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Wrigley Sustainability Institute News

Sustainability scientist explains bacteria as fuel to radio audience

June 7, 2014

rittman_bruce_8557aBruce Rittmann, director of The Biodesign Institute and a distinguished sustainability scientist, recently appeared on the Australian radio program The Science Show. Here he discussed the fuel-producing potential of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, with the show’s host Robyn Williams.

During the program, Rittman described his team’s work to replace many of the substances we currently source from petroleum, such as diesel and jet fuel, with cynobacteria. He explained that these smaller, more simple organisms are up to 100 times more efficient in their use of sunlight than plants like green algae. Additionally, they are more easily managed and can utilize carbon dioxide from facilities like power plants for photosynthetic purposes.

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New equation puts nature’s wealth on par with other assets

June 6, 2014

AbbottSchool of Sustainability associate professor Joshua Abbott and his colleague, Eli Fenichel of Yale University, have developed the first interdisciplinary equation to measure the monetary value of natural resources. In assigning a dollar value to natural capital, Abbott and Fenichel’s approach will have widespread implications for policymakers and various stakeholders, putting natural capital on par with other, more easily measured parts of society’s wealth.

In a study titled “Natural Capital: From Metaphor to Measurement,” recently published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the researchers demonstrated how their equation can estimate the monetary value of natural resources like fish stocks, groundwater or forests in the United States. Unlike earlier approaches, the method takes into consideration the “opportunity cost” of losing future units of natural capital that could have helped replenish the resource, providing economic benefits in the long run. It is underpinned by the economic principles used to value physical or human capital.

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McDonough, Cradle to Cradle design concepts featured in Newsweek

June 5, 2014

Bill-McDonoughWilliam McDonough, a pioneer in the field of sustainable architecture and a member of ASU’s Board of Directors for Sustainability, discusses the conscience behind his design with Dutch developer and colleague Coert Zachariasse in a June 2014 Newsweek article.

In the article “Building for a Better World and Making People Smile,” McDunough and Zachariasse – who collaborated on the construction of a sustainable business complex outside of Amsterdam called Park 20|20 – discuss the importance of the Cradle to Cradle framework. This concept, created by McDonough, puts principles and values at the forefront of design. It posits that doing “less bad” is insufficient and that the aim should, instead, be to achieve “more good.”

McDonough explains, “Instead of looking at a world of limits, and simply asking the question of modern commerce—How much can we get for as little as we give?—we propose a shift in thinking toward a world of abundance and generosity. Then, instead, we can ask a different question: How much can we give for all that we get?”

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Sustainability alum helps millennials live more mindfully

June 5, 2014

eecosphere-appSchool of Sustainability alumnus Andrew Krause has found practical application for his education through technology that helps users discover, adopt and share ideas for leading a more sustainable lifestyle. The eEcosphere app, now available for iOS, matches millennials with ideas that are tailored to their needs and improve their everyday decisions by providing quality local resources. This helps to prevent the common breakdown between intention and action while providing the user with a fun and collaborative experience.

Krause, who received a Master’s of Science from the School of Sustainability in 2012, was recently named as a delegate to the United Nations Foundation Global Accelerator 2014. He and fellow delegates will work with policy leaders on global issues to create innovative advancements toward key Millennium Development Goals. Because the accelerator seeks out the world’s top 100 entrepreneurs, the appointment is a great testament to the significance of Krause’s work.

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Martinson grant backs sustainable solutions for better future

June 4, 2014

MartinsonMany solutions to the world’s most pressing problems rely as heavily on the generosity of forward-thinking individuals as they do on the groundbreaking research of bright minds. It is these monetary investments that give flesh to many ideas that shape our future.

John S. Martinson, co-founder of China Mist Iced Tea Company, and his wife Suzanne Pickett Martinson, a writer and educator, are such individuals. The benefactors of the recently-established Martinson Sustainability Solutions Research Grant, they have already witnessed its impact through the work of School of Sustainability students Christopher Kudzas and Angela Cazel-Jahn.

Kudzas, a doctoral student and the grant’s first recipient, focuses his research on improving collective water governance strategies, particularly in areas where the resource is growing increasingly scarce. Guanacaste, a Costa Rican province that has experienced numerous water-related conflicts over the past decade, has proved to be an ideal setting for his work.

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Sustainability resonates with change-driven Scholars

June 2, 2014

Soccer02The students enrolled in ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program share two key characteristics with the university: a commitment to fostering meaningful change and an enthusiasm for sustainability.

This August, ASU welcomes its third cohort of Scholars, representatives of 15 Sub-Saharan African nations who exemplify academic excellence and the potential for effective leadership. All 40 students come to the land of maroon and gold determined to improve their home communities when they return after four years of undergraduate schooling.

What is ASU’s role in accomplishing this goal? In addition to providing a caliber of education these promising students could not otherwise access, Scholars are given the tools and capacities that innovative solutions require. As a complement to their chosen degree programs, all scholars take SOS 194: “Sustainability Issues in Africa,” a course offered by the School of Sustainability.

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Hotter nights suggest increase in heat-related deaths

May 30, 2014

Phoenix SkylineA recent study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, indicates that increasing overnight temperatures pose a greater threat to human health in Maricopa County than daytime temperatures. Because this phenomenon is largely attributed to urbanization and the heat-retaining capacity of the built environment, the increase in overnight temperatures may be mitigated by implementing a lower-growth strategy.

The study, co-authored by senior sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu, sought to quantify heat-related deaths using three urbanization and adaption scenarios along with multiple exposure variables. By guiding long-term planners and public officials toward more sustainable urban development strategies, these findings may decrease the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths otherwise reported in Maricopa County.

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Developing the blueprint for sustainable cities

May 27, 2014

sustainable-cities-bannerAs the human population grows and an increasing number of people move to urban areas, cities around the world are considering options for improved sustainability. Because its climate is similar to other cities experiencing population booms, Phoenix is in a unique position to exemplify resilience in the face of climate change.

Recognizing this opportunity, local city officials and ASU researchers – such as those at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability – are working to provide a digestible definition of sustainability, as well as frameworks that can be easily implemented by policymakers. Through projects on campus, partnerships with municipalities and faculty-led investigations, these researchers are developing innovative solutions to complex challenges like feeding and transporting the population, reducing sprawl and preserving cultural identity.

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Sustainability scientist receives national recognition for research

May 27, 2014

vivoni_0Enrique Vivoni, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been named a recipient of the 2014 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. Awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the prize recognizes notable achievements in research related to civil engineering, and is generally given to members under the age of 40.

The selection committee cited Vivoni for his “contributions to the understanding of ecohydrologic processes in semi-arid areas,” taking particular note of his focus on the impacts of climate change. Over the past year, he has demonstrated the role of terrestrial plants on topographic, radiation and hydrological properties in aspect-delimited ecosystems; developed participatory modeling workshops in Mexico that address infrastructure and climate change impacts on water supply in rural settings; and identified the role of urban irrigation on soil moisture dynamics and its management implications in Phoenix.

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ASU’s algae-based biofuels of interest to US Navy

May 27, 2014

mcginn_in_lab_2Dennis McGinn – U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment – highlighted problems shared between the Navy and civilian cities during a recent visit to Arizona State University. In the realm of energy use and reliability, such overlapping issues include cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security.

During his visit, McGinn toured the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. As the largest university-based algae facility on the globe, AzCATI leads the DOE-funded national algae testbed, known as the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). McGinn expressed the Navy’s interest in the work done by both AzCATI and ATP3, particularly if the cost of creating algae biofuels shrinks to compete with traditional fuel markets.

Through the increased use of U.S.-made renewable fuels, McGinn expects that the nation will achieve a higher level of physical and economic security along with the Navy.

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Study links air conditioning ‘waste heat’ to increased temperatures

May 14, 2014

air-conditionersAn Arizona State University research team – which featured sustainability scientists Matei Georgescu, Alex Mahalov and Mohamed Moustaoui – found that the release of excess heat from air conditioners running during the night resulted in higher outdoor temperatures. This phenomenon not only worsens the urban heat island effect, but increases cooling demands, resulting in a positive feedback loop.

The study – titled “Anthropogenic Heating of the Urban Environment due to Air Conditioning” and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres - used a physics-based modeling system to evaluate the impact of heat emission from air conditioning systems on surrounding air temperature. They found that the effect of “waste heat” from air conditioning systems was more consequential during the night due to the limited depth of the urban boundary layer.

These findings will help to address future energy needs in a more sustainable manner.

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Sustainability scientists contribute to Arizona heat preparedness

May 12, 2014

heat-hydration_0Two senior sustainability scientists are among the ASU researchers working to prepare for Arizona’s dangerous, and sometimes fatal, summer temperatures. In an effort to reduce the number of heat-related deaths seen in 2013, Sharon Harlan  a professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change  is working to understand the details behind these incidents, such as the conditions under which they occur and the demographics that are most commonly affected. Her findings indicate that residents of inner-city neighborhoods with lower household incomes, particularly elderly individuals living alone, are at greatest risk.

Mikhail Chester, assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, leads a research team that focuses on the relationship between urban form and heat vulnerability. The team also created an interactive map that directs users to cooling stations in Maricopa County.

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Renewable Energy as a Key National Security Interest

Thought Leader Series

May 12, 2014

Lt-Gen-Norm-Seip-320x320A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Lt Gen (ret) Norman R. Seip, USAF

Note: May 17, 2014, is Armed Forces Day, a holiday established in 1949 by President Harry S. Truman as a single day for U.S. citizens to thank all military members for their service. On the occasion of the first Armed Forces Day, Truman recognized the military for progress toward its “goal of readiness for any eventuality,” a goal that endures today.

The Pentagon is leading the charge toward a secure renewable energy future. Senior military and national security leaders agree: a single-source dependence on fossil fuels – primarily oil – endangers our troops in combat zones and threatens our long-term security interests.

Additionally, our continued reliance on these dirty fuels is worsening the impacts of climate change. The effects of shifting weather patterns are already destabilizing vulnerable regions of the world, and international instability could force the military into an ever-rising number of resource-driven conflicts.

While the civilian “debate” on these issues trudges on – hampered largely by politicians beholden to petroleum interests – the Department of Defense has recognized that reducing fossil fuel dependence, investing in clean energy technologies, and incorporating climate change into national security strategies are operational, tactical, and strategic imperatives.

To strengthen our national security and prevent more of our servicemen and women from being sent into conflicts abroad, our civilian leaders would be wise to follow the lead of the military and increase our commitment to employing clean energy and combatting the threat of climate change.

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ASU honors conservationist with naming of Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

May 7, 2014

conservationist-julie-ann-wrigley-global-sustainabilityIn 2004, philanthropist and conservationist Julie Ann Wrigley participated in a gathering of some of the world’s leading thinkers in the field of sustainability. The meeting, led by Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow, outlined a vision of a successful sustainability institute that crossed academic disciplines and institutional boundaries to forge a new way of thinking about and solving the challenges of sustainability.

To help make that vision a reality, Wrigley made a $15 million gift to establish the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Later, she invested another $10 million to attract some of the world’s foremost scholar-researchers to the nascent School of Sustainability.

Today, the university announces an additional gift of $25 million, bringing Wrigley’s investments in sustainability at ASU to a total of $50 million. Wrigley is one of three families or individuals who have given $50 million or more to ASU – the others are Fulton Homes founder Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton and businessman William P. Carey.

VIDEO: Julie Ann Wrigley’s investment in sustainability at ASU »

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ASU scientists play key role in White House climate assessment

May 7, 2014

NCA3-Climate-Change-Impacts-in-the-United-States-Cover-smallThe third National Climate Assessment report, released by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, concludes that the effects of climate change are evident and primarily caused by human activity. Among the report’s contributors are two Arizona State University faculty and senior sustainability scientists – Nancy Grimm and Michael Kuby – who were lead authors on three chapters. In addition, Hallie Eakin, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, was a reviewer on the project.

Overall, the report includes 30 chapters covering climate change and its effects on a wide range of industries, activities and eight regions of the U.S. It demonstrates that how we adapt to these effects will go a long way in determining our future on Earth. Additionally, human-induced climate change is projected to accelerate significantly if emissions of heat trapping gasses continue to increase, threatening human health and well-being in many ways. The report, which included the input of nearly 300 authors and was overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee, is the most comprehensive assessment of the science and effects of climate change in the U.S.

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Sustainability grad influences water management reform

May 6, 2014

ben-warner2Ben Warner, a School of Sustainability doctoral student, used an interdisciplinary approach to determine the causes of water scarcity in the rural, semi-arid region of northwestern Costa Rica. By working directly with water and agricultural managers, Warner found that both drought and international trade liberalization treaties have had a major impact on smallholder farmers. As a result, they have become increasingly vulnerable to global changes and less capable of adapting to them.

In an effort to bolster smallholder farmers’ ability to cope with limited market access and frequent drought, Warner collected data from workshop proceedings, focus groups, interviews and surveys within the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation Project in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. His analysis revealed that farm size, farming tenure, the presence of family members working outside of the agricultural sector, livestock ownership, perceptions of climate change and household reliance on agriculture were determining factors in farmers’ decisions to adjust their livelihoods. His findings have since been used to refine agricultural water management policy in the region.

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Extreme makeover: sustainable residence hall edition

May 2, 2014


After a months-long transformation, the School of Sustainability Residential Community’s courtyard is an ideal gathering place.

Music, Mexican food, a perfect spring day on a patio in Tempe, Arizona…

This celebration has more of a mission than most, however. In between bites from Chipotle burritos, residents of the School of Sustainability Residential Community (SOSRC) are enthusiastically planting, building and painting. Several Wrigley Sustainability Institute staff members join them, and a butterfly flutters about a fledgling citrus tree as if imitating the activity.

This is the culmination of a months-long effort to recreate SOSRC’s courtyard, located in the appropriately named “S Cluster” of Adelphi Commons II. The colorful umbrellas, numerous planter boxes, plentiful seating and greenery are recent features of a patio that was nothing more than rocks and a French drain prior to the undertaking.

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Student Spotlight: David Jae Hoon Yu

May 2, 2014

David-YuMotivated by the desire to make an impact, School of Sustainability doctoral student and Neely Foundation grant recipient David Yu made a courageous decision that has changed the course of his career.

Yu was born and spent his formative years in Seoul, South Korea. As a teen, he immigrated to the Canadian province of British Columbia with his family. After graduating from Centennial High School in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, he enrolled in the engineering science program at Simon Fraser University.

Life after graduation was comfortable for Yu, who began working as an engineer and quality assurance professional in the IT industry. Though he made a decent living, he began craving a change.

“I wanted to have more impact than being just one of many engineers in a big company,” Yu says. “I wanted an exciting career that allowed me to contribute and make an impact, even when I’m 60 or 70 years old.”

With his sights set on a new occupation in either environmental policy or sustainability science, Yu resigned from his job of seven years to pursue the graduate degree necessary to attain it.

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ASU helps local schools divert waste, promote sustainability education

May 1, 2014

downtown-phxInspired by the goal of a 40 percent diversion rate put forth by the Reimagine Phoenix initiative, Paradise Valley Unified School District (PV Schools) is finding new uses for trash. As one of the largest districts in Arizona, generating nearly 1,500 tons of waste per year, PV Schools has partnered with the Mayo Clinic of Arizona, the City of Phoenix and the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) – a program operated by Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainability Solutions Services (S3) – to achieve this aim.

Not only are teams of experts from ASU and Mayo Clinic helping the school district to prevent, minimize, reuse and recycle waste, the partnership presents an opportunity to incorporate sustainability into students’ studies. Sustainability students from Paradise Valley schools have already completed an assessment of the district’s current waste strategies, pinpointing opportunities for improvement and for educating their peers. Beginning in the fall, teachers will design a waste diversion curriculum in consultation with the expert teams, and at least one elementary, junior high and high school will conduct a waste diversion project.

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National Academy of Sciences inducts sustainability scientist

April 30, 2014

franklin_0708 (1)Janet Franklin, a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Wrigley Sustainability Institute and professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This election, considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive, recognizes Franklin’s distinguished and continued achievements in original scientific research that can be used for the general benefit of society.

Beginning with the idea that Earth is a whole, living organism, Franklin’s research addresses the impacts of human-caused landscape change, as well as their long-term implications for the environment and its inhabitants  Her work combines field work with statistical modeling, computer simulation, geospatial data and spatial analysis.

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