Skip to Content

Sustainability News

Researchers pinpoint how sorbent materials catch and release carbon

ASU Now | July 13, 2020

A key component of ambient direct air capture (DAC) systems that remove carbon dioxide from the air is the sorbent material that is used to first capture the carbon and then to release it. Certain sorbent materials can pull carbon dioxide from the air as it flows over the material. It then releases the carbon when water is applied. As the material dries again, it absorbs carbon, and so on.

This elegant function of specific materials has been observed for several years by those working on DAC systems, like Klaus Lackner, sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Lackner has developed a system called “MechanicalTree” that uses sorbent materials to remove carbon from air.Klaus LacknerKlaus Lackner in his lab. New research by Lackner and his colleagues explains how sorbent materials catch and release carbon, a key component to direct air capture systems that remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Now, in a new paper in the early, online edition of Joule, Lackner and his colleagues lay out exactly how some of these sorbent materials capture and release carbon, a finding that could lead to the smarter design of sorbent materials at the heart of all carbon removal systems.

Continue Reading

With the help of ASU, city of Phoenix developing solutions to cool down

The Washington Post | July 10, 2020

Phoenix skyline at sunsetDavid Hondula, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Heat Ready initiative, a project funded by Healthy Urban Environments.

“We talk about climate … as something mysterious and ambiguous that comes from the sky. But it is also something we are driving with the way we are paving our streets,” Hondula said in the article. “Urbanization is a critical part of the story.”

Continue Reading

More than words: Acknowledging Indigenous land

ASU Now | July 6, 2020

Arizona State University Library’s first Indigenous land acknowledgement is a five-sentence, 116-word statement about the place that the library and the university have inhabited for more than a century.

Under the direction of Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections and strategy, the statement was crafted by graduate students Alex Soto and Brave Heart Sanchez, with input from Jacob Moore, associate vice president of tribal relations at ASU; Joyce Martin, associate librarian and head of the library’s social sciences division who led the Labriola Center for more than 12 years; and other key faculty and staff stakeholders.

Soto, an operations supervisor who manages the Labriola Center on the West campus, says the land statement does a good job of recognizing where we are as a university library, both figuratively and literally, and can serve as a launch pad for deeper conversations about how the ASU Library might integrate and prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems.

Li, Salon, Kedron investigate COVID-19 societal impacts

ASU Now | July 3, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to surge across the United States, there is little doubt that the pandemic has upended American life as we know it. From disrupting the way people move in the world, to exposing racial inequalities, to introducing new questions about surveillance and personal privacy in tracking the disease, the nation has been changed by this experience.

Arizona State University researchers in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning are studying these changes in the American public and the future impacts COVID-19 can have on individual lives.

Continue Reading

How ASU went to space and keeps pushing boundaries

ASU Now | July 1, 2020

It’s a far cry from the '60s, when engineers fought scientists. Now they are in the same building, unseparated by distance or bureaucratic walls.

This is the story of how ASU's tiny geology program grew to become one of only seven U.S. institutions that can build interplanetary spacecraft. It's a story sure to instill Sun Devil pride.

It begins with the purchase of a meteorite collection, shoots to the moon with some Navy pilots who learned geology basics from an ASU professor, then turns to the hiring of sustainability scientist Phil Christensen, a self-described "accidental engineer."

The story includes interdisciplinary research and student experiences, investments in research facilities, years of hard work, hundreds of students, and an exceptional group of scientists including Christensen, Jim Bell, Craig Hardgrove, and sustainability scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, among many others.

Continue Reading

House Select Committee members release report

July 1, 2020

In November 2019, Arizona State University responded to a request for information from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, submitting a comprehensive, 70+ page response. The response incorporated input from nearly 50 faculty from across the university, drawn from our network of Sustainability Scientists, Scholars and Fellows, thus representing a truly transdisciplinary approach. This demonstrates ASU’s commitment to use-inspired science.

On June 30, members of the Select Committee released their report, Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America.

Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Futures says: "This comprehensive and bold new report, Solving the Climate Crisis, provides a detailed roadmap for the transformational change necessary to guide a transition to a more sustainable, resilient, just, and equitable society. The plan includes ambitious, and detailed, but achievable goals, based in sound science, along with specific policy recommendations for climate action. The plan is based on transdisciplinary, collaborative, and solutions-focused research produced by Arizona State University through its Global Futures Laboratory, which is committed to designing implementable options to sustain global habitability and improve well-being for all humankind. We applaud Representative Castor and members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis for their efforts to assert American leadership on the international stage and stand ready to support the federal government and its partners to implement the plan."

SOS student represents US youth in UN climate dialogue

June 27, 2020

On July 1, School of Sustainability master's student Hailey Campbell will be speaking in a virtual dialogue on the Role of Youth in Climate Action. The event is hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. Register online for this event, which takes place at 6:00 a.m. Arizona time.

Campbell, a 2020 Barrett, the Honors College graduate who majored in sustainability, represented Arizona State University during the 2019 U.N. Climate Convention (COP25) held in Madrid, Spain. It was there she became involved with YOUNGO, the Children and Youth constituency to the UNFCCC.

"I started contributing to official YOUNGO submissions to the UNFCCC, hosting meetings with the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Work Group, and working with my peers to make ACE the focal point of COP26," said Campbell.

"When the time came for this webinar, the UNFCCC Youth focal points invited me to be a participant for our region to share my climate action story," she said.

Vanos, Middel say shade is a solution to scorching playgrounds

ASU Now | June 26, 2020

Children playing outside during Arizona summers can face 100 days or more of temperatures north of 100°F. Too often playgrounds use heat-retaining, unnatural surfaces in the middle of parks with no shade, especially in Phoenix. These unshaded playgrounds can act as mini heat islands, which can disincentivize physically active play or even lead to burns.

ASU urban climate researchers Jennifer Vanos and Ariane Middel believe proper shading of playgrounds may be a solution.

Cerveny certifies world-record lightning flashes

ASU Now | June 26, 2020

lightning over mountains with purple skyTwo new world records of lightning — the horizontal distance a bolt travels and the time duration of the flash — have been recorded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The new records for "megaflashes," verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, more than double the previous records measured in the U.S. and France, according to the WMO.

“This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning — including megaflashes — for engineering, safety and scientific concerns,” said Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the “chief rapporteur” of weather and climate extremes for WMO.

“It is likely that even greater extremes exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning-detection technology improves,” Cerveny said.

Meet sustainability alum and secretary of the CLFSA Maria Coca

June 25, 2020

Maria Coca Ascencio felt destined to study sustainability.

“I grew up surrounded by mountains, volcanos, calderas, trees, rivers, and dark skies viewing millions of stars with the naked eye,” Coca said. “Nature was my first love.”

Following her heart, she applied to the School of Sustainability and was accepted into the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program, from which she graduated in 2019. She is currently the Academic Senate Manager and Secretary of the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association (CLFSA). In the following Q&A, learn more about Maria, her passion for sustainability and her role on the CLFSA.

Continue Reading

New mapping tool shows holistic view of water in Arizona

ASU Now | June 25, 2020

Water is a critical issue in Arizona, and a new water-mapping tool created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University has collected a vast array of maps and data sets to show a wide-ranging view of water in the state.

The Arizona Water Blueprint visualizes information on groundwater, rivers, agricultural irrigation, dams, ocean desalination, critical species and other concepts that are important not only to policymakers but also to any Arizonan concerned about water.

The first-of-its-kind map creates a holistic view of water in Arizona that was missing, according to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy.

Westerhoff, Herckes combine for COVID decontamination solution

ASU Now | June 15, 2020

As the novel coronavirus created urgent demand for personal protective equipment, a major hospital chain in Phoenix was seeking a solution that would allow hospital staff to sanitize masks themselves, rather than sending their masks off site for disinfection and possibly getting other people’s masks in return.

According to sustainability scientist Paul Westerhoff, “It’s potentially a life-and-death issue in the context of viruses because once an N95 mask is fit to someone’s face, it may not form a proper seal on anyone else’s face.”

Continue Reading

Philosophers of science and sustainability scientists unite!

June 9, 2020

An international group of philosophers of science (Michiru Nagatsu, University of Helsinki; Taylor Davis, Purdue University; C. Tyler DesRoches*, Arizona State University; Inkeri Koskinen, Tampere University; Miles MacLeod, University of Twente; Milutin Stojanovic, University of Helsinki; Henrik Thorén; University of Helsinki) recently wrote an article entitled “Philosophy of Science for Sustainability Science" on the nature and significance of sustainability science. This article is forthcoming in the journal Sustainability Science.

Continue Reading

Amplifying Black Lives Matter for a sustainable future

June 9, 2020

This article was written by William Walker VI, a junior in the School of Sustainability

As environmentalists and caretakers of the earth, it is our duty to ensure the prosperity of all environments as well as the built environment around us. But what if the environments we have built have a story of systemic racism, prejudice, redlining, exploitation, and marginalization of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities? Is it possible to include conservationists, economists, urban planners, sustainability professionals, and social activists in the reformation process? To this question, I say that we should recognize the systemic racism in our society as an environmental issue and that racial equity should be the focal point for sustainable development.

Continue Reading

Oui Nous Pouvons: subverting the single story of sustainable development

June 5, 2020

Led by her passion for empowering communities through sustainable development, Master of Sustainability Solutions student Abigail Johnson worked in the western African country of Togo on a documentary film about homegrown sustainability solutions. By amplifying marginalized voices and showing grassroots sustainability initiatives, Johnson counterbalanced the prevalent narrative that sustainability in Africa can only be done with non-African resources and people.

“Oui, Nous Pouvons” (translation: Yes, We Can) opens with Abby’s narrative, “I came to Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer, but just to be clear this is not my story. It’s a story about the people I met here and about the stories they tell themselves and each other.” And the story she tells focuses on a Togo community member named Aposto who has put his master’s degree in sociology to good use by creating homegrown solutions to local sustainability challenges.

Continue Reading

Societies in conflict

Medium | June 5, 2020

In the latest thought leader piece from the Global Futures Laboratory, "Societies in Conflict," Craig Calhoun — University Professor of Social Sciences in the School of Sustainability — draws parallels between recent racial justice protests in the United States and 1989 protests for democratic freedoms in Tiananmen Square, China.

You can read the piece on Medium. To ensure you don’t miss any Global Futures Laboratory Medium posts, follow our Medium channel directly, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn where we announce all new posts.

Using creative expression to convey sustainability solutions

June 2, 2020

Meet Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainability alumna Neda Mohaved. Her work is centered around international development as human development, and most recently “how we wear water.”

“Throughout the project, I worked with water metaphorically to equate the process of learning with embracing change. Paradigm shifts needed for sustainability require transformative learning where one is open to being shaped by new knowledge and experience," Movahed said. Read more in her Q&A.

Continue Reading

Meet sustainability student and SURE researcher Tahiry Langrand

June 2, 2020

The Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) is an opportunity for undergraduate students to find a research fellow and gain substantive research on a faculty-supervised project. This year, School of Sustainability student Tahiry Langrand participated in a project on lithium mining with Datu Agusdinata.

“I was driven to work with Dr. Agusdinata on his research on the community impacts of lithium mining in Salar de Atacama because I was especially interested in the ethical considerations of natural resource extraction,” Langrand said. Read more from Langrand in his Q&A.

Continue Reading

ASU launches master of science in public interest technology

ASU Now | June 2, 2020

Technology is an enabler. Applying it in the public interest means there is a use value for the common good. Creating an open and iterative feedback loop between stakeholders leads to building a better future together, and for everyone. A new master’s degree program at Arizona State University will explore this further by training leaders who will imagine, design and use technology for social good.

The School for the Future of Innovation in Society is launching the Master of Science in public interest technology this August. The online, cross-disciplinary program will help students develop the knowledge and skills that will allow them to understand the motivations for and challenges of public interest technology, assess new and emerging technologies for social impact, engage with users and deploy technologies responsibly.

Two short films explore sustainable food and water harvesting

May 22, 2020

Two new short films Holding on to the Corn and Plant the Rain, produced by students in the School of Sustainability and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in a class taught by Peter Byck, highlight the benefits of a local regenerative food system.

Holding on to the Corn

Holding on to the Corn explores how Hopi spiritual beliefs, ceremonies and agricultural practices centered on corn are being re-established by tribe members. The original intent of the film’s proponents was to create sustainable agriculture and promote healthy access to food, only to discover that their tribal traditions and experiences provided all the knowledge they needed to succeed.

Continue Reading