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Sustainability News

ASU offers dual masters of journalism and sustainability

View Source | August 26, 2015

Wind Turbine and Blue SkyThe Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Sustainability have partnered to offer a Master of Mass Communications and a Master of Sustainable Solutions. The offering caters to students interested in careers reporting on environmental issues and alternative energy - as well as to those working in sustainability sciences who communicate with journalists - allowing them to pursue the separate degrees in less time through streamlined admissions procedures and course requirements.

“One of the critical aspects of moving toward a sustainable future is helping people understand why and how sustainability is relevant to their lives, and how best to communicate those ideas,” said Christopher Boone, dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability. “This dual-degree opportunity with the Cronkite School will provide our School of Sustainability students with a versatile skill set to effectively reach and engage a broad audience on the very best solutions for building a sustainable future.”

The partnership marks the fifth dual-degree offering of the School of Sustainability.

Arizona needs sustainability now, writes institute directorate

View Source | August 25, 2015

Downtown Phoenix SkylineIn a recent opinion piece in the Arizona Republic titled "Our Turn: Hotter Arizona must find sustainability," the directorate of the ASU Wrigley Institute - Rob Melnick, Gary Dirks and Christopher Boone - discusses the global rise of sustainability and its significance for our collective future.

Highlighting unsettling trends such as the rapid warming of our planet, acidification of our oceans and depletion of our natural resources, the authors stress that the time for action is now - particularly in a climate like central Arizona - if we are to prosper.

The authors go on to emphasize the role of universities in producing solutions to the sustainability challenges we face. They point to the impressive employment rates of ASU School of Sustainability graduates as evidence that business owners also recognize the need for solutions.

The piece concludes, "ASU is applying its talent and its resources to helping Arizona cities, businesses and communities understand, become resilient to and solve local and global sustainability challenges."

Carbon Nation director talks cows, soil and carbon capture

View Source | August 24, 2015

Cows at PastureIn a recent GreenBiz article titled "The rise of the soil carbon cowboys," sustainability scientist and film director Peter Byck discusses the merits of adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing -  a method that benefits the soil, animals and ranchers alike.

Byck explains how AMP contributes to climate change mitigation by sucking carbon dioxide from the air and sending it deep into the soil, where it can be stored for centuries. He contends that getting oil companies on board heightens this benefit.

"What if these oil companies used their money to help ranchers transition to AMP grazing, and then shared in the credits for the carbon being stored in the soil?," he writes. "What if those soil carbon storage credits were cost effective for the oil companies to buy, while that same soil carbon increase helped the ranchers reduce operating costs due to a more robust ecosystem on their land, where nature takes the place of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides?"

Byck and a whole systems science research team continue to explore the benefits of AMP grazing, particularly with regard to slowing climate change.

ASU Wrigley Institute offers improved experience to web visitors

August 22, 2015

Homepage of new websiteOn August 21, 2015, the ASU Wrigley Institute launched the latest version of its website. The new site not only serves as a portal to all things sustainability at ASU, but offers an improved experience to visitors. This is most apparent in its flattened, streamlined navigation, which allows visitors to browse with ease; adaptable and mobile-friendly layout; and new expert search function.

Additionally, the new site provides greater visibility to the institute's numerous units and initiatives, as well as to its latest Prospectus and 2014 Sustainability Highlights magazine.

The site's launch coincides with that of multiple sub-sites, including Decision Center for a Desert City and the newly-established Living Wisdom: The Global Program for Traditional Knowledge and Sustainability. Such sub-sites will gain Google's favor through improved search engine optimization as a result.



DCDC to expand scope, impact of water research with NSF award

View Source | August 21, 2015

hoover-dam-lake-meadThanks to a new $4.5 million National Science Foundation award, water managers and decision makers from cities in the Colorado River Basin can take greater advantage of Decision Center for a Desert City - a research unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute.

This four-year award, the third made to DCDC in its 10-year history, allows the center to expand the geographic scope of its work to cities in states like Colorado, Nevada and California. As a result, DCDC researchers can better explore the transformational changes necessary to sustain water supplies well into the future.

Given the mounting sustainability challenges we face - including long-term drought, a warming climate and large-scale land-use change - the grant comes at a critical time.

Says DCDC Director Dave White, “It comes with a greater sense of urgency and a greater sense of understanding of the scale and scope of the changes that are likely necessary to transition the cities and the region into a more sustainable state over the next several decades.”

Scientist's algorithm pairs cities with complementary industries

View Source | August 11, 2015

Shade Shutters sitting on deskSustainability Scientist Shade Shutters - a former international finance professional with a doctorate in biology - has developed an algorithm that helps to determine which industries fit best in a particular city. This includes calculating whether a city has the right makeup to become a creative or “green” economic hub.

Shutters achieves this by comparing a city’s metrics to data associated with a particular industry, using ASU’s Decision Theater to visualize overlapping points. His biology background helps him to approach the city as he would an organism, looking at which industries work together and rely on one another to maintain the health of the overall ecosystem.

If a city lacks the infrastructure, complementary businesses and other systems to support a proposed plan, Shutters can pinpoint industries that would be more appropriate. Conversely, he can show an industry leader which locale is best suited for long-term success.

7 principles for building resilience, illustrated

August 3, 2015

Hand drawing first principle of resilience-buildingMichael Schoon, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor in the School of Sustainability, is among the authors of a Cambridge publication titled “Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems." The book highlights seven primary principles, which are listed in this extended summary.

In a recent newsletter, the Stockholm Resilience Center debuted a video titled "How to apply resilience thinking," an approach it defines as an investigation into the interaction between people and nature and how it can best be managed. It then outlines the seven principles Schoon and his colleagues discuss in their book: maintaining diversity and redundancy, managing connectivity, managing slow variables and feedbacks, fostering complex adaptive systems thinking, encouraging learning, broadening participation and promoting polycentric governance.

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Sustainability scientists receive $12M to lead urban resilience network

View Source | July 22, 2015

Ariel view of Indian Bend Wash in Arizona
The Indian Bend Wash in Scottsdale (pictured) is an example of safe-to-fail resilient infrastructure - the focus of the ASU UREx SRN. By contrast, the LA River is an example of fail-safe infrastructure. Image credit: Nancy Grimm.

Extreme weather events - like the rain and subsequent floods in the Phoenix metropolitan area in September 2014 - are occurring more frequently and can cripple crucial infrastructure that enables transit, electricity, water and other services. To tackle these challenges and change the way we think about urban infrastructure, the National Science Foundation awarded a transdisciplinary team of three ASU researchers $12 million to lead the international Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN).

Anthropologist Charles Redman, ecologist Nancy Grimm and engineer Mikhail Chester will evaluate the social, ecological and technical systems related to infrastructure, recognizing the values of all stakeholders - from city decision-makers to the citizens who will use and be affected by infrastructure. They will also work to understand the natural environment in which infrastructure operates and evaluate available infrastructure technology. The result will be a suite of tools supporting the assessment and implementation of urban infrastructure that is resilient, tailored to a particular city and safe-to-fail - versus fail-safe, which can be a dangerous illusion.

“By bringing this all together, I think we may be able to really talk to people who build the future," says Redman. "From the first day of designing something like highways and power grids, we’re going to talk about how Earth’s systems work and how human institutions react. And we’re going to build for that. We’re going to build infrastructure to be more resilient and equitable and not just more efficient.”

Vows and Values: Our Sustainable Wedding Story

July 17, 2015

Smiling bride and groom on sunny spring day
Photo by: Leanne Young of Leanne Michelle Photography

by Katie Peige Baker

School of Sustainability Alumna

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

our wedding was green

and sustainable too!

Brad and I met at Green Drinks, a networking group for environmental professionals. We both graduated from ASU’s School of Sustainability but never met during our undergraduate studies. Now, we are both sustainability professionals; I work for the Decision Center for a Desert City as the education and community outreach coordinator and Brad works for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as a hazardous waste compliance officer.

We wanted to practice what we preach, teach and enforce while making a green statement by having an Earth Month wedding. So we pledged to have as little impact on the environment as possible within our budget, which ended up actually saving us a bunch of green.

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City of Phoenix, Walton Initiatives partnership featured in Fortune

View Source | July 17, 2015

Aerial view of the Phoenix RISN campusA recent article in Fortune magazine, titled "Phoenix's $13 million plan to turn trash into cash," highlighted the city's crucial partnership with ASU's Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives - known as the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network.

RISN was established between the City of Phoenix's Reimagine Phoenix initiative and the Walton Initiatives, and serves as a global network of public and private partners using collaboration, research, innovation and the application of technologies to create economic value while driving a sustainable circular economy.

“We don’t want to get to that point 50 years down when there is a problem,” John Trujillo, director of City of Phoenix Public Works, told Fortune. “Our population is projected to almost double by 2050 in this region. Our goal is to create this circular economy so instead of sending our garbage to the landfill and our recycling to China, we want to create our own economy right here. Why not ship it next door to the campus and create a product?”

According to Fortune, RISN will play a role in reaching the city's aim of a 40 percent diversion rate by 2020.

ASU partners with Leuphana University on global sustainability center

View Source | July 1, 2015

Researchers celebrate new sustainability center ASU and Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany are pioneering a path in international academic cooperation through the new Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation. The center will focus on inter- and transdisciplinary projects in both teaching and research with an emphasis on transforming society, fusing intellectual disciplines and engaging globally.

The two universities have already worked together on numerous projects, including research into current perceptions of sustainability and sustainable development conducted by three Leuphana faculty and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Manfred Laubichler. Laubichler is also among the Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation’s founding members, along with School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone and sustainability scientists Sander van der Leeuw and Arnim Wiek.

The researchers will have the designation of permanent visiting scholar at the partner university.

ASU partners to improve Pakistan's energy production

View Source | June 4, 2015

Solar Panel in SunOn June 3,  leaders from Arizona State University joined a ceremony in Islamabad to launch a five-year energy studies partnership with two leading Pakistani universities: National University of Science and Technology and the University of Engineering and Technology-Peshawar.

The $18-million project, known as the Partnership Center for Advanced Studies in Energy, was awarded to ASU by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It will work to improve power production in Pakistan, a nation that British economist Jim O’Neill said could be the 18th-largest economy in the world by 2050.

To achieve this, ASU staff will work with Pakistani counterparts on growing capacities in governance, curriculum, applied research, exchanges and scholarships, and institutional sustainability. The driving force will be graduate education and research.

Ultimately, project organizers envision a highly functioning center operating as seamlessly as possible between the two universities so they, in turn, can continue to find innovative and coordinated ways to boost Pakistan’s energy production.

ASU blue bag program contributes to zero waste goals

View Source | May 14, 2015

blue-bag-collection-zero-wasteIn response to employee demand and to help meet the university's zero waste goals, the team behind ASU Recycling now offers the blue bag program. Blue bags capture waste previously headed toward the landfill - including coffee pods, cosmetic containers and water filters - and are available to all offices and departments on ASU's Tempe campus.

The team has placed 275 blue bags in 52 buildings since January, and hopes to extend the program to the Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses – including the Thunderbird School – in the fall 2015 semester.

“On average, about 350 tons of waste per month collected at the Tempe campus goes to the landfill,” said Lucas Mariacher, ASU Recycling technician. “We are taking recycling to a whole new level with the blue bag program. Before program launch, the majority of items that are accepted in blue bins were being landfilled.”

The development of sustainability education at ASU

May 13, 2015

sustainability-educationThere has never been a more important time to educate and train the leaders of the future to deal with the threats of instability. Current world leaders are discussing climate change at the same time that local communities in the U.S. strive for more resilience to increases in climate events.

U.S. universities have a responsibility to prepare modern sustainability business, government and other professionals with the innovative technical and management approaches needed to lead in a rapidly changing world. During this January 14, 2015, webinar titled "Innovative Approaches to Sustainability Education at U.S. Universities," Dean Christopher Boone discussed how ASU's School of Sustainability - the first of its kind in the United States - came to be and how it has evolved. He also described how the School is providing future sustainability leaders with the education they need now, along with tools to move the sustainability field forward.

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Sustainability alum is geared for a greater good

View Source | September 15, 2014

Christa Brelsford sustainability alumLast week, School of Sustainability alumna Christa Brelsford represented her country at the Paraclimbing World Championships in Spain where she dominated her division. Recognizing that participating in the competition is a privilege, Brelsford tied her international appearance to an online fundraiser for the less fortunate called Christa Climbs for Haiti.

If you spend any time with Brelsford, who graduated this summer with a doctoral degree from the School of Sustainability, you'll get the sense that this is a supremely practical person who is guided by a strong sense of self and innate desire to do good in the world. That's what Matt Lauer found when he interviewed Brelsford the TODAY show after she was badly injured during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where she had been working on an adult literacy project.

The newly crowned climbing world champion returns home following her competition abroad, but her mission remains unchanged.

"My biggest goal in life is to use careful thought to do good in the world," says Brelsford. "I was in Haiti to learn how to help, and I research and study sustainability for the same reason."

Sustainability alum helps millennials live more mindfully

View Source | June 5, 2014

eEcosphere appSchool of Sustainability alumnus Andrew Krause has found practical application for his education through technology that helps users discover, adopt and share ideas for leading a more sustainable lifestyle. The eEcosphere app, now available for iOS, matches millennials with ideas that are tailored to their needs and improve their everyday decisions by providing quality local resources. This helps to prevent the common breakdown between intention and action while providing the user with a fun and collaborative experience.

Krause, who received a Master’s of Science from the School of Sustainability in 2012, was recently named as a delegate to the United Nations Foundation Global Accelerator 2014. He and fellow delegates will work with policy leaders on global issues to create innovative advancements toward key Millennium Development Goals. Because the accelerator seeks out the world’s top 100 entrepreneurs, the appointment is a great testament to the significance of Krause's work.

Sustainability grad influences water management reform

View Source | May 6, 2014

Ben WarnerBen Warner, a School of Sustainability doctoral student, used an interdisciplinary approach to determine the causes of water scarcity in the rural, semi-arid region of northwestern Costa Rica. By working directly with water and agricultural managers, Warner found that both drought and international trade liberalization treaties have had a major impact on smallholder farmers. As a result, they have become increasingly vulnerable to global changes and less capable of adapting to them.

In an effort to bolster smallholder farmers’ ability to cope with limited market access and frequent drought, Warner collected data from workshop proceedings, focus groups, interviews and surveys within the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation Project in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. His analysis revealed that farm size, farming tenure, the presence of family members working outside of the agricultural sector, livestock ownership, perceptions of climate change and household reliance on agriculture were determining factors in farmers’ decisions to adjust their livelihoods. His findings have since been used to refine agricultural water management policy in the region.

Meet Our Alumni: Jessica Fox

March 31, 2014

Jessica Fox - Alumni ProfileNow working to bring a renewable surface water supply from the Colorado River to Central Arizona, alum Jessica Fox has a long-standing interest in sustainability.

As a high school student in in Canandaigua, New York, Jessica was fascinated by the intersection between environmental science and economics. Wanting to learn more, she enrolled in State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Several years after graduating with a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy, along with a minor in management science from Syracuse University, she decided to pursue a graduate education in water policy.

“Water is obviously much more plentiful in the Northeast, and it’s governed differently there, so I wanted to study how water is allocated and managed under scarce conditions in the Western US,” Jessica says.

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Artificial leaf jumps developmental hurdle

View Source | February 18, 2014

Photo by: Michael Hagelberg
Photo by: Michael Hagelberg

In a recent early online edition of Nature Chemistry, ASU scientists, along with colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory, have reported advances toward perfecting a functional artificial leaf.

Designing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen and oxygen is one of the goals of BISfuel – the Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by the Department of Energy, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University.

Hydrogen is an important fuel in itself and serves as an indispensible reagent for the production of light hydrocarbon fuels from heavy petroleum feed stocks. Society requires a renewable source of fuel that is widely distributed, abundant, inexpensive and environmentally clean.

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Solar energy leaders come together for 4th Arizona Solar Summit

View Source | February 17, 2014

AZ Solar Summit feb 20The Arizona Solar Summit brings together people and organizations to advance the solar industry on both the regional and national levels, creating a network to propel Arizona to national prominence in the industry.

The fourth annual Arizona Solar Summit, part of the 2014 Sustainability Solutions Festival, will focus on introducing innovative policies, programs and technologies that are critical to reshaping Arizona’s energy markets.

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