Wake Forest University

Food For Thought Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Community of Scholars Grows

September 30th, 2013

Rain garden at Winston HallEleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 15-16, 2013 for the 2nd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was facilitated by alumni from last year’s inaugural project: Sarah Mason (mathematics) and Luke Johnston (religion).

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 relevant 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 plans to launch a new Master’s in sustainability next 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 communication, Divinity, education, entrepreneurship, humanities, math, physics, psychology, and writing.

Closing comments from participants in the 2013 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model; when asked what they enjoyed most about the experience they said:

 Bringing together folks from different disciplines and allowing the conversation to unfold organically.

Interacting with colleagues and bouncing ideas off each other. The outdoor excursion was great!

The camaraderie of the instructors and participants.

I think it did a good job providing substantive introductions to the constellation of issues that make up sustainability without being overly long or too one-track.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

Coopitition – It’s Not Just for Business Anymore

September 13th, 2013

This summer, representatives from the Southeastern Sustainability Network (SESN) gathered on the Wake Forest campus to share ideas, challenges, resources, serious talk, laughs, and good food.

Wake Forest University is one of the 871 member campuses of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Membership in this national (now international) body has skyrocketed since 2008. Attendance at the annual national gathering tops 2,000.

Since 2009, sustainability directors at schools in the Southeast have also been meeting monthly by conference call to bring the benefits of networking down to a regional scale. We share some commonalities – energy sources and pricing, water issues, political climate – that influence the way we frame our work. The governance of the group is truly sustainable: flattened, collaborative, and highly functional. Participant campuses run the gamut from behemoth research and extension universities to small liberal arts campuses, with myriad configurations in between.

In some cases, our campuses compete for students, grants, and athletic titles. In other cases, we merely co-exist in the higher education landscape. The outcome of this purposeful sharing of resources – intellectual and otherwise – is a rising tide that lifts us all higher. In this case, cooperation makes us all more competitive in the higher education marketplace.

This summer’s in-person gathering was our first. Though many of us see one another at conferences and often present together in professional settings, it was nice to enjoy a mix of collegiality and camaraderie in a more intimate atmosphere. The Wake Forest campus was decked out in full summer bloom, South Hall offered comfortable sleeping quarters for a few nights, and Posh Plate pulled out all the stops in presenting a gracious locally-sourced spread at every meal.

Our office enjoyed rolling out the Southern hospitality to our friends from around the region and we look forward to sharing time together next summer lifting the boat even higher.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

2013 LENS @ Wake Forest

August 29th, 2013

The Learn Experience Navigate Solve (LENS) @ Wake Forest program offered 38 rising high school juniors and seniors a three-week, hands-on opportunity to engage with peers around the 2013 theme “Sustainability – Operate locally and extend globally.” Students partnered with faculty and community leaders to examine issues, and then worked in teams to tackle real-world challenges. The inspiring discussions and college environment lent itself to fun activities and friendships along the way.

Read more about the 2013 LENS @ Wake Forest experience.

Camp Snowball at WFU

August 15th, 2013

In late July, over 240 students, educators, and administrators came to Wake Forest University to attend Camp Snowball, an annual summer “camp” that promotes systems thinking and education for sustainability. Camp Snowball, which is hosted annually in various locations around the country, chose Wake Forest as its first university host site. This choice signals the recognition of Wake Forest’s sustainability efforts in the broader community.

Camp Snowball’s vision, inspired by renowned systems theorist Peter Senge, is to develop a community of leaders to build capacity to shape the future through systems thinking and education for sustainability. Speakers at this year’s camp included Nancy Conrad, the founder of the Conrad Foundation and the Spirit of Innovation Challenge; Marv Adams, COO of TD Ameritrade; Jessica Bailey, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, Winston-Salem State University; and Michael Fullan, noted expert on change in education.

Elayne Dorsey, a lead member of the camp staff explained that WFU’s commitment to sustainability, exemplified by the Office of Sustainability, drew the camp to select WFU as a venue. “With a focus on education for sustainability, it felt like a natural match to choose an institution that reflects the values of the camp,” Dorsey said. Camp co-organizer LeAnne Grillo echoed the sentiment: “We look for a location that has both an espoused and implemented sustainability plan.”

A university setting also supports the concepts Camp Snowball promotes. “It helps reinforce systems thinking education and learning,” Dorsey commented. WFU provided the 40 students in attendance a college campus experience including conversations with admissions counselors and campus tours. Although the organizers have not settled on next year’s host site, Grillo attested “Several students commented that thinking about going to college became more real to them now that they had the chance to experience college life.”

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability


Wake a Forest

May 7th, 2013

Did you get a chance to see those artsy trees on the Mag Quad for Earth Day? If you did, you witnessed Wake a Forest, a play on the United Nations’ Make a Forest campaign. In 2011, the UN proclaimed that year to be dedicated to the forest. Their aim was to highlight the forestry industry while shedding light on the adverse effects of deforestation at the same time. To do this, cultural institutions were prompted to create their own trees across the globe while portraying what a forest meant to them. A sample of these trees can be found at makeaforest.org.

These trees ranged from typographical trees crafted out of shoe laces to walls covered in suggested tree forms. The types of trees were wide-ranging. A team of Wake Forest students headed by De’Noia Woods and Kelsey Zalimeni decided to create their own Wake a Forest to contribute to the project. Individuals or groups who participated had one constraint – they had to use found and reclaimed materials. After much thought, students took the idea and ran with it by creating trees out of materials from plaster to old street signs. The types of trees varied as a reflection of the interest of the group or the personality of the individual student. The forest emulated the array of students that attend Wake Forest University in a very creative and unique way. Check out the WAF trees at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainablewfu/.

Contributed by De’Noia Woods ‘13, Office of Sustainability Photography Intern

Food for Thought 2013 Recap

May 6th, 2013

Food For Thought 2013, the Office of Sustainability’s Earth Day Celebration, was a great success. The fair was held on Manchester Plaza on April 20th. Students, faculty, staff, and other members of the community enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day full of live music, live animals, educational booths on sustainable practices, and great food and drink. The Office of Sustainability is grateful to attendees, vendors, educators, volunteers, and performers who participated. The success of the fair would not have been possible without each, who helped further foster knowledge and engagement in sustainable practices.

Check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for photos from the day.

Celebrate Earth Day at Wake Forest

April 15th, 2013

Celebrate Earth Day at Wake Forest on April 20, 2013 from 12:00 to 6:00 on Manchester Plaza, affectionately known as the Mag Quad. This year’s celebration theme is Food For Thought. The fair is being held in conjunction with the Food Justice Summit, a conference exploring food justice issues from local, national, and international perspectives.

The schedule of activities at the fair will begin at noon with family-friendly activities.  All audiences are welcome and encouraged to attend at any time between noon and 6:00 pm.

EDF_PosterAttractions will include:

local food vendors,

live entertainment,

family-friendly activities,

educational booths,

and  beer tastings hosted by City Beverage.


Recap: Good for Me, Good for Us?

April 14th, 2013

GFMGFU-18The tension in addressing environmental issues is always: how can we solve environmental problems without harming our economy? On a more individual level, it is often about the personal sacrifices we must make to ensure a collective sustainable world.  The panel entitled Good for Me, Good for Us? addressed this tension with three distinct speakers: Julian Agyeman, Professor and Chair of Urban Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Services at University of the District of Columbia, and Larry Rasmussen, Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

I’ve now been to dozens of panels and events on sustainability, but this one was different. This conversation among the three panelists was the first I’ve seen to feature morality as a central component to sustainability. In this sense, there was no discussion of the effects of climate change or a debate on the problems of overfishing. Rather there was a genuine ethical conversation about the ways people can work together or individually to make changes to the system.

I found Dr. Agyeman’s discussion of a movement towards sharing economies to be the most fascinating. As an example, Agyeman explained that we don’t need to buy a power drill that we will only use once, but can instead borrow it from a tool-sharing network. Examples of sharing economies exist all over, whether it’s couch-surfing, bike-sharing or car-sharing programs like Zipcar. I came away from the event feeling a need to change the way I participate in our economic system, because every dollar I spend is a vote for the type of future I want. Senior Janak Padhiar reflected on Dr. Agyeman’s contributions, “I was particularly inspired and intrigued by the ways in which the notions of spatial justice and inter-culturalism are vital to progressive, diverse urban communities; cities require responsible planning and multiple mechanisms of innovation, technology, infrastructure, education, and civic planning to positively advance human equality.” All three speakers made mention of social justice and equality as keys to a sustainable future.

Dr. Sabine O’Hara spoke from a background in neo-classical economics, and gave a different perspective from a field that often lacks inclusion of environmental problems in its analysis. As a college dean at a land-grant university in an urban environment, O’Hara, brought attention to the fact that that universities must engage with local communities to create a more sustainable future. First-year student Lauren Formica enjoyed the holistic nature of the panel. She said, “each of these individuals can claim expertise in a field in which ethics and values come into play everyday.”

Dr. Larry Rasmussen spoke with urgency of the need to change the way our society functions, as he made reference to the tragedy of the commons. Rasmussen asked the key question, “Can capitalism be fully ecologized?” His critique of the economic system included mentions of social justice related to justice for nature. He left these questions open for students to ponder.

Often discussions of environmental issues rely too heavily on trying to hammer home the scientific facts about why we need to change our behaviors. This panel, however, took a more philosophical approach to enlighten students on the ways they can revolutionize and change our current economic system. Senior Emily Bachman appreciated the focus on equity and environmental justice. She explained, “I think this focus is vital in making the sustainability movement about all people, rather than a privilege of the wealthy.” I was inspired by the open, diverse views and discussion on this particular panel and struck by how it catered to several different areas of study and backgrounds.

Sanders McNair, Campus Garden Intern (’13)

Measuring Climate Change

March 14th, 2013

On March 6th, assistant professor of mathematics, Dr. Rob Erhardt, addressed a full room of eager listeners on the topic of global climate disruption.  His talk, sponsored by the Math Club and titled Measuring Climate Change, drew a crowd from across campus, including Dr. Erhardt’s fellow Mathematics faculty, students, and staff members from the Office of Sustainability and the Wake Forest Humanities Institute.

Dr. Erhardt hoped to achieve two goals through his talk: “I wanted to show the Math Club students one way they could apply their mathematical education and I wanted to give a general talk about the science of climate change [for other members of the audience].”


The equation used by Dr. Erhardt in Measuring Climate Change.

The talk began with basic definitions of the words climate and climate change.  Dr. Erhardt, a statistician himself, proudly pointed out that the American Meteorological Association defines climate change as “any systematic change in the long term statistics of climate events (such as temperature, pressure, or winds) sustained over several decades or longer.”

After defining terms, Dr. Erhardt laid out the talk’s single equation: a calculation of Earth’s temperature based on the interaction of solar energy received by the Earth, reflectivity (the degree to which Earth reflects solar energy), and emissivity (the degree to which of Earth’s atmosphere allows radiated solar energy to escape into space).

Dr. Erhardt explained that, while solar input remains roughly constant, both the reflectivity of Earth’s surface and the emissivity of Earth’s atmosphere can change.  As Dr. Erhardt pointed out, these factors have changed since the mid-20th century, resulting in an overall increase in global surface temperatures.  Dr. Erhardt cited the conclusions of the most recent report by the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and attributed most of the increase in global average temperature to human beings, who have increased the atmosphere’s concentration of greenhouse gasses, changing the atmosphere’s emissivity.

Dr. Erhardt went on to discuss how global climate models can predict how much temperatures will rise in the future based on different scenarios.  He also reviewed current research trends, which involve creating regional climate models and grappling with the difficulty of “single event attribution,” or attempts to take one particular extreme weather event (like a hurricane) and determine if the changed climate has increased the risk of such an event.

“Climate science can be intimidating.  I wanted to present the science in an accessible, friendly way”, says Dr. Erhardt.  He explains, “People have a general respect for scientists, but I want them to understand a little bit more about what climate scientists are actually doing, like where they are getting their data and how they are using it.”

On March 27th, Dr. Erhardt will deliver Measuring Climate Change at a brown bag lunch for the Biodiversity and Environmental Science group of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.

 By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability

Competition Motivates Students to Conserve

March 13th, 2013

CCNGet ready, get set, reduce!  This spring, students can join their peers around the nation in cutting down their electricity and water consumption during the Campus Conservation Nationals. With about 200 participating campuses, students compete against one another on each campus, and between campuses nationally.

Starting on March 18, at the kick-off event, students can sign up to participate.  During the first week of the three-week competition, students can sign up for efficiency assessments of their rooms. A volunteer EcoRep will come to each student’s room during the second week to survey their daily conservation habits and to teach them how to become even more efficient.  Students who sign up for an assessment at the kick-off event will get a free t-shirt.

In a battle of the residence halls, students at Wake Forest University will compete to reduce rates of consumption. The winners will be treated to a frozen yogurt party catered by Brynn’s and will have the satisfaction of doing their part to cut down energy consumption.  To stay updated on each building’s progress, individuals can visit buildingdashboard.net/wakeforest. The site allows students to learn more about different conservation habits and to commit to new, more efficient changes. Throughout the competition, residents will also learn more about the sources of our campus electricity and the effects our choices have on climate change.

The Campus Conservation Nationals brings to light the importance of conservation, and incentivizes the development of good habits. The national competition started three years ago.  Ravish Paul, the Energy Manager in the Office of Energy Management in Facilities and Campus Services, facilitates Wake Forest’s participation in the competition in partnership with Residence Life and Housing.  Junior Claire Nagy-Kato, an intern for the office of Energy Management, will lead this year’s efforts.

Claire encourages everyone to attend the kick-off event, where everyone can look forward to engaging in fun activities and enjoying free food. Participants will be able to trade in their incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient replacements and learn more about conservation opportunities.  She looks forward to seeing the effects of the competition on our campus because she sees it as a “good way to get students interested in something that is an important and pertinent issue.”

If you are interested in taking the next step in reducing consumption, contact Claire Nagy-Kato at and sign up to be a hall captain for Campus Conservation Nationals. The competition will end on April 7, 2013.

 By Kiana Courtney,   Office of Sustainability Communications and Outreach Intern