The 2009 campus master plan reinforced the value of the forested areas and streams on the 345-acre Reynolda campus. The mature campus forest cover is important for maintaining healthy ecosystems and as flood control.
As a result of campus stormwater management practices developed in the 1950′s, high volumes of untreated storm water have been released into the small tributaries that flow from campus. Downstream erosion, sedimentation, and poor water quality are among the side effects of these outdated practices.
The campus master plan calls for the creation of watershed-based stormwater management strategies and best management practices for campus development.
Tree Care Plan
In the interest of sounding a little less unbearably flippant, I did change the official title of this February 2014 WFU conference to “Viticulture and the Environment,” but in my head and heart it remained “drink wine/ save the planet/ feed the hungry.”
The drinking wine part was expertly handled by Olivier Magny, a Parisian wine specialist who started his own wine tasting school after graduating from a top business school. He led a group of faculty, students, and one alumnus in a wine-tasting, following a talk by Professor Wayne Silver on “The Neurobiology of Wine Tasting (and Smelling).” So we drank a little wine. That was the easy part.
Magny’s work seems to have started from a sense of pleasure, but his own study of wine also led him to an awareness of the conditions in which grapes are grown and more specifically, soil health. He writes in his book Into Wine, “Studying how vineyards were farmed has helped me grasp that the importance of the soil actually goes far beyond wine, and that the implications of mistreating it are also much more far-reaching than we think.” Farming practices have the biggest impact on soil health, and there is much that deserves to be questioned in our current agribusiness practices. These issues are addressed in a rather international light in the documentary “Dirt,” which a small group of us watched together and then discussed. The politics behind agribusiness practices are daunting at best. In the spirit of a hummingbird analogy put forth by this film, both WFU EH&S Technician Justin Sizemore and Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri had ideas for addressing our individual carbon footprints.
I like to think of the following ideas as “Dr. Zimeri’s Eco Challenge.” Anne Marie Zimeri is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Science Department at the University of Georgia. One of the courses that she teaches is a first year seminar in which she gives her students an assignment to collect and record data related to behavior changes they make to lower their environmental impact. She has the students select a pledge topic according to their own interest, related to one of the following areas: 1) Vegetarian / vegan 2) Transportation 3) Single use disposables 4) Composting / packaging 5) Water conservation 6) Electricity 7) Local / organic. For example, if students were electing to go vegetarian or vegan for a week, they would include before and after data relating both to how much meat they consume, and to the food miles, water use (in the production of meat vs. vegetables and fruits) and carbon footprint. More detailed information on this will be part of an upcoming publication by Dr. Zimeri. Like the hummingbird, we can only do what we can do in decreasing our impact, one rain barrel, solar water heater, backyard garden and bike ride at a time. So we learned a little about saving the planet.
It was the welcome presence of Shelley Sizemore, Assistant Director of Campus Life and Service that allowed me to add feeding the hungry to the list. Technically, we only fed our hungry selves that night, but I learned more about some ongoing campus and local efforts, including Campus Kitchen that distributes prepared but unserved food through local agencies including the Shalom Project, an outreach network started by Green Street United Methodist church that provides food, clothing, medical services and networking to the community. Wake Forest also has its own garden that both provides Campus Kitchen with fresh produce and also helps Wake Forest students (and I would add, faculty) better understand and influence the social, environmental, biological and political consequences of food production and consumption. So we could be part of feeding the hungry, if we’re not already.
I like the three-fold nature of my not-really-the-title-except-yes-it-is, because it reminds me of just how interconnected everything is. Even starting from the position of a possible urban sophisticate enjoying his or her own glass of wine can logically lead to soil health, then to the importance of environmental stewardship, then to food production and distribution. So, next time you swirl and sip, think about where the contents of your glass were originally grown.
For more musings on the theme “Drink Wine/Save the Planet,” visit Dr. Barron’s blog.
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.
With numerous breathtaking views, Wake Forest University’s beauty goes beyond the brick and mortar that composes the bones of the campus – it’s also in the Magnolia trees that outline Manchester Plaza, the curry-colored Black-Eyed Susans in front of Alumni Hall, and the Oakleaf Hydrangeas that transition from white to pink, welcoming students into their residence halls. These beautiful plants do more than add to the splendor of campus, however. They are native to the area and therefore support the wellbeing of the local ecology.
As David Davis, WFU manager of landscaping services can attest, successful landscape design entails planning for size, site requirements, and aesthetics. Davis takes it a step further, bearing in mind subtle elements like attraction for pollinators, fragrance, and even sound. One example of this process is the planting of native grasses near a bench where the sound of their dried dormant foliage can be appreciated on a breezy day. Such grasses are just one of the 20-25 staple native cultivars that are incorporated into the Wake Forest landscape.
Davis has planted native species, or what he calls pre-European flora, intentionally. The Winston Hall rain garden, a certified Monarch Waystation might be one of the more familiar native planting sites on campus. Davis is making a point to add “native islands” in parking lots and in front of residence halls too. At the front of Bostwick Residence Hall, he has replaced the English Ivy with a robust mix of native PowWow Wild Berry Coneflowers, switchgrasses, and Moonbeam Coreopsis. Similar native islands were planted near faculty/staff parking lots, F, G, and H.
Although it is evident Davis is a supporter of native plantings, he recognizes that placing only native species across campus is not always appropriate; the microclimates created by the urban environment severely limit plant selection. A hearty mix of natives and non-native species takes advantage of the unique qualities of each plant in the landscape. In front of Alumni Hall, the native Purple Muhly Grass glimmers next to non-native shrubs. At Farrell Hall, the native Sweet Kate pops in a landscape with non-natives like the Japanese Red Maple tree.
It is important to note that principles of sustainability are considered even when incorporating ornamental plants into the landscape. Davis selects vegetation that will thrive in the immediate environment and that requires minimal maintenance. In theory, such considerations may seem obvious. But in reality, aesthetics often outweigh practicality and sustainability for some landscapers.
Davis even opted to go native while landscaping the area around The Barn. Early succession Virginia Pines stand as the backdrop for the LEED Silver-certified building, but it is the surrounding vegetation that warrants a second look. The central island in the driving loop outside The Barn consists of natives that have flourished in the damp environment, fed by the runoff from the road. Other native vegetation frames the area: cedars, American Holly, Bracken Fern, Sassafrass, Eastern Redbuds, Flowering Dogwoods, and Serviceberry trees.
The research and knowledge that is necessary to choose the appropriate cultivars is just one example of the work required to effectively landscape with natives. A current undertaking that requires even more preparation is the invasive plant eradication along the Reynolda Village walking trail. Invasive species targeted for removal include Kudzu, Porcelain Vine, Bush Killer Vine, Wisteria, and Japanese Stilt Grass. EPA and NCDA-approved aquatic herbicides are being sprayed to eliminate the plants along Silas Creek. Once this first phase is complete, the area will be populated with natives that will be aesthetically pleasing, that will provide habitat for pollinators, and will stabilize the soil in the area.
Landscaping with native plants might be considered trendy. For Davis, however, it is not a fleeting idea – it’s a priority. As Wake Forest University strives for excellence in teaching and research, Davis notes that it is important for the facilities to do the same, creating landscaping that reflects the values of the university.
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator
Each year the Wake Forest Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship holds a banquet honoring students and faculty for their accomplishments and innovative ideas. This year, two interns for the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Energy Management respectively were honored for their projects: senior Austin Smith, and junior Claire Nagy-Cato.
Smith, who served as both the Game Day and Earth Day Fair intern, was honored with the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for an Artistic Venture for the Filipino Street Art Project. The project consists of a feature-length documentary, an interactive website, and a multimedia installation exhibit. It explores the rapidly changing political and social landscape of the Philippines through the lens of street art and the artists who embody the new generation of motivated, organized, and empowered Filipino youth. More information about the project can be found here.
Claire Nagy-Cato, one of the two Energy Management interns this year, won first place with fellow chemistry major, senior Grant Gilbert in the i2i wooden pallet competition. The competition challenged students to find creative uses for the massive amounts of wooden shipping pallets disposed of in North Carolina. The duo decided to inoculate the wooden pallets with mushroom mycelium. The mycelium contains many acids, notably oxalic acid that binds to calcium and forms insoluble salts that grow expansively, breaking down the chemical structure of organic compounds like rock, wood, metals, and petroleum products. “This could be the natural solution to biodegrading the organic wastes that pose serious threats to the environment and the health of our ecosystems,” added Nagy-Cato, “humans included.”
By Kiana Courntey, Communications and Outreach Intern
Students and staff braced against the cold on the Benson Circle to plant a new willow oak in honor of the holiday, a celebration of connectedness.
Shoshanna Goldin, president of Hillel, welcomed guests at the event and Dedee DeLongpre-Johnston, Director of the Office of Sustainability gave an explication of Tu B’Shevat. Nicky Vogt, an intern for the Campus Garden, contributed a poem, and Rabbi Michael Gisser, spoke on the spiritual significance of the gathering and provided context for the holiday within the larger Jewish tradition.
Following the speakers, guests took up shovels and worked together to fill in soil around the tree donated by Landscaping Services.
Wake Forest’s Tu B’Shevat celebration occurred slightly later than the actual January 25th date of the holiday. This delay was an intentional accommodation of students’ schedules, but, as Rabbi Gisser quipped, attendees would have been “blown away” by last Friday’s wind and sleeting rain.
A Shabbat dinner, also hosted by Wake Forest Hillel, followed the outdoor celebration.
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustianability
This spring Landscaping Services staff implemented an innovative solution to an erosion problem caused by copper runoff from the roof of Winston Hall. Runoff from copper rain gutters and roofs, commonplace across North Carolina, can be a source of soil contamination. The idea is simple. As stormwater washes off the copper roof, small traces of metal are carried along with the water into the soil. Since copper is a recognized biocide, copper-contaminated runoff can kill plants over time, contributing to soil erosion.
Some North Carolina institutions have chosen to scrap their copper gutters and replace them with other metals that leach “less harmful” agents. Landscaping Services Manager David Davis proposed a different solution to the copper runoff problem at Winston Hall: a rain garden.
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) created the Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) to fund people and institutions with ideas that improve local water quality by reducing stormwater run-off and resultant erosion. Davis used funding from CCAP to subsidize installation of the rain garden. Landscaping Services also purchased recycled concrete aggregate, which was then buried in the path of the water. The copper ions in the water bind to the concrete rubble, effectively removing the contaminant from the water. The concrete aggregate replicates the effects of the many existing concrete storm drains around campus, which remove copper from stormwater runoff.
After laying the concrete aggregate, Davis and his team filled in the area with indigenous plants like Paw-Paw, Spice Bushes, and Black-Eyed Susans to further prevent erosion and take up the clean water.
The native plants in the rain garden also serve as invaluable habitat for migrating Monarch butterflies. The rain garden is now a certified Monarch Waystation.
Since Winston Hall is home to the university’s Biology Department and Environmental Program, this garden will also provide a useful outdoor laboratory for biology and environmental science students in Winston Hall. Professors from the Biology Department have already expressed interest in mapping the site and charting its growth, as part of their curriculum.
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern
- Nathan Atkinson– Mr. Atkinson is a defense attorney with Spilman Thomas and Battle. He will draw on his experience litigating complex multi-party lawsuits involving drilling, hydraulic fracturing, water contamination and toxic torts arising from exposure to various chemicals and naturally occurring elements.
- Dick Schneider, J.D. – Mr. Schneider is a professor of environmental and international business law at the WFU School of Law. He serves on the Environmental Committee of the North Carolina State Bar Association.
- Dr. Lucas Johnston – WFU Departments of Religion and Environmental Studies – Dr. Johnston is trained in sustainability studies and environmental and religious ethics. He teaches a course in the Environmental Studies program on energy policy and sustainability.
- Moderator: Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Sustainability Director, WFU
This panel discussion is free and open to the public.
Join Z. Smith Reynolds Library and the Office of Sustainability for a free screening of the film, Gasland. Explore the controversial world of hyrdrofracturing (fracking) for natural gas in preparation for the panel discussion on April 25.
When: 6:00 p.m.
Where: Z. Smith Reynolds Library, 4th Floor Auditorium
This screening is free and open to the public.
From the Gasland web site: “The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.”
Join prominent university community members for an historic event honoring our campus trees. Years of hard work and dedication from Landscaping Services staff have resulted in national recognition for the university.
Then grab a group of friends and sign-up to participate in the Cardboard Boat Race. You have all weekend to craft a vessel that will make it from one end of the Reynolds Gym pool and back (twice!). The boat judging and races will be held Sunday, April 22.
2nd Annual Arbor Day Celebration
When: 4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Where: Courtyard between Babcock and Johnson, near the volleyball courts
Landscaping Services, the Office of Sustainability, and Residence Life and Housing invite you to join us for Wake Forest’s second annual Arbor Day Celebration. Two trees will be planted in honor of the occasion and we will hear from several prominent members of the university community about the important role of trees on our campus.
Following the planting ceremony, guests are encouraged to enjoy refreshments courtesy of Residence Life and Housing.
Cardboard Boat Race: Materials pick-up
When: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: The Office of Sustainability (Reynolda 101)
Gather a few friends and sign-up anytime today for the Cardboard Boat Race. Read the full rules and register here, then pick up free cardboard and 2 rolls of duct tape, courtesy of Campus Recreation. You may purchase extra duct tape, but keep in mind that you cannot use any other materials for your boat! You have until Sunday at 1 p.m. to build a pool-worthy vessel.
Questions? Contact Jessica Finnerty, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Aquatics, (336) 758-3490 or
The Office of Sustainability, Landscaping Services and Wake Forest Hillel joined together to celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year of Trees. On February 10, students and staff members gathered to plant a willow oak tree on a green patch of earth in the loop between Reynolda Hall and Reynolds Gym. In addition to their efforts on campus, Wake Forest Hillel also sponsored the planting of three trees in Israel as part of the celebration.
“Tu B’Shevat may be a lesser known Jewish holiday, but it’s one of my favorites,” freshman Shoshanna Goldin, Wake Forest Hillel Social Action Co-Chair, remarked. “It combines Tikuun Olam, the Hebrew term for ‘Healing the world,’ with a celebration of life and nature. Tu B’Shevat focuses on appreciating the little things in nature that we otherwise might miss – the budding flowers on a tree, the perfect apple, the smell of rain.”
Carrie Stokes, campus garden intern in the Office of Sustainability offered a moment of reflection at the celebration during her recitation of “Stream of Life” by Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. “I found that this poem not only stressed the interconnectedness between all members of the university, but also our ties to the earth which sustain our lives.”
Wake Forest Hillel also paid homage to the earth by putting a vegetarian twist on their regular biweekly Shabbat Dinner. Many members of the sustainability office joined in, breaking challah, with members of Hillel to commemorate the successful planting of the willow oak.
This event is only the first of many to come in a fruitful partnership between sustainability and Hillel. Both groups look forward to the planting of an apple and fig tree in the campus garden this spring. “I think both of our organizations have a vested interest in making this campus, this town, and our world a healthier, happier place to live,” junior Chelsea Eversmann, Wake Forest Hillel Social Action Co-Chair, said.
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern