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Stewardship - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Stewardship

Stewardship

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

Collective Action & Wicked Problems

May 22nd, 2014

Stan MeiburgBy Stewart Rickert (’16)

Stan Meiburg, Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA Region 4 for 18 years and prominent Wake Forest alumnus, recently announced his retirement, marking the end of a 37-year career with the EPA.  He worked on a host of issues ranging from The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 to public financing strategies for water and wastewater treatment facilities.

In a recent conversation with us, Meiburg discussed the misunderstanding many Americans have about sustainability, and their lack of awareness about what we can do to escape a growing web of seemingly intractable problems. In Meiburg’s view, the most wicked of these problems is climate change.

 

Q: Diffuse problems are sometimes lumped together under the term “wicked” problems. We think of wicked problems as persistent, complex, and relying on interconnected variables for a solution. What is a wicked problem from your perspective?

A: To me, the best example of a wicked problem is climate change. I also consider the use of chemicals in the environment to be a particularly persistent wicked problem. Many trends unite these problems, but two stand out: 1) they are big, and require collective action; and 2) results take a long time, and people don’t see immediate benefits from their actions. For example, if you drastically reduce your personal carbon footprint, the climate doesn’t immediately change. But just because you don’t see an impact doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Q: Since people can’t always see the results of their efforts, how do you make them aware that what they are doing is valuable?

A: For us at the EPA, it was always about education. We knew we were doing a lot, and we wanted to make sure that the public knew why we were acting, and what they could do to help. Notwithstanding all of EPA’s legal authorities, we depend on voluntary, collective actions to help us out of environmental holes we’ve dug for ourselves.

Q: When you say collective action, what do you mean?

A: Collective action is the aggregate of many, many little things. Little things like choosing to walk or bike instead of drive, composting and recycling materials, and turning off the lights (or using motion sensors). By doing little things, we make an impact—and we help promote big things, like designing buildings and neighborhoods that promote such behaviors. By doing little things, we give our neighbors and friends examples of actions that they, too, can take. Above all, I encourage people not to despair; it takes time before we can see the impact of our actions. A motto to still go by is from the first Earth Day in 1970: think globally, act locally. And the country is so much cleaner now than we were then!

For some noteworthy practical tips from Stan Meiburg check out these that have been excerpted from a 2009 keynote address.

From Classroom Debates to Action Abroad

May 8th, 2014

SLWPFContributed by Munje Foh (JD ’08)

The Sierra Leone Watershed Project Foundation (SLWPF) was born out of a series of conversations in a criminal procedure course taught by Vice Provost and professor of law Jennifer Collins. As students, Adam Chapman and I were vocal contributors to the course discussion and we often found ourselves on different sides of the ideological coin; Ryan Bouley was a mediator of sorts, as he often intervened with comic relief. Collins’ course was unique in that it provided an atmosphere conducive to exploring human psychology at the intersection of criminal legal theory. Her course put diversity into action. It moved students past sitting in a room with people from different backgrounds to learning from the various viewpoints that those backgrounds produced. The course provided us with experience that helped us in life, not just in the practice of law.

Adam and I became fast friends through our discussions in class, which lead us to discover that we shared a passion for giving back on a global scale. Adam had experience with charity fundraising and had volunteered in Haiti building cisterns to improve rural water supplies. He approached me with the idea of starting a project that would help improve access to clean water in Sierra Leone. He felt that his experience, coupled with my connections to the country, would make a strong combination and that our education rendered us capable of improving existing models and providing water in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way.

The project got off to a slow start  because we were spending lots of time planning, writing proposals, researching and making pitches to people who could help fund the program but who had no real incentive to contribute because we hadn’t made any impact yet, and because they didn’t have any connection to Sierra Leone. We started this project in 2010 and after so many stages of planning we decided in 2012 to make whatever little impact we could with money from our pockets and hope that people would join us once they realized that our program was effective. Ryan Bouley joined the team shortly after we took this small step forward and has been key to our current momentum. Ryan is a businessman and he encouraged us to get our house in order in terms of finance and business compliance; since he joined the team the support for SLWPF has really snowballed.

As the SLWPF team looks forward, raising the amount of funding necessary to make sure that the project keeps moving is an ongoing concern. Although financial resources are necessary, making the right long term partnerships concerns me more than money. I believe in the generosity of the human spirit and I know that people will eventually donate once they become acquainted with our cause, but to truly make this project sustainable, in terms of passing maintenance responsibility back to communities and minimizing negative environmental impact, we need information and skills that the three of us don’t possess. SLWPF needs to become a collaborative effort across disciplines and organizations.

For the year ahead, SLWPF plans to hold a large fundraising event to build resources and strategic partnerships, to continue our water pump repair program and add a video/photo documentary program focused on developing grassroots solutions to Sierra Leone’s water coverage issues. The SLWPF team is excited about the challenges ahead and invites everyone who is interested to contribute in any way that they can. To learn more, visit the foundation’s website at http://sierraleonewater.org/.

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.

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