Wake Forest University

FAQ - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest



E-Waste Chain of Custody

March 31st, 2014
Q.  I’ve recently learned that e-waste can still harm the environment, even if it is recycled. How do we make sure that doesn’t happen to the e-waste we collect here at Wake Forest?
A. Good question. It is true that some e-waste recyclers take short-cuts and that mishandled e-waste can have a devastating impact on the health and well-being of our planet. That is why we only choose e-waste recyclers who are transparent enough for us to verify their entire chain of custody, starting from when they take possession of our e-waste.

Piedmont E-Waste handles most of the personal e-waste generated by our campus community (old cell phones, CDs, key boards, cords, chargers, old TV monitors, microwaves, etc.). Goodwill Industries recycles our ink and toner cartridges.  All technology belonging to Wake Forest (such as Think Pads computers) should be returned by submitting an online service request for surplus pickup.

The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling only enters into contracts with e-waste recyclers after thoroughly vetting their chain of custody. In addition, the OWRR considers the impact of the contract on the local economy and whether a company illustrates corporate social responsibility. Piedmont E-waste is a local business and Goodwill Industries is a nonprofit offering multiple services to the community, including English language classes and vocational training.

To find out how and where to dispose of e-waste, check out a past FAQ on e-waste disposal.

FAQ: Sustainability Job Resources

February 3rd, 2014

Q.  I’m interested in an internship or job related to sustainability, but I don’t know where to look. What sustainability job resources do you recommend?

A.  Fortunately, there are many resources available. The most comprehensive list which provides information on green and sustainability career pathways and job openings is this Google Doc.  Created by the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium, the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability, and the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, this list includes job boards and career pathway resources that are regularly updated.

The WFU Office of Personal & Career Development (OPCD) also posts internships and job openings through Handshake. Keep an updated profile and search the platform regularly for opportunities relating to sustainability that have been targeted specifically through the WFU network.

Reusable vs. Disposable: Is it worth it?

January 27th, 2014

Q: Is it really worth buying a reusable bottle? How many times do I have to use it to start saving money and reducing my impact on the environment?

A: The debate over reuse vs. single-use applies not only to water bottles but to many other household products, like plates, cutlery, and towels as well.

The short answer is yes. A reusable bottle will save materials, fuel, and money when compared to disposable water bottles. However, the exact amount of cycles necessary to achieve the savings varies based on a whole host of complex factors. A cradle-to-grave assessment, however, can help you think more systematically about materials analysis and separate fact from fiction.

In your materials impact assessment, you can consider the resources required in terms of raw material extraction, materials processing, manufacturing, labor, distribution, use, repair/maintenance, and disposal/recycling. In this case, you would consider the source of the plastic, extrusion of the material, labor inputs, source of the water, transportation from water source to distribution hub, cleaning, and disposal and/or recycling resources. Numerous academic and industry studies have been published on these comparisons and are easily accessed via the Web. Some, like this University of Michigan publication, provide straightforward summaries.

Financially, the calculations are much simpler. Over the course of a year, the average American is likely to spend $588.00 on 168 bottles of water. Consider, for instance, my 32 oz. Nalgene water bottle, which cost $9.99. Purchasing a one-liter Aquafina bottle on campus costs $2.12. So, I started saving after refilling my bottle five times. Of course, if I had received a free water bottle from the Office of Sustainability, my savings would have begun to accrue immediately.

FAQ: Double-sided Printing

October 25th, 2013

Q: Is double-sided printing now the default setting for printers on campus?

A: With the launch of the new Pharos Printing Systems, starting with the ZSR Library, double-sided printing (also known as duplex printing) has now become the default printer setting for machines across campus. According to ZSR Director of Access Services, Mary Beth Lock, the transition was motivated, in part, by goals in sustainability.

The switch to default duplex printing translates to significant paper conservation in the library, where the busiest printers on campus are located. Lock reported that as of mid-October 2013, the three copy/print machines across from the Circulation Desk in the ZSR have already been used 70,000 times since their installation on September 23rd and 24th. Between classes it’s not hard to tell that these are the most frequently used machines on campus. Their predecessor, a single machine sitting in the same location, had been used well over a million times in the three years it faithfully served the students faculty and staff who used it.

Single-sided printing is, of course, still available for those who prefer it.

FAQ: Master of Arts in Sustainability

September 25th, 2013

Q.  I’ve heard Wake Forest offers a Masters in Sustainability. Is this true?

A. Yes. The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) at Wake Forest offers a Master of Arts in Sustainability. The program offers a four-course core – global human systems; sustainable organizational management; resource management and energy science; and environment law and policy – as well as an applied sustainability course and a capstone research project or extended practicum. The 30-credit MA in Sustainability is one of a select few across the nation.

In addition to the MA in Sustainability, CEES offers a Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainability. The 12-credit certificate includes all core courses from the master’s program. Although the certification can stand alone, providing substantive knowledge of sustainability-related issues, it can also be earned in conjunction with another Wake Forest master’s degree program.

Learn more about the program and application requirements here.

FAQ: Campus Garden Produce

September 9th, 2013

Q.  How do I get produce from the campus garden? 

A. During the summer, the campus garden occasionally offered a produce stand on campus. However, now that the school year has started, the only way to enjoy the organic produce from the garden is to volunteer. If you, or a group you’re involved in are looking for hands-on service, then volunteering in the garden is an exciting opportunity. Not only will you get to enjoy working outside, but you can also take home some of the fruits of your labor in the form of tomatoes and other produce. Campus garden volunteer hours are every Wednesday and Sunday from 4:30-6:30 PM. Come alone, bring a group of friends from your residence hall, or schedule a volunteer event with your club. Located at the corner of Polo Road and Student Drive, across from Martin, the campus garden can always use an extra set of hands.

Email campusgarden@wfu.edu for more information or to schedule a service event for your organization.


FAQ: Vampire Energy

May 9th, 2013

Q: If my electronics have an off switch (like my television), do I still have to worry about vampire energy?

A: Yes.  Vampire energy, also know as phantom energy or phantom load, is the electricity used by electronics that are plugged in but not currently in use.  Both electronics that have off-switches (such as television sets and laptops) and electronics without off-switches (such as cell-phone chargers) have phantom loads.  About 10% of the energy expense in the average American household derives from vampire energy.

You can prevent vampire energy costs by always unplugging your electronics or by plugging all your electronics into a power-strip and switching the power strip off when your electronics are not in use. Unlike most electronics, power-strips are designed to cut off energy flow at the wall, eliminating vampire energy.  If you have a last one, lights out policy in your home or office, expand that policy to cover your power-strips as well.

FAQ: Bubbly Water

May 9th, 2013

Q: The water that comes out of the faucet in my residence hall is bubbly. What’s wrong with it?

A: There is nothing wrong with the water coming out of the faucet.  The bubbles are a a result of an aerator that spreads the water stream into many different droplets, rather than a continuous flow. This helps conserve water.

 Facilities and Campus Services has been working on increasing water conservation in the residence halls and in other buildings across campus. All of the shower heads have been retrofitted to dispense 1.5 gallons per minute. Other retrofits in residence halls and other buildings include 1/8 gallon per flush urinals, dual flush toilets, and 1/2 gallon per minute faucets. In the buildings where the retrofits have been made, the university has realized a greater than 25% reduction in overall water consumption.

FAQ: Sustainable T-Shirts

May 9th, 2013

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 sustainability@wfu.edu.

FAQ: Ban the Bottle?

May 9th, 2013

Q:  At my friend’s school, they have a ban on disposable plastic water bottles.  Why doesn’t the Office of Sustainability push for a ban on disposable plastic water bottles here?

A:  Well, we have thought about it.  Many universities have adopted a ban on disposable plastic water bottles on their campuses and we respect their approach to this issue. However, we have decided to pursue a different approach, for several reasons.

First, we make a tremendous effort to make reusable water bottles a convenient choice for all Wake Forest students, staff, and faculty.  At present there are six hydration stations located in high traffic areas around campus.  These stations are designed to facilitate the use of reusable water bottles and to keep a running count of how many disposable water bottles each unit keeps from ending up in the landfill.

Second, we see our role as providing the information members of our campus community need to make their own decisions – information on the environmental, financial, and health impacts of bottled water. The theoretical free hand of the market requires good information to function. Third, hydration is important for health. You should always carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, but, if you forget yours, it is healthier to consume a disposable plastic bottle of water than a disposable plastic bottle of soda. Email us your thoughts at sustainability@wfu.edu.