ASU Wrigley Institute News

Decision Center for a Desert City releases decadal synthesis on climate, urbanization, and water in metropolitan Phoenix

December 3, 2013

Looking over green treetops toward downtown PhoenixArizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) released a 10-year report, “Advancing Science in Support of Water Policy and Urban Climate Change Adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A Synthesis of Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Water, and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty.” The report summarizes the center’s milestones since its founding in 2004.

Under ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, DCDC has published over 340 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and supported 69 graduate students who have authored 18 doctoral dissertations and 17 master’s theses. DCDC focuses mostly on water risks and decision-making trade-offs amidst climate change.

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West Bank university partners with ASU to advance renewables

December 2, 2013

Arizona State University’s LightWorks is funding a comprehensive training program on renewable energy with An-Najah National University in West Bank. The first training session was on Nov. 17 in Nablus, West Bank and attendees included the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, officials from the Palestinian Energy Authority, and university representatives including Global Institute of Sustainability Scientist Mike Pasqualetti.

“The objective of this course is to develop a comprehensive training program on renewable energy,” says Sayfe Kiaei, director of Connection One and professor in ASU’s School of Electrical, Energy and Computer Engineering. “The participants included representatives from energy industry, utility companies, policymakers, and energy sectors. After a one-week successful training program at An-Najah, there will be a one-week course at ASU.”

Palestinian energy professionals will meet in 2014 at ASU to complete the training.

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Phoenix Business Journal: User-based renewables make utilities nervous

November 27, 2013

The recent uprising of innovative energy technologies is profiled in a Phoenix Business Journal article by reporter Hayley Ringle. Currently, “homegrown” power is replacing utility-based power, making large corporations like Arizona Public Service (APS) struggle to keep up. Emerging technologies like solar, wind, and battery storage are driving down costs and making more people turn to renewable energy. Several experts from Arizona State University weigh in, including the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Mick Dalrymple and Harvey Bryan.

Self-sufficient home and business owners with rooftop solar have created a heated energy environment in Arizona, with utilities fighting against it.

“When you’re generating kilowatt-hours behind the meter, for yourself, you’re taking away kilowatt-hours that would ordinarily be sold by the utility,” Bryan says. “You’re competing with them in a way.”

Time will only tell if utilities catch-up with technology.

“One thing is for sure: No industry that has fought to slow or prevent technological innovation has won in the long run,” says Dalrymple. “It is not a winning strategy.”

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Everyone Likes a Good, Low-Carbon Story

Thought Leader Series

November 25, 2013

A Thought Leader Series Piece

peter-byckBy Peter Byck

Note: Documentary filmmaker Peter Byck joined the School of Sustainability as a professor of practice this semester. His position is jointly shared with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he is now teaching students how to create their own clean energy documentaries.

Can good storytelling lead us to a low-carbon economy? And can I help students become good storytellers? These questions have led me to Arizona State University to become a joint professor of practice for the School of Sustainability and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Greeks had an expression that I will roughly paraphrase: “The storyteller rules society.” So the power of good storytelling is clearly not a new idea; but, storytelling has been a tough nut to crack for the folks who aspire to guide us to a low-carbon economy. I think the reason is simple enough: The scientists, engineers, and thought-leaders focused on sustainability are good at what they do; they just are not trained in storytelling. That’s why Carl Sagan became so well-known – a brilliant scientist and a fantastic storyteller – a powerful combination.

For me, documentaries are an excellent way to get a story told. Films aren’t the only storytelling game in town, to be sure, but they are incredibly accessible and easily disseminated now with the World Wide Web. And great documentaries actually change society. The Thin Blue Line proved that by using DNA, many people on death row were actually innocent. Super Size Me literally showed that too much fast food is, indeed, bad for one’s health; at least it was damaging for the filmmaker and his liver.

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ASU zero waste initiative begins at Territorial Cup game

November 25, 2013

ZWMain2To help achieve Arizona State University’s Zero Waste by 2015 goal, Sun Devil Athletics will host its first-ever zero waste football game this Saturday, Nov. 30 against the University of Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. From then on, all athletic games and stadiums will be zero waste.

Limited trash cans will be available, making game-goers choose between green compost bins and blue recycling bins. Fans can throw away food, liquids, and serviceware (plates, napkins, utensils) in green composting bins while bottles, cans, and paper programs go in blue recycling bins. Representatives from University Sustainability Practices will be on hand to answer questions and educate the public.

This season, each home football game this year has averaged over 60,000 attendees, which creates 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of waste.

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Algae workshop trains ASU scientists

November 22, 2013

The Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office Algae Program visited ASU on Nov. 19-20 to host its Algal Biofuels Strategy Workshop for interested stakeholders, scientists, industry professionals, and government officials. ASU staff and faculty from the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), the AzCATI-led Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3), and the College of Technology and Innovation attended the workshop as well.

“ATP3 welcomed this opportunity to display our capabilities and talents to the workshop attendees and the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and the Global Institute of Sustainability.

Participants applied their knowledge in hands-on training sessions at AzCATI, learning about the current progress of algae research, barriers to algae-based fuels, and metrics.

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Dell student assistants learn sustainability hands-on

November 21, 2013

Sustainability StudentsThrough a unique partnership between Dell and the School of Sustainability, students get to join Dell’s sustainability team as hourly student workers.

Student sustainability assistants complete ongoing projects, collaborate with other Dell employees, and juggle priorities in an intense corporate sustainability environment. They may get to interact with supply chain management teams in China, business teams in Latin America, employees from within Dell, and people outside Dell, as well.

Since the program’s inception two and a half years ago, more than 15 individuals have participated in the Dell program. Students work from a shared office space in Wrigley Hall, where they are coached and mentored by Bruno Sarda, director of global sustainability operations at Dell, and adjunct faculty at the School.

“Bruno throws you in, and supports you,” says Jaleila Brumand, an alum of the program. “It was a great experience for me.”

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Peace, agriculture conference empowers developing leaders

November 21, 2013

The second Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability (EmPeace LABS) conference trained agriculture and community leaders from developing countries in Jalgaon, India on October 20-26. Sustainability Scientists Marek Wosinski and Rimjhim Aggarwal organized the conference with partners Gandhi Research Foundation and Jain Irrigation Systems, Ltd. to explore sustainable agribusiness, leadership and community development, peace, and violence prevention.

The conference brought together young community leaders from 18 countries including India, Rwanda, Nigeria and Lebanon, where hunger strikes the hardest. And where there’s hunger, there’s violence.

“When people are hungry, they fight for resources,” Wosinski says, referencing the 2004 United Nations University Report, “Agriculture for Peace.” “If you want to create peace and stability in developing countries, you need to secure food.”

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Future Tense: Absence of draft makes going to war too easy, says Sustainability Scientist

November 20, 2013

In a Slate Future Tense article, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Brad Allenby writes how today’s technology is masking civilians’ understanding of war. Technologies like biotechnology, nanotechnology, drones, and communications are steadily increasing the gap between civilians and military professionals and making war more “socially acceptable.”

“This is a dangerous complacency in a society where class cleavage and political divisiveness is going stronger, where fewer and fewer institutions provide opportunities that cut across self-selected communities of interest and ideology, and where the divide between civilian and military cultures is already dangerous and growing wider,” writes Allenby, also a Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and Founding Chair of the Consortium on Emerging Technologies, Military Operations, and National Security.

To compensate for the dangerous gap between experienced military personnel and volunteers, Allenby suggests reinstating the draft. A draft would also improve the public’s understanding of battle practices, policies, and methods.

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Study Abroad Fair Nov. 21

November 18, 2013

AustraliaSchool of Sustainability students, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend this Thursday’s Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Memorial Union, Arizona and Ventana rooms on the ASU Tempe campus. Study abroad program experts will be on hand to answer any questions regarding ASU’s 250 study abroad opportunities. Also get a first-person point of view and advice from students who traveled abroad last year.

New 2014 programs include faculty-directed trips organized by the Global Institute of Sustainability.

“Students who study abroad tell us that they, on average, have an easier time securing a job upon graduation because they have a ‘stand out’ academic experience on their resume,” says Adam Henry, ASU’s Study Abroad Office interim director. “Students indicate that they gain new knowledge and expertise, independence, cultural understanding, the opportunity to discover new places, and a competitive edge upon graduation … while at the same time receiving ASU course credit.”

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Students: Apply by Nov. 22 for Clinton Global Initiative University

November 16, 2013

Arizona State University is the 2014 location for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Annual Meeting taking place on March 21-23 on the Tempe campus. CGI U promotes and encourages the millennial generation’s motivation towards positive change and impactful entrepreneurship by funding student-created projects and initiatives.

“This conference is building upon the worldwide movement for social entrepreneurship and change that’s at the core of the millennial generation,” said Kaitlin Fitzgerald, student director of Changemaker Central. “ASU is a great place for that because we are a university that prides itself on showing students how to take the resources and opportunities at their disposal and apply them to real-world challenges.”

School of Sustainability students are encouraged to apply by Nov. 22 with ideas related to one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. For questions, email

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ASU, Vietnam sign sustainability agreement

November 13, 2013

On Oct. 29-30, ASU hosted 10 members of the senior Vietnamese government and industry officials from the Vinh Phuc Province to collaborate on future projects that will ensure the sustainability of Vinh Phuc. The province is quickly becoming the go-to for manufacturing and foreign investment.

“As part of our province’s growth plan, we are looking for partners in development, especially in the United States,” says Phung Quang Hung, chairman of the Vinh Phuc People’s Committee. “We greatly appreciate the goodwill and assistance the leadership and staff at Arizona State University has accorded to our delegation. We look forward to working with ASU and the Vietnam Higher Engineering Education Alliance in drawing up a cooperation plan in the field of education and training and other areas of development.”

The memorandum of understanding will first bring about collaboration on sustainability efforts then move on to biomedical engineering, public policy training, and sustainable tourism.

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Phoenix Business Journal: Filmmaker teaching ASU sustainability students

November 12, 2013

peter-byckPeter Byck, director and producer of “Carbon Nation” and a new professor of practice for the School of Sustainability and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is currently teaching students sustainability concepts through documentary-making.

“It’s about solutions and changing students’ careers,” says Byck. “It was a beautiful fit for my next project.”

Students from both schools are divided into three teams investigating solar issues in Arizona. The students will then showcase their documentaries to a live audience at the end of the semester. Byck is also partnering with ASU to create a follow-up to “Carbon Nation” called “Carbon Nation Mach 2.”

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Sustainability Scientist to lead $1.8 million solar grant

November 9, 2013

Dragica Vasileska, also a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is leading a research team developing stronger and more reliable photovoltaic solar cells. Funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, Vasileska’s team will receive $1.8 million over three years.

Vasileka says heat, cold, moisture, humidity, and other environmental extremes wear down photovoltaic solar systems. In order to be truly sustainable, systems must be able to weather all kinds of climates. Her team will investigate what exactly causes the degradation of the cells, then develop prevention methods.

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Green Living Magazine: The phosphorus issue

November 8, 2013

phosphorus fertilizer_102499277In this month’s Green Living Magazine, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Jim Elser talks about the one ingredient we all depend on but never talk about: phosphorus. He has been studying phosphorus for over 20 years. The element naturally occurs in our environment and is used to grow our food. However, due to the globe’s increasing population and the resulting stress on food supplies, phosphorus levels are dwindling.

Elser started ASU’s Phosphorus Sustainability Initiative to find ways to conserve, recycle, and sustain global phosphorus supplies. Unfortunately, there is no way to create phosphorus in the lab. The only supplies are what the Earth produces.

“This is the biggest problem we’ve never heard of,” Elser says.

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Technology brings real world to sustainability students

November 7, 2013

student-video-conferenceIn ASU’s School of Sustainability, professors are taking advantage of the many technological opportunities available today to entice students and expand their real-world, global experiences. By using methods like Vidyo, Skype, Voice Thread, and others, classrooms turn into living laboratories for students exploring sustainable communities, international policy, and sustainable development.

“Technology can bring the class to the outside world, instead of taking the outside world to the class,” says David Manuel-Navarrete, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability and a senior sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Other sustainability professors advise that newcomers develop a back-up plan in case any glitches occur. However, many students expect their professors to be up-to-date on new technology and to use such technology in the classroom.

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ASU engineers use SunShot Initiative funds for solar advancements

November 6, 2013

Several Sustainability Scientists and ASU engineers are developing ultra-thin silicon solar cells that produce more electricity from the sun with a Department of Energy SunShot Initiative three-year grant. Given $3.5 million, project leader Stuart Bowden is teaming up with Stephen Goodnick, Christiana Honsberg, Mariana Bertoni, and Zachary Holman to advance the U.S.’s solar energy future. All team members are also part of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. Much of the work will take place in ASU’s Solar Power Lab on the Tempe campus and Research Park.

“A wave of advances is expected in photovoltaic solar cell technologies that should propel solar-energy industry growth within the next several years, and our efforts stand to make a big contribution to move that forward,” Bowden says.

Project partner institutions include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, the University of New South Wales in Australia, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

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Sustainability Scientists outline climate change effects

November 5, 2013

Scientific findings compiled for the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment are explained in the November issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In particular, Senior Sustainability Scientist and CAP LTER project director Nancy Grimm guest edited the issue and authored two of the journal’s papers.

“The impacts that climate change has had and will have on people are interwoven with the impacts on ecosystems,” says Grimm, also a professor in the School of Life Sciences. “I think that we instinctively know that. In this assessment, we try to draw that connection.”

Additionally, John Sabo, director of research development for the Global Institute of Sustainability and associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, co-authored a paper on weather extremes and preparation.

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LEDs light up Wells Fargo Arena

November 5, 2013

Arizona State University’s Wells Fargo Arena is the first LED-lit NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision facility in the nation. ASU’s recent sustainability partner, Ameresco, joined Musco Sports Lighting, ASU Facilities Development and Management, and University Sustainable Practices to remove the stadium’s previous 109.20 kW lighting system with the new 27.74 kW LED system. Now, the stadium’s lighting uses 75 percent less energy without compromising lighting levels.

LED lighting (light-emitting diode) is a high-efficiency, low-temperature lighting source that is known for lasting 25 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. It is estimated that the new LED installation will save ASU $357,000 over 10 years.

This past summer, Sun Devil Athletics made the Natural Resource Defense Council’s list of top 10 sustainable athletic departments.

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White House honors School of Sustainability student

November 4, 2013

Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Joe Knott, also a current ASU School of Sustainability graduate student, was chosen to be one of the White House’s 2013 Champions of Change for his continued commitment to land and species conservation.

Knott, a 33-year veteran, has served at the Pentagon as program manager for the Army’s Compatible Use Buffer Program that conserved 70,000 acres of land across the U.S. for conservation and green space. His last military assignment was as the Sustainability and Energy program manager for the National Guard Bureau, developing and implementing sustainability education, policies, and renewable energy initiatives for all 54 states and territories.

Knott will be awarded tomorrow morning at the White House’s ceremony. The event is closed to press but will be live streamed on the White House website at 10:00 a.m. ET.

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