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Sustainability at Wake Forest

Posts Tagged ‘Faces of Sustainability’

Faces of Sustainability: Gail O’Day

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Dean Gail O’Day spends her days at the Divinity School helping her students help others. Whether they are growing food in the campus garden to distribute to those in need or volunteering with Kids Café (a program of Second Harvest Food Bank), O’Day’s job is to make sure students have the resources they need to be successful.

Student interest was the impetus for the school’s sustainability club, EcoTHEO. Students also are working in many hunger-focused ministries, either as service-learning or volunteer work. “It’s a great reflection of the importance of sustainability for this generation of ministerial students,” O’Day said. Seventy percent of the university’s divinity students are under the age of 30.

When she started at the university in August 2010, O’Day heard students express their commitment to and passion for sustainability as a major social justice issue.  The School is developing a focus on food and faith communities, because “food issues struck us as the most accessible entry point into questions of sustainability,” she said. “It (food) has intergenerational appeal and need. The need for healthy food and food access also crosses ethnic lines. Many different faith communities can participate, so it crosses faith lines too.”

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Faces of Sustainability – Abby McNeal

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Abby McNeal“I just try to leave a place better than I found it – I try to make a difference,” Athletics Turf Manager, Abby McNeal said. In McNeal’s case, that means making the world a little greener, in more ways than one.

McNeal manages all of the athletic fields on campus as well as BB&T field. She maintains the lush, green turf that stands up to a beating game day after game day from the scorching heat of August until the first freezes in November. She tends to the special needs of the artificial playing surfaces too in order to keep them safe, sanitary and professional looking.

When asked how the soft-spoken red-head became involved in turf management – she smiles. There is no good story here, she confesses. “I chose to study turf management more than 20 years ago. I found a passion and I stuck with it. That’s it.”

As if her official job – which often keeps her on campus from 7 a.m. until far into the evening (and on weekend game days too) – were not enough, when the opportunity to jumpstart the university’s Game Day Recycling program presented itself to McNeal, she jumped at it. “I preach a lot of customer service and this is just an extension of that service,” she said.

Not only do her customers – Demon Deacon and rival team fans alike – enjoy the opportunity to recycle, but her team has started to feel a sense of pride and ownership, she said.

When she’s not working on an athletics Green Team initiative, brainstorming ways to expand Game Day Recycling or caring for turf, McNeal carries her personal commitment to sustainability home to her 3-year-old twins. “If we can reuse something, we reuse it; if we can recycle something, we recycle it. It’s simple,” she said. “My twins fight over the chance to recycle at home, they love helping out with the recycling.”

To McNeal, excitement about recycling is a first step to incorporating sustainability more broadly into daily life. “Make sure that you understand that sustainability is more than just recycling. Then think simply about your life. There are always ways that you can do things even simpler than you are. The simpler something is, the more routine it will be. When something is routine, it becomes the norm. There are so many ways to make sustainability the norm.”

By Caitlin Brooks-Edwards, Wake Forest Fellow

Faces of Sustainability: Amanda Gambill

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Amanda GambillJunior Amanda Gambill embodies the “think globally, act locally” sustainability mantra. Gambill, a chemistry major with a biochemistry focus, currently leads the Baptist Student Union’s campaign with Charity Water, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Since its inception in 2007, Charity Water has raised more than $6 million and provided over 890 water projects to 13 developing countries. In her giving campaign, Gambill hopes to provide clean drinking water to over 250 people by raising $5,000 for the organization.

Gambill’s campaign with Charity Water is only the most recent way that she has worked to promote sustainability at an international level. Last summer, Gambill partnered with Taylor Hahn, a 2009 graduate of the university’s Masters in Communications program, to teach an environmental ethics class to a group of international students at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute. This is the 6th year that the university has hosted the international summer institute. Gambill and Hahn lectured and held debates on topics related to sustainability in the civic sphere and encouraged students to think critically about the role of government in sustainability. Gambill said she was thrilled at the opportunity to discuss solutions to environmental issues with these young leaders.

Outside of the classroom, Gambill and Hahn provided opportunities for students to participate in sustainable community projects. Students helped clean up the creek near the local dog park in Washington Park and volunteered with local organizations such as the Campus Garden, Campus Kitchen, and the Forsyth Animal Shelter. The students also met with officers from the US Department of State on a trip to Washington, D.C. and discussed the role of government in addressing environmental issues

Gambill, who intends to practice medicine in developing nations, attributes her work in international sustainability to her desire to be part of a solution to global environmental problems. She said that she feels called to engage with sustainability under the motto of Pro Humanitate. “Our project is about helping a portion of humankind who needs the most basic necessity — water,” Gambill says. “And if I have helped humanity, I have fulfilled my duty as a Wake Forest student.”

Donate to Amanda Gambill’s Charity Water campaign at http://mycharitywater.org/wfubsuwomen.

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Miles Silman

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

As a conservation biologist researching biodiversity in the Amazon Rain Forest, Professor of Biology, Miles Silman, has been a de facto part of the sustainability movement since beginning work on his doctorate nearly two decades ago. Yet he admits that he “just didn’t get it” until a confluence of events made him see his research and human impact on the planet in a new light.

“When I came to the university in the fall of 1998, I was working on species distribution and biodiversity in the Amazon, but I never connected it with the wide-scale events that are happening in the world,” he said. “It’s hard for people to connect the things that they work on with these larger processes.”

In 2002, at a 50,000 year-old lake in the Peruvian Amazon, Silman and his colleagues constructed the past climate of the lake through examination of the changing biodiversity as seen in the fossil record. The biodiversity of the lake had changed in synchrony with the climate for millions of years. If species diversity changes were to keep up with projected climate change patterns, species would have to migrate 30 times faster than they had in the past. The results of this research were published in Science and were used to brief Senator John McCain in 2004 for the senate hearings on climate.

Around the same time, Silman and his wife, Alycia, moved to a small farm in Yadkin County, NC where they raised cows, chickens, pigs and goats. Here, they tried to live Silman’s personal take on sustainability: “living in the world, but not using it up.”

It was in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, far from the exotic Amazon rainforest he’d dreamed of exploring as a child, that Silman had the most profound and simple realization, “Animals eat, and that eating has consequences” he said. “And changing anything about an ecosystem – trees, plants, animals, temperature, water – the system changes.”

The realization brought his personal commitment to sustainable farming and his professional career as a leading conservation biologist together in a new way. His research focus shifted to species response to climate change. Together with a group of sustainability-minded faculty, he helped found the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) last fall. The interdisciplinary center promotes critical thinking and effective action across the fields of renewable energy, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, environmental policy, human behavior, social influence, enterprise, and environmental markets.

His work as the center’s director has furthered his understanding of the systemic nature of the sustainability movement. “I now see the other facets,” he said. “I’m still dense about parts of it, but the CEES faculty members are all exploring different angles on the same problems. Coming from a science background, I have a natural interest in energy and technology, but we can have all the science and technological solutions possible and it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand people. Realizing that has been the most important thing for me.”

When not conducting research and working with CEES, Silman spends much of his time communicating the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability to his students in the classroom and on field studies to the Andes. Through his courses, he tries to convey a message: “What you do matters. Be engaged; there are many different ways to be engaged. There is not one way to be sustainable,” he said. “But whatever you do, wherever you do it, you have to be mindful.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Wake Forest Fellow

Faces of Sustainability: Rebecca Matteo

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Photo by De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

As a triathlete, Lecturer of Sociology Rebecca Matteo fuelled her body with sports drinks and power bars and pushed herself to her physical limits. Then a life-changing biking accident forced the vivacious and engaging woman to rethink everything about what it meant to be athletic, healthy and happy.

“I was forced to sit and think. It was time I would not have made for myself,” Matteo said. “I had that kind of light bulb moment when I realized that what I was doing to be healthy wasn’t what was best for me as a whole person.”

The person that emerged from that accident has taken an academic passion for health care service delivery, combined it with an ever-evolving personal commitment to sustainability (and a lot of yoga) and turned it into a wildly popular course in the university’s sociology department.

“The Politics of Food” seminar course examines a wide range of food-centered topics from an academic perspective and integrates a high level of hands-on experience. Students can participate in a number of activities – from volunteering in a community garden to helping plan Food Week with Campus Kitchen – so long as they engage the local sustainable foods movement.“The active learning is really what I think lights up the students,” Matteo said. “They are living the choices.”

The jump from a public health dissertation to a seminar on sustainable food systems was an easy one for Matteo. “We are not dying from infection anymore – we are dying from long term diseases and there has been a shift from reactive to preventative medicine as a result,” she explained. “When you talk about prevention, it’s about lifestyle. We have to make choices, including food choices, to keep ourselves healthy.”

Though her course provides an overwhelming amount of information about food issues ranging from global and national to local scales, the take-away message is a personal one. “Sustainability is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to be radical to be sustainable,” she said. “Every choice makes a difference.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Jim Coffey

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Though his daily duties change with the seasons, one element remains constant for Director of Landscaping Services, Jim Coffey – he’s always busy. Coffey, who celebrates his 25th year with the university this year, has assembled a stellar team of landscaping gurus over the years. Together, they’ve guided the university’s evolution into the park-like landscape so frequently cited by prospective students as a selling point for Wake Forest.

“Each spring I walk around campus and get goose bumps because I can see how the landscape has changed,” Coffey said.

Coffey’s appreciation for the natural environment was instilled in him at a young age by grandparents who loved gardening. As he grew, so did his love of landscaping. Twenty-five years ago, just three years after graduating with a bachelor of science in agriculture, Coffey joined the university’s landscaping team in their former offices – an old barn with a wood stove and no bathrooms.

He stuck with the rugged conditions and early hours (during the summers, the crews may arrive before 6 a.m. to beat the Carolina heat) and became instrumental not only in the continuing growth of the university’s landscape, but in the fledgling sustainability movement as well.

When the university began its recycling efforts in 1990, Coffey worked with students to manage the new program. Two decades later, the university diverts over 30 percent of its waste from landfills and has hired a Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager to work on the program full-time.

In addition to serving as the long-standing staff advisor for SEAC, the student environmental action group on campus, Coffey takes great pride in the Adopt an Area program on campus. Coffey worked with leaders of various Greek organizations on campus to arrange a campus adoption and clean-up program. Each spring and fall, members of these organizations turn out to beautify the campus, alongside landscaping staff.

When he’s not actively working toward a more sustainable future with the university’s students, Coffey dons different caps to perform a dizzying array of administrative and managerial tasks including administrating intra-campus moves and many aspects of special events on campus. His work may also take him to Graylyn, a university rental property, or even the President’s House.

Though Coffey cites variety as one of his favorite aspects of his job, the joy of planting remains close to his heart. Many of his most cherished accomplishments have involved national media attention for the university’s meticulously cared for grounds. In addition to high-profile exposure during the Presidential debates in 1988 and 2000, the team received the Professional Grounds Management Society and Landscape Management Magazine’s 2004 “Grand Award.”

Summarizing Coffey’s approach to working with the natural beauty that makes the Wake Forest campus so unique, he said “We see ourselves as artists — we add a little more paint to the canvas each year.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Tim Auman

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Photo by De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

When he’s not meeting with student leaders of chartered religious organizations on campus, providing pastoral care to university community members, or planning events to foster interfaith dialogue, University Chaplain Tim Auman is navigating ways to incorporate sustainability into the university’s spiritual agenda.

“We try to create opportunities for people from all faith backgrounds to identify shared values,” Auman said.  “Certainly one of the values that all of the religions of the world share is an interest in environmental sustainability.”

Despite this, Auman admits that until recent years, religious attention to stewardship and interconnectivity has been disconnected from everyday life.

“Most of the religious traditions represented on campus see great value in connecting the spiritual journey with the natural world around us. Whether in examining the cosmos or climbing mountains, interacting with nature can act as a vehicle between the sacred and the natural world,” he said.“Yet as we enjoy nature, we have disregarded stewardship because our focus has been so set on the future and the spiritual. That kind of thinking or theology has not always been helpful to us as stewards of creation.”

Auman is working alongside fellow Office of the Chaplain staff members as well as other offices on campus to bridge this gap through education and earnest discussion, though the going has not always been easy.“People feel that they have to sacrifice their beliefs in order to engage in these discussions, but you just have to be open to new possibilities. If we allow ourselves to do that, we realize that most all of us have the same needs. We want clean air and water, enough food, work to do. Those are shared values that we all have.”

To this educational end, the Office of the Chaplain has worked closely with the Office of Sustainability to support the recent screening of Renewal. Auman is also working alongside School of Divinity student, Kayla Pucey, who is developing an interfaith Spring Break backpacking trip with sustainability as a focus.

“One of the things that concerns me about this generation is that you spend so little time outside and have less of an appreciation for the natural world because of this,” he said.

Auman’s personal relationship with sustainability is, fittingly, spiritual. He attempts to orient his life around simplicity by conscientious consumption and frequent reflection, particularly in the splendor of nature.

“Growing up in a materialist culture, I thought that if I accumulated enough stuff, it would contribute to my well-being. Over the years, I’ve realized that that is not really true,” he said. “One of the things I take really seriously now is my own spending habits. I try to be very intentional about buying only things that I need and trying to reuse things as opposed to buying something new. Part of what I’m doing is a spiritual practice to simplify my life.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Shelley Graves

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Campus Kitchen coordinator, Shelley Graves, is nearly incapable of wasting food, which makes her a good fit to lead the organization on campus responsible for redistributing dining and catering waste and channeling local food resources into the hands of those most in need. “I really like to eat, and I really like food. There are a lot of hotbeds for sustainable work, but food is the most essential resource. We all need to eat,” she said of her passion for food justice.

Graves, who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wake Forest, has a long history of involvement with various non-profit groups including Washington D.C. based organization, Brain Food, a program that teaches low-income high school students much needed cooking skills. Yet she had never worked with Campus Kitchen before becoming coordinator in the summer of 2009. The now national organization began in 1999 as a student driven service program at the university called Homerun.

Campus Kitchen has grown a lot as an organization since its grassroots conception at Wake Forest. Today students at 25 schools (including one high school) across the country volunteer to make sure that unserved excess food doesn’t end up in the landfill but in the stomachs of those in need. As part of her full-time position, Graves clocks a lot of hours in the field each week, supervising students during the academic year and sorting and delivering food herself during the summers.

The university’s branch of Campus Kitchen currently serves 8 partner groups from the city of Winston-Salem. Five receive catering and dining hall extras that are distributed directly through the facility. The other three receive produce, dairy, and breads from The Fresh Market to ensure that each family that visits the partner organization receives some healthy fresh foods for the week. Produce from the campus garden is also funneled into the Campus Kitchen distribution system.

While Graves finds the physical tasks of delivering the food to grateful families highly rewarding, she says the best part of her job is getting to work with students to help them blossom into new leaders. “I really think that is the only way to make any sort of large scale change toward sustainability. We help these kids become leaders and they become foot soldiers who educate their peers and help fight this fight,” she said.

Outside of work, Graves strives to take small steps toward sustainability herself. Her love of cooking encouraged her to start a garden which, she says “was a total failure. I guess that’s my dirty little secret. I really want to be a green thumb, but I’m a terrible gardener,” she said.

Not to be deterred, she buys almost all of her food locally during the growing season and hopes to start canning her own vegetables next year. She can also often be found scouring thrift stores and vintage shops for unique used clothing. “People don’t usually think to buy used clothing to live sustainably, but it makes a difference,” Graves said.

Caitlin Brooks, Outreach and Communications Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Wendell Hardin

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

When asked his number one tip for sustainable living, Sustainability Program Manager for Winston-Salem, Wendell Hardin replied, “Start small” – advice he has followed with great success. Just a few years ago, Hardin was serving as the Community Planner for the City of Prescott, Arizona, a job that required his active involvement in water preservation measures in the arid western climate. As he delved deeper into water conservation, colleagues began to associate him with this “thing going on around the country called sustainability.”

Extensive study of resource conservation across the country led Hardin to become a co-founder of the first U.S. Green Building Council chapter in Prescott where he was voted by his green building peers to represent the State of Arizona on the USGBC West Regional Council. At a conference in Phoenix attended in this capacity, be became aware of the open position in Winston-Salem. Not long after, he made the journey back to the American South, where his family lived originally.

Since arriving in the city this spring, Hardin has been hard at work building credibility as the city’s first-ever Sustainability Program Manager. At the top of his agenda are greenhouse gas reductions within the city-owned and managed infrastructure as well as public education on the importance of sustainability efforts to the city of Winston-Salem. Key to achieving these goals are plans for urban forests in many of the city’s vacant lots in order to capture large amounts of harmful CO2 emissions as well as the first-ever Go Expo, an exposition aimed at promoting sustainability education to professionals and to a wider, more casual  audience of community members.

Like many in his field, Hardin’s dedication to living more sustainably doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. His entire orientation to Winston-Salem is based on his dedication to making as little negative impact on the city as possible. “I want to live in this city and get around in this city based on what it has to offer me,” he said, noting that he chose his home based on its proximity to work and other necessities. “I walk or bike to work most days,” he said (when he’s not taking advantage of the city’s bus routes). “And if it rains, I get wet, and if it snows, I’ll be cold, but that’s the way it is.”

Hardin encourages a similar mindset for every citizen of Winston-Salem. “You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to live completely sustainably. Don’t let your enthusiasm take you down a road that you cannot maintain. If you start small, your actions become a pattern and a way of life and pretty soon, you just do it (live sustainably) every day,” he said.

Caitlin Brooks, Outreach and Communications Intern

Faces of Sustainability – David Davis

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Maintaining the landscape and horticultural variety of Wake Forest’s property is a much more complex and integrated endeavor than one might suspect, as proven by David Davis, Wake’s Manager of Landscaping Services. A new administration at the university brought new and progressive views on sustainability, and a shift in the landscaping practices of old.

For years now, Davis has been working to ensure sustainable landscape by ensuring integrated pest management, paying close attention to species selection (consistently favoring native species over invasive), and realizing that the little things do in fact matter- such as reusing leaves for compost in order to minimize resource input.

Most notably in recent years, a collaboration of individuals at both Wake Forest and the surrounding neighborhood have been working to create a Cherokee garden on Wake’s campus. This project, which began in the fall of 2008, came into full bloom on April 22nd with a Native American blessing of the garden. The garden, which serves as a scenic intersect between the campus’ drylands and wetlands, owes its biodiversity to the collection of storm-water atop a layered bedrock.

It is hoped that this garden will be used as an outdoor classroom, one that can be valued for its subtle beauty and functional use as an exhibit of native species.  Davis sites his creative freedom in projects as one of his favorite parts of the job. He particularly enjoyed the evolution of the campus garden project which saw the transformation of a once unimpressive landscape into a diverse and intrinsically beautiful place.

Kathleen Pritchard, Outreach and Communications Intern