The university subscribes to procurement policies and practices that encourage environmentally and socially preferable products and services. You will find detailed information about campus-wide purchasing guidelines on the Procurement Policy web page. Wake Forest University is also an active participant in the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent organization that monitors labor rights issues relating to the manufacture of university apparel. Further, the university demands that all vendors follow a Vendor Code of Conduct, which requires fair labor practices and transparency.
For Wake Forest constituents looking for ways to make sustainable purchases, review our guide on how to make a sustainable purchase.
“Pro Humanitiate” is in action on the sustainability front at Wake Forest through a partnership with UpcycleLife. The Charlotte-based, not-for-profit produces one-of-a-kind bags and accessories by upcycling things like billboards or banners. It isn’t just that UpcycleLife is keeping vinyl out of our landfills, it’s the way they do it. The mission is to help protect the environment, and at the same time transform lives by creating jobs for individuals in under-served communities.
The environmental problem is that vinyl billboard and banner material takes hundreds of years to break down in landfills. UpcycleLife diverts this material from the landfill by giving it a new use, and at the same time teaching folks in impoverished communities valuable job skills such as sewing, shipping, and receiving. UpcycleLife feels they have developed a method to impact a waste stream and create a steady employment model. Ideally, the model could be scaled in such a way that UpcycleLife could make a huge impact on the waste stream in the broader US.
The results of the partnership with Wake Forest so far are 3 banners from the university being upcycled for the cause. By recycling these 3 banners UpcycleLife was able to employ 4 individuals from the local community for a total of 32 hours of paid work. On the flip-side, the upcycled products tell a unique story and provide users with a little piece of Wake Forest history.
According to Emma Kate Hosey, with the Charlotte-based organization: “UpcycleLife creates jobs for disadvantaged citizens by creating a product that reduces our impact on the environment. Our products are one-of-a-kind, hand-made, and made of reclaimed vinyl. We love taking a dirty banner and making it into a piece of art.”
Key Statistics about UpcycleLife:
- Employed, trained and graduated over 12 refugee men and women in the Charlotte NC area in 3 years
- Upcycled over 40,000 different products
- Rescued over 10,000 lbs of vinyl from entering landfills
- Provided free weekly English training and financial advising
Beyond meeting regulated health and safety requirements, a new chemical inventory tracking system at Wake Forest provides a useful means of minimizing laboratory waste on campus. The system catalogs the thousands of different types of chemicals – from acetone to dimethyl sulfoxide – stored in academic buildings and laboratories, facility storerooms, and supply closets. The system can also be used to track the maintenance and calibration schedule of various pieces of laboratory equipment, which helps prevent premature breakdowns.
Although hazardous waste is collected routinely on campus, this inventory system identifies how chemicals should be disposed of, and under which deadlines, in a systematic way. This was previously difficult to monitor given the widespread distribution of chemicals across campus.
To date, it has been difficult for faculty and students from physics and chemistry to neuroscience and health and exercise science to know what chemicals colleagues in other departments might already have procured. In the past, this has meant that the purchase of both hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals has been duplicated. Exacerbating the problem, faculty and students are often left with surplus supplies due to minimum purchasing requirements.
Now, with the new system in place, a professor or graduate student can easily check online to see what each department already has in storage, before making any purchases.
Steve Fisenne, Associate Director of Environmental Health & Safety, had a major role in bringing the new system to campus and is particularly excited about the benefits it brings. “Implementation of this system will allow the university to uncover opportunities in sustainability, waste reduction, cost reduction and efficiency,” while complying with, “regulatory requirements and providing a safer working environment.”
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern
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.
Over the past fifteen years the effort to reduce solid waste on campus has expanded from its humble origins as a simple recycling program to the holistic campus-wide waste reduction initiative it is today.
Before 1998 the campus’s overall waste diversion rate was negligible; by 2010 it had jumped to 45% and in 2012 it had grown to 55%. Achievements in the waste reduction campaign have been made on diverse frontiers: waste diversion includes diversion of materials from the landfill for basic recycling, reuse, upcycling, downcycling, and composting.
One of the major contributors to the success of the waste reduction campaign is Megan Anderson, Wake Forest’s Manager of Waste Reduction and Surplus Property. Although she emphasizes the collective nature of the achievements, she has worked tirelessly on several initiatives over the past few years that have reduced the environmental footprint the campus leaves behind.
Reflecting on the diversity of waste reduction strategies made by the university, Anderson said that, “Focusing on process change, increasing efficiency, and more thoughtful purchasing are just a few examples of how we have been able to set the bar higher to reduce our waste.”
Accomplishments in the waste campaign have been made on assorted fronts. So far this year, the surplus property program allowed the university to repurpose 319 pieces of furniture, resulting in 8.44 tons of material being diverted from the landfill. In the 2011-2012 school year, the same program allowed over 1000 individual items to be repurposed and reused within WFU departments. Also, for more than two years now, Aramark has been composting pre-consumer food waste in the Fresh Food Co., Starbucks, and catering and continues to investigate options to expand the program to post-consumer food scraps.
“As the Wake Forest University community continues to grow: with more programs, more buildings, and more students living on campus,” Anderson said, “we need to continue this forward momentum.” Collective effort, she stresses, is also the way forward: “All of us have to be cognizant of how we can work together to reduce our waste.”
Read some of our stories about successful waste reduction efforts over the past few years:
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern
Q: I’m a leader in several organizations and I end up making quite a few t-shirt purchases. How should I go about making those purchases as sustainable as possible?
A: There are many factors to consider in evaluating the sustainability of a t-shirt, from where and how the cotton is grown to the labor conditions in the factory where the t-shirt was stitched.
Wake Forest University is a member of the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights organization that monitors the manufacture of university apparel. All university branded apparel sold by Athletics or the University Bookstores must come from a vendor with a supply chain that complies with the WRC code of conduct. In keeping with the spirit of the university’s commitment, other groups on campus that purchase t-shirts should also purchase from vendors who are WRC compliant when possible.
Use our t-shirt purchasing guide to find vendors who are use local, recycled, and/or organic materials. Sustainable purchasing can make a huge difference in terms of your impact on the environment, but remember, sustainability should be a concern throughout the lifecycle of your apparel, so wash with cold water and line dry whenever possible. If you would like any additional information feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.