Wake Forest University

Equity - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest



Diversity and Inclusion

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion works to foster a diverse and inclusive campus community.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs provides resources and support for students, including mentoring opportunities and programs celebrating the many cultures represented at Wake Forest.

The LGBTQ Center provides education, advocacy, and support to the entire campus community around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Collaborative Governance

The Office of Sustainability  works closely with a sustainability working group composed of key partners across campus to  craft and implement strategic goals.

The Faculty Senate is an elected body that advises the Board of Trustees and recommends the recipients of honorary degrees.

The Staff Advisory Council serves as a forum for staff to exchange ideas about policies and issues affecting Wake Forest University employees and to offer feedback to the President on these issues.



Toxic Drift Discussion with Pete Daniel

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.

Are You a Champion?

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.

FAQ: Sustainable T-Shirts

May 9th, 2013

Q: I’m a leader in several organizations and I end up making quite a few t-shirt purchases.  How should I go about making those purchases as sustainable as possible?

A:  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.

Recap: Good for Me, Good for Us?

April 14th, 2013

GFMGFU-18The tension in addressing environmental issues is always: how can we solve environmental problems without harming our economy? On a more individual level, it is often about the personal sacrifices we must make to ensure a collective sustainable world.  The panel entitled Good for Me, Good for Us? addressed this tension with three distinct speakers: Julian Agyeman, Professor and Chair of Urban Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Services at University of the District of Columbia, and Larry Rasmussen, Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

I’ve now been to dozens of panels and events on sustainability, but this one was different. This conversation among the three panelists was the first I’ve seen to feature morality as a central component to sustainability. In this sense, there was no discussion of the effects of climate change or a debate on the problems of overfishing. Rather there was a genuine ethical conversation about the ways people can work together or individually to make changes to the system.

I found Dr. Agyeman’s discussion of a movement towards sharing economies to be the most fascinating. As an example, Agyeman explained that we don’t need to buy a power drill that we will only use once, but can instead borrow it from a tool-sharing network. Examples of sharing economies exist all over, whether it’s couch-surfing, bike-sharing or car-sharing programs like Zipcar. I came away from the event feeling a need to change the way I participate in our economic system, because every dollar I spend is a vote for the type of future I want. Senior Janak Padhiar reflected on Dr. Agyeman’s contributions, “I was particularly inspired and intrigued by the ways in which the notions of spatial justice and inter-culturalism are vital to progressive, diverse urban communities; cities require responsible planning and multiple mechanisms of innovation, technology, infrastructure, education, and civic planning to positively advance human equality.” All three speakers made mention of social justice and equality as keys to a sustainable future.

Dr. Sabine O’Hara spoke from a background in neo-classical economics, and gave a different perspective from a field that often lacks inclusion of environmental problems in its analysis. As a college dean at a land-grant university in an urban environment, O’Hara, brought attention to the fact that that universities must engage with local communities to create a more sustainable future. First-year student Lauren Formica enjoyed the holistic nature of the panel. She said, “each of these individuals can claim expertise in a field in which ethics and values come into play everyday.”

Dr. Larry Rasmussen spoke with urgency of the need to change the way our society functions, as he made reference to the tragedy of the commons. Rasmussen asked the key question, “Can capitalism be fully ecologized?” His critique of the economic system included mentions of social justice related to justice for nature. He left these questions open for students to ponder.

Often discussions of environmental issues rely too heavily on trying to hammer home the scientific facts about why we need to change our behaviors. This panel, however, took a more philosophical approach to enlighten students on the ways they can revolutionize and change our current economic system. Senior Emily Bachman appreciated the focus on equity and environmental justice. She explained, “I think this focus is vital in making the sustainability movement about all people, rather than a privilege of the wealthy.” I was inspired by the open, diverse views and discussion on this particular panel and struck by how it catered to several different areas of study and backgrounds.

Sanders McNair, Campus Garden Intern (’13)

Rivoli explores free trade through t-shirt

February 17th, 2012

Pietra RivoliPietra Rivoli, a Georgetown business professor, economist and author of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” discussed American perceptions of global trade at an hour-long talk on February 2.

Rivoli spent five years tracing the path of a simple cotton T-shirt from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory to a used clothing market in Africa to investigate the politics, economics, ethics, and history of modern business and globalization.

Her journey, was sparked when she and her students realized that they knew nothing about the origins of the T-shirts hanging in their university store. When they paid $10 for a T-shirt, was the actual cost – from environmental harm and unsafe labor conditions – much higher?

“I found this debate very difficult in the abstract, said Rivoli. “My job is to educate, but it was difficult to have these conversations with my students. We didn’t know the story behind our stuff. But we could know, we could try to know — that was my motivation for the book.”

What she found was a tale of global trade, of tariffs, of politics and of protest. Her conclusions flew in the face of her traditional economic training. “Traditionally, you learn that the losers in global trade are the ones who oppose it. But after beginning research, I learned that many of the winners opposed it too,” she said.

Rivoli proposed three reasons that the so-called “winners” of global trade – those who benefit from a higher GNP and cheaper consumer goods, without the risk of job loss – would oppose globalization. From safe working conditions to environmental concerns, the issues all boil down to an innate human concern for fairness.

According to the 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project, between 2002 and 2010, the percentage of the American public that believed growing international trade was “very good or somewhat good” for the country dropped from 78 percent to 66 percent.

“Clearly 44 percent of Americans have not lost jobs due to global trade. They are not losers in the traditional sense.”

“Some winners in global trade won’t play the game unless it’s fair,” she said.

In preparation for the lecture, more than 70 Wake Forest students read the book and participated in small-group discussions as part of the Campus Life and Office of Sustainability book club —providing for an engaging post-lecture question-and-answer session.

In response to a student question about effective policies to address fairness concerns in global trade, Rivoli said, “We have to get the special interests out of politics — that’s the only way that free trade is going to start to work for more people. I think it’s a problem of politics, I don’t think it’s a problem of economics.”

The lecture was part of the Social Justice Working Group’s “Focus on Fair Trade” and was sponsored by Campus Life, the Office of Sustainability, and the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES).

By Caitlin (Brooks) Edwards, Wake Forest Fellow

Coffee film wakes up audience

November 14th, 2011

Black Gold ScreeningAs the semester draws to a close, coffee purchases across campus skyrocket. Though students, faculty and staff members down mug after mug of the black stuff, few stop to think about the impact of their morning buzz on the world outside the Reynolda Campus. A small group of university community members burst the bubble and gathered for a screening of “Black Gold” in the newly renovated auditorium on the fourth floor of the ZSR Library on November 8.

The film highlighted the inequity inherent in the global coffee trade by juxtaposing scenes from prospering, coffee-hungry cities in the Western world and scenes from impoverished coffee growing areas in southern and western Ethiopia. Coffee prices, determined in London and New York by commodities speculators, have unfathomable consequences for the lives of coffee growers thousands of miles away. When the price is low, poverty and hunger reign. During a period of low prices, unable to make a fair living growing coffee, one farmer explains that he will grow khat (a narcotic plant) to support himself and his family.

As a complement to the film, audience members enjoyed a sampling of fair trade coffee and tea provided by Campus Grounds and a talk from Dr. Jeanne Simonelli, anthropology professor and applied cultural anthropologist. Simonelli provided a brief demonstration, complete with board game money, to help audience members visualize the inequities in the global coffee trade.

Junior Erin Murphy felt much more informed about the global coffee trade after the screening. “It made me think about how much goes into producing just one cup of coffee, a luxury I know I take for granted and drink every day. I had no idea the farmers who produce the coffee got so little for their efforts and that their families and villages were suffering so much from it,” Murphy said.

The movie also had a huge impact on junior De’noia Woods. Although Woods does not drink coffee, she now feels compelled to share insights from the film with her coffee-consuming friends. “I will make sure to educate people who I know drink coffee by the caseload about the negative effects of the coffee trade,” Woods said.

The screening was a partnership between Z. Smith Reynolds Library, the Office of Sustainability and WFU Focus on Fair Trade.

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Amanda Gambill

October 28th, 2011

Amanda GambillJunior Amanda Gambill embodies the “think globally, act locally” sustainability mantra. Gambill, a chemistry major with a biochemistry focus, currently leads the Baptist Student Union’s campaign with Charity Water, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Since its inception in 2007, Charity Water has raised more than $6 million and provided over 890 water projects to 13 developing countries. In her giving campaign, Gambill hopes to provide clean drinking water to over 250 people by raising $5,000 for the organization.

Gambill’s campaign with Charity Water is only the most recent way that she has worked to promote sustainability at an international level. Last summer, Gambill partnered with Taylor Hahn, a 2009 graduate of the university’s Masters in Communications program, to teach an environmental ethics class to a group of international students at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute. This is the 6th year that the university has hosted the international summer institute. Gambill and Hahn lectured and held debates on topics related to sustainability in the civic sphere and encouraged students to think critically about the role of government in sustainability. Gambill said she was thrilled at the opportunity to discuss solutions to environmental issues with these young leaders.

Outside of the classroom, Gambill and Hahn provided opportunities for students to participate in sustainable community projects. Students helped clean up the creek near the local dog park in Washington Park and volunteered with local organizations such as the Campus Garden, Campus Kitchen, and the Forsyth Animal Shelter. The students also met with officers from the US Department of State on a trip to Washington, D.C. and discussed the role of government in addressing environmental issues

Gambill, who intends to practice medicine in developing nations, attributes her work in international sustainability to her desire to be part of a solution to global environmental problems. She said that she feels called to engage with sustainability under the motto of Pro Humanitate. “Our project is about helping a portion of humankind who needs the most basic necessity — water,” Gambill says. “And if I have helped humanity, I have fulfilled my duty as a Wake Forest student.”

Donate to Amanda Gambill’s Charity Water campaign at http://mycharitywater.org/wfubsuwomen.

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern

Come to the Table Piedmont promotes hunger relief through faith and community

March 4th, 2011

Community members from across the Piedmont joined university faculty, staff, and students to explore the role communities of faith play in relieving hunger and supporting local farms, during the Piedmont North Carolina Come to the Table Conference on February 18-19 in Benson University Center.

Friday workshop topics ranged from Food Production 101, to Interfaith Perspectives on Food, andFederal and State Farm Policy.  Saturday’s agenda was filled by a number of field trips to community gardens, farms, and businesses that support the agricultural economy of the region.

Conference participants included faith organizations, interfaith groups, local non-profits, small farm owners, community members, and campus organizations from around the Triad.

Two of these campus organizations – Campus Kitchen and Wake Saturdays – joined community partner El Buen Pastor, a local “for social profit agency” that benefits the Latino community of Winston-Salem, in a panel discussion titled “Campus Kitchen: Students and Agencies Combating Hunger.”

The panel provided an excellent forum for community groups to learn about the positive actions students and others have taken to fight hunger in neighborhoods just outside the university bubble.

Shelley Graves-Sizemore, director of the university’s branch of Campus Kitchen began the forum with a brief overview of the programs sponsored by Campus Kitchen including the university’s innovative partnership with The Fresh Market.

Graves-Sizemore describes the Campus Kitchen philosophy as “focusing on using waste food as a resource.” Owing to this ethos, university volunteers – mostly students – managed to save 16,000 pounds of food from landfills last year. This food came from kitchens on the Reynolda campus and various businesses in Winston-Salem, including the Reynolda Fresh Food Company and The Fresh Market. The raw ingredients and prepared un-served meals are imaginatively recombined into complete nutritional meals for community members.

Senior Amy Liang who serves as a “bridge” between Campus Kitchen and Wake Saturdays, reflected at length on the importance of community in her service work. Though both of her main service projects are food-centered – Wake Saturdays distributes lunch to over 100 homeless men and women each week – she said “it is more about the relationships than the food.”

To this end, Liang was integral in creating a homelessness awareness campaign and art exhibition on campus last fall. All artwork and poetry was created by homeless men and women with whom Liang works through Wake Saturdays. “Homelessness is not Faceless,” allowed Liang to share the personal relationships she had developed with the wider university community to bring the reality and humanity of hunger home.

Senior Josh DeWitt, an Office of Sustainability intern, and leader of Wake Saturdays, echoed Liang’s sentiments about the importance of relationships. After describing the details of Wake Saturdays, DeWitt explained the importance of his experience. “The closer we are to someone or to someplace, the more we care and the harder we work to make things better,” he said.

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

‘Tapped’ screening sparks emotional discussion

February 8th, 2011

Photo by De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

Pugh Auditorium was abuzz with discussion after the closing credits of Tapped on January 25, 2011. The film screening, which officially began the university’s “Choose to Reuse” campaign, drew a diverse audience from university departments and the wider Winston-Salem community.

Tapped explores the bottled water industry and brings into question the marketing campaign that resulted in the sale of nearly 8.5 billion single serving bottles of water in the US in 2009.

The film focuses on the fundamental human right to clean drinking water.. The filmmakers explore several key issues, including the bottled water industry’s extraction, export and resale of ground water and the bottling and distribution of municipal tap water at a 2000 percent mark-up. According to the film over 40% of bottled water comes from municipal sources.

The film also brings to light the negative health effects caused by the production of PET(E) plastics used in single-use plastic bottles.

Response to the screening was as diverse as the audience members themselves. A few criticized the university’s decision to screen the film given what they perceived to be an overt anti-corporation message. Others left the screening alarmed by what they had learned and ready to make changes.. Either way, audience members left with more information upon which to make consumer choices.

The “Choose to Reuse” campaign is designed to help students make informed decisions and to consider the power they have as consumers. The first 50 audience members at the Tapped screening received free reusable water bottles, courtesy of Great Outdoor Provision Company. More activities and programs designed to educate students about the issues surrounding consumer choices are planned for the rest of the semester. Many activities will provide further opportunities to win free re-usable bottles.

“There are so many documentaries and television shows focusing on environmental problems that are just too big to tackle, it can seem overwhelming,” senior Frannie Speer, the Office of Sustainability Choose to Reuse intern, said. “Choosing a reusable water bottle is an easy, doable first-step in reducing our personal waste footprint.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Read more about the Choose to Reuse Campaign:

WFU News Service

Her Campus

Winston-Salem Chronicle

For more information, check out these informative links:

The Story of Stuff: A short film about the issues surrounding bottled water consumption

Environmental Justice Event draws diverse audience

November 18th, 2010

Photo by De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

Annenberg Forum overflowed with university students and faculty and members of the greater Winston-Salem community on November 11 for a symposium on environmental justice.  The event, “My Neighborhood is Killing Me: Environmental Racism and a Call to Justice,” discussed the effects of toxic dumping and environmental degradation on minority and low income neighborhoods and called the audience to action. The affair was co-sponsored by the WFU Office of Sustainability and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

After an introduction by Wake Forest University Provost Jill Tiefenthaler, the symposium began with an opening lecture by Simran Sethi, an Emmy-award winning journalist and Winston-Salem native. Her exposé on the illegal discharge of toxic PCBs along the roadsides of 14 counties across North Carolina hit close to home for the locals in the audience. Her local example revealed the ubiquitous nature of environmental injustice.

According to Sethi, the cleanup from this dumping resulted in the collection and burning of 81,000 tons of contaminated soil at a price of $18 million to Warren County, where the disposal facility was sited; the citizens of Warren County were not compensated in any way for the damage to the local lands and water supply. “No one wants to live in a place where they have dirty soil and can’t drink the water. This [issue] crosses income and political party lines,” Sethi said.

Sethi broadened her discussion by comparing environmental issues to interpersonal relationships. She encouraged all of the members of the audience to draw connections between what they cared about and our ecosystems. According to Sethi, just as people in relationships take care of one another, we should take care of our resources in the same manner.

Intense silence filled the room as Sethi’s words began to sink in, especially when students realized that our generation may be the first not to outlive our parents. Sethi drove home her point that “environmental rights are civil rights,” by encouraging the audience to be concerned about what is happening to the Earth and all of its inhabitants.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President of Bennett College, followed Sethi with a presentation on environmental racism in African American communities — locally in North Carolina — and elsewhere around the world. Her discourse emphasized the disproportionate burden people of color carry in regards to environmental hazards and the consequences of environmental mistreatment.

Malveaux’s discussion of the Bantu word Ubuntu, a South African concept for uniting that translates in English as, “I am because you are,” was particularly inspring. Malveaux urged the audience to overcome class and race differences, to see that having access to clean water and air are basic human rights, which should be met in countries across the globe.

Following their speeches, the women answered a few questions from the audience. Their responses  reiterated the call to action, not only in fighting environmental racism and injustice, but in encouraging newcomers to the sustainability and environmental movements to find an issue they care about and to pursue change. Environmental injustice, they urged, doesn’t have to be yet another issue to care about. Sethi urged audience members to start with the issues that are already important to them and to see how solutions to those problems are aligned with solutions to the problems plaguing the environment and the world’s people. “You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something,” Sethi said.

Provost Tiefenthaler asked the duo about the power of the consumer and what that power might mean to members of the audience.  Both encouraged individuals to boycott products or companies that are causing harm. Voting takes many forms and one form is a vote at the cash register. “Change begins with conscious consumers making decisions with the strength of their voices,” Sethi said.

By Carrie Stokes, Green Guide Intern, and Holly Fuller, Interfaith Grassroots Support Intern