Column by Alice Romanov (’20), Green Business Network Intern and Graphic Design Assistant with the Office of Sustainability. This column is part of our Virtual Earth Month at Wake Forest, where we’re hosting videos, podcasts, and ways to keep you connected as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day together. 

This spring has been a change of season unlike any other, ringing in an era of loss, sacrifice, and uncertainty. The grasp of COVID-19 on our country has left almost no life untouched, no day-to-day routine unaltered, and no “business as usual.” 

During my time at Wake Forest, one of my favorite things was finding a home and community in Winston-Salem. Very quickly, it became evident that the Winston-Salem community is truly special in the tight-knit fabric of its creative local economy. From Fair Share Farms’ fresh produce to coffee from Krankies or Camino and independent films at a/perture cinema, the list of incredible small businesses, many of which are committed to sustainability, goes on.

I had the opportunity to strengthen my ties to the local business community as an intern with the Office of Sustainability, working for the Piedmont Environmental Alliance’s (PEA) Green Business Network. This program was designed to provide local business owners with a roadmap to sustainability and to help community members identify sustainable businesses. The position gave me a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work and passion that goes into the local businesses we know and love. Our community of incredible innovators are leading the way forward. They have further inspired my passion for sustainability and have broadened my perspective about what it means to support a community.

Now more than ever, my friends and I are missing this community and can profoundly feel its absence in our lives. Sitting at home with the understanding (and privilege) that social distancing is our responsibility, it is easy to feel helpless and out of touch with tangible ways to help.

So, how do you practice solidarity from a place of solitude?

If you, too, are struggling with the complexity of this question, this column offers some ideas about how you might support your community in a sustainable manner. As a disclaimer, this is just a snapshot of the many ways you might contribute at this time. If there are additional ideas or opportunities you are aware of, please share them with us at sustainability@wfu.edu. 

Ways to support the community during the coronavirus: 

  1. Volunteer as a virtual tutor for K-12 children in W-S and Forsyth County Schools.

  2. Help fight against increased food insecurity:

    1. Donate resources to a local food bank, such as the Second Harvest Food Bank 
    2. Spread the word about food distribution locations:  Grab n’ Go school Sites (free meals for all children ages 0-18, and for adults $1 breakfast and $2 lunch), and Winston Salem Dinner Distributions 
    3. Be mindful of your food waste. With groceries stores already struggling to stock their shelves, you can relieve some pressure off the food system by reducing your food waste.  A few simple ways include: storing food in the proper place (and at the proper temperature), waiting to wash produce until you’re ready to use it (to avoid mold), freezing anything that you don’t expect to use in the near future (if freezing is possible), making a stock, starting a compost bin, and, simply, eating your leftovers.
    4. Volunteer at a meal site for displaced service workers. Ex: collaboration with Heard Collaborative Cafe and Second Harvest Foodbank. Other food security related organizations you could donate to include: 
    5. Refrain from buying WIC-labeled products in grocery stores. This label indicates a government nutritional assistance program for women, infants and children (WIC). Individuals relying on this program can only buy WIC-labeled food items with their benefits.
    6. Contribute to mutual aid efforts in your community.
  3. Donate to the Wake Forest Crisis Response Fund to directly support students, faculty, and staff members affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

  4. Donate bloodHealth officials say the coronavirus epidemic could lead to a serious shortage of blood supply. If you are healthy and able to donate, schedule an appointment to donate blood

  5. Only buy what you need, and try to shop local when possible.

  6. Reach out to the healthcare workers in your life and thank them for their bravery and service! A small message of support and acknowledgement can go a long way.

  7. Support the local economy (in Winston, or wherever you might be!). 

      • Connect with your favorite businesses on social media in order to stay in the know about updated options and the best ways to support them
      • Order takeout and delivery from restaurants and grocers. The Downtown Winston-Salem partnership has created an online list of offerings from downtown businesses
      • Buy from local growersCobblestone Farmers Market is still operating on Saturdays outdoors, under new parameters and an additional drive-through option on Wednesdays 
      • Purchase gift cards as gifts for others or as a treat to your future, post-quarantine self. 
      • Support merchandise fundraisers (ex: Camino/ Machine Gun collab merch and and Mission Pizza’s  “drink local” tees- all proceeds will help fund financial relief for food and bev workers
      • Donate to Venmo funds set up for supporting employees that were laid off
      • Commission works from local artists
      • Donate food, money, beer, etc. to “Staff stores”-ex: Porch-  the Employee & Former Employee Emergency Store
      • Take advantage of virtual offerings 

And most importantly, stay informed, stay hopeful, and if you can, stay home.

Feature Image: Poster print “Winston-Salem Strong” by local artist, Sean McNamara. Find his work here