ASU Wrigley Institute News

Transitioning to a Sustainable Urban Future

Thought Leader Series

September 25, 2013

A Thought Leader Series Piece

Chris-Boone-croppedBy Christopher Boone

Note: Christopher Boone became the Interim Dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in July. He continues to teach in the School of Sustainability and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. He recently co-edited the book, “Urbanization and Sustainability: Linking urban ecology, environmental justice and global environmental change.”

History shows that significant transitions are possible, and these radical changes can have far-reaching impacts on human beings and the environment. In a span of just three human lifespans—roughly 200 years—we have experienced demographic, energy, and economic transitions that have altered the human condition and our relationship with the planet. In the United States in 1800, birth rates were high, but life could be miserably short; people depended on animals, falling water, and wood for energy; and the economy was based on agriculture and resource extraction.

Today in the U.S., families are not large enough to replace the current generation, but people can expect to enjoy long lives; we are utterly dependent on fossil fuels for energy; and the economy is based mainly on services. The implications of these transitions are multi-faceted and complex, but they have contributed to, among other concerns, rising energy and material demands, global climate change, biodiversity loss, and increasing disparities of human well-being.

Continue Reading »

School of Sustainability student examines climate change impacts on Nepali farmers

September 23, 2013

This past summer, School of Sustainability junior Tayler Jenkins traveled to the south Asian sovereign state of Nepal to assist Sustainability Scientist Netra Chhetri on his research investigating climate change impacts on farmer livelihoods. Jenkins collected fodder, turned buffalo excrement into fuel, and learned conservation farming methods.

“Living on the farm was cool because the Nepalis have such a slow pace, but they still get things done,” Jenkins says. “They are always in the present and their time is based on the sun.”

Jenkins also received a Neely Foundation Food and Agriculture Sustainability Research Grant for her self-proposed thesis topic on the community-based Rupa Lake Rehabilitation and Fishery Cooperative.

See Jenkins’ photos from the trip »

Source »

Sustainability Scientist co-leads Responsible Innovation institution

September 23, 2013

David Guston, a senior sustainability scientist and director of ASU’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society, is set to bring a more social and ethical outlook to ASU’s research through the university’s new Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Virtual Institute will bring together an international team of concerned scientists, researchers, and students to instill more responsibility into emerging technologies.

“We are thrilled that NSF has chosen to advance responsible innovation through this unique, international collaboration,” Guston says. “It will give ASU the opportunity to help focus the field and ensure that people start thinking about the broader implications of knowledge-based innovation.”

Source »

Increasing use of nanomaterials has unknown environmental consequences

September 20, 2013

Nanomaterials like silver, titanium, silica, and platinum can be found in your food, clothes, cleaning supplies, and body care products. Many of these items still subsist in the environment even long after you’ve thrown them out. However, researchers don’t know how much and how long the nanomaterials survive in environments like fragile ecosystems.

Fortunately, Senior Sustainability Scientist Paul Westerhoff is leading a team of chemistry and engineering faculty for a National Science Foundation-funded project that will locate and measure nanomaterials in the environment.

The research will be conducted as part of ASU’s Sustainable Water Initiative. Findings from the research will be shared with ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program that studies urban ecosystems.

Source »

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Filmmaker helps students tell stories about climate change

September 19, 2013

peter byckNew professor and filmmaker Peter Byck shares his story of how he became interested in sustainability and climate change to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Sydni Dunn. Byck is a professor of practice in ASU’s School of Sustainability and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

His first course, Sustainability Storytelling, started this fall and has students creating short documentaries about solar issues in Arizona.

“The sustainability students know the subject but don’t know how to tell the stories, and the journalism students know how to share the message but don’t have a firm grasp on the details,” says Byck. “That’s why we brought them together.”

Source »

Fox 10: Have this year’s monsoon rains made a dent in the drought?

September 19, 2013

In a September 11 broadcast, state climatologist Nancy Selover explains Arizona’s wet summer and its effects on the ongoing drought conditions.

“Up until this past week we haven’t had much precipitation at all,” says Selover, also a senior sustainability scientist. “We were actually very much down below 50 percent. Now we’ve caught up and we’re just about even but that’s only because of these last storms.”

However, Selover says what really matters is how much precipitation hits the Verde and Salt river watersheds. Phoenix depends most on these areas’ reservoirs that supply groundwater.

“We’ll take everything we can get any time we can get it,” says Selover. “But in terms of ground water and water resources the winter snow pack is really what we need.”

Source »

Sustainable Brands: ASU gains Dutch partners

September 19, 2013

Starting this month, the Global Sustainability Solutions Center (GSSC) at Haarlemmermeer, part of ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, will research the linkages between employee wellness and productivity and a sustainable built environment for Park 20|20, the Netherlands’ first cradle-to-cradle business center. The cradle-to-cradle design enables closed cycles for water, energy, waste, and materials, thus producing no outputs.

The productivity assessment will involve faculty, staff, and one graduate student from ASU.

“The project will provide important information for Park 20|20 as it continually innovates to optimize the working environment for its clients,” says Marta Hulley Friedman, program manager of the GSSC. “We are very enthusiastic about partnering with Park 20|20 and providing an opportunity for our faculty and students to learn about the concepts behind Park 20|20. This is the first in a number of projects we hope to engage in together.”

Source »

Yahoo! Finance: ASU President Michael M. Crow’s view on university sustainability

September 18, 2013

mcrowAramark, a leader in food services and Arizona State University’s food provider, released its 2013-2014 edition of Presidential Perspectives, a collection of 10 essays written by university presidents. This year’s theme is Elevating Sustainability Through Academic Leadership, and in one chapter, ASU President Michael M. Crow shares how he’s managed to transform one of the largest universities in the nation into a sustainable success story.

“America’s colleges and universities are responsible for the majority of the scientific discovery and technological invention that has advanced sustainability science,” says President Crow, also author of the edition’s Foreword. “For academic institutions, fostering teaching and research that advances sustainability thus requires new institutional arrangements. But, more broadly, universities should be at the vanguard of producing societal transformation and solutions to the challenges that confront humanity.”

Source »

School of Sustainability’s risk takers recognized for entrepreneurial spirit

September 16, 2013

Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability was honored with the Bootstrapper Award at the Startup Bowl 2013 reception held August 29.

This year’s Startup Bowl had 665 student participants. ASU’s School of Sustainability—with more than 300 majors and 500 minors—received the Bootstrapper Award for the highest amount of participants out of the School’s total enrollment.

“We are very entrepreneurial,” says Christopher Boone, interim dean for the School of Sustainability. “We may be the smallest college, but we’re never short on big ideas.”

Continue Reading »

Uloop News: 16 Things That Colleges are Doing to Help the Environment

September 16, 2013

In the national online collegiate news site, Uloop, reporter Elena Novak from Florida State University compiles a list of 16 actions U.S. universities are doing to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Among a list made up of buildings, dorms, wind turbines, farms, and vehicles, ASU’s School of Sustainability stands out for its unique education offerings.

“There are multiple layers of solutions-orientation at ASU and one of them is through emphasizing and rewarding use-inspired research and another one is through walking the talk and making the university a more sustainable place,” says Candice Carr-Kelman, assistant director for the School.

School of Sustainability student Maximilian Peter Christman has learned forward-thinking during his studies.

“I think a common conception is that sustainability is about giving your children and your children’s children the same opportunity that you had,” he says.

Source » Why colleges should add green to their school colors

September 16, 2013

A article reports on the current sustainability undertakings of universities across the U.S., including Arizona State University.

There are many benefits that come with sustainability, as outlined by reporter Jonathan Bardelline, that include student recruitment, lower costs, improved branding, and healthier student and staff experiences. ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability houses the nation’s first transdisciplinary School of Sustainability, where students gain first-hand knowledge and application of sustainability concepts.

“We’re trying to find the right balance of theory and practical implementation,” says Nick Brown, senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

ASU has two major sustainability goals: to be completely carbon neutral by 2035 and a zero waste university by 2015.

Source »

Arizona Horizon: How Arizona cotton farmers manage water

September 15, 2013

In a September 10 broadcast on PBS’ program, Arizona Horizon with Ted Simons, Senior Sustainability Scientist and associate professor Hallie Eakin talks about her research on water management among cotton farmers in the Southwest. Eakin is currently partnered with experts from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension to study cotton farmers’ perspectives on water sustainability.

During her interview, Eakin says Arizona has experienced an economic recession and continued drought that has brought unique opportunities for cotton farmers.

“Cotton is a water-consumptive crop compared to some other alternatives,” Eakin says. “But we have to think about the conditions in which cotton is grown here. It’s not only a crop that can survive in highly salinated soil, it actually does really well here in the desert. Part of our study has been looking at what really are the things that worry farmers in terms of the viability of their production.”

Source »

Students study water scarcity in Arizona-Sonora region

September 14, 2013

Senior Sustainability Scientist and School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment professor Enrique Vivoni says economic, social, and political cooperation is needed to ensure a sustainable future for the southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico region. To assist, Vivoni created the U.S. Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training program (UMB-West) to bring together ASU and Mexican faculty and students to investigate major water scarcity issues and possible solutions.

Students researched water plant dynamics in a semi-arid climate and completed their own studies using civil engineering methods and community-based surveying.

“It was surprising to see how the research, or lack of research, can really have an impact on a whole community,” says Seth Morales, a civil engineering student. “It was amazing to see people living in the same hot summer climate as in Arizona, but without abundant water resources. Some homes only have access to water every three days for a two-hour window.”

Source »

Math modeling boosts Mexico’s agriculture

September 13, 2013

Arizona State University Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Carlos Castillo-Chavez visited Mexico last month to investigate population growth impacts on agriculture. Working with representatives from Mexico’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Castillo-Chavez discussed the center’s MasAgro program that helps small-scale farmers partner with organizations to gain access to sustainable agriculture tools and technologies.

A mathematician, Castillo-Chavez says mathematical models can help expand the program’s reach to hopefully create “a culture change [that] takes place where farmers and politicians are in constant communication.”

Castillo-Chavez is faculty in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the founding director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.

Source »

Phoenix Business Journal: Experts warn of water rationing in Arizona

September 13, 2013

In an article by Phoenix Business Journal reporter Hayley Ringle, Arizona State University Sustainability Scientist and researcher John Sabo shares recent findings from his report on water scarcity in the western U.S., co-written by author Robert Glennon.

Unfortunately, Arizona’s complicated mix of increasing population and development and never-ending drought makes for an unknown sustainable future. Many policymakers may turn to water rationing, but the report’s authors warn that rationing is not a sustainable option.

“The threat of water rationing will be a recurring theme over the next couple decades because of the drought, growing population and inefficiency,” says Sabo, also director of research development for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “At some point, there is going to be rationing and it will affect pocketbooks one way or the other.”

Instead, Sabo and Glennon suggest other options for water sustainability in the West: farming efficiency, municipal water re-use, and natural conservation. However, financing these options will only get more expensive as water becomes more scarce.

Source »

Green Living AZ Magazine: Cotton Perspectives

September 12, 2013

Arizona has five Cs: copper, cattle, citrus, climate and cotton. In September’s Green Living AZ Magazine, the latest in cotton research, farmer livelihood, and climate change impacts are highlighted by Michelle Talsma Everson. In the article, Sustainability Scientist Hallie Eakin shares insights from her research on water management by cotton farmers.

“The cotton farmers who have stuck it out in the industry are pretty committed to being here,” Eakin says. “They of course want cotton farming to continue, and this study can help address what that means for water availability, electricity, and more.”

The researchers hope this study will alleviate any misconceived notions about cotton farmers, and assist cotton growers, policy makers, and urban planners in water conservation and sustainable agriculture in Arizona’s arid climate.

Source »

National exhibit to feature ASU students’ sustainable urban design research

September 12, 2013

Honors students in Senior Sustainability Scientist David Pijawka’s course will have their research photographs and videos displayed in October’s Biophilic Cities Launch exhibit.

Pijawka’s course, Sustainable Cities, focused on sustainability issues within urban cities. The honors students explored Valley locations and analyzed their “biophilic,” or natural designs. Biophilia, a concept popularized by ecologist E.O. Wilson, suggests that humans have an innate connection to nature and need it to be happy and healthy. Cities apply biophilia to design buildings, parks, preserves, and residences.

“Biophilia is a ‘hook’ for sustainability; students often engage with this concept really quickly because they can think about themselves and how nature plays a role in their life,” says Dorothy Trippel, Pijawka’s teaching assistant and a graduate of the School of Sustainability.

The exhibit will take place on October 17-20 at the University of Virginia.

Source »

Engineers aim to protect cities from intensifying heat

September 10, 2013

Senior Sustainability Scientist and engineer Mikhail Chester is teaming with experts from University of California, Los Angeles to study Phoenix and LA’s susceptibility to rising temperatures. Specific at-risk communities usually fall in the low-income areas, where people have poor access to air conditioning, clean water, and shade.

The ASU/UCLA team is particularly interested in how urban infrastructure can help alleviate the negative side effects of increasing urban temperatures. The National Science Foundation is funding the research, awarding $480,000 over the next four years. The researchers hope they will find very specific construction and design methods that can protect people from the threat of heat.

Source »

ASU researchers look to nature to solve societal challenges

September 10, 2013

In his latest column for The Arizona Republic, Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan discusses biomimicry, or the process and study of using nature to inspire practical solutions to everyday problems. Panchanathan is the senior vice president for ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

In his article, Panchanathan describes the research Arizona State University engineers, biologists, and computer scientists are doing with biomimicry.

“Researchers in ASU’s Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis are studying nature’s original clean-energy solution — photosynthesis,” says Panchanathan. “The ASU scientists are analyzing the biochemistry of photosynthesis in order to design new systems for harvesting solar energy and converting light into fuel.”

Source »

ASU-led national algae testbed opens enrollment for fall workshop

September 9, 2013

Participants are invited to scale up their knowledge of algae growth and management Nov. 4-8 at the Algae Testbed Public-Private-Partnership (ATP3) fall workshop on Large-Scale Algal Cultivation, Harvesting, and Downstream Processing. The weeklong workshop will take place at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, the leading ATP3 testbed site at the ASU Polytechnic campus. To sign up for the workshop, visit

The workshop will cover the practical applications of growing and managing microalgal cultures at production scale. ATP3 is a network of 12 agencies, which range from private industries to educational institutions and national labs, funded through a $15 million grant from the US Department of Energy.

Source »