ASU Wrigley Institute News

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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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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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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