ASU Wrigley Institute News

ASU scientists develop new approach to life cycle assessment

October 20, 2014

life-cycle-assessmentAn interdisciplinary team of ASU experts – including sustainability scientists Matthew Fraser, David Gutson and Thomas Seager – offers a new anticipatory approach to Life Cycle Assessment. The approach, featured in the Sept. 16 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, explores best- and worst-case scenarios for the impacts of technologies in diverse categories. It was developed using the photovoltaic cell, a rapidly emerging technology used in solar panels, as a test subject.

Life Cycle Assessment is a tool commonly used by environmental engineers to weigh the positive and negative attributes of a technology at all stages of its life. Because the tool historically relies on hard data that can only be obtained after any environmental harm has already occurred, it presents a dilemma. The anticipatory approach to Life Cycle Assessment remedies this by embracing, rather than trying to eliminate, uncertainty or conflicting data. Instead of looking at one parameter at a time, it compares many uncertain parameters to identify an environmentally promising research agenda.

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ASU’s sustainability plan serves as model for Harvard

October 20, 2014

asu-wrigley-institute-sustainability-planHarvard University has announced its five-year sustainability plan, which  will apply new “green” standards in an effort to reduce waste and energy use. Heather Henriksen, director of Harvard’s Office of Sustainability, shared that Arizona State University’s plan served as a direct model for Harvard.

In a Harvard Crimson article, Henriksen explained that while other universities’ sustainability plans focus on climate change and emissions, ASU’s is more holistic. She cited faculty involvement in sustainability research and teaching, along with greater emphasis on everyday campus operations and health, as examples.

ASU’s framework for addressing the challenges of sustainability incorporates four pillars; namely, education, research, business practices, and global partnerships and transformation. The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability serves as the hub of ASU’s overall sustainability initiatives. ASU’s School of Sustainability, one of the first such schools in the country, trains the next generation of sustainability practitioners, entrepreneurs and leaders.

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Symposium promotes sustainability through sound

October 15, 2014

listenn-poster-sustainability-soundASU’s Listen(n) Symposium – a series of panel discussions, musical performances and art installations – aims to open our eyes to sustainability issues by opening our ears to the sonic environment. The symposium, which takes place Oct. 16-17 at the ASU Art Museum and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute for Sustainability, hopes to forge cross-disciplinary efforts to address environmental issues in new and innovative ways.

“At its base, the symposium is about the ways we engage the environment through the mode of listening, and whether we can attune our listening practices to a degree that allows us to think about these environmental issues in a way that moves beyond, say, studying statistical analyses,” said Professor Daniel Gilfillan. “(This approach) brings the individual into the realm of the environmental space. It encourages students to think about how composition, how sound, how art as a medium, allows us to engage with these more critical issues in a way that is both creative and forward thinking.”

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Former SCENE student to attend Nobel Prize ceremonies

October 14, 2014

galvin-nobel-prize-ceremoniesASU freshman Sarah Galvin’s award-winning research has provided her more than $10,000 in total scholarship money and a ticket to the prestigious Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm.

In high school, Galvin did not want to wait until college to put her science interests into action. She began looking into research opportunities open to high school students, and found the ASU Wrigley Institute’s Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment. Galvin became intrigued with the work led by Nathan Newman – a sustainability scientist and professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy – including his lab team’s efforts to develop next-generation electronics.

Galvin’s work in Newman’s lab earned her a first-place prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she competed against 1,700 of the top high school students from 70 countries around the world.

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ASU scientist researches desert urbanization with NASA support

October 14, 2014

soe-myint-desert-NASAWith support from NASA, ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist Soe Myint is leading an interdisciplinary study to further understand the impacts of urban infrastructure and vegetation on local and regional climate. Using diverse analytical techniques like remote sensing and numerical modeling, Myint’s team is monitoring climate in five urban areas: Las Vegas; Beer Sheva, Israel; Jodhpur, India; Kharga, Egypt; and Hotan/Hetian, China.

As part of a series that showcases the interdisciplinary studies it sponsors, NASA has invited Myint to present a live webinar describing his team’s investigation. Projects selected for the webinar series deal with interactions among components of the Earth system and promote research in emerging science areas like those identified in the Strategic Plan of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The knowledge that Myint’s team acquires will serve to support adaptive management and foster the development of sustainable desert cities.

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Sustainability scientist awarded for humanitarian efforts

October 13, 2014

henderson-humanitarian-awardIn recognition of his humanitarian endeavors, ASU engineering professor and sustainability scientist Mark Henderson was recently presented the Making a World of Difference Award by Tempe Sister Cities. Henderson is the director of GlobalResolve, an organization he co-founded in 2006 with three fellow ASU faculty members.

GlobalResolve was created to engage the university’s engineering faculty and students with communities in developing countries to help them improve their living conditions. Today, more than 200 students and 15 faculty members participate in the social entrepreneurship and sustainability program each year. They are contributing to almost 50 projects in 10 countries that focus on boosting local economies and upgrading water, sanitation, energy, agriculture, health and education infrastructure.

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ASU scientist comments in National Geographic on sustainable food

October 10, 2014

national-geographic-sustainable-foodA new survey from the National Geographic Society and consulting firm GlobeScan shows that humans are eating healthier diets, but not necessarily in a sustainable way.

Since 2008, National Geographic has measured consumption habits and attitudes in 18 countries for what it calls the Greendex survey. The latest survey found that consumers in five growing countries, when told how their habits affect the environment, indicated they would be open to changing their behavior. It also found that people in English-speaking countries and in Sweden were less interested in how their food was produced.

Nicole Darnall, a professor in the School of Sustainability, told National Geographic she wasn’t that surprised at the slow adoption rate of sustainability, particularly in the United States.

“We subsidize traditional food production in a way we don’t subsidize natural and organic foods,” says Darnall. “The developing world is more nimble, less entrenched than we are. It’s easier for them to consider alternatives.”

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Groundbreaking conference examines indigenous sustainability

October 9, 2014

indigenous-sustainability-conferenceEarlier this month, indigenous scholars, sustainability scientists and tribal leaders from around the world gathered in Tempe, Arizona for the “Conference on Indigenous Sustainability: Implications for the Future of Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations.” The conference, inspired in part by the leadership of the ASU Wrigley Institute, served as a forum to discuss and debate indigenous sustainability and environmental issues.

The conference featured multiple panels, including one titled “Tribal Energy and the Environment” that featured three sustainability scientists: Rebecca TsosieHarvey Bryan and Clark Miller. These panelists highlighted the importance of indigenous people’s right to self-determination, as well as navigated the issue of natural resource sustainability with the help of indigenous knowledge.

“We are all connected, so what we do now to build better energy and other systems will have an effect across the world,” Miller said. “Indigenous and non-indigenous people will have to come together, listen to each other’s perspectives and find common solutions to common problems.”

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Sustainability scientist appointed to national advisory council

October 8, 2014

panch-innovation-entrepreneurshipSethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and a senior sustainability scientist, is one of 27 individuals selected to serve on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). The council will operate as an independent entity within the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is housed within the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.

NACIE members, who were chosen by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker based on their ability to carry out the objectives of the council, will serve a two-year term. As a council member, Panchanathan will advise the secretary on issues related to accelerating innovation, expanding entrepreneurship and developing a globally competitive workforce.

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ASU conference explores green growth approach to sustainability

October 7, 2014

gss-green-growth-conferenceBeginning Oct. 8, scholars and practitioners from ASU and abroad will convene for a transcontinental conference aimed at reinventing the path to sustainable development. “Unpacking Green Growth,” the third conference arranged by Global Systems Science (GSS), will explore a new strategy for attaining global sustainability – one that emphasizes equal opportunity-sharing rather than burden-sharing.

Green growth pursues a comfortable standard of living for all people while improving environmental health through economic activity. Because it encourages transformative action, it shows particular promise in the developing world where systems are more supple. GSS, an organization co-founded by Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Sander van der Leeuw, organized “Unpacking Green Growth” with the intention of testing the robustness of the strategy. To do so, the conference will assemble the brightest minds in the arena of systemic solutions to global problems at events in North America, Europe and Asia.

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New fellowship program to address global development

October 6, 2014

usaid-fellowship-global-developmentA new partnership between ASU and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will position ASU graduate students to confront the most pressing issues faced by the developing world. Through USAID’s Global Development Lab, a Research and Innovation (R&I) Fellowships program will be established to serve as a model for knowledge exchange, supporting top-tier students as they work with USAID and host organizations throughout the world.

The ASU R&I Fellowships program will be administered by the ASU Wrigley Institute, which will use its convening capacity and international visibility to assemble a transdisciplinary cohort of exceptional fellows and faculty mentors. In the program’s initial year, applicants must be enrolled in one of five selected pilot schools: the School of Sustainability, W. P. Carey School of Business, College of Public Programs, School of Life Sciences or Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. In subsequent years, all graduate students interested in international development are encouraged to apply.

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ASU sustainability alumni report high employment rate

October 2, 2014

sustainability-students-employmentAccording to a recent School of Sustainability report, 73 percent of employed undergraduate alumni surveyed have found careers directly related to sustainability. Additionally, 88 percent of master’s graduates and 100 percent of doctoral graduates are in sustainability careers. These alumni hold positions with a variety of companies, including Aramark, Intel, Waste Management, Tesla Motors, U-Haul International, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey.

Because the sustainability field continues to grow and employers are seeking highly educated experts, the School of Sustainability launched the Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership, a program developed and administered through the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. Created for working individuals who want to lead sustainability practices and programs for their employers, the hybrid program complements theory with real-world practice.

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Seed grant advances sustainability through art

October 1, 2014

trout-fishing-art-sustianabilityTrout Fishing in America and Other stories” is an art exhibition that follows conservation biologists as they work to save two endangered species in the Grand Canyon: the humpback chub and California condor. The artists behind the exhibition, Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir of Iceland and Mark Wilson of England, dedicated over two years to collecting photos, videos and artifacts that provide a visual – and, in some instances, tangible – experience of the region and the complex conservation processes that govern its inhabitants.

“Trout Fishing in America and Other stories” is funded by the “Rhetoric and Sustainability” seed grant, offered through the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The exhibition represents an ongoing partnership between the ASU Art Museum and ASU Wrigley Institute, as both units participate in the Arts and Humanities in Sustainability Series. The partnership recognizes art’s ability to go beyond science to understand people’s perceptions and where roadblocks to sustainable solutions implementation lie.

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Scientist studies environmental pros and cons of biofuels

September 29, 2014

landis-biofuelsWith the help of two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, ASU engineer and sustainability scientist Amy Landis has led biofuel research for the past five years. Her findings indicate that – though a promising way to replace nonrenewable fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore degraded soil – biofuel production has its drawbacks.

According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste and other pollutants can be sufficiently restored to support the growth of bioenergy crops. As a result, biofuels agriculture could become a significant contributor to soil remediation, land reclamation and natural storm water management. The downside is that many biofuel crops require fertilizers that cause water degradation. Runoff water could then transport these fertilizers to areas where they could do environmental harm.

“However, it’s not all doom and gloom,” says Landis. “Our NSF-funded research also developed some creative solutions to utilize abandoned lands and waste materials to produce biofuels.”

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UGEC to advance urban sustainability with new award

September 25, 2014

urban-environmental-sustainabilitySignaling a new chapter in its study of urban systems, the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) project – hosted by ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability – has received a significant award from the Future Earth initiative. The award, supported by a National Science Foundation grant, represents a chance to expand UGEC’s efforts to address urban environmental challenges with sustainable solutions.

UGEC recognizes that urban environments can serve as an excellent source of innovative, sustainable solutions and has dedicated over eight years to uncovering them, primarily by fostering promising research collaborations in the social sciences. The Future Earth award will broaden the initiative to include more of the natural sciences – areas like ecology, climatology and urban health management. This is expected to result in the comprehensive approach required to adequately address urban sustainability challenges.

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Study shows cooling potential of urban forests in Phoenix

September 23, 2014

urban-forests-coolASU researchers from the Center for Integrated Solutions to Climate Challenges and Decision Center for a Desert City, in partnership with the City of Phoenix, released a report this summer evaluating the city’s Cool Urban Spaces work. The report, Urban forestry and cool roofs: Assessment of heat mitigation strategies in Phoenix, evaluated two initiatives to reduce temperatures in Phoenix: the Phoenix Cool Roofs project and the Tree and Shade Master Plan.

The urban heat island, or increased temperatures in cities relative to surrounding areas, is a significant problem in Phoenix and a priority for scientists and city officials alike. According to the study, increasing tree canopy is an effective way to cool city infrastructure, thereby mitigating the urban heat island effect. In fact, the study found that increasing tree canopy cover from the current level of about 10 percent to 25 percent could reduce the temperature of a typical Phoenix neighborhood by 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though cool roofs alone had limited impact, researchers found that they added to the cooling effect when combined with trees. City officials will use these findings to guide future urban heat mitigation efforts.

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World’s largest product sustainability initiatives join forces in Berlin

September 19, 2014

summits2014Product sustainability is a complex issue with wide-reaching implications for businesses, consumers, society and the planet. Both The Sustainability Consortium® (TSC®) and the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) World Forum have been working within their spheres of influence to assess, improve and communicate the sustainability of products. Now, the two organizations are joining forces at a combined summit meeting to address supply chain hotspots.

The meeting – taking place in the heart of Berlin later this month – will attract attendees from corporations, NGOs, governments and civil society organizations. Representatives from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble and Walmart will collaborate on shared solutions to the issues of product sustainability. They will explore topics such as the identification and management of environmental and social hotspots in supply chains, making biodiversity relevant to business, and the trade implications of environmental footprinting.

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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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