Global Institute of Sustainability News

The Second Moment of Climate Change: Fire, Flood, and Drought

Thought Leader Series

August 27, 2013

A Thought Leader Series Piece

John-Sabo-TLSBy John Sabo

Note: John Sabo is the Global Institute of Sustainability’s director of research development, where he leads a grant proposal team that since 2008, has brought in over $44 million in expenditures. Sabo also collaborates with scientists across the U.S. investigating the impacts of water shortages on the sustainability of human and natural systems.

The year 2013 will be remembered in the U.S. as a year of extremes: The effects of Hurricane Sandy continue to cripple New York City. Droughts across the Corn Belt are causing massive crop failure. Devastating fires destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado for a second year in a row. Flash floods have claimed lives and businesses from coast to coast, including communities experiencing recent drought and fire. This year was exceptional. Or was it?

When most people think of climate change, they think of global warming—the trend of rising air temperatures that causes a shift in expected or long-term average climate conditions. There are valid exceptions to the trend of course. Many people observe their cities occasionally cooling, and therefore think global warming is not happening. Local observations that differ from the global average from time to time are an example of a second aspect of climate change that is equally, if not more important, than the global trend: Climate change exacerbates regional differences in climate as well as the swing between years of famine and years of plenty.

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GreenBiz.com: How to turn any leader into a sustainability leader

August 26, 2013

As part of a GreenBiz webcast, Arizona State University Senior Sustainability Scientist George Basile and Dell’s director of global sustainability operations Bruno Sarda shared their advice on what it takes to tackle sustainability challenges: sustainability leaders.

“One of the big challenges is that sustainability is typically framed as a set of disparate problems,” Basile says. “It doesn’t allow business leaders to be effective.”

A sustainability leader needs to inspire and transform businesses and organizations if improvements are to be made. Sarda shares his six steps for implementing sustainability at Dell: vision, strategy, goals, plans, execution, and communication. Fortunately, both experts agree sustainability leadership can be learned.

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ASU art professor teaches Honduran youth sustainability through photography

August 26, 2013

Julie Anand, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Art and a Senior Sustainability Scholar in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, designed and organized a photography workshop at a Honduran nonprofit this past summer. She partnered with Guaruma, an organization that provides photography and computer science after-school programs to local Honduran youth.

“We created cyanotypes because they are very elemental—only needing sunlight, water, and observation of natural patterns,” says Anand. ”Through photography classes at Guaruma, the children learn to understand their place, to be wide awake in it, and to love it.”

The students’ artwork will be displayed at ASU’s Step Gallery September 16-20, with an opening reception on Tuesday, September 17, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Sales from the artwork will go to Honduran primary and secondary schools. All are welcome to attend.

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Senior Sustainability Scientist helps develop wildlife data collection app

August 26, 2013

Every scientist knows it’s hard to keep track of data, especially if it’s data taken from hard-to-reach wildlife subjects. That’s why Senior Sustainability Scientist Heather Bateman and her colleagues in the College of Technology and Innovation created a mobile phone app that allows researchers to enter data at any time at a more accurate and faster level.

Bateman studies lizards and came across the app idea when she was finding errors in data collection. The current field methods allowed for more human errors than scientists would like.

“We realized this was a problem for us, and probably a problem for anyone who collects data in the field,” Bateman says. “Not having a way to track electronically while on site meant we couldn’t immediately check for errors or duplications.”

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ASU ranks among world’s top 100 universities

August 23, 2013

Arizona State University joins Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Center for World-Class Universities top 100 universities in the world list. Shanghai Jiao Tong University just released its 11th edition of “2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities.”

According to the authors of the rankings, ASU is “perhaps the most advanced globally in terms of merging the boundaries between academic disciplines. President Michael Crow has led Arizona in a strategy of differentiation, whereby the university’s academic profile is focused upon intellectual fusion around major international challenges.”

Within the report, ASU ranked 46th among all universities in the United States and 25th among all public U.S. universities.

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ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City expands water reuse studies using WaterMatch

August 22, 2013

To investigate the demand and uses of graywater or effluent in Arizona, Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) turned to a social networking and digital mapping program called WaterMatch. In 2011, ASU partnered with Intel and CH2M HILL to develop the program that “plays matchmaker” for graywater producers and consumers. DCDC is using WaterMatch to investigate the incentives, roadblocks, and constraints for wastewater reuse.

“This is important because there are many different groups that are pointing to water reuse as an important part of the solution for water sustainability,” says Dave White, principal investigator, co-director of DCDC, and senior sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Two School of Sustainability students, Saad Ahmed and Rud Moe, were data collectors for WaterMatch, locating water treatment plants in Arizona and New Mexico.

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Study finds ways to eliminate invasive plants naturally

August 21, 2013

College of Technology and Innovation professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist Heather Bateman is joining Northern Arizona University professor Matt Johnson to study how the tamarisk leaf beetle influences wildlife populations in Southwestern riparian ecosystems like the Virgin River that stretches through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Known as a type of “biocontrol,” the beetle could naturally eliminate non-native vegetation like saltceder without causing harm to wildlife.

However, the endangered flycatcher often nests in saltceder, creating a controversial environment to test the beetle biocontrol.

“Some researchers have identified a potential dilemma that the biocontrol beetle could defoliate saltcedar where the flycatcher is nesting and cause nests to fail,” Bateman says. “However, defoliation can occur at different times of the summer, depending upon beetle movement and densities. Therefore, it is important to determine the timing of saltcedar defoliation and flycatcher nesting.”

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GreenBiz.com: At ASU, sustainable procurement isn’t just an academic exercise

August 18, 2013

Recycling BinIn a recent article, GreenBiz senior writer Heather Clancy highlights the many sustainability achievements and goals for Arizona State University, a “driving force behind the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.”

ASU aims to become carbon-neutral by 2025, a goal already in the works with 72 solar systems, electric vehicles, recycling and composting efforts, and sustainable purchasing.

To guide ASU’s sustainable purchasing efforts, the business and purchasing team uses an automation and process management application developed by SciQuest. The program is all part of ASU’s ”principled practice” philosophy, writes Clancy.

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Arizona State University announces new Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership

Institute Press Releases

August 15, 2013

TEMPE, Ariz. – August 15, 2013 – Recognizing a gap in sustainability leadership education and development, Arizona State University, the nation’s leader in sustainability education, is launching a new executive master’s program focusing on organizational leadership. This new program will equip professionals with the skills to effectively integrate sustainability throughout all facets of their organizations.

Developed by ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program of the Global Institute of Sustainability, and housed at the School of Sustainability, the new Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership (EMSL) is a 13-month program designed for mid-career professionals currently employed in or near sustainability roles with its first class commencing in January 2014.

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ASU is named a 2013 ‘Cool School’ by Sierra Club

August 14, 2013

Each year, the Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, analyzes and rates national universities based on particular sustainability categories like food, transportation, and curriculum. This year, Arizona State University ranks 55 out of 162 universities. ASU shines in the curriculum, purchasing, and transportation categories, beating University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

To be part of the annual rankings, university administrators are responsible for submitting answers to the Sierra Club’s questionnaire, sharing accomplishments and methods on sustainability practices.

To date, ASU generates a total of 20.8 MW of solar energy on all campuses and is developing a zero waste program with Waste Management. University employees and students are always finding ways to purchase sustainable materials and reuse supplies.

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ASU student develops water purifier, named College Entrepreneur of the Year

August 14, 2013

ASU chemical engineering graduate student Jared Schoepf, co-founder of SafeSIPP, a student-led startup in ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, has been named a top five finalist in the “College Entrepreneur of the Year” competition run by Entrepreneur Magazine.

SafeSIPP was founded by Schoepf and his fellow ASU chemical engineering classmates Lindsay Fleming and Taylor Barker, to solve three critical problems facing rural communities in the developing world: transportation, purification and storage of drinking water.

“The statistics are staggering,” says Schoepf. “More than 3,000 children die each day in developing countries because they don’t have access to clean, safe-to-consume water. When the SafeSIPP team set out to create our water system, we knew we had to address this issue as well as the transportation issue. So we invented a purification unit that attaches within the system so that, as the barrel is being transported, the water is simultaneously being purified as it moves.”

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Green Living Magazine: Film director Peter Byck teaches Sustainability Storytelling

August 13, 2013

In the August issue of Green Living Magazine, newly appointed professor of practice and documentarist Peter Byck shares his expectations for his new fall course, Sustainability Storytelling. In a teaching position jointly shared between ASU’s School of Sustainability and ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Byck will show students how to film their own short documentary on solar power in Arizona.

“The first place that we’re going to delve into is all the solar work that’s going on in Gila Bend,” he says. “The class starts in August and we’ll start shooting in September.”

Byck is also working on his most recent documentary, a follow-up to his 2010 film, Carbon Nation called Carbon Nation 2.0, under a partnership with ASU.

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Pacific Standard: Sustainability scientist explores why your yard looks like your neighbor’s

August 13, 2013

In a Pacific Standard article, reporter Cameron Walker explores how yards across America are starting to look the same. He compares the nation’s yards to a checkerboard, especially when you look from up above in an airplane. Why is this happening?

Several of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) location researchers, including those from ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, are finding that increasingly urban cities are planting species similar to other urban areas instead of local flora.

Sustainability Scientist and investigator Kelli Larson surveyed Phoenix homeowners who said homeowner associations specified what plants could grow in their lawns, sometimes preferring exotic species. Fortunately, many Phoenicians are happy to adopt the natural, water-saving xeriscaping method.

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GreenBiz.com: How ASU aims to create sustainability leaders in business

August 12, 2013

apm_asu_30_2In an article by GreenBiz.com producer Joel Makower, Arizona State University’s recently developed Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership program is said ”to fill a critical gap in sustainability education in business.” Meant for those already in the business world, but looking to advance their education and background, the new program takes only a year to complete and is based around four curriculum themes: leadership, strategy, communication, and global context.

“One of the things we’ve found is that there’s a real yearning for organizations to understand what sustainability is and [how] it can add value to organizations,” says Christopher Boone, professor and interim dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability. “Ultimately, [sustainability is] about finding solutions. When we’re thinking about solutions, we need to think about not just how things work in theory, but how we can apply that theory to find solutions to complex problems.”

The first cohort begins in January. On Aug. 20, Joel Makower will host a one-hour webcast, The Secrets of Sustainable Leadership in Business, sponsored by the ASU Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership program. Register here.

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ASU continues to “LEED” in sustainable construction

August 8, 2013

The 2012 edition of “Higher Education Sustainability Review,” a publication of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights some of Arizona State University’s sustainable construction achievements.

Additionally, the U.S. Green Building Council, developer of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, has recognized ASU as having the most LEED-certified structures in the state of Arizona and the most LEED gold-certified new buildings.

Since 2009, ASU instated a Sustainable Design Policy for new construction and renovation projects on all campuses.

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School of Sustainability alum now environmental program manager for City of Avondale

August 7, 2013

Culotta,DanielDaniel Culotta, who graduated from ASU’s School of Sustainability last spring, is now the Environmental Program Manager for the City of Avondale. He is responsible for assisting companies, facilities, and organizations in achieving environmental regulation compliance, but also for creating the city’s first-ever municipal sustainability plan.

“We’re creating the sustainability plan using an up-to-date, participatory, and evidence-based approach,” Culotta says. “This plan will serve as the foundation for action going forward.”

Culotta attributes his career success to the organizational and solution-focused experiences he had while at the School of Sustainability. He hopes that his new position will show people that sustainability is a fact of life.

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A rare sight: ASU researcher records endangered Russian snow leopard spotting

August 6, 2013

Mimi Kessler, a doctoral candidate in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, visited the Russian Altai Mountains as a linguistic and cultural liaison for the Wild Altai expedition when she spotted two little ears on top of a ridge during a hike.

“Once I was certain of what I was seeing, I told the rest, ‘You are not going to believe this, but there is a snow leopard on that ridge,’” Kessler says. “My companions grabbed their binoculars, took a look and started yelling with joy. The cat continued to look at us for a few moments, then slowly walked further up the ridge and out of sight.”

The Russian snow leopard is listed as threatened due to illegal poaching and predator-prey conflicts. There are only a reported 90 leopards in Russia. The Altai Project, the expedition’s organizer, aims to balance sustainable community development in the growing region and conservation of endangered species like the snow leopard.

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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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