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Bringing clean water to communities in the Middle East

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 12, 2017

Two ASU sustainability experts talk with a local utility expertParticularly with the growing influx of refugees from neighboring countries, communities across the Middle East are facing severe water shortages. Some communities rely on limited and variable water supplies without the infrastructure to adequately treat and transport the water. Energy sources needed to purify water can be inaccessible, expensive or unreliable.

That's why an ASU-led global consortium will implement a two-year, $1.95 million USAID project to develop and test affordable, portable clean water solutions in the region. The project – established in accordance with community-specific legal and cultural frameworks – will be implemented in 18 communities throughout Jordan and Lebanon, benefiting more than 36,000 people.

Leading the consortium are Richard Rushforth – a project manager for the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – and sustainability scientists Rhett Larson and Nathan Johnson. Together, their expertise spans sustainability, law and engineering, and they are joined in the consortium by public and private partners from across the globe.

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How a 16-year-old is aiding in the effort against climate change

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January 11, 2017

Georgescu and another researcher pose in front of climate models with 16-year-old computer whiz Gupta Senior Sustainability Scientist Matei Georgescu uses a lot of data in his research, studying how a changing landscape can affect local climate and resources. He achieves this by running simulations that make long-term projections with the goal of finding a more sustainable future. That's a lot of work.

Thankfully, through an innovative solution from ASU, Georgescu was paired with a gifted community member who could help. 16-year-old Vishesh Gupta was looking for a way to apply his knack for computer programming, and now assists Georgescu by using supercomputers to crunch data and make sense of disparate measurements.

The projects the pair are working on include the Urban Water Innovation Network, as well as a partnership with Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan that focuses on improving emergency preparedness during extreme-heat events.

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Studying sustainability through a top online bachelor's program

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

January 10, 2017

Hands type at a laptop, with a notebook and highlighter in the foregroundAfter working on issues of environmental responsibility as Girl Scout leader, Jessica Ohrt was inspired to pursue a bachelor’s degree in sustainability through ASU Online.

“I looked for a local college that had a sustainability program that would be comparable, and there wasn’t one. It was such a distinctive program and set of classes that I decided to stick with it,” said Ohrt, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

The School of Sustainability's programs are among more than 60 undergraduate online degrees offered by ASU. In fact, the university's online bachelor’s degree program has been ranked fourth in the nation out of more than 1,300 reviewed by U.S. News & World Report, who scored based on student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer reputation.

Ohrt likes that the courses keep students on track and are self-directed, so she could work in between caring for her granddaughter. She expects to graduate in December 2017 and is considering working for a government agency or a nonprofit focusing on environmental justice.

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O Christmas tree: Greening your holiday

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 24, 2016

A Christmas tree with a mom and a child in the backgroundNatural vs. artificial – which Christmas tree is better for the environment, and can consumer choice really make a difference?

Carole Mars, senior research lead at The Sustainability Consortium at ASU, delves into what makes a Christmas tree "green," and whether other considerations come into play for consumers decorating for the holidays.

So, which tree is really more environmentally-friendly?

It depends on how consumers use it. Mars explains that there are several options for environmentally-conscious shoppers seeking to lower their environmental footprint. Locally-sourced natural trees that are composted or recycled will have a ‘break-even point’ of approximately four years, after which their environmental impact will be mitigated. On the other hand, artificial trees must be used for at least eight years to have a lower environmental impact than their natural counterparts, but can easily be re-used and re-purposed year after year.

Thus, it is crucial for holiday consumers to plan ahead when selecting their Christmas trees to find the perfect  compromise between tradition and conservation.

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Climate change solutions through thermal radiation

ASU Sustainability News

December 23, 2016

Liping Wang standing next to man in a lab looking over a microscopeIn a world where climate change poses an ever-growing threat, reducing conventional energy use is paramount to protecting the atmosphere.

An assistant professor at ASU, Liping Wang explores using thermal radiation to meet the demand for sources of renewable energy and energy conservation devices. With this aim, Wang is developing nanowire-based metamaterials, which are more flexible and tunable – and therefore yield the best results.

Wang says these technologies can help to produce high-efficiency renewable energy sources and to recycle waste heat. By re-using this previously-wasted heat, the demand for conventional energy sources declines and – in turn – so do greenhouse gas emissions and the acceleration of climate change.

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A windy path toward preserving Arctic ice

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December 22, 2016

Researchers walk on melting iceThe rapid melting of Arctic ice is among the most dramatic effects of climate change. This is because the thawing of permafrost is likely to drive temperatures even higher throughout our planet and cause a number of cascading effects.

Recognizing that human habits are unlikely to change enough for this melting trend to be reversed, Steve Desch – a School of Earth and Space Exploration professor – decided to explore other options.

Desch formed an interdisciplinary research team, including sustainability scientist Hilairy Hartnett. The team created an innovative ASU class called "Geodesigning the Arctic" that focused on one solution in particular: using a windmill pump, buoy and hose to artificially increase the thickness of Arctic ice.

The next steps for the team are working with colleagues internationally to promote the idea of Arctic ice management and applying these ideas to saving – and perhaps creating – more Arctic ice.

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A goodbye to giraffes? The decline of Earth's gentle giants

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

December 16, 2016

Two giraffes standing in tall grass, their necks intertwinedWith giraffe populations diminishing 40 percent over the last 30 years, and numerous other species facing grave population declines, humans must re-evaluate and adapt our behavior to safeguard the planet's biodiversity.

In a recent interview with ASU Now, Senior Sustainability Scientist Leah Gerber indicates that humans will not only have to act swiftly to halt threatened species' declines, but will also have to choose which species to preserve. She adds that how we make those decisions – whether we base them on charisma, cost-effectiveness or ecosystem significance – is up to us.

Gerber, who is also the founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, is working to find ways to address these biodiversity challenges at ASU.

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A family man's journey to sustainability

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 12, 2016

jason-tibbetts-standing-in-front-of-green-leafy-treeIn a December 2016 interview with ASU NowSchool of Sustainability student Jason Tibbetts shares that he originally planned to attend an out-of-state school. He ultimately opted for Mesa Community College due to its reputation and proximity, and learned about the School of Sustainability there.

"I have always had a passion for the environment and self-sufficiency, but I never had a name for it until I heard about the sustainability program at ASU," Tibbetts says.

Tibbetts enrolled in the school's Bachelor of Science program shortly thereafter. In addition to classes in the Sustainable Energy, Materials and Technology track, he is a husband and a father of three, as well as the owner of an edible landscaping business.

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Water woes: How one ASU expert is addressing water conservation

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 8, 2016

John Sabo smiling in plaid blue and white shirt, green leafy backgroundAs droughts and fresh water shortages continue to be a challenge for the nation's southwest region, many are seeking more aggressive and effective water conservation solutions.

In a December 2016 interview with ASU NowSenior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo says that businesses can help lead the charge to conserve water, and to set an example for others to do the same.

Sabo, director of ASU's Future H2O initiative, attended Business H2O – a conference in Las Vegas that explored how industry can reduce water consumption and overall costs through advancements in water technology. He explains that not only the environment, but also companies themselves can benefit from saving water.

According to Sabo, "If the incentives are set up right, a business can sustain supplies of cheaper water into the future by investing in conservation."

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Seeds of opportunity: Are veterans the future of farming?

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

December 6, 2016

A group of men in uniform pose for the cameraAs the nation's farming population continues to age and retire without replacements, our shortage of farmers is more grave than ever. Meanwhile, thousands of military veterans are returning home seeking meaningful, peaceful employment.

In order to combat both of these issues, filmmaker Dulanie Ellis suggested veterans take over for retiring farmers – an idea explored in her documentary "Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields."

Sydney Lines, coordinator of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative at ASU, hosted the film screening and subsequent panel discussion in downtown Phoenix. In an interview with ASU Now, Lines expresses her enthusiasm for the concept of veterans replacing retiring farmers. She notes not only the special skills veterans have to fill these rolls, but also the beneficial and therapeutic effects farming has on veterans returning home from war.

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Crossing the nation for sustainable design

ASU Sustainability News

December 6, 2016

Herberger Dean Steven J. Tepper stands at Design Miami conferenceHerberger Institute for Design and the Arts Dean Steven J. Tepper led a team of ASU faculty and students to  Design Miami, an international conference for sustainable design.

At the conference, the ASU group presented to students and experts alike on design strategies to achieve the United Nations' goals for prosperity and sustainability.

Students on the team received eye-opening exposure to sustainability, learning concrete ways that it can be applied to a variety of concepts and disciplines.

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A certification ASU students can go wild about

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November 29, 2016

Man wearing brown shirt stands in front of a pond and releases a duck into the air.While a passion for the environment is essential, students looking for careers in the field also need the right credentials. To help meet that need, sustainability scientist Heather Bateman worked with colleagues in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts to develop the undergraduate Wildlife Management Certificate.

According to Bateman, the need was twofold: “Applied biological sciences students wanted some type of recognition when they graduated that would indicate to potential employers they had expertise in the discipline of wildlife management, and [myself and other biology professors] wanted to get the word out across ASU about opportunities to study wildlife and engage with wildlife professionals.”

The new certificate provides application-based, hands-on experience to students interested in biology, conservation, sustainability and management of natural resources. It was first offered in Fall 2016.

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Paving the way to sustainable transportation infrastructure

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 21, 2016

The underside of a white bridge in MinneapolisWith almost half of federal highways and major roads in the U.S. classified below "good condition," the country is in need of serious transportation innovation.

Senior Sustainability Scientists Narayanan Neithalath, Timothy James and Kamil Kaloush are exploring how to improve the nation's transportation infrastructure by creating safer, less expensive, and more environmentally-friendly and durable structures.

A few of their techniques? Integrating innovative materials such as recycled tires and longer-lasting concrete, and building sensors to monitor structural safety.

According to Neithalath, "We can use less resources, we can make bridges last longer and we can make them less risky. Sustainability is a collaboration of all these different things.”

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US election results cause concern for international climate treaty

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

November 16, 2016

ASU's Sonja Klinsky, wearing dark top and turquoise scarf, smiles for camera. While scientists generally agree that human activity is accelerating Earth’s warming trend, president-elect Donald Trump has called it a hoax. His election was a hot topic at the COP 22 climate meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, where international climate scientists met to discuss implementation of the Paris climate agreement.

School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Sonja Klinsky, who presented research on strategies for global cooperation on climate and human well-being at the meeting in Marrakech, took a few moments to gauge the mood there for ASU Now.

Klinsky described the election results as "devastating to all," and cited several specific concerns. These include an increased vulnerability of Americans to climate change impacts, lost economic opportunities, a tarnished international reputation and eroded trust.

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Dinner 2040 provides a taste of the future

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

November 14, 2016

Diners take notes while eating colorful meal outdoorsHosted by local, organic Maya's Farm in November 2016, Dinner 2040 was a meal served to spark conversation.

The charette-style gathering – planned by sustainability scientist Joan McGregor with support from the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – put people from diverse backgrounds around the same table. While enjoying equitably-produced dishes, diners like academics, chefs, activists, legislators and others discussed key values related to food and how they can be better implemented going forward.

McGregor hopes that Dinner 2040 events will serve as a template for “future of food” workshops and dinners in communities across North America. She explores food-related values in detail in a October 2016 Thought Leader Series contribution titled "Putting Values on Our Plates."

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What's in a game? A creative approach to complicated issues.

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

November 10, 2016

Two women with glasses consider what to do with colorful playing cards.A game called “Future Shocks and City Resilience” – created by Senior Sustainability Scientist Lauren Withycombe Keeler – is helping decision-makers take a creative approach to solving complex problems.

The game was played by about 50 people at a November 2016 City of Tempe Resilience Workshop, sponsored by the city, the National League of Cities and ASU's School of Sustainability. Participants – including top city officials and ASU faculty – learned to think about sustainability in much broader terms than, say, recycling.

“It’s sustainability in terms of, how does a city create an environment that is livable for all different types of residents, and is equitable? And does it achieve that in a way that preserves and enhances the natural environment and allows the benefits to be available for future generations?” Withycombe Keeler explained.

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Upping the game for reduced greenhouse gas emissions

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

November 1, 2016

Man with glasses sits in front of a computer, smilingIn an interview with ASU Now, School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Datu Buyung Agusdinata describes how ASU is supporting the development of a video game – one that helps everyday people understand how their consumption of food, energy and water can affect everything from the environment to income inequality.

The game represents an effort by multiple institutions and is funded through a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Agusdinata leads the ASU team, which will contribute a better understanding of human decision-making in households, as well as of humans' response to psychological cues and social norms.

The game will reveal the preferences and intentions of users, suggesting what they might do under certain conditions in a realistic environment. Ultimately, it will inform concrete and cost-effective methods – including technology and policy – for promoting sustainable consumption.

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Members of new consortium unite around global sustainability outcomes

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October 26, 2016

Micheal Crow wearing gold and maroon tie, speaking in front of audienceAt the first-ever meeting of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes, ASU President Michael Crow described both the depth of the challenge at hand and his excitement to join forces with other universities to make sustainability both a value and an outcome.

The twenty men and women in the room, representatives of eleven universities around the world, had traveled to Tempe to do just that: work together to create sustainability outcomes on a global scale, and at a pace that our current challenges mandate. It was clear from the dialogue over the course of their two days together that this was the goal of every founding member.

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes is an international network that transforms ideas into action. By joining the consortium – a nonprofit, member-governed organization – members enjoy the benefits of collaboration, international connectivity and the catalytic effect that contributes to sustainability impact.

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Sustainable energy versus natural landscape

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 18, 2016

Turbines on a green, open meadow overlooking oceanIn order to meet the energy demands of an increasingly industrialized world, renewable energy systems will require a lot of hardware. This hardware will inevitably become a part of our landscapes – a reality that doesn't please everyone.

That's why a cross-disciplinary team of five scientists – including Senior Sustainability Scientist Mike Pasqualetti – came together to write "The Renewable Energy Landscape: Preserving Scenic Values in our Sustainable Future." The recently-released book seeks to address the tension between conservation efforts and the need to develop sustainable energy alternatives.

The book takes care not to discredit landscape quality concerns, which are typically expressed by the people people living near technologies like solar fields and wind farms. Rather, it proposes a responsible compromise; if sustainable energy is a must, then the infrastructure can be built in a manner where its disruptive effect on the landscape is minimized.

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US-Pakistan energy partnership welcomes second cohort

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October 18, 2016

Professor stands in front of a banner displaying a wind turbineAs part of a larger effort to boost the development of solutions for Pakistan’s growing energy needs, the second group of graduate students from Pakistan recently arrived at Arizona State University to study energy engineering.

ASU is coordinating the graduate student exchange program – called the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy – in an effort to train students to be change agents in helping both countries improve their energy systems. Support for USPCAS-E is part of $127 million investment by USAID to improve Pakistan’s agriculture and food security, as well as access to water and energy.

Senior Sustainability Scientist Sayfe Kiaei, who directs USPCAS-E, believes that ASU is important to the program’s goals because, “The center is a link between ASU’s researchers and international development funding agencies, as well as implementers who are working in developing countries worldwide.”

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