Students around campus are changing the way they think about hydration by choosing to fill up their reusable water bottles at refilling stations around campus. Little do they know, they have former sustainability intern Frannie Speer to thank for these.
When Frannie joined the Office of Sustainability in the 2010-2011 academic year as the Choose to Reuse intern, she saw a need for a change in the consumptive behavior of students. Frannie encouraged members of the Wake Forest community to trade disposable plastic bottles for reusable bottles to meet their hydration needs. Her hard work came to fruition the summer after she graduated when a grant for which she applied was awarded and the first hydration station was installed in Reynolda Hall.
Frannie’s entrepreneurial inspiration spurred her to develop the Choose to Reuse campaign at Wake Forest. While taking a class that encouraged students to look at consumption creatively, she and her classmates began a discussion about water usage. Frannie remembers noting, “People are making uniformed decisions without thinking twice about it. Looking back to our youth, during those soccer games, other sporting events or even at lunchtime, our parents filled our bags and lunch boxes with the small water bottles. We are conditioned to think that is the only way to drink water.”
With this in mind, Frannie became interested in the idea of bringing the hydration stations to campus. The stations are a convenient way for people to have access to chilled, filtered water for their refillable bottles. Although Frannie has no preference for how she likes her tap water, she learned through a poll that most students on campus prefer it chilled and filtered. Through an informative campaign, Frannie and the Office of Sustainability armed faculty, staff, and students with information about pricing, health, safety, and environmental impacts of bottled water. With this information, campus consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions.
Over the course of the campaign, Frannie also saw a change in her own behavior. She polled students and found that they reported drinking only two to four glasses of water a day; she found herself in that same group. With easier access to water, Frannie increased her consumption and now she cannot go a day without her essential eight glasses. Even today, her project continues to expand and to improve the wellness of the Wake Forest community.
Upon graduating from Wake Forest in 2011, Frannie joined Wells Fargo Securities as an investment banker in the Consumer & Retail group, where she focuses on companies within the beauty retail and luxury retail market. Although, she does not directly work on sustainability issues, she still influences the environmental conscience of her coworkers and firm. During an investment banking training last summer, she pitched the idea of handing out Wells Fargo-logoed reusable water bottles instead of the traditional disposable plastic bottles – an idea that was met with enthusiasm.
In the future, she hopes to continue to pursue more direct work on sustainability issues. For now, she remains passionate about supporting local food production and independent restaurateurs. Frannie believes that by supporting the local food trucks and restaurants that sell sustainably farmed foods, she can directly influence the local community, the local economy, and reduce the energy and environmental impacts of food production.
To current students, her advice is to find a sustainable cause that they care about. Keeping your eyes open to different issues and making a conscious effort to address them remains important because as Frannie says, “the little things make a big difference.”
During her time at Wake Forest, Katherine Sinacore (’11) worked in the Office of Sustainability as one of two Green Team program development interns. Katherine helped lay the groundwork for and pilot the program, which has now blossomed into a campus-wide initiative.
After graduating with a major in biology and a minor in environmental science, Katherine enrolled in the MA Forestry Program at the University of New Hampshire, a well-known leader in environmental and ecological education and research. Sinacore just returned from a field season in the White Mountains, where she collected data about the variations of species composition and timber quality, before beginning her second year in the program.
Part of Katherine’s inspiration for her work stems from an immense appreciation for the diversity on our planet. In her words, “we are stewards of this land and should recognize the value of protecting it.”
What’s your favorite part of your graduate work?
There are really two parts that I enjoy about my work. One is the research side – I enjoy that my research has practical implications for management of northeast hardwood forests. Second is the teaching side – I have had the opportunity to teach both natural resource economics and an ecology course. I find both research and teaching very rewarding.
What do you hope to do after graduating from UNH?
Right now I am looking to continue my education. I am currently applying to PhD programs. Hopefully I will hear some good news in the next couple of months.
How well do you feel your education, specifically the environmental science minor at Wake Forest, prepared you for your current work?
One of the best aspects of the environmental science minor at WFU is the transdisciplinary nature of the courses. I took classes ranging from economics to ecology to sociology. These classes and the accompanying discussions within the classroom really helped prepare me for work in forestry – which links together the economics, ecology, and social aspects of land management. All these perspectives are really necessary if we want to make changes and I feel I learned this through the environmental science minor.
What is the most important issue facing our generation?
The impact we have on the environment is a big issue facing our generation. Luckily, we now have the tools to hopefully fix what we have done and move forward, toward a more sustainable future. The challenge lies in motivating and convincing people they can really make a difference.
What is your number one tip for living sustainably?
Be conscious of your daily decisions – in all aspects of your life. There is not just one way to be sustainable. Evaluate your choices and see what changes you can make in your own life. You might just inspire others to do the same!
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern
What inspires you to be sustainable?
An appreciation of the enormous amount of diversity present on our planet and an understanding of the value of conserving it. We depend on the natural world not only for our health and happiness, but for the cultural and economic value its services provide.
What is the biggest issue facing our generation?
The impacts humans have had on the environment in the last century have been intensely felt all across the planet. We now understand the economic and social costs of non-sustainable ecosystem use. If we continue to see ourselves as dominators of nature, we are further dissociating ourselves from it. Our generation has been given an opportunity to begin to reverse this trend of devaluing the world’s ecosystems. The biggest issue we face is enacting this change, which can only happen through recognition that we are inherently dependent on the services the natural world provides. With 10.5 billion people by 2050, we must fully embrace this new perspective and make smart decisions based upon it.
What is your number one tip for living sustainably?
Live in a city. If you’re in the United States, live in New York City. High-density city living is an environmentally responsible choice.
By Caitlin Edwards, Wake Forest Fellow
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