Athletic ability and sustainability intersect

Athletic ability and sustainability intersect

Student-athletes at Wake Forest frequently make an impact on the field, but now, they’re also aiming to make an impact in the community.

The Student-Athlete Sustainability Network (SASN) is an organization of student-athletes interested in making Wake Forest a more sustainable campus. According to its mission statement online, “Its purpose is to empower student-athletes to assume leadership roles in reducing energy consumption, waste and water use within their respective athletic teams and the athletics department as a whole.”

Brian Cohen, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said a few student-athletes came to the office looking to get involved last fall. After a few conversations, SASN was formed; it’s a peer network modeled after the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), with one or more representatives per team.

“While we do work with athletics on larger, more structural sustainability projects, we hadn’t yet found a way to reach the student-athletes directly,” Cohen said.

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To a majority of the nation, Wake Forest is known as a small school in North Carolina whose athletic teams compete against the “big dogs” in the ACC. Because of this, Wake Forest’s student-athletes and athletic teams are likely one of the only visual representations of the school to many Americans, and this notion demonstrates potential for impact beyond Wake Forest’s campus.

Sarah Fahmy, an Oregon native and cross country and track athlete who graduated in May, was the founder of SASN, seeking a way to do her part in making the world a better place.

“I’ve spent several years living abroad in Egypt, and seeing hillsides of trash and clean water shortages really had an effect on me,” Fahmy said. “Part of the reason I wanted to start a sustainability group for student-athletes is because it’s really challenging for them to get involved in sustainability projects and efforts, [managing] classes, homework, tutoring, study hall, travel, competition, practice and lift, let alone volunteer work that helps the environment.”

Fahmy thought a group like SASN would facilitate this involvement. She reached out to other student-athletes by emailing them and shooting the breeze in the ice bath and training room.

Jenna Truedson, a junior on the cross country and track team, is one of Fahmy’s teammates who was recruited to join SASN. Truedson says the goal of SASN is to get more student-athletes involved to ensure that they are reaching every athlete and bringing new ideas to the table.

Since last fall, there have been several initiatives implemented by SASN to promote sustainability. These include monitoring the thermostats in the locker rooms to reduce energy consumption, providing reusable water bottles to reduce waste, donating used athletic gear and sneakers to children in other countries and limiting water use for athletic fields.

Wake Forest also isn’t the only school with a student-athlete led sustainability network.  A simple Google search yields results for colleges such as Middlebury, University of California Berkeley, Davidson, Yale, Bowdoin and Amherst, whose past projects could inspire Wake’s SASN in future strategies moving forward.

There are several organizations on campus involved in sustainability, but the challenge for Wake Forest, and the world, is getting everybody on the same page to share the same passion in reducing our negative environmental impact.

“Collaboration between student-athletes and non-student-athletes would be beneficial because it may lead to new solutions that can impact a greater proportion of this campus and of the behaviors that occur on campus,” said Jessy Silfer, a recent Wake Forest graduate and former field hockey player involved with SASN.

Sebastian Irby, a senior and interdisciplinary major in sustainable studies, thinks SASN actually has more potential to make an impact because relationships between athletic teams are tighter than other organizations, like fraternities and sororities, who make up a majority of the student body.

“It really depends on how much the reps want to put into it and how much the team respects or wants to listen to that person,” Irby said. “But I think that working with athletics from the student level and top down is going to make things a lot more effective and give them more momentum.”

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