Wake Forest University

Energy Conservation and Climate Change Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Energy Conservation and Climate Change

Energy Conservation and Climate Change

Facilities and Campus Services

Facilities and Campus Services staff work to monitor and reduce energy consumption on campus.

Building Dashboard

You can track energy and water use in nearly every building on the Wake Forest campus using the building dashboard display.

Renewable Technologies

Explore various applications of renewable energy technologies across campus, from solar thermal hot water at South Hall to solar photovoltaic demonstration panels on the Barn.

Inaugural Champions of Change Awards

May 6th, 2014

Wake Forest’s celebration of Earth Day this year included the announcement of Champions of Change award winners. This was the first year of the program, which recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability across campus. Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented the awards.

Click to view more photos from the ceremony.

Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.

  • Residence Life & Housing and Financial Services were jointly named champions of change in Resource Conservation. Residence Life and Housing dramatically reduced solid waste and conserved water through renovation and retrofit programs this past year; Financial Services supported the conversion to electronic business processes campus-wide.
  • Campus Kitchen was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Campus Kitchen repurposes prepared, but not served, food from our campus dining facilities into balanced meals for members of the broader Winston-Salem community.
  • For Teaching, Research and Engagement, Lynn Book and her faculty colleagues Angela Kocze and Wanda Balzano were recognized for their work in the new course, “Women, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.” Students collaborated with community partners Margaret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, the mother-daughter team who founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market.
  • Abby McNeal was recognized for her Bright Idea in turf management and the installation of the UgMo Wireless Soil Sensor System at Spry Soccer Field. UgMo is an underground monitoring system that measures soil moisture at the root level and determines when and how much to water on a zone-to-zone basis.

Thirty nominations were received for the four awards. A committee evaluated the nominations based on:

  • The level of participation by colleagues within the department or unit
  • The measurable impact among constituents across campus or in the community served

Additionally, Green Team captains Peter Romanov, Darlene Starnes and Carol Lavis were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. 65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.

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.

Success in Campus Conservation Nationals

May 10th, 2013

Joey and Ravish at CCN Kick-offFinal results are in for Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN), a competition to reduce energy and water consumption in residence halls in the US and Canada.  Between February 4th and April 26th participating colleges and universities selected a three-week period for students to take direct action towards increasing sustainability on their campuses. Wake Forest’s own competition began on March 19th and wrapped up April 7th.  Out of 120 participating schools, Wake Forest ranked in the top five for water reduction.  Though the resource and cost savings achieved through the competition were victories unto themselves, the university’s top 5 ranking makes CCN 2013 an unequivocal success for the Demon Deacons.

The Office of Energy Management and Residence Life and Housing co-sponsored Wake Forest’s CCN effort.  Claire Nagy-Cato (’14), an intern for the Office of Energy Management, headed up the organization of the competition.  EcoReps, peer-educators for sustainability, and hall captains, representatives for the competition from each residence hall, performed educational outreach for CCN.  The student body received energy and water saving tips through personalized room assessments, competition kiosks, and bulletin boards.  Students could track energy and water consumption in their residence halls in real time using the Building Dashboard.

Nationally, CCN 2013 saved 2,114, 844 killowatt-hours of electricity and 1,681,241 million gallons of water.  Wake Forest contributed 74,789 killowatt-hours and 139,196 gallons of water to that total.  By reducing their consumption, Wake Forest students also kept 91,093 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and saved $5,443 dollars.

In addition to competing against other schools, residence halls on the Reynolda Campus also competed against each other to reduce.  Palmer and Piccolo earned the top ranking for both water and energy reduction.  The two residence halls, which are on a single meter system, together achieved a 23.4% energy reduction and an astounding 35.1% water reduction. Kitchen and Martin came in second and third place for energy reduction and Martin and Collins took second and third place for water reduction.  Residents in Palmer and Piccolo celebrated their sweet victories with a Brynn’s frozen yogurt party.  View a complete list of competition standings here.

Lauren Miller, director of engagement at Lucid (the company behind the Building Dashboard) found the results of this year’s multi-school competition impressive.  Commenting on the collective reduction efforts of over 300,000 students, she says “These students are demonstrating that creating a culture of conservation and inspiring individuals to change their behaviors can significantly reduce their campus’ carbon footprint.”

While success in the competition is gratifying, the true purpose of CCN is to ingrain lasting, environmentally-preferable consumption habits among participating students.  As the global community continues to seek ways to conserve limited natural resources, the results of CCN demonstrate that personal commitments to responsible consumption will play an integral role in creating a sustainable future.  Wake Forest’s top five ranking in water-use reduction demonstrates that Demon Deacons are not only up to the task of sustainable living, but are ready to take the lead.

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

Reynolda Gardens’ Greenhouses Go Green

April 12th, 2013

2013-02-14_16-24-31_689 (Large)solar panelIt only seems appropriate to mark the anniversary of the Reynolda Gardens’ greenhouses and conservatory with a modern addition. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds set out over a hundred years ago to use Reynolda Gardens as a model of self-sufficiency for local gardeners and, even more,for the community.

These values are similarly shared with the larger community of Wake Forest University, whose motto is “Pro Humanitate,” which is translated as “for the betterment of humanity.” Ravish Paul, Energy Manager for the university, says his office is “always on the lookout for opportunities that benefit all.” Therefore, the decision to put solar panels on the education wing at Reynolda Gardens was not just a small demonstration of solar energy potential for the university, but also an opportunity to “educate and encourage the community to invest in a living which is in harmony with nature,” according to Paul.

During the spring 2011 semester, students in Physics and Chemistry of the Environment (PHY/ CHM 120) researched and reported on a variety of energy efficiency and alternative energy proposals for the greenhouse education wing. Among the recommendations was a report on the feasibility of a solar photovoltaic installation. Based in part on this hands-on learning exercise, Professor Richard Williams secured a donation of a solar photovoltaic array for the gardens. Though the donation did not match up with the specific requirements of the historic structure, the university’s energy manager was able to find a unit that was a good fit.

In February 2013, we installed the array on the south-facing roof of the education wing. Photovoltaics use solar cells to convert sunlight into energy. When several cells are connected in a panel or array, the power generation capacity is increased. Once the energy is generated, it is sent to the inverter, which converts it into a usable form. The usable energy is then supplied to the utility company’s electric meter to either slow it down or spin it in reverse. It is projected that these panels will offset ten percent of the greenhouses’ energy usage each year.

Why solar? The Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center found that our state has the potential to collect twice as much sunlight as Germany, the world’s leader in solar energy production. Photovoltaics are a common sustainable energy source and, in terms of global importance, rank third, behind wind and hydropower, in providing renewable energy. At the end of 2012, one hundred countries worldwide were using photovoltaics.

In many international cases, photovoltaic usage has become more economically viable than traditional energy sources. For example, citizens in Cambodia can purchase a solar lantern at the equivalent of twenty-five U.S. dollars and use it for years without any additional cost, while fuel for a kerosene lantern runs around thirty U.S. dollars per year.

One of the most influential thinkers of our time, Lester Brown, founder of the World Watch Institute, had this to say about solar power, “The growth in the use of solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity can only be described as explosive, expanding by seventy-four percent in 2011. The world’s current 70,000 megawatts of photovoltaic installations can, when operating at peak power, match the output of seventy nuclear power plants.” Photovoltaics are not the only way to use the sun’s energy. The pace of solar energy development is accelerating as the installation of rooftop solar water heaters takes off. Unlike solar photovoltaic panels that convert solar radiation into electricity, these “solar thermal collectors” use the sun’s energy to heat water, space, or both.

With issues of poor air quality, the destruction of natural areas, and the possible degradation of our groundwater arising from the use of fossil fuels, it is our privilege and responsibility to explore energy production in renewable and healthy ways. I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Edison, “I’d put my money on the Sun, what a source of Power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out, before we tackle that.” We hope that the installation at Reynolda Gardens is a step towards a better understanding of solar power’s place in the energy spectrum and a cleaner environment.

Since its inception, Reynolda has served as a model of natural innovation and education. Just as Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds used the Gardens to show others what could be done if given the means, we invite that same spirit in the work we do today. The greenhouses and conservatory, even after one hundred years, are an integral part of our mission. It is our vision that through our educational endeavors and our example we will inspire awareness and an improved understanding of our natural world.

By Amanda Lanier, Curator of Education, Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University

Measuring Climate Change

March 14th, 2013

On March 6th, assistant professor of mathematics, Dr. Rob Erhardt, addressed a full room of eager listeners on the topic of global climate disruption.  His talk, sponsored by the Math Club and titled Measuring Climate Change, drew a crowd from across campus, including Dr. Erhardt’s fellow Mathematics faculty, students, and staff members from the Office of Sustainability and the Wake Forest Humanities Institute.

Dr. Erhardt hoped to achieve two goals through his talk: “I wanted to show the Math Club students one way they could apply their mathematical education and I wanted to give a general talk about the science of climate change [for other members of the audience].”

equation

The equation used by Dr. Erhardt in Measuring Climate Change.

The talk began with basic definitions of the words climate and climate change.  Dr. Erhardt, a statistician himself, proudly pointed out that the American Meteorological Association defines climate change as “any systematic change in the long term statistics of climate events (such as temperature, pressure, or winds) sustained over several decades or longer.”

After defining terms, Dr. Erhardt laid out the talk’s single equation: a calculation of Earth’s temperature based on the interaction of solar energy received by the Earth, reflectivity (the degree to which Earth reflects solar energy), and emissivity (the degree to which of Earth’s atmosphere allows radiated solar energy to escape into space).

Dr. Erhardt explained that, while solar input remains roughly constant, both the reflectivity of Earth’s surface and the emissivity of Earth’s atmosphere can change.  As Dr. Erhardt pointed out, these factors have changed since the mid-20th century, resulting in an overall increase in global surface temperatures.  Dr. Erhardt cited the conclusions of the most recent report by the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and attributed most of the increase in global average temperature to human beings, who have increased the atmosphere’s concentration of greenhouse gasses, changing the atmosphere’s emissivity.

Dr. Erhardt went on to discuss how global climate models can predict how much temperatures will rise in the future based on different scenarios.  He also reviewed current research trends, which involve creating regional climate models and grappling with the difficulty of “single event attribution,” or attempts to take one particular extreme weather event (like a hurricane) and determine if the changed climate has increased the risk of such an event.

“Climate science can be intimidating.  I wanted to present the science in an accessible, friendly way”, says Dr. Erhardt.  He explains, “People have a general respect for scientists, but I want them to understand a little bit more about what climate scientists are actually doing, like where they are getting their data and how they are using it.”

On March 27th, Dr. Erhardt will deliver Measuring Climate Change at a brown bag lunch for the Biodiversity and Environmental Science group of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.

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

Competition Motivates Students to Conserve

March 13th, 2013

CCNGet ready, get set, reduce!  This spring, students can join their peers around the nation in cutting down their electricity and water consumption during the Campus Conservation Nationals. With about 200 participating campuses, students compete against one another on each campus, and between campuses nationally.

Starting on March 18, at the kick-off event, students can sign up to participate.  During the first week of the three-week competition, students can sign up for efficiency assessments of their rooms. A volunteer EcoRep will come to each student’s room during the second week to survey their daily conservation habits and to teach them how to become even more efficient.  Students who sign up for an assessment at the kick-off event will get a free t-shirt.

In a battle of the residence halls, students at Wake Forest University will compete to reduce rates of consumption. The winners will be treated to a frozen yogurt party catered by Brynn’s and will have the satisfaction of doing their part to cut down energy consumption.  To stay updated on each building’s progress, individuals can visit buildingdashboard.net/wakeforest. The site allows students to learn more about different conservation habits and to commit to new, more efficient changes. Throughout the competition, residents will also learn more about the sources of our campus electricity and the effects our choices have on climate change.

The Campus Conservation Nationals brings to light the importance of conservation, and incentivizes the development of good habits. The national competition started three years ago.  Ravish Paul, the Energy Manager in the Office of Energy Management in Facilities and Campus Services, facilitates Wake Forest’s participation in the competition in partnership with Residence Life and Housing.  Junior Claire Nagy-Kato, an intern for the office of Energy Management, will lead this year’s efforts.

Claire encourages everyone to attend the kick-off event, where everyone can look forward to engaging in fun activities and enjoying free food. Participants will be able to trade in their incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient replacements and learn more about conservation opportunities.  She looks forward to seeing the effects of the competition on our campus because she sees it as a “good way to get students interested in something that is an important and pertinent issue.”

If you are interested in taking the next step in reducing consumption, contact Claire Nagy-Kato at and sign up to be a hall captain for Campus Conservation Nationals. The competition will end on April 7, 2013.

 By Kiana Courtney,   Office of Sustainability Communications and Outreach Intern

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

Recap: Energy Bowl 2012

November 27th, 2012

This month Wake Forest competed with Notre Dame in Energy Bowl 2012 – Lights Off, Lights Out, an energy-reduction competition between the residence halls at the two universities. The competition ran November 1st to 14th —the two weeks leading up to the football game on the 17th.

At the end of the competition, the results were close. Wake Forest attained an 8.1% energy reduction, falling just short of Notre Dame at 9.6%.

However, since both schools set their goal at a 6% reduction, the result was a win for both teams.

The reduction in electrical energy usage from both schools combined to save some 77,040 kWh or the equivalent of 103,515 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

The residence hall at Wake Forest that contributed most significantly to this reduction was Polo Residence Hall with a whopping 16.5% reduction.

For their efforts, the residents of Polo will receive a football signed by the Wake Forest football team to display in the building along with a celebration, compliments of the Office of Energy Management.

For more about the nature of this year’s competition click here.

By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern

Halfway to victory? It’s up to You.

November 9th, 2012

On November 1st we kicked off a residence hall energy conservation competition against Notre Dame — Energy Bowl 2012: Lights Off, Lights Out.  We’re now at the halfway point of the competition, which wraps up on November 14th.

The first half of the competition has been a successful exercise in cross-campus collaboration.  Facilities and Campus Services is the sponsor of Energy Bowl 2012 and Office of Energy Management interns, Allie Gruber and Joey Matt, are planning and managing the competition.  Hall Captains recruited by Residence Life and Housing are serving as Energy Bowl ambassadors in their residence halls, reaching out to their fellow students through posters, e-mails, and word of mouth.  Hall Captains are also assisting the EcoReps, our campus peer-to-peer educators for sustainability, in conducting personalized energy conservation room assessments.

Although we have reason to celebrate this early success in getting everyone involved, one hard cold fact still remains: Wake Forest University is currently losing to Notre Dame.  Luckily, we are not far behind, and our residential students still have plenty of time to reach the energy conservation goal of 6%.  Here are 4 quick tips for students living on-campus to reduce their energy consumption in the residence halls:

  1. If you’re able, take the stairs. Give the elevator a rest until November 14th – and beyond.  You’ll save energy and even get a little work out.
  2. Turn it off (all of it).  When you leave the room, turn off your lights, turn off your power strip (or unplug your electronics), and turn off your heat if you have in-room controls.
  3. Put on a sweater.  If your room feels chilly, try to add more layers before cranking up the temperature, especially in Palmer and Piccolo, where the heating source is electric.
  4. Tell your friends. Update your friends on the status of the competition, and ask them to consciously conserve over the next week.  You can refer them to the Building Dashboard, where they can keep up with the results of the competition in real time.

Look out for a traveling kiosk promoting the competition in residence halls around campus this weekend and early next week.

Lights Off, Lights Out. Let’s Beat the Irish.