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Conservation International partners with ASU’s Decision Theater on innovative tool

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

November 7, 2018

A dry, cracked bed of dirt with grass in backgroundClimate change. Species loss. Pollution.

These are well-known consequences of economic development threatening human and ecological health. International efforts to mitigate these threats are also familiar, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting endangered animals and cleaning our air and waterways.

However, perhaps the most crucial threat is also the most neglected — land degradation.

Approximately 1.3 billion people depend on polluted or degraded agricultural land. This leads to reduced agricultural productivity and access to water and increased carbon emissions. It is a complex problem with serious implications for food security, health and sustainable development.

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Biomimicry Center planting inspiration with seed exhibit

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

October 26, 2018

whirlybirdStill most widely associated with the invention of velcro, ASU researchers are walking the talk of biomimicry with a newly renovated office space and a new seed exhibit they hope will capture the imagination of innovators seeking solutions for complex human problems.

"Seeds continue to offer a bottomless design and engineering trove for many other innovations," said Heidi Fischer, assistant director at the Biomimicry Center. "We hope that our exhibition can provide new models for some of these innovations."

Titled “Designed to Move: Seeds that Float, Fly or Hitchhike through the Desert Southwest,” the exhibit, opening Oct. 30 in the Design School South Gallery on ASU's Tempe campus is offering viewers an extraordinary look at the beauty of desert seeds as captured through the macro photography lens of Taylor James, an alumni of ASU’s Masters of Fine Arts program.

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How NAFTA is affecting the long-term viability of Mexico's water supply

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

October 26, 2018

A small fence separates the densely populated Tijuana, Mexico (right) from the United States in the Border Patrol's San Diego sectorRed-tailed hawks can live to be up to 20 years old. If a fledging had caught a thermal in 1994 and spent the next two decades aloft above the U.S.-Mexico border, it would have witnessed some startling changes:

Mexican border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana ballooning as thousands streamed north to work in maquiladora factories, assembling products like garage door openers to be sold in the U.S. and Canada. Farmland around American cities morphing into suburbs. Mexican land being turned into agricultural fields.

What would not be visible from the air is the depletion of Mexican groundwater to grow the fruits and vegetables sent north.

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The importance of African-Americans to the executive kitchen

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

October 8, 2018

Whitehouse KitchenAt an October 5 Food and Thought event sponsored by Arizona State University College of Health Solutions, Author Adrian Miller spoke about the importance of African-Americans to the executive kitchen. Miller, a James Beard Award winner, signed copies of his new book at the event, which also featured food tastings an an audience question-and-answer session.

Miller’s book, "The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas," takes a look at some of the most pivotal characters in the White House’s kitchen history, some of which he spoke about at the event hosted by the ASU College of Health Solutions.

The reception also featured some of the recipes included in the book that were prepared for presidents and their families throughout history, including first lady Caroline Harrison’s deviled almonds and a baked macaroni and cheese that was served to Thomas Jefferson.

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Sustainability master's student wins water research award from Central Arizona Project

School of Sustainability News DCDC News Alumni and Student Spotlights

September 21, 2018

Woman with curled red hair smilingVeronica Horvath, an Arizona State University Master of Science in sustainability student and Decision Center for a Desert City research assistant, is a first place awardee of the 2018 Central Arizona Project Award for outstanding water research. This is the first time a DCDC research assistant has won this award. Horvath presented her work at the Arizona Hydrological Society's annual symposium on September 21 alongside several ASU sustainability scientists who research water.

“As an aspiring water scholar, I feel extremely grateful to receive this award for water research, especially because the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Hydrological Society are significant players involved with addressing Arizona's water future beyond academia,” Horvath said. “It is an honor to share this work with Arizona's dedicated practitioners, policy makers and water managers, and is a true representation of how ASU, DCDC, and the School of Sustainability foster use-inspired research.”

Horvath answered a few questions for us about her research and experience at ASU.

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ASU students study wildlife in Okavango Delta

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

August 17, 2018

ASU students in Botswana analyzing wetlands water for oxygen levels and microorganismsSix Arizona State University students spent 10 days in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, one of the most remote places on Earth, studying a critically important ecosystem with some of the top experts in the world.

The study abroad trip is a new project of the PLuS Alliance, the two-year-old partnership among ASU, King’s College London and UNSW Sydney in Australia. The ASU team joined seven students from the other two universities in an immersive three-credit research course titled, “Intersection of Water, Ecosystems and Governance.”

The point was to look at one of the world’s last unspoiled aquatic environments from an interdisciplinary perspective, according to sustainability scientist Dave White, a professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, who was the ASU professor on the trip. The other experts were professors from KCL and UNSW, who were experts in aquatic ecosystems, and Claire McWilliams, an instructor in tourism the School of Community Resources and Development.

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ASU spring Ditch the Dumpster sees new record of donations

ASU Sustainability News

August 8, 2018

The Arizona State University Zero Waste department collected 58,000 pounds of reusable items in the spring 2018 Ditch the Dumpster event, more than any previous years.

Ditch the Dumpster is a campus program to collect and redistribute or divert student's items when they move out of the dorms. Collected items are donated to organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Goodwill, St. Mary's Food Bank, The Center for Habilitation, and United Food Bank.

This year, Zero Waste collected 58,820 pounds of reusable clothing, electronics, furniture, and other household items. On top of these donations, 97,480 pounds of materials were recycled. The Ditch the Dumpster program also donated more than $5,400 in scholarships for local students.

Visit the Zero Waste website for more Ditch the Dumpster information.

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Monsoon rains found to be beneficial to underground aquifers

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 2, 2018

A storm cloud drops torrential rain over a desert mountainUsing a combination of field instrumentation, unmanned aerial vehicles and a hydrologic model, a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Program of the National Science Foundation has been studying the fate of monsoon rainfall and its impact on groundwater recharge in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.

Their findings, recently published in the journal Water Resources Research, explain how a surprising amount of rainfall, nearly 25 percent, from monsoon storms is absorbed into small stream beds and percolates into the groundwater system. The researchers identified factors affecting the percolation process through the use of a numerical model that reproduced the long-term observations obtained at a highly instrumented research site.

“The results of this study show that monsoon storms serve an important role in recharging groundwater aquifers near the point of runoff generation,” said ASU hydrologist Enrique Vivoni of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “This is an essential process that banks renewable surface water for future use as a groundwater resource in the arid Southwest and throughout the world.”

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ASU research demonstrates silicon-based tandem photovoltaic modules can compete in solar market

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 2, 2018

ASU Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan Yu holds up solar cellNew solar energy research from Arizona State University demonstrates that silicon-based tandem photovoltaic modules, which convert sunlight to electricity with higher efficiency than present modules, will become increasingly attractive in the U.S.

A paper that explores the costs vs. enhanced efficiency of this new solar technology appears in Nature Energy this week. The paper is authored by ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan J. Yu, graduate student Joe V. Carpenter and Assistant Professor Zachary Holman.

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative was launched in 2011 with a goal of making solar cost-competitive with conventional energy sources by 2020. The program attained its goal of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour three years early, and a new target of $0.03 per kilowatt-hour by 2030 has been set. Increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic modules is one route to reducing the cost of the solar electricity to this new target. If reached, the goal is expected to triple the amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario.

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Psyche mission aims to help scientists understand Earth’s core

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 17, 2018

Artist's rendition of Psyche asteroid with spacecraft in backgroundThree times farther from the sun than Earth, a massive asteroid made of metal floats in space between Mars and Jupiter. Its name is Psyche, and it could be the core of an early planet that survived violent collisions when the solar system was forming. Psyche was the sixteenth asteroid ever discovered, in 1852, but only recently has a spacecraft mission been initiated by Arizona State University and NASA to study this asteroid in more depth.

Unlike most other known asteroids, which are primarily rocky, Psyche appears to be made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal — much like Earth’s own core. According to ASU’s Psyche website, “The asteroid Psyche may be able to tell us how Earth’s core and the cores of the other terrestrial (rocky) planets came to be.” Scientists can’t investigate Earth’s core directly, so studying an asteroid with a similar makeup may be the next best thing.

ASU leads the Psyche mission, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for its management, operations and spacecraft navigation. The spacecraft is slated to launch in 2022, and then it will spend nearly four years cruising through space, using the gravitational field of Mars to increase in speed, until it reaches Psyche in 2026. Upon arrival, the spacecraft will orbit Psyche for 21 months, mapping and studying the asteroid’s properties.

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Government policy, public perception and real-world economic consequence

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

July 12, 2018

Power plant on the Navajo NationEarth is experiencing a Great Transition as its peoples slowly shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun.

It’s not the first time people have changed where they get their energy sources, but as energy historian Chris Jones

said, what makes the Great Transition different is that this time we need to get rid of something, instead of just adding something. Climate change is the binding constraint.

Arizona State University is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities committed to tackling climate change. The group — called the University Climate Change Coalition — includes universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn how ASU energy scholars are confronting the difficult challenges of transforming the climate narrative and enacting change through policy.

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Smithsonian ‘Water/Ways’ exhibit touring Arizona

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

June 11, 2018

Clouds reflect in the still waters of Lake MeadBeginning this summer, members of 12 rural communities throughout Arizona will get the chance to explore the past, present and future of water’s environmental and cultural impact in Arizona and beyond when the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit Water/Ways visits their town. The first location to see Water/Ways is the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum between June 2 and July 15.

Presented by Arizona State University and Arizona Humanities, the exhibit's journey continues through March 2020.

“Partnering with the Smithsonian on this project gave us an opportunity to expand the scope and impact of the work being done at the Decision Center for a Desert City to well beyond Phoenix and Arizona, to provide an informal educational experience in rural areas and reach an audience much broader in scope and background than we had previously been able to reach,” said David White, director of DCDC and a senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

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Bringing stable power to the most remote communities

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

February 22, 2018

DR. Nathan Johnson in front of Solar PanelsAs many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power, according to Senior Sustainability Scientist Nathan Johnson. That's why the ASU engineer – who directs the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions – is advancing technologies for electrical-grid modernization and off-grid electrification.

One of these solutions is the microgrid, which provides independent power generation and storage. Johnson and the LEAPS team are developing microgrids that are more technically and economically viable – easier to design, scale and transport. On top of providing the world's poorest and most remote communities with stable power, this technology can improve scenarios like disaster relief and medical care.

Johnson’s approach to military microgrids won a TechConnect Defense Innovation Award at the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges Summit.

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Slum residents make themselves count

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 20, 2018

picture of slumsIf cities in developing nations don’t address their burgeoning slums, poverty will increase, political instability will heighten and human misery will continue.

That's according to Senior Sustainability Scientist José Lobo, one of the authors of a 2018 report presented at the World Urban Forum. The report detailed the efforts of Know Your City, an initiative that organized slum residents in 103 cities to profile, enumerate and map their communities.

“The central premise of community data collection is that the data collected becomes an instrument to foster a dialogue among the many different parties (communities, public agencies, governments, NGOs, international funding agencies) about the design and implementation of effective solutions,” Lobo said.

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Food Systems director calls for lifestyle-wide behavior change for a more sustainable future

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

February 20, 2018

Chris WharChris Whartonton, director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative, gives the latest KEDTalk hosted by ASU's Knowledge Enterprise Development. "We live in a world of wild, damaging, unsustainable excess," he says, and the solution requires a rapid, transformational response. By revealing what is hidden in plain sight, Wharton illuminates a path to health, wealth, happiness and sustainability through values-based behavior change.

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Accelerating the transition to a low-carbon future

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

February 6, 2018

Image of MountainsASU is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities committed to tackling climate change. The group – called the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3 – includes distinguished universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Each university has committed to mobilizing its resources and expertise to help businesses, cities and states achieve their climate goals. Specific UC3 goals include hosting cross-sector forums and producing a climate mitigation and adaptation report.

The formation of UC3 was announced at the Second Nature 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit.

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Sci-fi can offer a window to our food future

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

February 1, 2018

The Minnesota DietThere are plenty of sci-fi stories set in post-apocalyptic scenarios where urban ruins crumble amid mass environmental destruction, and the remaining human communities struggle to find food, water and shelter. Charlie Jane Anders’ short sci-fi story “The Minnesota Diet” is different, and the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) director Chris Wharton explains why in a special Future Tense article for Slate.

Anders’ story begins in fictional New Lincoln, a technologically advanced, future urban city seemingly well-insulated from agricultural vulnerabilities—until it isn’t.

Wharton says “The Minnesota Diet” offers opportunities for backcasting and reflection on our current behaviors when it comes to our food system. Anders’ story lends insight into more than just the technological efficiencies required for food production and delivery systems — it invites us to think critically about the choices we make right now with the resources we have today.

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Retailers rise with the tide of responsible products

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 1, 2018

Shopping Cart in Grocery Store Aisle$200 billion worth of consumer products are now managed using tools created by The Sustainability Consortium – an organization run by ASU and the University of Arkansas – according to the consortium's 2017 impact report.

TSC helps companies define, develop and deliver more sustainable products by providing them with science-based tools. Its members – which exceed 100 and include brands like Walmart, Amazon and Walgreens – have access to research insights in almost 130 product categories. To date, 85 percent of consumer goods are covered.

“We are now seeing the tide changing in the number of companies committing to creating sustainable products for a more sustainable planet,” said TSC Chief Executive Euan Murray.

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Survival strategies for the 21st century city

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 29, 2018

ShadeWhen Senior Sustainability Scientist Shade Shutters approached communities and economic developers in Arizona with tools to create green economies, they initially dismissed him. The mindset was, "put food on the table first, then you can think about the long term," and they wanted to prioritize jobs.

Shutters was eventually able to garner interest by rebranding 'green decision tools' as 'innovation and creative economy tools,' insight he shared at a Jan. 23 Future Tense event co-hosted by ASU and COMEXI – Mexico’s influential foreign affairs think tank.

Titled “Will our Cities Survive the 21st Century?," the event convened reporters, experts and resilience officers from around the world. Participants agreed that the successful future of cities relies on involving all communities when communicating threats, setting priorities and making decisions about mitigation and adaptation.

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Professor says crisis should serve as 'wakeup call'

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

January 29, 2018

DroughtAs Cape Town, South Africa nears “Day Zero” when authorities turn off the taps — expected in the first half of April 2018 — Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White expresses the pressing need to adapt urban water systems to stresses like climate change.

White, who directs ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City, says that the causes of Cape Town's water crisis are familiar to water managers in water-scarce cities around the world – like Phoenix. These include limited supplies, dramatic population growth, aging and inefficient infrastructure, persistent drought, inadequate reservoir storage and climate change impacts.

Luckily, White provides a number of ways to improve water resilience. Among them are greater public engagement in water management planning and decision making, public and private investment in technology and infrastructure, rainwater harvesting, enhanced recycling and reuse of wastewater, cross-sector conservation and demand management, and development of new renewable supplies where feasible.

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