Alumnus advocates for the environment

Peter Schlachte (’19) worked with the Office of Sustainability – he now works at the environment-focused non-profit Earthworks


Courtesy of Peter Schlachte

Peter Schlachte (‘19)’s job involves documenting the impact of Earthworks’ efforts and raise financial support from foundations.

Anita Dongieux, Staff Writer

Wake Forest alumnus Peter Schlachte (‘19) is working toward environmental justice efforts. 

Schlachte joined Earthworks in the Spring of 2022, three years after graduating from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. Earthworks is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection of communities and the environment across the country. From California to Washington, D.C., the organization fights against the harmful effects of oil, gas, and hard rock mining. 

Schlachte was directly hired to be Earthworks’ Foundations Relations Associate. In this position, he collaborates with Earthworks’ field teams to document the impact of Earthworks’ efforts and raise financial support from foundations. 

“This job is a wonderful opportunity for me to highlight the need for a global, just transition to renewable energy that phases out fossil fuels without placing frontline communities at risk from the impacts of mining for the minerals used in electric vehicles,” Schlachte said. 

He continued: “As our Foundation Relations Associate, I fundraise for Earthworks by writing grants and reports to our foundation funders, coordinating with our program staff to gather up-to-date information about our work, and representing our nonprofit on calls with potential and current funders.” 

Schlachte’s passion for sustainability began during his time as a Wake Forest student. 

I grew up with the privilege of great access to the outdoors and fell in love with nature,” Schlachte said. “It wasn’t until becoming a student at Wake Forest and minoring in environmental studies that I was challenged to think more critically about my privilege and to recognize that the large majority of people aren’t afforded the same opportunities to enjoy nature.”

This realization prompted Schlachte to get involved. He began his career in sustainability when he interned for the Wake Forest Office of Sustainability during his junior and senior years at Wake Forest. There, Schlacthe worked for two years as an environmental education intern.

Schlachte’s time at the Office of Sustainability was focused on thinking of ways to address environmental inequalities. 

“Learning about the multitude of environmental injustices in North Carolina and Winston-Salem was a major catalyst for me,” Schlachte said. “The knowledge and skills I gained through that internship have guided me ever since.”  

Schlachte’s inclination toward environmental issues did not stop at Wake Forest.

Later, he worked and volunteered for various local environmental nonprofits in North Carolina. Some of these organizations include Yadkin Riverkeeper, where Schlachte managed volunteers; the Piedmont Environmental Alliance, where Schlachte taught energy conservation to local middle school students; and, through the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program, SHARE (Supplying Honest And Respectful Engagement) Cooperative of Winston-Salem, where Schlachte served to help open a cooperative grocery store in one of the city’s food deserts. 

“In each experience, I was guided by strong and thoughtful mentors who cared deeply about the communities they were working with,” Schlachte said, regarding his internship experiences. “[These experiences] influenced my own approach to environmental justice work; I try to emulate the same thoughtfulness and care that [those organizations] demonstrated in their work.”

Schlachte, who has departed from his previous homes in North Carolina and California, shares that he truly values the people with which he works. 

My coworkers are knowledgeable, passionate and delightful,” Schlachte said of his position at Earthworks. “It’s incredible to see the hard work of our program staff to advocate for the frontline communities that they work with, and it’s such a joy to celebrate victories together when we have them.”

Outside of his role at Earthworks, Schlachte continues to volunteer with organizations in his new home, Washington, D.C. There, he volunteers with the Washington Youth Garden. 

The climate crisis is daunting and dispiriting, so it’s important to be surrounded by a strong support network,” Schlachte said regarding the struggle of dealing with a multitude of environmental problems daily.

Thankfully, Schlachte seems to be surrounded by others pursuing the same cause.