Skip to Content

Sustainability News

Addressing the need for ecological expertise in business

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

February 4, 2016

marriage-business-ecology-asuEcologists who are motivated to achieve real impact in nature conservation should consider engaging with the corporate sector, according to an editorial in the February 2016 issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The authors - including sustainability scientists Leah Gerber and Sheila Bonini - contend that there is a high demand from the corporate sector for ecological science. Businesses are beginning to see the world’s economic and ecological systems as they are – inextricable. They are realizing that maintaining the natural resources upon which their operations depend ensures their long-term viability, and that failing to do so is costly.

But right now, the authors say, businesses do not have adequate access to the ecological expertise and data they need to properly price nature. Efforts like those by The Sustainability Consortium – which translates sustainability life-cycle analysis into practical business tools used by Walmart and other leading consumer-goods companies – and ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes need to be increased.

The authors stress that, in meeting the need for their expertise in the corporate sector, ecologists can make a strong contribution to addressing the complex sustainability challenges we face.


Center for Biodiversity Outcomes to lead events at 2016 World Conservation Congress 

Biodiversity News

February 3, 2016

world-conservation-congress-hawaiiThree Arizona State University faculty and Center for Biodiversity Outcomes affiliates will be leading events at the September 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. Their proposals were among those selected from a field of nearly 1,500 submitted for consideration after review by at least three independent technical reviewers.

Leaders on the selected proposals are Penny Langhammer, adjunct professor in the School of Life Sciences and a faculty affiliate of the center; Beth Polidoro, assistant professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and IUCN project lead for the center; and Candice Carr Kelman, assistant director of the School of Sustainability. Both Polidoro and Carr Kelman are also senior sustainability scientists in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Continue Reading

New tool helps corporations apply analytics to water use

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.


Conference in Aloha State will have strong ASU presence

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 14, 2016

world-conservation-congress-asuFor the first time in its history, the International Union for Conservation of Nature will host its World Conservation Congress on U.S. soil – a bid secured with the assistance of ASU.

Likened to the United Nations of nature conservation, the IUCN is a global organization based in Switzerland whose members include NGOs, governments and universities. It hosts the WCC every four years, providing a forum for members to share information and experiences, debate major sustainable development issues and propose solutions.

The conference has been hosted throughout the world in its 68 years – most recently by South Korea. Not only will the 2016 conference be held in Hawai'i, it will feature three events sponsored by the ASU Wrigley Institute, as well as a subcommittee on Neighbor Islands and Counties chaired by board member John DeFries.

Struggling to process the Paris climate talks? Help is coming

ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 13, 2016

paris-climate-agreement-asuThe December 2015 conference in Paris, where governments of the world adopted an arguably game-changing international agreement on climate change, was a lot to process for many of us.

To aid our digestion of this historic event, four ASU experts and conference attendees will join us for the latest installment in the Case Critical series, "Postcards from Paris," on January 20, 2016. They'll cover what happened at COP21, what they did while they were there, what they consider to be the innovations of the Paris agreement, and what the agreement implies for the U.S. and world. What might ASU staff, students and faculty contribute as all parties move forward?

The experts include Manjana Milkoreit, a senior sustainability fellow and postdoctoral research fellow with the Walton InitiativesJeffrey Swofford, a doctoral student in the School of Sustainability; Daniel Bodansky, a foundation professor of law in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and the faculty co-director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs; and Sonja Klinsky, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor in the School of Sustainability.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Report outlines new utility regulatory pathways

Board Letter Institute Press Releases LightWorks News

January 7, 2016

powering-tomorrow-energy-reportTempe, Ariz., Jan. 7 – As more electricity providers enter the energy market, the way consumers obtain electricity is becoming more and more decentralized. Today, the leaders of the Powering Tomorrow Initiative released their Phase Two report, which defines industry structures and regulatory packages that accommodate a growing number of market participants, while securing the vitality of existing utilities and a fair playing field for new market entrants.

Powering Tomorrow has been co-directed by Kris Mayes, a professor of practice at the ASU School of Sustainability and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Darrell Hanson, a former Iowa public utility commissioner and two other former utility commissioners. ASU has been a participant in Powering Tomorrow, and will continue to assist in future phases of the effort.

Continue Reading

Celebrating 10 years of leading the way

Board Letter 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.

Continue Reading

Food security a historic factor in climate resilience

Board Letter 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.


Haley Paul: Leading through knowledge, and by example

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

December 23, 2015

Haley Paul - Sustainability AlumHaley Paul is a 2010 graduate of the School of Sustainability’s Master of Science in Sustainability program, as well as a former NCAA athlete for the ASU track and field and cross country teams. She works as a water conservation specialist for the Town of Gilbert, and recently sat down with us to discuss her experience at ASU and how it led her to where she is today.

Why did you choose ASU and to get a master's in sustainability?

I wanted to focus on sustainability because I felt there was a need to explore how our everyday lives were impacting the planet. As an athlete, I paid attention to the food I put into my body. I thought studying agriculture and how we can grow food sustainably - along with the impact that food has on our health and environment - would be interesting.

For my undergraduate honors thesis at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, I examined food system scale as it related to sustainability and worked on an organic farm. When I found the School of Sustainability at ASU, I knew it would be a great degree program in which to continue my studies.

Continue Reading

Creating concrete that can better weather heat

Board Letter 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

Board Letter 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.


Summer 2016 internships available with Arizona Game and Fish

Biodiversity News News

December 15, 2015

Students in the School of Life Sciences looking toward careers in wildlife biology or management take note of a new opportunity: Paid summer internships with the Arizona Game and Fish (AGF) department in 2016.

AGF manages Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources, and promotes safe and responsible use of watercraft and off-highway vehicles.

Interns can expect to gain hands-on practical work experience working alongside a diverse group of AGF professionals. In the past, interns have:

  • Helped with radio tracking and collecting pronghorn antelope field data,
  • Conducted habitat assessments at squirrel use sites as part of a habitat selection study, and
  • Learned skills in electro fishing and gill netting.

Applications are due January 22, and eligible students can apply online; however, interested students from the School of Life Sciences must first meet with Mike Demlong, the AGF department liaison to the school.

Demlong will host two special career-counseling sessions to help students meet the school's application requirement before deadline submission:

  • Thursday, Jan. 14  from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in LSC 278
  • Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in LSC 278

AGF internship eligibility requirements and additional information available here.

Additional information about meeting with the AGF liaison here.

Media seeks ASU expertise on Paris climate talks

Board Letter 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.

CBO researcher part of effort to set standard for identifying areas of significance to global biodiversity

Biodiversity News News

December 10, 2015

Penny Langhammer, CBO research affiliate and ASU adjunct professor of biology in the School of Life Sciences, travels the world to help develop an international standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).

Langhammer serves as co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas, which is working to establish criteria to identify sites (KBAs) that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity.

Her insights on the IUCN project were featured in a recent article in ASU Now.

Sharyn Tom: Saying "yes" to opportunity

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

December 7, 2015

Tom in front of a mosque in Istanbul
Tom in customary dress in front of the Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul - another "yes" that she will never regret.

When we last spoke with Sharyn Tom, she was graduating from the School of Sustainability with a Bachelor of Science in the Economics of Sustainability. She also obtained a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Tom chose to major in sustainability because she wanted to study something meaningful that went beyond traditional disciplines.

She explained, “I lived with my family in Vancouver, Canada, in the summers, and sustainability efforts gave the city its vibrancy and charm. The initiatives also improved transportation, waste systems and peoples’ sense of personal responsibility.”

These initiatives are why Tom chose to live in Arizona; she wanted to share the enthusiasm that she had grown accustomed to.

Recently, we caught up with Tom for a debrief of post-graduation life.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Turning pollutants into profits, while cleaning water

Board Letter 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.


Global sustainability experts to convene at World Business Council on Sustainable Development event Dec. 7-10 in Paris

Biodiversity News News

December 1, 2015

On Dec. 7, members of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) gather in Paris for three days to discuss global solutions for addressing climate change, sustainable development and energy.

The event focuses on four key action areas, which include achieving Sustainable Development Goals, launched by the United Nations in 2015; and Redefining Value, a global effort by WBCSD and its partners to lead the development of protocol and processes to incorporate social and natural capital into business decision-making.

The four-day event also brings together members of the WBCSD's Water Cluster group for a session featuring:

  • The launch of the Natural Infrastructure for Business platform,
  • A demonstration of the Green Infrastructure opportunity screening tool by the Earth Genome and
  • An overview of WBCSD water tools family.

CBO is involved in projects specific to the Water Cluster group and WBCSD action areas, specifically:

  • Development of a data-driven decision support tool for corporate decision-making in water use, and
  • Collaboration with organizational partners on ways to centralize access to biodiversity data and create methods for integrating data into corporate risk-management protocols.

Members from the global organization's Ecosystems, Forest Solutions and Water teams also plan to discuss opportunities to promote WBCSD goals during the IUCN 2016 World Congress in Hawaii.

More information about the Paris WBCSD Council Meeting here.

Information about the WBCSD here.

Sustainability a motivating alternative to doom and gloom

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 29, 2015

asu-sustainability-dean-booneIn a recent contribution to the Journal of Sustainability Education titled "On Hope and Agency in Sustainability: Lessons from Arizona State University," School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone examines how ASU prepares students to address the pressing challenges of living and working sustainably.

Boone starts by explaining the appeal of sustainability to many students — it offers a hopeful alternative to doom and gloom while encouraging everyone to participate in the creation of a desirable future. He then describes how — with the strong support of President Michael Crow — sustainability education flourished at ASU, making this optimistic science accessible to all of its students.

Focusing on curricular strategies while addressing some extra-curricular strategies, Boone discusses in detail how the principle of sustainability has been integrated into ASU. He also shares the post-graduate employment patterns of alumni who are now agents of sustainability in their places of work.


Paris climate progress predicted by Harvard panelists

Board Letter 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.