Sustainability in the Workplace
Looking for a way to incorporate sustainability into your workplace? Get your department or office involved by joining the Green Team Network. The Green Team Network is a campus-wide initiative that empowers faculty and staff to integrate sustainability through education, support, and collaboration.
Faculty members seeking academic resources can visit the Academics page for information about the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability and the annual Sustainability across the Curriculum workshop.
Looking for immediate solutions? Check out these how-to guides:
- How to recycle on campus
- How to print sustainably
- How to make a sustainable purchase
- How to use technology more sustainably
- How to plan sustainable events
- How to register a carpool
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
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.
Eleven 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
A few years ago I happened upon an intriguing article written about an indigenous tribe nestled deep in the amazon forest. Some members of this tribe, as far as researchers can gather, have never had any substantial, meaningful contact with the modern world. Observed only from a distance, the Awa know nothing of the cultural and historical events that have shaped our collective understanding of Western reality. For subsistence, they depend on profoundly nuanced relationships to the natural systems that support them, and have amassed an extensive and intimate body of knowledge about flora, fauna, climate, and geology that the Western world has all but lost. The plight of the Awa, who are under constant threat from global agribusinesses, inspire questions about how differently our two cultures engage reality, an interface with the more-than-human world that we commonly, but erroneously, think of as universal. If we could talk to them, would they be able to teach us something profound about our human relationships to the environment? Or would our two realities be so incompatible that any real communication would be impossible? What precisely have we lost—and have long since forgotten about—in our efforts to insulate ourselves from nature? To explore these questions, I designed a writing and critical thinking course that would engage students in a semester-long philosophical inquiry, one that would ask them to methodically examine their lives, their perceptions, and their relationships to the more-than-human world – Thinking Like a Mountain: Environmental Sustainability in an Age of Mass Distraction.
Although generally successful, I realized after a few semesters of teaching the course that something was missing. Something practical. Something concrete. Other than reevaluating their perceptions and their lives, how might students effect change in a world that flirts quite closely with global environmental collapse? On cue, enter Wake Forest University’s Magnolias Curriculum Project. Through this project, and with the help of some very knowledgeable peers (Luke Johnston and Sarah Mason especially), I redesigned the course to incorporate a hands-on approach to local and global sustainability issues. The students in the course maintain their scholarly pursuit of academic writing and environmental philosophy. But now they ground their inquiries by exploring and writing about Wake Forest’s many sustainability initiatives, from the Campus Kitchen and the Campus Garden to the Sustainability Theme House, recycling, LEED certification, and energy conservation. Although I am in the middle of the first semester with this redesigned course, the results are palpable. Wake Forest students strive for a balance between their interior lives and the demands of the material world that surrounds them. As such, the course empowers them to connect their desires for positive, mindful change with realistic, real-world opportunities.
By Dr. Eric Stottlemyer, Magnolias Project Participant 2013
As of May 2013, students, faculty, and staff on the Reynolda campus have collected and donated a cumulative 8000 pounds of books to Better World Books, an online bookstore, social enterprise, and BCorporation. Founded in 2002, Better World Books has raised nearly $15 million for global literacy projects, including $7.3 million for literacy and education nonprofits and $7.2 million for libraries nationwide. Since its founding, the organization has re-used or recycled over 146 million pounds of books – that’s over 100 million books.
At Wake Forest, we began collecting books for donation to Better World Books in 2009. Our students donate an average of approximately 2000 pounds of books during move-out each year. Collection boxes are placed in the bookstore, making it convenient for students to donate the books that the bookstore isn’t able to buy back.
From time to time, faculty members also clean out their offices and clear off their bookshelves. Several have opted to donate their unwanted books to Better World Books. The process is simple: the Office of Sustainability delivers boxes to a departmental liaison; once the boxes are packed and taped, the office prints and delivers pre-paid UPS labels and the boxes are picked up for shipping. We cannot accept textbooks that are more than ten years old. Instead, those can be recycled locally.
Better World Books sells some of the donated books online and returns a portion of the proceeds to the programs it supports. For the first time this year, Better World Books invited Wake Forest to designate a local literacy partner to support. We chose the Augustine Project for Literacy’s Literate Girls program, a unique tutoring program that supports low-income girls with learning differences in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.
For more information about Wake Forest’s relationship with Better World Books or how you can get boxes for an office clean-out, contact the Office of Sustainability at or at ext. 3328.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Laughter abounded at last month’s Green Team Quarterly meeting, as Bridget Marrs playfully briefed the Green Team captains on the dos and don’ts of workplace ergonomics. The Green Team, a network of staff and faculty who advocate for the integration of sustainability into their departments’ daily operations, listened closely to Marrs, the Occupational Health, Safety, and Training Coordinator from Wake Forest Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), and made note of information they could bring back to their own offices.
Ergonomics is an applied science that focuses on finding optimal fit between workers and their work environments. An ergonomically sound work environment operates to minimize work-related injuries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), or ergonomic injuries, account for 33% of all illness and injury cases that result in missed days of work, making ergonomic considerations critical for the financial sustainability of any institution.
In her presentation, Marrs emphasized that ergonomic improvements were possible on any budget and creating an ergonomically sound workplace was often a matter of creatively rearranging what someone already has in place. For those who wanted to see ergonomic work space options in person, Marrs informed the Green Team of the EHS ergonomics lab, located at 2430 A, Reynolda Rd. The lab, opened on April 16th of this year, is set up for visitors to “test drive” different systems.
After the presentation, fourteen Green Team members scheduled personal ergonomics assessments. These assessments, also conducted by Marrs, are free to all Wake Forest staff members. If you would like to schedule a visit to the ergonomics lab or a personal ergonomics assessment, contact Bridget Marrs at .
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability
The University Corporate Center now has three parking spaces dedicated to electric vehicles. Parking and Transportation installed outlets at these spaces, allowing Wake Forest staff to charge up during the work day. Alex Crist, the director of Parking and Transportation, explains “the decision to dedicate three spaces was instrumental in a couple employees making the decision to purchase an electric vehicle, as they wanted to ensure the vehicle could be charged during the day.”
Electric vehicles convert about 59–62% of electrical energy to power at the wheels, while conventional automobiles only convert about 17–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels. In addition to being more energy efficient, electric vehicles are quieter and produce no exhaust emissions (although there are emissions associated with the production of electric power).
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability
Behind every green building, there is a team of designers and builders who imagined and built it. For several buildings at Wake Forest, Paul Borick is an important member of that team. Borick is a Registered Architect and Senior Project Manager for WFU Facilities & Campus Services. He manages design and construction projects anywhere from $1,000 to over $50 million.
This Senior Project Manager incorporates sustainability into both his work and daily life. The majority of the larger capital projects that he manages are designed to meet at least LEED Silver certification. With this standard, design and construction of facilities must consider all facets of sustainability in buildings and site selection.
The new residence halls and dining hall on the North campus are no exception to this standard. As one of his favorite LEED projects thus far, he believes that the new residence halls feature many important sustainable design features. In particular, an air driven mechanical system, will help alleviate bad-smelling fan coils and satisfy residents climatic requirements while saving energy. He is also excited to show off the new glass solar canopy trellis at the new North Dining Hall. Ultimately, he hopes that “the solar trellis will make people think: ‘I could do that. That would look great on my back patio or maybe on the facade of a building I may commission or design in the future.’ Seeing technology like this displayed prominently may inspire people to think of other ways to use technology, such as tidal power or the moons gravitational forces to generate power.”
Mr. Borick is a strong supporter of photovoltaic technology. He is currently lobbying for for the installation of a solar canopy on our facilities building. “What better place to show off this technology than right next to our power plant?” he asks. The project could help power our campus, while inspiring others to be more sustainable. Borick says, “I really do feel it is the future solution to all of our energy needs. I have this vision of producing power all day with solar energy and then turning it into hydrogen and then using hydrogen to fuel our cars, homes and factories. When hydrogen is burned, all it produces is water — kind of a win-win.”
In addition to his work on campus, Paul Borick has grown up to incorporate sustainable decisions in his everyday life. “I think I have always thought of myself as kind of an ‘earth man.’ I feel we have been put on this planet to be good stewards for all of God’s creations,” Borick says. “I think this mindset comes from early hiking and Boy Scout experience. I always strive to leave things better than I found them. That goes for something as little as picking up a piece of trash to making sure we leave things in good order for generations to come.” As a promoter of being a good steward to the Earth, Borick is also a bit of a recycling junkie. While the north campus project has recycled about 85% of its construction and demolition waste, he also prides himself on his recycling bin always being fuller than the trash bin.
As we move towards a more sustainable future, Mr. Borick encourages everyone to think through their decisions more completely: “I always like to remind people to think about the final outcome. Did I do the most good using as few resources as I could? I think that is why I am such a big solar technology fan because other than the production of the PV itself the impact to the environment is somewhat minimal.” His final words of encouragement for living a sustainable life are to “never forget the little things like turning off a light when no one is around or turning off a dripping faucet. Use one paper towel instead of two. If everyone does that just think how big the impact can be.
Written by Kiana Courtney, Communications and Outreach Intern
As she began to examine questions about life-cycle analysis and resource efficiency, she says “I realized…to get a sense of what’s going on, you can use fairly simple math. I decided that would be a great place to bring in students, to give them the confidence to apply straightforward mathematics to analyze complex situations.”
This urge to combine a personal passion for sustainability with her career resulted in Dr. Mason’s first-year seminar, Counting on Sustainable Energy: Does it Add Up?, which she is currently teaching for a second time this spring. The simple addition, multiplication, and conversion involved in the course are far from her traditional research field of combinatorics, but Dr. Mason’s course demonstrates how “pretty basic mathematics can be used to do some powerful things.”
Counting on Sustainable Energy fosters a greater understanding of alternative energy and arms students with the ability to critically evaluate assertions about the relative environmental impacts of various fuel sources. “One of the biggest things that I want my students to get out of this class is getting comfortable taking claims and evaluating them for themselves. If someone says something is better for the environment, I want my students to be able to go home and verify that claim.”
Over the course of a semester, Dr. Mason’s students will investigate a wide array of alternative energy sources, including solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal. They will examine how much energy these sources could produce on Wake Forest’s campus and how much energy a Wake Forest student consumes each day. By the end of the semester, students will find an answer to the course’s central question: Could we, with our current consumption patterns, rely on sustainable energy at Wake Forest University? If the answer is yes, students will explain exactly how a switch to sustainable energy might be feasible in their final paper. If the answer is no, students will lay out a plan to reduce energy consumption.
Much of Dr. Mason’s FYS is hands-on. Her students began the course by measuring their own electricity consumption with a Kill-a-watt, an exercise designed to give them an idea of scale when they use the watt or kilowatt hour (kWh) as a unit of measure. Recently, her students completed the construction of miniature wind turbines, an exercise designed to familiarize them with the mechanics of wind energy. As part of their final project, students will develop and staff interactive educational booths at Food for Thought, this spring’s Earth Day celebration for the Wake Forest community.
In addition to readings and class projects, Counting on Sustainable Energy includes a line-up of guest speakers, including a representative from Volt energy (the company responsible for the solar panels on The Barn) and an environmental engineer working in wind turbine installation. Students will visit a land fill and a geothermal installation. So far, Dr. Mason’s students have matched an impressive syllabus with impressive work product. Dr. Mason reports her students are highly motivated by the subject matter, explaining “because they are passionate about [sustainability], they are willing to do the leg work.”
The latest version of Counting on Sustainability is a result of Dr. Mason’s participation in the Magnolias Project, a WFU faculty workshop on integrating sustainability across the curriculum. An assigned reading on the moral ecology of everyday life (from Higher Education for Sustainability) inspired Dr. Mason to take the focus of Counting on Sustainability from a national level down to a campus level; her students have benefited from an opportunity to relate to their course material directly.
Not only did the Magnolias Project allow Dr. Mason to refine her syllabus, she also made valuable connections to faculty from different disciplines. This network continues to be source of ideas and feedback, which Dr. Mason finds particularly valuable as a mathematician teaching a writing-intensive course. This spring, she will co-lead the second iteration of the Magnolias Project with Dr. Lucas Johnston, a faculty member in the Religion department and another member of the Magnolias Project’s first cohort.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mason also integrates sustainability into her life beyond the classroom. When moving to Winston-Salem, she intentionally purchased a home within walking distance from campus and often uses a bicycle for transportation. An avid hiker, she partially attributes her interest in sustainability to a love of the outdoors, saying “I love hiking and I really value being able to explore untouched places. I worry our society is moving towards less and less of these beautiful, spectacular places.”
A passion for sustainability runs in Dr. Mason’s family. The environmental engineer who spoke to her class about wind turbines was her father and her brother is an urban planner, currently tackling solutions for mass transit in developing countries. Her brother also helped her tackle a compost bin project in her backyard and Dr. Mason plans to put her compost to good use this year. She muses “I love being able to go out and make a salad with ingredients straight from my backyard, there is something really satisfying about that.”
Dr. Mason’s academic innovation is possible through the generous support of the university, for which she is continually grateful. Her students are equivalently grateful for Dr. Mason, especially those like sophomore Caroline Waco, whose experience in Dr. Mason’s FYS last year inspired her to do independent research on the factors impacting the payback period for solar photovoltaic panels. Dr. Mason explains that her promotion of sustainability at Wake Forest naturally flows from her interest in the topic. She says “I’ve always believed in following my passions, and hopefully that leads to a strong contribution to my community.”
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability
Campus sustainability efforts often begin with Environmental Health and Safety enforcement. Without first addressing the environmental and safety regulations that protect
our resources and our overall health and safety, we would not be able to create sustainability goals and programs that take us beyond compliance. The men and women of the Wake Forest Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) provide the foundation for our campus sustainability work.
The office navigates federal, state, and local regulatory compliance requirements by assessing possible hazards, risks, and unsafe working conditions; defining the applicable environmental health and safety programs; and implementing those programs, when necessary. These include hazardous waste management, the development of procedures to protect employees in hazardous or potentially hazardous work environments on campus, conducting training for employees and students on safe practices, and ensuring that mechanical devices are working properly for the protection of students and faculty while working with chemicals. In these operations, EH&S partners with departments such as chemistry, physics, biology, nanotechnology, health and exercise science, art, theater, athletics, and other departments within Facilities and Campus Services.
Through these programs, campus not only complies with the regulations, but also moves towards a more sustainable future. We e-interviewed Michelle Lennon, Director of EH&S to learn more about her office’s work on campus.
Of the things that you have accomplished as an office, of what are you most proud?
We conducted an environmental compliance audit with a third party auditor in 2008. There were findings such as how we collect our chemical waste in certain laboratories, labeling, training, etc. We disclosed our findings to the EPA and corrected the findings within an agreed period with the EPA. Since that audit, we have worked with our campus partners in ensuring that the programs developed for the university to maintain compliance are working and working well. We have developed an environmental management system (EMS) that keeps track of scheduled compliance requirements such as reports, training, reviews, etc.
Another proud accomplishment of EHS is our Space Hazard Assessment Program for the university. EHS works closely with space owners such as laboratory PIs (Principle Investigators) or maintenance workshops to identify hazards within that space. Based upon the existing hazards or potential hazards, EHS will work with the space owner to ensure that the occupants are safe when working in that space. Another great accomplishment for EHS is the online training program that is accessible on our web page. For example, the training requirements for laboratories can be completed by taking the “e-training and completing a short quiz.” This is far better than the traditional method of delivering training by calling everyone into a classroom for an hour. E-training is flexible to the person who completes the training. It allows flexibility for the people to take the training without ever leaving their desk.
Does your office have any input during the construction of new buildings, or upon their completion?
Yes. We work with the University Architect and project managers during the design phase of new construction.
What are some of the ways we can prevent the growth of mold inside our buildings?
As mold growth is identified, it is removed and the area of the growth is cleaned. What everyone needs to keep in mind, is that mold spores are all around us. We do not live in an environment where there are not mold spores present. The key is to understand what causes mold growth in buildings and what you can do to reduce the opportunity for growth. Please refer to the Mold Management Plan on our website for more information.
What are some of the greatest challenges that you all have faced as an office?
The change of mindset is at the top of the list. It is complicated at times to convince people to invest in their own safety. I had a great mentor tell me years ago, that the biggest challenge for EHS professionals is tell people and ensure them that “I am here to protect you from yourself.”
What are some the steps that people could take to be more responsible and even make your jobs a bit easier? We recommend that people buy products with long life cycles, encourage product replacement with less hazardous environmental and safety consequences, reduce usage of extremely hazardous substances, and be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention for your safety and the safety of others.
By Kiana Courtney, Communications and Outreach Intern