ASU Wrigley Institute News

SD Mines, Arizona State University Pave Way for Cooperative Research

Institute Press Releases

April 23, 2015

sustainability-asu-south-dakota-miningRAPID CITY, S.D. and TEMPE, Ariz. (April 23, 2015) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and Arizona State University (ASU) have entered into an agreement to promote cooperation on research and other joint projects.

A memorandum of agreement signed by the universities will encourage and promote cooperation in research, long distance learning, student success and other services particularly, though not exclusively, relating to sustainability, energy and natural resources.

“We have complementary strengths and a similar set of values,” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University. “It makes sense for us to collaborate more closely.”

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ASU’s sustainability headquarters goes zero waste

April 11, 2015

zero-waste-wrigley-sustainabilityby Alex Slaymaker, Master’s of Sustainable Solutions

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability is now equipped with a system capable of achieving zero waste, defined as 90 percent diversion from landfills.  The system offers the option of recycling, composting, TerraCycling, plastic film and bag recycling, and landfilling “waste” – a term now nullified as all materials diverted from the landfill are valuable resources.

This seemingly complex five-option system is viewed as standard in many countries around the world, including Germany and Japan.

The opportunity to practice what is preached at the sustainability headquarters of ASU requires students, staff and faculty to learn how to properly use the zero waste system. In order for Wrigley Hall inhabitants and visitors to see these bins as empowering rather than overwhelming, graduate student zero waste advocates held a Zero Waste Kick-Off Party on April 9. The celebration on the first floor of Wrigley Hall helped to raise awareness about the new zero waste pilot, eliminate myths about “waste” and educate on proper diversion practices.

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New finding: trees grow on money

April 10, 2015

tree-lined-street-shade-kpg_payless-182392325By the time we reach adulthood, most Americans have come to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees. But a new study published in PLOS ONE this month shows that trees do – figuratively speaking – grow on money.

Christopher Boone, dean of the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, was among the authors of the study. The article resulted from a workshop led by Boone at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

“We studied seven cities across the U.S.,” says Boone. “What we found was a correlation between low-income neighborhoods and low-density tree cover.”

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ASU study shows online education is key driver in university sustainability strategies

Institute Press Releases

April 6, 2015

net_positive_ict_and_online_edA new report from Arizona State University indicates that the development of online education programs can be a significant component of an institution’s sustainability strategy based on greater socio-economic impact for a smaller environmental footprint per degree.

Using ASU Online as a case study, the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Services determined that the increased access to degrees through online education creates socio-economic benefits of as much as $545,000 or more per undergraduate degree over the lifetime of the graduate while also reducing the carbon footprint by at least 30 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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New Certificate in Food System Sustainability

April 6, 2015

food-system-sustainabilityFood systems are particularly important for human societies to sustain, as well as particularly vulnerable to multiple threats related to the interconnected sustainability challenges we face.

Reflecting the breadth of food system issues researched and taught at ASU, the School of Sustainability now offers a 15-credit interdisciplinary Certificate in Food System Sustainability – a comprehensive, sustainability-oriented introduction to food systems for undergraduate students.

The certificate, which complements a variety of majors from agribusiness to English, draws from food-related courses in the social sciences, humanities, life sciences and applied sciences. Each discipline approaches food sustainability from a different angle, giving students a holistic understanding of food-related challenges and solutions.

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Happily Ever After: Storytelling and the Long View

Thought Leader Series

March 25, 2015

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Ed Finn

Ed FinnNote: Ed Finn is the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, where he is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.

The story goes that when beetles were discovered in the eaves of the great hall at New College in Oxford, everyone began wondering where they could possibly find replacements for the gigantic timbers that had held up the roof for hundreds of years. They needed oak trees almost as old as the building itself. As it turned out the founders of the college had planted oaks expressly for the purpose of repairing structures, with university foresters protecting them over generations. The great hall was completed in the late 1300s, and they were building something that they intended to last functionally forever.

Today it seems like the expected lifespan of a building is getting shorter, not longer. More alarmingly, our perception of time seems to be narrowing—we forget our history just as readily as we ignore the future.

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Urban ecologists study human-nature interactions

March 19, 2015

Urban-Ecology-CAP-LTERIn the latest installment of the “Sustainable Cities” series, Senior Sustainability Scientist Nancy Grimm discusses common misconceptions about ecologists and nature. She presents the idea of untouched wilderness as an example.

“We’ve recognized that there really aren’t such places, or are very few such places, left on Earth,” says Grimm, an ecologist herself who has worked in the field for more than 30 years.

Grimm is also the director of Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research, a project launched in 1997. CAP LTER is one of 26 LTER sites throughout the United States. Based at ASU, it is one of only two sites that examine urban ecosystems. Specifically, the Phoenix site answers questions about ecosystem services – benefits provided to people by the environment or wildlife – and studies how humans interact with nature in their cities.

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ASU scientist positioned to advance supply chain research

March 13, 2015

supply-chain-networks-pitu-mirchandaniIn recognition of his advancement of engineering and science in logistics, ASU professor and sustainability scientist Pitu Mirchandani has earned the Avnet Chair in Supply Chain Networks. The role will support Mirchandani’s efforts further education and research in the field through the design, analysis and operation of supply chain networks. He will do so using models that consider the development, manufacture and delivery of a product or service, as well as factors like facilities’ capacities and transportation routing.

“I want to marry mathematical modeling and optimization approaches in industrial engineering to computer science. This will boost our capability to do more extensive real-time analysis and decision-making,” Mirchandani says.

Avnet Inc. is a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Phoenix that offers information technology services to businesses, along with global logistics and programming services to enhance supply chain operations. It endowed the Chair in Supply Chain Networks in recognition of ASU’s accomplishments and commitment to the field, and to help strengthen the company’s relationship with the university.

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Scholars seek sustainable solutions through environmental humanities

March 6, 2015

environmental-humanitiesIn an effort to improve prospects for generations to come, a group of ASU scholars in the emerging discipline of environmental humanities is addressing humanity’s struggle to think in the long term. The team, which includes sustainability scholars Sally Kitch and Joni Adamson, approaches its work using a combination of humanistic scholarship and scientific research. Their aim is long-term, human-centered solutions that truly transform the way we live and think.

“We have technological advances that could go a long way to solving some of these problems. But we aren’t implementing them,” says Kitch. “We don’t have the political or social will to make the kinds of dramatic changes in our values, in our sense of comfort and well-being in the world, that are really required if we’re going to get off of the fossil fuel gravy train that shapes our current political and economic systems.”

Kitch, Adamson and others are working toward their goal through activities like leadership in the international Humanities for the Environment project, which houses its North American Observatory Branch at ASU.

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Lithium-ion battery life to be extended through ASU research

March 5, 2015

longer-battery-lifeASU researchers are exploring new energy storage technology that could give the lithium-ion battery an even longer life. By combining a high-performance silicon electrode architecture with a room temperature ionic liquid electrolyte containing the new bis-fluorosulfonylamide anion, the researchers establish a highly energy-dense lithium-ion cell with an impressively long cycling life. In fact, it maintains greater than 75 percent capacity over 500 charge/discharge cycles with almost no wasted electrons.

“This study brings home the fact that energy storage technology still has a lot of room to run, with new technological changes coming at a fast pace,” says Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This is important when considering areas where storage is important, such as grid storage and electric vehicles.”

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Scientist encourages inclusion in technologies development

March 4, 2015

david_hayden_disability_technologyIn anticipation of a Future Tense event on technology and the future taking place in Washington, D.C., Senior Sustainability Scientist Sethuraman Panchanathan explores the subject in Slate magazine. His article, titled “The best adaptive technologies are designed by, not for, people with disabilities,” illustrates this point using ASU graduate David Hayden as an example. Hayden, who is visually impaired, used his disability to develop an assistive tablet called the Note-Taker – a technology that his sighted peers were also eager to use.

“Truly revolutionary technologies require engagement with users throughout the design and development process. While it’s helpful to get feedback and ideas from focus groups on users’ needs, short sessions don’t give us a full understanding of the challenges and opportunities in developing assistive technology solutions,” writes Panchanathan. “It is imperative that people with disabilities play a leading role in envisioning, conceptualizing, developing, implementing, deploying, testing, and validating potential solutions, tools, and technologies.”

In a November 2014 Thought Leader Series Piece, Ray Jensen made a similar point about the importance of including disabled persons, particularly from a sustainability standpoint.

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Senior sustainability scientist awarded for professional service

March 2, 2015

heather_bateman_wildlife_society_awardSenior Sustainability Scientist Heather Bateman was honored with the 2015 Award for Professional Service at the annual meeting of the Arizona and New Mexico chapters of The Wildlife Society – the national professional organization for wildlife biology and conservation. The award recognized Bateman – a field ecologist, conservation biologist and associate professor in the College of Letters and Sciences – for her dedication to the leadership and professional development of her students.

“This award is well-deserved recognition for Heather and the good work she is doing both in research and teaching,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist Chris Martin, head of the faculty of Science and Mathematics in the College of Letters and Sciences. “It also shines a spotlight on our wildlife program in applied biological sciences and student-centered approach to learning and doing science.”

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Arizonans view water as top priority, according to new ASU poll

February 27, 2015

morrison-cronkite-poll-waterA new poll, conducted by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, articulates the top two priorities among Arizona residents: education and water.

The inaugural Morrison-Cronkite Quarterly Poll surveyed 754 Arizonan adults statewide to assess opinions on a variety of issues, from law enforcement to arts and culture. Among the 11 issues offered to respondents, “maintaining adequate water and water quality” ranks at that same level of importance (87 percent) as education.

“It’s apparent that the importance of ensuring an adequate and quality water supply for Arizona’s varied interests figures prominently on Arizonans’ radar,” said David Daugherty, associate director of Morrison Institute and director of the poll. “This is a complex and dynamic issue, but clearly one that Arizonans understand as a priority that needs to be thoroughly examined and addressed.”

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New York Times columnist discusses sustainability as freedom

February 26, 2015

Tom-Friedman-HeadshotAddressing a crowd of nearly 2,000 people in ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, renowned journalist and author Thomas Friedman contended that maintaining our freedom is going to require a major value adjustment. The Pulitzer Prize winner, who visited ASU on Feb. 26, explained that society has been built on situational values, which have led to unhealthy interdependencies and our current climate concerns.

Friedman went on to explain that our freedom now relies on building healthy interdependencies that mirror those found in nature, and are based on sustainable values. The impactful talk – titled “Sustainability as Freedom” – marked the first of this year’s Wrigley Lecture Series and was made possible with the generous support of sustainability visionary Julie Ann Wrigley.

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ASU launches academy to educate young students about sustainability

Institute Press Releases

February 26, 2015

sustainability-education-academyToday’s students will become tomorrow’s leaders, and educating them about sustainability is increasingly important in light of the complex social, economic and environmental issues the world faces.

Arizona State University’s new National Sustainability Teachers’ Academy aims to bring teams of elementary, middle and high school teachers from across the nation together to establish an educational task force for sustainability.

As a program of ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the teachers’ academy will focus on solutions-based curriculum with an emphasis on urban systems. ASU sustainability scientists and scholars will help coach and lead hands-on sessions on solutions surrounding food, water, energy and climate.

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Walmart Expands Online Sustainable Shopping Offering

Institute Press Releases

February 24, 2015

Walmart-Sustainability-ConsortiumSAN BRUNO, Calif., Feb. 24, 2015 – Walmart announced today the debut of its Sustainability Leaders shop, an online shopping portal on that helps customers identify and purchase products from suppliers that are leading in sustainability.

The launch of the Sustainability Leaders shop builds on the company’s ambition to provide customers more information about the products they purchase at Walmart. The new portal helps to advance Walmart’s goal to offer customers a way to choose products they can afford, and that are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The Sustainability Leaders shop is the customer-facing iteration of Walmart’s Sustainability Index, launched in 2009 in collaboration with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an independent, third-party organization of academic-based scientists and more than 100 member organizations that creates tools and strategies to drive more sustainable consumer products. Over the last several years, Walmart and TSC have worked with suppliers, several leading non-profit organizations and TSC to build the Sustainability Index.

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AAAS meeting features research by sustainability scientists

February 24, 2015

AAAS-sustainability-scientistsThis year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – the world’s largest science and technology society – featured research from ASU sustainability scientists. Topics ranged from the sustainable intensification of food production, as discussed by geographer B. L. Turner II in a panel symposium, to the sequestering of atmospheric carbon dioxide through ranching techniques, an idea  being explored by Peter Byck and his SoilCarbon Nation team.

Additionally, Nadya Bliss – an assistant vice president for research strategy in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development – is working with science historian Manfred Laubichler to develop a set of mathematical techniques to detect patterns in networks that point to the emergence of innovation in research.

The annual meeting draws thousands of scientists, engineers, educators, policymakers and journalists from around the world.

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Biomimicry: Mining Nature for Ideas

Thought Leader Series

February 23, 2015

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Prasad Boradkar

asu-biomimicry-prasad-boradkarNote: March 3 marks the launch of ASU’s new Biomimicry Center, established in partnership with Montana-based Biomimicry 3.8, and co-directed by Prasad Boradkar. In this essay, Boradkar describes how biomimicry can help us create solutions to address our problems in sustainable ways.

A short five-minute walk takes me from my suburban home in south Phoenix to the Sonoran Desert, from the highly standardized and manufactured human-made world into the somewhat wild and undomesticated natural world.

Satellite views show stark differences between the two landscapes: rectilinear, hard lines divide the land inhabited by people, while meandering, unrestrained territories mark the land inhabited by all other creatures. We have, by design, created in contrast to the natural world, an artificial world of products, buildings and cities.

Philosopher Richard Buchanan describes design as “conception and planning of the artificial.” Using these processes of planning, we have created everything from tiny paperclips to enormous jet aircraft, from the smallest dwellings to the largest metropolises. And though these things are made of such materials of human creation as chrome-plated steel, aluminum and reinforced concrete, they are all ultimately extracted from the natural world. From the natural emerges the artificial.

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Sustainability Solutions Festival concludes with community celebration

February 18, 2015

Sustival-Sustainability-SolutionsMarking the culmination of the Sustainability Solutions Festival, the Sustival will ask attendees to reimagine how one person, one community or one organization can positively impact our future. The celebration takes places at the Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix, and will feature art, educational opportunities and entertainment. It will kick off with a bike parade through the Roosevelt Row arts district.

“We organized the Sustival not only to shed light on sustainability challenges, but to also celebrate and acknowledge those who are tackling them head-on,” said Kelly Saunders, program manager for the Sustainability Solutions Festival. “The Sustival brings together the community to learn how to have less impact on the environment, support an equitable economy and promote a prosperous society.”

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New center uses novel approach to negative carbon emissions

February 17, 2015

center-negative-carbon-emissions-sustainabilityASU’s new  Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, led by faculty in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, aims to show that capturing excess carbon dioxide is a viable way to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. With novel technology that uses plastic resin to capture carbon dioxide when dry and release it when moist, the center transcends  the limitations of traditional carbon reduction approaches.

The center also intends to show the economic viability of carbon capture by demonstrating its many uses. Recycled carbon could power the production of synthetic fuels, as well as provide an essential food source for plants in greenhouses. In fact, carbon dioxide collected by air capture units could enhance the yield of algae-based biofuels.

In light of its groundbreaking work, the center expects to find a place within ASU’s sustainable solutions framework alongside LightWorks, PlanetWorks and the ASU Wrigley Institute.

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