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New ASU center to offer nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 7, 2017

With the aim of finding better solutions to today's food-related challenges, Kelly and Brian Swette have made a major gift to establish the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.

The new center, housed within the School of Sustainability, will tackle food systems from a holistic standpoint, taking into consideration water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition – all with an emphasis on efficiency across the global supply chain. It will also offer the nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems.

Explaining that the new center will accelerate and expand current efforts, Dean Christopher Boone said, "By combining ASU’s assets as a research powerhouse with the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and the expertise from external partners, these sustainable food systems solutions will have profound and positive implications for livelihoods, human health and ecosystem integrity."

Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, as well as an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he and Kelly launched Sweet Earth Natural Foods – a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic fare.

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Military training promotes serving country and planet

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November 8, 2017

During an inaugural Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability conference hosted by ASU, over 150 military personnel, Department of the Army civilians and contractors were given the mandate to change the “sustainability DNA” of their organizations. The conference – which took place in November 2017 – brought together experts in the areas of energy security, water security, solid waste diversion and environmental quality from across the Army Reserve, encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation.

Joe Knott, an ASU doctoral candidate in the School of Sustainability and retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped to facilitate the partnership between ASU and ARMRS. He points out that today's young people are better versed in subjects like sustainability and climate change. In that sense, if the Army does not develop a strong sustainability culture, it may have trouble with retention.

“They expect sustainability and doing the right thing in addition to serving their country,” Knott says. “They say ‘what are you as a military organization going to allow me to do to make this earth sustainable for my kids and grandkids?’”

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Alliance makes strides toward phosphorus sustainability

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November 2, 2017

Lake overgrown with algaePhosphorus is a basic element found in all living things and is a key component of most fertilizers – enabling modern agriculture. On the flip side, phosphorus runoff contaminates rivers, lakes and streams, providing an overabundance of nutrients that leads to toxic algal blooms.

That's why the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, a unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute, continues to grow – to take on the phosphorus problem in the global food system. Following a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the alliance received a second round of funding from the OCP Group – a Moroccan mining company that owns the largest deposits of phosphate rock in the world.

The alliance grew out of industry interest in phosphorus sustainability and recycling during the original NSF grant period, which brought together dozens of researchers from around the world. In 2017, the alliance grew to nine member organizations representing different stages of the phosphorus value chain.

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1,000s of lab gloves will be recycled thanks to ASU sustainability student

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October 24, 2017

Junkee Justin Ahn holding lab gloves and making the pitchforkWhile interning at paper giant Kimberly Clark, undergraduate School of Sustainability student Junkee Justin Ahn noticed that the company had a nitrile glove recycling program. He recognized the need for a similar program at ASU, where countless gloves are used in labs across its campuses each week, and began collecting information.

By bringing the program – called RightCycle – to ASU, Ahn is helping gloves from the Tempe and Polytechnic campuses reach recycling centers where they are turned into plastic materials. He presented his work at the nation’s biggest higher-education sustainability conference, held by the the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in San Antonio, in October 2017.

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Finding fulfillment through food choices

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October 4, 2017

What we put on our plates affects our overall health, from our individual bodies to the planet as a whole. Christopher Wharton – director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) – and other researchers from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability are studying the long-term effects of our diets on happiness, sustainability and ethics.

One ongoing FSTI study is examining food and fulfillment, gauging the motivators and barriers of adopting and maintaining plant-based diets. Though results are not yet in, researchers expect a correlation with long-term happiness because of the knowledge that there are positive health, environmental and other sustainability benefits to adopting a strictly or primarily plant-based diet.

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New Carbon Economy Consortium: Building research programs to support 21st Century economic opportunity

ASU Sustainability News LightWorks News

September 26, 2017

Now is the time to map paths to the breakthrough research programs and forward-looking university-business partnerships that will serve as the hubs for this new carbon economy. This is an economy in which low-carbon industry and primary energy production are joined by industrial centers, agricultural regions and food-producing ecosystems that turn excess CO2 into consumer goods, fuels, building materials and fertile soil. With deliberate but ambitious planning, the United States and collaborators in other countries can develop the knowledge, technologies and human capital to catalyze the new carbon economy by 2040.

In June 2017, a one-day workshop was held at Arizona State University to begin mapping out the work of a consortium focused on creating a framework for the research programs necessary to support the new carbon economy. The workshop brought together experts from Arizona State University, the Center for Carbon Removal, Iowa State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Purdue University.

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3 countries, 3 universities, 1 unforgettable experience

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September 14, 2017

For ASU sustainability senior Hailey Baker, three countries plus three universities plus three weeks adds up to one unforgettable experience.

Baker and 31 other students – representing ASU, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and National Taipei University – traveled to three cities in Southern China for their summer studies, part of a program supported by the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the ASU Wrigley Institute and the ASU Study Abroad Office.

During the three-week course on sustainable urban development, Baker and her peers experienced field trips and lectures in three cities: Guangzhou, China; Taipei, Taiwan; and Hong Kong. Then, working in teams with students from each participating university, each group completed a final solutions-focused project, including the development of sustainability plans for a new district in Hong Kong.

The course was co-taught by Rob Melnick – presidential professor of practice in ASU’s School of Sustainability – and sustainability doctoral candidate Joe Knott, along with faculty from the two partner universities.

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#1 in innovation for three consecutive years

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September 11, 2017

For the third year in a row, Arizona State University tops U.S. News and World Report's list of “most innovative schools” in the nation.

The ranking recognizes the university’s groundbreaking initiatives, partnerships, programs and research – including in the field of sustainability. It also recognizes innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

The widely touted set of annual rankings by the news magazine compares more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics. It is based on survey responses from peers – including college presidents, provosts and admissions deans throughout the country.

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How to weather calamities like Harvey and Irma

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September 7, 2017

New ideas on how to build more resilient cities focus on working with nature, rather than trying to master it, says Charles Redman – founding director of ASU’s School of Sustainability.

Redman now leads a group of researchers from 15 institutions in a National Science Foundation-sponsored project called the Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), which focuses on ways to make cities more resilient to natural calamities. This entails building infrastructure systems that are safe-to-fail, rather than fail-safe, and recognizing that cities should be able to take advantage of natural features of the land.

"The overarching problem with cities like Houston is that they have built over the natural landscape with impervious surfaces, and with impediments to the natural flow of surface runoff," says Redman. "A more effective approach may be to implement infrastructure systems that work with the land to facilitate runoff rather than try to control it, but acknowledge and plan that if a specific threshold is exceeded and the system 'fails' in some sense there are backup plans in place that minimize the adverse impacts."

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ASU named a top 'Cool School' for third year in a row

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August 22, 2017

ASU's reputation for sustainability leadership continues to grow, corroborated by its standing in Sierra magazine's latest “Cool Schools” ranking of North America’s greenest colleges and universities.

Named first among institutions with more than 10,000 students — up from second in that category last year — ASU sits in seventh place overall, according to the listing. It was compiled using surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools, as well as a customized scoring system based on universities' commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

This is the third consecutive year ASU has scored in the top 20. The 2017 ranking does not yet reflect the impact of the Red Rock Solar Plant, dedicated in January 2017. Over the course of its first full year in operation, Red Rock will reduce ASU’s total carbon footprint by more than 10 percent.

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ASU and TU Sign MOU to expand university partnership

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July 26, 2017

Nalini Chhetri holds signed MOU with three other men in Nepal.This June, ASU signed its second Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tribhuvan University (TU) in Kathmandu, Nepal, furthering a five-year partnership.

The partnership dates back to 2012, when ASU Senior Sustainability Scientists Netra Chhetri, Nalini Chhetri and Milan Shrestha first engaged with TU and were invited to the university as guest speakers.

ASU signed its first MOU with TU’s Institute of Engineering (IOE) in 2015. Through that collaboration, two cohorts of ASU students have studied abroad in Nepal. The 2017 study abroad session, called Grassroots Innovation for Sustainable Development, brought ASU and IOE sustainability and engineering students together on two projects to help Nepali farmers: solar-powered lift irrigation and biochar production.

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ASU researchers receive accolades for solar energy research

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July 17, 2017

In 2017, ASU researchers received $4.3 million in Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Awards for their work with photovoltaics, making ASU the largest recipient of SunShot funding in the Photovoltaics Research category for the year.

The DOE's SunShot Intiative aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional methods, a goal that three senior sustainability scientists at the ASU Wrigley Institute are helping to achieve. Stuart Bowden is designing the M-Cell, a photovoltaic cell architecture to enable higher voltage and lower current. Meanwhile, Meng Tao is working to reduce processing expenses, improve reliability and maintain high efficiency for photovoltaic devices.

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Solar-powered system helps provide water beyond the annual rainy season

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July 14, 2017

This summer, a group of 11 ASU sustainability and engineering students traveled to the Hindu Kush Himalaya region to help local farmers run their operations year-round – eliminating the need to migrate to lowlands or to other countries as seasonal laborers.

The students, part of a study abroad course organized through the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and developed through GlobalResolve,  developed hardware like a solar-powered lift irrigation system during the spring semester, then deployed it while the students were onsite in June.

“This class cooperates with local farmers to combine existing irrigation and solar technologies to provide a refreshing shortcut for the region’s food and energy challenges,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist Netra Chhetri. “With assured water supply, these farmers can plan their crops better and grow off-season vegetables that fetch four times more value than cereals, which are the current crops being harvested.”

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Cities can make greener purchases with help of new initiative

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July 6, 2017

As local governments step to the forefront of sustainability commitment-making, a team of Arizona State University researchers – including School of Sustainability Professor Nicole Darnall – launch a project aimed at making it easier for cities to “buy green."

Called the Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative, the project was informed by survey responses from 616 government officials from 459 cities. The responses led the ASU team to create eight real-world recommendations that can be used by city officials considering environmentally-friendly products – from light bulbs to carpeting.

The tips will be disseminated in a marketing blast that will reach thousands of local governments nationwide.

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Moving forward on climate change post Paris agreement

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June 22, 2017

When the United States withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, it sparked a debate over what should happen next.

That debate was reflected during a June 2017 Case Critical discussion, held by the ASU Wrigley Institute and featuring Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, School of Sustainability Assistant Professor Sonja Klinsky and ASU economist William Boyes. The discussion was moderated by Rob Melnick, executive director of the institute and a professor of practice in the School of Sustainability.

Kinsky reiterated the views she shared in a recent ASU Now interview, adding this about the way forward: "I think we’re swimming with opportunities. There are large-scale technological investments. The cost of air pollution to people’s health is astronomical. That’s a public health debate. There’s a social justice perspective. How will we deal with agriculture? Find your skill set and apply it."

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A silver lining to Phoenix's heat wave

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June 19, 2017

Randy Cerveny sits in a blue shirt on his desk in front of stacks of books and papers.Explaining to ASU Now why Phoenix residents have to bear extreme temperatures every summer, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Randy Cerveny said, "We have a large upper-air ridge of high pressure centered over our area, in essence a large 'heat dome.'"

Cerveny – the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) rapporteur on climate extremes – gave a glimmer of hope to Valley residents by adding, "These hot temperatures are needed aspects for creating the shift in winds that allows moisture to flow up from the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. In other words, if it weren’t for these hot temperatures now, we wouldn’t have thunderstorms next month."

ASU hosts the WMO’s Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, as well as monitors and verifies extreme temperatures around the globe.

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Vision for rehabilitated watershed lands ASU team with award

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June 18, 2017

Part of the celebration to welcome the canoe Hōkūleʻa home from her worldwide voyage, ASU took the overall prize in the Make the Ala Wai Awesome challenge, an international student design competition that asked contestants to rehabilitate a critical Oʻahu watershed containing one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water.

The School of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks energy center have been working with a Hawai'i public-private partnership network to find new answers to the country's unique sustainability challenges. LightWorks enlisted help from The Design School, which turned the effort into a class project where graduate students in design and sustainability addressed climate change, water, food, energy and natural resources sustainability on the Ala Wai.

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Incubating waste innovations for a robust circular economy

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June 14, 2017

With the support of the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) – a public-private network established through a partnership between ASU and the City of Phoenix – the RISN Incubator was announced in June 2017.

The incubator, a business development and accelerator program, seeks early-stage ventures that focus on solutions to waste-related challenges. Eligible venture concepts include, but are not limited to: conversion of solid waste into new material or energy; services that divert, reuse or recycle; software applications around sustainability (waste, organic material, reuse, recycling); and design services that focus on sustainability.

The ventures that are selected will have access to resources and support from ASU and Phoenix as they contribute to the regional development of a vibrant circular economy.

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Art exhibit showcases nature-inspired designs

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June 9, 2017

A 2017 exhibit at the Tempe Center for the Arts, "Biomimicry: Nature Inspired Design," showcases an approach to problem-solving that harnesses both the practicality and beauty of nature's designs.

Through the biomimicry philosophy, people work to create sustainable lifestyles by observing how animals and plants overcome obstacles in their environments. And because Arizona State University is a leader in this field, several faculty members and alumni are involved in the exhibit, which also includes events to inspire the community.

According to Prasad Boradkar, senior sustainability scholar and director of ASU's Biomimicry Center, "The impact of design and manufacturing of new products doesn’t affect only humans. It affects all species on the planet. So why don’t we learn from all species on the planet?"

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Teaming up to create market for waste carbon dioxide

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June 6, 2017

ASU researchers sit in room having discussion.ASU is partnering with the Center for Carbon Removal and institutions like Iowa State University, Purdue University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with the aim of creating a market for waste carbon dioxide.

This initiative – born from conversations between ASU President Michael Crow and Noah Deich, executive director of the Center for Carbon Removal – approaches the climate change challenge as an economic opportunity. In doing so, it will encourage new businesses while transforming existing industries like agriculture, forestry, fuel and manufacturing.

"Working together with the Center for Carbon Removal, we will develop a roadmap leading to real, valuable and lasting uses for carbon in the air," said Betsy Cantwell, vice president for research development of ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development. "We hope to implement the roadmap in a timeframe that will rapidly impact global carbon futures.”

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