Browse the list of topics for answers to your frequently asked questions. Have a question we haven’t answered? Direct your inquiries to sustainability@wfu.edu.

Food and Dining

Is there a way I can enjoy produce from the campus garden?2019-06-27T16:07:40-04:00

Most of the produce from the garden goes to campus kitchen or community partners. The best way to personally enjoy organic produce from the garden is to volunteer. If you, or a group you’re involved in are looking for hands-on service, then volunteering in the garden is an exciting opportunity. Not only will you get to enjoy working outside, but you can also take home some of the fruits of your labor in the form of tomatoes and other produce.

Volunteer hours at the campus garden vary each semester. Check out the Campus Garden page for the most updated volunteer hours schedule. Note that volunteer hours will not occur on set Wake Forest holidays. Come alone, bring a group of friends from your residence hall, or schedule a volunteer event with your club. Located at the corner of Polo Road and Student Drive, across from Martin, the campus garden can always use an extra set of hands.

Email campusgarden@wfu.edu for more information or to schedule a service event for your organization.

How do I have a say in what food is served on campus?2019-06-27T10:52:08-04:00

There are a number of ways you can work to make a difference:

  • Join the Plant-Forward Dining Committee.This group works with our campus nutritionist, Brooke Orr, to brainstorm ideas, develop programs, and create events to help promote plant-forward dining.
  • Complete the annual WFU Dining Survey. Aramark relies heavily on this survey as its primary way of collecting feedback from you, the customer.
  • Take only what you will eat. The less food wasted, the less food purchased, and the more money available to consider purchasing more sustainably produced food.
  • Stay informed about food issues. The more informed you are about food issues, the more empowered you are to make every bite count.


How can I get involved in the local food movement?2019-07-02T10:02:59-04:00

Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • Attend the regular volunteer hours in the WFU Campus Garden.
  • Volunteer with Campus Kitchen.
  • Educate yourself about the environmental, social, and economic issues surrounding food systems.
  • Vote with your dollars: ask where the food you’re eating comes from and make dining decisions based on the values that are important to you.

For more information about local food movement opportunities, subscribe to our listserv and keep an eye on the sustainability events calendar.

How can I take food to-go from the dining halls?2019-06-27T16:08:46-04:00

When you need to grab a meal to go, simply purchase a green to-go container for $5 at the Pit or North Dining Hall. Once you finish your meal, bring your dirty container back to either dining facility and exchange it for a small token to store on your keychain. All containers will be washed and sterilized by dining services staff. The next time you want to take food to-go, simply trade in your token for another green to-go box. When you are done with the box for the year you can return it and get your $5 back.

Some background: In 2009, our university community disposed of over 7,000 foam to-go containers each week. Starting in the fall of 2010, we made the green reusable to-go containers mandatory, which has meant much less Styrofoam in our landfills.

Life on Campus

How can I stay up to date with WFU sustainability efforts?2019-06-28T14:40:20-04:00

The best way to stay in touch is to sign up for our mailing lists and follow us on social media! If you are a WFU environment and sustainability alumni, be sure to visit our alumni page and join our LinkedIn group

How are our campus sustainability efforts and achievements judged?2019-06-27T16:57:13-04:00

Wake Forest University participates in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment Rating System (STARS) framework created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). We undertake this comprehensive reporting effort as a part of our commitment to transparency and accountability. The framework was developed specifically to measure and track indicators of sustainability in higher education. Each campus that participates makes its report available online; no ratings or rankings are judged out of context or evaluated using metrics that create a limited view of a campus’ commitment. Wake Forest is one of many campuses that does not respond to other outside requests for ratings/ranking information. We encourage those groups who would like to showcase campus efforts to draw from our STARS report for any information they might need.

In 2011, 2012, and 2015 WFU submitted a STARS report and was awarded a STARS silver rating, the third highest rating possible.

What environment and sustainability job resources do you recommend?2019-06-27T16:40:09-04:00

Fortunately, there are many resources available. The most comprehensive list which provides information on green and sustainability career pathways and job openings is this Google Doc.  Created by the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium, the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability, and the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, this list includes job boards and career pathway resources that are regularly updated.

The WFU Office of Personal & Career Development (OPCD) also posts internships and job openings through Handshake. Keep an updated profile and search the platform regularly for opportunities relating to sustainability that have been targeted specifically through the WFU network.

Are there any summer volunteer opportunities?2019-06-27T16:35:32-04:00

Yes. With fewer students on campus over the summer, the WFU Campus Garden relies on the support of regular volunteers to keep operations in full swing. The campus garden needs help with planting, weeding, harvesting, and composting. Most of the produce grown in the garden is donated to Campus Kitchen, allowing them to prepare more dishes from scratch. Email campusgarden@wfu.edu if you are interested in volunteering.

There are many other volunteer opportunities that arise over the summer. Check out the volunteer sign up sheet to see the most updated list of opportunities.

How can I get involved with campus sustainability?2019-06-27T16:30:19-04:00

There are many ways to get involved with sustainability here at Wake. From hands-on opportunities to guest lectures and film screenings, we’re here to connect you so that your passion can flourish.

Check out the many ways you can Lead, Join, and Volunteer during your time at Wake Forest.

Be sure to follow @sustainableWFU on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for real-time updates and opportunities to get involved.

Does Wake Forest offer a Masters in Sustainability?2019-07-09T09:49:26-04:00

Yes. The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) at Wake Forest offers a Master of Arts in Sustainability. The program offers a four-course core – global human systems; sustainable organizational management; resource management and energy science; and environment law and policy – as well as an applied sustainability course and a capstone research project or extended practicum. The 30-credit MA in Sustainability is one of a select few across the nation. In addition to the Master of Arts in Sustainability (MAS) and a certificate program, Wake Forest offers two unique dual degree programs – the JD/MA in Sustainability and the Masters of Divinity/MA in Sustainability.

Water and Energy

Why doesn’t Wake Forest cover it’s rooftops with solar panels?2020-01-21T16:48:52-05:00

As of 2019, our regulated market supplier, Duke Energy, generated electricity from equal thirds coal, natural gas, and nuclear. The Wake Forest Reynolda Campus — the historic district through the Athletics campus — has a peak electric demand of 10 megawatts (MW). We would need approximately 25 acres of solar farm development to offset our electricity demand. As a non-profit entity, Wake Forest’s initial investment in a renewable energy installation would not be offset by tax credits in the same way it would be for a private investor. Normally, such an investment would be accomplished through a direct power purchase agreement (PPA). Solar PPAs, however, are currently illegal in North Carolina. In 2017, NC House Bill 589 created new opportunities for renewables including limited commercial leasing options. We have identified eligible roof space on campus for the 1 MW of rooftop solar that the new program would support. If we are able to identify a qualified commercial lessor through North Carolina’s new program, design and construction would take about two years. Learn more about our renewable energy assessments at Wake Forest here.

What is “vampire energy” and why does it matter?2019-06-27T16:22:04-04:00

Vampire energy, also know as phantom energy or phantom load, is the electricity used by electronics that are plugged in but not currently in use.  Both electronics that have off-switches (such as television sets and laptops) and electronics without off-switches (such as cell-phone chargers) have phantom loads.  About 10% of the energy expense in the average American household derives from vampire energy.

You can prevent vampire energy costs by always unplugging your electronics or by plugging all your electronics into a power-strip and switching the power strip off when your electronics are not in use. Unlike most electronics, power-strips are designed to cut off energy flow at the wall, eliminating vampire energy.  If you have a last one, lights out policy in your home or office, expand that policy to cover your power-strips as well.

Why doesn’t the Office of Sustainability push for a ban on disposable plastic water bottles?2019-06-27T16:19:22-04:00

Well, we have thought about it.  Many universities have adopted a ban on disposable plastic water bottles on their campuses and we respect their approach to this issue. However, we have decided to pursue a different approach, for several reasons.

First, we make a tremendous effort to make reusable water bottles a convenient choice for all Wake Forest students, staff, and faculty. There are now over 160 refill stations located in high traffic areas around campus.  These stations are designed to facilitate the use of reusable water bottles and to keep a running count of how many disposable water bottles each unit keeps from ending up in the landfill.

Second, we see our role as providing the information members of our campus community need to make their own decisions – information on the environmental, financial, and health impacts of bottled water. The theoretical free hand of the market requires good information to function. Third, hydration is important for health. You should always carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, but, if you forget yours, it is healthier to consume a disposable plastic bottle of water than a disposable plastic bottle of soda.

What is the deal with the university’s Holiday Setbacks program?2019-06-27T16:16:46-04:00

Each year during the holiday break in December and January, Facilities and Campus Services allows the temperature of most campus buildings to “float” between 55 degrees (to prevent freezing pipes) and 85 degrees (to avoid frying electronic devices like computers and projector equipment).

Since buildings included in the Holiday Setbacks program are empty, comfort is not sacrificed and the university saves big: $30,000 in avoided costs in the first year (2008) and nearly $60,000 in avoided costs during an 11 day period in 2009.

Want to learn more?

  • Read a more detailed description of the program here.
  • See a breakdown of costs avoided here.
  • Learn more about energy saving practices at the university.

Send your questions to sustainability@wfu.edu.

Exactly how much water do I save by using the green-handled low-flow toilets and urinals correctly?2019-06-27T16:14:59-04:00

Old style toilets use anywhere from 2.8-3.5 gallons of water with each flush. Frequently, this wastes water without serving any real purpose. Each low flush (pushing the green, anti-bacterial treated handle up) of the updated, low-flow toilets uses only 1.4 gallons of water per flush. This saves from 1.4- 2.1 gallons per low flush.

The pint-flush urinals save even more water than the low-flow toilets. An ordinary urinal uses one gallon of water per flush. These new urinals cut water use by 87.5 percent compared to traditional urinals.

In addition to these toilets and urinals, the university also widely employs low flow shower heads. These shower-heads use only 60 percent of the water of regular flow shower heads, without impacting the quality of the shower at all.

Our office uses a water dispenser instead of individual bottles of water. Is this still bad for the environment? Is it a waste of money?2019-07-09T09:55:05-04:00

At a 1000x mark up, jugs of water are still an expensive alternative to tap water. Like individual bottles of water, dispensed water can be seen as more convenient and more consistent in taste. It may even be perceived as safer. Since the municipal water supply is tested regularly, the latter is merely a perception. Our campus now has over 160 water bottle refill stations that dispense filtered, chilled tap water. This makes refilling water pitchers for events and glasses for everyday use quite easy and environmentally friendly.

In terms of the environment, the transportation of bottled water wastes fuel and causes the generation of related greenhouse gas emissions.   If staff members in your department still want dispensed water, because they want it chilled or because they perceive a taste issue with tap water, that’s their choice to make. You can, however, encourage them to reduce waste by reusing a glass, mug, canteen, or bottle instead of using disposable cups.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

I’ve heard that the glass we collect on campus doesn’t get recycled. Why do we collect it?2019-12-04T17:03:37-05:00

All glass that is collected at Wake Forest for recycling is delivered, with other recyclable materials, to Waste Management’s material recovery facility (MRF) about 30 minutes away from campus. All glass sent through the sorting system passes through the glass breaker where it is shattered and stored until it is picked up by Strategic Materials and delivered to their plant in Wilson, NC for recycling.

I made the switch to CFL bulbs, how do I dispose of them when they eventually burn out?2019-06-26T16:08:41-04:00

Because Compact Florescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) contain a small amount of gaseous mercury, you should not dispose of them in individual waste containers. Individuals should dispose of personal CFLs at the 3RC facility in Winston-Salem or a home improvement store that collects them. Bulbs supplied by or used on the Reynolda campus should be collected by a member of the maintenance staff.

University employees may submit a work order to Facilities and Campus Services to have their light bulbs changed. The bulb pick-up will be charged to the building maintenance account. For tenants of the university buildings off the Reynolda campus, requests should be made through the real estate office’s maintenance department.

Where can I recycle my batteries on campus?2020-01-06T10:30:23-05:00

Rechargeable batteries, including cell phone batteries, can be recycled in the e-waste bins in the ZSR Library and Benson University Center.

As you may know alkaline batteries no longer contain Mercury and are therefore no longer considered Universal Waste. Most municipalities and counties advise landfilling those types of batteries.

Some divisions on campus have been collecting alkaline batteries for “recycling” (technically they’re downcycled and components are recycled). The nearest facility that takes them is in Florida. We calculated the effects (fuel, emissions, etc.) associated with shipping the batteries away for recycling, versus landfilling them. The relative impact of those batteries going into the trash, compared to the impact of the amounts of other recyclable waste streams (like paper) going into the trash, is negligible.

I understand that the Rolling of the Quad is a much-loved tradition at Wake Forest…but is it sustainable?2019-06-26T16:05:41-04:00

Throwing rolls of toilet paper into the trees is certainly wasteful. On a scale of wasteful practices, however, this tradition pales in comparison to many other practices on campus. From an environmental perspective, it is relatively benign.

Though we cannot control the type of toilet paper alumni, friends, and fans bring to campus, the toilet paper used by students on campus has a high recycled content and is quickly biodegradable.

With respect to the health of the trees, you may have noticed that many of the White Ash trees on Hearn Plaza have fallen ill and been replaced in the last few years. Both the Landscaping Services staff and the University Arborist have confirmed that there is no correlation between the practice of Rolling the Quad and the death of these trees. In fact, the White Ash trees that lined Hearn Plaza fell victim to the same disease and insect vulnerability that is claiming Ash trees in other locations on campus and across the country.

What should I do with my electronic waste?2019-06-26T16:01:36-04:00

It’s important to keep electronic waste out of our landfills. E-waste often contains heavy metals that can leach into the ground and water supplies.

Return all WFU computers by submitting an online service request for surplus pickup. Any computer cords and accessories can be deposited into the e-waste receptacles located in the ZSR Library and Benson University Center.

Personal e-waste, like cell phones, hand-held devices, and their rechargeable batteries can also be deposited into the e-waste receptacles. However, personal computers should be sent back to the manufacturer or taken to an electronics recycler like Goodwill.

CDs, DVDs, old audio/video tapes, and alkaline batteries should all be disposed of in the trash.

Is double-sided printing now the default setting for printers on campus?2019-07-09T10:05:23-04:00

Yes. Since the launch of the Pharos Printing Systems in 2013, starting with the ZSR Library, double-sided printing (also known as duplex printing) has been the default printer setting for machines across campus. According to ZSR Director of Access Services, Mary Beth Lock, the transition was motivated, in part, by goals in sustainability.

The switch to default duplex printing has translated to significant paper conservation in the library, where the busiest printers on campus are located. Lock reported that as of mid-October 2013, the three copy/print machines across from the Circulation Desk in the ZSR had already been used 70,000 times since their installation on September 23rd and 24th. Still today, it’s not hard to tell that these are the most frequently used machines on campus between classes. Their predecessor, a single machine sitting in the same location, had been used well over a million times in the three years it faithfully served the students faculty and staff who used it.

Single-sided printing is, of course, still available for those who prefer it.

Why should I bother to recycle at Wake? Doesn’t the university just throw away all the recyclable waste?2019-06-26T15:57:50-04:00

A significant percentage of university waste is diverted to be recycled, including several dozen tons of cardboard each year. It is true that around 40 percent of recycling bins are contaminated by non-recyclables, like food waste, causing the contents of those bins to go to the landfill. The contents of the remaining 60 percent are diverted to a recycling center. Each marked recycling bin is lined with a clear bag so that Facilities staff members can easily determine if the contents are contaminated. All bins designated for trash contain opaque black trash bags.

For a quick list of recyclable materials, download our “What to Recycle” table, and remember – sorting matters!

Is it really worth buying a reusable bottle?2019-06-26T15:54:25-04:00

The debate over reuse vs. single-use applies not only to water bottles but to many other household products, like plates, cutlery, and towels as well.

The short answer is yes. A reusable bottle will save materials, fuel, and money when compared to disposable water bottles. However, the exact amount of cycles necessary to achieve the savings varies based on a whole host of complex factors. A cradle-to-grave assessment, however, can help you think more systematically about materials analysis and separate fact from fiction.

In your materials impact assessment, you can consider the resources required in terms of raw material extraction, materials processing, manufacturing, labor, distribution, use, repair/maintenance, and disposal/recycling. In this case, you would consider the source of the plastic, extrusion of the material, labor inputs, source of the water, transportation from water source to distribution hub, cleaning, and disposal and/or recycling resources. Numerous academic and industry studies have been published on these comparisons and are easily accessed via the Web. Some, like this University of Michigan publication, provide straightforward summaries.

Financially, the calculations are much simpler. Over the course of a year, the average American is likely to spend $588.00 on 168 bottles of water. Consider, for instance, my 32 oz. Nalgene water bottle, which cost $9.99. Purchasing a one-liter Aquafina bottle on campus costs $2.12. So, I started saving after refilling my bottle five times. Of course, if I had received a free water bottle from the Office of Sustainability, my savings would have begun to accrue immediately.

How can I get a recycling bin or tote?2019-07-09T10:08:41-04:00

Q: How do I get a desk-side recycling bin for my office?

A: The Reynolda campus transitioned to desk-side recycling collection for faculty and staff in the spring of 2015. Any blue desk-side bin with a “Paper, Cans, Bottles” sticker will be regularly emptied by Reynolda campus custodial staff. Larger bins for copy rooms, conference areas, or hallways can be ordered by placing a work order with Facilities and Campus Services.

Q: How do I get a green recycling tote for my Residence Hall room?

A: Green recycling totes are distributed during move-in to all first-year students. Students are encouraged to keep their recycling totes for the duration of their time at WFU. The Office of Sustainability keeps a few totes in Reynolda Hall – Room 101 for students who need replacements. Students who return totes during move-out are not guaranteed replacements in the following year. Totes that are returned during move-out are cleaned and redistributed to new students during move-in.

How can I divert waste from the landfill as I prepare to move out of my residence hall?2019-07-09T10:16:59-04:00

Challenge yourself to make it a zero-landfill move out by following these 3 simple steps:

1) Plan ahead! A minute of planning saves 10 minutes of execution.
2) Sort out which items you want to keep and what you can clean up and donate.
3) Move out, don’t throw out! Remember: the landfill should be your last resort.

Click here for a printable copy of our move-out outreach game, which shows you what can be donated and recycled.

What should I recycle on campus?2019-06-28T14:34:53-04:00

You can find guidelines detailing what can and can’t be recycled on campus on our Waste Reduction and Recycling page. For a printable visual reference, click here.

Alternative Transportation

I saw some Bird scooters on campus in Fall 2018 but they disappeared as quickly as they arrived. What happened?2019-06-26T16:41:55-04:00

The scooters were removed by the company the same day they were delivered. There are three primary operators in the university dockless electric scooter space: Spin, Lime, and Bird. Spin and Lime have both reached out about partnering; Bird deposited the units around the edges of campus without prior notification.

Municipalities and campuses across the country are working together to develop policies and protocols that are adaptive in covering these emerging technologies. Nationwide there have been countless problems with the units creating rider/pedestrian conflicts and littering streets, sidewalks, and doorways. Wake Forest is actively developing policies and protocols that set expectations for how riders will operate and park the units on campus.

If/when we enter a partnership, we will also develop a selection process that includes all competitors. San Francisco recently completed a vetting process that included a comprehensive look at the ways an electric scooter service provider could and should address the common good: equitable access, ability access, and safety. We would also look for thoughtful responses to the same set of questions.

Does Wake Forest offer an emergency ride service?2019-06-26T16:36:01-04:00

Yes. In the case of a personal or family emergency, the Transportation and Parking Office will reimburse a carpool member for cab fare upon submission of a valid receipt. In the case of scheduled appointments or other driving needs during the workday, carpool members are encouraged to maintain a membership in Zipcar. Any of the five vehicles in the WFU shared fleet can be reserved and used as needed at a low hourly rate that includes gas and insurance.

Read more frequently asked questions about carpooling on our how to guide, How to Find and Register a Carpool.


How can I make my t-shirt purchases as sustainable as possible?2019-06-26T15:40:12-04:00

 There are many factors to consider in evaluating the sustainability of a t-shirt, from where and how the cotton is grown to the labor conditions in the factory where the t-shirt was stitched.

Wake Forest University is a member of the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights organization that monitors the manufacture of university apparel.  All university branded apparel sold by Athletics or the University Bookstores must come from a vendor with a supply chain that complies with the WRC code of conduct.  In keeping with the spirit of the university’s commitment, other groups on campus that purchase t-shirts should also purchase from vendors who are WRC compliant when possible.

Use our t-shirt purchasing guide to find vendors who are use local, recycled, and/or organic materials.  Sustainable purchasing can make a huge difference in terms of your impact on the environment, but remember, sustainability should be a concern throughout the lifecycle of your apparel, so wash with cold water and line dry whenever possible.  If you would like any additional information feel free to email us at sustainability@wfu.edu.