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News from Environmental Humanities Initiative

British diplomat examines US stance on climate change

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 12, 2017

In December 2017, two years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the One Planet summit explored ways to meet climate goals without the support of the United States government.

On that note,  Distinguished Sustainability Fellow Sir Crispin Tickell – an ASU Wrigley Institute board member – gave ASU Now his prescription for the denial of climate change science in the U.S.

"We need a bit of political leadership. We had it originally in Britain from Margaret Thatcher, with whom I used to work quite closely," Tickell said. "I think politicians should take a grip and explain clearly to people in language they can understand what is happening and what has to be done about it, and what it will be necessary to do if nothing is done sooner rather than later."

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New ASU center to offer nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems

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

December 7, 2017

With the aim of finding better solutions to today's food-related challenges, Kelly and Brian Swette have made a major gift to establish the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.

The new center, housed within the School of Sustainability, will tackle food systems from a holistic standpoint, taking into consideration water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition – all with an emphasis on efficiency across the global supply chain. It will also offer the nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems.

Explaining that the new center will accelerate and expand current efforts, Dean Christopher Boone said, "By combining ASU’s assets as a research powerhouse with the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and the expertise from external partners, these sustainable food systems solutions will have profound and positive implications for livelihoods, human health and ecosystem integrity."

Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, as well as an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he and Kelly launched Sweet Earth Natural Foods – a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic fare.

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A savvy solution to Mekong River's hydropower dilemma

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December 7, 2017

Nearly 100 hydropower dams are planned for construction along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. While they are expected to provide clean energy to countries in the region, the dams may also offset natural river patterns if not managed properly.

In a December 2017 issue of Science magazine, Senior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo and his collaborators propose a solution.

“We have figured out the relationship between river flows and fish catch, and we have developed an algorithm for dam operators to use that will increase fish harvests and still generate power,” Sabo says. “Dams are going to be built no matter how much fuss we make; our research shows how we can be more strategic about the buildout and operations of these dams in the Mekong.”

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Smithsonian exhibit to bring new understanding of water to Arizona

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December 6, 2017

ASU's Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives is among the groups working to expand research and resources for an exhibit called Water/Ways.

The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian’s Think Water Initiative, which raises awareness of water as a critical resource for life through exhibitions, educational resources and public programs. Through the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, Water/Ways will be transported to 12 rural communities around Arizona starting in 2018.

“This is another opportunity to educate the public about the challenges we face, of the importance of water and to try and help make us more intelligent managers of the resources in our world that support our lives,” says Senior Sustainability Scholar Paul Hirt, state scholar for the project. “Just explaining to people that there is an imbalance between the supply and demand is an important first step in solving it.”

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Meeting purchasing needs the sustainable way

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December 5, 2017

To help organizations interested in eco-friendly purchasing, ASU's Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency on sustainablepurchasing.issuelab.org.

The website features a searchable database of research articles related to the concept of “servicizing,” which promotes a more environmentally responsible way for businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals to meet their purchasing needs.

"This new ‘servicizing’ approach offers and charges customers for the function of a product rather than the product itself,” explains Senior Sustainability Scientist Lily Hsueh. “Producers or vendors are the ‘owners’ of the products and consumers pay to be ‘users’ of the products.”

The website features a keyword search and provides crowd-sourced information, allowing anyone to share knowledge about servicizing or recommend other resources to be added to the database.

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Sharing is not only caring, it's how we thrive

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November 27, 2017

Small acts of kindness – something as simple as lending a neighbor a cup of sugar – not only bind us together, but are critical to our survival as a species. That's according to Senior Sustainability Scientist Amber Wutich, an anthropology professor and director of ASU's Center for Global Health.

"Sharing is so important, that in most cultures it has its own special vocabulary and rituals," Wutich explains in a November 2017 KEDtalk. "Sharing helps families survive, and it's a core part of people's identity that defines their place in their communities. That's why anthropologists like me have studied how humans share in cultures in every part of the world."

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Shrinking ozone hole a beacon of hope for climate change reversal

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November 20, 2017

The risk of things like skin cancer, extinction of sensitive amphibians and degradation of outdoor buildings is now lower, thanks to the fact that the hole in our ozone layer – which protects Earth from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation – has shrunk.

Satellite measurements indicate that the ozone hole is about 1 million miles smaller than when measured a year ago, a positive trend that NASA says can be explained by an unstable and warmer Antarctic vortex. Senior Sustainability Scientist Kevin Gurney is heartened by this news, which suggests that other negative trends can also be reversed.

With regard to influencing the direction of climate change, Gurney says, "It suggests more than a possibility — it suggests that we can achieve the solution to a large global environmental problem."

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US still part of the Paris agreement, for now

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November 9, 2017

At the first U.N. climate meeting since President Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement, countries came together to iron out some details – like rules for how carbon emissions will be measured and how to pay for these efforts.

Called COP23, the meeting took place in Bonn, Germany in November 2017, and School of Sustainability Professor Sonja Klinsky provided advance insight.

“We are still part of the Paris agreement. If the United States wants to pull out of the accord, it will have to file this in writing in November 2019,” Klinsky told ASU Now. "Other countries’ perceptions of the willingness of the U.S. to be a cooperative global actor generally may change how effective it is at promoting its own interests. It is a distinct possibility that the U.S. will have less influence in this arena than it had previously; however, it is too early to say whether or not this has happened."

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Military training promotes serving country and planet

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November 8, 2017

During an inaugural Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability conference hosted by ASU, over 150 military personnel, Department of the Army civilians and contractors were given the mandate to change the “sustainability DNA” of their organizations. The conference – which took place in November 2017 – brought together experts in the areas of energy security, water security, solid waste diversion and environmental quality from across the Army Reserve, encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation.

Joe Knott, an ASU doctoral candidate in the School of Sustainability and retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped to facilitate the partnership between ASU and ARMRS. He points out that today's young people are better versed in subjects like sustainability and climate change. In that sense, if the Army does not develop a strong sustainability culture, it may have trouble with retention.

“They expect sustainability and doing the right thing in addition to serving their country,” Knott says. “They say ‘what are you as a military organization going to allow me to do to make this earth sustainable for my kids and grandkids?’”

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Alliance makes strides toward phosphorus sustainability

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 2, 2017

Lake overgrown with algaePhosphorus is a basic element found in all living things and is a key component of most fertilizers – enabling modern agriculture. On the flip side, phosphorus runoff contaminates rivers, lakes and streams, providing an overabundance of nutrients that leads to toxic algal blooms.

That's why the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, a unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute, continues to grow – to take on the phosphorus problem in the global food system. Following a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the alliance received a second round of funding from the OCP Group – a Moroccan mining company that owns the largest deposits of phosphate rock in the world.

The alliance grew out of industry interest in phosphorus sustainability and recycling during the original NSF grant period, which brought together dozens of researchers from around the world. In 2017, the alliance grew to nine member organizations representing different stages of the phosphorus value chain.

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1,000s of lab gloves will be recycled thanks to ASU sustainability student

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 24, 2017

Junkee Justin Ahn holding lab gloves and making the pitchforkWhile interning at paper giant Kimberly Clark, undergraduate School of Sustainability student Junkee Justin Ahn noticed that the company had a nitrile glove recycling program. He recognized the need for a similar program at ASU, where countless gloves are used in labs across its campuses each week, and began collecting information.

By bringing the program – called RightCycle – to ASU, Ahn is helping gloves from the Tempe and Polytechnic campuses reach recycling centers where they are turned into plastic materials. He presented his work at the nation’s biggest higher-education sustainability conference, held by the the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in San Antonio, in October 2017.

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Finding fulfillment through food choices

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

October 4, 2017

What we put on our plates affects our overall health, from our individual bodies to the planet as a whole. Christopher Wharton – director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) – and other researchers from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability are studying the long-term effects of our diets on happiness, sustainability and ethics.

One ongoing FSTI study is examining food and fulfillment, gauging the motivators and barriers of adopting and maintaining plant-based diets. Though results are not yet in, researchers expect a correlation with long-term happiness because of the knowledge that there are positive health, environmental and other sustainability benefits to adopting a strictly or primarily plant-based diet.

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New Carbon Economy Consortium: Building research programs to support 21st Century economic opportunity

ASU Sustainability News LightWorks News

September 26, 2017

Now is the time to map paths to the breakthrough research programs and forward-looking university-business partnerships that will serve as the hubs for this new carbon economy. This is an economy in which low-carbon industry and primary energy production are joined by industrial centers, agricultural regions and food-producing ecosystems that turn excess CO2 into consumer goods, fuels, building materials and fertile soil. With deliberate but ambitious planning, the United States and collaborators in other countries can develop the knowledge, technologies and human capital to catalyze the new carbon economy by 2040.

In June 2017, a one-day workshop was held at Arizona State University to begin mapping out the work of a consortium focused on creating a framework for the research programs necessary to support the new carbon economy. The workshop brought together experts from Arizona State University, the Center for Carbon Removal, Iowa State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Purdue University.

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3 countries, 3 universities, 1 unforgettable experience

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September 14, 2017

For ASU sustainability senior Hailey Baker, three countries plus three universities plus three weeks adds up to one unforgettable experience.

Baker and 31 other students – representing ASU, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and National Taipei University – traveled to three cities in Southern China for their summer studies, part of a program supported by the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the ASU Wrigley Institute and the ASU Study Abroad Office.

During the three-week course on sustainable urban development, Baker and her peers experienced field trips and lectures in three cities: Guangzhou, China; Taipei, Taiwan; and Hong Kong. Then, working in teams with students from each participating university, each group completed a final solutions-focused project, including the development of sustainability plans for a new district in Hong Kong.

The course was co-taught by Rob Melnick – presidential professor of practice in ASU’s School of Sustainability – and sustainability doctoral candidate Joe Knott, along with faculty from the two partner universities.

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#1 in innovation for three consecutive years

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

September 11, 2017

For the third year in a row, Arizona State University tops U.S. News and World Report's list of “most innovative schools” in the nation.

The ranking recognizes the university’s groundbreaking initiatives, partnerships, programs and research – including in the field of sustainability. It also recognizes innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

The widely touted set of annual rankings by the news magazine compares more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics. It is based on survey responses from peers – including college presidents, provosts and admissions deans throughout the country.

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How to weather calamities like Harvey and Irma

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September 7, 2017

New ideas on how to build more resilient cities focus on working with nature, rather than trying to master it, says Charles Redman – founding director of ASU’s School of Sustainability.

Redman now leads a group of researchers from 15 institutions in a National Science Foundation-sponsored project called the Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), which focuses on ways to make cities more resilient to natural calamities. This entails building infrastructure systems that are safe-to-fail, rather than fail-safe, and recognizing that cities should be able to take advantage of natural features of the land.

"The overarching problem with cities like Houston is that they have built over the natural landscape with impervious surfaces, and with impediments to the natural flow of surface runoff," says Redman. "A more effective approach may be to implement infrastructure systems that work with the land to facilitate runoff rather than try to control it, but acknowledge and plan that if a specific threshold is exceeded and the system 'fails' in some sense there are backup plans in place that minimize the adverse impacts."

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ASU named a top 'Cool School' for third year in a row

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August 22, 2017

ASU's reputation for sustainability leadership continues to grow, corroborated by its standing in Sierra magazine's latest “Cool Schools” ranking of North America’s greenest colleges and universities.

Named first among institutions with more than 10,000 students — up from second in that category last year — ASU sits in seventh place overall, according to the listing. It was compiled using surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools, as well as a customized scoring system based on universities' commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

This is the third consecutive year ASU has scored in the top 20. The 2017 ranking does not yet reflect the impact of the Red Rock Solar Plant, dedicated in January 2017. Over the course of its first full year in operation, Red Rock will reduce ASU’s total carbon footprint by more than 10 percent.

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ASU and TU Sign MOU to expand university partnership

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

July 26, 2017

Nalini Chhetri holds signed MOU with three other men in Nepal.This June, ASU signed its second Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tribhuvan University (TU) in Kathmandu, Nepal, furthering a five-year partnership.

The partnership dates back to 2012, when ASU Senior Sustainability Scientists Netra Chhetri, Nalini Chhetri and Milan Shrestha first engaged with TU and were invited to the university as guest speakers.

ASU signed its first MOU with TU’s Institute of Engineering (IOE) in 2015. Through that collaboration, two cohorts of ASU students have studied abroad in Nepal. The 2017 study abroad session, called Grassroots Innovation for Sustainable Development, brought ASU and IOE sustainability and engineering students together on two projects to help Nepali farmers: solar-powered lift irrigation and biochar production.

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ASU researchers receive accolades for solar energy research

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

July 17, 2017

In 2017, ASU researchers received $4.3 million in Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Awards for their work with photovoltaics, making ASU the largest recipient of SunShot funding in the Photovoltaics Research category for the year.

The DOE's SunShot Intiative aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional methods, a goal that three senior sustainability scientists at the ASU Wrigley Institute are helping to achieve. Stuart Bowden is designing the M-Cell, a photovoltaic cell architecture to enable higher voltage and lower current. Meanwhile, Meng Tao is working to reduce processing expenses, improve reliability and maintain high efficiency for photovoltaic devices.

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Solar-powered system helps provide water beyond the annual rainy season

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July 14, 2017

This summer, a group of 11 ASU sustainability and engineering students traveled to the Hindu Kush Himalaya region to help local farmers run their operations year-round – eliminating the need to migrate to lowlands or to other countries as seasonal laborers.

The students, part of a study abroad course organized through the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and developed through GlobalResolve,  developed hardware like a solar-powered lift irrigation system during the spring semester, then deployed it while the students were onsite in June.

“This class cooperates with local farmers to combine existing irrigation and solar technologies to provide a refreshing shortcut for the region’s food and energy challenges,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist Netra Chhetri. “With assured water supply, these farmers can plan their crops better and grow off-season vegetables that fetch four times more value than cereals, which are the current crops being harvested.”

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