ASU Wrigley Institute News

Scientists examine urban heat island in low-income areas

December 6, 2011

Looking over green treetops toward downtown PhoenixResearch on urban heat island by CAP LTER researchers Darrel Jenerette, Sharon Harlan, Will Stefanov, and Chris Martin recently was featured in Wired Magazine’s article “Environmental Gap Widens in Phoenix.”

The Wired story focused on the researchers’ findings reported in the journal Ecological Applications.

Scientists from ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability examined the role of vegetation in urban cooling, particularly in low-income neighborhoods experiencing extreme heat. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant awarded to the School.

While an increase in vegetation would ameliorate heat conditions and provide multiple ecosystem services, the authors argue that “vegetation has economic, water, and social equity implications that vary dramatically across neighborhoods and need to be managed through informed environmental policies.”

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Implementing energy efficiency on an urban scale

November 30, 2011

Q&A with Mick Dalrymple

Mick Dalrymple

Duct sealing, air sealing, and HVAC replacement are three of the most effective residential energy upgrades.

The Energize Phoenix Corridor is a diverse area centered on the city’s Metro Light Rail.

Mick Dalrymple is the ASU project manager for Energize Phoenix, a $25 million federally funded program to upgrade the downtown Phoenix core for significant energy savings. He cofounded the Arizona chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, served two terms on USGBC’s national board, and is a LEED Accredited Professional in both the Building Design & Construction and the Homes rating systems. Dalrymple is a graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and ASU’s MBA program and has founded or cofounded three companies: a.k.a. Green Environmental Building Supplies, a.k.a. Green Services, and Desert Moon Productions. He also contributed to development of the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard.

How did sustainability become part of your career?

My career in sustainability was triggered by the release of the National Energy Policy plan in 2001, which depended heavily on continuing use of fossil fuels. Having grown up in a military family, I knew this plan would ultimately result in more U.S. troops being deployed to protect our energy interests abroad. As a former lobbyist for Arizona’s university students, I understood that change results from involvement. So I began working with others to create more sustainable solutions.

What is your most important sustainability-related project right now?

Energize Phoenix is a three-year incentive and education program focused on reducing energy waste in buildings. Energy efficiency is our single cheapest source of available “new” energy. Reducing wasted energy not only makes our businesses more competitive and our households more resilient, but it also reduces environmental impacts and reliance on other countries. Our goal is to trigger a substantial number of energy retrofits of homes and buildings and create a culture of energy efficiency along a ten-mile stretch of Phoenix’s light rail system. Such upgrades lowered energy consumption in my own home by 75 percent. The potential is enormous.

How will your work make a difference?

It is still early, but Energize Phoenix is already producing savings in 74 buildings and 302 apartments, while also providing lessons learned for the rapidly growing energy efficiency industry. In addition, our numerous lines of research will boost results for current and future energy efficiency programs. Our socio-behavioral research, for example, should improve the targeting of market-based energy efficiency programs. Meanwhile, our engineering research is working to increase the energy savings achieved through retrofits. And our economics research is tracking the energy and economic impacts of this program structure. We are also making a concerted effort to communicate research results to 40 other related programs across the country and to the U.S. Department of Energy.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

It’s the human issue. We have many sustainable solutions available that are not being implemented because we refuse to accept responsibility and deal with the problems we have created. We know the planet itself will go on regardless of what we do. We must collectively decide whether we value each other and our children enough to stay on board for the ride.

Note: The first year report on Energize Phoenix – Energy Efficiency on an Urban Scale – is available at

November 30, 2011

Archeologists investigate Ice Age hominins adaptability to climate change

November 17, 2011

Complex computational modeling provides clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age also bears new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals. Details of the complex modeling experiments conducted at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver will be published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.

ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist Michael Barton authored the article, “Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia.” The article was co-authored by ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist John Martin “Marty” Anderies, an associate professor of computational social science in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the School of Sustainability; as well as Julien Riel-Salvatore, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver; and Gabriel Popescu, an anthropology doctoral student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU.

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ASU 'Changing Planet' town hall airs Nov. 17 on The Weather Channel

November 15, 2011

In celebration of NBC Universal’s “Green Is Universal” week, The Weather Channel announced that it will air “Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future” at 5 p.m. ( ET ), 3 p.m. ( Arizona Time ), Nov. 17. An encore presentation will air Saturday at  2 p.m. ( ET ), 12 p.m. ( Arizona Time ).

NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson moderated the event, which was hosted by Arizona State University. The town hall is the last in a three-part series produced under a partnership between NBC Learn ( the educational arm of NBC News ), the National Science Foundation ( NSF ) and Discover magazine.

“We face great challenges now, and in the years and decades ahead when it comes to water – including its scarcity and its purity,” said Thompson. “It is important that we have these kinds of discussions about how we can work together to protect and conserve one of our world’s most important resources.”

This edition of “Changing Planet” brings together over 400 students and features four leading experts from science, academia and politics: Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico; Grady Gammage Jr., senior sustainability scholar with the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and senior research fellow with the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and Heidi Cullen, former climate expert for The Weather Channel and  current research scientist and correspondent with “Climate Central.”

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Using Social Psychology to Promote Sustainability

November 10, 2011

Can peer pressure help people live more sustainably? In this article from The Atlantic Cities, Susan Ledlow, ASU social psychologist; Mick Dalrymple, ASU Energize Phoenix project manager; and Dimitrios Laloudakis, Phoenix’s energy manager, weigh in on how creating social norms can be used to get people to live more sustainably.

The idea that people will change their beliefs and behavior through social norms could be a powerful tool for cities chasing sustainability in everything from water consumption to recycling programs to energy efficiency.

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A Conversation with Kevin Dooley, Sustainability Consortium Director

November 8, 2011

kdooleyFrom The Atlantic, this article features a conversation with Kevin Dooley, Senior Sustainability Scientist and Professor of Supply Chain Management, W.P. Carey School of Business. Dooley also serves as Academic Director of the Sustainability Consortium. Dr. Dooley is a world-known expert in the application of complexity science to help organizations improve. He has published over 100 research articles and co-authored an award winning book, “Organizational Change and Innovation Processes.”

In this article, Dooley discusses how most people are largely unaware of the life cycle of products they purchase and how smart companies already know that the next competitive landscape is about being more sustainable.

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Rating Phoenix Sustainability: What Matters Most?

Thought Leader Series

November 3, 2011

A Thought Leader Series Piece

ggammageBy Grady Gammage, Jr.

In early October, Andrew Ross issued the latest indictment of Phoenix: Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. Ross’s book represents the latest, longest, and most articulate examination of Arizona’s capital – the nation’s sixth largest city – as a kind of colossal demographic mistake. But he’s not the first to go down this path.
In a 2006 radio interview, author Simon Winchester said that Phoenix “should never have been built” because “there’s no water there.” In 2008, rated Phoenix among the least sustainable cities in the U.S. for water supply, primarily because of the distance water must travel to reach the city. In 2010, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that Maricopa County, home to the Phoenix Metro area, was among the “most challenged” places in the U.S. for climate change – this conclusion based on the difference between rainfall and water use within the county. And in 2011, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) found current patterns of Arizona water use to be “unsustainable,” due to the large amount of water going to agriculture.
These views highlight the huge problems inherent in measuring urban sustainability. In large part, Phoenix seems to be everyone’s favorite whipping boy essentially because it’s hot in Arizona and doesn’t rain very much. This view is too simplistic. 

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A Conversation With Bruce Rittmann, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist

November 3, 2011

brittmanFrom The Atlantic, this article features a conversation with Bruce Rittmann, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist and Regents’ Professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. As director of the Swette Center for Environmental Technology at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Rittmann is searching for solutions to the challenges facing our world. Dr. Rittmann’s research is aimed at developing microbiological systems that capture renewable resources and also minimize environmental pollution.

In this article, Rittmann discusses a revolutionary innovation that directs photosynthesis to make fuel molecules as a potential substitute for petroleum—the ideal win-win situation—a partnership between microbial workers and human managers.

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Sustainable Production and Consumption Starts to Get Real in the Marketplace

Institute Press Releases

November 1, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz., – The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) took a major step forward today when they announced the completion of 10 Category Sustainability Profiles as part of research on 50 product categories, with a commitment to develop 50 additional product categories by the end of 2011. The profiles provide accessible and actionable information for a wide range of companies on supply chain impacts. This knowledge allows institutions to take actions that reduce production costs, use fewer resources, and communicate benefitsto consumers.

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Accelerated actions, transformative approaches, and laser focus make Arizona State University excel as a sustainable campus

Institute Press Releases

October 14, 2011

At Arizona State, the bar is sky-high when it comes to how the university runs its daily sustainable campus operations. It continues to be recognized as a model for sustainability; Arizona State University was recently named on The Princeton Review’s 2012 Honor Roll of the nation’s “greenest” universities. For the fourth consecutive year, The Princeton Review has recognized ASU for obtaining the highest possible score (99) in its Green Rating tallies. ASU was one of only 16 universities to achieve a perfect score.

ASU was also in the top 25 on Sierra magazine’s Coolest Schools list – a survey that ranks the greenest college campuses across the nation. A publication of The Sierra Club, Sierra magazine’s “Coolest Schools” ranking is an index that provides comparative information about the most important elements of campus sustainability.

In addition, ASU earned a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). ASU was one of only 22 institutions out of 117 to receive a gold rating. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a transparent, self-assessment framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability.

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Participate in the ASU Innovation Challenge!

October 6, 2011

The ASU Innovation Challenge, a funding competition open to Arizona State University undergraduate and graduate students of all majors. The Arizona State University Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students from across the university to make a difference in our local and global communities through innovation. Win up to $10,000 to make your ideas happen! Applications are due by 5:00 PM (MST) on the final day of Global Entrepreneurship Week: Friday, November 18, 2011. For more information go to

Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability Expands Through Partnership with Tecnológico de Monterrey

Institute Press Releases

October 5, 2011

In an effort to further advance the transition to a sustainable economy in Mexico, Arizona State University (ASU) and Tecnológico de Monterrey have jointly launched the Latin America Office of the Global Institute of Sustainability. This extension of ASU’s Global Institute at Tecnológico de Monterrey will conduct applied transdisciplinary research, offer an innovative curriculum, and develop business solutions that accelerate the adoption of a sustainable culture.

The Latin America Office of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability will offer academic programs to educate future leaders in the transition to a green economy. It will conduct applied research to address Latin American issues, particularly the adoption of sustainable development. It will also leverage linkages with the Technology Park at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City Campus, to promote clean technologies and entrepreneurial projects that will create green jobs and businesses, and promote public policies that preserve natural capital through active participation of all sectors of society.

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Creating resilient landscapes:From urban places to the grasslands of Genghis Khan

September 30, 2011

Q&A with Jianguo Wu

Dr. Jianguo Wu

Ecologists from ASU and the Chinese Academy of Sciences sample plant diversity in Inner Mongolia.

International graduate students and researchers participate in the world’s largest grassland field experiment.

Researchers are greeted by local dignitaries in Inner Mongolia.

Jianguo Wu is a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability, a professor in the School of Sustainability, and a Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Landscape Ecology and Sustainability Science in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is known internationally for his research and teaching in the fields of landscape and urban ecology and as editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary journal, Landscape Ecology. Wu has been honored with the 2011 Outstanding Scientific Achievements Award from the International Association for Landscape Ecology, the 2010 Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award from the U.S. Association for Landscape Ecology, and the 2006 Award for International Scientific Cooperation from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What focused your research on sustainability?

As an ecologist by training, I have been concerned with the sustainability of local and world ecosystems since my college years. A more comprehensive understanding of sustainability – as a term that encompasses environmental, economic, and social dimensions – began to take shape in my mind after reading the 1999 National Research Council’s report, “Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability,” and the seminal paper, “Sustainability Science,” published in 2001 in the journal, Science. My involvement with ASU’s sustainability-related initiatives since 2003 and with the journal, Landscape Ecology, since 2005 have helped me focus my research and teaching increasingly on sustainability-related topics.

What are your most important research projects?

My research group is currently conducting two lines of sustainability-related research. First, we have been working in the Inner Mongolia grassland, addressing research questions ranging from biodiversity to ecosystem services and sustainability. As part of this effort, we have established the world’s largest grassland field experiment to test functioning relationships between biodiversity and the ecosystem. Our ultimate goal is to understand the dynamics of the human-environment relationship on the Mongolian Plateau and seek solutions for sustainable development. Our fundamental question for this work: Is this the end of nomadism on the land of Genghis Khan?

Second, we are studying the ecology and sustainability of urban areas, particularly focusing on several cities in China and the Phoenix metropolitan region. This work quantifies the spatial and temporal patterns of urbanization, identifies its underlying drivers, and evaluates its environmental impacts. A major goal here is to integrate urban ecology and landscape ecology so as to produce “actionable knowledge” for urban sustainability.

How can your sustainability-related research affect future policy decisions?

As urbanization continues, our ecosystems and landscapes will be increasingly “domesticated” or “artificialized,” and our future will increasingly depend on our ability to protect and design nature. Our work in Inner Mongolia has attracted the attention of regional decision makers searching for sustainable development strategies. Our findings on urban ecology will inform policies to promote urban sustainability.

What world sustainability challenges concern you most?

Land use and land cover change is the most important cause of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation worldwide, especially when it comes through urbanization. Climate change also poses a serious sustainability challenge. A top priority for sustainability research and practice should be to integrate science and policies so we create resilient landscapes that can adapt to disturbances and climate change.

September 30, 2011

Regional Tree and Shade Summit receives Award of Merit at Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards

Institute Press Releases

September 26, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. Shade – we all crave it during sun-scorched days, and the shade that trees provide creates an escape from the heat. So where are all the trees?

The Sustainable Cities Network at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability is aware of this need for more trees in our urban world. Partnering with the cities of Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix, the Network hosted the Valley’s first Regional Tree and Shade Summit on March 9, 2011, in Phoenix. The Summit brought together public officials, municipal staff, nonprofit organizations, and professional associations to identify strategies for increasing tree and shade and green infrastructure, and creating a healthier, more livable and prosperous Arizona.

On Sept. 17, the Regional Tree and Shade Summit received an Award of Merit at Valley Forward’s annual Environmental Excellence Awards program in the Environmental Education/Communication: Public Sector category. The awards recognize outstanding environmental achievement and projects that promote environmental initiatives. 

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Sun Devils Soak Up Solar Power

September 6, 2011

Arizona State University exceeds 10 megawatts (MW) of solar-energy capacity, making it the only higher education institution in the United States to have a solar capacity of this size. Ten MW is enough energy to power 2,500 Arizona homes and represents roughly 20 percent of ASU’s peak load, reducing the university’s carbon footprint between 5 to 10 percent. Pushing ASU past the 10 MW mark is its latest 700-panel, 168-kilowatt (kW), ground-mount photovoltaic installation on its Tempe campus.

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Showing the way to a sustainable energy future

August 31, 2011

Q&A with Kristin Mayes

Kristin Mayes, J.D.

Kristin Mayes is a Senior Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute of Sustainability and a professor of practice in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law where she is director of the Program on Law and Sustainability. From 2003 to 2010 she served on the Arizona Corporation Commission – the state’s utility regulatory agency. As chair of the commission she coauthored Arizona’s ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

What inspired your work in sustainability policy?

I think what triggered my focus on sustainability was the fact that I was appointed to the Arizona Corporation Commission back in 2003. And one of the first things that I did as the Corporation Commissioner was to get involved in the creating of Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard, which is a major focus of the Commission. It is one of the major responsibilities –setting policy for renewable energy. So it was really the Commission, my job as a Commissioner, that brought me to renewable energy policy.

I had been interested in it since I was a kid. My dad was very involved in the environmental movement, and in Prescott we had solar panels at our house. But it was really not until I became a Commissioner, and became involved in renewable energy policy, and then later, energy efficiency policy, which we also did at the Corporation Commission.

What is your Program on Law and Sustainability?

I think that the most important sustainability project and goal that we’re working on here at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, through the Program on Law and Sustainability, is to start to assist corporations, nonprofits, governments, with finding their way through the new age of regulation and finding their way through what we know is going to be an increasingly complex world sustainability.

So, we are going to be doing a number of projects for nonprofits, for governments, this coming semester and next semester. We’re starting to see groups ask us for assistance with their renewable energy objectives. There’s one government up in North Central Arizona that we may be assisting, and then there’s a – believe it or not – a group of home owners that are looking for help in getting solar deployed in their community that hopefully we’ll be helping.

So, we’re looking for this to be a very pragmatic, very practical way for the community to interface with Arizona State University, and in particular the Law School, but also the School of Sustainability, and a way for our students to get involved in real-world projects in which they are assisting the community with their sustainability goals.

How will your program affect policy decisions?

I hope that the Program on Law and Sustainability will affect future policy and future decision making in a lot of different ways, but chief among them will be the fact that we are educating the next generation of decision makers. I mean, I’ve had my time in the sun, and so what’s going to be important is that we’re educating lawyers and folks at the School of Sustainability – who are going through that program and who might wind up over here at the law school some day – who can take these policies to the next level. And that means that we need people who are going to understand not only where we’ve been, where we are now, but where we need to go.

We are looking at a world in which sustainability is going to be front and center, not just for corporations but governments and nonprofits, and a world in which the way we provide energy, the way we engage in transportation, will be increasingly consumer focused, and increasingly complicated, really. And so, the regulations that we have in the future are going to be completely different than they are today. The businesses, the utility of the future, is going to be radically different than it is today. So we need to be able to be educating people who can be innovative, who are critical thinkers, and who are interested in these topics.

What sustainability challenge concerns you most?

The sustainability challenge that concerns me most, and I think is most pressing for our country and our planet, is probably how we can go from being a world that produces electricity in a very carbon-intensive way, to one that is cleaner, and greener, and meaner, frankly, at least with regard to our utilities. We need more efficiency. We need greater use of renewable energy. We need to explore things like electric vehicles in the transportation sector. And so, we know we have to get to a certain point, which is a cleaner, more efficient energy economy, but we don’t have a lot of time.

We’re polluting at a pace that is far too rapid, we’re seeing environmental impacts that are huge. We’re seeing enormous economic challenges associated with using too much carbon. So, I think, getting to a more carbon-free energy economy and world is my biggest concern.

August 31, 2011

Arizona State University’s Sustainability Achievements Rated GOLD by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Institute Press Releases

August 25, 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. – In recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Arizona State University (ASU) has earned a STARS Gold rating. STARS®, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a transparent, self-assessment framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability. Institutions report their achievements in three overall areas: Education and Research; Operations; and Planning, Administration and Engagement. ASU earned its highest points in Planning, Administration and Engagement.

ASU received STARS® credits for a number of innovative programs such as its Campus Metabolism website and its Minor in Sustainability that is available to undergraduate students who are majoring in any discipline. ASU also received credits for the completion of its Carbon Neutrality Action Plan and its Sustainability Plan. Both plans are being utilized to conduct day-to-day operations in ways that help maximize the university’s positive impacts and provide optimal living, working, and learning environments.

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Quenching the Desert’s Thirst

August 24, 2011

From KJZZ 91.5 FM, Phoenix, this report from Steve Goldstein features former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Richardson will be a panelist at tomorrow’s NBC Town Hall event, Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future. A capacity audience is expected for the event, and reservations are no longer being accepted. The event will be streaming live on ASUtv.

Host Steve Goldstein talks to two environmental experts about solar projects and water usage in the desert…and which forms of energy are the best for Arizona’s climate. Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and author Robert Glennon give two perspectives on the issue.

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Green: What Drives Cities’ Runaway Growth?

August 22, 2011

From The New York Times, this post from Felicity Barringer highlights a study co-authored by Michail Fragkias, Executive Officer of the UGEC Project at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Urban areas are growing even faster than urban populations are, and by 2030 urbanized land around the globe will expand by 590,000 square miles — an amount almost equal to the land mass of Mongolia, according to a new study.

The study, which was just published in the journal PLoS One, analyzed 326 other studies that used remote-sensing images to track changes in land use. The authors were Karen C. Seto of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environment Studies; Michail Fragkias of Arizona State University’s Global Institute for Sustainability; Michael K. Reilly of Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science; and Burak Güneralp of Texas A&M.

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The Sustainability Consortium Opens European Office, Appoints Three New Board Members Including Two NGOs

Institute Press Releases

August 16, 2011

Actions underscore consortium’s strategic plan to deliver a sustainability measurement and reporting system and become a global organization

TEMPE, Ariz., – Aug. 16, 2011 – The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) today announced the opening of its European office and theexpansion of its board of directors to include Non-Government Organization (NGO) members. Both moves strongly align with TSC’s focus of growth, incorporating global partners, and delivering on its mission to design and implement science-based measurement and reporting systems that are accessible to manufacturers and consumers.

TSC’s European office will operate in partnership with Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Wageningen UR (WUR) is the leading agricultural university in Europe with a strong commitment to sustainability. WUR has strong relationships with agricultural producers, food processors, and retailers in Europe, includingmany TSC members. In addition, Aalt Dijkhuizen, president and CEO at Wageningen UR, is the third Academic Director appointed to TSC’s board.

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