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Meeting emissions targets after Paris climate talks

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 19, 2016

Smokestacks billow emissions in front of a blue skyWithin months of the Paris climate talks, more than 20 city officials from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for a "how-to" on inventorying sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The training – led by Raj Buch, practice lead for the Walton Global Sustainability Solutions Services – helped attendees determine where emissions cuts are most needed.

Twenty-one city officials attended, from countries including Argentina, India, South Africa, Korea, Bolivia, China and Bangladesh. All of them were clients of World Bank, an organization that mainly finances Third World infrastructure projects and is concerned about the effects climate change will have on them.

Bank officials asked the School of Sustainability to design and deliver a curriculum around this topic, as it had done for other topics in the past. The workshop will be produced in an online format, as well.


Love of a language shapes sustainability grad's path

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 16, 2016

Bridget Harding standing on a wet walking path through a field of tall flowersSchool of Sustainability student Bridget Harding's love of the Korean language, which she studied throughout high school and her time at ASU, has shaped her path in a few profound ways.

First, it prompted her to study abroad in South Korea, where she became interested in East vs. West perspectives on nature and ecology. It also became a point of intrigue for potential employers, who viewed that the knack for learning such a difficult language as an indicator of other aptitudes – like learning difficult computer programs.

Harding was admitted into the Fulbright Scholarship Program in South Korea, where she will teach English for at least one year. She is one of the 118  uniquely-talented students to graduate from the School of Spring in 2016.


A big boost for bioenergy research at ASU

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

May 16, 2016

Bright green algae in tubesTwo ASU biofuel projects are among six nationwide receiving $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore innovative solutions in bioenergy.

One project aims to improve algal biomass growth while reducing evaporation and eliminating the need for cooling. It has the potential to reach five times the current algal production rates, reducing the cost of enclosed algal cultivation systems and boosting total fuel potential.

The other will engineer cyanobacteria for the production of ethyl laurate, which is easily converted to biofuels or bioproducts that are compatible with existing infrastructure. The expected outcome is an economically competitive yield of a biofuel produced directly from CO2 under the influence of sunlight.

These projects will support the work of the Bioenergy Technologies Office to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels and develop a more robust bioeconomy. This means more green jobs and innovation, as well as a better environment and national energy security.


A glimpse into the future of algae

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

May 11, 2016

summerfeld_and_algae-5One of the nation’s top experts on algae, ASU sustainability scientist Milton Sommerfeld, has spent half of a century exploring the possibilities of the plant as a super food, fuel, fertilizer and more.

Sommerfeld – co-director of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation – explains that there are roughly 75,000 different types of algae, and that certain strains are more optimal for given uses than others.

According to Sommerfeld, the most immediate impact from algae will be in bioremediation – a waste management technique that uses organisms to remove or neutralize pollutants from a contaminated site. He expects commercial algal biofuels further down the line, as production will require scaling the small cultivation operations of the present to an industrial level.


Thinking circularly in a rapidly-growing megacity

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 10, 2016

asu-circular-economy-workshop-lagos-2To help address the mounting challenges of Africa's most populous city – Lagos, Nigeria – the Global Sustainability Solutions Services of ASU’s Walton Initiatives hosted a three-day workshop there in April 2016.

The first of its kind in the world, the "Introduction to Ethical Circular Economy" workshop was hosted at Sustainability School Lagos – an institution modeled after ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. It encouraged the group of 35 students, city and state officials, and others to imagine an economy where resources are remanufactured, refurbished and recycled – nothing is wasted.

“There is a tremendous amount of potential for a circular economy in rapidly developing countries,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist and Practice Lead Raj Buch. “It’s where the larger opportunity arises because it’s where most of the economic development is going to happen.”

Buch co-led the course with General Manager Dan O’Neill and Olufemi Olarewaju – an Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership graduate and the executive director of the Sustainability School Lagos.


WaterSim debuts at largest science festival in US

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

April 18, 2016

DCDC staff stand in front of booth, smiling and flashing ASU pitchforkASU's Decision Center for a Desert City was one of only 30 National Science Foundation-funded projects invited to represent the organization at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., from April 16-17, 2016.

Visitors to the DCDC  booth learned about water in the West through WaterSim – a simulation tool created by the center to estimate water supply and demand for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It allows users to explore how various factors like regional growth, drought, climate change and water management policies influence water sustainability.

The festival – the largest and only national science festival, as well as the largest STEM education event in the United States – saw an estimated 350,000 visitors over the course of two days.


Best-selling author takes a look at your next meal

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

April 14, 2016

Author Michael Pollan sitting at table with his books smiling at studentAuthor, journalist and food activist Michael Pollan — named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine — gave a Wrigley Lecture on April 14, 2016, as part of the School of Sustainability's 10th anniversary celebration.

Pulling from 15 years of research, Pollan detailed the many shifts in agriculture since the industrial revolution – including the move from sunlight to oil. He explained how many factories that supported WWII – like those that manufactured bombs – went into the food business post-war, making products like pesticides instead.

These shifts have had a number of unintended negative consequences, Pollan explained. They include crops that are so laden with chemicals that they are not fit for direct human consumption, a poor quality of life for farmed animals, and a significant toll on the overall health of Americans.

Pollan concluded by commending the ASU Wrigley Institute for its focus on solutions to the problems of food system sustainability. After receiving a standing ovation, he joined the excitement at both the Rescued Food Feast and Festival of Sustainability at ASU.


Anniversary celebration propels school into its next decade

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 14, 2016

asu-school-of-sustainability-ten-yearsIn 2014-2015, more than 1,500 ASU students were enrolled as sustainability majors and minors across business, engineering, sustainability, humanities and nutrition. Ten years prior, the degree did not exist – not at ASU or any other university in the nation.

The festivities on April 14, 2016, not only celebrated the evolution and accomplishments of the first-ever School of Sustainability, they recognized the foresight and collaborative spirit of Arizona State University as a whole.

The day began with a packed house at a Wrigley Lecture by best-selling author and food activist Michael Pollan, who discussed some disturbing trends in our food system and how they can be reversed. After receiving a standing ovation from the audience, Pollan joined the migration to the Rescued Food Feast, which served nearly 1,000 people with delicious meals made from nutritious foods typically disposed of for cosmetic reasons alone.

Diners then followed members of ASU's marching band to the front steps of Wrigley Hall, where Benefactor Julie Wrigley and President Michael Crow remarked on the occasion. Alumni, faculty and community members alike then enjoyed the Festival of Sustainability at ASU, featuring a Farmers Market, live music and exhibits by departments throughout the university.

It was a 10th birthday to remember!


Mexico to modernize power grid with help from ASU

ASU Sustainability News

April 6, 2016

Electrical towering looming in front of a bright blue skyASU was recently named a participant in a three-year, $26-million grant that will help Mexico – a country in the midst of privatizing and updating its energy industry – explore its energy options and how it can connect with its neighbors.

The grant was awarded to the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey by Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology and its Secretary of Energy, and is designed to address the energy economy in the country. It will help build infrastructure, perform research and conduct educational activities, preparing Mexico for its energy future.

ASU is receiving $1.5 million of the grant and will provide its energy economic modeling proficiency via the Decision Theater. It will also apply its renowned expertise in power engineering to the project, according to ASU LightWorks Deputy Director Stephen Goodnick.


Conservation biology students launch Nature@ASU

ASU Sustainability News Biodiversity News

March 28, 2016

Waterfall in a lush tropical forestA group of ASU undergraduate and graduate students has created an extensive resource dedicated to enhancing the experience of future conservation biologists and showing them the range of career options in the field.

Nature@ASU, which launches in fall 2016, will feature five components: a mentorship program; an internship finder; a job-mining component; high school outreach; and a website.

Sharon Hall, associate director of education and diversity at the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and a senior sustainability scientist, will serve as Nature@ASU's faculty adviser. She explains that though conservation biology careers are numerous, they are often unclear to high school students and their parents.

The is where the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes will play a supporting role, helping Nature@ASU create a hub for conservation biology engagement.


Let's talk water abundance, not scarcity, says new initiative

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 22, 2016

Desert mountains in background and calm lake in foregroundA five-year Arizona State University initiative called FutureH2O is flipping the global conversation about water – focusing on abundance and how to create it, rather than on scarcity.

John Sabo, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Life Sciences, directs the new initiative and announced it at a White House Water Summit on March 22, 2016.

“FutureH2O will look for new opportunities to harness the abundance of water on the planet,” said Sabo. “Some of these opportunities are things you’d expect us to do as a university, like training the next generation of water managers. But some of the other opportunities are things that ASU is uniquely poised to do."

ASU will work with large corporate water consumers to restore what they use, train a new generation of leaders on water usage, turn a Phoenix-area municipality into a model for reducing outdoor water use, as well as maximize sensors, data and the internet on a global scale to instantly manage water and hydropower.


LightWorks draws VIP crowd at energy innovation summit

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

March 16, 2016

Al-Gore-ARPA-E-LightWorks-ASUTaking part in a high-visibility event near the nation’s capital means you need to be on your toes. Just ask sustainability scientist Zak Holman, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He was displaying a technology at the recent ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit near Washington, D.C., when Al Gore, the former vice president, walked up and asked him about the PVMirror Holman had invented.

Holman’s PVMirrors were part of an ASU LightWorks display put on by Arizona State University for the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) summit. ASU professors, staff and students took part in the three-day event. They had the chance to show off their work to several people, including dignitaries like Jim Yong Kim – president of the World Bank – who was also impressed by Holman's technology.


Status of sustainability in the Colorado River Basin

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

March 3, 2016

Panelists discuss water in front of audience“We have more interest, more data, and more planning tools than we’ve ever had."

This was a sentiment expressed by James Eklund – director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board – at Decision Center for a Desert City's annual keynote on March 3, 2016.

The discussion, titled "A Conversation about Solutions for Water Sustainability in the Colorado River Basin," also included Eklund's Arizona counterpart Tom Buschatzke – director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

The two water chieftains, moderated by sustainability scientist Wellington “Duke” Reiter, explained that Arizona and Colorado have an ample water supply as the result of very careful planning and conservation.

They stressed that this fact should not keep residents of the states from viewing water as the precious resource it is.


Powering Pakistan's future through partnership

ASU Sustainability News

February 16, 2016

smiling student in striped tee shirt next to smiling man in suitThe first cohort in a partnership with leading Pakistani engineering universities – dedicated to researching and developing solutions for Pakistan’s energy needs – was welcomed to ASU in January 2016.

The 24 exchange graduate students are part of a project called the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy – directed by Senior Sustainability Scientist Sayfe Kiaei. USPCAS-E aims to fully unlock Pakistan’s economic potential through an educated and involved workforce. It intends to accomplish this by addressing Pakistan's unique energy needs and developing relationships between government, industry and academia to inform sustainable policy.

The collaboration is sponsored by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission and the U.S. Agency for International Development, who awarded ASU $18 million to support the project.


Tri-continental partnership takes on global issues

ASU Sustainability News

February 9, 2016

university presidents sitting onstage in front of audienceIn February 2016, Arizona State University and two other major research institutions formally launched the PLuS Alliance, a new tri-continental partnership to help find research-led solutions to global challenges and expand access to world-class learning.

ASU, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales in Australia are combining cutting-edge research capabilities, faculty expertise and student experience to address global issues related to sustainability, health, social justice, and technology and innovation. The research will be supported with a suite of related online learning programs.

“There are two essential, core things that need to be advanced at the largest scale possible, with the deepest impact possible,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “And those are educational attainment and sustainable outcomes. And those two things together sit at the core of this alliance.”


Western mayors team up to tackle water challenges

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

February 8, 2016

mayors in suits and ties smiling for pictureAlongside the January 2016 U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., leaders from Phoenix, Mesa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Aurora and Fort Collins, Colorado, met to discuss what actions their cities are taking to address urban water supply and demand issues in an era of changing climate.

The “Western Mayors Water and Climate Change Summit” was hosted by Dave White – director of the ASU Wrigley Institute’s Decision Center for a Desert City –  and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. The mayors of participating cities covered topics like the role information technology will play in conserving water and the importance of educating the next generation of leaders in government, industry and environmental policy.

“The idea of thinking about providing a secure, sustainable water supply for future generations is this notion of a public good that really crosses sectors — public, private, nonprofit — and requires us to train leaders in all of them,” White said.

Building on the initial meeting, the group will evaluate a series of principles developed by Decision Center for a Desert City with the goal of refining, and ultimately moving toward, a consensus for implementation.


New tool helps corporations apply analytics to water use

ASU Sustainability News Biodiversity News

January 22, 2016

asu-water-decision-toolASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes is behind a revolutionary tool unveiled at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, held in Paris in December 2015, and now piquing the interest of major corporations.

The Green Infrastructure Support Tool was developed by Senior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo - affiliated faculty in the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes - and helps corporations apply analytics to their water use, simultaneously supporting water conservation, habitat restoration and the bottom line.

Dow Chemical is now considering implementation of the tool at its Texas operations on the Brazos River. Here, there are many places where wetlands can be restored, but only a few that are economically viable and will better meet Dow's bottom line. Finding where it would be best to invest in green infrastructure is what the tool does.

The development of the tool was made possible through a partnership with Earth Genome - a nonprofit with the goal to enable key institutions to account for natural capital in decision-making.


Celebrating 10 years of leading the way

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News

January 4, 2016

asu-school-sustainability-anniversaryArizona State University’s School of Sustainability has been boldly leading the way to a sustainable future since its inception in 2006.

Now in 2016, the school – the first comprehensive, degree-granting program of its kind in the nation – reaches its 10th Anniversary. The milestone will be marked with a series of memorable events from April 14-16, including a Wrigley Lecture by renowned author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan.

The school has enjoyed numerous accomplishments over the past decade, including an expanding set of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, a minor in sustainability and multiple online offerings. It has also established training partnerships with organizations including the International Finance Corporation, World Bank, Starbucks, Walton Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, United States Agency for International Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Food security a historic factor in climate resilience

ASU Sustainability News

December 28, 2015

vulnerability-climate-resilienceUnderstanding human capacity to cope with climate challenges of the distant past has great significance for adequately addressing those that we face today.

Teams of researchers – including Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Margaret Nelson – working in both the American Southwest and North Atlantic islands of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes have found that historic and prehistoric peoples who were vulnerable to food shortage were especially susceptible to climate challenges.

In each instance, eight variables – ranging from social to environmental – were applied to quantify vulnerability to food shortage in the absence of climate challenges. The cases with lowest vulnerability showed no extreme social change or food shortage following climate-related disasters. Researchers also found that social factors, such as limitations on networks and mobility, were the primary contributors to food shortage vulnerability.

Nelson, the lead author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on these findings, says the research illustrates that addressing vulnerabilities – even those that are not climate-related – is a key part of climate disaster management.


Creating concrete that can better weather heat

ASU Sustainability News

December 23, 2015

roads-sustainability-resilienceA new international initiative called Infravation, a combination of infrastructure and innovation, endeavors to rebuild major roads in ways that are more sustainable.

ASU engineer and sustainability scientist Narayanan Neithalath's proposal was among fewer than ten selected by the European Commission from nearly 100, with only one other from the United States. His $1.6 million award will be used to find out whether mixing a phase-change material with concrete can significantly enhance the durability of pavements and bridge decks.

Phase-change materials are substances that respond to temperature variations by changing their state from solid to liquid or vice versa, and can be sourced from petroleum or plants. The substance Neithalath's Infravation team is working with is especially effective at absorbing and releasing thermal energy, which makes it a good choice for mixing with concrete. This is because the material can absorb much of the heat it is exposed to, thereby protecting concrete from temperatures that can trigger fractures.