Get involved with sustainability on campus

Initiatives such as Campus Garden and the Environmental Educators are open for volunteers


Courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

Campus Garden hosts daily volunteer hours that are open to all Wake Forest students.

Una Wilson, Assistant Features Editor

During your time at Wake Forest, you will find many ways to volunteer both on campus and in the surrounding Winston-Salem community. Few volunteer networks, however, are as vast and interdisciplinary as the environment and sustainability-centered opportunities at this university. From gardening on campus to teaching middle school students about saving energy, the possibilities to get involved are boundless. 

Long days of indoor classes can bring your energy down and drain your social battery. Luckily, the Campus Garden is located just across Polo Road to give your brain some sunshine and your body a chance to reconnect with the Earth. At their daily Connect & Cultivate volunteer hours, student leaders and interns lead any and all students through tasks like harvesting, watering, weeding and planting in Wake Forest’s own garden. Most volunteer sessions begin with an icebreaker and brief introductions, so you won’t have to sweat making friends while you work. During your time at the garden, you will likely make a new friend, hold one of the three adorable chickens and even take home some fresh produce for your own enjoyment. 

Most of the harvested produce at the Campus Garden is sent to Campus Kitchen, a student volunteer organization that distributes the food to other local charities, such as Project H.O.P.E, which then delivers the food to communities in need. The group hosts many opportunities to help out throughout the semester, and they always welcome new faces. 

If you are looking to have an even greater impact on the Winston-Salem community, look no further than the Garden Ambassadors Program (GAP). Led by the Campus Garden Program Coordinator Nathan Peifer, GAP connects Wake Forest students to community gardens located in East Winston-Salem, a historically impoverished area of the city. Ashley Academy, Kimberley Park, and Diggs-Latham Community Garden are a few of the many partnerships formed through this program. Student ambassadors are assigned to a garden at the beginning of each semester and spend one hour per week assisting locals with garden building and upkeep. Though the GAP requires a bit more of a commitment from students, the relationships built between community members and their volunteers are fulfilling and enriching to both parties. 

Perhaps gardening isn’t your forte, and you prefer to be an indoor environmentalist. The Environmental Educators program is a perfect blend of environmental education and engagement with the larger Winston-Salem community. Students within the group visit local Winston-Salem middle schools on a weekly basis to give a presentation about environmental issues and sustainability solutions to students. The curriculum, titled “Energy Explorers”, is put together by Piedmont Environmental Alliance, and includes topics such as how electricity is produced, the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, climate change and renewable energy. It even suggests small steps students could take to lower their carbon footprint, such as unplugging lights when not in use and encouraging their parents to use LED light bulbs. The Environmental Educators visit middle schools in pairs and do so almost every week. Many students have described the experience as rewarding, life-changing, and good practice for careers in education. 

Artists, too, have a place in the sustainability community. The art activist group, Artivists, holds weekly meetings in which they discuss how social and environmental justice issues affect their lives and the surrounding community. The Artivists plan to expand their impact to the surrounding Wake Forest community, and have plans to create art installations in green spaces throughout Winston-Salem. 

If you are still searching for your environmental volunteering niche, Wake Forest’s Office of Sustainability has a calendar of programming full of events and opportunities to dip your toes into.