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Sustainability at Wake Forest

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FAQ: Sustainability Rating

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Q. I noticed that campus has a silver sustainability rating, but that we don’t make the lists of the greenest schools in magazines like the Sierra Club. Why is that?

A. Wake Forest University participates in STARS, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment Rating System (say that three times fast). We undertake this comprehensive reporting effort as a part of our commitment to transparency and accountability.  The framework was developed specifically to measure and track indicators of sustainability in higher education. Each campus that participates makes its report available online; no ratings or rankings are judged out of context or evaluated using metrics that create a limited view of a campuses’ commitment.  Wake Forest is one of many campuses that does not respond to other outside requests for ratings/ranking information. We encourage those groups who would like to showcase campus efforts to draw from our STARS report for any information they might need.

In 2011 and 2012 WFU submitted a STARS report and was awarded a STARS silver rating, the third highest rating possible. WFU will submit a new report in the spring of 2015 to fulfill our three-year reporting requirement.

Sustainability Sings in the Music City

Monday, October 28th, 2013

AASHE 2013Just as fall started to peek its vibrant head around the corner, I ventured over to the music city with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Director of Sustainability, and Megan Anderson, Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, to attend the 2013 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.

This year, the annual conference, which moves around the nation, attracted over 1,700 attendees. Held in the new Music City Center in downtown Nashville, a LEED silver-certified guitar shaped conference center, the energy of the city reverberated in conference attendees, including me.

As only a second-year attendee, it was an exciting opportunity to indulge in the visionary ideas presented by internationally acclaimed sustainability leaders, including Raj Patel and George Bandy, to attend a few thought-provoking workshops, and to connect with colleagues from around the world.

Members of the Southeastern Sustainability Coordinators Network congregated for dinner one evening at a local hotspot in revitalized East Nashville. It was nice to reconnect with other sustainability professionals and to meet some faculty and students from the region, who are not typically involved in the network’s regular meetings.

AASHE 2013 was also a bright reminder of the impact higher education makes in the development of a more sustainable world. With universities the size of towns and university systems larger than entire states, operational changes for sustainability translate to multi-scalar resource conservation and policy development opportunities. Curricular and co-curricular commitments to education for sustainability generate change agents with the necessary critical thinking and leadership skills to lead the societal transformation.

As a silver rated campus in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, Wake Forest embodies these opportunities: our students and faculty are developing and applying research that is stimulating change at home and in the places they work around the world. Our commitment to Pro Humanitate through service and social action demonstrates our leadership for the betterment of humanity. WFU’s influence in the field was evident to conference attendees as Dedee was the master of ceremony for the conference and co-lead both pre-conference and conference workshops.

What boost of energy the conference-catered coffee failed to provide, our colleagues offered through shared stories, new ideas, and inspired laughs. After all, if a conference in the music city doesn’t make you come back with a little honky tonk in your sustainability step, then maybe you should keep on walking.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator 

Coopitition – It’s Not Just for Business Anymore

Friday, September 13th, 2013

This summer, representatives from the Southeastern Sustainability Network (SESN) gathered on the Wake Forest campus to share ideas, challenges, resources, serious talk, laughs, and good food.

Wake Forest University is one of the 871 member campuses of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Membership in this national (now international) body has skyrocketed since 2008. Attendance at the annual national gathering tops 2,000.

Since 2009, sustainability directors at schools in the Southeast have also been meeting monthly by conference call to bring the benefits of networking down to a regional scale. We share some commonalities – energy sources and pricing, water issues, political climate – that influence the way we frame our work. The governance of the group is truly sustainable: flattened, collaborative, and highly functional. Participant campuses run the gamut from behemoth research and extension universities to small liberal arts campuses, with myriad configurations in between.

In some cases, our campuses compete for students, grants, and athletic titles. In other cases, we merely co-exist in the higher education landscape. The outcome of this purposeful sharing of resources – intellectual and otherwise – is a rising tide that lifts us all higher. In this case, cooperation makes us all more competitive in the higher education marketplace.

This summer’s in-person gathering was our first. Though many of us see one another at conferences and often present together in professional settings, it was nice to enjoy a mix of collegiality and camaraderie in a more intimate atmosphere. The Wake Forest campus was decked out in full summer bloom, South Hall offered comfortable sleeping quarters for a few nights, and Posh Plate pulled out all the stops in presenting a gracious locally-sourced spread at every meal.

Our office enjoyed rolling out the Southern hospitality to our friends from around the region and we look forward to sharing time together next summer lifting the boat even higher.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

Students and staff gain insights at international sustainability conference

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Students and staff from the university’s Office of Sustainability gained new insights at an international conference this month. Director of Sustainability, Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Wake Forest Fellow, Caitlin Brooks, and four Office of Sustainability interns attended the three-day Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

The 2011 AASHE conference, which drew more than 2,500 attendees from campuses across the nation and around the globe, focused on creating sustainable campuses and communities. In addition to providing numerous professional development workshops and over 400 peer-to-peer presentation sessions, the conference featured a half-day pre-conference student summit.

At the summit, Office of Sustainability interns – senior Carrie Stokes, juniors Anna Donze and De’Noia Woods, and sophomore Logan Healy-Tuke – networked with over 500 other students and shared insights on projects taking place on campuses across globe. During breakout sessions, the interns were able to discuss best practices with other students while learning about innovative initiatives taking place on other campuses. Stokes said that she was thrilled at the opportunity to interact with other students. She also found the student summit’s keynote address delivered by Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, to be particularly engaging.

The highlight of the conference was the opening keynote address by Majora Carter, who spoke about her work pioneering one of the nation’s first urban green-collar job training and placement programs in the South Bronx portion of the New York borough. Intern Anna Donze took away an encouraging message from Carter’s address. “I really appreciated her emphasis on sustainability as a community builder and human rights issue,” Donze said. “The dramatic changes that she had facilitated in her own community were quite inspirational.”

This year’s conference was bittersweet for WFU sustainability director, DeLongpré Johnston, as she was honored among a group of founding AASHE board members who will leave the board in December, due to term limits. “Having watched this fledging grow into a thriving organization has been both inspiring and humbling,” she said.

Wake Forest was honored on the conference’s STARS Hall of Fame as a charter campus participant, having earned a Silver rating in January 2011. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, is the first fully transparent self-reporting framework adopted the higher education community.

The university is a member institution of AASHE, so any university community member can access the organization’s resources by registering with a wfu e-mail address. Resources include conference slideshows and keynote videos, sustainability job and academic program listings, policy banks, operational best practices, and curricular resources.

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern

University receives STARS Silver rating for sustainability efforts

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Wake Forest has received a STARS Silver rating in recognition of our sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a new program that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

“STARS reporting is a very transparent process,” Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, director of sustainability, said. “A lot of people across campus were engaged in collecting the information required for submission which makes it a great way to take a university-wide baseline measurement of our efforts.”

The university scored particularly well in submission areas that address the human dimension of sustainability. “This closely corresponds to the values of the university. For example, we have a strong commitment to public engagement and engaged learning and scored well in those areas. Commitments that are closely aligned with the Strategic Plan showed up in this indicator set,” she said.

AASHE’s STARS program is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in three overall areas: 1) education & research, 2) operations, and 3) planning, administration & engagement.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland.

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a STARS Rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” DeLongpré Johnston said. “The format of STARS allows us to identify areas in need of improvement and areas where we can make investments so that we can work toward continuous improvement.”