Skip to Content

Sustainability News

Chinese scholars learn to think sustainably at ASU

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 10, 2017

Visiting Chinese students gather around an outdoor algae bed A two-week workshop at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability brought students from China a new way of systems thinking to analyze complex sustainability problems.

Marty Anderies, professor and senior sustainability scientist, introduced the students to the key sustainability challenge areas of food, water, energy and urbanization – both locally and globally. His sustainability class was a combination of learning activities: documentaries and dialogue, interactive role-playing games, field trips and lectures.

The 16 students came from Beijing's Beihang University, an elite research university known for launching the first light passenger aircraft in China in 1950s. They chose ASU because the university is well-known in Chinese academia for its leading research and heavy focus in sustainability.


NEPTUNE enters Phase II of veteran engagement, energy innovation

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

February 7, 2017

Soldiers saluting at sunsetDesigned to break new ground in alternative energy; increase educational opportunities for the military community; and bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach, the Department of the Navy and the Office of Naval Research have launched the Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence initiative, or NEPTUNE.

NEPTUNE has just entered its second iteration, growing to a $3 million, three-year program providing funding to four universities – Arizona State, Purdue, MIT and UC Davis – in addition to the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. Its goals are to help the Navy and Marine Corps discover ways to improve energy conservation, generate renewable energy and implement energy-efficient technologies while giving active-duty military, military students and veterans the chance to immerse themselves in university-level research.

Continue Reading

ASU campaign to enhance discovery, success, community

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 2, 2017

Fireworks light up the sky over a band onstage at a baseball parkOn Jan. 26, 2017,  Arizona State University officially launched Campaign ASU 2020,  the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in the nearly fifteen-year tenure of President Michael Crow. This transformational $1.5 billion campaign will engage alumni and friends in expanding the access and excellence for which ASU has become known.

The campaign coincides with the 2020 strategic vision of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability to scale sustainability solutions with like-minded partners around the world. The ASU Wrigley Institute addresses humanity's most pressing challenges in social, environmental and economic sustainability.


The benefits of bringing the outdoors in

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 2, 2017

Sonja talks with lecture attendeesBringing nature back into the classroom and other inside spaces is the objective of ASU adjunct faculty members Joe Zazzera and Sonja Bochart. During a February 2017 lecture on biophilia – or love of nature – they expanded on the numerous benefits of interacting with nature, including enhanced productivity, reduced stress and improved well-being.

Bochart explained that the effects of nature can be measured on a physical level; blood pressure drops and parasympathetic healing activates – benefits that our predominately-indoor lifestyles prevent. By including environmental features like natural materials, water, and “living walls” or hanging plants in our homes, classrooms and workplaces, we can increase our overall wellbeing.

The lecture was an installment in the ASU Wrigley Institute's Sustainability Series, where speakers discuss a range of environmental, social and economic topics.


Sharing desert lessons with a drying world

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 25, 2017

Drawing of people looking through windows at a desert landscapeThe U.N. anticipates that almost half of Earth's population will be living in “areas of high water stress” by 2030 as a result of climate change. Experts estimate that, without intervention, as many as 700 million people may find themselves displaced.

To build resilience to this scenario, ASU has partnered with Scottsdale’s future Desert Discovery Center – an expansive research center that teaches “a global audience to value, thrive in and conserve desert environments.”  The center's public face will feature a series of exhibits that address "what I can see, what I can’t see and what it all means."

“There are things going on in the desert that are deep in the crust, and they’re teeming with life,” says Senior Sustainability Scientist Duke Reiter. “But without this research and a sophisticated guide, at both a macro and micro scale, it would be impossible to see.”

The ASU Wrigley Institute is currently exploring opportunities for educational outreach services, particularly those that engage K-12 audiences, through the new center.


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.


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

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

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.


Visiting author points out leaks in common water myths

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

January 10, 2017

Receding water reveals the decay on the lake bed of Lake MeadIn his January 2017 lecture "How Much Water Does Arizona Need?," author and journalist John Fleck drew from over two decades of reporting on western water issues to offer a surprising perspective on challenges unique to the region.

Fleck, who serves as director of the water resources program at the University of New Mexico, explained how cooperation and innovation have enabled the Southwest to grow and prosper in the face of diminished water supplies – not conflict, as some believe. That rich communities take water from poor communities was another notion Fleck labeled as a myth, saying that ideas like these make it difficult to establish collaborative relationships.

The lecture, co-sponsored by Decision Center for a Desert City, was part of an ongoing ASU conversation the examines water from a range of disciplines – from science and conservation to law and policy.


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.


Modeling a way toward sustainable urban development

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 5, 2017

A crate of ripe red tomatoes Seeking sustainable solutions to unfettered development, a team of ASU researchers has been working to create an innovative, physics-based model that can predict how gardens and farms can most efficiently be integrated into cities.

The model will look at what would happen if vacant land in a city were turned into urban farms, which could produce food for the neighbors and help mitigate the urban heat-island effect. UHI occurs when concrete and asphalt stay warmer overnight, raising temperatures. Conversely, plants and trees allow desert land to cool at night.

Led by sustainability scientist Alex Mahalov, the team is part of a collaborative five-year national project funded with $4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. The work crosses several disciplines, with mathematician Mahalov joined by experts in agribusiness, geography and sustainability.


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.


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.


A windy path toward preserving Arctic ice

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

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.


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

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.


Tabulating the world's weather oddities

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 13, 2016

Patches of foam cover a rolling ocean waveBy leading the World Meteorological Organization’s confirmation group and curating the events it substantiates at ASU, sustainability scientist Randy Cerveny helps the Geneva-based United Nations agency keep track of the world’s weather, climate and water.

Cerveny, who lists a 2.25-pound hail stone that fell in Bangladesh among the oddities in the archives he maintains, says it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to verify an extreme event and that a lot can be learned from these records. In a December 2016 interview with ASU Now, Cerveny explains that these records not only help us prepare for these events but help us understand how our climate is changing over time, as well.

He stresses that these changes in climate guarantee that we will see more records fall in the future.


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.


ASU among top contenders for NSF research dollars

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

December 12, 2016

Alongside the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkley, ASU has landed on the National Science Foundation’s Top 10 list for research expenditures in the United States among universities without a medical school.

ASU also has the largest university research portfolio in the state of Arizona when medical school spending is not factored in — the first year that has been the case.

“The work that ASU’s researchers are doing is changing the world at an incredibly fast rate,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “From the sciences to the humanities, from NASA research and Department of Defense funding, the impact this university can make on the state, country and world will continue to increase.”


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."


Seeds of opportunity: Are veterans the future of farming?

Board Letter 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.


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.