Wake Forest University

Magnolias Project - Apply to Participate - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Magnolias Project – Apply to Participate

Magnolias Project – Apply to Participate

Magnolias Project 2017 – Applications Open

To All Wake Forest Faculty:

We invite you to enhance your teaching and engagement with sustainability issues by participating in the Magnolias Project May 10-11, 2017 on the Wake Forest campus.  No prior experience with sustainability-related issues in the classroom or in research is necessary, and faculty at all ranks and career stages are welcome.

This innovative approach to curricular change, modeled on the nationally renowned Piedmont Project (Emory University), provides faculty with an intellectually stimulating and collegial experience to pool their expertise.  Faculty who would like to develop a new course module or an entirely new course that engages issues of sustainability and the environment are encouraged to apply.

The workshop will explore how we can meaningfully integrate sustainability—broadly defined—into our classrooms.  Although we start by taking a close look at Wake Forest University and the larger Piedmont region, we invite participants to engage in local to global comparisons.

The Magnolia Project kicks off with a two-day workshop (May 10-11) that will offer opportunities to extend research and teaching horizons across disciplines and create new networks with fellow colleagues.  Following the workshop, faculty participants prepare discipline-specific course materials on their own over the summer. They reconvene in the fall to discuss their insights and experiences.  Participants receive a stipend of $500 ($250 upon completion of the workshop; $250 upon completion of a new or revised syllabus).

Project participants agree to:

  1. Read some materials prior to the workshop
  2. Participate in the full 2-day workshop on May 10-11, 2017
  3. Commit time during the summer to prepare or revise a syllabus and submit it in August
  4. Report back to the group in the fall semester

Interested? Applications will be accepted until April 17. 

  • Send a short description (one paragraph maximum) of how you plan to change an existing course, or develop a new one, that will incorporate environmental and/or sustainability issues to Kim Couch at couchkm@wfu.edu.  Please include your name, departmental affiliation, phone number and e-mail address.

Want to know more?

Browse the Magnolias or Piedmont Project websites for example syllabi and faculty statements:

Come join a community of faculty searching for new ways to engage issues relevant to their fields.

Where Are They Now: Jenny Miller (’14)

November 17th, 2017

Q: How did your Wake Forest education prepare you for where you are now?

A:  My liberal arts education at Wake Forest exposed me to new fields of information, challenged me to think creatively, and allowed me the opportunity to engage with people who I might not otherwise have met. The interdisciplinary nature of my experience proved essential post-graduation, as it prepared me for the winding road that would lead me to the job I have today.

The path toward my desired career in conservation proved much bumpier than I originally imagined. After graduating, I held multiple positions—from the manager of the Wake Forest Campus Garden, to working as an assistant for two vice presidents in Washington, DC.  Thankfully, my Wake Forest education had taught me to embrace new opportunities, to do the best job I could with the understanding that my work still contributed positively to humanity.

Q:  You held two different positions with the Wake Forest Office of Sustainability.  What were they, and what did you gain from these experiences?

A: I was first the Manager for the Campus Garden, where I learned how to oversee projects and engage successful teams. Effective oversight involved tracking schedules for planting, watering and harvesting, and ensuring that important resources were always available in order to create a productive garden space. Growing plants and composting are not always activities with which people are comfortable, so I quickly learned how to meet the volunteers at each of their individual levels. After determining their understanding of sustainable agriculture, I planned specific projects which were appropriately engaging for each person; this allowed volunteers to participate in ways which were meaningful to them, yet also productive success of the garden.

As the Special Campaign Coordinator for the Office, I worked with campuses across the Southeast to build momentum for agricultural biodiversity in regional food systems. This effort provided experience in learning how to best tailor and communicate ideas to different constituencies, as well as how to coordinate community groups to bring an idea to fruition. Ultimately, my work as Special Campaign Coordinator culminated in connecting Winston-Salem residents, local entrepreneurs, students, campus professionals, and a special guest—author and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva—for a tree-planting event in the Reynolda Gardens.

Q:  You now work as the Sustainable Markets and Finance Associate with Rare, an international conservation organization. What does your job entail? 

A: As an Associate for the Sustainable Markets and Finance team at Rare, I liaise with program staff in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, and the United States to align goals and track progress for the local development of sustainable markets projects. These projects include training communities to support behavior change through the provision of technical knowledge and resources for maintaining sustainable watersheds, fisheries and agriculture. We also work to find markets for individuals to sell their sustainable products so that they can support their livelihoods and local economy. Additionally, I develop and manage my department’s budget and provide administrative support by tracking timelines, commitments, travel, and overseeing various team meetings. Finally, I spend time communicating with corporate business partners, financiers, media, policy-makers and stakeholders to build understanding of Rare’s programs.

Q:  What is your favorite part about showing up for work each day?

A: My favorite part of showing up to work each day is knowing I’ll positively support communities globally, while achieving personal growth. My work contributes to achieving long-term conservation, dually improving nature and people’s livelihoods, while the talented group at Rare guarantees I’ll continue to learn and absorb useful information for building a better future.

Parking and Transportation Now Transportation and Parking Services

November 8th, 2017

“In the past year, we have increased our fleet of shuttles from six vehicles to eleven,” says Bryant. In doing so, the department hopes to generate more effective and reliable transport to WFU satellite locations and Winston-Salem hotspots. Bryant also notes that the means of tracking shuttles has been updated for convenience and efficiency. “We are proud to have added the Transloc GPS system, which provides users with real-time access to bus routes and schedules.”

In terms of traveling beyond the vicinity of Winston-Salem, Transportation and Parking Services has partnered with the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) to increase the accessibility of carpooling and vanpooling options. Using the ride-matching service ShareTheRideNC, the Wake Forest population has access to a network of over 30 different companies and universities from which they can safely find a carpool partner(s).

Bryant shares that there are more exciting updates to come. “We are looking to add airport shuttle services to the mix by spring 2018, among other future services. All of our new changes and improvements are not only intended to give the Wake community more options for getting where they need to go, but also to increase our commitment to sustainability.”

The offerings complement university-wide programs that support alternatives to SOV or single-occupancy-vehicle travel (one driver in one car). Zipcar offers car sharing to those who choose not to bring vehicles onto campus but who still need access to a vehicle for unique trips. Additionally, the bike sharing program, Re-Cycle, offers a two-wheeled option by the hour or by the semester.

“Although some individuals would like to drive every inch of their routes and park at the front door of their destinations, this isn’t a realistic expectation in a changing world,” adds Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the university’s chief sustainability officer. “Our students will graduate and enter a world of changing transportation infrastructure. For those who live and work in metropolitan areas, alternatives to SOV travel are the norm.”

To discover more about the department’s alternative transportation solutions, as well as transportation-related offerings, like electric vehicle charging stations, visit their website.

Call for Spring 2018 Interns

November 3rd, 2017

Please note: successful candidates may be required to return from winter break one day early to attend an orientation session.

To apply, please fill out this form. Applications are due by Friday, November 17.


INTERNSHIPS

Interns will be part of the OoS Intern Team and are required to attend weekly team meetings.

Public Art Intern
The public art intern will work collaboratively with the Office of Sustainability, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and other campus partners to create a public art experience with a focus on environmental justice. The art experience will take place during the Office of Sustainability’s Earth Week celebration, March 19-23, 2018. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, curating the work of WFU and community artists, determining the experience, preparing the exhibition or other artistic outcome, planning an opening reception, and aiding in promotion. The intern will work closely with the Office of Sustainability’s event coordinator and a group of student volunteers.

Sustainability in Dining Intern
The sustainability in dining intern will work collaboratively with Deacon Dining management and the Office of Sustainability on a variety of topics, including communicating current sustainable dining initiatives, planning events to educate and raise awareness, promoting plant-forward dining by communicating its environmental and health benefits, and engaging in initiatives to reduce waste from dining facilities. The intern will also work with the newly-formed Plant-Forward Dining Committee and Campus Nutritionist Brooke Orr. This internship reports directly to the WFU Department of Hospitality and Auxiliary Services.

Waste Reduction Intern
The waste reduction intern will work to create and implement various initiatives that reduce the amount of waste generated on campus. These initiatives may include, but are not necessarily limited to, consultation with students, faculty, and staff who plan events; residence hall waste reduction; move-in and move-out waste reduction and diversion; and both general and targeted outreach. The intern will also work with the newly-formed Compost Crew to expand the on-campus collection of food waste for composting.

Propose a Unique Internship
Have a great idea for a sustainability-focused internship that’s not listed? Submit a unique internship proposal. We are always looking for new, innovative ways for students to generate sustainability-focused solutions on campus. Your proposal should include an articulation of the need for the proposed project and the landscape of issues surrounding the project.

Meet our current interns on our staff page.


ASSISTANTSHIPS

Event Assistant
The event assistant will work directly with the Office of Sustainability’s event coordinator and with a group of campus stakeholders in planning, supporting, and executing sustainability events and programs. Major duties will include assisting in social media marketing both before and during events, aiding in onsite event logistics, and leading a small group of volunteers during events. Experience with live-streaming events is preferred.

Recycling Assistant
The recycling assistant will be tasked with monitoring and assessing existing waste diversion infrastructure. Responsibilities include conducting inventories of recycling and waste receptacles and their placement on campus, assessing levels of contamination, and identifying areas that require intervention. Much of the work will be observational, but communication with stakeholders will also be required.

Take Action to Draw Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions

October 31st, 2017

Dr. Katharine Wilkinson spoke at Wake Forest University on October 5 on the 80 solutions to reversing global warming.

Drawdown transforms the doom-and-gloom narrative of climate change into a story of courage and possibility. It shows that 80 solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions are already in place, economically viable, and being implemented in communities around the world with steadfast determination, and that 20 more innovative solutions are coming out of the gates.

Nevertheless, the idea of reversing global warming is hard to comprehend on an individual level. It’s no wonder that throughout Wilkinson’s visit, the question of “How can I get involved with Project Drawdown?” surfaced again and again at different engagements.

The answer, as explained by Wilkinson, is that all solutions presented in Drawdown depend on how individuals and institutions choose to invest their time, energy, finances, and thought into reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Drawdown proves that while decisions made by industry, government, and other groups have a major impact on our future on this planet, individual decisions are equally as important.

To help you determine what you can do to make a difference, we have compiled a list of five of the 26 Drawdown solutions being implemented at Wake Forest that you can adopt today.

Advocate for women’s rights. If you add solutions #6 and #7, Educating Girls and Family Planning, empowering women and girls is the number one solution to reversing global warming. Due to existing inequalities, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, women and girls are vital to successfully addressing climate change and humanity’s overall resilience. Join the WFU Women’s Center for events such as Passing the Mic or become a peer educator for women’s equity with the L.E.A.V.E.s Program. By improving the rights, well-being, and equity of women and girls, we can improve the future of life on this planet.

Say no to food waste. Eight of the top 20 Drawdown solutions pertain to food. The #3 ranked solution is Reduced Food Waste and the #4 solution is a Plant-Rich Diet — both of which people can adopt immediately and at no cost. That being said, how many times have you tossed out milk that hasn’t gone bad, or forgotten about leftovers in your refrigerator? Remember to take only what you want to eat when eating at a dining hall, be sure to prioritize leftovers, grocery shop only when needed, and use your senses to determine when food has gone bad instead of relying solely on ambiguous sell-by labels.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. To quote Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Shifting to a plant-rich diet is a demand-side solution to global warming. By dining multiple times per day, imagine how many opportunities you have to turn the tables. With Wake Forest’s dedicated to plant-forward dining, it’s easy to turn Pollan’s mantra into a daily routine.

Get there the green way. Transportation produces the equivalent of 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in greenhouse gas emissions annually. At Wake Forest, students, faculty, and staff have access to SharetheRideNC, Zipcar, the Re-Cycle Bike Share Program, Wake Forest shuttles, and local public transportation and ride-sharing opportunities from PART.

Take action. Get involved locally and nationally with those who are already implementing solutions. For example, join the local Sierra Club chapter, become a member of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance, support female education and empowerment, and elect local, state, and national representatives who support clean water, air, strong climate action, and community well-being. Remember, only you are in charge of how you spend your time, energy, finances, and thought— put your power to good use.

Photo courtesy of the WFU Women’s Center Facebook.

Author Offers New Approach To Climate Change

October 23rd, 2017

The book Drawdown serves “to map, measure and model the most substantive solutions to climate change and bring those solutions and the answers that we’ve uncovered to life,” Wilkinson said in her presentation.

Wilkinson was brought to Wake Forest to present various ways in which everyone, including Wake Forest students, can participate in the movement to reverse the effects of climate change.

Drawdown functions as a handbook that presents 100 solutions to climate change, specifically focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Eighty of the solutions have been proven effective and scaled, while 20 solutions are considered ‘coming attractions,’ as these solutions are currently being tested.

Each of the solutions are ranked in terms of how much carbon dioxide they would reduce within practice. In addition to rankings, the solutions are presented alongside their cost of implementation and operational savings. By providing figures, Wilkinson adds an economic perspective to the topic of sustainability.

Emma Hughes, a Wake Forest mathematical economics major and environmental studies minor said the economic element “adds value for someone who doesn’t care as deeply about the environment.”

Wilkinson’s interdisciplinary approach to climate change is a product of her education and prior work experiences. She received her bachelor’s degree in Religion from Sewanee and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geography and Environment from Oxford. Prior to working at Project Drawdown, Wilkinson worked in various consultancy firms, taught at Oxford and worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Before Drawdown, Wilkinson published her first book, God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change, in 2012. This book was a product of her research at Oxford.

Sebastian Irby, a Wake Forest senior who created her own interdisciplinary sustainability studies major with a focus in climate change, has worked within the Office of Sustainability throughout her time at Wake Forest. This event was sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, Office of the Dean of the College and Sustainability Graduate Programs. Additionally, Irby is referencing Wilkinson’s God & Green as a resource as she prepares her senior thesis.

“This is in a lot of the circles that I run in daily,” Irby said in the auditorium before the event had begun.

Within Wilkinson’s top 20 solutions, the most represented areas of impact include various solutions centered around food, energy and land use.

Wilkinson concludes by emphasizing the multi-dimensional benefits to her mission, “One of the things that becomes clear when you come through the lens of solutions, is that — yes, these are ways to address greenhouse gases, great … they’re also the means of building a more vibrant and equitable and prosperous and resilient world where people are healthier and happier.”

Originally published in the Old Gold and Black.

The Age of Consequences – Screening & Discussion with Producer Sophie Robinson

October 12th, 2017

Following the screening, the film’s executive producer, Sophie Robinson, will lead a discussion.

The event will begin at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 1, in the Pugh Auditorium at the Benson University Center. Admission is free and seats are limited.

Environmental Wellbeing: How Facilities Management Impacts Climate Change

October 4th, 2017

  • Refrigerant management (1)
  • Rooftop solar (10)
  • District heating (27)
  • Solar water (41)
  • Heat pumps (42)
  • LED lighting (44)
  • Building automation (45)
  • Home water saving (46)
  • Recycled paper (70)
  • Retrofitting (80)

MATERIALS: Common Techniques and Technologies to Close the Loop

Refrigerant management is the top Drawdown solution. So, what is refrigerant management, and why is it important? Every refrigerator and air conditioner in existence contains chemical refrigerants that allow us to keep things cool. Up until recently, refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were key culprits in in depleting the stratospheric ozone layer. Upon discovery of their damaging effects, CFCs and HFCs were slowly phased out. Nevertheless, refrigerants continue to cause problems for our planet. Ninety percent of refrigerant emissions are created at the point of disposal, and without proper management of refrigerant waste, resultant emissions can be detrimental. In 2016, officials from more than 170 countries enacted the Kigali Deal, a mandatory agreement with specific targets and timetables for phasing out HFCs. It is estimated that the accord will reduce global warming by nearly one degree Fahrenheit. With the Kigali Deal in place, as well as additional safety measures for managing existing refrigerants, we may draw down carbon emissions by nearly 90 gigatons.

How does Wake Forest play its part in refrigerant management? Mike Draughn, Director of Maintenance & Utilities Services with Facilities & Campus Services (FACS), says that FACS partners with the university’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety to administer an all-encompassing, campus-wide program. “Basically, campus is treated as a giant balloon, and we try to measure any escaped refrigerants given both type and asset—the equipment from which it came.” Draughn states that FACS works to quickly identify and fix or replace any equipment that has a refrigerant leak or is at the end of its life. When appliances are discarded, refrigerant is either sold back to the installing contractor and reclaimed (for large items such as chillers), or is removed on campus and collected in warehouse recycling containers (for smaller equipment). “We always report a draw or deposit of inventory on any refrigerant that was either used or recycled and added to refrigerant storage in our warehouse. In terms of replacing and renewing appliances, we update and choose equipment based on a review of the most current, efficient, and environmentally-friendly refrigerant options.”

Wake Forest is also committed to Drawdown solution number 46—home water saving. If 95 percent of taps and showerheads are converted to low-flow options by 2050, we would avoid 4.6 gigatons of carbon emissions. According to Doug Ecklund, the Building Systems Manager for WFU FACS, we have seen a 45 percent increase in water savings as new buildings on campus are renovated and equipped with low-flow shower and water fixtures, as well as dual-flush toilets.

ENERGY: Planning for the Transition

One technology with which many are familiar is rooftop solar. First tested in 1884, solar capture technologies have become mainstream over the years and have seen increases in both affordability and effectiveness. If rooftop solar can grow from 4 percent of global electricity generation to 7 percent by the year 2050, we can avoid 24.6 gigatons of carbon emissions. There are several demonstrations of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology on campus: on the Barn, Reynolda Gardens greenhouse, and North Dining. To make a meaningful transition to solar PV, Wake Forest would need about 20 acres of panels. A changing regulatory environment in the state might release some of the current constraints on this transition.

The Barn was the first building on campus to feature solar electric PV cells.

Solar energy can also be used to heat water. Creating hot water for showers, washing dishes, and cleaning laundry makes up 25 percent of residential energy use worldwide. If solar water heating grows from 5.5 percent to 25 percent by the year 2050, we can draw down carbon emissions by 6.1 gigatons. This is currently the most cost effective application of solar technology on campus. South Hall’s water is heated by solar. Additionally, in phase three of the Reynolds Gym renovation, solar will be installed as a source of heating for the water for the pool.

BUILDINGS AND CITIES: Innovation in Our Urban Habitat

In terms of regulating the temperature of buildings in urban spaces, district heating is the way to go. Rather than having small heating and cooling units in each building, district heating entails funneling steam and/or chilled water from a central plant across a network of pipes to a variety of different buildings. By replacing stand-alone water and space-heating systems that currently exist with district heating techniques, we could draw down carbon emissions by 9.4 gigatons by 2050.

John Shenette, Wake Forest’s Associate Vice President for FACS, believes that the WFU campus is a great example of district heating. From the main Facilities plant, steam and chilled water are distributed to campus buildings through underground ducts to heat and dehumidify, through cooling, indoor spaces. “Wake Forest has invested a good deal of money into improved automation and controls,” says Shenette, “And for good reason—district heating and cooling is much better than individualized units in terms of efficiency.”

Building automation systems (BAS) are becoming very common in the commercial sector. In a building with a BAS, a centralized, computer-based “brain” monitors and controls all mechanical functions in order to operate under the greatest level of efficiency and effectiveness. If BAS usage expands from 34 percent of commercial floor space to 50 percent by the middle of the 21st century, we could draw down 4.6 gigatons of carbon and generate a large savings in operational costs. BAS exist in most campus buildings here at Wake Forest. The campus makes great use of occupancy sensors that adjust lighting and control heating and cooling by detecting the presence of someone in a room. There are also sensors to determine bathroom exhaust fan speeds according to occupancy and to detect the need for certain amounts of hot water. Over the past few years, the implementation of such controls has resulted in a 20 percent decrease in electricity usage on campus.

One efficiency solution that is easily recognizable from residential buildings and other locations across campus is LED lighting. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, convert electrons to photons and use 90 percent less energy to emit the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb. In addition, LEDs have an extremely long life—27 years if turned on five hours per day. It is assumed that LEDs will become standard by 2050, replacing less-efficient bulbs and avoiding 7.8 gigatons and 5 gigatons of carbon in households and commercial buildings, respectively. LED lighting exists across the Wake Forest campus. According to Shenette, there are upwards of 1,000 LED fixtures both indoors and out.

From full renovation of residence halls on the upper quad to routine replacement of ordinary appliances, Drawdown solution number 80, retrofitting, is highly visible across campus. Retrofitting—updating existing buildings by installing better insulation, more energy-efficient features in the “envelope” like windows and roofs, and upgraded management systems—is taking place all around campus. “A great example of retrofitting is the Reynolds Gym,” says Shenette. “Rather than creating a brand-new building, we converted the bones of the original gym, revamped and reengineered everything with more efficient structural, electrical, and mechanical infrastructure. The same thing is also happening right now with the Salem Hall renovation. It’s incredibly innovative.”

Want to learn more about how you can play a part in Project Drawdown to reduce GHG emissions? Join us for a public lecture by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer of Drawdown, on October 5 in the Byrum Welcome Center starting at 6:00 pm. RSVP here.

Leading the Way Toward Carbon Reduction through Campus-Wide Initiatives

October 3rd, 2017

  • Reduced food waste (3)
  • Plant-rich diet (4)
  • Regenerative agriculture (11)
  • Electric vehicles (26)
  • Mass transit (37)
  • Household recycling (55)
  • Bike infrastructure (59)
  • Composting (60)
  • Ride sharing (75)

FOOD

Do you know the environmental impact of the food you eat? You may be surprised to see that the adoption of a plant-rich diet is solution number four, but it’s true– overconsumption of animal protein not only comes at a high cost to human health, but it is also detrimental to our global climate. Even the most conservative estimates blame animal husbandry for nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted each year. Food waste is an even bigger problem. Did you know that a third of the food raised or prepared each year does not even make it to your plate? If more people adopted plant-rich diets, composted organic matter, and reduced food waste by 50 percent, we could draw carbon emissions down by 70.53 gigatons by the year 2050.

A portion of the offerings provided by the vegan station.

Wake Forest Dining is making strides to support diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins. According to Wake Forest’s registered dietician/nutritionist, Brooke Orr, “Deacon Dining aims to educate students and provide a variety of plant-based diet options across campus.” Current options include: vegetarian/vegan options at catered events, the vegan station at the Fresh Food Company, the Performance Dining Station at the Fresh Food Company—which offers a variety of vegetables and plant based protein options daily, and the Performance Dining education program—which encourages students to make half of their plate vegetables and half of their protein choices a plant protein.

Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest has been working to reduce food waste for many years. This student-led initiative repurposes food that is prepared, but not served, into meals that are distributed through community partner agencies in Winston-Salem. The group also gleans food from high-end grocers in town. More than 500 pounds of high quality food, which no longer meets the store managers’ standards, is redirected daily to individuals and families suffering from food insecurity.

Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest repurposes food that is prepared, but not served, into meals that are distributed through community partner agencies in Winston-Salem.

According to John Wise, the Associate Vice President of WFU Hospitality & Auxiliary Services, our campus has also taken substantial steps to divert food waste from the landfill. The North Dining Hall was specifically designed to minimize waste. Both pre-and post-consumer food waste are sent to Gallins Family Farm to be converted into nutrient-rich compost. In the Pit, all pre-consumer waste from food prep is sent to Gallins Family Farm to be composted. Additionally, all coffee grounds from the national brand outlet and student-run enterprise on campus are diverted and composted.

Wake Forest is also working to demonstrate regenerative agriculture in the Campus Garden. Regenerative agriculture restores degraded land through no-tillage practices, diverse cover-cropping, in-farm fertility (no requirement of external nutrients), no pesticides/synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations between plots. The purpose of these methods is to help restore soil health by improving its carbon content. If regenerative agriculture acres increase from 108 million to 1 billion by 2050, carbon emissions could be reduced by nearly 23.2 gigatons.

MATERIALS

In addition to reducing the impacts of agricultural practices, Wake Forest promotes solid waste reduction and recycling. On average, 50 percent of recycled materials globally come from households, while the other 50 percent come from industrial and commercial sectors. The university is working to educate students, faculty, and staff about the economics behind consumer recycling while focusing on diverting major material streams like furniture, yard waste, and construction and demolition waste.

TRANSPORT

Another key set of initiatives on campus center on transportation. The implementation of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is a great pathway for reducing carbon emissions; easy access to bicycles, as well as the placement of a safe and effective riding environment, could work to increase global bike trips from 5.5 to 7.5 percent, and avoid 2.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions. Check out Re-Cycle, our bike sharing program, which allows students, faculty, and staff to borrow bikes for up to an entire semester. Additionally, Wake Forest administrators are in collaboration with City of Winston-Salem staff to implement recommendations for improving infrastructure to and from campus.

The WFU Re-Cycle Program allows students, faculty, and staff to borrow bikes for up to an entire semester.

If biking isn’t your thing, there are other sustainable transportation options. Mass transit currently makes up 37 percent of urban travel. If usage grows to 40 percent by 2050, we could save nearly 6.6 gigatons of emissions from individual cars. Similarly, ride sharing is free to implement and can also result in a significant reduction of GHGs.

In the realm of transit, Wake Forest’s transportation manager, Arian Bryant, supports “a fleet of 11 shuttles, which regularly run from the main campus to WFU satellite locations, as well as to a number of hotspots in the Winston-Salem community. We have recently redesigned our routes to make them more efficient and user friendly, and are now utilizing TransLoc, a GPS tracking service which shows the user bus routes and schedules.” If you need to travel somewhere beyond the shuttle routes, there are five Zipcars on the Reynolda campus and one at Wake Downtown. Additionally, Wake Forest partners with ShareTheRideNC, a ride-matching and ride-sharing service sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART). This service allows WFU students, faculty, and staff to share a ride with anyone across ShareTheRide’s network of 30+ companies and universities.

One of the electric vehicle charging stations on the WFU Reynolda campus.

Bryant also highlighted Wake Forest’s use of electric vehicles (EVs); many of the vehicles in the fleets used by campus maintenance personnel are EVs. Additionally, WFU’s Transportation and Parking Services is in the process of upgrading all parking enforcement vehicles to EVs. The campus also has a number of charging stations which are free for use by students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors. But what is the environmental benefit of transitioning away from internal combustion engines? If ownership and use of EVs rises to 16 percent of passenger miles driven by 2050, 10.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided. With innovation on the rise, it seems that EVs will be among the cars of the future.

Want to learn more about how you can play a part in Project Drawdown and campus initiatives to reduce GHG emissions? Join us for a public lecture by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer of Drawdown, on October 5 in the Byrum Welcome Center starting at 6:00 pm. RSVP here.

Forward Focused: Research for a Cooler Climate and Brighter Future

September 27th, 2017

In this piece, we examine six Drawdown solutions where Wake Forest researchers and scholars are actively making strides. These solutions, and their corresponding ranks, include:

  • Tropical forests (5)
  • Forest protection (38)
  • Coastal wetlands (52)
  • Smart glass (61)
  • Biochar (72)
  • Pope Francis (Not part of the 80 solutions, but featured under “Coming Attractions”)

To effectively draw down carbon and reduce our climate impact, the conservation of old-growth forests and tropical forest preservation is vital. Tropical forests are an important focus, ranking fifth on the Drawdown list of solutions—their loss alone is responsible for 16-19 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity. The good news is that these forests are extremely resilient; with restoration and rehabilitation, they can recover 90 percent of the biomass of old-growth forests within a median of 66 years. This recovery is beneficial in that it takes carbon from the atmosphere and places it back into plants and soil. If humanity takes action, we could reduce CO2 output by 61.2 gigatons by 2050.

ake Forest biologist Miles Silman in the cloud forest.

Wake Forest Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES) researcher Dr. Miles Silman dedicates much of his time to studying tropical forest ecosystem response. His primary interest is how nutrients in the forests—carbon, in particular—cycle between the soil, atmosphere, and living organisms. In his research, Silman has developed a methodology for assessing concentrations of carbon in forests—how much the organic matter stores or releases on a cyclical basis—and then applying this information to carbon offsetting projects and conservation.

Silman and another CEES researcher, Dr. Abdou Lachgar, are working closely with solution number 72—biochar. Known as terra preta—literally, “black earth” in Portuguese—biochar covers up to 10 percent of the Amazon basin. Silman and Lachgar work with modeling this dark earth—and produce it not only in the lab at Wake Forest, but in two areas of the lowland Amazonian tropics. Additionally, Silman and Lachgar monitor the effects of biochar on tropical agriculture and what it may mean for economic productivity in those areas.

CEES researchers are developing a new and more effective version of biochar made from native Amazonian bamboos.

Wake Forest faculty and students are also examining coastal wetlands and how humanity’s progression impacts these delicate ecosystems; these wetlands are enormous carbon sinks—protecting them will secure around 15 gigatons of carbon and prevent a 53 gigaton increase of GHGs in the atmosphere. Through partnerships with the Belizean government, Wake Forest students have had the opportunity to work with the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute to help ensure the coasts remain healthy. Additional information about CEES in Belize can be found on the Center’s website.

Wake Forest physics professor David Carroll.

David Carroll, WFU professor of Physics and Director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, is researching the electrochromic responses that enable solution 61, smart glass. Smart glass has the ability to account for changes in light and weather and can improve the energy efficiency of buildings. If smart glass is implemented in 29 percent of commercial buildings by 2050, emissions from energy use would be reduced by 2.2 gigatons.

Though not part of the 80 solutions, but mentioned as a coming attraction is Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home.” The book describes Laudato Si as a work that lifts away jargon and brings the scientific issue of global warming down to a personal, “fully human” dimension.

WFU Journalism Professor Justin Catanoso has researched the letter extensively, and agrees that it is a “beautifully written document, put together by an interdisciplinary team of experts from around the world, which is accessible to anyone who wants to read it.” When asked to describe the biggest takeaway, Catanoso notes that the Pope derides our “throwaway society” highlighting how we continue to plunder our exhaustible resources instead of reusing what we already have. The Pope’s main point, then, is that humanity—no matter what religion you follow, or if you follow none—needs to realize that we are not dominions of the earth, but rather stewards.

“We are here for only a short amount of time,” Catanoso said, “and we’ve already used more than our fair share. Laudato Si is a moving document. It scares people, as it should. We need to be shocked. The Pope is calling us all into action.”

Will you answer that call? Learn more about how you can play a part in Project Drawdown and reduce your climate footprint at 6:00 pm on Thursday, October 5, in the Byrum Welcome Center. Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer of Drawdown, will be giving a public lecture on the 80 global solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  RSVP here.

Keynote and Dialogue with Drawdown Senior Writer, Katharine Wilkinson

September 20th, 2017

The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, in the Byrum Welcome Center. Doors open at 5:30. Admission is free and seats are limited. RSVP here.