Think Green Thursday
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to explore sustainability through interactive, educational, and fun events every Thursday when regular classes are in session. Read more here and check our calendar to see what’s coming up.
Films and Lectures
Wake Forest regularly hosts nationally and internationally recognized speakers and award-winning films on themes relevant to sustainability. Read about past films and lectures and check our calendar for upcoming events.
Earth Day Celebrations
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“Be skeptical and curious. Go beyond reading labels…really know your producer.” This final piece of advice from panelist April McGreger was just one response to the overarching question: if every dollar we spend is a vote for the world we want, how can we make every bite count?
During September 10th’s panel, Make Every Bite Count, heritage and heirloom food experts Eric Hallman, Executive Director of the Livestock Conservancy; Eliza Greenman, orchardist at Foggy Ridge Cider; April McGreger, founder of Farmer’s Daughter Brand; and Janette Wesley, Slow Food USA Regional Governor, provided insights into the importance of biodiversity and sustainable land and water use to a resilient food system.
Orchardist and charismatic agri-entrepreneur Eliza Greenman left a lasting impression with her parting advice: eat ugly apples. Our tendency to buy fruits and vegetables that are perfectly symmetrical, with no creases or pimples, discourages markets from carrying heirloom varieties, many of which are as unique on the outside as they are uniquely delicious on the inside. Following the panel, Greenman was mobbed by requests to visit her orchards; several Wake Forest families and groups have since made the trek and have returned energized by the possibility of expanding their relationship with new and interesting foods.
Members of the audience stayed to talk more with the speakers and one another about the opportunities we have to think differently about the impacts of our food choices:
“A big take away is that there’s this tremendous variety of food, and it’s sustenance but it’s also beautiful, and it’s beautiful in the way that it preserves diversity; it’s beautiful in how it shows how we’ve done agriculture through the years. I hope that it becomes perpetuated and expanded in the future.” -Dr. Miles Silman, Professor of Biology and Director of CEES
“I was fascinated by the orchardist, she was incredible. But I also appreciated the comments by the panelists in their respective fields: what they have to contribute to sustainability and the need of diversity and the role that that plays. I’ve never thought about the diversity in meat and the importance of that; I have heard about the importance of diversity in apples; I’ve been to some markets in Virginia and there have been several varieties but I have not heard about the variety of meats. I heard my parents and their generation talk about how the meat tasted different, and I never really thought about it. But tonight it really made sense. I come away challenged to explore more of the local markets and to modify my eating habits.” - Staci Kyle (‘15), Master of Arts in Sustainability Graduate Student
“I really appreciated Eliza’s perspective, especially her combining the idea of preserving history and using story as a powerful way to change the way we eat, and, thus, change the way we look and take care of the environment. I think that’s one of the most powerful things to connect people to how we’re living.” – Sarah Millsaps (‘16), Anthropology Major
Students and staff circled around a vibrant Japanese Maple tree at Student Apartments on April 24th to celebrate Arbor Day. Landscaping Services, Residence Life and Housing, and the Office of Sustainability co-hosted the ceremony in conjunction with a Campus Beautification Day celebration that was organized by Greeks Go Green interns.
University Arborist Jim Mussetter, presented the ceremonial tree, a cultivar known as Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ or “Lion’s Head.” Mussetter described that this specific cultivar was chosen for its slow growth and striking fall foliage of gold and crimson tones. As the first ‘shishigashira’ introduced to campus, the tree will be a seasonal focal point in the housing courtyard for decades to come. University Chaplain Tim Auman led a poetry reading before guests in attendance planted the tree.
Immediately following the ceremony, students divided into groups, led by Greeks Go Green representatives, to pick up litter across campus as part of the Campus Beautification Day celebration. From small tools to cigarette butts, students collected litter of all shapes and sizes in an effort to Keep the Forest Green. Participants were recognized for their contributions: the first-year class turned out in the highest numbers as did brothers from Alpha Sigma Phi. After the clean-up, students were rewarded with at a cookout, including grass-fed burgers made from Grayson Natural beef, which was generously co-sponsored by Residence Life and Housing, Outdoor Programs, and Landscaping Services.
The fourth annual Arbor Day ceremony and the inaugural Campus Beautification Day service event exemplify Wake Forest University’s commitment to our Tree Campus USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 13-14, 2014 for the 3rd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was co-facilitated by communications professor Ron Von Burg, an alumnus of last year’s cohort, and Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the university’s director of sustainability.
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed provocative literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and is launching a new Master’s in sustainability this fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from art, management, sociology, history, classical languages, economics, dance, business, documentary film, and writing.
Closing words of appreciation from participants in the 2014 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model:
What a treat to meet colleagues from other parts of the university. It’s very easy to hole away and neither learn about nor appreciate what they are doing.
Meeting people from other departments. Hearing things from a different perspective.
Opportunity to learn about sustainability as a field, here on campus and amongst colleagues. Loved outside time…on schedule.
So glad I participated in the workshop!
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Wake Forest’s celebration of Earth Day this year included the announcement of Champions of Change award winners. This was the first year of the program, which recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability across campus. Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented the awards.
Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.
- Residence Life & Housing and Financial Services were jointly named champions of change in Resource Conservation. Residence Life and Housing dramatically reduced solid waste and conserved water through renovation and retrofit programs this past year; Financial Services supported the conversion to electronic business processes campus-wide.
- Campus Kitchen was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Campus Kitchen repurposes prepared, but not served, food from our campus dining facilities into balanced meals for members of the broader Winston-Salem community.
- For Teaching, Research and Engagement, Lynn Book and her faculty colleagues Angela Kocze and Wanda Balzano were recognized for their work in the new course, “Women, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.” Students collaborated with community partners Margaret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, the mother-daughter team who founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market.
- Abby McNeal was recognized for her Bright Idea in turf management and the installation of the UgMo Wireless Soil Sensor System at Spry Soccer Field. UgMo is an underground monitoring system that measures soil moisture at the root level and determines when and how much to water on a zone-to-zone basis.
Thirty nominations were received for the four awards. A committee evaluated the nominations based on:
- The ways in which the nominees have helped advance one or more of the Wake Forest University campus sustainability strategic goals
- The level of participation by colleagues within the department or unit
- The measurable impact among constituents across campus or in the community served
Additionally, Green Team captains Peter Romanov, Darlene Starnes and Carol Lavis were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. 65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.
Before the fair officially began, we celebrated a unique group of change agents. At the inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony, Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented campus sustainability leadership awards in four categories: resource conservation; service and social action; teaching, research, and engagement; and bright ideas.
Wake Forest’s own Hobbs Sisters led the crowd that gathered for the awards program down to Manchester Plaza, where fair attendees were lined up to receive their participation passports and ready to begin the fun.
Over 400 students, faculty, staff, and friends attended the celebration. In addition to food and entertainment, fairgoers learned about the ways that caring for one’s self, caring for one’s community and, ultimately, caring for life on the planet are related and interdependent. We would like to thank all of the entertainers, exhibitors, and vendors who provided the inspiration to love the world we’re with.
As 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.
Tu B’Shevat is not a Jewish high holiday, but at Wake Forest, it offers students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to explore a cultural tradition that celebrates shared values. This year, the multi-faceted group congregated at the Southeast corner of the new North Dining Hall to plant an Eastern Redbud tree that was generously donated by Landscaping Services.
Chanel Shulman, President of Hillel, welcomed and thanked everyone for attending the event. Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, explained Tu B’Shevat and its importance. Gail Bretan, the newly appointed Director of Jewish Life, read a poem and recited various blessings that praised God for creating the earth, preserving life, and creating the fruit of the tree. After these blessings, students and staff ate fruit and nuts, traditional foods of Tu B’Shevat.
Ph.D. student Rachel Hillyer spoke about her work at the event as well. Hillyer is currently researching migrating tree communities in the Andes, with Dr. Miles Silman, in the Biology Department. Dr. Lucas Johnston of the Religion Department spoke about the religious significance of trees around the world.
To end the event, students and staff got their hands dirty, working together to shovel soil around the tree. Due to the starting date of the spring semester, this year’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat occurred a week later than the official date of the holiday. The day was bright and cold; the celebration invited visions of an approaching spring and the splendor of the Eastern Redbud in bloom.
Contributed by Chanel Shulman ‘16
WFU Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Megan Anderson, helped to develop the first-ever community awards program for sustainability in Forsyth Co. this fall. Anderson, who serves on the advisory council for the Winston-Salem Sustainability Resource Center, developed the program to recognize best practices and inspire others to reach for higher levels of sustainability integration.
According to Anderson, “There are many businesses, non-profits, groups, and individuals that are doing wonderful and inspiring things in our community to support sustainability. We felt that it was very important to recognize these outstanding efforts, and at the same time, help set high goals for the future of our community. Sustainability should be an integrated concept in the strategic planning for our local leaders and organizations, and we hope that this event helped spur collaborative partnerships, the sharing of best practices, and high bench-marking goals for future sustainability initiatives in Forsyth County and beyond.”
- Sustainable Business of the Year (1-50 employees): Inside Out Designs
- Sustainable Business of the Year (51+ employees): Wexford Development LLC of Winston-Salem
- Sustainable Non-Profit of the Year: Triad Community Kitchen
- Spirit of the Community (Individual or Group): Marcus Wright, Director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectroscopy Labs of the Chemistry Department for Wake Forest University
- Honorable Mentions: Gallins Family Farm, Betty and Jim Holmes Food Bank Garden, Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, and Old Salem Gardens of Old Salem
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Twenty-seven undergraduate students from diverse disciplines attended the first-ever Social Impact Career Workshop, co-sponsored by the Office of Personal & Career Development, Service & Social Action, My Journey, and the Office of Sustainability.
Part one of a three-part series, the workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback through student evaluations. “It really opened my eyes to the myriad of options,” commented one student. “[The workshop] taught me about the ‘next step,’” noted another attendee.
During the first half of the event, Dr. Katharine Brooks, Executive Director of Personal and Career Development, led students through a self-reflection and planning exercise. The group then heard from a professional panel that included Dr. Ananda Mitra, Professor and Chair of Communication; Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, WFU Director of Sustainability; Ryan Lesley (’06, MBA ‘14), former Peace Corps volunteer and co-president of WFU Net Impact; and Alex Tsuji (MBA ’14), secretary of WFU Net Impact. After brief introductions from each panelist, students had the opportunity to ask questions. The discussion reflected interests that ranged from local to global issues and spanned sectors from non-governmental to corporate.
Former Wake Forest Fellow Annabel Lang (’12) developed the idea for the workshop while working with EcoReps, a peer sustainability education program of the Office of Sustainability. With an increasing number of Wake Forest students gaining sustainability-related experience through curricular and extracurricular endeavors, she saw a need to bridge the gap between these undergraduates’ experiences and their future professional lives.
Part two of the Social Impact Careers Workshop will take place Tuesday, January 15th, 2014 at 5:00PM. In this next installation, students will learn how to “pitch” their experiences, passions, and skills to potential employers. Additionally, attendees will learn how to take advantage of the upcoming Job & Internship Fair, on-campus opportunities for gaining social impact experience, job search resources, and networking strategies. To participate in part two, students should register through the DeaconSource calendar. It is not necessary to have participated in part one, in order to participate in part two.
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator
If you take a look at your hands, your wrists, or your neck, you will likely see something special, precious even. It is quite dense, glows with an almost aura-like quality, and, as of press time, costs about $1,350 an ounce. The material – gold – is familiar to all of us. Less known, however, is how it gets to us and the role of another unique metal in that process. Liquid Mercury, a toxic substance that has been phased out of equipment and processes in the US over many years, is essential to artisanal gold mining in much of the world.
On October 16th, Luis Fernandez the director of the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project visited Wake Forest for a lecture on the use of mercury in artisanal, or manual gold mining and its impacts on the environment and people of the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Madre de Dios is a region of eastern Peru extending into the Amazon basin and is marked by some of the most intensive artisanal gold mining activity in South America.
The process of gold mining in the Amazon is much as it was a few hundred years ago here in the US. Water cannons are used to wash away the topsoil from small areas of forest, a few hundred feet square. This leads to extensive deforestation; a new study from Greg Asner, also with the Carnegie Institute, determined that over 120,000 acres have been deforested for gold mining in Madre de Dios and small artisanal mines have become the main culprit. After removing the vegetation and topsoil, the pay dirt is then washed through equipment to separate the gold by gravity. The problem with the pay dirt in Peru, and other areas where artisanal gold mining is common, is that the gold is present only in small flakes, not the stereotypical nuggets. So, miners use mercury to bind the small flakes of gold and concentrate them, separating the gold from other sediments. In the end, the mercury is burned off, releasing it into the atmosphere and environment. This mercury finds its way into soil and rivers, where it is slowly accumulated in crops and fish, contaminating some of the only reliable sources of food in the region.
Fernandez’s research focuses on identification of mercury contamination in fish and people in the region and his latest work has produced alarming information: over 60% of fish sold in markets in Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios, are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury and 78% of people in Puerto Maldonado had unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies. Even worse, the most vulnerable population, women of childbearing age, had the highest mercury levels at 3 times the safe amount.
So, with all this bad news we ask ourselves, what can be done? What are the long-term effects on these populations? What are the long-term effects on the environment? Can the contaminated areas be reforested and, if so, how can it be done? Can the demand for gold be reduced so that it is not profitable for these small-scale, mostly illegal operations to persist? The answers to many of these questions are still unknown. There are currently few identified major health effects due to the low but chronic exposure to mercury, but cryptic effects such as decreased intelligence in children are being identified. Methods of removing mercury from the environment on a large scale are in their infancy and the gold mines are small but spread across a vast area, further complicating restoration efforts. What is known, however, is that if consumers demand safely and responsibly mined gold, as has been done with diamonds, or if they simply demand less gold, artisanal gold mining activity and the damage it causes will fade.
Contributed by Max Messinger