Wake Forest University

Food For Thought - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Sharing Perspectives across Disciplines

May 20th, 2014

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

Inaugural Champions of Change Awards

May 6th, 2014

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.

Click to view more photos from the ceremony.

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 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.

Love the World You’re With – Earth Day 2014

April 29th, 2014

14006395201_4010fa791b_zCare for self, care for community, and care for all life on the planet: this year’s WFU Earth Day Fair offered opportunities to explore connections and find inspiration to make a difference.

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.

Check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for photos from the Champions of Change awards ceremony and the WFU Earth Day Fair.

Toxic Drift Discussion with Pete Daniel

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.

Tu B’Shevat – A Blossoming Partnership

February 10th, 2014

ruOn January 23, Wake Forest Hillel, the Office of Sustainability, and Landscaping Services joined together for our third annual celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees.

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 

Anderson Helps Recognize Best Practices

December 10th, 2013

Marcus Wright, WFU award recipient

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.”

2013 Winners

  • 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


Social Impact Career Workshop Series

December 9th, 2013
EcoReps participate in Choose to Reuse @ Hit the Bricks

EcoReps participate in Think Green Thursday

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

The Real Price of Gold

November 4th, 2013

Photo courtesy of the CAMEP.

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

Are You a Champion?

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.

Sustainability Sings in the Music City

October 28th, 2013

AASHE 2013Just as fall started to peek its vibrant head around the corner, I ventured over to the music city with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Director of Sustainability, and Megan Anderson, Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, to attend the 2013 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.

This year, the annual conference, which moves around the nation, attracted over 1,700 attendees. Held in the new Music City Center in downtown Nashville, a LEED silver-certified guitar shaped conference center, the energy of the city reverberated in conference attendees, including me.

As only a second-year attendee, it was an exciting opportunity to indulge in the visionary ideas presented by internationally acclaimed sustainability leaders, including Raj Patel and George Bandy, to attend a few thought-provoking workshops, and to connect with colleagues from around the world.

Members of the Southeastern Sustainability Coordinators Network congregated for dinner one evening at a local hotspot in revitalized East Nashville. It was nice to reconnect with other sustainability professionals and to meet some faculty and students from the region, who are not typically involved in the network’s regular meetings.

AASHE 2013 was also a bright reminder of the impact higher education makes in the development of a more sustainable world. With universities the size of towns and university systems larger than entire states, operational changes for sustainability translate to multi-scalar resource conservation and policy development opportunities. Curricular and co-curricular commitments to education for sustainability generate change agents with the necessary critical thinking and leadership skills to lead the societal transformation.

As a silver rated campus in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, Wake Forest embodies these opportunities: our students and faculty are developing and applying research that is stimulating change at home and in the places they work around the world. Our commitment to Pro Humanitate through service and social action demonstrates our leadership for the betterment of humanity. WFU’s influence in the field was evident to conference attendees as Dedee was the master of ceremony for the conference and co-lead both pre-conference and conference workshops.

What boost of energy the conference-catered coffee failed to provide, our colleagues offered through shared stories, new ideas, and inspired laughs. After all, if a conference in the music city doesn’t make you come back with a little honky tonk in your sustainability step, then maybe you should keep on walking.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator