Nathan Bedsole (BA ’11) is an unusual addition to our series of alumni spotlights – for several reasons. First, as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, he had no official affiliation to the Office of Sustainability. Instead, he devoted his undergraduate career to Wake Radio and, starting in the fall of his senior year, a job at
Second, Nathan is our first featured alumnus to answer the question where are you now with here; emphatically, intentionally here. He explains: “I like the movement that is going on downtown. Things seem to be moving in a very creative and energetic way, [as a senior I decided] I would like to remain a part of that after four years…once I had time to be fully involved in it, I didn’t want to go ahead and skip town. I wanted to commit myself to being here.”
Nathan found his niche as a cycling advocate in Winston-Salem. His affinity for cycling began during his sophomore year at Wake Forest, when he found himself without a car and with a desire to explore. He says “[cycling] was how I saw most of the city for the first time; how I figured out how to get around. I realized it was a bikeable city and cycling was how I wanted to get around.” He also recalls using cycling to clear his head, easing the stress of academic pressures.
This cycling affinity led Nathan to his current position as a founder and principle figure in the Winston-Salem Bicycle Co-Operative (WSBC), a volunteer organization dedicated to providing space and resources for bicycle maintenance, cycling education, and outreach events. Though Winston-Salem’s efforts are more recent, the bicycle co-op model is well-established in communities around the country and elsewhere in North Carolina. As Nathan explains, “the central idea [behind a bicycle co-op] is taking unused or unwanted bicycle parts, tools, and completed bicycles, and providing the space and opportunity to get them back into the community.”
According to Nathan, the concept of a Winston-Salem cooperative re-emerged in 2011 (there was a previous effort around 2005). The concept evolved out of a community loosely centered around the Werehouse, where both Nathan and Davis Bourland, another central figure in WSBC and a fellow Wake alum (MA ’12), worked as baristas. Nathan credits local artist, Andrew Fansler with drumming up early enthusiasm for the project. Nathan and Andrew met at the Werehouse when Nathan learned that Andrew, then a stranger, needed a pair of handlebars. Just having replaced the handlebars on his own bicycle, Nathan still had his old pair in the backseat of his car. He ran outside and fetched the handlebars, giving them to Andrew. Remembering this incident, Nathan jokingly terms their meeting “an ominous start to a relationship,” adding “somehow we knew.”
Andrew and Nathan’s initial introduction not only foreshadowed their future collaboration on WSBC, but also typified the manner of exchange the cooperative would come to embody. After exploring the initial idea through community meetings and surveys conducted by a team of volunteers (including Elizabeth Perkins (BA ‘09), a donation of thirty bicycles from Wake Forest University’s Reynolda Campus kick-started the project. Needing an immediate space to store the newly acquired inventory, Nathan offered his garage, which immediately became WSBC’s first official location.
From there, the bicycle cooperative grew quickly. Nathan explains, “everything was a donation; we had everything donated from stands to tools, to bike shoes, to helmets, to helmet padding. It’s wild the things that people had sitting around that were very easily appropriated for good use.” He goes on: “People finally had a way to get rid of things that didn’t involve just abandoning things that meant a lot to them…we were keeping things within the community.”
While located in Nathan’s garage, the co-op held weekly meetings called Workshop Wednesdays — informal gatherings where affiliates shared knowledge, maintained their own bicycles and rehabilitated donated stock. Recently, WSBC donated four rehabilitated bicycles to refugees from Myanmar who needed a means of transportation to and from work. The Winston-Salem chapter of World Relief, a faith-based non-profit that provides services to refugees and victims of human trafficking, facilitated the donation of the four bicycles, a few of which went to employees of ARAMARK at Wake Forest University Dr. Catherine Ross, the director of the Wake Forest Teaching and Learning Center, connected WSBC to World Relief. Dr. Ross, who has contact with World Relief through English classes she teaches to refugees, heard about WSBC from her son, a former professional BMX cyclist.
WSBC is currently in transition, both geographically (WSBC will soon is move to a new space on Canal Street), and fundamentally. Nathan explains, “At this point there are so many avenues this could take. I don’t know what it is going to look like, but, like with everything, you have those people who are there all the time…volunteers who will move and shape what is going on.”
During this transitional period, the co-operative has become temporarily events-based, most recently collaborating with the Winston-Salem Sustainable Resource Center, Whole Foods, Krankies, and the City of Winston-Salem to host a community bike-ride. Nathan describes the event as “an amazing convergence of really good things.” Seventy cyclists followed a route from Krankies Werehouse to the Piedmont Triad Research Park, around Winston Lake, and back to the Werehouse. After taking advantage of the first pleasant weather in weeks, cyclists enjoyed vegetarian chili and cornbread donated by Whole Foods.
This fall Nathan will return to Wake Forest to pursue a master’s degree in communications. He is “ready to come back to Wake,” and, while he is nervous about writing papers again, he is looking forward to student teaching and remaining in the city he has made his home. Whether he is heading to campus for class, downtown to Werehouse, or over to the Co-Op’s new space to work on renovations, he most certainly be getting there by bike. As he says “In this city, biking is a viable transportation option. It’s not just leisure it’s not just exercise; it’s not just sport. It’s a way you can actually get around.”
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability
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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