ASU Wrigley Institute News

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

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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Engineers report upgrades needed to climate-proof power supply

May 18, 2015

Climate-Change-Power-EnergyAccording to research by ASU engineers Mikhail Chester and Matthew Bartos, electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be “climate-proofed” to diminish the risk of future power shortages.

In their article in the current issue of Nature Climate Change, the researchers say expected increases in extreme heat and drought events will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity. They report that the current infrastructure of power stations makes them particularly vulnerable to these conditions and that, unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies, their energy-generating capacity could be significantly constrained.

The researchers are examining alternative technologies like hydroelectric, wind and combustion turbines, steam and photovoltiacs because renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to climate change impacts.

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Sustainability professor joins board of national foundation

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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ASU blue bag program contributes to zero waste goals

May 14, 2015

blue-bag-collection-zero-wasteIn response to employee demand and to help meet the university’s zero waste goals, the team behind ASU Recycling now offers the blue bag program. Blue bags capture waste previously headed toward the landfill – including coffee pods, cosmetic containers and water filters – and are available to all offices and departments on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The team has placed 275 blue bags in 52 buildings since January, and hopes to extend the program to the Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses – including the Thunderbird School – in the fall 2015 semester.

“On average, about 350 tons of waste per month collected at the Tempe campus goes to the landfill,” said Lucas Mariacher, ASU Recycling technician. “We are taking recycling to a whole new level with the blue bag program. Before program launch, the majority of items that are accepted in blue bins were being landfilled.”

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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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Public parks could provide economic benefits

May 13, 2015

public-parks-economic-benefitsSustainability scientist Deepak Chhabra, a professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, led a study commissioned by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department to demonstrate how investment in public parks provides an economic return.

Using survey data from park visitors to eight iconic parks – six in Maricopa County and two that span into Pinal and Yavapai counties – the team ran impact studies for each park, as well as an aggregate study on the Phoenix metropolitan area. For every dollar invested by Maricopa County parks, Chhabra and her team found approximately $1.40 was generated, after costs.

Chhabra noted that although individual park returns varied, it is difficult to determine why; the size of the park and amenities offered differ and could factor in. This provides feedback to the parks on how they might improve their individual results.

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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.

In an effort to provide local health officials with a mechanism for addressing climate-related public health impacts, and to support the creation of regional public health adaptation and mitigation efforts, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects framework.

This report addresses the first step in the framework, which is focusing on climate-related hazards and associated health impacts of major importance to Arizona – namely, extreme heat and air pollution. It also summarizes historic temperature and precipitation trends, and provides projections for the future.

Among the report’s authors are sustainability scientists Nalini Chhetri, David Hondula, Ariane Middel and Nancy Selover, as well as Alex Karner – a postdoctoral research fellow with the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

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Scientist to join high-powered leaders as an Aspen Institute fellow

May 7, 2015

cody-freisen-sustainability-aspen-institute-fellowEach year, 20 people – customarily civic and business leaders – are selected as Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellows. This year, the values-based leadership training program focused on solving society’s biggest problems named sustainability scientist and engineering professor Cody Friesen to its 2015 team.

Though Friesen stands out among other fellows as an academic and researcher, his entrepreneurial drive makes him a good fit. His research has produced technological innovations that are the foundation of two growing business start-ups, Fluidic Energy and Zero Mass Water.

As part of the team, Friesen will engage in a series of seminars, workshops and retreats that build leadership skills and help guide Crown Fellows in employing their expertise and talents in enterprises to serve both their communities and beyond.

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ASU hosts first sustainability conference for legal educators

May 1, 2015

Law-Sustainability-ConferenceBecause law plays a key part in finding the balance between environmental and economic needs, ASU hosted the university’s inaugural Sustainability Conference of American Legal Educators on May 8.

More than 60 law professors from around the country convened at the conference for panels on issues such as climate-change policy, natural-resources law, agricultural and food regulation, and disaster law. By assembling many of the nation’s preeminent legal scholars in these fields, the conference – hosted by the Program on Law and Sustainability at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law – seeks to spur new research ideas and collaborations.

“Sustainability-related policy innovation is occurring at a rapid pace throughout the country, but there are limited opportunities for legal scholars researching in this area to come together and share ideas,” said sustainability scientist Troy Rule, who serves as faculty director of the Program on Law and Sustainability. “This conference will help to fill this gap.”

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Everyday citizens given a voice on climate and energy policy

May 1, 2015

world-views-netra-chhetri-climateOn June 6, World Wide Views invites participants from around the world to share their perspectives on climate change and energy.  The one-day event rolls out in time zones around the world, with more than 5,000 citizens and 50 countries participating. The views that are shared will be incorporated into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris this December.

“We want to honor the multiple views about climate and energy because the policy or outcome of this UN framework should be useful for everybody,” says Netra Chhetri, a senior sustainability scientist and a WWViews project director. “Even if someone hasn’t finished high school, he or she is still a citizen of this particular geography. They have their views, and they may be different than those embraced by the educated community, but that doesn’t mean those views should be neglected.”

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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 Finn Note: 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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