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Sustainability News

Milton Sommerfeld: Legacy and Lifetime Achievements

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

May 16, 2017

What’s so great about algae?

If you had the good fortune to meet Milton Sommerfeld, you have a hearty answer to that question.

Appropriately dubbed “The Wizard of Ooze,” Milt illuminated the world of algae with vibrant imagery, bubbling-good humor, and – if you were lucky – a mouthful of algae cookie, freshly baked by his wife Carolyn.

Milt unlocked algae’s potential, demonstrating its boundless possibility while leaving an enduring legacy of research, both at Arizona State University and well beyond its walls.

Catching the algae bug

Milt grew up in rural Texas on his family’s farm. Not only did this upbringing teach Milt the importance of hard work, resilience and integrity – virtues he continually demonstrated to his students and colleagues – it also introduced him to a specific slimy-green substance.

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Sustainable Cities Network receives Ponderosa Pine Partnership Award

ASU Wrigley Institute News

May 15, 2017

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management awarded the Sustainable Cities Network and partners with the department’s first Ponderosa Pine Partnership Award for the Regional Tree & Shade Summit 2.0: Branching Out One Community at a Time.

This award was given at the 2017 Arizona State Arbor Day Celebration, which included winners of the Arbor Day K-12 Poster Contest, as well as recognition for 29 Tree City USA communities, 2 Tree Campus USA sites, 2 Tree Line USA utilities and 4 Urban Forestry Awards.

The Ponderosa Pine Award is one of the Urban Forestry Awards presented at the celebration, given “to increase the recognition of outstanding urban forestry projects in Arizona." It is presented for the innovative, strategic and/or pioneering collaborative efforts of organizations. It recognizes a project for the exceptional involvement of multiple organizations that was implemented during the past year.

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ASU in world's Top 3 for sustainability initiatives

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

April 26, 2017

ASU is third in the world and second in the U.S. for sustainability initiatives, according to a 2017 rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, known as STARS, rated ASU highest with the following percentages of available points: 87 percent in academics and research, and 95 percent in campus and public engagement.

AASHE STARS is a comprehensive tool for measuring sustainability at more than 800 colleges and universities around the world. It benchmarks institutions in over 1,000 data points covering academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

To achieve gold, ASU built campus and community collaborations to provide world-class education and research sustainability with the first School of Sustainability more than a decade ago. Now, 12.5 percent of ASU’s courses are recognized as sustainability or sustainability-related and 74 percent of academic departments offer sustainability courses.

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Myanmar at a turning point for natural capital and human wellbeing

Thought Leader Series Biodiversity News

April 24, 2017

A Thought Leader Series Piece

by Leah Gerber & Penny Langhammer

After a half-century of isolation, the Republic of Myanmar has reengaged with the international community following democratic elections in 2015. The country is experiencing rapid political, social and economic change, presenting it with both risks and opportunities.

Comprising a large portion of the Indo-Burma region, Myanmar is home to a remarkable diversity of unique species and ecosystems. While the country has maintained this rich biodiversity for centuries, Myanmar now faces challenges in sustainably managing its natural life-support systems and must address climate variability, water scarcity, agricultural productivity and energy security.

Recognizing that biodiversity underpins a range of ecosystem services that are required for sustainable development, Myanmar updated its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 2015 and confirmed its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals last year.

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TSC joins Walmart in going for a gigaton

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 19, 2017

In April 2017, Walmart announced an ambitious goal to reduce emissions by one billion tons (a “gigaton”). The company invited key suppliers to join Project Gigaton by making climate commitments that will help the company reach its target by 2030.

That's where The Sustainability Consortium, founded through a partnership between ASU and the University of Arkansas, comes in. The organization will act as an official measurement partner, collecting data on emissions – both upstream and downstream in the value chain of products – from participating Walmart suppliers.

“Climate change is one of the gravest threats we face. It also presents unlimited opportunities for companies that choose to lead," said Euan Murray, TSC Chief Executive. "By taking a science-based approach to set such an audacious goal, Walmart cements its place as a leader with Project Gigaton. The Sustainability Consortium is proud to support Walmart in this critical initiative and we look forward to helping them deliver."

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Joining forces with private sector for sustainability outcomes

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News Biodiversity News

April 18, 2017

In March, two representatives from Arizona State University attended the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s 2017 Liaison Delegate meeting in Montreux, Switzerland. Amy Scoville-Weaver represented ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes (CBO), and William Brandt attended on behalf of ASU LightWorks.

The WBCSD is a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment.

The conference, Roadmap for Impact in Today’s Reality, focused on the drastic political changes over the past year, implications for sustainability and the critical opportunity for the private sector to engage in new ways on sustainable development. As part of the conference, WBCSD released its CEO Guide to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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What would it mean to lose the Endangered Species Act?

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

April 13, 2017

A whale fin flips above the waterAs the current presidential administration rolls back numerous environmental regulations, Senior Sustainability Scientist Leah Gerber considers the consequences of losing the Endangered Species Act – another item queued for the chopping block.

In an April 2017 commentary in Christian Science Monitor titled "Is the endangered species act facing extinction?," Gerber touts the services biodiversity provides us - among them, food, medicine, clean water and air. Not only do these enhance rather than impede our lifestyle, in Gerber's opinion, the plants and animals that make up our ecosystems enrich our lives in ways often ascribed to art.

According to Gerber, who directs ASU's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, these benefits provide solid ground for a bipartisan effort to strengthen the ESA's ability to protect endangered species rather than to limit or invalidate it.

"For those species that we deem worthy of protection, we must promote their recovery and be willing to pay for it," Gerber writes. "For the losing species, we need to prepare for the consequences of their disappearance from Earth."

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Sustainability professor gives GreenBiz the inside view

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 11, 2017

Sustainability is a field written in pencil, at best, according to School of Sustainability Professor of Practice George Basile.

In an April 2017 interview with GreenBiz,  Basile explains that sustainability is always evolving, requiring its practitioners to be keen learners.

"When you implement sustainability even today, very quickly people find out what it’s like to be a pioneer," he says. "You’ll find yourself in new territory."

The students who enroll in sustainability courses at ASU are not intimidated by this prospect. In Basile's opinion, School of Sustainability students are among the best.

"They’re willing to learn. They’re motivated. They come with a great breadth of backgrounds and they really are solution-oriented," he explains. "They’re looking at 'how do we build the future we want.'"

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Mobilizing agency to address urbanization

ASU Wrigley Institute News

April 5, 2017

A man stands as he rows down a river in MexicoXochimilco, Mexico City is the last remnant of the complex lacustrine system of wetlands that was the basis for agriculture and livelihoods in pre-Columbian times. However, the water is no longer provided by natural springs, but is provided by the discharge of treated wastewater from the neighboring, densely-populated and impoverished borough of Iztapalapa.

The water quality is not good, not only because of its source, but also because of numerous illicit discharges of sewage into the wetland from the irregular and expanding urban settlements on the wetland’s fringe. Water quality concerns have undermined fishing and agricultural livelihoods, and threaten the ecotourism activities of the area.

MEGADAPT – led by School of Sustainability Professor Hallie Eakin – recently conducted a Transformation lab (T-Lab) in Xochimilco. While there are numerous sustainability challenges associated with Xochimilco, the T-lab focused on the issue of informal/irregular settlements and the urbanization of the historic wetlands. The MEGADAPT team proposed the T-lab as a collaborative arena where participants could discover and mobilize agency to address urbanization.

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Meet Our Alumni: Chris Chappell

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

March 31, 2017

Chris Chappell graduated from the School of Sustainability in 2012 with a Bachelor's of Science, focusing on Sustainable Ecosystems. Chappell is currently the Social Media Coordinator for the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert, Arizona, where he acts as both a communications hub and resident photographer for the brewery.

Chappell educates the public, as well as his fellow brewery staff, about the story of every beer: from its locally-sourced ingredients, to its deliciously brewed end.

Where are you working now?

Arizona Wilderness is a very fast-paced brewery in the sense that we have five daily food specials, weekly beer tappings and weekly bottle/can releases. Most of these beers and food specials utilize local ingredients, either sourced from a local farmer or even ethically foraged by our brewers, or have some sort of interesting story behind them. It is my job to gather all of the information on these and convey it to the public, via social media, and to our amazing staff.

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Agriculture in Arizona faces a warmer future

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

March 27, 2017

Rows of green lettuce in a fieldHow might climate change affect Arizona? A decrease in crop yields, for one thing, according to Andrew Berardy – a postdoctoral research associate with the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – and Senior Sustainability Scientist Mikhail Chester.

After studying the food-energy-water nexus that governs agriculture in Arizona, the pair found that the state's yields could drop more than 12 percent per 1 degree Celsius. This would have cascading effects – including more irrigation and increased food prices – that would be felt throughout the region.

In light of roll-backs in environmental protection by the Trump administration, Berardy and Chester advise that farmers upgrade to more efficient irrigation methods like drip irrigation. Their findings were published in IOP Science.

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Navigating the rapids of water management

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

March 24, 2017

We’ve portioned out more of the Colorado River’s water than it can deliver. What now?

Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White, who directs ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City, delivered his ideas for staying afloat in a March 2017 KED Talk. He demonstrated how the lessons he learned while rafting the Colorado River in 1998 are applicable to today's proverbial water rapids – namely drought, climate insecurity, population growth and overallocation.

"The solutions to these problems will require courage, skilled and experienced leadership," says White, "....and the recognition that the vitality of the American West depends on everyone paddling together."

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Sowing the seeds of sustainability education

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 22, 2017

Spotlighting the Sustainability Teachers' Academy – a program of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – ASU was recognized with a 2017 Best of Green Schools award from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.

The award, presented in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network, acknowledges the importance of cultivating lifelong awareness by planting the sustainability seed early and, particularly, ASU's efforts to achieve just that through community education.

The annual Best of Green Schools awards recognize 11 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country. ASU was honored in the higher-education category.

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ASU, Conservation International team up to protect biodiversity

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

March 22, 2017

Group photo of President Crow with CBO staff and Professors of PracticeAs a key program within the Knowledge Partnership between the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Conservation International, ASU welcomed seven Professors of Practice last week.

These scientists will devote time to teaching, mentoring and service initiatives at the university, all aligned toward advancing the three goals of the partnership: protecting biodiversity; promoting sustainable development, particularly in food production and fisheries; and training the next generation of conservation biologists.

“Right now we’re in a race, a race that will not be easily won,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “The forces of nature and the negative force of our impact on nature are accelerating. The acceleration of those forces are such that they will contribute to our need to have something we don’t have, which are better theories, better ideas, better tools, better solutions, better implementation, better translation – none of which comes naturally.”

As the New American University, ASU supports local and global partnerships to ignite innovative solutions to pressing biodiversity conservation issues around the world.

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Innovative consortium announces first global collaborations

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 13, 2017

Less than six months after its founding meeting at ASU, the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes (GCSO) – a global network of universities dedicated to scaling sustainability solutions with like-minded partners around the world – announced its first round of grant awards.

Members decided to address three core sustainability challenges in the consortium’s first year: city capacity to solve sustainability problems, sustainability education and reducing carbon emissions from the built environment.

Three interdisciplinary teams were awarded USD $125,000 each to implement projects that address these challenges. Led by sustainability experts from ten GCSO member universities across seven countries, the projects work directly with implementation agents – including cities, schools, agencies and neighborhoods – to put research-backed solutions in place.

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability is GCSO’s managing partner.

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Cultivating a space to learn and grow

ASU Sustainability News

March 10, 2017

A woman directs a student's attention to something in the garden, where there a numerous plants, squares of hay and a wheelbarrow.Available to faculty, staff and students, the community garden at ASU’s Polytechnic campus helps the community understand food systems and water conservation in the desert. That's part of the reason why it is regularly used for capstone projects and outdoor class lessons.

According to Susan Norton, program manager of sustainability practices, “[The garden] opens the minds of students to what it means to eat local, what it tastes like, and why it is important.”

Much of what the garden grows is donated to food banks – about 370 pounds so far. Those who lease space through Norton’s program maintain it, and the waiting list is growing. That's why Norton wants to expand the garden, moving it to a more central and accessible location.

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ASU welcomes Professors of Practice

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

March 8, 2017

Collage of professors of practice headshots with ASU and CI logosNext week, the ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes (CBO), in partnership with Conservation International (CI), will welcome six scientists from CI’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans as Professors of Practice (PoPs). The PoPs will be instrumental in advancing the three goals of the Knowledge Partnership established with CI in September 2016:

  1. Protecting essential natural capital for human well-being.
  2. Transitioning producers to sustainable production methods through science, engagement and technology.
  3. Training the next generation of conservation leaders.

During their welcome week, PoPs will participate in a series of planning workshops to strategize research and teaching. They will present lightning talks and discussion, followed by one-on-one meetings with faculty.  They will also facilitate undergraduate and graduate student workshops.

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Going global: ASU grad students tackle challenges around the world

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 7, 2017

Saurabh Biswas likes to ensure that no good ideas, or sunlight, go to waste.

That’s why the School of Sustainability PhD student created Sustainable Rio Claro 2020 – a sustainability game-plan for the Brazilian village of Rio Claro.

Through ASU’s Global Development Research program, Biswas lived, worked and studied in the small agricultural community, collaborating with community members and local organizations. He also got hands-on, providing assistance to a local photovoltaic (PV) solar startup making rooftop PV accessible to Brazil’s urban communities.

Biswas is one of more than twenty graduate students to become a GDR scholar since the program’s inception.

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Phoenix gets a guide to greener procurement from ASU

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 3, 2017

Nicole Darnall in front of a projector screen that reads "Top 5 Barriers"Wanting to lessen its impact on the environment, the City of Phoenix decided to explore ways to make more eco-friendly purchasing decisions. Sustainability experts Nicole Darnall and Lily Hsueh were among the half-dozen ASU faculty to help them.

The ASU team assessed opportunities for purchasing improvements by conducting focus group interviews with city procurement specialists. After identifying complex organizational barriers and trade-offs, the team provided eight recommendations that will help Phoenix advance its 2050 environmental sustainability goals.

“By engaging city officials, our team was able to address one of the city's concerns — how it can further integrate environmental considerations into its purchasing processes,” said Darnall, the principal investigator. “At the same time, we developed a better understanding about sustainable procurement, advanced our research ideas, and engaged teams of graduate students in project-based learning. This project created wins for everyone.”

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High Antarctic temperatures provide insight to ASU scientist

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 1, 2017

Dr. Randy Cerveny sits in his office with books piled behind him.ASU Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Randy Cerveny announced in March 2017 that Antarctica has reached record-breaking warm temperatures – in some places over 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cerveny, a Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for the World Meteorological Organization, has collaborated with other WMO experts to measure the impact of rising Antarctic temperatures on the rest of the planet. The team has published their findings in a recent report.

"The polar regions of our planet have been termed the ‘canary’ in our global environment," he says. "Because of their sensitivity to climate changes, sometimes the first influences of changes in our global environment can be seen in the north and south polar regions...The more we know of this critically important area to our environment, the more we can understand how all of our global environments are interlinked.”

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