ASU Wrigley Institute News

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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New center uses novel approach to negative carbon emissions

February 17, 2015

center-negative-carbon-emissions-sustainabilityASU’s new  Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, led by faculty in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, aims to show that capturing excess carbon dioxide is a viable way to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. With novel technology that uses plastic resin to capture carbon dioxide when dry and release it when moist, the center transcends  the limitations of traditional carbon reduction approaches.

The center also intends to show the economic viability of carbon capture by demonstrating its many uses. Recycled carbon could power the production of synthetic fuels, as well as provide an essential food source for plants in greenhouses. In fact, carbon dioxide collected by air capture units could enhance the yield of algae-based biofuels.

In light of its groundbreaking work, the center expects to find a place within ASU’s sustainable solutions framework alongside LightWorks, PlanetWorks and the ASU Wrigley Institute.

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Second annual shadow conference brings sustainability leaders to ASU

Institute Press Releases

February 17, 2015

greenbiz-forum-sustainability-ASUTEMPE, Ariz – The power of global business leaders discussing the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in sustainable business is returning to Arizona State University for GreenBiz U, a shadow conference of the 2015 GreenBiz Forum taking place in Paradise Valley, AZ, Feb. 17-19.

A part of the second annual Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program of the ASU Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, GreenBiz U will bring GreenBiz Forum keynote speakers to the ASU Tempe campus for three days of insights and discussions with sustainability business, education and thought leaders such as Carter Roberts (President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund), Aaron Hurst (Author of “The Purpose Economy”), Jackie Prince Roberts (Chief Sustainability Officer for the Carlyle Group), and Sheila Bonini (CEO of The Sustainability Consortium).

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Feeding the world sustainably: Can science sustain us?

Institute Press Releases

February 13, 2015

turner-AAAS-sustainabilityHow will we feed a world population that is predicted to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, using only the resources that are available to us today?

The answer may be what scientists call sustainable intensification. Arizona State University geographer B. L. Turner II was a discussant at a panel symposium on that topic at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held in San Jose, Calif.

Sustainable intensification refers to increasing food production without reducing environmental quality, and takes into account a broad range of factors including a changing climate, changing patterns of consumption, and the need to sustain both natural resources and human livelihoods.

Turner, a distinguished sustainability scientist in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, is an expert in human-environment relationships, both modern-day and historical. Part of his extensive body of work includes examining how climate change affects a civilization’s ability to feed its people, and conversely, how changing patterns of farmland cultivation affect climate through things like deforestation and desertification.

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Students awarded for innovative sustainable community design

February 4, 2015

asu_walton_sustainable_community_awardThe Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives honored five teams of middle school students at the 2015 Arizona Regional Future City Competition, an initiative of DiscoverE that promotes engineering careers to young learners. This year’s theme, “Feeding Future Cities,” asked participants to design cities that provided one protein and one vegetable source for inhabitants.

The teams spent four months designing their future cities using SimCity software and fashioning prototypes using recycled materials. The recipients of Walton Sustainable Community Awards were recognized for their particularly innovative application of community health and civic design. All participants learned valuable lessons in engineering, sustainability and science, as well as important skills such as public speaking and presentation.

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Sustainability stand-outs to be honored at annual awards dinner

February 3, 2015

founders-day-awards-sustainabilityThis year, the annual Founder’s Day Awards Dinner – taking place at the Arizona Biltmore on March 5 – will recognize alumni, faculty and supporters who have made game-changing contributions to the field of sustainability. Among the awardees are School of Sustainability graduate Ryan Delaney; School of Sustainability faculty Christopher Wharton and Hallie Eakin; sustainability scientists Jim Elser and  Chad Johnson; and Norton and Ramsey Sustainability Scholarship benefactor Rev. Jenny Norton.

The Philanthropists of the Year Award will be presented to Rob and Melani Walton in recognition of their dedication to creativity, innovation and engaged practice in creating a more sustainable world. They have demonstrated this through corporate leadership and philanthropy, such as their investment in ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. The seven programs of the Walton Initiatives are designed to develop scalable solutions to global economic, social and environmental challenges.

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ASU’s new digital magazine parallels university charter

January 30, 2015

asu_thrive_app_charterASU Thrive, Arizona State University’s new digital magazine, is now available free of charge to iPad users through Apple’s App Store. The magazine features Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite and will be released three times per year. Stories are presented via text, video and audio, combining groundbreaking design and an interactive format. It is designed for those who regularly follow ASU’s colleges, programs, centers and institutes, and those who teach and learn at the university.

ASU Thrive’s editorial focus will parallel the ASU Charter: a public research university measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed; one that advances research and discovery of public value; and an institution that assumes fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves. The digital magazine will follow the progress being made across the university in these areas.



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In memory of sustainability board member Susan Clark-Johnson

January 28, 2015

sue-clark-johnson-sustainability-boardSusan Clark-Johnson, executive director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and a member of the Board of Directors for Sustainability at ASU, has died at age 67. Through her role as a board member, Clark-Johnson advised and assisted the ASU Wrigley Institute in accomplishing its mission to promote “human prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting and enhancing the earth’s life support systems.”

Among her many accomplishments was the creation of the Morrison Institute’s State of Our State Conference, which has become an annual signature event featuring panel discussions, reports and interactive discussion regarding Arizona’s key challenges and opportunities. She also played an integral role in the early stages of the Kyl Center for Water Policy‘s formation.

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Super Bowl showcases ASU’s commitment to sustainability

January 28, 2015

sustainability-students-recycle-after-super-bowlTo demonstrate ASU’s dedication to sustainability and embeddedness in the community, students from the School of Sustainability will lead the clean-up of University of Phoenix Stadium after Super Bowl XLIX concludes. More than 20 students have volunteered to sort recyclable items from non-recyclables, thereby diverting them from landfills.

Sustainability is a primary reason for ASU’s involvement in Super Bowl-related events. The university even has a booth at Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix to showcase its advancements in the field. The booth is covered with solar panels, and visitors may play hands-on football games powered by solar energy.

The Super Bowl is also working to strengthen its sustainability efforts, and is now lauded “the greenest professional sports championship in the United States.” Jack Groh, Environmental Program Director of the National Football League, discussed these efforts during a Sustainability Series lecture titled “Greening the Super Bowl” hosted by the ASU Wrigley Institute.

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Spring ceremony marks launch of ASU Biomimicry Center

January 27, 2015

dew-agave-biomimicryArizona State University is pleased to announce the launch of its new Biomimicry Center, established in partnership with Montana-based Biomimicry 3.8. We invite you to the March 3 launch ceremony, held at 5:30 p.m. in the Carson Ballroom of Old Main on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The Center is dedicated to advancing nature-inspired, sustainable solutions to the most complex challenges humanity faces. Join us for an important conversation between ASU President Michael Crow and Janine Benyus, co-founder of Biomimicry 3.8 and renowned author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. A reception will follow at 7:00 p.m.

Please save the date.