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Sustainability at Wake Forest

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

From Classroom Debates to Action Abroad

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

SLWPFContributed by Munje Foh (JD ’08)

The Sierra Leone Watershed Project Foundation (SLWPF) was born out of a series of conversations in a criminal procedure course taught by Vice Provost and professor of law Jennifer Collins. As students, Adam Chapman and I were vocal contributors to the course discussion and we often found ourselves on different sides of the ideological coin; Ryan Bouley was a mediator of sorts, as he often intervened with comic relief. Collins’ course was unique in that it provided an atmosphere conducive to exploring human psychology at the intersection of criminal legal theory. Her course put diversity into action. It moved students past sitting in a room with people from different backgrounds to learning from the various viewpoints that those backgrounds produced. The course provided us with experience that helped us in life, not just in the practice of law.

Adam and I became fast friends through our discussions in class, which lead us to discover that we shared a passion for giving back on a global scale. Adam had experience with charity fundraising and had volunteered in Haiti building cisterns to improve rural water supplies. He approached me with the idea of starting a project that would help improve access to clean water in Sierra Leone. He felt that his experience, coupled with my connections to the country, would make a strong combination and that our education rendered us capable of improving existing models and providing water in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way.

The project got off to a slow start  because we were spending lots of time planning, writing proposals, researching and making pitches to people who could help fund the program but who had no real incentive to contribute because we hadn’t made any impact yet, and because they didn’t have any connection to Sierra Leone. We started this project in 2010 and after so many stages of planning we decided in 2012 to make whatever little impact we could with money from our pockets and hope that people would join us once they realized that our program was effective. Ryan Bouley joined the team shortly after we took this small step forward and has been key to our current momentum. Ryan is a businessman and he encouraged us to get our house in order in terms of finance and business compliance; since he joined the team the support for SLWPF has really snowballed.

As the SLWPF team looks forward, raising the amount of funding necessary to make sure that the project keeps moving is an ongoing concern. Although financial resources are necessary, making the right long term partnerships concerns me more than money. I believe in the generosity of the human spirit and I know that people will eventually donate once they become acquainted with our cause, but to truly make this project sustainable, in terms of passing maintenance responsibility back to communities and minimizing negative environmental impact, we need information and skills that the three of us don’t possess. SLWPF needs to become a collaborative effort across disciplines and organizations.

For the year ahead, SLWPF plans to hold a large fundraising event to build resources and strategic partnerships, to continue our water pump repair program and add a video/photo documentary program focused on developing grassroots solutions to Sierra Leone’s water coverage issues. The SLWPF team is excited about the challenges ahead and invites everyone who is interested to contribute in any way that they can. To learn more, visit the foundation’s website at http://sierraleonewater.org/.

Inaugural Champions of Change Awards

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Wake Forest’s celebration of Earth Day this year included the announcement of Champions of Change award winners. This was the first year of the program, which recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability across campus. Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented the awards.

Click to view more photos from the ceremony.

Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.

  • Residence Life & Housing and Financial Services were jointly named champions of change in Resource Conservation. Residence Life and Housing dramatically reduced solid waste and conserved water through renovation and retrofit programs this past year; Financial Services supported the conversion to electronic business processes campus-wide.
  • Campus Kitchen was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Campus Kitchen repurposes prepared, but not served, food from our campus dining facilities into balanced meals for members of the broader Winston-Salem community.
  • For Teaching, Research and Engagement, Lynn Book and her faculty colleagues Angela Kocze and Wanda Balzano were recognized for their work in the new course, “Women, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.” Students collaborated with community partners Margaret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, the mother-daughter team who founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market.
  • Abby McNeal was recognized for her Bright Idea in turf management and the installation of the UgMo Wireless Soil Sensor System at Spry Soccer Field. UgMo is an underground monitoring system that measures soil moisture at the root level and determines when and how much to water on a zone-to-zone basis.

Thirty nominations were received for the four awards. A committee evaluated the nominations based on:

  • The level of participation by colleagues within the department or unit
  • The measurable impact among constituents across campus or in the community served

Additionally, Green Team captains Peter Romanov, Darlene Starnes and Carol Lavis were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. 65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.

Love the World You’re With – Earth Day 2014

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

14006395201_4010fa791b_zCare for self, care for community, and care for all life on the planet: this year’s WFU Earth Day Fair offered opportunities to explore connections and find inspiration to make a difference.

Before the fair officially began, we celebrated a unique group of change agents. At the inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony, Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented campus sustainability leadership awards in four categories: resource conservation; service and social action; teaching, research, and engagement; and bright ideas.

Wake Forest’s own Hobbs Sisters led the crowd that gathered for the awards program down to Manchester Plaza, where fair attendees were lined up to receive their participation passports and ready to begin the fun.

Over 400 students, faculty, staff, and friends attended the celebration. In addition to food and entertainment, fairgoers learned about the ways that caring for one’s self, caring for one’s community and, ultimately, caring for life on the planet are related and interdependent.  We would like to thank all of the entertainers, exhibitors, and vendors who provided the inspiration to love the world we’re with.

Check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for photos from the Champions of Change awards ceremony and the WFU Earth Day Fair.

WAB Trips Offer Re-Connections

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Contributed by Alyshah Aziz (’16)

As a sophomore minoring in Environmental Studies, caring for the environment is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. Participating in the Knoxville, TN Wake Alternative Break trip served as an opportunity to reground my beliefs. Often, in our fast-moving technology-centered world, I have found myself becoming isolated from nature and its beauty.

Laura Coats and De’Noia Woods, recent WFU alumnae and current AmeriCorps members, hosted us in Knoxville and organized the activities for our trip. The heart of the work was service in areas of environmental conservation and waste reduction. Some service activities throughout the week consisted of packing Mobile Meals, laying the foundation for a disc golf course, carrying out a clean-up at Ijams Nature Sanctuary, working in an urban garden, and clearing more privet than I have seen in my entire life!

Our venture to the Queen City of the Mountains was quite unique compared to any other service trip I have experienced. Each WAB trip has a specific focus – some are more people-centered than others. For me, the WAB trip inspired the process of questioning, fostered independence, and allowed me to reconnect with nature. As a society, we benefit from many ecosystem services. Our unique adventures each day allowed me to see the raw beauty nature humbly provides for us. The primary goal was to help heal the physical environment. In turn, the hope is that the healthy environment is able to serve both humans and other living beings.

The work allowed time to think and to reconnect with our gracious hosts, Laura and De’Noia. It was interesting to hear their experiences during freshman and sophomore years at Wake, and find the similarities with my own experiences. Since Laura and I were both former EcoReps, she shared with me that she originally joined AmeriCorps with the hope that it would be similar to the EcoReps program we have on campus. Although she found her position in AmeriCorps working with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to be different from what she expected, it is still a very enriching experience.

As a current sophomore I have begun starting to ponder: Where do I see myself after I receive my four-year degree from Wake Forest? What people would I like to be surrounded by? While working in Pond Gap Elementary’s Garden, something Laura said really hit home. She shared that she has never been a part of a group of such like-minded individuals before. Transitioning from an EcoRep to an intern with the Office of Sustainability, I strongly feel that I have been able to better find my niche on campus through my encounters with students, faculty, and staff. I have met many interesting and refreshing students in my Environmental Studies minor courses and have been introduced to new activities, events, and perspectives to which I otherwise might not have been exposed.

I came to the realization that although many of my peers might not consider themselves environmentalists, we are the generation that consciously bikes more, drives less, promotes carpooling, and actively searches for local foods. My goals and values have solidified through my WAB experience; although I came into the trip with a passion for the environment, being able to interact with the environment in different ways each day was a refreshing experience. The beauty, strength, and wisdom of Nature never cease to amaze me, and I will always treasure these opportunities.

Toxic Drift Discussion with Pete Daniel

Friday, March 7th, 2014

toxic driftAs part of the History Department’s Engagement Series, we had the pleasure of meeting Wake Forest alumnus and distinguished historian, Pete Daniel. Dr. Daniel’s work covers a panoply of important cultural and historic issues from farming to civil rights and environmental degradation.

During our discussion of his book Toxic Drift: Pesticides and Health in the Post-World War II South., Dr. Daniel posited that our history with pesticides stems from the idea that nature is not good enough. This idea sparked an interesting interdisciplinary discussion that called up concepts from economics, literature, history, ethics, and civil rights. The breadth of the discussion should not have been surprising given that Daniel is a strong proponent of the liberal arts tradition and sees great value in thinking about issues across disciplinary divides.

Diving into Conservation

Monday, February 24th, 2014

scubaContributed by Pam Denish (’15)

Last fall, I studied abroad in Bonaire, a small island in the southern Caribbean. The program focused on coral reef ecology and tropical marine conservation. I chose the program because I have always been passionate about marine biology and conservation, and I knew it would give me first-hand research experience in a beautiful location. Throughout the program I spent a lot of time SCUBA diving and learning about different marine ecosystems, the species that inhabit them, how human activities are threatening the oceans, and what can be done to protect them.

Among the most shocking of my experiences were beach clean-ups, during which we collected trash and disposed of it in the island’s sole waste management site. Many of the locations we cleaned were not popular recreational areas, but rocky shores and dense marshes. These places were overwhelmed by trash that had washed ashore from the ocean. I couldn’t help but think that if this much trash had been washed ashore, there must be much more still circulating in the oceans.

These trash collections caused me and my classmates to consider how we could encourage the public to reduce the amount of trash they throw away and teach them why it is important. We hosted a children’s environmental fair with booths showing the life in the oceans as well as suggestions for easy ways to reduce our impact, including recycling and creative ways to repurpose trash. We had an arts and crafts station where we made wallets and Christmas ornaments out of old boxes, and snow globes out of jars; the children were amazed by how many fun things could be made from trash. We also distributed flyers about how to reduce trash output by using reusable shopping bags and purchasing groceries with minimum packaging.

Another rewarding experience was the work I did once a week with children from a local after-school program designed to keep kids off the street. Through snorkeling activities and games, we taught them the basics about coral reefs and how humans affect the reefs. It was fun to see the kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm each week. I truly believe that if we can inspire children to care about sustainability and protecting the environment, then we have the ability to preserve and restore many beautiful and important ecosystems.

Going abroad enriched my life in many ways, and continues to do so. Not only did I get to experience and learn about my passion – the ocean – but I also learned that we have the power and responsibility to protect our environment. We are inextricably linked to the earth, and it is to our own benefit that we learn to live sustainably and protect it. This experience abroad imbued me with the spirit of helping the community to protect the environment and it definitely channeled the familiar and beloved spirit of Pro Humanitate.

A Theological Approach to Sustainability

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

When thinking about theological education, sustainability might not be the first word that comes to mind. The Wake Forest Divinity School, however, is currently adopting some changes that will influence sustainability learning outcomes for their students.

At the end of the spring 2013 semester, a group of Divinity School faculty participated in a retreat centered around the question “What would it look like to have a curriculum that takes full advantage of the places where we are located?” The result will be a gradual transformation of the curriculum to reflect what many refer to as a “place-based” education. By definition, place-based education is rooted in the unique culture, history, and ecology of the community.

The Divinity School has since introduced new courses that take full advantage of the place where we are located. For instance, in a class on worship and liturgy, in which the professor teaches about baptisms and communion, the students have been able to connect these sacred rituals to the place in which they are located. The class began with a trip to the Salem Creek, followed by a visit to the Water Treatment Plant. Divinity School Dean Gail O’Day notes that these trips aid the students in viewing water in a different way; they begin to think about the water theologically and have a newfound appreciation for it as a resource. The class also took visits to a community garden and a local winery in order to fully understand these resources from cultural, ecological, and theological perspectives.

This unusual approach to graduate education appears to be incredibly beneficial in several different ways. As expected, taking advantage of the “place” element of education has a positive impact on the students’ learning and in their preparation as leaders who understand issues members of their communities are facing.  Jill Crainshaw, professor of worship and liturgical theology, explains that effective religious leaders must be “deeply immersed in and knowledgeable about the people, history, and patterns of the particular places where they serve.” This curricular approach emphasizes the importance of a connection and understanding with the surrounding community, in hopes that they will take this strong foundation with them to the communities where they will serve in the future. According to Dean O’Day, “The better they understand the complexity of the world in which they live and in which they are going to serve, the better able they are to make informed decisions about what’s good for their community.”

The new curriculum also seems to instill a passion for sustainability and caring for the Earth. Dr. Crainshaw explains that through these place-based classes, students appear to develop “cosmocentric sacramentality” in which they “begin to see the many ways in which the world around them – both inside and outside of the walls of the church – is sacred.”  In this way, the Divinity School is not only shaping individuals who care for the people they are serving, but also about the environment they call home.  Dr. Mark Jensen, who received a grant from the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability to convene the curriculum retreat, is a leader in the ongoing curriculum changes. He says that an essential part of achieving their mission of developing “agents of justice, reconciliation and compassion” is exploring themes of sustainability and instilling the idea of the interlocking contexts of natural and built environments. Jensen quoted environmental writer Wes Jackson saying that we all need to “become native to the place in which we live” and take lessons from ecosystems that work harmoniously.

The developments across the curriculum complement a strong existing interest in sustainability within the school. An environmental theology student group called EcoTheo has grown in popularity over the past several years, convening regular meetings, contributing time to service projects, and working to incorporate principles of sustainability into everyday practices around the school. At their bi-weekly community lunches, students and faculty now use reusable plates and silverware, which the students wash, and food scraps are collected for composting after each meal.

A Food, Faith and Religious Leadership initiative offers to “equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.”

The Wake Forest Divinity School’s leadership is shaping the future not only of the communities in which its graduate students will serve, but of the wellbeing of life on the planet.

By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer

Faces of Sustainability: Alan Winkler

Friday, January 17th, 2014

From lamps to pianos, if you have moved or discarded furnishings on campus in the past few years, chances are you have met Alan Winkler, Surplus Coordinator for Wake Forest University. With a passion for keeping anything reusable out of the landfill, Winkler collects, catalogs, stores, and delivers myriad furnishings and recyclable waste streams across campus.

Before Winkler was hired, surplus property was managed by Michael Logan, Manager of Strategic Sourcing in Procurement Services. Although Logan was successful in finding placements for some pieces through a basic surplus listserv, both Facility and Campus Services and Procurement Services recognized the system could do much more. “I am really thankful that we have leaders and a responsive administration on campus that recognized it wasn’t the best that the university could do,” said Logan.

What was a bare bones effort when Winkler arrived is now a thriving, well organized waste diversion program. “The surplus program was my baby,” Winkler said. With a background in logistics, Winkler tackled the substantial surplus inventory that had built up prior to his arrival. In the first year alone, the program helped the university avoid nearly $440,000 in expenses, mostly in avoided landfill fees and avoided expenses for new furnishings. In addition to cost savings, the program generates substantial resource savings: nearly 100 tons of waste have been diverted from the landfill in less than two and a half years. November 2013 also marked the first-ever WFU surplus sale. With over 200 pieces of surplus property sold to members of the Wake Forest community, this successful event could well turn into an annual offering.

Last year, Winkler began collecting electronic waste for recycling as well. Through established relationships with organizations like Goodwill, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, which houses the surplus property program, continues to find safer and more cost effective ways to divert potentially harmful waste streams, like electronics and toner cartridges, from landfills.

Winkler hopes to see even further expansion down the road. “The next step is to have the space, time, and staff to include office supplies in the program.” In its current configuration, the surplus program is only available to faculty and staff. Such an expansion would make some of the supplies available to students as well.

Whether the task of the hour is moving staff and faculty offices, helping a customer outfit a new office with gently used furnishings, strategically placing new recycling bins, or coordinating collection of inkjet and toner cartridges for recycling, Winkler can be counted on for courteous customer service and a commitment to Wake Forest’s campus sustainability goals.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator

Sustainability through Place Values

Saturday, December 7th, 2013
Photo by WFU photographer Ken Bennett

Photo credit: Ken Bennett

Students in my fall 2013 Literature and the Environment seminar (ENG 341G) spent the semester exploring different sites of belonging through world literature. Their course work carried them through critical discussions on the anthropocene, bioregionalism, deep ecology, ecotones and general systems theory. In their final class unit, they targeted their analysis toward key issues of sustainability. Several groups of students got together to reflect on the ways sustainability connected them to different communities of practice. Prominent among such communities was Wake Forest.

In the following essays, students consider the ways environments are composed through participation. They urge other students to be more fully present in the ways they interact with their campus environment, and they propose solutions for more sustainable technological practices.  Other essays reflect on the ways Wake Forest has shaped students as engaged individuals; students consider the ways the college’s environs have provided a vital resource for their spirits. Though all these short essays are quite different in their approaches to place values, all share an important central insight:  Sustainability is something that needs to be grounded in communities of belonging.

By Dr. Judith Madera, Magnolias Project Participant 2012

Are You a Champion?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Have you or are you preparing to facilitate a change to a sustainable practice on campus? Have you implemented a new sustainability initiative in your area? If so, you might be a winner!

This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.

In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:

  • resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
  • academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
  • service and social action, and
  • bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).

We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.