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Sustainability students pave a profitable path toward zero waste

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

February 20, 2017

School of Sustainability student Eric presents his project Circle BlueThree School of Sustainability students have come up with a way to guide small organizations painlessly toward zero waste. And they’ll make money doing it.

Eric Johnson, Sean Murray and Daniel Velez – all students in the Master of Sustainability Solutions program – make up the consulting firm Circle Blue. The firm will partner with schools, nonprofits and small businesses to find and eliminate waste, saving money and reducing the amount of garbage that goes to the landfills.

And now they have a financial boost in achieving that aim. The Circle Blue team won a $20,000 grant from the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, defeating two other teams in the pitch competition in February 2017. The event, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, sought the team with the strongest potential to solve a social challenge.


Chinese scholars learn to think sustainably at ASU

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Professional Training and Custom Sustainability Education

February 10, 2017

Visiting Chinese students gather around an outdoor algae bed A two-week workshop at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability brought students from China a new way of systems thinking to analyze complex sustainability problems.

Marty Anderies, professor and senior sustainability scientist, introduced the students to the key sustainability challenge areas of food, water, energy and urbanization – both locally and globally. His sustainability class was a combination of learning activities: documentaries and dialogue, interactive role-playing games, field trips and lectures.

The 16 students came from Beijing's Beihang University, an elite research university known for launching the first light passenger aircraft in China in 1950s. They chose ASU because the university is well-known in Chinese academia for its leading research and heavy focus in sustainability.


Nobel Laureate joins School of Sustainability faculty

Board Letter School of Sustainability News

January 12, 2017

Adding an additional layer of transdisciplinary knowledge to the program, Nobel Laureate Lee Hartwell – known for his work on the cutting edge of health science innovation – joins the School of Sustainability faculty.

Hartwell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for his discoveries of a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle. His interests have since turned to how researchers can use the enormous knowledge that has accumulated during the last 50 years in genetics and biochemistry to improve molecular diagnostics to benefit human health.

Studying sustainability through a top online bachelor's program

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 10, 2017

Hands type at a laptop, with a notebook and highlighter in the foregroundAfter working on issues of environmental responsibility as Girl Scout leader, Jessica Ohrt was inspired to pursue a bachelor’s degree in sustainability through ASU Online.

“I looked for a local college that had a sustainability program that would be comparable, and there wasn’t one. It was such a distinctive program and set of classes that I decided to stick with it,” said Ohrt, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

The School of Sustainability's programs are among more than 60 undergraduate online degrees offered by ASU. In fact, the university's online bachelor’s degree program has been ranked fourth in the nation out of more than 1,300 reviewed by U.S. News & World Report, who scored based on student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer reputation.

Ohrt likes that the courses keep students on track and are self-directed, so she could work in between caring for her granddaughter. She expects to graduate in December 2017 and is considering working for a government agency or a nonprofit focusing on environmental justice.


ASU’s School of Sustainability spells success for graduates

School of Sustainability News

December 12, 2016

Three female students talk and laugh outside of ASU's Wrigley Hall.A school that originally started as an experiment has become a leading example for other sustainability programs nationwide

by Nicole Randock

Students enter college today with the expectation that a job will be awaiting them upon graduation. The hefty price tag for their education is expected to reap valuable, lifelong rewards. As reported by, the cost of a degree at a “moderate” in-state public college averages $97,000.

A diploma is an investment and after only 10 years in existence, Arizona State’s School of Sustainability is offering a good return on that investment. The school surveyed its undergraduate alumni last year and found that 48 percent had jobs related to sustainability, which is double the national average in other fields, according to the Arizona Science and Innovation Desk.

The School of Sustainability offers students a one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary education while providing them with ample resources, mentors and internship opportunities.

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A family man's journey to sustainability

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 12, 2016

jason-tibbetts-standing-in-front-of-green-leafy-treeIn a December 2016 interview with ASU NowSchool of Sustainability student Jason Tibbetts shares that he originally planned to attend an out-of-state school. He ultimately opted for Mesa Community College due to its reputation and proximity, and learned about the School of Sustainability there.

"I have always had a passion for the environment and self-sufficiency, but I never had a name for it until I heard about the sustainability program at ASU," Tibbetts says.

Tibbetts enrolled in the school's Bachelor of Science program shortly thereafter. In addition to classes in the Sustainable Energy, Materials and Technology track, he is a husband and a father of three, as well as the owner of an edible landscaping business.


Breaking barriers to green procurement overseas

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 7, 2016

Nicole Darnall wearing a black top and smiling.Nicole Darnall, a sustainability scholar and professor in the School of Sustainability, has been awarded the Social Science Research Council's 2017-2019 Abe Fellowship for her research on sustainable public procurement.

The fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on policy-related topics of pressing global concern and to support researchers who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics. It strives to promote a new level of intellectual cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. academic and professional communities committed to and trained for advancing global understanding and problem solving.

As part of her fellowship, Darnall will extend her sustainable procurement research (with scholars in ASU's Center for Organization Research and Design) to assess the barriers and facilitators of Japanese local governments' green procurement decisions.

US election results cause concern for international climate treaty

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November 16, 2016

ASU's Sonja Klinsky, wearing dark top and turquoise scarf, smiles for camera. While scientists generally agree that human activity is accelerating Earth’s warming trend, president-elect Donald Trump has called it a hoax. His election was a hot topic at the COP 22 climate meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, where international climate scientists met to discuss implementation of the Paris climate agreement.

School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Sonja Klinsky, who presented research on strategies for global cooperation on climate and human well-being at the meeting in Marrakech, took a few moments to gauge the mood there for ASU Now.

Klinsky described the election results as "devastating to all," and cited several specific concerns. These include an increased vulnerability of Americans to climate change impacts, lost economic opportunities, a tarnished international reputation and eroded trust.


Sustainability student named among Outside's "30 Under 30"

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 16, 2016

Sarra standing in front of an urban garden wearing a shirt that says "hope"At age 21, Sarra Tekola stood on a stage in Blaine, Washington and shouted to a crowd that she was “born to fight climate change.” Now enrolled in the PhD program at ASU's School of Sustainability, Tekola has been named to Outside magazine's "30 Under 30."

The list features young adults successfully tackling some of the biggest challenges on the planet and leading the way for others. Tekola, the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee who fled his home country after a deadly drought, has been championing climate action for years. Outside nicknames her "The Troublemaker" for her sometimes unconventional way of prompting positive change.

Tekola is now studying how to build eco-communities for underprivileged people.


New degree anticipates global energy transitions

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November 15, 2016

A solar array at night on ASU's Tempe campusRecognizing that today’s global energy transitions demand leaders who can navigate interwoven technical, societal and environmental challenges, ASU's School of Sustainability introduced a Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainable Energy in November 2016.

The new PhD transcends the boundaries of traditional methodologies and disciplinary viewpoints to achieve a sustainable energy future. Students in the program conduct collaborative cross-disciplinary research, integrating energy science with societal and policy insights.

Drawing upon emerging knowledge and deep historical insights – as well as integrating information from the physical, biological and social sciences – students will explore and contribute to sustainable solutions that address urgent energy challenges now and in the future.


What's in a game? A creative approach to complicated issues.

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 10, 2016

Two women with glasses consider what to do with colorful playing cards.A game called “Future Shocks and City Resilience” – created by Senior Sustainability Scientist Lauren Withycombe Keeler – is helping decision-makers take a creative approach to solving complex problems.

The game was played by about 50 people at a November 2016 City of Tempe Resilience Workshop, sponsored by the city, the National League of Cities and ASU's School of Sustainability. Participants – including top city officials and ASU faculty – learned to think about sustainability in much broader terms than, say, recycling.

“It’s sustainability in terms of, how does a city create an environment that is livable for all different types of residents, and is equitable? And does it achieve that in a way that preserves and enhances the natural environment and allows the benefits to be available for future generations?” Withycombe Keeler explained.


Upping the game for reduced greenhouse gas emissions

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November 1, 2016

Man with glasses sits in front of a computer, smilingIn an interview with ASU Now, School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Datu Buyung Agusdinata describes how ASU is supporting the development of a video game – one that helps everyday people understand how their consumption of food, energy and water can affect everything from the environment to income inequality.

The game represents an effort by multiple institutions and is funded through a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Agusdinata leads the ASU team, which will contribute a better understanding of human decision-making in households, as well as of humans' response to psychological cues and social norms.

The game will reveal the preferences and intentions of users, suggesting what they might do under certain conditions in a realistic environment. Ultimately, it will inform concrete and cost-effective methods – including technology and policy – for promoting sustainable consumption.


Fostering sustainability and forging connections in Guatemala

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni News

November 1, 2016

Room of Guatemalan schoolchildren wearing uniformsGuatemala is consistently listed in the top 10 happiest countries in the world, despite the difficulties it faces with poverty and crime. To continue this trend and improve the lives of Guatemala's residents, different groups are working there – including School of Sustainability faculty, alumni and students, who have visited the country for the past two summers.

These visits yield a number of connections, like one between two alumni who were in Guatemala with different organizations and crossed paths unexpectedly. Another graduate from the School of Sustainability is currently working in Guatemala for Habitat for Humanity. A study abroad program also brought students to the country in the summer of 2015, and the faculty member who facilitated the trip – who has visited multiple times since – plans to go back again this December.

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Going to court for the human right to water

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 13, 2016

Professors smile with a group of school girls in DelhiMarketplace solutions work for many needs, but not all of them — particularly some of the most basic ones. That’s what Rimjhim Aggarwal, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, found when she considered how affordable access to clean water could be guaranteed.

To find a viable alternative, Aggarwal and Senior Sustainability Scientist LaDawn Haglund began documenting the way court systems have been used to advance water rights in emerging economies with fairly well-developed legal systems: Brazil, South Africa and India. They chose this approach because courts can provide a space for citizens to see that their rights are protected.

By dissecting court cases and sharing what they find, Haglund and Aggarwal are shining light on the power that courts and human rights language can have in advancing the right to water.


Prospective sustainability leaders offered a financial boost

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September 30, 2016

Group of smiling adults standing by a European riverfront Through funding provided by the Rob and Melani Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, ASU will award a limited number of scholarships of up to $15,000 to professionals applying to the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program.

The online program, offered by ASU's School of Sustainability and administered through the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, centers on four specific themes: global context, strategy, communication and leadership. In doing so, it equips professionals from all ranks within an organization with the knowledge and real-world experiences needed to accelerate their careers in sustainability.

The admissions application deadline for those who wish to be considered for this scholarship is Nov. 30.


Meet Our Alumni: Carolyn Phillips

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

September 16, 2016

Sustainability grad Carolyn wearing bright red top and holding dark red popsicleCarolyn Phillips, owner and chief alchemist of Alchemy Pops, is a 2011 Master of Arts graduate of the School of Sustainability. Her company is based in Texas, and focuses on creating new market opportunities for Texas farmers. She is one of many entrepreneurs who graduate with a degree from the School of Sustainability.

Why did you choose to enroll in the School of Sustainability at ASU? 

In my undergrad, while I was doing my BA in Entrepreneurial Management at Texas Christian University, I took a sustainability-themed graduate level class called “Chasing Carbon” – that got me charted on a path that interested me.

There’s always been a theme in my family and community of support about being a part of the solution. This can be interpreted in a lot of different ways – one being, "if you’re not helping, you’re hurting." Being someone who has an impact and is improving lives is the general theme guiding my trajectory.

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A glimpse into life after graduation

School of Sustainability News Alumni News

September 7, 2016

Student standing in food bank pantryFor its third consecutive year, the School of Sustainability offers its students a hands-on look into what their future might hold with a career in sustainability.

The Alumni Job Shadowing program, which began in 2014 and continues to grow, gives current students the opportunity to interact with and shadow a School of Sustainability alumnus for a day. The program provides students with insight into not only future career possibilities, but also into the world of professionalism, networking and higher education. Students receive one-on-one attention from their alumni sponsors and can see how their classes apply in the working world.

“This job shadow gave me great insight into how my sustainability degree can be used in a real-world job. This opportunity has rejuvenated my interest in getting a job where I can apply the knowledge I gained from my classes… I believe it has made me confident as a student that my degree is such an intricate part of how a business operates,” says Adrian Nunez, a School of Sustainability Bachelor of Science student.

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One of the 'coolest' schools in the US is in Arizona's desert

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 6, 2016

Students are working and/or interacting with other students in different learning environments and innovative spaces. These images should be natural and captured in the moment. It is very difficult to stage these type of pictures and doing so is easily picked up on by the viewer. Students enjoying class is a must. Moving up five spots from 2015, Arizona State University was named sixth in Sierra Club's annual "Cool Schools" ranking of roughly 200 colleges and universities.

The ranking lists schools based on a demonstrated commitment to upholding high environmental standards. A few of the categories ASU scored high in are bike facilities, organic gardens, undergraduate programs, student outreach and move-in/out waste reduction.

“For more than 10 years, ASU has demonstrated its fundamental commitment to sustainability,” says Christopher Boone, dean of ASU's School of Sustainability. “We are very pleased to be recognized by the Sierra Club for all of our hard work.”

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Making every day in the neighborhood a happy one

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 30, 2016

Tall, smiling man with bike next to smiling young woman outdoorsThere are three factors that promote happiness where we live, say School of Sustainability Professor Scott Cloutier and his colleague Deirdre Pfeiffer. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, they name these factors as access to open and green space, environmental design that promotes social interaction, and places that are safe and secure.

Cloutier and Pfeiffer conceived of the study after observing urban planning focused solely on improved physical health, leaving  mental and emotional health by the wayside. Now, the pair suggest strategies planners can use to measure all three “happiness” factors, and evaluate the extent to which their proposals would promote better health overall.

The researchers even developed a tool called the “Sustainability through Happiness Framework” that allows planners to collaborate with neighborhood residents on the creation of places where they'll be happy to live.


Seminar provides sunny outlook on solar in Kosovo

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Professional Training and Custom Sustainability Education

July 19, 2016

An old-looking power plantWhen asked to design a program on renewable energy and sustainability to be presented in Kosovo – a country that relies on two coal-fueled power plants – the School of Sustainability's Ryan Johnson gladly accepted.

Johnson, who directs the school's professional training and custom sustainability education efforts, then approached geographer Martin Pasqualetti and electrical engineer Ron Roedel because of their expertise in renewable energy, as well as with a similar program in the Middle East.

After studying Kosovo's great solar potential, the two professors presented their insights at a two-week seminar beginning in May 2016. Each day was split between presentations by Pasqualetti – a sustainability scientist who focused on the social aspects of transitioning to a new energy source – and Roedel, who focused on the technical aspects of renewable energy. Together, they demonstrated the value of renewable energy and interdisciplinary collaboration.