Wrigley Sustainability Institute News

ASU partners with renewable energy organization for solar education in Pacific Islands

August 6, 2013

Arizona State University and the International Renewable Energy Agency are joining forces to bring solar power education to Pacific Island technicians and engineers. The partnership will bring a new solar training workshop led by ASU College of Technology and Innovation’s Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) and certification programs.

Solar power is especially important in island communities that greatly depend on hard-to-get fossil fuel imports. Solar power can also lead to more economic independence in the Pacific region.

“We are excited to partner with IRENA and for their support in advancing the future of sustainable energy and entrepreneurship in the Pacific Islands,” says Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation. “This is only the beginning of a collaborative partnership between ASU and IRENA, and we look forward to growing the relationship between the two like-minded institutions.”

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Heliae raises $28.4 million for Gilbert expansion

August 6, 2013

In 2008, Arizona State University algae research turned into a real-life company with the establishment of Heliae. Existing and new investors recently gifted Heliae $28.4 million to expand its headquarters in Gilbert. The funds will go towards building Heliae’s first commercial algae manufacturing plant for personal care and nutrition supplement markets.

“The sustained support of existing investors, as well as the addition of new investors, demonstrates our momentum and continued success in scale-up,”  says Dan Simon, president and CEO of Heliae.

Funding came from the Mars family, conglomerate Salim Group via Agri Investments Pte Ltd., Thomas J. Edelman, and others. Heliae is partnered with Arizona State University, Science Foundation Arizona, Algal Biomass Organization, and Wageningen University.

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

Institute Press Releases

August 2, 2013

PHOENIX, 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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All ASU campuses are now tobacco-free

August 1, 2013

As part of Arizona State University’s health and wellness initiative, all university campuses are now officially tobacco-free. ASU joins about 800 national universities with the policy. Effective today, the new policy prohibits all manners of smoking, including smokeless tobacco products indoors and outdoors. The policy was initiated by students and is supported by the University Staff Council and the faculty Academic Senate.

In addition to making ASU a healthier, happier, more productive place to work and learn, the tobacco-free policy will reduce litter and maintenance expenses.

“Tobacco use is a documented public health hazard and the university is dedicated to providing a healthy, comfortable, and educationally productive learning environment for faculty, staff, students, and visitors,” says Kevin Salcido, associate vice president of Human Resources and a member of the tobacco-free working group.

Enforce a tobacco-free university »

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Book addresses issues of the urban century

July 26, 2013

School of Sustainability Interim Dean Christopher Boone, together with Michail Fragkias, visiting professor at Boise State University and former executive director of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change program based in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, edited a volume, Urbanization and sustainability: Linking urban ecology, environmental justice and global environmental change. The book was published in 2013.

Boone and Fragkias contributed a chapter to the volume examining the connection between environmental justice and sustainability. They suggest that vulnerability science could be a bridge between studies of local environmental justice and long-term, global sustainability studies.

Another chapter authored by a team of Arizona State University scholars – Bob Bolin, Juan Declet Barreto, Michelle Hegmon, Lisa Meierotto, and Abigail York – builds on previous CAP LTER research and examines shifting vulnerabilities, hazards, and risks in the Phoenix area.

Through case studies, analysis, and theory, the book brings together a range of scholars from urban ecology, environmental justice, and global environmental change research. In doing so, the editors have linked ideas, frameworks, and theories from the three fields to provide new, integrated insights on the pathways toward urban sustainability.

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Climate Action: Who Will Lead?

Thought Leader Series

July 24, 2013

A Thought Leader Series Piece

CS-Headshot-CROPPEDBy Chris Spence

Note: Chris Spence is the director of the Institute at the Golden Gate, a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service that advances environmental stewardship and well-being through parks and public lands.

Do you ever feel like the news on climate change is stuck on repeat? Day after day and year after year, we seem to hear the same dire predictions from climate scientists and activists, the same calls to “act now before it’s too late!”

I first started working on climate policy in 1993, which coincidentally is the year the movie “Groundhog Day” first screened. It’s about a selfish television weatherman doomed to repeat the same day time and again until he finally learns to change his ways.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m stuck in “Groundhog Day.” While the science is stronger than ever, working on climate policy can feel like being trapped in a time warp of inaction and paralysis. We all know the problem is real and growing, but serious action on a large scale sometimes seems beyond our grasp.

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Essential nutrient is examined in book, “Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future”

July 23, 2013

If you want to eat and drink clean water, then you should care about an element called phosphorus. We use it to fertilize our food, but sometimes too much of it ends up in our water supplies, causing pollution and fish kills. Researchers, including Distinguished Sustainability Scientist James Elser, are more concerned than ever because our global phosphorus supplies are non-renewable, and we are gobbling them up.

“There are big challenges, such as how to keep the phosphorus where it belongs and how to make sure we have enough phosphorus for the long term,” says Elser.

Elser co-edited the book “Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future” to provide a comprehensive examination of the entire phosphorus issue for scientists, government officials, and stakeholders like farmers, miners, and wastewater engineers.

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Urban heat island phenomenon explained

July 23, 2013

Senior Sustainability Scientist Matei Georgescu spoke from Phoenix to Beijing viewers of China Central TV-America about urban heat island effects on a July 17th broadcast. The urban heat island effect—when temperatures soar in metropolitan areas due to development—is no stranger to cities like Phoenix and Beijing.

“In essence, urban areas are heat sinks—they absorb incoming solar radiation differently than the natural landscape would,” explained Georgescu, also an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “In cities, incoming solar radiation is trapped in the built environment during the day, and is not released as efficiently in the evening as it would be, had the megapolitan environment not been present.”

Georgescu’s research investigates the effects of the urban heat island, which include human and animal health issues and increased energy consumption.

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Past director for Purchasing and Business Services is new ASU Sustainability Operations Officer

July 20, 2013

John Riley, former executive director of Purchasing and Business Services and university chief procurement officer for Arizona State University, is now the associate vice president of University Business Services and the university sustainability operations officer. Riley replaces Ray Jensen, who retired in March.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with such an outstanding group of dedicated professionals,” Riley says. “Together, we will deliver exciting sustainability initiatives, such as powering our Central Plant with biogas or generating electricity from biomass.”

Riley is now responsible for overseeing business operations like parking, licensing, materials procurement, and university stores in addition to advancing ASU’s sustainability initiatives.

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New Directions in Sustainability and Society: First seminar focuses on traditional ecological knowledge

July 19, 2013

green-rocky-desert_16031086cSchool of Sustainability Interim Dean Christopher Boone, together with Norman Yoffee of the Amerind Foundation, are co-editors of a book series to be published by Cambridge University Press.

The books will be based upon a series of events, where experts from various domains in the field of sustainability will explore selected facets of sustainability—ecology, politics, philosophy, art, justice, vulnerability, and long-term perspectives.

The first of these events was held in April, and papers submitted by the invited experts are now being compiled a book, which Boone hopes will set the tone for the rest of the book series.

The April seminar focused on traditional ecological knowledge and asked, “What can indigenous cultures teach us that adds to our body of sustainability knowledge, and how can we translate that knowledge, appropriately, to action?”

An ASU News article, Old becomes new: Traditional knowledge shapes sustainability thinking, helps put this complex topic into a context a lay audience might understand.

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Students: New School of Sustainability courses

July 18, 2013

In 2012, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report stating that within the next two decades, the world could see up to 60 million new jobs within the sustainability sector. To help students prepare for this change, the School of Sustainability is introducing new courses this fall that cover the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability.

New courses include:

SOS 394: Energy Policy
SOS 394: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory
SOS 494: Sustainability and Social and Family Welfare
SOS 498: Sustainability Short-Form Documentary

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Green Living Magazine: Learning about LightWorks

July 17, 2013

In the July issue of Green Living magazine, contributor Cheryl Hurd talks with Gary Dirks, the new director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and of ASU’s LightWorks. So-called “light-inspired” research takes place at LightWorks, including solar power, clean fuel, and photosynthesis.

“When we talk about solar in the context of LightWorks, we don’t just mean solar panels,” says Dirks. “There are a range of technologies, some for generating electrons and some for generating fuel. LightWorks is very much about solar-based energy but not simply photovoltaics.”

Dirks also says Arizona has “fantastic solar energy” and LightWorks plans to implement more outreach and educational programs to promote solar use throughout the state.

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Slate: Why don’t farmers believe in climate change?

July 16, 2013

In a Future Tense article, David Biello explores the reasoning behind American farmers’ climate change disbelief. Most farmers in the U.S. are affected by the changing weather, however, they don’t view it as a by-product of climate change, rather something that has been happening since the dawn of time.

It’s too bad; farming is the second-largest contributor to climate change, with the increased use of fossil-fueled equipment and nitrous oxide-filled fertilizers. But there has been a shift to more fuel-efficient machinery and low-impact farming techniques not because of climate change, but because of money.

“It’s cheaper to farm that way, and you still get the same type of crop, if not a bit better,” says Oregon wheat farmer Kevin McCullough.

Future Tense is a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate.

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Wiek: Sustainability science of the future will move beyond descriptions to solutions

July 15, 2013

ArnimWiek_1035School of Sustainability associate professor Arnim Wiek and his international colleagues were recognized by the journal “Sustainability Science” for their paper, From complex systems analysis to transformational change: a comparative appraisal of sustainability science projects, which the journal called its Paper of the Year for 2012.

“Science in general,” says Wiek, “is largely dominated by describing and explaining the world, and only little inspired by transforming the world. The question is then: How do sustainability scientists move from ‘only’ describing and analyzing sustainability problems to actually contributing to sustainable solutions?”

“The article shows that it is not easy to do solution-focused research, and it explores some of the reasons for this,” says Wiek. “We cannot just continue doing research we used to do – describing and explaining the world – and hope that the results will lead to real impact and progress towards sustainability.”

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ASU-led algae cooperation to host algae workshop Aug. 19-23

July 12, 2013

The Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3), a project led by Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of Energy, will be part of the second algae training workshop on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus.

“We are excited to spread the wealth of knowledge that ATP3 has as a collaboration,” says Gary Dirks, director of ATP3, ASU LightWorks, and the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability.

The informal workshops are open to students, researchers, and faculty interested in algae formation, cultivation, and research. Algae experts will lead modules on culture monitoring, sample collection, chemical composition, and growth measurement. To sign up, visit atp3.org/education/. The program fee is $1,600 and includes training, materials and three lunches.

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CNN: Commemorating 100 years since the world’s hottest temperature

July 12, 2013

Wednesday, July 10th marked the 100th anniversary of Earth’s hottest temperature—recorded in Death Valley, California at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability Randy Cerveny celebrated with fellow weather experts at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Museum in Death Valley.

“I was really happy looking out in that auditorium as we spoke,” said Cerveny, also a President’s Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “There were a lot of weather tourists who are very interested in this.”

Cerveny was part of the World Meteorological Organization team that re-certified Death Valley’s record after investigating a falsely recorded highest temperature in El Azizia, Libya.

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USA Today: Will thirsty Phoenix survive climate change?

July 11, 2013

Phoenix’s long battle to supply its growing population with enough water is discussed in an article part of USA Today’s “Weathering the Change” series. Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the U.S., joins other Southwest cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego that are preparing for dwindling water supplies due to climate change.

Arizona state climatologist and Sustainability Scientist Nancy Selover says, “Water is our biggest issue. You can never have enough water.” The most recent National Climate Assessment shows that Phoenix’s drought has been “unusually severe.”

We’ve sustained ourselves for so long thanks to the Colorado, Salt, and Verde Rivers and underground water. However, increasing temperatures pose health risks, especially for the elderly, homeless, and underprivileged.

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Fast Company: Tracking emissions with the Ventus Project

July 11, 2013

In a Co.EXIST article by Stan Alcorn, Arizona State University researcher Kevin Gurney discusses his tool, the Ventus Project, an online portal that allows everyday citizens to record nearby carbon-emitting power plants.

People around the globe can identify power plants and then input data like location and name into Ventus. About 90 percent of carbon emissions from power plants is recorded, but that other 10 percent is what Gurney’s team is after.

“We try to do this ourselves in Google Earth and it can be done,” says Gurney. “It’s just so unbelievably labor intensive; it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

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Sustainability students experience cultural, corporate contexts from leaders in Dubai

July 8, 2013

As one of four study abroad experiences offered by the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Studies Program this summer, School of Sustainability students joined several professors in Dubai to meet His Excellency Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Minister of Economy.

There, the students discussed tourism, governance, economics, and other local issues with His Excellency and several regional industry and business leaders.

“The students learned how to behave in a different culture and in the presence of high-ranking officials,” says David Manuel-Navarrete, a senior sustainability scholar in the Global Institute of Sustainability and a professor in the School of Sustainability. “The Emiratis we encountered provided a lot of insight and personal experience for the students.”

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Juggling solutions, experts is all in a day’s work for sustainability grad

July 8, 2013

Rajesh Buch, a practice lead with Sustainability Solutions Extension Service under the  Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, graduated from the School of Sustainability last year. He is now applying his background in mechanical engineering, energy systems, and business in the Extension Service, a unique consulting group that pairs student analysts with faculty members who guide sustainability projects.

As a practice lead, Buch organizes the student groups and collaborates with the faculty to implement projects such as greenhouse gas inventories, waste recycling programs, and biofuel evaluations.

“Sustainability is a way to correct our way of developing,” he says. “We can start by taking baby steps. I contribute by assisting those private and public organizations that are willing to recognize the importance of sustainability.”

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