Honoring Beauty in the World We Find

by Brian Cohen and DeDee Johnston

We often think of the environment as some “other” place – an undisturbed place where we might go to hike, fish, or view wildlife. We forget that our environment is all that surrounds us. It is the spaces we inhabit. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that feeds us.

Humans, as a species, are able to exist because of the ecosystem services that support life. These services that range from pollination to water purification are free to us, and they are also invaluable. Trees, for example, are the lungs of the planet, as they draw in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. They filter pollutants from storm water, store carbon, provide shade to regulate heat, and offer habitat for innumerable species. Trees also provide us with beauty, wonder, and awe. In the words of poet Khalil Gibran, “Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky.”

As you walk around campus this month, you’ll notice yellow tags hanging from many of the trees that capture the hearts of visitors the first time they visit our campus. Take a moment to read about the benefits trees provide and to appreciate their beauty.

March 19-24 marks Earth Week at Wake Forest, a time to show our appreciation for the many services that our planet provides. We celebrate our suburban forests, our waterways, the landscapes that surround us, and our connection to them all. Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams’s quote, “finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find,” this week-long celebration is a time for us to reflect on the ways we can protect and heal the ecosystems that support life. Join us for the following events.

Celebration of Spring: Vernal Equinox
2:00 – 4:00 pm | Campus Garden
Kick off Earth Week by celebrating the Spring Equinox at the Campus Garden. Share and enjoy short stories, poems, essays, and songs about our relationship to spring, growth, beginnings, resistance, and healing. In addition to sharing stories, music, and food, you are invited to express your creativity by painting a banner to showcase your love and appreciation for trees. Student organizations are encouraged to register as groups to paint their banners. All materials will be provided by the Office of Sustainability. Banners will be displayed on the Upper Quad throughout the week-long celebration.

Bike Tune-Ups
12:00 – 3:00 pm | Green space in front of ZSR
We’ve teamed up with Outdoor Pursuits, Ken’s Bike Shop, and the Cycling Club to host a free bicycle tune-up station on campus. Stop by the green lawn in front of the ZSR Library where bike mechanics from Ken’s Bike Shop will pump up your tires, make minor fixes and adjustments, and offer advice on larger repairs that cannot be done on the spot.

Just Eat It: Waste-Not Cooking Class
4:00 – 6:00 pm | Campus Kitchen Lounge
Don’t toss it — eat it! Ever wonder whether or not you should eat something after the “best by” date? Learn more about reducing your food waste while also making something delicious and nutritious. Campus Kitchen, Thrive, and the Office of Sustainability are joining forces for a unique cooking class by cooking with food that might normally go to waste. This class is open to all students, staff, and faculty. Register on the PDC website; space is limited.

Campus Sustainability Awards
4:00 pm | Reynolda Hall Green Room
Join us in recognizing the work of those who have enhanced the culture of sustainability within the campus community at the fourth annual Champions of Change: Campus Sustainability Awards ceremony on March 22. Staff, faculty, and students will be awarded for their work in the following categories: resource conservation, academics and engagement, service and social action, leadership, and bright ideas. We look forward to celebrating the work of sustainable change agents across campus. RSVP here.

Leadership Project Rally with Donna Edwards
1:30 pm | Lower Quad
Former Maryland congresswoman and Wake Forest graduate Donna Edwards has spent the last few months on an RV road trip to state and national parks. Her ultimate goal is to raise awareness of parks in communities of color. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to engage with Congresswoman Edwards and learn more about her political life, community activism, and travels on March 23 during a rally on the Mag Quad. Later that day, Edwards will be speaking as part of the Leadership Project at 6:00 p.m.in Farrell Hall’s Broyhill Auditorium. More information can be found here.

Campus Beautification Day
3:30 – 5:30 pm | Reynolda Village Trailhead
Celebrate Arbor Day and Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, at the Reynolda Village trailhead. The event kicks off with a tree planting ceremony. Following the ceremony, volunteers will roll up their sleeves to beautify the woods and creek head surrounding the Reynolda Village trail. Afterwards, all participants will enjoy a cookout featuring grass-fed beef burgers and veggie burgers. Register to participate and receive an Earth Week t-shirt and a chance to win prizes for group participation.

Get Caught Green-Handed
Throughout the week, individuals who are “caught green-handed” making environmentally conscious decisions will receive a sticker or temporary tattoo. Decisions might include riding bikes, taking the campus shuttles, eating at The Pit’s new vegan station, pledging to reduce energy and water use on campus, or using reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and shopping bags.