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WaterSim debuts at largest science festival in US

Board Letter 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.


Mexico to modernize power grid with help from ASU

Board Letter 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

Board Letter 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.


Status of sustainability in the Colorado River Basin

Board Letter 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

Board Letter 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.


Joint master's to teach sustainability in global setting

ASU Sustainability News

December 21, 2015

asu-leuphana-sustainability-mastersA joint master's degree program in global sustainability science between ASU and Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, has received German accreditation. Students who enroll in the program will spend time at both universities, work on joint projects and receive a degree from both.

Accreditation marks major milestone for the program, which is the first of its kind at ASU and represents the university's global education efforts. 

“Reaching sustainable development goals requires a different type of international education and new forms of institutional collaborations among universities and other institutions of higher learning,” said ASU President’s Professor Manfred Laubichler, who directs the joint ASU-Leuphana Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation.

ASU and Leuphana also collaborated on a “global classroom” project taught by professors from both institutions and are working together on an increasing number of research projects.


Media seeks ASU expertise on Paris climate talks

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 10, 2015

media-mentions-300x300Eight ASU sustainability experts were in attendance at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Paris, France, Nov. 30 through Dec. 11. With expertise ranging from international law to ecology to ideology, policy and equity, Arizona State University was well represented in the media.

In an article published near the end of the negotiations, Sustainability Scientist Sonja Klinsky was prominently featured in the Los Angeles Times. Together with Walton Sustainability Postdoctoral Fellow Manjana Milkoreit, Klinsky was also consulted for a piece on PBS FRONTLINE. Foundation Professor of Law Daniel Bodansky was featured in articles by both US News & World Report and CNN, and local NPR affiliate KJZZ ran an interview with Klinsky and Bodansky, as well.

Follow our web page dedicated to the COP 21 for more information about the experts, plus quotes, links to articles and more.

What’s the deal with food compost at ASU?

ASU Sustainability News

December 4, 2015

Every truck of organic material diverted away from the landfill strengthens ASU’s commitment to sustainable business practices.

Compost is immensely beneficial because it decreases methane emissions from landfills; treats waste as a resource; employs locally; saves money; supports alternatives to the outdated, linear economy landfilling model; and creates fertilizers to rejuvenate soils and grow food.

Compost CollectionComposted organics from ASU benefit the local economy and environment, and a lot of work goes into the process.

Items including food scraps, paper plates and napkins are picked up by custodians, kitchen staff and Zero Waste department staff, then placed in centralized bins for collection by Sonoran Waste Disposal’s organics transportation truck. Organics are collected from athletic venues, the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus, large events, all dining halls on the Tempe campus, as well as one dining hall on the Polytechnic and West campuses.

Office building pilot programs are currently underway at University Sustainability Practices, Wrigley Hall and the University Service Building. Almost 300 tons of food waste was diverted in fiscal year 2015 through these collection routes.

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Turning pollutants into profits, while cleaning water

ASU Sustainability News

December 2, 2015

wastewater-treatment-profitsTreating domestic and industrial wastewater so that it can be reused for drinking, irrigation and manufacturing is costly - both environmentally and monetarily.

In a recent contribution to Nature, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Bruce Rittmann and co-authors describe how to make wastewater treatment not only cost-efficient, but profitable. They demonstrate how costs could be more than recouped if valuable chemicals — including useful forms of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus — were captured from wastewater.

The authors go on to propose several ways of extracting these resources, weighing the pros and cons of each. They also stress that government support will be crucial in developing these processes and making them affordable but assert that — ultimately — the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Rittmann, who directs ASU's Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, shared additional insights on the untapped potential of wastewater in this interview with ASU Now.


Paris climate progress predicted by Harvard panelists

ASU Sustainability News

November 20, 2015

climate-panel-asu-bodanskyThe cultural force of actions such as the pope’s encyclical is more effective against denial of climate change than the information by itself, said ASU's Dan Bodansky – a Foundation Professor of Law and Senior Sustainability Scholar – during a recent panel discussion at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. 

Bodansky also pointed out that even non-binding international agreements have had success, citing the 1975 Helsinki Accords on human rights.

The panel was called “Bringing the Global Community to the Table: Paris 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference.” The panelists – who included Deputy Director of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy, Zou Ji – expressed optimism about the U.N. climate conference in Paris, calling U.S. participation on the heels of domestic climate-related moves a “game-changer.”

Still, the panelists took care to point out that progress, not a solution, is the best-case scenario for the talks.


Arizona is gliding toward a clean energy future

ASU Sustainability News

November 17, 2015

arizona-clean-energy-future-studyArizona can increase its energy generation enough to power more than 603,000 homes by 2030, according to a recent renewable energy build-out study by The Sonoran Institute, in collaboration with ASU’s Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC).

The study – undertaken in response to the EPA's Clean Power Plan rule, which requires states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from existing electricity generation facilities by 2030 – finds that Arizona can generate at least 4,300 megawatts of new energy by that time. It reports that the state can achieve this by drawing on existing solar and wind projects undergoing planning and permitting, and by tapping the state’s potential for siting large-scale renewable generation facilities in a number of new locations.

In collaboration with EPIC, which is co-directed by sustainability experts Kris Mayes and Mike Pasqualetti, The Sonoran Institute identified 15 solar and wind projects that could be generating power by 2022 – the rule’s interim deadline. Additional projects are already being located on lands identified as potentially suitable by 2030.

For a look at the utility-scale solar projects in the pipeline and the policies in place that support them, as well as the policy recommendations to further capitalize on Arizona's large-scale solar potential, click here.


Project holds promise for clean energy from algae

ASU Sustainability News

November 13, 2015

algae-sustainable-energyEngineer Bruce Rittmann and physicist Klaus Lackner, both ASU sustainability experts, will lead a new research project to aid U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) efforts to boost production of a promising source for clean, renewable energy.

DOE has awarded ASU a three-year, $1 million grant to fund the Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Capture and Membrane Delivery project aimed at enabling more large-scale cultivation of microalgae. Microalgae are species of microscopic single-cell organisms, such as Spirulina and Chlorella, that exist in fresh water and sea environments and can be used to make biofuels and an array of consumer products, using only sunlight and CO2.

Beside renewable biofuel production, microalgae biomass is being used for a suite of products, ranging from food supplements to feed for mammals and fish, to therapeutics and cosmetics.

“Our goal is to develop systems to make growing microalgae more affordable and sustainable and to produce it on scales large enough to meet growing demands in the United States and globally,” says Rittmann.


DCDC details decade of water research in Phoenix

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

November 4, 2015

Dam in desert locationA paper authored by Decision Center for a Desert City researchers, published today in the journal Sustainability, synthesizes a decade of water research in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Titled "Decision-Making under Uncertainty for Water Sustainability and Urban Climate Change Adaptation," the paper explores human–environment dynamics, gaps in knowledge and practice, social learning and the evolution of an interdisciplinary research and boundary organization, which has enhanced adaptive and sustainable governance in the face of complex system dynamics.

"This research exemplifies the transdisciplinary approach advanced by ASU," says DCDC Director Dave White. "The knowledge generated here was developed by a team of social, behavioral, economic and sustainability scientists collaborating with biophysical scientists, engineers, a network of stakeholders and an internationally-recognized group of scientists and practitioners on our advisory committee."

In addition to White, the paper was authored by sustainability scientists Kelli Larson, Pat Gober and Amber Wutich.


Scientist weighs in on future habitability of Persian Gulf

ASU Sustainability News

October 29, 2015

Aerial image of shrinking body of waterAccording to a study recently published in Nature Climate Change, areas of the Persian Gulf could become uninhabitable by the end of this century, 100 years sooner than previous studies suggested. This is because waves of heat and humidity may become so intense that being outside for several hours could be fatal.

In response to these findings, David Hondula - a senior sustainability scientist and climatologist - said, "We have a lot of evidence and confidence that heat is going to be a major game-changer for certain locations, populations, lifestyles and activities. I would say that this is a different lens to look at an ongoing theme in sustainability and public health literature. I appreciate that the paper illustrates a large-scale outdoor activity that occurs in this part of the world that is one of those particularly high-interest and high-impact cases. But in no way is this ritual 'likely to become hazardous to human health' — it already is."