ASU Wrigley Institute News

ASU sustainability scientist receives national solar energy award

September 17, 2014

Reddy-Solar-Energy-AwardArizona State University professor and sustainability scientist T. Agami Reddy has been named the 2014 Yellott Award recipient by the Solar Energy Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). According to ASME, Reddy was selected for “his dedicated and productive research career in solar thermal energy and energy efficiency in buildings, for his dedication to train(ing) students in energy sustainability, and for his extensive service and leadership to the ASME Solar Energy Division.” Reddy is also a founding chair of ASME’s Conference on Energy Sustainability.

The highest of the Solar Energy Division, the Yellott Award honors the division’s first chair, professor John Yellott. It serves to recognize significant contributions to solar energy engineering through research, publication and education. The award was presented to Reddy –  its 11th recipient to date – during the 8th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, held in Boston.

“This ASME award is especially precious to me,” Reddy says, “since professor Yellott was a faculty member in The Design School and co-founded the Master of Science in the Built Environment program. I feel deeply honored to be the recipient of this award.”

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Sustainability alum is geared for a greater good

September 15, 2014

brelsford-sustainability-alumLast week, School of Sustainability alumna Christa Brelsford represented her country at the Paraclimbing World Championships in Spain where she dominated her division. Recognizing that participating in the competition is a privilege, Brelsford tied her international appearance to an online fundraiser for the less fortunate called Christa Climbs for Haiti.

If you spend any time with Brelsford, who graduated this summer with a doctoral degree from the School of Sustainability, you’ll get the sense that this is a supremely practical person who is guided by a strong sense of self and innate desire to do good in the world. That’s what Matt Lauer found when he interviewed Brelsford the TODAY show after she was badly injured during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where she had been working on an adult literacy project.

The newly crowned climbing world champion returns home following her competition abroad, but her mission remains unchanged.

“My biggest goal in life is to use careful thought to do good in the world,” says Brelsford. “I was in Haiti to learn how to help, and I research and study sustainability for the same reason.”

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Sustainability education is increasingly desired in business world

September 15, 2014

Sustainability-Education-BusinessA recent article published in Environmental Leader discusses the importance of a graduate degree in sustainability. Citing experts from both the business and higher education worlds, the article shows that environmental management has become synonymous with economic benefit. As a result, businesses are increasingly tasking employees with sustainability-related projects, making those with a sustainability education more competitive in today’s job market.

The article illustrates this point with several quotes from Arizona State University President Michael Crow.

“Those who haven’t been trained (in sustainability) become overwhelmed by the demand to merge new and emerging needs and ideas with traditional systems and strategies,” says Crow. “Often they have trouble stating the sustainability business case to decision-makers. Sustainability leaders know how to take this new reality and use it to inform overall strategy, innovation, investment, engagement and, ultimately, company success.”

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New study maps global greenhouse gas emissions

September 11, 2014

Carbon MapsAn international research team, led by sustainability scientist Kevin Gurney, has developed a new approach to estimating CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Called the “Fossil Fuel Data Assimilation System,” or FFDAS, this new system was used to quantify 15 years of CO2 emissions, every hour, for the entire planet – down to the city scale. Until now, scientists have estimated greenhouse gas emissions using less reliable techniques.

The FFDAS uses information from satellite feeds, national fuel accounts and a new global database on power plants to create high-resolution planetary maps. These maps provide a scientific, independent assessment of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. They represent an approach that the public can understand and that policymakers – who face multiple barriers in their efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions – can use.

“With this system, we are taking a big step toward creating a global monitoring system for greenhouse gases, something that is needed as the world considers how best to meet greenhouse gas reductions,” said Gurney. “Now we can provide all countries with detailed information about their CO2 emissions and show that independent, scientific monitoring of greenhouse gases is possible.”

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2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival aims to reimagine world

September 10, 2014

Sustainability-Solutions-FestivalFollowing the success of the inaugural festival last February, GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium and Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives are collaborating again. The three leading sustainability organizations will pool their networks, expertise and audiences at the 2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival – a series of events taking place in Phoenix, Feb. 16-22. The festival is anchored by the annual GreenBiz Forum, Feb. 17-19, which attracts more than 600 sustainable business executives from around the world.

This year’s theme, “(re)imagine,” challenges attendees to envision a better future through a deeper understanding of how each person, community and organization can drive change at a global scale. It will feature activities for audiences of all ages, including a film festival.

“The Sustainability Solutions Festival provides an opportunity for students, professionals and community members to participate in innovative and inspiring programs that show how to align the interests of business, society and the environment,” said Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, and host of the GreenBiz Forum. “It is rapidly becoming one of nation’s most important gathering of ideas and talent showing the way to a prosperous, secure and sustainable world.”

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Ecologist explains groundbreaking research on river ecosystems

September 9, 2014

Sabo-Fish-ConservationCommentary from John Sabo, sustainability scientist and director of research development at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was recently featured in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. In the commentary, Sabo – whose work often investigates the effects of climate change on water ecosystems – breaks down research from Ohio State University scientist Kristen Jaeger and her colleagues.

By incorporating knowledge on how fish move, Jaegar’s team determined that – as sections of rivers diminish – it is increasingly likely that fish will be isolated by the dry patches and unable to move beyond them.

“This approach to measuring habitat fragmentation in intermittent rivers is the first of its kind and will be immediately relevant and extendable to rivers across the U.S. Sun Belt and in parts of the Corn Belt, where drought prevails regularly,” notes Sabo in his commentary. “This paper is groundbreaking, not just because it achieves a great synthesis of climate, surface water hydrology and ecology, but also because it opens up possibilities for further innovation.”

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Scientists receive NSF support for sustainability research

September 4, 2014

NSF-Supports-Sustainability-ResearchDemonstrating the caliber of research that the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability supports, four members of its Sustainability Scientists and Scholars program recently received substantial awards from the National Science Foundation. The awards, which total more than $5 million, will support a range of research activities.

Sustainability scientists Hallie Eakin, Charles Perrings, Becky Ball and Thomas Seager each serve as the principle investigator of an awarded project. From reducing vulnerability in urban environments like Mexico city, to analyzing how Antarctic soil communities respond to environmental changes, their projects will yield research significant to sustainability. Several of the projects, like one aimed at improving strategies to decrease the spread of trade-related diseases, will do so using sophisticated modeling tools.

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US Secretary of Agriculture speaks on ‘homegrown energy’

September 4, 2014

Vilsack-EnergyDuring his recent Sustainability Series presentation at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack discussed the U.S. farming industry’s shift to renewable energy. Vilsack shared that, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the number of farmers and ranchers transitioning to renewable energy has doubled since 2007. In fact,  solar panels accounted for nearly two-thirds of farms’ energy-producing systems.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is partnering with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and diversify our portfolio of biofuels and other renewable energy sources,” Vilsack said. “We are also engaging with universities like ASU to explore innovative solutions for challenges related to energy, food and sustainability.”

Vilsack also emphasized how developing a deeper understanding of agriculture’s role in the future of energy, innovation and economic growth, particularly in rural areas, will be key to addressing global sustainability challenges.

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ASU students analyze urban sustainability policy in Hong Kong

September 2, 2014

Hong Kong - Sustainability StudentsThrough the Global Sustainability Studies Program, one of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, 15 ASU students completed an urban sustainability policy course at Hong Kong’s City University. The ASU students, all enrolled in the School of Sustainability, worked alongside Chinese students throughout the rigorous, two-week course co-taught by Professor Rob Melnick.

Students attended lectures every morning and participated in field trips in the afternoons, enabling them to see the city – one of over 7 million people in under 430 square miles. They shared their research and experience at a recent Sustainability Series presentation.

“Hong Kong was fascinating to me because of its density and the fact that it’s facing the sustainability challenges of the future right now,” said Melissa Davidson, a graduate student in the School of Sustainability’s Master’s of Sustainable Solutions. “Hong Kong-like density is going to continue to dominate our world’s major cities. Understanding the problems in a different context is going to help us as future sustainability scientists to be better equipped to deal with the problems we’re all going to face eventually.”

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Corporate sustainability expert joins The Sustainability Consortium

August 27, 2014

tsc_ceo_sheila_bonini_head_shot_webSheila Bonini, an expert in corporate sustainability, has been appointed CEO of The Sustainability Consortium® (TSC). Having served as senior expert consultant and co-leader of McKinsey & Company’s Sustainability Transformation Service for more than 15 years, she brings extensive experience in the field. Bonini also joins the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability community of Sustainability Scientists and Scholars.

TSC, a unit of ASU’s Wrigley Institute, is a signature public-private partnership focused on consumer product sustainability. It was co-founded in 2009 by ASU and the University of Arkansas to develop a new scientific approach to measuring the sustainability of consumer products. This resulted in the development of the Product Sustainability Toolkit, which helps businesses to identify improvement opportunities in design, supply chain and purchasing. Today, the number of TSC member organizations exceeds 90 and includes some of the largest consumer product companies in the world.

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Dirks appointed to State Energy Advisory Board

August 27, 2014

gary_dirks_photo_april_2013Continuing ASU’s tradition of shaping Arizona’s energy future, Gary Dirks – director of LightWorks, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) – has been named a member of Governor Jan Brewer’s State Energy Advisory Board. Established as part of the governor’s 2014 Executive Order adopting the state’s Master Energy Plan, the new board will help to ensure that Arizona’s energy industry remains reliable, secure and affordable in the long-term.

Through Dirks’ leadership, ASU has been involved in a number of projects that shape our energy future both in Arizona and across the globe. This year, along with numerous ASU partners, Dirks was instrumental in the creation of the Renewable Energy Leadership Training Program. The program provides strategic workshops on, and opportunities to assist with, energy transitions in various nations. This allows both ASU and participating nations to gain valuable insight into the complexities of such transitions. The first session included participants from Palestine, with additional projects forthcoming in both Albania and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability Policy: Exploring the Politics and Practice of “Indigenous Sustainability”

Thought Leader Series

August 25, 2014

tsosie_2011A Thought Leader Series Piece

By Rebecca Tsosie

Note: Rebecca Tsosie is a senior sustainability scientist and Regents’ Professor of Law at Arizona State University.

There are two ways to view the relationship between Indigenous peoples and sustainability policy. One approach places them at the center of sustainability studies, and one relegates them to the periphery. The latter approach became the subject of a recent controversy between experts commenting on the latest draft of the United Nations’ new sustainable development policy.

Significance of the term “Indigenous peoples”
Several weeks ago, a panel of experts from the United Nations expressed concern that the latest draft of Sustainable Development Goals had deleted all references to “Indigenous peoples,” substituting instead the phrase “Indigenous and local communities.” The shift might seem harmless to the uninformed reader. However, as the U.N. experts noted, the effect of the change was to undermine the success that Indigenous peoples have had in claiming their rightful identity as “peoples” with a right to “self-determination,” equivalent to that of all other peoples under international law.

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Study co-authored by sustainability scientist quantifies rangeland loss

August 18, 2014

rangelandA study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences quantifies the loss of rangeland, such as grasslands and savannas, in the United States and Argentina. Using census data and remote sensors, the research team – which included Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Osvaldo Sala – found that encroaching woody plants like shrubs and trees diminish livestock production.

“While the phenomenon of woody plant invasion has been occurring for decades, for the first time, we have quantified the losses in ecosystem services,” said Sala. “We found that an increase in tree and shrub cover of 1 percent leads to a 2 percent loss in livestock production.”

Because, according to the study’s findings, woody plant cover in North America increases at a rate of between .5 and 2 percent each year, rangelands are likely to experience a continued decrease in meat production.

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Study examines affluence, amenities and social vulnerability

August 16, 2014

fault-zoningA study published in the journal Earth’s Future, authored in part by former Urban Ecology IGERT fellow Nate Toké and School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone, was cited in several recent news articles. Both Popular Science and KQED Science covered the team’s findings, which demonstrate that the population living near fault zones in the Los Angeles area is predominantly wealthy.

This is significant because close proximity to environmental hazards typically dictates lower property values, meaning poor populations are commonly the most socially vulnerable. In examining why wealthy individuals would choose to live in high-risk locations, the team found that a 1971 zoning act forbidding construction on fault lines inadvertently encouraged green belts to flourish. The attractive vegetation outweighed the dangers posed by potential earthquakes, and wealthy individuals began to build homes near these areas.

According to Toké, “One of the most important observations from this study is that the distribution of high social vulnerability is more strongly tied to the absence of the amenity of parks and greenspace than to natural hazards.”

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Article highlights Julie Wrigley’s commitment to sustainability at ASU

August 13, 2014

julie-wrigley-sustainability-asuAn article recently published in the Idaho Mountain Express examines resident Julie Ann Wrigley’s interest in sustainability. The article, titled “Julie Wrigley puts her money where the green is,” places special emphasis on the $50 million contribution that the philanthropist and environmentalist has made to ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, a department named in her honor.

According to the article, Wrigley’s donation was inspired by the vision of Michael Crow, president of ASU and author of the “New American University Reader.” She  cites ASU’s willingness to work across disciplines and form partnerships as its defining characteristics, making it the model of a university capable of solving 21st century problems.

“Under the old model, one part of the university has no reason to work with another part,” Wrigley said. “At ASU, sustainability is a value system campus-wide, not just a single field of study.”

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Study explores environmental effects of antibacterial compounds

August 8, 2014

rolf-haldenRolf Halden, a senior sustainability scientist and director of ASU’s Center for Environmental Security, is the lead investigator of a study that examined the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to certain antibacterial compounds. The study, recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found common germ-killers in both the urine and umbilical cords of the women that were screened.

In addition to a concern that antibacterial compounds may contribute to growing antibiotic resistance, there is evidence that materials like triclosan and triclocarban are linked to developmental and reproductive problems. Information of this nature has prompted both the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to consider the safety of these compounds.

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New course to imagine and implement smart tech for sustainable cities

August 7, 2014

ipad-green-city 2In anticipation of Changemaker Central’s Innovation Challenge, an ASU seed-funding campaign that encourages every academic unit to create its own theme, the School of Sustainability has teamed up with The Verizon Foundation. Given the foundation’s interest in innovative change, the School of Sustainability’s theme was born: “How can we accelerate the adoption and deployment of smart technologies to make our cities more sustainable?”

This is a question that SOS 498: “Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge” will address in depth – a noble endeavor in light of our rapidly urbanizing and “plugged in” population of 7 billion. And given the host of smart technologies that already exist, but whose potential for a greener good is not fully realized, answers are needed.

Under the guidance of experts, students’ seedling ideas will flower into feasible, sustainable solutions. The top innovations may win up to $4,000 toward the ASU Bookstore, courtesy of The Verizon Foundation. All proposals will also be submitted to the Innovation Challenge for a chance to receive thousands more in seed funding.

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Student combats global vulnerabilities through sustainable technology

August 5, 2014

akane-ota-sustainability-studentBangladesh. One of the world’s most populous countries, and one of its poorest.

Akane Ota was living in a village far from Dhaka, the country’s capital. Her assignment with Grameen Bank, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning microfinance organization, asked that she survey villagers to assess their living conditions, then create a business plan to improve them.

Unfazed by the difficulty of this task, Ota made her way through the village, diligently collecting data. As she did so, two things become increasingly apparent: the connection between unreliable energy and inaccessible social services, and the environmental injury caused by non-renewable technology.

As Ota explains, “I was amazed by the beautiful untouched nature of Bangladesh. But I also saw highly polluted air and water, which was depressing.”

Around this time, Ota’s native Japan was shaken by a major earthquake that, in turn, triggered a tsunami reaching 133 feet in height. The wave disabled the power supply and nullified the cooling mechanisms for three reactors at Fukushima’s nuclear plant. The consequences of the subsequent meltdown left a lasting impression on Ota and heightened her passion for stable and sustainable energy.

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Malcolm Fox and Susan Arnot Heaney join The Sustainability Consortium

July 31, 2014

TSCTo position itself for future growth and furthered impact, The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) has created two leadership positions. The new roles – Chief Operating Officer and Director of Marketing, Development and Communications – are effective July 2014 and will enhance the strength of the leadership team.

The individuals filling these roles are experienced leaders in the field of sustainability. Chief Operating Officer Malcolm Fox began his career as a consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and worked most recently as COO/CFO of Equitable Origin. Susan Arnot Heaney – Director of Marketing, Development and Communications – has extensive experience in the area of corporate responsibility, working with companies like Avon Products, Inc. to implement programs, policies and communications platforms for a myriad of issues.

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Business magazine highlights ASU’s progress toward carbon neutrality

July 30, 2014

nacuboA recent article published by the National Association of College and University Business Officers explored the trend of higher education institutions toward alternative, renewable energy options. Titled “Going for Zero,” the article presented a brief rundown of ASU’s impressive stats, demonstrating that the university is being noticed for its commitment to carbon neutrality.

In the article, Morgan Olsen – university executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer – shares that an important factor in maintaining carbon neutrality is ensuring its future success: “On the research front, one of the things we can contribute is the training of millions of people we educate every year to become leaders of tomorrow. While in some respects higher education has a small physical footprint compared to the rest of world, from an environmental standpoint we have an outsized ability to have positive impact through our education mission.”

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