This February graduate students in the Applied Sustainability class visited TS Designs, a Certified Benefit Corporation making t-shirts in Burlington, North Carolina. The students spent the morning with company President, Eric Henry, who aims to create the “highest quality, most sustainable, printed apparel,” measuring success against the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Henry discussed his take on sustainability, and the vision for the company that calls North Carolina home.
Henry’s vision, and triple bottom line approach, is a consequence of the 1990’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). TS Designs, which Henry had operated since 1977, nearly closed its doors when customers and competitors fled to Mexico for cheaper labor and cheaper inputs all across the supply chain. The company, whose bread and butter was 50-cent screen prints for some of the world’s largest apparel brands, could not maintain a commitment to keeping anything local — NAFTA had all but eliminated that possibility. Henry was forced to reinvent if he was to stay in business.
Now TS Designs’ product is more than an automated screen print — it’s a t-shirt, and what’s behind the t-shirt: the set of values a company operating on a human-scale holds. In its reinvention, Henry and his colleagues consciously created a model that is based
on human-scale relationships across the supply chain. By keeping it local, they keep it accountable. Henry is accountable to his employees, and they to him; he’s accountable to his suppliers, and they to him. Scott McCullough, MA’15, one of the students on the trip noted that “TS Designs is a business that not only serves its customers, but serves its community in a number of innovative and meaningful ways. Eric understands that a business can’t be sustainable and resilient if it doesn’t seek to improve the community around it. It was really refreshing and inspiring to see what Eric and TS Designs are doing.”
The critical tool that TS Designs implements to achieve success, and accountability, is full transparency. When you buy a Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirt, one of TS Designs’ innovative brands, you support a “radically” transparent supply chain. Turn the shirt inside out, and the colors of the thread give you access to a map and the ability to track your tee, literally from dirt to shirt. According to Andrew Wilcox, MA’15, “…it creates a business ecosystem where money and resources stay in local communities and regions instead of hemorrhaging out to far off factories and headquarters. The multiplier effect of local business is compelling.”
Transparency for TS Designs isn’t just about supply chains; Henry was even transparent with the students about sustainability being a journey, not a destination. He’s not trying to hold up the company as a model of all things perfectly sustainable (whatever that might mean). It’s not perfect; it’s blemished in places, but it reflects an important journey on a values-driven path. His model clearly reflects what is important to him, and what is clearly important to his many customers.
In the context of a course on Applied Sustainability, this on-site lesson provided students the opportunity to interrogate theories supporting and opposing values-based business models with a business leader who’s got skin in the game.
Jon Clift, MA in Sustainability Associate Director of Outreach
For a conservation event with potentially apocalyptic connotations, Thursday’s “Pledging Responsibility for Oceans and Environmental Change Today” in Brendle Recital Hall was frank, optimistic and self-aware: panelist and scientist Nancy Knowlton even pledged to keep audience members “not utterly depressed,” to noticeable titters.
The panel, an effort to engage the public on the importance of oceans and their nascent fragility as a result of climate change, garnered a sizable crowd, perhaps partially due to the celebrity of the panelists speaking: Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic oceanographer; Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History; and Amanda Leland, vice president for Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Despite the preliminary call for optimism, the scientists made the audience aware of the current dire state of the world’s oceans. Overfishing and pollution have ravaged our oceans to noticeable decline: species are becoming extinct, including New England’s famed Atlantic cod. Forty percent of fisheries are in jeopardy.
The implications, Leland stated, are as environmental as they are economic: Somali pirates originated as fisherman who ran out of fish to extract. In addition, three million of the world’s population depends on the oceans as its only source of protein.
Knowlton and Leland revealed that the solution to ocean deterioration lies largely in policy, and that increased management of fishing policies can improve fish quantities in the ocean and decrease overall waste.
However, in a visit to an undergraduate and graduate lab classroom earlier that day, Earle argued that extracting any organisms from the ocean would be problematic to the structure of the food chain, according to Wake Forest professor Dr. Katie Lotterhos, who attended the earlier session and whose area of research is marine biology.
Hope for ocean renewal is within reach, the scientists said, with policy and attitude change: “Fish are not just clumps of meat waiting for us to extract them,” said Earle.
Instead, proper fishing and ocean regulations have the capacity to revitalize communities, ecosystems, and expose the “ocean’s natural resilience.”
Lotterhos, who invited the three scientists to campus, hoped the event left people “feeling cautiously optimistic.”
“We will have to take responsibility soon if we want to have sustainable ocean ecosystems, but it is not too late yet,” she said.
By Elena Dolman (’15), Staff Writer
Dance is an increasingly popular art form for the investigation of cultural understandings of nature. Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, engaged her students in just such an investigation this semester. Soriano, who was a member of the 2014 Magnolias Curriculum Project cohort, modified her Dance Composition class to incorporate sustainability.
Soriano challenged her students to choreograph a piece based on nature, specifically something growing in Reynolda Gardens. She asked them to observe various plants, and then choose one to explore, taking into account its color, structure, growth and movement; how it might change with the seasons, and how it might react to light. With this information, the students developed their own movement studies, aligning their dances with nature.
After the assignment, the class performed Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance to witness how other choreographers integrate nature themes into their work.
The students were also asked to consider how an art form like dance might become more sustainable through rehearsal, repetition, and thoughtful use of time and resources. She encouraged them to consider what made dance sustainable, and to journal their thoughts and experiences.
Annie Stockstill, a student in Soriano’s class, reflected that by continuing to dance well-known pieces, “I am preserving the ongoing life of the dances, and therefore acting out sustainability.” Serena Cates expressed similar feelings, stating “Personally, I choose to perceive dance as sustainable because, although the technique, style, or choreography alters over time, the motivation and impact of it has remained.”
“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” Vandana Shiva made this call for awareness and action last week during her visit to Wake Forest University. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Shiva lectured as a part of the “Make Every Bite Count” speaker series, organized by multiple partners. On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Shiva led a community forum with students, faculty, and staff at the School of Divinity.
The “Make Every Bite Count” series featured other events including a panel discussion and film screening of GMO OMG with filmmaker Jeremy Seifert. The series aimed to investigate the role of agricultural biodiversity in our local, regional, and global food systems. The final keynote lecture by Shiva highlighted the challenges and opportunities of feeding the world with sustainable agriculture.
Shiva is the author of Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development and the founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote sustainable farming and fair trade. Her newest book, Who Really Feeds the World?, will be available next year.
During her lecture and in the community forum, Shiva consistently referred to the “patenting of life,” in relation to the patents held on seeds by industrial food producers. “Ecosystems produce food, not companies,” she said. “Destroying seeds destroys life. Saving seeds is an ethical duty.” The world is at a point where the diversity of creation needs to be reclaimed and valued for that diversity. Saving seeds is one way to preserve and continue the variety of life forms around us.
“We are not masters of the earth, we are a part of the earth family,” Shiva said during Tuesday’s lecture. “The process of commercial agriculture displaces diversity and people. There is a division in labor and knowledge.”
Shiva has concerns not only for the production methods of agriculture, but also the impact of food on health and wellbeing. “How we grow food is related to disease,” she said. She gave examples on how malnutrition occurs because food lacks essential minerals and the ways toxins from the chemicals used impact bodies in negative and life-threatening ways.
“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” This call echoed as Shiva gave glimpses of hope about the work that is being done and the work religious leaders are called to do on food issues. She recalled the abolition movements in the U.S. and India as a historical framework of resistance movements that changed social practices. She encouraged faith communities to plant “gardens of hope” as a beginning point of resistance. “Faith communities throughout the world already are responsible for feeding communities through soup kitchens and food pantries,” Shiva said. “Let’s link the feeding and outreach to the growing of food.”
Shiva’s call to action resounded with many. Fred Bahnson, director of the School of Divinity’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, said it was encouraging to have her on campus. “She inspired us, challenged us, and made us laugh. To hear this global food leader talk about the importance of faith communities working to create food justice and ecological healing was especially encouraging, because it means we’re on the right track.”
Second-year divinity student Pia Diggs is interested in learning more about holistic health and how the food industry is impacting the food she consumes. “After hearing Shiva speak, I have an increased awareness to be more cognizant about my intake of food and a greater concern for how it is being produced,” she said. Diggs worked in a community health center last summer in a low-income area of Greensboro, NC that has been designated as a food desert. “What you eat effects your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional states, so if you are not eating well-prepared food, it will directly affect your entire being.”
Links of Interest
Focus on food in the forest – WFU News Center
Make Every Bite Count Fall Speaker Series
Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative)
Thrive: Well-Being at Wake Forest University
About Wake Forest University School of Divinity
The Wake Forest University School of Divinity is a growing, dynamic and ecumenical theological institution that prepares men and women to be religious leaders in a changing world. The School currently offers the Master of Divinity degree and several dual degrees in law, bioethics, counseling, education, and sustainability offered jointly with other schools of the University. Through imaginative courses and diverse programs of community engagement, students are equipped to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries.
By Mark Batten, School of Divinity
On October 21st, the exhibition Spencer Finch: color / temperature, at the Hanes Gallery, culminated with a talk by the artist in the Kulynych Auditorium. Finch engages in a close observation of nature and natural systems, tying the natural world to that of art, literature, and philosophy, expressed particularly in the properties and perception of light. He filters his fundamentally empirical approach through a poetic, eccentric sensibility that owes much to American transcendentalism and the uncanny awareness evident in the work of writers like Emily Dickinson (in his talk, Finch admitted to being a “groupie” of Dickinson and her work). Pragmatic, but also idealist and romantic, his work is in part a summation of 19th century sensibility brought into what is now being called the Anthropocene, a geological period reflecting the impact of human influence.
In his talk, Spencer Finch emphasized, with characteristic modesty and humor, the provisional nature of his research and process, even though he employs the tools and techniques of scientific measurement and observation. The centerpiece of the exhibition at Wake Forest was an ice machine adjusted to cycle water that has been color-calibrated to match that of the sky above the Franz Josef glacier (New Zealand) at a precise date and time. It then “calves” as ice into a basin, melts into a sky-blue pool, and is recycled.
Finch’s work posits us in a fraught relationship with the nature he observes and records the workings of. His creative process transforms and reinterprets those observations and experiences; his work helps us understand our position vis a vis “nature” (and its phenomena), even as we alter it.
Two things in particular stand out from Spencer Finch’s talk: his work (like Dickinson’s) takes the natural, the intimate, and the particular and creates a metaphor for our being in the universe; and he -repeatedly and knowingly, despite his assiduous methods- demonstrates the futility of quantifying the hue of human experience.
By Paul Bright, Director, Hanes Art Gallery
My family and I live on a 22-acre farm in Stokes County. We are serious gardeners. I can’t remember the last time I bought a tomato at the store and I have saved my own okra and basil seeds each year for over a decade. Now late October, we have over 60 garlic heads up in the garden and have put the cold frame in place. We also raise Shetland sheep, a very hardy heritage wool breed. For a few years we raised heritage turkeys (Bourbon Reds) and maintain a flock of about 30 free-range laying hens and sell their eggs to wonderful people on campus. Sometimes I go to meetings and people say, “Oh, you are the egg lady.” All of this effort supplies fabulous, fresh and taste-laden ingredients to cook with. At my house, we eat very well.
But all of these farming endeavors do not pay the mortgage. My husband and I are both faculty in the Department of Chemistry, and Bruce currently serves as Associate Provost of Research. In the Chemistry Department, teaching slots are a common topic of discussion. We never have enough faculty members to meet demand for all the courses required for our majors and pre-med students. We run out of faculty teaching slots every semester and work hard to fill the needs of our students. Because of this, we are truly limited in the number of First Year Seminars (FYS) we can offer each year. Faculty who have developed FYS offerings offer them on a rotating basis.
I have taught the FYS True Value Meals several times in the past. According to the syllabus, True Value Meals “has been designed to develop the analytical and critical thinking skills of students, and their ability to express in writing and aloud their opinions and ideas, in a setting that focuses on the production, processing distribution and eating of food.” It is an ideal topic for the FYS, and a topic that I am passionate about. Luckily, my turn in the rotation came during the fall 2014 semester.
By coincidence, the semester I was offering a food-centered FYS class, the Office of Sustainability organized Make Every Bite Count, a speaker series about the food we grow and eat that challenges us to imagine how we can sustainably feed the world. Students are required to attend the events and we sit together as a group. In the following class meeting, the discussion is centered on frank analysis of each event and how it compares with other course material. In twenty years of teaching at Wake, I have never seen students as fired up as they were the day after viewing the documentary GMO OMG. I have no doubt that the talk by Vandana Shiva on the challenges of feeding a growing world population will be just as powerful, if not more so.
Since I taught True Value Meals last, the sustainability movement on campus has blossomed. I was able to participate in the Magnolias Project, which strives to integrate sustainability across the curriculum. The campus garden has grown both in size and organization. Campus Kitchen now has dedicated space on campus and has expanded its programming. All of these have combined for wonderful service-learning opportunities for my students. Each student is required to complete 18 hours of food-related service with community partners to enhance their readings for the course and aid class discussion. What have they been doing? The mid-term logs of service hours showed that they have been gleaning food from the Cobblestone Farmers Market for redistribution to food-insecure families; repackaging food from the on-campus dining hall for delivery to persons in need; making sandwiches for homeless individuals on Saturday mornings; turning plots, compost and planting fall crops. All of this effort has helped the partner agencies AND the students’ learning. Our class discussions are livelier because they are all experiencing different aspects of food culture in their work outside of class. And the students actually enjoy their service learning hours. It’s a nice break from reading and writing and gives them time to reflect on course material and try to integrate all the different pieces. Some students have found a “niche” at the university through their service learning partners. I am astounded by the number of students who want to become shift leaders for Campus Kitchen or interns with the campus garden. It’s helped me realize how important extra-curricular activities are to students’ overall wellness.
I can say with confidence that this semester students are the most engaged in my FYS material, thinking more deeply and broadly. I encourage all faculty to find a topic they are passionate about and use the plentiful teaching resources here at Wake to develop a class that will impact students. From teaching workshops on community engagement and sustainability to on-campus service learning opportunities, our university has a bounty of support for engaged learning.
By Dr. Angela King, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry
Since 2006, Wake Forest has hosted the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship (BFTF) Summer Institute, a Department of State-funded grant that brings 45 high-school aged students—35 from across Europe and 10 from the United States—to Winston-Salem to learn about citizenship and democratic deliberative practice. The month-long summer program features classes and workshops on civic engagement and social entrepreneurship, helping students develop projects they could implement that make a difference in their home communities. Over the past few years, the BFTF fellows have expressed increased interest in environmental and sustainability-related issues. We have accommodated their interests by connecting with numerous community partners dedicated to sustainability issues, including Wake Forest Campus Kitchen, the WFU Campus Garden, the Shalom Project, and Forsyth Futures. These hands-on partnerships, in addition to small-group conversations with sustainability professionals, provide opportunities to learn and practice new strategies to advance sustainability.
The cross-cultural skills that the students develop are important to their success in diplomacy, deliberation, and debate. The cultural diversity of the group, however, also presents a unique pedagogical challenge: socio-environmental issues and commitment to sustainability varies greatly across the many represented Europe nations and the United States. Advocating for green technologies, for example, would look quite different in Moldova than in Sweden. Mindful of these differences, the fellows are keen to explore which issues and sustainability strategies could relate to their home communities.
The fellows are exceptionally talented and possess an uncanny sophistication in drawing connections between their diverse interests and cultural differences. Even as their proposed strategies might vary, the opportunity to learn, and gain inspiration, from one another propels them to develop projects that reflect the unique opportunities and challenges in the students’ home communities.
Contributed by Ron Von Burg, Assistant Professor of Communication
In the spring of 2012 I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Magnolias Curriculum Project. The readings and discussions in the workshop quickly revealed the big questions of sustainability: How does personal behavior and choice relate to global phenomenon? What do we hope to sustain, and who benefits? These issues are not only about the earth’s future, but also prompt deeper reflection about our history, relationships to places, capacity for self-awareness and change, and sense of responsibility to others.
I wanted to further explore these big questions in a First Year Seminar that I offered in spring 2014 titled Nature, Environments, and Place in American Thought. My intention was to introduce students to traditions of environmental thought and help them explore their relationships to places, nature and social action. The class was organized as a journey from inner reflection to public outreach, culminating in a web exhibit. After reading classic and contemporary nature writing pieces, the students first created group photo essays that visually tell a story and make an interpretive point about human relationships to nature. Some groups chose to investigate personal relationships to significant places, while others depicted Wake Forest’s efforts to promote sustainability.
Meanwhile, the class visited Old Salem’s heritage gardens, Reynolda House Museum of Art, and Reynolda Village to make connections to scholarly arguments about landscape design, cultural values, and sustainability featured in the readings. Each student then chose one place in Winston-Salem to research in-depth, endeavoring to interpret the environmental and social histories of familiar and everyday places – a trail, lake, neighborhood, park – in novel ways. The final project was to create a podcast based on an interview with an environmental actor. The groups traveled around the Piedmont to visit organic farms, a prayer center, and the site of the Dan River coal ash spill to conduct interviews. Throughout the semester the students worked with Digital Initiatives Librarian Chelcie Rowell to build a digital exhibit featuring text, images, audiovisual presentations, and a map of place studies. In doing so, students had the opportunity to reflect on the power and limitations of technology to represent nature and educate and inspire others. Most crucially, the course allowed students to both think through their personal relationship to environments within the context of intellectual traditions, and to link these ideas to cooperative action and collective responsibility.
View the students’ web exhibit at: http://cloud.lib.wfu.edu/fys100fff
By Lisa Blee, Assistant Professor of History
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 13-14, 2014 for the 3rd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was co-facilitated by communications professor Ron Von Burg, an alumnus of last year’s cohort, and Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the university’s director of sustainability.
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed provocative literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and is launching a new Master’s in sustainability this fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from art, management, sociology, history, classical languages, economics, dance, business, documentary film, and writing.
Closing words of appreciation from participants in the 2014 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model:
What a treat to meet colleagues from other parts of the university. It’s very easy to hole away and neither learn about nor appreciate what they are doing.
Meeting people from other departments. Hearing things from a different perspective.
Opportunity to learn about sustainability as a field, here on campus and amongst colleagues. Loved outside time…on schedule.
So glad I participated in the workshop!
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
In the interest of sounding a little less unbearably flippant, I did change the official title of this February 2014 WFU conference to “Viticulture and the Environment,” but in my head and heart it remained “drink wine/ save the planet/ feed the hungry.”
The drinking wine part was expertly handled by Olivier Magny, a Parisian wine specialist who started his own wine tasting school after graduating from a top business school. He led a group of faculty, students, and one alumnus in a wine-tasting, following a talk by Professor Wayne Silver on “The Neurobiology of Wine Tasting (and Smelling).” So we drank a little wine. That was the easy part.
Magny’s work seems to have started from a sense of pleasure, but his own study of wine also led him to an awareness of the conditions in which grapes are grown and more specifically, soil health. He writes in his book Into Wine, “Studying how vineyards were farmed has helped me grasp that the importance of the soil actually goes far beyond wine, and that the implications of mistreating it are also much more far-reaching than we think.” Farming practices have the biggest impact on soil health, and there is much that deserves to be questioned in our current agribusiness practices. These issues are addressed in a rather international light in the documentary “Dirt,” which a small group of us watched together and then discussed. The politics behind agribusiness practices are daunting at best. In the spirit of a hummingbird analogy put forth by this film, both WFU EH&S Technician Justin Sizemore and Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri had ideas for addressing our individual carbon footprints.
I like to think of the following ideas as “Dr. Zimeri’s Eco Challenge.” Anne Marie Zimeri is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Science Department at the University of Georgia. One of the courses that she teaches is a first year seminar in which she gives her students an assignment to collect and record data related to behavior changes they make to lower their environmental impact. She has the students select a pledge topic according to their own interest, related to one of the following areas: 1) Vegetarian / vegan 2) Transportation 3) Single use disposables 4) Composting / packaging 5) Water conservation 6) Electricity 7) Local / organic. For example, if students were electing to go vegetarian or vegan for a week, they would include before and after data relating both to how much meat they consume, and to the food miles, water use (in the production of meat vs. vegetables and fruits) and carbon footprint. More detailed information on this will be part of an upcoming publication by Dr. Zimeri. Like the hummingbird, we can only do what we can do in decreasing our impact, one rain barrel, solar water heater, backyard garden and bike ride at a time. So we learned a little about saving the planet.
It was the welcome presence of Shelley Sizemore, Assistant Director of Campus Life and Service that allowed me to add feeding the hungry to the list. Technically, we only fed our hungry selves that night, but I learned more about some ongoing campus and local efforts, including Campus Kitchen that distributes prepared but unserved food through local agencies including the Shalom Project, an outreach network started by Green Street United Methodist church that provides food, clothing, medical services and networking to the community. Wake Forest also has its own garden that both provides Campus Kitchen with fresh produce and also helps Wake Forest students (and I would add, faculty) better understand and influence the social, environmental, biological and political consequences of food production and consumption. So we could be part of feeding the hungry, if we’re not already.
I like the three-fold nature of my not-really-the-title-except-yes-it-is, because it reminds me of just how interconnected everything is. Even starting from the position of a possible urban sophisticate enjoying his or her own glass of wine can logically lead to soil health, then to the importance of environmental stewardship, then to food production and distribution. So, next time you swirl and sip, think about where the contents of your glass were originally grown.
For more musings on the theme “Drink Wine/Save the Planet,” visit Dr. Barron’s blog.