Global Institute of Sustainability News

ASU Decision Center for a Desert City students present sustainability solutions

February 12, 2013

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts will serve as a backdrop for research presentations by representatives of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) on February 17.

DCDC Director and Principal Investigator Dave White and anthropologist Margaret Nelson, vice dean of Barrett, The Honors College, will accompany a contingent of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

Nelson, who is also co-principal investigator and education program coordinator, remarked, “The students in DCDC’s Community of Graduate Scholars (CGS) represent multiple disciplines, including psychology, anthropology, public policy, sustainability, computer science and geography. Through the seminar, students become familiar with the issues as well as perspectives of DCDC researchers, not to mention challenges that emerge from interdisciplinary collaborations.”

The ASU contingency will present research that employs interdisciplinary social science methods to develop knowledge and tools for water sustainability and climate change adaptation in urban areas.

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ASU commits to zero waste challenge with people power

February 8, 2013

Nick BrownMajor corporations are not that different from large universities when it comes to practices, management, emissions, and costs. Today’s universities operate like well-oiled corporate machines balancing multiple departments, people, buildings, and challenges. Arizona State University—with 72,000 students, 13,000 staff members, and 1,500 acres of campus land—is no small university. But since Michael Crow became the university’s president ten years ago, ASU has transformed into a sustainability-driven university.

In a recent GreenBiz.com article, author Georges Dyer covers ASU’s zero waste accomplishments. Dyers outlines the university’s process in identifying waste management strategies and the steps taken to implement those practices.

ASU’s University Sustainability Practices Director Nick Brown says a major cultural phenomenon needs to happen in order to eliminate enough waste to really make a difference.

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Grant to fund innovative student capstone course in sustainable manufacturing

February 7, 2013

Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and College of Technology and Innovation have received a $60,000 grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

The nonprofit organization seeks to promote a sustainable society by supporting and funding educational and project-based initiatives that advance knowledge and innovation in sustainable production and consumption. It was founded in 2012 as a legacy to the late Ray C. Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, Inc., and globally recognized “pioneer for the environment.”

The ASU sustainability project proposed by Chell Roberts, executive dean for the College of Technology and Innovation, and Dan O’Neill, general manager in the Walton Sustainability Solutions Extension Service at ASU, combines two existing undergraduate capstone experiences into an integrated approach for solving real sustainable manufacturing challenges for major corporate clients.

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The Sustainability Consortium launches Electronics Delphi Panel

Institute Press Releases

February 6, 2013

TEMPE, 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

Institute Press Releases

February 1, 2013

Brookings 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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Discovering how cities can be smarter, safer, and more sustainable

Features

January 30, 2013

Q&A with José Lobo

Jose-Lobo-8458-croppedNote: José Lobo is a Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability, associate professor of research at the School of Sustainability, and faculty associate in economics at the W.P. Carey School of Business. His research applies statistics and data mining to understand metropolitan economic performance, particularly how urban size and social networks influence innovation. He has been a visiting researcher at the Santa Fe Institute and Italy’s Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia.

When did sustainability become part of your research focus?

Since my days as a graduate student, my main research interest has been invention and innovation in cities. Now that urbanization has come to dominate our planet, it is impossible to think about the future of cities without considering their sustainability challenges. The trickiest part is clearly articulating who will bear the costs and reap the benefits from policy changes. There is no free lunch, even when it comes to sustainability.

What is your most important sustainability-related research question?

Aerial view of Dubai.

Growing cities create wealth and boost innovation.

I am working with colleagues to identify and understand the complex behavior of cities. This is crucial because the 21st century will see more urbanization than in all of human history to date. By the end of this century, an additional 3 billion to 5 billion people will reside in cities, and nearly all of the increase will occur in the developing world. This new urbanization has the potential to reduce poverty and enhance human development, but the key issue is how best to accommodate urban expansion. Should we expand existing cities or build new ones? How can we make them more hospitable for all? Never before have our urban policy choices been more critical to human progress.

To address these issues and bring scientific understanding of urbanization to the decision-making process, my colleagues and I are investigating the systems involved in the urbanization process. We’re looking at what determines population size, how population size affects socio-economic activity, whether larger cities are more energy efficient, and whether the productivity advantages of larger cities are enough to offset the negatives associated with growing size. These are critical considerations. One thing we’ve learned so far: as cities grow larger they create more wealth and innovate at a faster rate than they did previously. Larger is smarter.

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

Institute Press Releases

January 22, 2013

TEMPE, 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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Researchers examine urban heat and human vulnerability

January 15, 2013

A transdisciplinary team of scientists is using the hot and populous Phoenix metropolitan area to explore how different segments of the region are being affected by increasingly oppressive heat.

ASU sociologist and Sustainability Scientist Sharon Harlan is a leading investigator on the project, which is designed to look at patterns in the past and present and apply them to potential climate scenarios of the future. The project is featured in the January issue of International Innovation.

“Our research in this desert metropolis examines how climate, plants and people create a dynamic and complex social-ecological system that requires careful stewardship in order to sustain vital natural resources and human health,” said Harlan.

An associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Harlan emphasizes that outreach and education are built into the project in an effort to help policymakers, as well as residents, deal with the rising challenges of urban heat.

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Origins Project Great Debate to focus on climate change

January 15, 2013

Climate change is one of the most important, and perhaps thorniest, issues confronting world leaders today. A lot is at stake. Issues in climate variability, loss of living space, extended drought, amplified weather cycles, growing season variability and even national security all link back to climate change. Sea levels are rising and last year was the hottest year on record for the United States. It’s clear that for climate change, the future is now.

The Origins Project at Arizona State University will hold a panel discussion on climate change, 7 p.m., Feb. 2, that will feature some of the world’s leading experts and policy analysts in the field, including School of Sustainability Dean Sander van der Leeuw and visiting scientist Wallace Broecker.

Tickets are now on sale for “The Great Debate: Climate Change, Surviving the Future,” which will take place in Gammage Auditorium on ASU’s Tempe campus.

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ASU, Arizona Science Center host event on future of energy

January 15, 2013

January 24, 2013
5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Can our energy future be reliable, affordable, and low-impact? Fossil fuels come with environmental, economic, and social pitfalls, but renewable energy sources have their downsides as well. Perhaps our future will be shaped by a combination of both.

ASU and the Arizona Science Center are hosting a public event on the future of energy, from 5-8 p.m., Jan. 24, at the Arizona Science Center IMAX Theater. During this panel discussion, American Public Media reporter Eve Troeh will moderate a former Shell Oil president, a climate scientist, and an environmental filmmaker as we all contemplate and envision sustainable energy options.

This event is hosted through a partnership between Arizona Science Center and Arizona State University. Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Arizona Science Center President and CEO Chevy Humphrey will provide opening remarks.

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The Sustainability Consortium announces new board of directors

Institute Press Releases

January 8, 2013

ARIZONA, 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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ASU students to help Mesa create a town square

January 7, 2013

The Jan. 1 issue of the Arizona Republic featured a cooperative project between the City of Mesa and ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Mesa’s mayor Scott Smith envisioned a centrally located, public gathering place in the heart of the city, comparable to the town squares or plazas that exist in many other cities. When a bond election in November provided start-up funding to design the plaza, the city turned to ASU’s planning program for help.

The outcome is a spring 2013 course offering, “Place-making in Mesa,” in which graduate students will work at producing a viable concept for the town square. The course is taught by Senior Sustainability Scientist and School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning Professor David Pijawka.

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Death Valley now holds the record for world’s hottest temperature

January 7, 2013

cervenyThe New York Times reported on responses to the World Meteorological Organization’s announcement that Death Valley, Calif. now holds the record for the world’s hottest temperature.

ASU Professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist Randy Cerveny coordinated the international effort to evaluate the validity of the previously-held hottest-temperature record, which was based on a 1922 reading in El Azizia, Libya. Cerveny holds the title rapporteur of climate extremes for the World Climate Organization, and in this role brought together a team of 13 meteorologists – including experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom – to evaluate the Libya record.

The New York Times article discusses responses to the announcement in the Death Valley community – for example, Randy Banis, the editor of an online newsletter promoting the area, stated “You don’t underestimate Death Valley.  Most of us enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.”

“There are a lot of places that do like these records,” said Cerveny for the New York Times report. “It can be a source of pride for that country or a source of contention for other countries. Politics, unfortunately, are going to play a role sometime in the determining of these records.”

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DOE 2013 Solar Decathlon competitors to meet media on Friday, January 11

Institute Press Releases

January 7, 2013

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – Jan. 7, 2013 – Members of the media will have an opportunity to meet representatives from all 20 collegiate teams competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 as well as interview Richard King, Director and founder of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

This will be the student teams’ first visit to the Orange County Great Park as they arrive for a weekend workshop to prepare for the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition. The Great Park will host the award-winning competition October 3-13, 2013, the first time the event has ever been held outside of Washington D.C.

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Solar Decathlon 2013 will be the centerpiece of the XPO, a world’s fair of clean, renewable, and efficient energy.

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New directions in national energy policy: Skepticism about big initiatives

January 7, 2013

In an EnergyBiz article, reporter Tom Armistead writes that even though the current administration is aware of climate change and claims it as a focus for future policy, the United States still doesn’t have a clear-cut energy policy. What we do have is a mash-up of different policies that were developed for past political movements. Armistead writes the policies “promote both renewable energy and fossil fuels, without emphasis on either one or direction for the long term.” What kind of energy future will America have?

Some experts say the market should dictate what type of energy sources should be developed. Others still think climate change is only a minor threat. However, 2012 brought many weather extremes, causing more people to reflect on the concept of “climate change.”

In the article, Senior Sustainability Scientist Clark Miller says current energy policy is “working to increase energy supply, but also is raising public concerns about what it would mean to increase North American energy production and increasing concern about climate change.”

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Report: Climate changing watersheds

December 19, 2012

In a technical report to be included in the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, climate scientists say temperature changes and shifts in species ranges and moisture will have major effects on natural ecosystems, especially watersheds. These effects will trickle down to human activities like commercial fishing and storm preparedness.

The report’s findings are covered in the Arizona Republic. The team of scientists come from Arizona State University, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and professor in the School of Life Sciences, served as a lead researcher on the report.

“U.S. ecosystems are undergoing massive change due to climate change,” says Grimm.

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Helping you ID which common brands are most sustainable: ASU professor helps with groundbreaking research

Institute Press Releases

December 18, 2012

Kevin_Dooley_SmalTEMPE, Ariz. – Dec. 18, 2012 – As you do your shopping this holiday season, would it help to know exactly which toys, electronics, food and other items are better for the environment? A prominent researcher at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is helping to develop a system that will tell retailers, manufacturers, and eventually consumers, about the sustainability of many of the products we buy every day.

Professor Kevin Dooley is research director of The Sustainability Consortium, an impressive group administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, featuring big-name-members, such as Unilever, BASF, MillerCoors, Mars and Walmart, with combined revenue of more than $1.5 trillion. The consortium is developing criteria that will allow you to easily identify which products are the most sustainable in their categories, based on factors like emissions, labor practices, water usage and waste creation. The consortium’s efforts were recently named among 10 “world-changing ideas” that are “radical enough to alter our lives” by Scientific American, and this year, the consortium’s work really vaulted forward.

“We have now established the critical issues and best areas in which to improve more than 100 types of the most common products — everything from electronics and toys, to food, drinks and personal care items,” says Dooley, also a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “We’re helping businesses focus on the most important sustainability issues and giving them a way to measure and share their progress in making products better. This year, we were able to make rapid progress, thanks to the intense efforts of our staff and the stakeholders involved.”

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Climate change already having major effects on ecosystems, species

December 18, 2012

A report by more than 60 federal, academic, and other scientists, including lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation, and Arizona State University, warns that climate change is having immediate negative effects on natural systems and wildlife. As the global temperature rises, the timing and geographic ranges of many innate processes animals go through, like breeding and migrating, are being shifted, causing an imbalance.

“These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.

These changes can influence survival for many species and can affect humans, too. The ecosystem services we depend on, like food, clean water, and wood products, can suddenly change and become scarce.

The report is one of many to be included in the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment, a federally required assessment of climate change and its impacts.

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Sustainability scientist: Why don't we measure nature's capital?

December 18, 2012

Sustainability scientist and professor Ann Kinzig says, while we do measure the bounty that nature provides, we fail to measure the intrinsic wealth that’s found in natural goods. That’s the reason why our inclusive wealth is not growing, and one of the reasons why we haven’t achieved sustainability.

“On our national accounting and indices, we track some forms of wealth but not others,” Kinzig, a professor in the School of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences, says. “And when we don’t track something, we are sending the signal that it is not important – that we don’t need to take care of it.”

Kinzig discussed natural capital and the wealth of nature at the Arizona Science Center on Oct. 26. As part of Arizona State University’s partnership with the Arizona Science Center, Kinzig was one of three prominent university researchers giving “lightning lectures,” or five minute talks about everything ranging from technology, to the environment, to health.

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Our Graduates: Kim Pearson

December 17, 2012

Growing up in Phoenix, sustainability and Spanish literature senior Kim Pearson was first introduced to the basics of sustainability through class projects on issues such as deforestation.

“I first heard the term, ‘sustainability’ when watching a documentary and I thought, ‘Now I can give a name to what I’ve been interested in all these years,’” she says.

Pearson is graduating from the School of Sustainability with an emphasis in sustainable economics because she wants to understand the economic policies behind agriculture and trade.

“I have been interested in sustainability concepts since elementary school, as I began to learn about environmental issues and their relation to human behavior, politics and economics,” Pearson says.

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