both serve as board members for Wake Forest’s Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and both have been busy raising awareness leading up to COP21 about why the Paris talks are so important.

“What makes it a little bit unusual is that each country will be deciding for itself what it can do,” said Knox. “There will not be a one-size-fits-all type of agreement.”

Before Thanksgiving, Knox and Catanoso hosted “Roadmap to Paris: Your Guide to the International Climate Talks”  on campus, discussing the likely trajectory of these climate talks. They are both encouraged that this year’s talks will result in real impact as the largest countries responsible for carbon dioxide emissions — United States, China, India and the European Union — among others, are on board. A likely agreement will chart a path toward the world’s reduced reliance on coal, oil and gas and expanded use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

To review the available coverage and learn more:

  • New York Times article featuring Knox
  • Raleigh News & Observer article by Catanoso featuring Knox, also ran in The Charlotte Observer
  • Greensboro News & Record op-ed piece by Catanoso about how Pope Francis — who will have a delegation in attendance for the first time — may influence climate talks
  • Thought Economics interview with Knox
  • WGHP appearance by Catanoso to discuss climate change and Paris
  • Winston-Salem Journal article featuring Knox and Catanoso

Follow Knox on Twitter @srenvironment and Catanoso @jcatanoso for updates from Paris.

By Bonnie Davis and Lisa Snedeker of the WFU News Center

Transportation Fair – October 21st

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Transportation FairStop by the WFU Transportation Fair from 11:30am-2:00pm outside of Benson to learn more about many of the transportation options that yield better air quality and increase wellbeing. Whether you need a bike tune-up, want to check out electric vehicle options, or want to find a fun hiking and biking trail, a variety of resources will be available. The fair is co-hosted by the Office of Sustainability and Parking and Transportation.