Wake Forest University

Service and Outreach Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Service and Outreach

Service and Outreach

The Office of Service and Social Action facilitates opportunities for students to connect to the community, serve others, and explore social justice issues. Through these experiences, students develop into engaged, reflective, and knowledgeable change agents in the global community.

Volunteer Service Corps is a student run organization dedicated to furthering the University’s motto of Pro Humanitate by engaging students, faculty, and staff in meaningful volunteer service.

The Campus Kitchen is a volunteer led food recycling program.  Participants fight food insecurity in Winston-Salem by working closely with partner agencies to redistribute  food donations from The Fresh Food Company and other partners.

The Institute for Public Engagement (IPE) is an academic center focused on connecting Wake Forest’s academic mission to the needs of our community.  IPE provides resources and support for students, faculty, staff, and members of the broader community seeking to realize the values implied by the University’s motto, Pro Humanitate.

WAB Trips Offer Re-Connections

April 2nd, 2014

Contributed by Alyshah Aziz (’16)

As a sophomore minoring in Environmental Studies, caring for the environment is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. Participating in the Knoxville, TN Wake Alternative Break trip served as an opportunity to reground my beliefs. Often, in our fast-moving technology-centered world, I have found myself becoming isolated from nature and its beauty.

Laura Coats and De’Noia Woods, recent WFU alumnae and current AmeriCorps members, hosted us in Knoxville and organized the activities for our trip. The heart of the work was service in areas of environmental conservation and waste reduction. Some service activities throughout the week consisted of packing Mobile Meals, laying the foundation for a disc golf course, carrying out a clean-up at Ijams Nature Sanctuary, working in an urban garden, and clearing more privet than I have seen in my entire life!

Our venture to the Queen City of the Mountains was quite unique compared to any other service trip I have experienced. Each WAB trip has a specific focus – some are more people-centered than others. For me, the WAB trip inspired the process of questioning, fostered independence, and allowed me to reconnect with nature. As a society, we benefit from many ecosystem services. Our unique adventures each day allowed me to see the raw beauty nature humbly provides for us. The primary goal was to help heal the physical environment. In turn, the hope is that the healthy environment is able to serve both humans and other living beings.

The work allowed time to think and to reconnect with our gracious hosts, Laura and De’Noia. It was interesting to hear their experiences during freshman and sophomore years at Wake, and find the similarities with my own experiences. Since Laura and I were both former EcoReps, she shared with me that she originally joined AmeriCorps with the hope that it would be similar to the EcoReps program we have on campus. Although she found her position in AmeriCorps working with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to be different from what she expected, it is still a very enriching experience.

As a current sophomore I have begun starting to ponder: Where do I see myself after I receive my four-year degree from Wake Forest? What people would I like to be surrounded by? While working in Pond Gap Elementary’s Garden, something Laura said really hit home. She shared that she has never been a part of a group of such like-minded individuals before. Transitioning from an EcoRep to an intern with the Office of Sustainability, I strongly feel that I have been able to better find my niche on campus through my encounters with students, faculty, and staff. I have met many interesting and refreshing students in my Environmental Studies minor courses and have been introduced to new activities, events, and perspectives to which I otherwise might not have been exposed.

I came to the realization that although many of my peers might not consider themselves environmentalists, we are the generation that consciously bikes more, drives less, promotes carpooling, and actively searches for local foods. My goals and values have solidified through my WAB experience; although I came into the trip with a passion for the environment, being able to interact with the environment in different ways each day was a refreshing experience. The beauty, strength, and wisdom of Nature never cease to amaze me, and I will always treasure these opportunities.

Diving into Conservation

February 24th, 2014

scubaContributed by Pam Denish (’15)

Last fall, I studied abroad in Bonaire, a small island in the southern Caribbean. The program focused on coral reef ecology and tropical marine conservation. I chose the program because I have always been passionate about marine biology and conservation, and I knew it would give me first-hand research experience in a beautiful location. Throughout the program I spent a lot of time SCUBA diving and learning about different marine ecosystems, the species that inhabit them, how human activities are threatening the oceans, and what can be done to protect them.

Among the most shocking of my experiences were beach clean-ups, during which we collected trash and disposed of it in the island’s sole waste management site. Many of the locations we cleaned were not popular recreational areas, but rocky shores and dense marshes. These places were overwhelmed by trash that had washed ashore from the ocean. I couldn’t help but think that if this much trash had been washed ashore, there must be much more still circulating in the oceans.

These trash collections caused me and my classmates to consider how we could encourage the public to reduce the amount of trash they throw away and teach them why it is important. We hosted a children’s environmental fair with booths showing the life in the oceans as well as suggestions for easy ways to reduce our impact, including recycling and creative ways to repurpose trash. We had an arts and crafts station where we made wallets and Christmas ornaments out of old boxes, and snow globes out of jars; the children were amazed by how many fun things could be made from trash. We also distributed flyers about how to reduce trash output by using reusable shopping bags and purchasing groceries with minimum packaging.

Another rewarding experience was the work I did once a week with children from a local after-school program designed to keep kids off the street. Through snorkeling activities and games, we taught them the basics about coral reefs and how humans affect the reefs. It was fun to see the kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm each week. I truly believe that if we can inspire children to care about sustainability and protecting the environment, then we have the ability to preserve and restore many beautiful and important ecosystems.

Going abroad enriched my life in many ways, and continues to do so. Not only did I get to experience and learn about my passion – the ocean – but I also learned that we have the power and responsibility to protect our environment. We are inextricably linked to the earth, and it is to our own benefit that we learn to live sustainably and protect it. This experience abroad imbued me with the spirit of helping the community to protect the environment and it definitely channeled the familiar and beloved spirit of Pro Humanitate.

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.

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.

Book Collection at WFU Tops 8,000 lbs

June 26th, 2013

betterworldbooks-gifAs 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 B Corporation. 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

Summer Interns Serve Winston-Salem

June 24th, 2013
photo (31)

David Hale (’15) prepares to deliver to the SECU House

Summer isn’t necessarily a vacation for Wake Forest students.  From late May to early August, The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest, a student-run service organization, maintains full operations, serving 154 meals per week to underserved members of the Winston-Salem community.  Unlike during the spring and fall, when Campus Kitchen is run by a six-member executive board and a 24-member leadership team, during the summer three interns are at the helm of one of Wake Forest’s flagship service organizations.

The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University is an affiliate of the Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization dedicated to fighting hunger and reducing waste through food recycling programs on college campuses.  The Campus Kitchen model takes surplus prepared (but never served) meals from campus dining facilities and distributes these meals to partner agencies serving local communities.  In addition to this basic model, the Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University partners with the Fresh Market, rescuing edible produce and baked goods and delivering  the food in bulk to agencies serving populations with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University also partners with the Campus Garden, incorporating fresh, campus-grown produce into balanced meals.

Brittany Forniotis (’15), David Hale (’15), John Iskander (’16), and Monica Hedge (’14) make up the summer 2013 team of Campus Kitchen interns.  Brittany, who is also spending her summer conducting original research on American slave narratives, splits five cooking shifts and five food delivery shifts with David, a premedical student who is also currently conducting summer research.  John serves as the Fresh Market intern, running five food rescue shifts per week and researching the feasibility of food trucks as a means of increasing access to nutritious food. Monica will replace Brittany as one of the cooking and delivery interns for the second half of the summer.

According to the Campus Kitchens Project’s national guidelines, all meals must include a protein, a vegetable, a starch, and a dessert.  Because there are fewer students on campus during the summer, the Fresh Food Company has less surplus food to donate to Campus Kitchen, so the interns must creatively combine resources to meet the organization’s standards.  Brittany, who plans many of the summer menus, relies heavily on produce grown in the WFU Campus Garden.  Most recently, she and summer volunteers prepared a huge salad with roasted beets, greens, and beet greens from the Campus Garden.

David, who served the salad at the SECU Family House, an agency providing housing for the families of patients who travel to Winston-Salem for medical treatment, reports “Everyone is always really happy when I say we grew these beets in our Campus Garden…they were so impressed that it was full circle, that we are using what we have and being sustainable.”

Partner agencies rely on Campus Kitchen to stay open during the summer, but David explains that the summer also provides an opportunity to reach new volunteers.  He says “it is also important for us to educate volunteers, whether they are at a summer camp here, faculty and staff, or just anyone in the Winston-Salem area, to realize that [food insecurity] is an important issue in our region that many people don’t know about.” He also explains that bringing new volunteers into Campus Kitchen “is really about removing the stigma from certain areas [of Winston-Salem] or the stereotypes someone might associate with a particular type of person.”

In the context of cooking shifts, Brittany takes care to talk to volunteers about “where the food is going, what sort of people are receiving the food, and what sort of health problems they might have.”  She explains the intentional choices she makes based on the population being served, such as sending reduced dessert portions and low-salt meals to senior housing where many residents suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

In the context of delivery shifts, David explains the goal of a particular partner agency and how food from Campus Kitchen fits into that goal.  For instance, at Prodigals Community, a faith-based drug rehabilitation facility, David explains to volunteers how the Sunday night meal provided by Campus Kitchen allows Prodigals to allocate funds towards programs that facilitate residents’ recovery.

When asked what the Campus Kitchen needs from the Wake Forest community this summer, the interns offer a single emphatic answer: volunteers.  David says “We need people who are willing to be flexible, to try something new…to go out of their comfort zone, to get out of the Wake Forest bubble and realize that these places exist in Winston-Salem.”

To volunteer for Campus Kitchen, contact Brittany Forniotis at .

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

Faces of Sustainability: Sarah Mason

March 1st, 2013

Sarah MasonDr. Sarah Mason wanted answers to her questions about sustainability.  A mathematician by profession, it felt obvious to think about her questions mathematically.

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

EcoReps lead change at Wake Forest

January 30th, 2013

ecorepsFNLSOLIDPeer education, long a well-loved tool in the field of public health, has inspired curiosity from sustainability advocates in recent years.  As research in psychology and marketing continues to affirm that environmental awareness alone does not result in environmentally preferable behavior changes, those seeking to foster sustainable behaviors hope to tap into the power of peer influence to affect necessary change.

On campuses across the United States, groups of peer educators, many of whom operate under the title EcoReps, are pioneering peer education programs in collegiate settings.  Wake Forest University’s own re-imagined EcoReps program, launched in the fall of 2012, is off to a promising start.

Last fall the EcoReps kicked off the semester by giving a presentation at the Monday Talks series hosted by the Health and Exercise Science Department.  Their presentation, titled “A Day in the Life of a Sustainable Student” highlighted the surprising impacts and perks of adopting simple behaviors, like using a reusable water bottle or shopping at thrift stores.

The EcoReps also played an integral role in Energy Bowl 2012, where they performed personalized room assessments and staffed kiosks promoting the competition.  In addition, the EcoReps performed educational outreach at events hosted by the Office of Sustainability, Outdoor Pursuits, Residence Life and Housing, and Campus Dining.

Through their participation in the program, EcoReps earn points towards a Peer Educator for Sustainability certification.  The Office of Sustainability designed this 100-point certification to ensure that EcoReps develop both sustainability literacy and outreach skills, which are crucial for their success as peer-to-peer educators and future sustainability professionals.   Lauren Formica, a first year student, became the first EcoRep to complete the Peer Educator for Sustainability certification at the end of last semester.

This spring the EcoReps gave an expanded version of their Day in the Life presentation as part of the Monday Talks series on January 28th. They will also present at the Sustainability Theme House’s weekly spaghetti supper on February 21st.

Delegates from the Wake Forest EcoReps program will head to a regional conference for EcoReps in the Southeast in February.  In March, the EcoReps will support the Campus Conservation Nationals competition sponsored by the Office of Energy Management.

For more information on how to become an EcoRep, email .   Enrollment in the program closes on February 14th.

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

Call for Volunteers: Go Deacs. Go Green. campaign enters third season

August 30th, 2012

Go Deacs. Go Green., a partnership effort between Wake Forest Athletics and the Office of Sustainability, enters its third year with the kickoff of this season’s football game day recycling campaign.  Beginning this Saturday, September 1st, with Wake Forest’s game against Liberty University, volunteers will work to ensure recyclables stay out of the landfill whenever the Demon Deacons play at home.  Over the course of last season, volunteers collected nearly 7 tons of recyclables and this year the campaign aims for even greater rates of diversion.

Volunteers are a vital to the success of game-day recycling.  Before the school year even got going, participants in SPARC, a pre-orientation program run by the Office of Service and Social Action, helped refresh the program’s tailgate recycling bins with new paint and campaign stickers.  On each home-game day, three shifts of volunteers distribute recycling bins to tailgating lots, educate fans on proper recycling, and collect full bins after fans enter the stadium.  Both the first and second shifts end before kick-off and the third shift ends only about half an hour into the game.

The Deacon Express game-day shuttle begins running four hours before kick-off, picking up in the parking lot on the East side of Wait Chapel and dropping off at the Indoor Tennis facility near BB&T field on 32nd street. In the spirit of going green, volunteers are encouraged to ride the shuttle.  Volunteers who are unable to access the shuttle can alternatively obtain a volunteer parking pass from the Office of Sustainability.  Those who participate in the game-day efforts also receive a Green Team t-shirt.

Game-day recycling is an excellent residence hall activity or service opportunity for a campus organization.  We also welcome individuals and students looking to fulfill community service hours.

To participate, contact game-day recycling intern, Austin Smith at . Check out the Wake Forest Athletics site to find dates for all home games.

LENS brings sustainability into focus

August 21st, 2012

This summer thirty-two rising high school juniors and seniors participated in LENS @ Wake Forest, an annual three-week college immersion program.  For the three years since its inception, LENS @ Wake Forest has taken sustainability as a guiding theme, examining political, economic, social, and legal issues.  Learning took place both inside and outside the classroom, with seminars and presentations given by Wake Forest faculty and excursions to a local farm and to Reynolda House Museum. Students studied rhetoric, honed their writing skills and learned to craft effective presentations. Leigh Stanfield, Director for Global Auxiliary Programs in the Provost’s Office for Global Affairs, organized the program.  Dr. Michelle Klosterman of the Education Department and Dr. Ryan Shirey of the Writing Program served as primary faculty.  ZSR Librarians Hu Womack and Bobbie Collins partnered with LENS to teach participants research skills.

Connor Covello, a rising high school senior from Long Island, appreciated the wide variety of viewpoints incorporated into the program.  He reported “whatever I do, say its business, I will seek to render my business as sustainable as possible; you can incorporate sustainability into anything.”

LENS (which stands for Learn, Experience, Navigate, Solve) culminated with student presentations of their group projects for a Community Partner.  Project development took place over three weeks and involved meeting with Community Partners, eliciting advice from experts on campus, and extensive research.

In addition to getting a taste of rigorous academics, 2012 LENS participants also enjoyed the more relaxed aspects of college life, eating dinner downtown and playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad.  Participants stayed in South Hall, a LEED-certified first-year residence hall, where they kept track of each room’s energy use on a building dashboard monitor.  For Connor, a fun highlight of LENS was a toga party in the South Hall media room, where the group celebrated the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  While learning objectives are central to LENS, friendships between participants and connections built with faculty have enduring value.   When asked what he will walk away with from the LENS experience, Connor reported he now has an idea of what college life is like, an awareness of sustainability issues, and a number of good friends he will surely miss.

By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow

To find out more about this year’s LENS@Wake Forest experience, read this article published by the WFU NewsCenter.