ASU Wrigley Institute News

ASU, Argonne partner to tackle country’s greatest challenges

May 28, 2015

Argonne-ASU-SustainabilityTo facilitate a broad portfolio of research, Arizona State University has signed a five-year memorandum with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.  The memorandum will establish a structure for ASU and Argonne to pursue novel research in areas including decision making based on climate variability and uncertainty; the impacts of global population dynamics and urbanization; the challenges of renewable energy practices; and creating innovative solutions to problems in energy, education and sustainability.

It became apparent that the two institutions shared a belief in the power of interdisciplinary and cooperative research during ongoing work on the Foresight Initiative. The $20 million, five-year project brings together knowledge and capabilities from a variety of organizations, including Argonne’s Global Security Sciences Division. The project, led by sustainability scientist Nadya Bliss, aims to develop an integrated computational platform that will enable decision makers to explore how climate change and future resource contention could contribute to political unrest and instability.

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ASU scientists gather in D.C. to tackle phosphorus sustainability issues

Institute Press Releases

May 18, 2015

sustainable-phosphorous-conferenceTempe, Ariz. — Researchers from Arizona State University, along with more than 40 other scientists, engineers, technical experts and policy makers from around the world, are convening in Washington, D.C. May 18-21 to study ways to create a sustainable phosphorus (P) fertilizer system.

The use of phosphorus, a key component of fertilizers, is increasing around the world. As a result, the runoff of phosphorus from farms and cities is creating noxious algal blooms, which often lead to “dead zones” in rivers, lakes and coastal oceans.

Furthermore, the price of phosphate rock used for fertilizer production is increasing and uncertainty surrounds the long-term reliability of these rock supplies, as they are distributed from just a few countries. Many experts believe humanity’s phosphorus use has already exceeded “safe boundaries” and are calling for solutions both to protect water quality and assure long-term reliable supplies of P for fertilizer.

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Pioneer in Business Sustainability and ASU Professor Joins National Board

Institute Press Releases

May 14, 2015

DSC7499bsWASHINGTON, DC – NEEF (the National Environmental Education Foundation) announced today the appointment of Dr. George Basile to its Board of Directors.  Dr. Basile is a Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU), a Senior Sustainability Scientist in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and Affiliate Professor in the School of Public Affairs.  He was recently the Swedish Knowledge Foundation’s Distinguished International Guest Professor of Sustainability-Driven Innovation.

Dr. Basile’s work has reframed sustainability as a “decision space” and focuses on how to plan, lead, and act strategically for emerging sustainability opportunities and challenges.  Dr. Basile has been the executive director of the ASU Decision Theater, a unique systems exploration and application center. He has also served as a faculty affiliate and advisor to The Sustainability Consortium, a global nonprofit organization working to transform the consumer goods industry by developing tools and strategies that address environmental, social and economic imperatives.

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The development of sustainability education at ASU

May 13, 2015

sustainability-educationThere has never been a more important time to educate and train the leaders of the future to deal with the threats of instability. Current world leaders are discussing climate change at the same time that local communities in the U.S. strive for more resilience to increases in climate events.

U.S. universities have a responsibility to prepare modern sustainability business, government and other professionals with the innovative technical and management approaches needed to lead in a rapidly changing world. During this January 14, 2015, webinar titled “Innovative Approaches to Sustainability Education at U.S. Universities,” Dean Christopher Boone discussed how ASU’s School of Sustainability – the first of its kind in the United States – came to be and how it has evolved. He also described how the School is providing future sustainability leaders with the education they need now, along with tools to move the sustainability field forward.

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New report details effects of changing climate on Arizonans’ health

May 8, 2015

BRACE-climate-healthThe Arizona Extreme Weather, Climate and Health Profile Report – a document produced by a team of ASU researchers and the Arizona Department of Health Services in March 2015 – is now available to the public.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report describes health risks posed by air pollution, extreme heat, flooding, drought and vector-borne diseases in Arizona. It also summarizes historic temperature and precipitation trends, and provides projections for the future.

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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 initiatives honored with President’s Award for Sustainability

April 14, 2015

president-award-sustainability-orangesAt the April 14 President’s Recognition Reception, ASU President Michael M. Crow awarded university movers and shakers with the President’s Award for Innovation, the President’s Award for Sustainability and the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness, as well as the SUN Awards for Individual Excellence.

Recipients of the President’s Award for Sustainability included the Seville Orange Juicing Partnership, a venture among ASU Facilities Management Grounds Services, Aramark, Campus Harvest and local Sun Orchard Juicery. This past year, volunteers and Facilities Management Grounds staff harvested 10,000 pounds of Seville oranges from the Tempe campus, and Sun Orchard processed and bottled 380 gallons of juice. Aramark then purchases the juice for their chefs to use in residence halls, restaurants and at catered events. Even the orange peel is processed and used by local farmers as a healthy, all-natural feed for cattle and hogs.

The Clinton Global Initiatives’ University Zero Waste and Biodesign’s Sustainability Science Education Project also received the President’s Award for Sustainability.

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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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Study finds link between excess nutrients and ecosystem impacts

April 9, 2015

arianne-cease-diets-ecosystemA study led by ASU sustainability scientist Arianne Cease demonstrates how human food production can have a profound impact on ecosystems.

For example, phosphorous is commonly added to foods as a preservative, leading to an excess in waste streams. It can also run off and enter the water supply when waste is used as fertilizer in agriculture. When there is an imbalance of nutrients like phosphorous entering bodies of water, toxic algal blooms may result.

“These algal blooms can contaminate drinking water and reduce water clarity, oxygen levels and biodiversity,” said Michelle McCrackin, a researcher at Stockholm University (Sweden) and a member of Cease’s team.

Cease’s study shows that new ways of recycling nutrients to fertilize crops, along with upgrades to waste treatment facilities to remove more nutrients like phosphorus, could substantially reduce water pollution.

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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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ASU offers 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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Study explores heat-mitigating technologies for urbanizing region

March 27, 2015

urban-heat-population-growthA new study led by sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu reveals some of the dynamics at play as one region of the country, the Central Valley of California, braces for substantial population growth and all it entails. The study, based on computer simulations of rural to urban land conversion, shows that as areas of California grow and develop, the resulting built environment could generate additional heat.

Georgescu used ensemble-based simulations employing EPA projections of urban growth to assess urban expansion climate effects by the year 2100 in the Central Valley. He first assessed the resulting rise in regional temperatures and then explored several temperature mitigating strategies for buildings: cool roofs, green roofs and hybrid approaches. He found that as the state deploys temperature-mitigating technologies, there are secondary effects that appear to take place, such as less daytime air turbulence, which could lead to higher concentrations of pollutants.

But the urban heat island effect can be mitigated using new technologies and the latest in sustainable design techniques, said Georgescu, whose “Challenges associated with adaptation to future urban expansion” appears in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Climate. Finding the right combinations of technologies and techniques will be key.

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ASU engineer works to improve computer sustainability

March 26, 2015

harvesting-excess-computer-heatArizona State University computer scientist Carole-Jean Wu is gaining attention for her work to improve the energy efficiency of both large- and small-scale computing nodes, encompassing everything from desktop processors, smartphones and other mobile devices to business-scale data centers.

Wu’s research focuses on designs for chip-multiprocessors and heterogeneous computing systems, energy-efficient smartphone architecture and architectural energy harvesting techniques for modern computing nodes. Rather than allowing superfluous heat generated by devices to reduce performance speed, Wu decided to harvest it with a thermoelectric generator, which converts heat to electricity using a phenomenon called the Seebeck effect.

Wu’s paper, “Architectural Thermal Energy Harvesting Opportunities for Sustainable Computing,” recently received the Best of Computer Architecture Letters (CAL) award.

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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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Project aims to strengthen resilience of Southwest infrastructure

March 24, 2015

infrastructure-resilience-sustainabilityUsing a three-year $600,000 grant from the Water Sustainability and Climate program, ASU engineers and sustainability scientists Mikhail Chester and Thomas Seager are leading a project that will provide a guide to boosting the resilience of infrastructure systems against potential threats posed by climatic changes.

Seager will work on developing one of the key methods the project team hopes will encourage foresight in policymaking and planning for these infrastructure networks. Using Arizona as a case study, Seager will devise a game-based learning platform – specifically a computer game – to educate leaders about possible future infrastructure vulnerability issues and how to approach the task of assessing what can be done to deal with them sooner rather than later.

The work based at ASU’s Sustainable Urban Systems Lab, which is directed by Chester, will focus primarily on desert regions because they are especially vulnerable to environmental impacts brought on by climate-related factors.

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Scientist honored for advancements in solar research and education

March 24, 2015

christiana-honsberg-sustainability-solarArizona State University engineering professor and sustainability scientist Christiana Honsberg was recently presented the Outstanding Faculty Award for 2014 by the Phoenix Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The award recognizes Honsberg’s contributions as a university faculty member working to develop a more sustainable future by making advances in the performance of solar energy systems.

Honsberg is a pioneer in advancing the photovoltaic technologies used to produce power from solar energy. She has also developed both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in photovoltaics and renewable energy, including the first undergraduate degree program in solar energy, as well as the first sustainable energy education program for the NSF Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training (IGERT) program

IEEE, an association dedicated to advancing innovation and technological excellence for the benefit of humanity, is the world’s largest technical professional society.

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Annual review demonstrates ASU’s operational sustainability progress

March 23, 2015

asu-sustainability-operations-2014-coverEvery year, Arizona State University strives to minimize consumption, maximize efficiency and reassess the traditional way of functioning to be more sustainable. ASU’s newly released 2014 Sustainability Operations Annual Review shows that the university has made major strides toward those goals.

The review includes major highlights of the university’s progress in operational sustainability, as well as significant facts that support each of ASU’s overarching sustainability goals: climate neutrality, zero waste, active engagement and principled practice.

Highlights include being named in the top 12 bicycle-friendly universities in the U.S. by the League of American Bicyclists, having 3,740,114 gross square feet of LEED-certified building space and claiming  the greatest capacity of photovoltaic installations of any university in the nation.

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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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