Global Institute of Sustainability News

Earth Month begins with launch of 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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Alum Profile: 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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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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Poly 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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Sustainability board member to receive honorary degree

March 13, 2014

Doctor-Science-Honorary-Degree-Pamela-MatsonPamela Matson, a Global Institute of Sustainability board member, 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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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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ACE presents ASU with first award for dynamic change

March 9, 2014

crow_receives_ace_award_ASU President Michael M. Crow accepted an inaugural award presented by the American Council on Education (ACE) on March 9 during its 96th Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif. According to ACE, the nation’s largest higher education organization, the new award recognizes a college or university that raised, rallied or repurposed resources to achieve dramatic and successful changes that allowed it to more fully fulfill its mission over a relatively brief period of time.

Crow has become nationally known for his commitment to innovation and for reinventing the research university model to emphasize access and excellence. Faculty members are encouraged to pursue use-inspired research, and the university has worked to improve the environment through its creation of the Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability. Joan Wodiska, ACE vice president and chief leadership officer, said, “This award shines a bright light on the successes in America’s higher education system, the need for ongoing dynamic changes on college campuses and the next generation of great ideas for our nation and students.”

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ASU partners on groundbreaking sustainable development plan

March 7, 2014

ASU-Dutch-Sustainability-PlanThe Netherlands’ Municipality of Haarlemmermeer is working to become one of northern Europe’s centers for sustainability-driven commerce. Arizona State University is the United States’ leader in sustainability education and research. Together, along with private partners in the Haarlemmermeer region, ASU and the municipality are collaborating to create the world’s first regional plan based on the principles of a “circular economy.”

The project, “Haarlemmermeer Beyond Sustainability,” will be coordinated by the Global Sustainability Solutions Center at Haarlemmermeer, a program within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The center will create a regional visioning and planning strategy that will close resource loops in the most efficient, economical and sustainable manner possible. It will also act as facilitator for the municipality and various stakeholders in the region to define and outline the groundbreaking plan. The project includes designing the circular economy strategy and identifying closed loop energy, water, matter and other resource cycles that are pragmatic, market-based and adaptable for the region.

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ASU scientists make models for microclimates

March 6, 2014

Ben-Ruddell-CAPLTER-microclimatesBen Ruddell, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor of engineering at Arizona State University, is part of a team using data to develop models for urban microclimates. A microclimate is a small atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area, and can range in size from a single garden to neighborhood. Microclimates within a city are affected by a myriad of factors, such as shade, vegetation, moisture and building materials. A model that can predict the effects of changes made to microclimates can help us better engineer them for human health and comfort.

Ruddell’s team is working with Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project to observe microclimates in neighborhoods throughout Phoenix and build a database. The data is then used for modeling that will help to engineer healthier, more comfortable and more efficient cities. For example, homeowners choosing between landscaping options can weigh the temperature-reducing effect of lawns and trees against the amount of water they require. In tackling this enormous task, the team hopes to create a system that allows for better decision-making on both individual and municipal scales.

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Engineering students earn award for sustainable water project

March 6, 2014

engineers-without-borders-kenyan-water-projectAn endeavor that began when members of Arizona State University’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) connected with a Kenyan doctoral student has earned one of three 2014 Premier Project Awards from the national EWB-USA organization. The chapter was recognized at National Engineers Week, Feb. 16-22, for its work to design and construct sustainable water infrastructure in a rural Kenyan community, one of hundreds of projects that EWB-USA considered.

Since learning of the potable water scarcity in this region, fifteen chapter members have made one or more of four trips to the Bondo-Rarieda community of rural Kenya over the past three summers. These students used their engineering skills to construct systems for collecting and storing potable water, including a rainwater catchment facility. In addition to providing technical solutions, they worked to educate the community and ensure that its residents could maintain the sustainable water infrastructure independently. As a result of these improvements, residents of  Bondo-Rarieda are now able to store water for use during the region’s extensive dry season.

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Archaeologist illuminates the present by humanizing the past

March 4, 2014

Hegmon 08In exploring how humans of past civilizations experienced the world around them, ASU archaeologist and senior sustainability scientist Michelle Hegmon is generating interest in studies that the average reader might otherwise avoid. She refers to this unique approach - which humanizes research by exploring elements like suffering, mental illness and the attitudes people held toward their environments - as Archaeology of the Human Experience (AHE). Utilizing the AHE approach not only paints a more detailed picture of the past, but assists researchers in better understanding present circumstances.

Hegmon believes that the AHE approach can have an illuminating effect on sustainability studies, which numerous archaeologists now contribute to. In some instances, the roots of an environmentally exemplary modern society may be entangled with past oppression or inequality. Because an essential element of sustainability is satisfying human needs, AHE challenges us to asses whether the ends justified the means and to consider alternative methods for achieving similar results.

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ASU collaborators explore the future of Phoenix

February 26, 2014

visualization-scenarios-darren-petrucci-rider-foleyHow will Phoenix’s future urban spaces emerge, and what might these scenarios mean for environmental, economic and social sustainability? Senior Sustainability Scientist Darren Petrucci and School of Sustainability alumnus Rider Foley presented one tool for answering such questions at the “New Tools for Science Policy” breakfast seminar, hosted by ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 28.

Their technology works by mapping Phoenix’s trajectory and determining how it came to be the city it currently is.  “From there, we could begin to extrapolate where the urban form and growth might go,” says Petrucci. Keeping in mind the forces that underlie technology’s interplay with urban evolution – including competing desires like economic growth, access to clean water, security, and the sustainable use of natural resources – they created visualization scenarios in video format. These scenarios encourage viewers to consider their current decisions and how they may impact the future.

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CAP LTER research assistant receives engineering award

February 25, 2014

tom-voloThomas Volo, a doctoral student in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, was one of two ASU engineers to be honored at a Feb. 20 event.

Volo, who is a graduate research assistant with the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, studies urban landscape irrigation and the ecohydrology of desert cities. His research uses numerical modeling and eddy covariance techniques to investigate the impacts of landscape irrigation on urban surface energy and soil moisture fluxes. He seeks to conserve urban water use through improved scheduling for residential irrigation.

Volo was recognized at the Greater Phoenix Area 2014 Engineers Week awards ceremony as the Engineering Student of the Year. He was honored along with engineering professor Keith Hjelmstad, who was named Engineering Educator of the Year.

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