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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 manner where its disruptive effect on the landscape is minimized.


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.”


At the nexus of society's challenges

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 17, 2016

Group of one women and four men stand together, smilingHistorically, policies for agriculture, energy and water have been made in isolation of one another. In reality, these systems are all interconnected – an interplay called the food-energy-water nexus.

As demands on each sector of the nexus continue to grow, the siloed approach to policies involving limited natural resources impedes a sustainable future. That's what a transdisciplinary team of five ASU researchers – including senior sustainability scientists Dave White and Rimjhim Aggarwal – have set out to remedy with a $3 million award from the National Science Foundation.

The team conducts research to build decision support tools that look at the interdependence of these systems and help develop sustainable policies for the future. Each member brings his or her own area of expertise to define, analyze and visualize problems within the  nexus, creating a more complete understanding.


Mobilizing to address national security risks of climate change

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 21, 2016

Sun setting over ice sheets and oceanIn a recent report to Congress, the Department of Defense concluded that climate change will increase the risks of environmental degradation, refugee crises, political instability and social conflict.

These challenges are why Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative is building a new program in climate and national security. Not only will the program be a hub for critical research that will enhance resilience and enable adaptation to climate risks globally, it will also support U.S. national security interests. It will achieve these things by bringing together researchers from a range of disciplines and key partners from universities, national laboratories, think tanks and government.

As Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White – a Global Security Fellow leading the planning for the new initiative – explains, “This effort will improve our ability not only to anticipate the impacts of climate change but also to develop specific tools and strategies, deploy resources more effectively, build local adaptive capacity, and reduce the risks of social conflict.”


Closing the loop on an essential but finite element

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 21, 2016

Program Manager Matt Scholz wears a white collared shirt and smiles, with green trees visible in the backgroundAccording to Senior Sustainability Scientist Matt Scholz, "Phosphorus is essential to life. It’s in your bones and it’s in your DNA, and it’s the energy currency for the cell."

It follows, then, that agriculture depends on phosphorus too. In fact, a large percentage of the element – typically mined in Morocco – is put into fertilizers used on farms throughout the world. The bad news is that the phosphorus-rich runoff from these farms contaminates waterways and can cause algal blooms, which stifle other forms of life.

The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance – an ASU initiative that Scholz now manages – strives to collect and recycle phosphorus before it reaches waterways. The hope is to make the phosphorus system cyclical by extracting the element from waste and selling it back to fertilizer companies, eliminating the reliance on a finite supply from other countries.


Secretary of Ag Vilsack is guest of ASU Wrigley Institute

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 14, 2016

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaking to a crowd at a USDA Fall Forum hosted by ASUAt a September 2016 forum hosted by the ASU Wrigley Institute, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed that the country's continued food security is closely linked to its response to increasing climate volatility.

Vilsack and fellow panel members agreed that universities have a large role to play in protecting farms of the future against threats like intense storms, invasive species and droughts. In fact, the current administration has charged universities with ramping up research on climate and water issues, as well as on specific solutions like grazing patterns and drought-resistant crops.

Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Osvaldo Sala, a member of the panel, explained that universities have the capacity to work across disciplines to provide evidence-based solutions. He added that they are also aptly suited to mediate interests among the many stakeholders of shared resources.

Watch Secretary Vilsack's keynote and the first panel discussion from the Fall Forum.


ASU retains title as nation's most innovative school

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 13, 2016

Woman standing on mountain at sunset pointing toward the skyFor the second year in a row, the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report name Arizona State the most innovative university in the nation. The widely touted list compares more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics. ASU has taken the top spot in each year since the innovation category was created.

“We do things differently, and we constantly try new approaches,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Our students’ paths to discovery don’t have to stay within the boundaries of a single discipline. Our researchers team up with colleagues from disparate fields of expertise. We use technology to enhance the classroom and reach around the world. We partner with cities, nonprofits and corporations to support our advances as the higher-education economy evolves. This ranking recognizes the new model we have created.”


One of the 'coolest' schools in the US is in Arizona's desert

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

September 6, 2016

Students are working and/or interacting with other students in different learning environments and innovative spaces. These images should be natural and captured in the moment. It is very difficult to stage these type of pictures and doing so is easily picked up on by the viewer. Students enjoying class is a must. Moving up five spots from 2015, Arizona State University was named sixth in Sierra Club's annual "Cool Schools" ranking of roughly 200 colleges and universities.

The ranking lists schools based on a demonstrated commitment to upholding high environmental standards. A few of the categories ASU scored high in are bike facilities, organic gardens, undergraduate programs, student outreach and move-in/out waste reduction.

“For more than 10 years, ASU has demonstrated its fundamental commitment to sustainability,” says Christopher Boone, dean of ASU's School of Sustainability. “We are very pleased to be recognized by the Sierra Club for all of our hard work.”

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Three new partnerships promise better conservation outcomes

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

September 2, 2016

Two men and two women smile as an agreement is signedFurthering ASU's commitment to translating knowledge in action, its Center for Biodiversity Outcomes joined three powerful international partnerships over the summer of 2016.

The center's new partners include names you might recognize: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List and Conservation International.

These partnerships respectively seek to promote sustainable development through the global business community, devise strategies for species conservation and biodiversity decision-making, and expand conservation science and training to the next generation of conservation leaders – aims that will put ASU's wealth of sustainability research and expertise to good use.


Making every day in the neighborhood a happy one

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

August 30, 2016

Tall, smiling man with bike next to smiling young woman outdoorsThere are three factors that promote happiness where we live, say School of Sustainability Professor Scott Cloutier and his colleague Deirdre Pfeiffer. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, they name these factors as access to open and green space, environmental design that promotes social interaction, and places that are safe and secure.

Cloutier and Pfeiffer conceived of the study after observing urban planning focused solely on improved physical health, leaving  mental and emotional health by the wayside. Now, the pair suggest strategies planners can use to measure all three “happiness” factors, and evaluate the extent to which their proposals would promote better health overall.

The researchers even developed a tool called the “Sustainability through Happiness Framework” that allows planners to collaborate with neighborhood residents on the creation of places where they'll be happy to live.


ASU helps national parks with sustainability dilemma

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 24, 2016

Researcher Dave White and students smiling at Yosemite National ParkAs the National Park Service marked its centennial in August 2016, the federal agency considered its twin mandates of preserving the most beautiful and historic sites in the country while ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to see them. How can it accommodate growing numbers of visitors in a sustainable way?

Thankfully, the research of ASU sustainability experts like Megha Budruk, Dave White and Paul Hirt can help NPS better understand the natural systems it protects. These scientists – along with other faculty and students – have studied a range of questions including visitor use, the role of technology in saving the parks and the changing nature of interpretation.

Teaching water lessons on Main Streets across America

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

August 23, 2016

Birds sitting on a damThe "Museum on Main Street," conceived by the Smithsonian Institution, brings exciting exhibits to small towns throughout the United States. Among these exhibits is WaterSim, an interactive water management tool developed by researchers at ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City.

According to School of Sustainability Dean Chris Boone, “WaterSim America is a great platform to educate the broader public on what they can do as individuals and groups to manage water in ways that lead to positive change.”

WaterSim achieves this by simulating the impacts of factors like population growth and drought on a given state's water supply and demand. Users then respond to challenges by selecting policies that steady their state’s water system.


At the forefront of global biodiversity policy

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

August 20, 2016

Researcher sitting at the end of a boat looking out on the ocean where a whale tail is visible.As biodiversity is depleted, ASU oceanographer Leah Gerber – director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes – guides a United Nations panel that helps policy makers navigate scientific literature on the topic.

Gerber was named coordinating lead author of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a panel of scientists who will review the massive body of scientific literature around biodiversity and ecosystem services. The panel will organize the combined knowledge into a report that is both relevant and accessible to those who make decisions that impact plant and animal life.

The first authors’ meeting took place in Bonn, Germany, in August of 2016.


Designing a way to live in a world that's hot

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 5, 2016

Man wearing glasses and navy shirt, standing in the Arizona sunASU researchers are working on a range of long-term solutions to beat the Phoenix heat. Among them are members of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, like sustainability scientists Nancy Grimm and Chuck Redman.

According to Redman, solutions to challenges like heat need to come from a variety of places. He points to landscaping, water use and green roofs as opportunities for improved cooling. Grimm stresses the need to strengthen power infrastructure, our first line of defense against the summer heat. If temperatures trend upward toward 130 degrees, she says, it becomes even more crucial that our infrastructure can withstand both an increased demand for cooling and the heat itself.


Seminar provides sunny outlook on solar in Kosovo

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Professional Training and Custom Sustainability Education

July 19, 2016

An old-looking power plantWhen asked to design a program on renewable energy and sustainability to be presented in Kosovo – a country that relies on two coal-fueled power plants – the School of Sustainability's Ryan Johnson gladly accepted.

Johnson, who directs the school's professional training and custom sustainability education efforts, then approached geographer Martin Pasqualetti and electrical engineer Ron Roedel because of their expertise in renewable energy, as well as with a similar program in the Middle East.

After studying Kosovo's great solar potential, the two professors presented their insights at a two-week seminar beginning in May 2016. Each day was split between presentations by Pasqualetti – a sustainability scientist who focused on the social aspects of transitioning to a new energy source – and Roedel, who focused on the technical aspects of renewable energy. Together, they demonstrated the value of renewable energy and interdisciplinary collaboration.


Locust outbreak brings ASU expert to Argentina

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

July 14, 2016

A hand holding three locusts of different sizesWhen a massive locust outbreak struck Argentina in 2016, Senior Sustainability Scientist Arianne Cease flew to the scene to offer her expertise.

Cease, a professor in the School of Sustainability, has studied locusts around the world. She and her lab manager arrived to swarms more than four miles long and two miles high – the worst Argentina had seen in 60 years.

After assessing the situation and sharing her research, Cease hosted a two-day workshop. Here, she described to university researchers and government officials how to address locust outbreaks using a systems approach.

With the aim of creating a rapid-response team to address situations like the one in Argentina, Cease is building a Global Locust Consortium. She hopes to host the initial meeting by early 2017.


Taking useful technology to market

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

July 12, 2016

The modern glass aesthetic of ASU's Biodesign building reflecting the sunset The environment of creativity fostered by ASU was recognized in July 2016, when the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association released their annual rankings. According to the groups, ASU ranks 38th among worldwide institutions in utility patents earned, with 55 patents secured in 2015.

“It’s a very nurturing culture that makes it easy for folks to file patents,” says Senior Sustainability Scientist Rolf Halden, who has been awarded six patents in the last six years.

Halden, who directs ASU's Center for Environmental Security, works to improve human health by studying exposure to toxic chemicals and inventing ways to clean up contamination in soil and groundwater.


Students study culture and sustainability in Morocco

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

June 27, 2016

Two scientists enjoying coffee outside a Moroccan cafeFor the fourth year in a row, the School of Sustainability sponsored a study abroad excursion to Morocco, where Arizona State University students studied the complexities of sustainable development.

Senior Sustainability Scientist Mary Jane Parmentier – who served as a member of the Peace Corps in Morocco in the 1980s and has maintained contacts there – led the program.  Students learned about the differing priorities among the unique cultures in this North African nation, then digested that knowledge during nightly meetings.

The study abroad program has evolved from year to year, becoming more culturally immersive and focused on evaluating sustainability solutions that are being implemented in host countries. For more updates from this excursion and others, visit the Global Sustainability Studies Program's blog.


Inaccurate emissions numbers weaken Clean Power Plan

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

June 24, 2016

Illuminated power plant at night, its reflection in nearby waterAccording to an Arizona State University study led by Senior Sustainability Scientist Kevin Gurney, federal data on power-plant carbon dioxide emissions is significantly flawed.

Power plants are responsible for roughly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. Inaccurate data concerning these emissions undermines the federal Clean Power Plan, which is designed to strengthen the clean-energy trend by setting a national limit on the carbon pollution produced by power plants.

“This policy relies on the achievement of state-level CO2 emission-rate targets,” write the study's authors. “When examined at the state level, we find that one-third of the states have differences that exceed 10 percent of their assigned reduction amount. Such levels of uncertainty raise concerns about the ability of individual states to accurately quantify emission rates in order to meet the regulatory targets.”


A neighborly partnership for energy reform

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

June 23, 2016

Beltrán stands at a podium with a black curtain behind himLeonardo Beltrán Rodríguez, undersecretary for planning and energy transition under Mexico’s Secretary of Energy, is managing the most significant reform of Mexico’s energy sector in more than 70 years – and ASU is helping him do it. In June 2016, Beltrán met with ASU leaders to formalize a relationship of future collaboration in energy research and education.

“ASU is one of the premier universities in the U.S. in terms of energy research, with nationally recognized centers...,” said Stephen Goodnick, deputy director of ASU LightWorks. “ASU also has strong partnerships within Mexico, with more than $35 million worth of projects related to Mexico either in partnership with Mexican entities or with a focus on Mexican topics, cultures or materials.”