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Sustainability News

Sustaining Our Cities

May 28, 2014

By Allie Nicodemo

Imagine a typical day in your city – the commute to work, walk around the block on your lunch break, trip to the dog park before meeting up with friends at a local restaurant. Now imagine what daily life in your city might be like if twice as many people called it home.

This thought experiment isn’t too far from becoming reality. The world population keeps growing with no signs of slowing down. The Census Bureau projects that today’s 7.1 billion will become 9 billion by 2044, and increasingly, these people are moving into cities. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 6.4 billion people around the globe will live in urban areas - up from 3.4 billion in 2009.

Most of this growth is taking place in developing countries. However, certain cities in the U.S. are experiencing significant population increases as well. Phoenix is one of them, having added more than 40,000 new residents last year alone.

A substantial increase in population, coupled with hotter temperatures and other manifestations of climate change, will present unprecedented challenges for cities. Not only is Phoenix growing rapidly, but its climate also mirrors that of many other cities with populations on the rise, providing a good example of what much of the world is facing now or can expect in the future.

"Phoenix is a place that a lot of people look to for an example of how we will be resilient in the face of what are probably less than optimal conditions," says Wellington Reiter, a consultant for the Office of the President and former dean of the former College of Design at Arizona State University. "What we learn here and how efficiently we use our resources could be exported as intellectual capital or maybe even on-the-ground know-how."

Defining sustainability

The challenges of population growth, climate change and other changing conditions are leading many cities to explore sustainability options. But what does sustainability mean, and how do we measure it?

"It’s defined in many different ways," says David Pijawka, a professor and associate director of ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. These varying definitions have made it difficult for cities to make policy changes that would help mitigate future challenges.

"We’ve been dealing with that for 25 years. We have some good frameworks and we know what we need to do, but we still must learn to articulate it meaningfully and easily for the decision maker," says Pijawka, who is also a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Many people equate sustainability with environmentalism, but sustainability researchers at ASU are working to broaden our understanding of the concept. They define sustainability as well-being in four key areas: natural capital (plants, animals, water, etc.) human capital (skills, knowledge, etc.), social capital (networks of relationships) and financial capital.

Sustainability is complex because these different sources of capital often conflict with each other. For example, logging a forest reduces natural capital, but can provide jobs that increase financial capital. Different people will prioritize these tradeoffs differently. Someone living in poverty in a rural area might prioritize jobs over environmentalism, while a well-employed person with asthma might place more value on clean air.

"If we want people to continue living here, we have to make certain choices," says Anne Reichman, program manager of the Sustainable Cities Network at ASU. "Those choices are going to be difficult in the future when we look at the cost of water, the cost of energy, our air quality, and resource availability."

These are just some of the factors that must be considered when planning for sustainability. And they’re all connected.

See more at ASU's Office of Knowledge and Enterprise Development

City of Phoenix, Arizona State University to Partner on New Regional Resource Innovation Center

January 9, 2014

City of Phoenix, Arizona State University to Partner on New Regional Resource Innovation Center

Annual savings expected from regional public/private waste reduction collaborative

PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix took another substantial leap forward as a global sustainability leader Tuesday afternoon as its city council gave policy approval of a four year agreement to work with Arizona State University to establish a ground-breaking public/private sustainability incubator focused on converting waste and other resources into economic value.

The Center for Resource Intelligence (CfRI) will be a network of public and private entities that provides a wide array of research, development, education and solution services to more effectively manage resources and create economic value. Industries ranging from energy, water, resource extraction, product development, manufacturing and recycling will collaborate in this effort that city staff project could result in $1-3 million of savings annually.

"This is about turning trash once destined for the landfill into business opportunities and jobs for our community," said Mayor Greg Stanton. "With this effort, Phoenix can lead the way to discover how to reduce our waste in a way that spurs innovation and advances our economy."

CfRI will be managed by the Sustainability Solutions Services (S3), a program within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, in collaboration with the city, private sector affiliates and other municipalities and institutions. The city’s investment will initially focus on creating value, economic opportunity and jobs out of waste streams.

"Sustainability is the 'low-hanging fruit' when it comes to identifying new ways to save taxpayer dollars and generate new revenue to run our city," said Vice Mayor Bill Gates, chairman of the City Council Finance, Efficiency, Economy and Sustainability Subcommittee. "This public-private partnership will maximize our efforts by

encouraging green entrepreneurs to bring their businesses and ideas to life right here in Phoenix."

The center will work with various businesses and government entities to address types

of waste streams including food scraps, recyclables and yard waste using a project oriented collaborative model. Center collaborators will be able to introduce and sponsor projects while taking advantage of the knowledge base and synergies present within the CfRI’s network.

"The city of Phoenix is leading the way in supporting green entrepreneurs and reducing our solid waste," said Councilwoman Kate Gallego. "Sustainable businesses are the future of Phoenix."

The CfRI resulted from a series of stakeholder workshops conducted by S3 in collaboration with Phoenix’s Public Works Department to facilitate a regional partnership that will develop technologies and markets and create economic opportunities.

"This seed investment from the city of Phoenix will allow the Center for Resource Intelligence to develop a large network of organizations in the Valley and potentially around the globe that can collaborate to help achieve the levels of resource effectiveness required for 9 billion people to live well on the planet by 2050," said Dan O’Neill, general manager for S3. "We appreciate the leadership of John Trujillo and the team in the city’s Public Works Department for having the vision to find solutions to our Valley’s – and planet’s – sustainability challenges."

City staff estimates an additional 10 to 25 percent diversion of solid waste from landfill to other uses through the research and development of the CfRI and partnerships with the private sector.

The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives are the result of a $27.5 million investment in Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability by the Walton Family Foundation. Within the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, diverse teams of faculty, students, entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators collaborate to deliver sustainability solutions, accelerate global impact, and inspire future leaders through eight distinct initiatives. For more information visit


ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives

Jason Franz, 480-727-4072

City of Phoenix

Yvette Roeder, 602-495-0189

White House to honor veterans as "Champions of Change" for advancing clean energy and climate security

November 4, 2013

Champions of Change developing clean energyWASHINGTON, DC — November 4, 2013 — On Tuesday, November 5th, just days before Veterans Day, the White House will honor 12 local heroes as "Champions of Change." The event will celebrate American veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are doing extraordinary work to advance clean energy and increase climate resilience and preparedness in their communities.

In a Presidential Proclamation on National Energy Action Month, President Obama challenged the Nation to build a clean energy economy and increase energy security. Noting that we now import less oil than at any point in the past 20 years, the President stressed the need to keep moving forward to protect these gains and fuel growth for decades to come. Additionally, the President’s Climate Action Plan maps out a way to drive advancements in the energy sector, add thousands of jobs to strengthen the American economy, and lead efforts to address climate change globally. The President has stated that developing clean energy technology and preparing for the effects of climate change are crucial to ensuring America’s continued growth and the health of future generations.

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School of Sustainability teaches impact of climate change to International Finance Corporation members

October 22, 2013

International Finance Corporation (IFC) group photoTEMPE, Ariz. — October 22, 2013 — Tasked with determining how best to invest global money in developing countries, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) consulted Arizona State University (ASU) for expert sustainability advice, October 15-16 at ASU.

"Our scientists and faculty bring transdisciplinary expertise, applied research and solutions to global challenges, turning knowledge into action," said ASU President Michael Crow. "We are honored to contribute that level of experience and applied science to support the exceptional work of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and to help the IFC."

More than 40 IFC Climate Business Group members from around the world gathered in Tempe for the two-day "short course" about implications of climate change, presented by various experts from ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability.

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Peace conference cultivates sustainable agriculture

October 15, 2013

EmPeace conferenceTEMPE, Ariz. — October 15, 2013 — The annual Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability (EmPeace LABS) conference takes place October 19-26 in Maharashtra, India to connect global farmers in a network that will further sustainable farming methods and establish peaceful communities in developing countries.

The EmPeace LABS conference is coordinated by Arizona State University (ASU), Jain Irrigation Systems, Ltd., and the Gandhi Research Foundation. Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful perspective is a core inspiration for the conference’s curriculum.

“When people are hungry, they fight for resources,” says Marek Wosinski, conference organizer, senior sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, and senior lecturer in ASU’s Department of Psychology. “If you want to create stability, you need to secure food.”

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Leadership through a sustainability lens: The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives to host Twitter chat

October 2, 2013

Walton GIOS logoJoin us for the #sustleadership chat w/ @bruno68 @WSSIatASU @triplepundit & @CSRwire on Oct 15 at 3:30pm EST! #csr

TEMPE, Ariz. – October 1, 2013 – The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program within the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, will convene a Twitter Chat on Leadership Through a Sustainability Lens. The chat will be co-hosted by professors George Basile, Senior Sustainability Scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability and Professor of Practice at ASU’s School of Sustainability, and Bruno Sarda, Director of Global Sustainability Operations at Dell and professor and consultant for ASU.

Sustainability enables a more complete understanding of the world around us. What kind of leadership is needed not only for individuals to succeed, but for organizations, communities and societies to thrive well into the future? Traditional MBA programs have taught future leaders to externalize problems, how to account for some things and not for others, and how to maximize profit and push risk off on society. Now, in order to address sustainability and the need to make businesses and organizations thrive into the future we need a new kind of exec/Master’s model.

In partnership with TriplePundit and CSRwire, experts from the nation’s leader in sustainability education will share their perspectives and seek feedback from the sustainability community.

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Arizona State University announces new Executive Master's for Sustainability Leadership

August 15, 2013

Sustainability LeadersTEMPE, Ariz. – August 15, 2013 – Recognizing a gap in sustainability leadership education and development, Arizona State University, the nation’s leader in sustainability education, is launching a new executive master’s program focusing on organizational leadership. This new program will equip professionals with the skills to effectively integrate sustainability throughout all facets of their organizations.

Developed by ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program of the Global Institute of Sustainability, and housed at the School of Sustainability, the new Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership (EMSL) is a 13-month program designed for mid-career professionals currently employed in or near sustainability roles with its first class commencing in January 2014.

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Act on Climate PHX: Day of information, inspiration, and action

August 2, 2013

I will #ActOnClimate posterPHOENIX, Ariz. – July 31, 2013 – Local elected officials, business owners and advocates held a press conference today to highlight the impacts of climate change – including extreme heat, drought and air and water quality – on Arizona’s environment, economy and public health.

“The issue of climate change is big and daunting, it’s true,” said State Senator Katie Hobbs.

“But working together, we can create the change necessary to protect our home. It begins with simply caring for each other. When we care for each other, as fellow human beings, caring for our planet becomes a natural progression. I urge you to act with me today to move toward a healthier and brighter future.”

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GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium, and ASU Global Institute of Sustainability partner on weeklong Sustainability Solutions Festival

June 12, 2013

GreenBiz group LogoOAKLAND, Calif. and PHOENIX, Ariz. – June 12, 2013 – GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium, and the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program of the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, will be coming together for the Sustainability Solutions Festival, a unique and powerful partnership among three leadership institutions.

The three entities have agreed to align interests and audiences as part of the weeklong series of events to be held in Phoenix, February 15-22, 2014. The week will include the 2014 GreenBiz Forum, sustainability-focused innovation fairs, a green "Un-gala" and meetings and workshops for the board and network of The Sustainability Consortium and other events.

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Navajo Generating Station fuels discussion at ASU April 30

April 24, 2013

Navajo generating stationTEMPE, Ariz. – April 24, 2013 – According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the largest coal-fired power plant in the west needs to improve its pollution controls.

Located near Page, Ariz., the 2,250-megawatt, 40-year-old Navajo Generating Station (NGS) provides electrical power to customers in Arizona, California and Nevada and for pumping Colorado River water for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water to central and southern Arizona. It is also Arizona’s “largest single source of climate-disrupting pollution,” according to a <!-- -->report<!----> published by the Sierra Club.

The EPA gave an extended deadline of 2023 for installation of emissions reduction equipment, with a goal of reducing the visibility impact of the NGS required by Congress under the Clean Air Act and to protect public health. The EPA’s proposed emission limits would reduce emissions by 84 percent, or 28,500 tons per year.

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ASU appoints leading documentary filmmaker, sustainability expert as Professor of Practice

April 18, 2013

Peter Byck RTTEMPE, Ariz. – April 18, 2013 – Arizona State University has appointed documentary filmmaker Peter Byck to jointly serve as Professor of Practice for the Global Institute of Sustainability’s School of Sustainability and for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Byck focuses on issues of environmental sustainability and he has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer and producer. His most recent documentary, the widely acclaimed Carbon Nation™, is a “climate change solutions movie (that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change).” The film was recently featured during an interview with Byck on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” show. Byck’s new installments in the “Carbon Nation 2.0” film series will be co-branded with ASU.

Byck will teach a short film documentary course to educate and provide hands-on experience to students on communicating contemporary principles, ideas, concepts, and issues of sustainability; documentary film-making and marketing; and storytelling on sustainability-related topics. The course will be offered in the fall semester of 2013.

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Secure Food and Water Supply Depend on Phosphorus

April 18, 2013

Tractor on farmTEMPE, Ariz. — April 18, 2013 — The Phosphorus Sustainability Research Coordination Network (RCN) kicks off its first meeting in Washington, D.C. May 14-16 to address ongoing challenges in producing a sustainable global phosphorus system.

This is the first of five annual meetings of the Phosphorus Sustainability RCN designed to connect scientists and stakeholders across the world to find sustainable solutions that provide a secure food supply, protect fisheries, and maintain clean drinking water.

James Elser, a sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, serves as principal investigator of the RCN. Elser is also a Regents’ professor at ASU’s School of Life Sciences, with more than twenty years’ experience in phosphorus research.

“Phosphorus is a naturally occurring element essential for all life, including crops,” explains Elser. “The availability of cheap phosphate rock used to make fertilizers is increasingly uncertain. Meanwhile, phosphorus runoff from farms and cities pollutes lakes, rivers, and coastal oceans, causing harmful algal blooms that impair drinking water and kill fish and shellfish. Neither of these situations is desirable, but it would seem that by solving one, we might solve the other. For long-term sustainability, we need to make fertilizer by efficiently recycling phosphorus from the food system instead of mining increasingly scarce rocks. This will also keep our lakes and oceans clean.”

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ASU features science historian and author Naomi Oreskes

April 16, 2013

Naomi OreskesTEMPE, Ariz. – April 16, 2013 – American historian of science and author Naomi Oreskes visits Arizona State University on Monday, April 22 as a Wrigley Lecture Series speaker, hosted by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Oreskes will speak about climate change and how consensus forms around scientific issues. The event is free and open to the public, held at ASU’s Tempe campus, Old Main building in the Carson Ballroom, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception.

Please RSVP at:

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Gary Dirks, director of Arizona State University’s LightWorks and former president of BP China, appointed director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability

March 14, 2013

Gary DirksTEMPE, Ariz. – March 14, 2013 – Gary Dirks, director of Arizona State University’s LightWorks Initiative and former president of BP China and BP Pacific-Asia, has been appointed director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), with the goal of expanding the global impact of ASU.

“GIOS’s charter is to advance research, education, business practices and global partnerships that aid in the transformation of today’s world into a more sustainable endeavor,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “With the appointment of Gary Dirks as director of GIOS, we look to increase the global impact of our work and surge ahead as a leader in sustainability.”

Dirks was chosen for this role to help GIOS solve global sustainability challenges. Dirks is a distinguished sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Chair of Sustainable Practices, and teaching faculty member in the School of Sustainability at ASU.

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U.S. EPA honors Arizona State University’s Sustainable Cities Network

March 4, 2013

SCN EPA AwardSAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – March 4, 2013 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld today recognized Arizona State University’s Sustainable Cities Network in a short ceremony.  The Pacific Southwest Region’s 2012 Green Government Award was presented to Anne Reichman, program manager for the Sustainable Cities Network at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

“EPA applauds the Sustainable Cities Network and its work to bridge the gap between ASU’s sustainability research and the front-line communities facing sustainability challenges,” Blumenfeld said.  “The dialogue and actions fostered by the Network are crucial to the development of green and sustainable future for Arizona.”

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Social norms, behavior influence environmental policy and vice versa

March 1, 2013

Ann KinzigTEMPE, Ariz. – A research team led by Arizona State University (ASU) senior sustainability scientist Dr. Ann Kinzig argues for a new approach to climate change alleviation: target public values and behavior.

Kinzig, chief research strategist for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and a professor at ASU’s School of Life Sciences, urges policymakers to alter laws and regulations based on social values and the associated behaviors.

In a recent BioScience article, the team shares findings that just as pro-environmental behaviors (i.e., recycling and water conservation) can influence pro-environmental values, the interaction can work vice versa.

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The Sustainability Consortium launches Electronics Delphi Panel

February 6, 2013

The Sustainability Consortium LogoTEMPE, Ariz. - February 5, 2013 - The Sustainability Consortium, an independent global organization developing science-based tools that advance the measurement and reporting of consumer product sustainability, is pleased to announce the launch of an Electronics Delphi Panel.

The Ideal Electronics Product Takeback Program Definition Delphi Panel has been initiated to develop a definition for an ideal electronics takeback program, which does not currently exist. This is the first step in developing a set of Electronics Product Takeback Program Metrics. The panel consists of invited experts including: government, non-government, manufacturers (OEMs), electronics recyclers and refurbishers, and retailers all with extensive experience in this area. This panel is part of the larger End of Life (EOL) Innovation Project, the first of its kind at TSC. The vision of this innovation project is to develop a standard assessment for the effectiveness of product takeback programs. The panel launched yesterday and will run through four phases over the next three months. The final definition and project report is scheduled to be released to TSC members in May. The panel will be directed by the Electronics Sector Working Group Research Manager, Carole Mars.

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Innovation, patenting fuels economy

February 1, 2013

Phoenix skylineBrookings Institution Report lists Phoenix among top 20 for patenting; ties Tucson patents to lower unemployment rate

TEMPE, Ariz. - February 1, 2013 - Despite economic unease, the U.S. patenting rate is higher than ever since the Industrial Revolution, according to a new report issued by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU).

According to a previous Brookings Institution report, Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the U.S., ranks 18th out of 358 surveyed metro areas for patenting from 2007 to 2011. In the new report, Tucson placed in the top ten cities with high patent growth and low unemployment rates. The report suggests patent rates are higher in metropolitan areas because they offer knowledge sharing, employment, and research-based universities—prime environments for inventors.

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ASU partners with the Netherlands on new center to solve sustainability challenges

January 22, 2013

Haarlemmermeer NetherlandsTEMPE, Ariz. - January 22, 2013 - Arizona State University’s (ASU) Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) and the Municipality of Haarlemmermeer, The Netherlands, have created an innovative collaboration to solve challenges of sustainability.

The partnership and the establishment of an ASU Global Sustainability Solutions Center (GSSC) in Haarlemmermeer will serve as an international platform for engagement with organizations and people who want to live and do business in Haarlemmermeer and the region. It will bring together the diverse and powerful resources of universities, businesses, NGOs, communities, and government organizations to tackle tough sustainability problems and ultimately find solution sets.

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The Sustainability Consortium announces new board of directors

January 8, 2013

The Sustainability Consortium logoARIZONA, USA – January 8, 2012 – The membership of The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) has recently elected new corporate members to our Board of Directors.

During the inaugural board meeting in late January, The Consortium will welcome four new board members representing the corporate members of TSC: Charlene Wall-Warren of BASF, Karen Hamilton of Unilever, Kim Marotta of Miller Coors, and Kevin Rabinovitch of Mars whose organizations have all been members of TSC for over three years. Andrea Thomas, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart was re-elected for another term.

Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability for MillerCoors, is responsible for driving and implementing MillerCoors’ sustainability strategy and managing MillerCoors’ responsibility initiatives.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from the other corporations, researchers, academics, and retailers. The Consortium pulls together some of the best minds in the business and I feel honored to be a member of the board,” said Marotta.

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