Wake Forest University

Stewardship Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest



Wake Forest University encourages all members of the campus community to take responsibility for the interdependent environmental, economic, and social consequences of their actions.

News Related to Stewardship

Sustaining Life, Ideas & Communities

February 25th, 2014

ApplesContributed by Jenny Miller (’14)

Fresh students are being sown this spring as the new course, Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability roots itself into the curriculum of Wake Forest University. Under the leadership of Professor Lynn Book, Dr. Angela Kocze and Dr. Wanda Balzano, students narrow their focus on female entrepreneurs as today’s largest and fastest growing minority group in agriculture. Students work with community partners of the Innovators in Residence program which highlights local entrepreneurs of the Piedmont region.

The course’s primary Innovators in Residence collaborators, Margret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, cultivated their farm, Beta Verde, where they grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables that are used for garden-to-table suppers at their home in Winston-Salem and are sold as delicious jams, pickles, and syrups. These “home sown” heroines also founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market which accepts EBT and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, providing a greater opportunity for people to have access to good food. These mother/daughter ventures provide insights that allow Margaret and Salem to serve as guides in matters of food traditions and food justice, regional economies, cultural diversity and environmental stewardship. It is through such symbiosis that the interdisciplinary course of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability has been able to help students better understand how women are impacting local and global communities while simultaneously forming a greater connection with food and place by learning beyond the gates of our own Forest.

The course will be hosting a collection of events throughout the spring semester that bring knowledge from the surrounding communities back to campus. The convivial environment of the course’s first event, SEED, was held last Wednesday on February 19th, and encouraged a certain quality of shared experience around food. This helped break the “busy” schedules of the Wake Forest community by providing an hour and a half of close conversation, local food tastings, live music, and shared stories. Margaret and Salem spoke of their love for people and place nurtured and sustained through their good food ventures. Together, they stressed the importance of sustaining a sense of place not only by protecting an area for the future, but also for the reclamation of an environment. The women addressed how the heritage of the Piedmont region was once previously occupied by apples which held a central place in the ecology of the land. The message of SEED focused on the importance of the restoration of these indigenous seeds if our community wishes to sustain the Piedmont land forward and to live in concert with an optimal environment that provides access to good foods. Working to make something that is close to disappearing abundant again is not an easy task.  The notion that all regional schools, colleges, and universities could choose their own variety of apple trees to be planted on their respective grounds was offered by Margaret and Salem as one example of attaining this goal.

Through the creative collaboration of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability and the Innovators in Residence program, a “biodiversity for the future” is encouraged that requires awareness and vigilance. This future envisions a change in dismissive and unthinking action towards a shared inspiration for students, administrators, and members of the Piedmont community to cultivate and protect the resources under our feet by reclaiming, stewarding, and taking pleasure in good food as a fundamental right for all people.

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.

A Theological Approach to Sustainability

January 28th, 2014

When thinking about theological education, sustainability might not be the first word that comes to mind. The Wake Forest Divinity School, however, is currently adopting some changes that will influence sustainability learning outcomes for their students.

At the end of the spring 2013 semester, a group of Divinity School faculty participated in a retreat centered around the question “What would it look like to have a curriculum that takes full advantage of the places where we are located?” The result will be a gradual transformation of the curriculum to reflect what many refer to as a “place-based” education. By definition, place-based education is rooted in the unique culture, history, and ecology of the community.

The Divinity School has since introduced new courses that take full advantage of the place where we are located. For instance, in a class on worship and liturgy, in which the professor teaches about baptisms and communion, the students have been able to connect these sacred rituals to the place in which they are located. The class began with a trip to the Salem Creek, followed by a visit to the Water Treatment Plant. Divinity School Dean Gail O’Day notes that these trips aid the students in viewing water in a different way; they begin to think about the water theologically and have a newfound appreciation for it as a resource. The class also took visits to a community garden and a local winery in order to fully understand these resources from cultural, ecological, and theological perspectives.

This unusual approach to graduate education appears to be incredibly beneficial in several different ways. As expected, taking advantage of the “place” element of education has a positive impact on the students’ learning and in their preparation as leaders who understand issues members of their communities are facing.  Jill Crainshaw, professor of worship and liturgical theology, explains that effective religious leaders must be “deeply immersed in and knowledgeable about the people, history, and patterns of the particular places where they serve.” This curricular approach emphasizes the importance of a connection and understanding with the surrounding community, in hopes that they will take this strong foundation with them to the communities where they will serve in the future. According to Dean O’Day, “The better they understand the complexity of the world in which they live and in which they are going to serve, the better able they are to make informed decisions about what’s good for their community.”

The new curriculum also seems to instill a passion for sustainability and caring for the Earth. Dr. Crainshaw explains that through these place-based classes, students appear to develop “cosmocentric sacramentality” in which they “begin to see the many ways in which the world around them – both inside and outside of the walls of the church – is sacred.”  In this way, the Divinity School is not only shaping individuals who care for the people they are serving, but also about the environment they call home.  Dr. Mark Jensen, who received a grant from the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability to convene the curriculum retreat, is a leader in the ongoing curriculum changes. He says that an essential part of achieving their mission of developing “agents of justice, reconciliation and compassion” is exploring themes of sustainability and instilling the idea of the interlocking contexts of natural and built environments. Jensen quoted environmental writer Wes Jackson saying that we all need to “become native to the place in which we live” and take lessons from ecosystems that work harmoniously.

The developments across the curriculum complement a strong existing interest in sustainability within the school. An environmental theology student group called EcoTheo has grown in popularity over the past several years, convening regular meetings, contributing time to service projects, and working to incorporate principles of sustainability into everyday practices around the school. At their bi-weekly community lunches, students and faculty now use reusable plates and silverware, which the students wash, and food scraps are collected for composting after each meal.

A Food, Faith and Religious Leadership initiative offers to “equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.”

The Wake Forest Divinity School’s leadership is shaping the future not only of the communities in which its graduate students will serve, but of the wellbeing of life on the planet.

By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer

Faces of Sustainability: Alan Winkler

January 17th, 2014

From lamps to pianos, if you have moved or discarded furnishings on campus in the past few years, chances are you have met Alan Winkler, Surplus Coordinator for Wake Forest University. With a passion for keeping anything reusable out of the landfill, Winkler collects, catalogs, stores, and delivers myriad furnishings and recyclable waste streams across campus.

Before Winkler was hired, surplus property was managed by Michael Logan, Manager of Strategic Sourcing in Procurement Services. Although Logan was successful in finding placements for some pieces through a basic surplus listserv, both Facility and Campus Services and Procurement Services recognized the system could do much more. “I am really thankful that we have leaders and a responsive administration on campus that recognized it wasn’t the best that the university could do,” said Logan.

What was a bare bones effort when Winkler arrived is now a thriving, well organized waste diversion program. “The surplus program was my baby,” Winkler said. With a background in logistics, Winkler tackled the substantial surplus inventory that had built up prior to his arrival. In the first year alone, the program helped the university avoid nearly $440,000 in expenses, mostly in avoided landfill fees and avoided expenses for new furnishings. In addition to cost savings, the program generates substantial resource savings: nearly 100 tons of waste have been diverted from the landfill in less than two and a half years. November 2013 also marked the first-ever WFU surplus sale. With over 200 pieces of surplus property sold to members of the Wake Forest community, this successful event could well turn into an annual offering.

Last year, Winkler began collecting electronic waste for recycling as well. Through established relationships with organizations like Goodwill, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, which houses the surplus property program, continues to find safer and more cost effective ways to divert potentially harmful waste streams, like electronics and toner cartridges, from landfills.

Winkler hopes to see even further expansion down the road. “The next step is to have the space, time, and staff to include office supplies in the program.” In its current configuration, the surplus program is only available to faculty and staff. Such an expansion would make some of the supplies available to students as well.

Whether the task of the hour is moving staff and faculty offices, helping a customer outfit a new office with gently used furnishings, strategically placing new recycling bins, or coordinating collection of inkjet and toner cartridges for recycling, Winkler can be counted on for courteous customer service and a commitment to Wake Forest’s campus sustainability goals.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator

For God’s Sake, Care for the Earth

October 25th, 2013

“When you die, God will not ask you how old the earth is. He will ask you ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’”

In celebration of World Food Day, the WFU Divinity School’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative and the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability  hosted Richard Cizik for a discussion of what some refer to as creation care, or a scriptural call to care for God’s creation.

Cizik served for ten years as Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the top staff position in the organization. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” he expressed support for addressing climate change and sparked a national uproar within the evangelical movement. Soon thereafter, he was discharged from his post.

In his work as the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik is now empowered to address the interconnections between food, poverty, and climate change. He references Bob Doppelt’s book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking in saying that we cannot be good stewards of creation without understanding the systems that surround us. Global hunger is not simply a matter of inadequate distribution: floods, draught, poverty, the subjugated roles of women, and regressive global economic and agricultural policies all play a role in the inability of families and communities to access food.

According to Cizik, food and climate have become two of the most important issues to young evangelical voters. He believes that leadership on these issues requires bold action and a commitment to morally just behavior. In the conversion from climate denial to climate action, he witnesses a deny-deliberate-do-defend cycle. He sees more and more faith leaders making the conversion and answering the call to action because it is aligned with their intrinsic biblical values.

Read more about the event, and follow the thought leadership of Fred Bahnson, director of the WFU Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative in this Washington Post blog and at Salon.com.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

A Warm Welcome to Hannah Slodounik

September 17th, 2013

Hannah_SunflowerThis fall Hannah Slodounik (pronounced: Sla – duv – nick) assumed the role of Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. Her broad range of experience with sustainability programs throughout the country will serve her well as she works to advance several sustainability initiatives at Wake Forest.

Underlying her professional experience is a passion for sustainability that was fostered at a young age during trips to the Grand Teton National Park and weekends spent applying storm drain stickers to local curbs. It wasn’t, however, until she arrived at the University of Redlands that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in sustainability. Looking back, the path seems clear. After transferring to the small liberal arts school in California, she was randomly placed in the sustainability theme dorm there. After that, she helped found the first “environmental sorority” Kappa Pi Zeta at the university serving as the sustainability chair. The sorority’s mascot (as well as her favorite animal) is the leatherback sea turtle.

While at the University of Redlands, Slodounik not only focused on the human dimension of sustainability but also the scientific dimension. Slodounik studied abroad in Costa Rica where she conducted field research to help quantify the environmental benefits of shade-grown coffee. During a travel course to Tetiaroa Atoll in French Polynesia, Slodounik collected GPS data to contribute to a GIS database, used to assess the risk of an emergent sand bar between two of the tropical islands as well the potential for renewable energy installations for a new luxury eco-resort on the atoll (arguably the world’s best job). After receiving her BS in Environmental Science, Slodounik interned in the City of St. Louis Mayor’s office where she collected GPS data in preparation for the city’s participation in ICLEI’s STAR Community Index.

Most recently, Slodounik served as an AmeriCorps member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as the Sustainability Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. This position entailed a wide variety of programming initiatives. She worked closely with student EcoVols (Vols – as in UT Volunteers), a group of students functioning as stewards for sustainability in their dorms. She also worked with student interns conducting an energy audit of campus with grant money from the TVA EnergyRight Solutions for Higher Education program. The rest of her work ran the gamut from leading trail clean-up operations to clearing weedy islands in parking lots to make way for edible vegetation. During football season she managed volunteers for the Game Day Recycling program at the sprawling UT tailgates and planned an entire month of celebration around Earth Day.

Although she has worked with many different programs and universities on sustainability-related issues, she is particularly excited to work at Wake Forest because of the attention the university has given to sustainability and the relationship between the office and the students here. Slodounik especially enjoys working with students here who are, in her assessment, “excited to learn, have the potential to significantly impact their peers, and continue sustainable behaviors for the majority of their life.”

To her, the location of the office itself, in the heart of campus, speaks to the attitudes about sustainability here and the accessibility a small liberal arts school can offer. Part of the reason she was attracted to the university was her ability to work with the corps of student interns working in the office of sustainability: “Aside from being enjoyable, working with student interns just makes sense. Students have a different understanding of campus, they gain practical experience from the internship, and it strengthens our network on campus.”

By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern

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.

Faces of Sustainability: Paul Borick

May 28th, 2013

Paul_BorickBehind 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

Class of 2013 To Sign Sustainability Pledge

May 7th, 2013

photo 2 (10)Many members of the class of 2013 will leave Reynolda campus behind this spring, but all Demon Deacons carry Wake Forest values with them wherever they go.  These values include our campus-wide commitment to sustainability. For a third year, the Office of Sustainability is asking graduating seniors to solidify their commitment to environmental stewardship and social justice by signing the Green Graduation Pledge.

In asking seniors to make this voluntary commitment, Wake Forest joins over 100 other colleges and universities in a nationwide campaign, led by the Green Graduation Pledge Alliance, to build a global community of responsible graduates.  Laura Coats (’13), a former EcoRep, sees the pledge as an opportunity to to reflect on how she will apply the values she developed over the past four years in the next phase of her life.  Coats, who will begin her career in an Americorps position at Keep Knoxville Beautiful, says “It’s important to be conscious of the impact we have on our communities.  I’m excited to continue to build on the environmental and social consciousnesses I cultivated at Wake Forest as I enter the workforce.”

Seniors will have the opportunity to sign the pledge when they pick up their tickets for graduation from the University Bookstore on Friday May 18th and Saturday May 19th from 9-4pm.  The first 250 signatories will receive a coffee mug printed with the Green Graduation pledge, which reads: I pledge to take into account the social and environmental consequences of any future endeavors and to work to improve the sustainability of the communities in which I work, live and play.

Though we say goodbye for now, we know the class of 2013 will always fly the colors black and gold and live the color green.

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

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)