Wake Forest University

Service and Outreach - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Service and Outreach

Service and Outreach

Faces of Sustainability: Sarah Mason

March 1st, 2013

Sarah MasonDr. Sarah Mason wanted answers to her questions about sustainability.  A mathematician by profession, it felt obvious to think about her questions mathematically.

As she began to examine questions about life-cycle analysis and resource efficiency, she says “I realized…to get a sense of what’s going on, you can use fairly simple math.  I decided that would be a great place to bring in students, to give them the confidence to apply straightforward mathematics to analyze complex situations.”

This urge to combine a personal passion for sustainability with her career resulted in Dr. Mason’s first-year seminar, Counting on Sustainable Energy: Does it Add Up?, which she is currently teaching for a second time this spring.  The simple addition, multiplication, and conversion involved in the course are far from her traditional research field of combinatorics, but Dr. Mason’s course demonstrates how “pretty basic mathematics can be used to do some powerful things.”

Counting on Sustainable Energy fosters a greater understanding of alternative energy and arms students with the ability to critically evaluate assertions about the relative environmental impacts of various fuel sources.  “One of the biggest things that I want my students to get out of this class is getting comfortable taking claims and evaluating them for themselves. If someone says something is better for the environment, I want my students to be able to go home and verify that claim.”

Over the course of a semester, Dr. Mason’s students will investigate a wide array of alternative energy sources, including solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal.  They will examine how much energy these sources could produce on Wake Forest’s campus and how much energy a Wake Forest student consumes each day.  By the end of the semester, students will find an answer to the course’s central question: Could we, with our current consumption patterns, rely on sustainable energy at Wake Forest University?  If the answer is yes, students will explain exactly how a switch to sustainable energy might be feasible in their final paper.  If the answer is no, students will lay out a plan to reduce energy consumption.

Much of Dr. Mason’s FYS is hands-on.  Her students began the course by measuring their own electricity consumption with a Kill-a-watt, an exercise designed to give them an idea of scale when they use the watt or kilowatt hour (kWh) as a unit of measure.  Recently, her students completed the construction of miniature wind turbines, an exercise designed to familiarize them with the mechanics of wind energy.  As part of their final project, students will develop and staff interactive educational booths at Food for Thought,  this spring’s Earth Day celebration for the Wake Forest community.

In addition to readings and class projects, Counting on Sustainable Energy includes a line-up of guest speakers, including a representative from Volt energy (the company responsible for the solar panels on The Barn) and an environmental engineer working in wind turbine installation. Students will visit a land fill and a geothermal installation.  So far, Dr. Mason’s students have matched an impressive syllabus with impressive work product.  Dr. Mason reports her students are highly motivated by the subject matter, explaining “because they are passionate about [sustainability], they are willing to do the leg work.”

The latest version of Counting on Sustainability is a result of Dr. Mason’s participation in the Magnolias Project, a WFU faculty workshop on integrating sustainability across the curriculum.  An assigned reading on the moral ecology of everyday life (from Higher Education for Sustainability) inspired Dr. Mason to take the focus of Counting on Sustainability from a national level down to a campus level; her students have benefited from an opportunity to relate to their course material directly.

Not only did the Magnolias Project allow Dr. Mason to refine her syllabus, she also made valuable connections to faculty from different disciplines.  This network continues to be source of ideas and feedback, which Dr. Mason finds particularly valuable as a mathematician teaching a writing-intensive course.  This spring, she will co-lead the second iteration of the Magnolias Project with Dr. Lucas Johnston, a faculty member in the Religion department and another member of the Magnolias Project’s first cohort.

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mason also integrates sustainability into her life beyond the classroom. When moving to Winston-Salem, she intentionally purchased a home within walking distance from campus and often uses a bicycle for transportation.  An avid hiker, she partially attributes her interest in sustainability to a love of the outdoors, saying “I love hiking and I really value being able to explore untouched places.  I worry our society is moving towards less and less of these beautiful, spectacular places.”

A passion for sustainability runs in Dr. Mason’s family.  The environmental engineer who spoke to her class about wind turbines was her father and her brother is an urban planner, currently tackling solutions for mass transit in developing countries.  Her brother also helped her tackle a compost bin project in her backyard and Dr. Mason plans to put her compost to good use this year.  She muses “I love being able to go out and make a salad with ingredients straight from my backyard, there is something really satisfying about that.”

Dr. Mason’s academic innovation is possible through the generous support of the university, for which she is continually grateful.  Her students are equivalently grateful for Dr. Mason, especially those like sophomore Caroline Waco, whose experience in Dr. Mason’s FYS last year inspired her to do independent research on the factors impacting the payback period for solar photovoltaic panels.  Dr. Mason explains that her promotion of sustainability at Wake Forest naturally flows from her interest in the topic.  She says “I’ve always believed in following my passions, and hopefully that leads to a strong contribution to my community.”


By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability

EcoReps lead change at Wake Forest

January 30th, 2013

ecorepsFNLSOLIDPeer education, long a well-loved tool in the field of public health, has inspired curiosity from sustainability advocates in recent years.  As research in psychology and marketing continues to affirm that environmental awareness alone does not result in environmentally preferable behavior changes, those seeking to foster sustainable behaviors hope to tap into the power of peer influence to affect necessary change.

On campuses across the United States, groups of peer educators, many of whom operate under the title EcoReps, are pioneering peer education programs in collegiate settings.  Wake Forest University’s own re-imagined EcoReps program, launched in the fall of 2012, is off to a promising start.

Last fall the EcoReps kicked off the semester by giving a presentation at the Monday Talks series hosted by the Health and Exercise Science Department.  Their presentation, titled “A Day in the Life of a Sustainable Student” highlighted the surprising impacts and perks of adopting simple behaviors, like using a reusable water bottle or shopping at thrift stores.

The EcoReps also played an integral role in Energy Bowl 2012, where they performed personalized room assessments and staffed kiosks promoting the competition.  In addition, the EcoReps performed educational outreach at events hosted by the Office of Sustainability, Outdoor Pursuits, Residence Life and Housing, and Campus Dining.

Through their participation in the program, EcoReps earn points towards a Peer Educator for Sustainability certification.  The Office of Sustainability designed this 100-point certification to ensure that EcoReps develop both sustainability literacy and outreach skills, which are crucial for their success as peer-to-peer educators and future sustainability professionals.   Lauren Formica, a first year student, became the first EcoRep to complete the Peer Educator for Sustainability certification at the end of last semester.

This spring the EcoReps gave an expanded version of their Day in the Life presentation as part of the Monday Talks series on January 28th. They will also present at the Sustainability Theme House’s weekly spaghetti supper on February 21st.

Delegates from the Wake Forest EcoReps program will head to a regional conference for EcoReps in the Southeast in February.  In March, the EcoReps will support the Campus Conservation Nationals competition sponsored by the Office of Energy Management.

For more information on how to become an EcoRep, email langah@wfu.edu.   Enrollment in the program closes on February 14th.

 By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability

Call for Volunteers: Go Deacs. Go Green. campaign enters third season

August 30th, 2012

Go Deacs. Go Green., a partnership effort between Wake Forest Athletics and the Office of Sustainability, enters its third year with the kickoff of this season’s football game day recycling campaign.  Beginning this Saturday, September 1st, with Wake Forest’s game against Liberty University, volunteers will work to ensure recyclables stay out of the landfill whenever the Demon Deacons play at home.  Over the course of last season, volunteers collected nearly 7 tons of recyclables and this year the campaign aims for even greater rates of diversion.

Volunteers are a vital to the success of game-day recycling.  Before the school year even got going, participants in SPARC, a pre-orientation program run by the Office of Service and Social Action, helped refresh the program’s tailgate recycling bins with new paint and campaign stickers.  On each home-game day, three shifts of volunteers distribute recycling bins to tailgating lots, educate fans on proper recycling, and collect full bins after fans enter the stadium.  Both the first and second shifts end before kick-off and the third shift ends only about half an hour into the game.

The Deacon Express game-day shuttle begins running four hours before kick-off, picking up in the parking lot on the East side of Wait Chapel and dropping off at the Indoor Tennis facility near BB&T field on 32nd street. In the spirit of going green, volunteers are encouraged to ride the shuttle.  Volunteers who are unable to access the shuttle can alternatively obtain a volunteer parking pass from the Office of Sustainability.  Those who participate in the game-day efforts also receive a Green Team t-shirt.

Game-day recycling is an excellent residence hall activity or service opportunity for a campus organization.  We also welcome individuals and students looking to fulfill community service hours.

To participate, contact game-day recycling intern, Austin Smith at smitad8@wfu.edu. Check out the Wake Forest Athletics site to find dates for all home games.

LENS brings sustainability into focus

August 21st, 2012

This summer thirty-two rising high school juniors and seniors participated in LENS @ Wake Forest, an annual three-week college immersion program.  For the three years since its inception, LENS @ Wake Forest has taken sustainability as a guiding theme, examining political, economic, social, and legal issues.  Learning took place both inside and outside the classroom, with seminars and presentations given by Wake Forest faculty and excursions to a local farm and to Reynolda House Museum. Students studied rhetoric, honed their writing skills and learned to craft effective presentations. Leigh Stanfield, Director for Global Auxiliary Programs in the Provost’s Office for Global Affairs, organized the program.  Dr. Michelle Klosterman of the Education Department and Dr. Ryan Shirey of the Writing Program served as primary faculty.  ZSR Librarians Hu Womack and Bobbie Collins partnered with LENS to teach participants research skills.

Connor Covello, a rising high school senior from Long Island, appreciated the wide variety of viewpoints incorporated into the program.  He reported “whatever I do, say its business, I will seek to render my business as sustainable as possible; you can incorporate sustainability into anything.”

LENS (which stands for Learn, Experience, Navigate, Solve) culminated with student presentations of their group projects for a Community Partner.  Project development took place over three weeks and involved meeting with Community Partners, eliciting advice from experts on campus, and extensive research.

In addition to getting a taste of rigorous academics, 2012 LENS participants also enjoyed the more relaxed aspects of college life, eating dinner downtown and playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad.  Participants stayed in South Hall, a LEED-certified first-year residence hall, where they kept track of each room’s energy use on a building dashboard monitor.  For Connor, a fun highlight of LENS was a toga party in the South Hall media room, where the group celebrated the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  While learning objectives are central to LENS, friendships between participants and connections built with faculty have enduring value.   When asked what he will walk away with from the LENS experience, Connor reported he now has an idea of what college life is like, an awareness of sustainability issues, and a number of good friends he will surely miss.

By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow

To find out more about this year’s LENS@Wake Forest experience, read this article published by the WFU NewsCenter.

10 Days Celebration: Saturday, April 21

April 20th, 2012

Join us for a day of advice, discussion, and networking focused on food activism.

Food Activism Workshop

When: Opening comments begin at 9:00 A.M.

Morning Session: 1:00-11:30 a.m.

Afternoon Session: 2:30-4:00 p.m.

Where: Tribble Hall

The workshop will offer participants practical advice on how to engage in the food justice movement. Local and regional food activists will discuss a broad range of approaches to community engagement. Participants will then be able to apply this information to areas of food justice which they find personally meaningful. The workshop is open to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of food activism. Participants may register at the door, but pre-registration is recommended. Register and find a full schedule and list of workshop topics here.

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

Program connects students to food

September 9th, 2011

Pre-Orientation ProgramIn its second year connecting new students to local sustainability initiatives, five new students participated in the Sustainability in Action Pre-Orientation program from August 22 to August 25. Participants visited sites in the community where sustainability is put into practice and connected with some of the key players in the local sustainability movement.

Wake Forest Fellow, Caitlin Brooks, and Office of Sustainability Intern, Carrie Stokes, served as mentors and facilitators for the 3-day program. During the program’s first full day, students explored sustainability in the Winston-Salem community. With Wake Forest alumnus and local food activist Marcus Hill serving as guide, participants toured the Werehouse — a converted warehouse that acts as a hub of local arts and culture — and the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market.

After lunch at The Screaming Rooster, a neighborhood restaurant offering fresh, local and seasonal dishes, students were introduced to the community partnership between Campus Kitchen and The Fresh Market. Finally, students ended the day at urban farm, Beta Verde, with the farm’s proprietor, slow food activist, Margaret Norfleet Neff and her daughter, Salem. Using the ingredients purchased earlier at the Cobblestone Market, students prepared a locally sourced meal in Neff’s home.

The second day of the program focused on sustainability on campus. Students worked in the Campus Garden weeding, planting and composting and were then rewarded for their hard work with an heirloom tomato tasting lead by biology professor Gloria Muday. After lunch at Shorty’s, Jim Alty, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services, led students on a campus facilities tour, highlighting the locations that support the university’s sustainability efforts. Later that evening, participants donned costumes crafted from thrift store materials and went roller skating at Skatehaven with other members of the class of 2015.

On the final day of the program, students learned about sustainable farm practices on tours of Yellow Wolf Farm, a cruelty-free, Animal Welfare Certified, protein farm, and Shore Farms, an all-organic family produce farm. Freshman Liz Stalfort even managed to befriend one of the animals. “After chasing one of Stacey’s pigs around for a while,” Stalfort recounted, “I finally figured out that the best way to befriend him was to be calm, so I was. The pig let me touch his snout twice and I was so happy.” By connecting directly with both the farmers and the animals on these farms, students gained a deepened understanding of sustainable food production.

Freshman Shoshanna Goldin called the program “phenomenal” and noted how her experience in the program has positively impacted how she sees her new community. “Throughout the program, we gained a really unique first-hand perspective of the city we plan to call home for the next four years,” Goldin said. “From meeting with the founders of local restaurants that are passionate about supporting local, sustainable farms to exploring local markets and organic farms, we took away a really valuable message – Winston-Salem has a significant number of people who care and who actively seek to engage others.”

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern

Providing desks for local students

April 8th, 2011

Photo courtesy of Landscaping Services

Freshly painted desks in bright colors and adorned with flowers, hearts, peace signs, animals and clouds lined Manchester Plaza Wednesday.

Several hundred Wake Forest students welcomed about 50 elementary school students to campus to paint their very own desk during the annual D.E.S.K. project.

Wake Forest students started D.E.S.K. (Discovering Education through Student Knowledge) 11 years ago to provide desks to underprivileged children who needed a place to study and learn in their homes. This year, 55 students from Old Town Elementary School received desks. Organizers buy the desks from thrift stores and Craigslist.

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Students sow sustainable seeds

April 5th, 2011

Three students in the university’s Spanish language department are hard at work planting Semillas Sostenibles (sustainable seeds) into the hearts and minds of bilingual 4th and 5th graders at El Buen Pastor, a local organization dedicated to helping Latin American families adjust to life in Winston-Salem. Their four-week course teaches the children the basics about the environment, sustainability, and healthy lifestyles through vocabulary in Spanish and English and engaged-learning projects.

Seniors Katelyn Wohlford and Chiara Singleton and junior Caryn Miller hatched the idea for Semillas Sostenibles through a service learning project for their Entrepreneurship in Latin American and Latin Cultures course.

The women originally wanted to help start a community garden after being inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Upon learning that El Buen Pastor already has a successful garden, they shifted their focus to education.

Each weekly workshop focuses on an important theme regarding health and sustainability. Topics included rainforest preservation (and terms such as shaman and deforestation), climate change and recycling.

“The children are the ones who are going to have to deal with this (the state of the planet),” Miller said. “We need to spread the word about what we’ve learned so that they can educate their younger peers and make a difference.”

To document their progress, Wohlford, Singleton and Miller created a blog to showcase pictures from the workshops as well as the vocabulary words, facts, and activities from each week.

“I love seeing what surprises them (the students),” Wohlford said. “It’s those surprises that keep them really interested.”

With the conclusion of the program on April 5, the creators are working to make Semillas Sostenibles transferable to other organizations similar to El Buen Pastor and also to elementary schools in the area.

Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Displaced recycling bins find Homes for the Holidays

February 5th, 2011
Photo by De'Noia Wood, Photography Intern

By De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

Mismatched recycling bins from across campus found new homes just in time for the holidays. The displaced bins — a result of the transition to a new recycling bin standard on campus — were donated to schools across the county, as well as to local churches and homeless shelters.

After a successful pilot program in Greene Hall last spring, university staff members have embarked on a process of switching the bins over to the new standard in several buildings, including ZSR Library and Benson University Center.

The various mismatched bins placed around campus throughout the university’s 15 year recycling program are being phased out in favor of consistency and functionality. The new recycling standard is color-coded and designed for ease of use. Green bins with round holes in the top indicate cans and bottles, grey-beige bins with slits at the top are for mixed paper and black bins with wide openings are designed for landfill waste.

“The old black pushcarts looked too much like trash carts. The new design makes it clear to the user which waste streams go into which bins,” said Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, director of sustainability.

The transition to the new bins follows for the roll-out of the OS1 cleaning program. As custodial teams are trained in the new system and cleaning closets are renovated into supply pantries, the buildings also receive the new recycling bins.

This standardization has already resulted in the displacement of well over 100 recycling containers according to Megan Anderson, the university’s new Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager. All of the old black pushcarts, which made up a majority of the displaced bins, have been or are being retrofitted to serve a new purpose – can and bottle recycling collection at athletic events. Rather than disposing of the remainder of the stationary bins, the Office of Sustainability issued a call for new homes in December and received an overwhelmingly positive response.

.“Our mission is to reuse and recycle and we need to perpetuate that mentality. It would be a tragedy to waste the recycling containers,” Anderson said. “These bins are helping community groups get their feet wet with recycling when they might not have had the resources otherwise.”

“We still have requests we have not been able to fill, but we expect more bins from future building transitions,” she said. Organizations interested in starting their own recycling programs should contact Anderson at andersmm@wfu.edu or 336.758.4255 to be placed on the waiting list for bins.

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern