Sustainability initiative invites first years to lead

The Sustainability Leadership Group works to foster community on campus


Courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

Members of the Sustainability Leadership Group pose for a photo.

Neriah Olivier, Contributing Writer

Behind the walls of the Wake Forest Office of Sustainability, the Sustainability Leadership Group is bringing new ideas to raise environmental awareness to fruition.  

The leadership group, created in 2019 by the Office of Sustainability, provides leadership experience for first-year students who are passionate about the environment and sustainability. At its weekly meeting, the cohort works to foster a more sustainable community on campus through discussions, workshops and projects. 

Group members are currently collaborating on projects designed to improve awareness and dedication to sustainability on campus. Each of the five projects focuses on a sustainability issue that the group has noticed at Wake Forest. 

One project is focused on connecting Wake Forest’s environmental community with the greater Winston-Salem environmental community. Ella Klein, a first-year student in the cohort and a Winston-Salem native, chose this topic because she believes that forging this connection will make sustainability efforts more successful both on and off campus. 

“I think it’s important for any movement to be unified and connected,” Klein said. “This project is giving me a chance to bridge that gap between Wake Forest and the Winston-Salem community, which I appreciate.” 

Klein’s project emphasizes the importance of community, one of the “Three Pillars of SLG,” alongside leadership and education. 

The other projects focus on educating students about overconsumption and waste. These projects include initiatives for more sustainable dining, eco-friendly modes of transportation, reducing overconsumption in the mail room and encouraging Wake Forest students to donate items that would otherwise end up in the trash. These projects are ways for students to demonstrate their leadership and make changes on campus that could have a lasting positive impact on the way sustainability is approached and implemented at Wake Forest.

The group also provides students with the resources and connections they need to facilitate these changes on campus. Student coordinator and sophomore Sophie Eldridge says this is one of the greatest benefits for first-year students who join the program. 

“SLG gives you the perfect opportunity to get involved in leadership from a really early point in your experience on campus, and it gives you a lot of resources to reach out and find things you’re passionate about,” Eldridge said. 

Projects like these are also a chance for group members to work together on issues they are passionate about. For students like Sidney White and Reagan Smith, this collaboration and community are some of the best things about the group. 

“My favorite part of SLG is that I get to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds who all share a common interest in sustainability,” White said.

Smith echoed these sentiments: “I love getting to work with and be around other people with the same passions and interests as me — people I might not have crossed paths with otherwise.” 

First-year Beza Zelalem has found the group to be a great way to be active on campus.

 “SLG allows us to implement outreach, activism, community service and so many other amazing ways of getting involved,” Zelalem said.