Global Institute of Sustainability News

Building Cities that Celebrate Life

Thought Leader Series

April 22, 2014

William-McDonough-2013-Lynne-Brubaker-PhotoA Thought Leader Series Piece

By William McDonough

Note: William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable development. Trained as an architect, Mr. McDonough’s interests and influence range widely, and he works at all scales. Mr. McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention.

Living in the age of cities
We live in the age of cities, in the midst of the most dramatic transformation of urban life and the urban landscape the world has ever seen. Cities have always been engines of growth, innovation and opportunity, drawing people from afar since the ancient settlements of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus, and the Yellow River gave urban form to “a certain energized crowding” along their alluvial plains.

But urbanization on a global scale has happened in a heartbeat. It took more than 5,000 years of human development for the world’s urban population to approach one billion, in the early 1960s, but in the short half-century since it has more than tripled, reaching 3.5 billion in 2010. By 2030, according to the latest United Nations estimates, five billion people will live in cities, nearly half of them making their lives in homes, schools, workplaces and parks that do not yet exist.

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International competition invites electronic waste innovation

April 14, 2014

US-China-ewaste-competitionThe United States and China, two of the world’s biggest electronic waste (e-waste) producers, have joined forces to promote the prevention of e-waste through the U.S.-China Green Electronics Competition. Spearheaded by the Future Tense initiative - a partnership of Arizona State University, New America Foundation and Slate magazine - and China’s Tsinghua University, the competition invites participants to repurpose yesterday’s electronics by using them to repair an existing product, develop a new product or create artwork.

With rapid advances in technology, electronics tend to become obsolete after just a few years. Though approximately 50 million tons of this electronic waste is produced each year, only about 15 to 20 percent is recycled, a cause for significant concern for both human and environmental health. Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives Director Patricia Reiter said, “Supporting the sustainable efforts of preventing e-waste on the international level represents a tremendous opportunity for inspiring innovation and cultural exchange.”

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Nonprofit wins ASU sustainability award for “urban infill”

April 2, 2014

project-rising-sustainability-solutions-awardLeslie Lindo, co-founder and executive director of Project Rising, was presented with the 2014 Walton Sustainability Solutions Award at Social Venture Partners of Arizona’s “Fast Pitch” competition. The award, given by Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival, recognizes Lindo’s vision to foster a stronger, healthier community by reactivating the vacant lots of Phoenix using sustainable building techniques.

“The businesses Project Rising engenders from the community offer long-term employment in Arizona, safe lighting for neighborhoods, community gathering places and social connectivity,” said Kelly Saunders, a “Fast Pitch” judge and project coordinator of the Sustainability Solutions Festival. “Project Rising understands that it is more sustainable and successful to create a community with the community.”

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ASU scientist leads research on saftety of nanoparticles

April 1, 2014

PhD student Heather Stancl, Environmental Engineering, Paul Westerhoff LabThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a grant of $5 million over the next four years to support the LCnano Network as part of the Life Cycle of Nanomaterials project. The focus of the project, which is led by LCnano Network Director and Senior Sustainability Scientist Paul Westerhoff, is to help ensure the safety of nanomaterials throughout their life cycles – from manufacture to use and disposal.

Nanoparticles, which are approximately 1 to 100 nanometers in size, are used in an increasing number of consumer products to provide texture, resiliency and, in some cases, antibacterial protection. Westerhoff says there remains “a big knowledge gap” about how, or if, nanomaterials are released from consumer products into the environment as they move through their life cycles, eventually ending up in soils and water systems. The multi-university team of engineers, chemists, toxicologists and social scientists will collaborate with industry and government laboratories to find ways of reducing such uncertainties.

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ASU launches ASU Zero Waste initiative

April 1, 2014

zero-waste-dumpster-dive-asuOn April 1, Arizona State University launched the university-wide Zero Waste at ASU initiative to kick off Earth Month 2014. The zero waste principle aims for the diversion and aversion of more than 90 percent of trash from the landfill. Diversion techniques include blue bin recycling, green bin composting and reusing or repurposing; and aversion tactics include reducing or avoiding the use of non-recyclable and non-compostable materials altogether. The initiative hopes to help ASU achieve zero solid waste by 2015.

“As a New American University, ASU is committed to catalyzing social change and enabling students to succeed by being at the cutting edge of a healthy, sustainable learning environment,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “By aiming to become a zero-waste university, ASU is not only making progress toward its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and becoming climate neutral, but also instilling sustainability as a value in our students, staff and faculty, who form the critical mass to significantly impact the institution, as well as their communities.”

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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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Women help communities cope with troubled shrimp industry

March 28, 2014

MariaCruz-Torres-ClassKnowing how the environment can impact livelihoods, Senior Sustainability Scientist Maria Cruz-Torres focuses her research on the relationship between adequate fishing resources and food security in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa. Here, the shrimp industry serves as a source of both income and food for coastal communities, but is suffering as a result of pesticide and fertilizer overuse. For this reason,  Sinaloa’s women are taking bold measures to help their communities cope.

Cruz-Torres’s research identifies several trends that illustrate the resilience of Sinaloa’s women. Some are migrating north to find work in maquiladoras, border factories run by United States companies in Mexico. Many are also organizing unions and becoming labor activists in an effort to improve working conditions in both the border-town maquiladoras and Sinaloa’s shrimp fisheries. Additionally, more and more are managing small family businesses that sell shrimp within the larger hierarchy of Mazatlan’s seafood processing and marketing industry.

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Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than expected

March 25, 2014

Climate-Change-Crop-Yields-Netra-ChhetriThough initial research indicated that crop yields in temperate regions like North America and Europe would withstand several degrees of warming, results from a new study co-authored by Netra Chhetri, a senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, indicate otherwise. The study not only shows that yields in temperate regions will be affected along with those in tropical regions, but that this will occur much sooner than originally anticipated. Beginning in the 2030s, yields from the essential food crops maize, wheat and rice will start to decline significantly.

After creating a new dataset by compiling results from 1,700 published simulations, Chhetri and his team evaluated the impacts of climate change on crop yields with and without adaptations for rice, maize and wheat. Due to increased interest in the impacts of climate change on global food security, the researchers were able to amass the largest dataset to date on crop responses. Their paper, “A meta-analysis of crop yield under climate change and adaptation,” published March 16 by the journal Nature Climate Change, feeds directly into the Working Group II report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.

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Student Spotlight: Jesus Chavez

March 25, 2014

jesus-chavez-300x200Jesus Chavez is a senior in the Urban Dynamics track within the School of Sustainability. An alumnus of El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, California, Chavez graduates in May 2014 with a bachelor’s in both Sustainability and Urban Planning.

Chavez is energetic in his pursuit of implementable solutions to urban planning predicaments in both his studies and extra-curricular work. In August 2014, he begins an urban planning internship with a private consulting firm in Spain.

Why did you choose ASU?

The School of Sustainability is the major reason I chose ASU, a one-of-a-kind institution tackling wicked problems on a local to global scale. The fact that it is a top-ranked institution for both Sustainability and Urban Planning solidified my decision to get the most out of my education here.

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In Defense of the Earth and Women’s Rights: Four Decades of Evolution of a Philosophy and Activism

Thought Leader Series

March 21, 2014

Vandana-Shiva-EcofeminismA Thought Leader Series Piece

By Dr. Vandana Shiva

Note: March is Women’s History Month, a tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society. Dr. Shiva, originally a theoretical physicist, is an environmental activist, author and expert in ecofeminism. She will present a Wrigley Lecture during the Fall 2014 semester.

Over the last four decades, I have served grassroots ecological movements, beginning in the 1970s with the historic Chipko (Hug the Tree) Movement, in my region of Central Himalaya. In every movement I have participated in, it was women who led the actions, and women who sustained actions to protect the earth and the sources of their sustenance and livelihoods.

Women of Chipko were protecting their forests because deforestation and logging was leading to floods and droughts. It was leading to landslides and disasters. It was leading to scarcity of fuel and fodder. It was leading to the disappearance of springs and streams, forcing women to walk longer and farther for water.

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ASU’s Emerge 2014 addresses digital addiction

March 20, 2014

emerge-digital-tabernacleRon Broglio, a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, absolved attendees of their digital sins at the Emerge 2014 festival. As a minister of The Digital Tabernacle, Broglio locked away penitents’ devices for several minutes so as to shed light on our digital addictions and offer “a space for contemplation in a world of online distraction, neuromarketing and psychotechnology.” 

ASU’s Emerge 2014 “Carnival of the Future” – a radically creative, playful and challenging approach to the future world we wish to make –  took place in Downtown Phoenix on March 7. In addition to The Digital Tabernacle, Emerge featured cutting-edge performances, flying technology and incisive visions of the future that obliterated the traditional boundaries between engineering, arts, sciences and humanities. To learn more about this performance and view a photo stream of the event, read the full article at Future Tense.

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Polytechnic campus sustainable fitness facility grabs gold

March 20, 2014

sun_devil_fitness_complex_polyThe Polytechnic Campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex, completed in January 2013, has earned gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The complex is the 23rd ASU building to receive gold certification, which is the second highest green building ranking under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

The project received 17 out of 19 points for optimizing energy performance on its LEED scorecard.  Its ability to create onsite renewable energy through solar panels and a solar pool heating system boosted its score. Additionally, the building was designed to funnel air through a breezeway near the building’s core, removing heat and providing shade. This passive cooling technique is a hallmark of the building’s design.

The Polytechnic Campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex is the 39th ASU building to be LEED certified.

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More energy-efficient supercomputers on the horizon

March 14, 2014

Supercomputer-Nathan-NewmanNathan Newman, a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, is part of a team recently selected by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to improve supercomputing facilities. Supercomputing facilities are clusters of high-powered computers that enable information gathering, storing and analysis on massive scales and are increasingly used by governments, economies, health care services, power and transportation systems, and national security operations.

Because current technologies would require a great amount of electrical power in order to meet this growing demand, a paradigm shift in operations is needed. Newman’s research team is utilizing the latest superconducting materials to develop a new kind of digital circuit, one that can potentially lead supercomputer systems to require much less energy. His group’s work recently resulted in the development of a computer memory device that could enable supercomputing systems to operate as much as 50 times faster and perform 50 times the number of operations while using 50 times less energy.

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“Color Canalscape” invites students to reimagine the banal

March 13, 2014

Feb 2014_Art teamAs the result of a partnership between the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainable Schools program and Arizona Forward’s Canalscape Committee, three student teams showcased their unique visions for the Grand Canal at the March 1 “Color Canalscape” event.

The teams – comprised of students from St. Francis Xavier Elementary School, Central High School, Brophy College Preparatory School and Xavier College Preparatory School – began their sustainability-themed projects aimed at improving the canal’s artistic appeal, infrastructure and landscape systems in August of 2013. The goal of this ongoing educational project is to transform the section of the Grand Canal between Seventh Street and Central Avenue into a shared outdoor learning center for the partner schools that border it.

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Sustainability board member to receive honorary degree

March 13, 2014

Doctor-Science-Honorary-Degree-Pamela-MatsonPamela Matson, a member of ASU’s Board of Directors for Sustainability, will receive the Doctor of Science honorary degree from Arizona State University at the May 14 undergraduate commencement ceremony. The award recognizes her pioneering research, which addresses issues surrounding sustainability of agricultural systems, vulnerability of people and places to climate change, and global change in nitrogen and carbon cycles. She has worked to develop agricultural approaches that reduce environmental impacts while improving livelihoods and human well-being with multidisciplinary teams of researchers, managers and decision-makers.

Matson is a professor of environmental science at Stanford University and an elected member of both the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to serving on advisory boards for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability, she has held positions on numerous National Academies’ committees, including the Board on Sustainable Development, the Board on Global Change and the Committee on America’s Climate Choices.  She was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1995 for her trailblazing work.

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Student dissects sustainability complexities abroad

March 12, 2014

20140312-Global-Sustainability-Studies-Program-Camel-RidingSaritha Ramakrishna, a junior in the School of Sustainability, visited Spain and Morocco last summer through the Global Sustainability Studies Program. Ramakrishna was interested in exploring the interaction between these geographically close countries, as well as how it affected their renewable energy development goals.

Not only did Ramakrishna have the opportunity to apply and expound on information presented in class, she discovered the extent to which economic development, modernization and resource management are complex issues. She also learned the importance of cultural adaptability and was inspired to add an economics major to her sustainability degree.

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LightWorks brings cutting-edge solar technology to ASU

March 12, 2014

aora-solar-tulipIn a collaboration advanced by Arizona State University LightWorks, AORA Solar NA will install a hybrid concentrated solar power plant on undeveloped university land near the Karsten Golf Course. The plant employs a tower (approximately 100 feet high) appropriately called the Solar Tulip, which concentrates the sun’s energy and turns it into electricity. The system not only produces power 24/7, moving seamlessly from solar to natural gas or biogas, but also uses little to no water while producing a high quality thermal output.

AORA will work with a multidisciplinary ASU team to research options to increase efficiency, improve reliability, utilize the exhaust heat and decrease the cost of this Israeli-developed technology. ASU faculty, research staff and students will work hand in hand with AORA to enhance the system. The groundbreaking is expected to occur in April, with the anticipated operation date in either late September or early October. The ASU/AORA collaborative relationship will not only bring ASU closer to its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, but will also benefit students and researchers across multiple fields of study.

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ASU achieves gold in sustainability rating system

March 11, 2014

alt-transportation-graphics[1]Further bolstering its commitment to sustainability operations and practice, Arizona State University has achieved a Gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a self-assessment program launched by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). ASU earned its highest points in engagement, and planning and administration.

“ASU has taken specific, measurable steps to incorporate sustainability as a value at an individual, as well as institutional, level,” said John Riley, the university’s sustainability operations officer. “Our STAR Gold rating reflects the continuing work of our entire university community.”

The STARS program was created by AASHE as a transparent tool for colleges and universities to measure and evaluate progress toward their institutional sustainability goals, taking into account not only environmental factors like energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but also social and economic factors such as engagement and purchasing, among others. The program also helps facilitate a larger dialogue among institutions of higher education regarding sustainability.

The full report can be accessed here.

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ASU partners to develop solar certification program in West Africa

March 10, 2014

IRENA-solar-training-West-AfricaThe International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Arizona State University signed an agreement this week to develop a solar certification program for West Africa. The two institutions teamed up to promote and initiate the implementation of harmonized certification programs for technicians of off-grid, as well as grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems for the region. The program aims to develop workforce capacity for the deployment of solar PV systems, a fast-growing form of renewable energy with excellent potential for providing energy security and economic development.

The different levels of technician certification will improve customer confidence in both renewable energy technologies and the technicians who implement them. The program will also support the employability of technicians by providing them with recognized skill sets. In order to ensure these objectives are met, national and regional technical committees will oversee the development of technical competency standards for the solar certification training courses.

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AzCATI collaborates on project to grow algae in wastewater

March 10, 2014

algae_project_lightworksStudents and researchers from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona are collaborating on an Arizona Board of Regents-funded project to grow algae using wastewater. The algae can then be harvested to create fuel, feed and food products. This collaboration aims to advance algae as an industry in Arizona, one that will produce valuable products and remediate wastewater while creating job opportunities for residents.

With expansive non-arable land suitable for algae farms and more than 330 sunny days per year to encourage algae growth through photosynthesis, Arizona serves as an ideal location for algae research. The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), located at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus in Mesa, is a hub for research, testing, and commercialization of algae-based products. These include biofuels, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and other algae biomass coproducts. The center also functions as a learning environment for the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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