Featured News

SCN Hosts Show Me the Money! Grant Workshop with a Collaborative Focus

SCN Grant Workshop Participants Review an RFP

Getting grants—state, federal, from foundations, or otherwise—has always been a competitive and overwhelming process. Community participants of the Sustainable Cities Network have longed for a workshop on grant writing not only to fund their own projects, but to bring more investment and positive change to Arizona communities. SCN answered this call with a grant workshop on September 13, 2017, facilitated by one of Arizona State University’s own Research Advancement Managers, Ann Marie Hess, who has extensive experience in developing, managing, and implementing large grant-funded projects.

This workshop touched on understanding critical parts of RFPs and writing effective proposals, and emphasized the value of collaboration on projects and in securing grants. Participants were able to share their progress on current grant applications, as well as discuss opportunities for joint projects, collaborations, and applications.

In all, over 40 participants benefited from this half-day workshop. Future workshops may be held and customized further depending on attendee feedback. For now, these participants—ranging from communities of all sizes across Arizona—have the starter tools to develop some highly competitive grant proposals and applications. Watch out, grant providers! Arizona communities are coming for you.

Links to the presentation and materials provided at this workshop can be found here.

Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) Partner News – City of Glendale Desert Food Forest

Earlier this summer, the City of Glendale Water Services Department sponsored three “Hotel Saguaro” puppet shows during the Glendale Library’s busy summer reading program. A unique pre-show activity called “Taste Your Yard” allowed participants to learn about desert edible and medicinal plants. The City partnered with Maricopa County Master Gardeners, Library teen volunteers, and Trees Matter to staff interactive stations where participants made mesquite flour and sampled desert edibles, such as prickly pear candy, agave syrup, and pomegranate juice. This popular session demonstrated the need for more opportunities to learn about desert food—thankfully, development of the Desert Food Forest was underway.

The City of Glendale Water Services Department was recently awarded an Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management Community Challenge Grant to develop a Desert Food Forest demonstration at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. The Desert Food Forest will showcase water-efficient, desert-edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and succulents that homeowners can successfully grow, harvest, and enjoy in their own landscapes. The landscape will utilize passive rainwater harvesting, curb cuts with permeable pathways, and an interpretive sign to engage the public.

In addition to the 3,000 sq. ft. demonstration, the grant will provide for youth and adult education on Sonoran Desert edible and medicinal plants. The City is partnering with the Linking Edible Arizona Forests (LEAF) Network to offer a free “Create Your Own Desert Food Forest” class on Saturday, October 21 from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Glendale Main Library (5959 W. Brown St.). A design charrette, involving local plant experts, is scheduled this September and will help ensure a sustainable design that is compatible to our unique climate. The Food Forest demonstration is scheduled to be installed later this fall.

This project was born out of residents’ increasing interest in learning how to transform their lawns into more water-efficient desert gardens. In the Phoenix metropolitan area, outdoor water usage typically makes up more than half of a resident’s total water usage. Much of this water is used to support lawns and ornamental plants that require more resources and maintenance than desert-adapted plants. With the gaining popularity of growing desert edibles, this project will provide a demonstration and resource for visitors at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden who want to create a desert food forest that benefits people, native wildlife, and the environment.

Apache Junction becomes inaugural partner of ASU’s Project Cities

View of desert community at the foot of large rocky mountainsNestled at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction is strategically positioned as the eastern gateway into the Greater Phoenix metro area and the western entry to the Tonto National Forest’s recreation venues. This geography, coupled with a western atmosphere, make the city appealing to residents and visitors alike.

Along with its many attractive qualities, the city of Apache Junction – like most communities – faces unique sustainability challenges as it continues to grow. It is these challenges that form the basis of a partnership with Arizona State University’s Project Cities program. Continue reading

Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) Partner News – Peoria Makes Strides with Upcoming Net Zero Sites


By Erin Rugland

The City of Peoria recently finalized a contract with energy efficiency and renewable energy company, Ameresco, Inc. This partnership will include energy efficiency retrofits of thirteen different city facilities, as well as solar photovoltaic installations at eight different sites in the City.

In addition to these projects, two sites in Peoria will become Net Zero: the Sunrise Mountain Library and Fire Station 191. This means that the buildings’ energy usage will be roughly equal to the renewable energy produced on-site.

Two additional sites will be “unofficially” Net Zero. Fire Station 196 and Pinnacle Peak Patrol Services Building are within 10% of the size required to confidently be deemed Net Zero, but will produce energy similarly to the true Net Zero sites.

Lisa Estrada, the City of Peoria’s Economic Efficiency and Sustainability Manager, has been working for the City for over 10 years and has had significant involvement in the SCN Steering Committee and Solar & Energy Efficiency Workgroup. She has helped to work behind-the-scenes in the City to prepare for this contract with Ameresco, utilizing knowledge gleaned from SCN and other city participants.

According to Ms. Estrada, “Being part of ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network provides a forum in which we can learn from each others’ successes. Ideas begin to formulate here at SCN and with hard work and persistence, these ideas eventually can lead to a great project like this one. I’m always inspired by the collective knowledge and expertise in the room. SCN has definitely been integral to our success in Peoria.”

The City of Peoria’s upcoming projects are completely self-funded and will take the City even further toward achieving its sustainability goals. Click here to read more about the City of Peoria’s energy efficiency efforts.

New program pairs sustainability knowledge with implementation know-how

Picture the main streets of your city shielded by solar panels – would that make a summer outing downtown more comfortable? How about vertical farms on former brownfield sites down the street from your home – wouldn’t such easy access to fresh food be nice?

Arizona State University’s Project Cities thinks so too.

That’s why the new program, part of ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network (SCN), is working with municipalities to implement environmentally-conscious projects that make life better for people and businesses alike. Continue reading

Congratulations to Sustainable Cities Network’s Anne Reichman

The ASU Wrigley Institute is pleased to announce the promotion of Anne Reichman to director of the Sustainable Cities Network.

Anne has been program manager of SCN since its inception in 2009, when she oversaw its introduction, development and expansion throughout Arizona. Since that time, she’s created a statewide network dedicated to improving community and regional sustainability practices through engagement with ASU programs, faculty and students. Recently, Anne established Project Cities – an exciting new program within SCN – and received the Ponderosa Pine Award for the network’s Regional Tree & Shade Summit 2.0.

As director, Anne will continue to operate at the highest levels on the institute’s behalf, interfacing with communities and organizational partners on topics ranging from renewable energy and green building to the changing climate. Please join us in congratulating Anne on this exciting step up as she continues her work to create a more livable and prosperous Arizona.

Sustainable Cities Network becomes STAR Community Rating Index Organizational Affiliate

by Erin Rugland

The STAR Community Rating System is a nonprofit organization that works to evaluate, improve, and certify sustainable communities. Several communities across the nation and in Arizona are STAR members, including SCN Steering Committee communities Chandler, Tucson, Phoenix, Avondale, Peoria, and Scottsdale. Membership benefits include access and tracking of sustainability metrics, as well as a dearth of other materials that can help to advance community sustainability.

STAR Affiliates are nonprofits, businesses, and institutions working with the organization to support and improve the STAR Community Rating System. STAR Affiliates are vital to efforts to help improve local communities. As a STAR Affiliate, the Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) can now help Arizona communities in securing resources to help collect data for STAR Leading Indicators, and we will be able to utilize STAR resources in order to aid communities in various efforts. View the STAR Affiliates page here.

SCN/SOS Engaging with Cities Luncheon Recap

By Erin Rugland

The Sustainable Cities Network and the School of Sustainability hosted its second Engaging with Cities Luncheon as part of the annual School of Sustainability Open House. At this event, students showcased their Spring 2017 semester research projects conducted for Arizona communities to a full house of municipal staff and ASU faculty and students. This year’s luncheon featured projects from three different School of Sustainability courses: SOS 582: Project Management for Sustainability, taught by Paul Prosser and Dr. Caroline Harrison; SOS 498/594: Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness, taught by Dr. Scott Cloutier; and SOS 321: Policy and Governance in Sustainable Systems, taught by Dr. Mike Schoon. Four student projects were highlighted in all.

The first project, presented by Masters of Sustainable Solutions students Whitney Love, Rachael Rosenstein, James Spearman, and James Sponsler for SOS 582, involved evaluating the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance (SMFBA) recycling and solid waste program. The overall goal of the project was to create a comprehensive waste diversion implementation plan that increases the percentage of materials SMFBA sends to recycling facilities. The students proposed audits, educational tools, and infrastructure changes to increase diversion of SMFBA’s recyclable waste from the landfill.

Waste Diversion, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance by Rachael Rosenstein, James Sponsler, James Spearman, and Whitney Love for SOS 593

The second project presentation by School of Sustainability Students Beth Ann Morrison, Erica Berejnoi Bejarano, and Rabekha Siebert for SOS 498/594, who discussed work in civic engagement and neighborhood revitalization in a City of Tempe neighborhood.

Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness, City of Tempe by Beth Ann Morrison, Erica Berejnoi Bejarano, and Rabekha Siebert for SOS 498/594

The third project was presented by ASU undergraduate students Mike Schwartz, Zachary Muncy, Alison Almand, Shizuki Goto, and Matt Burmeister for SOS 321 on Green Infrastructure. Specific GI features were highlighted for the City of Phoeix which included short- and long-term costs, maintenance requirements, and benefits/challenges helping the city alleviate the issue of stormwater runoff.

Green Infrastructure, City of Phoenix by Mike Schwartz, Zachary Muncy, Alison Almand, Shizuki Goto, and Matt Burmeister for SOS 321

The fourth and final student group was presented by ASU undergraduate students Curt Klepper, Steve Latino, Olaya Reyes, Haley Daily, and Conrad Bavousett for SOS 321. This project focused on the challenges and solutions of increasing recycling at multi-family recycling units in an effort to increase the City of Scottsdale’s diversion of solid waste from apartments and condominium complexes by 30% by 2030.

Waste Diversion, City of Scottsdale Curt Klepper, Steve Latino, Olaya Reyes, Haley Daily, and Conrad Bavousett for SOS 321

Thank you to all ASU faculty and students, and SCN partnering communities who participated and made this luncheon a success!

Sustainable Cities Network receives Ponderosa Pine Partnership Award

By Erin Rugland

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management awarded the Sustainable Cities Network and partners with the department’s first Ponderosa Pine Partnership Award for the Regional Tree & Shade Summit 2.0: Branching Out One Community at a Time.

This award was given at the 2017 Arizona State Arbor Day Celebration, which included winners of the Arbor Day K-12 Poster Contest, as well as recognition for 29 Tree City USA communities, 2 Tree Campus USA sites, 2 Tree Line USA utilities and 4 Urban Forestry Awards.

The Ponderosa Pine Award is one of the Urban Forestry Awards presented at the celebration, given “to increase the recognition of outstanding urban forestry projects in Arizona.” It is presented for the innovative, strategic and/or pioneering collaborative efforts of organizations. It recognizes a project for the exceptional involvement of multiple organizations that was implemented during the past year. Continue reading

Interview with EPA Region 9’s Karen Irwin

At the Sustainable Cities Network, we have maintained contacts within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9, the subdivision of the EPA serving the Pacific Southwest–including Arizona. Many resources are available through the EPA but the representatives within municipalities may not know about these resources, how to navigate them, or that the Region 9 Office can provide more targeted assistance. Karen Irwin, our primary contact at Region 9, has answered some questions to let us know how to best connect with the Region 9 office and resources.

Karen is an Environmental Protection Specialist in the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office. Her work involves forming strategic partnerships with local governments and other entities to advance sustainability objectives such as renewable energy, waste reduction and recovery, and green streets and landscapes. Karen’s projects encompass developing informational tools and resources and providing technical assistance. She developed three national scale online tools published on EPA’s website. Prior to her current job, Karen served in EPA’s Air and Water programs acting on local rules and regional plans to meet national air and water quality standards. She received a Masters of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Q: What resources and opportunities does EPA Region 9 offer to Arizona communities?

A: EPA offers a wide range of informational and analytical tools to help local governments move forward with sustainability initiatives in their communities, as well as grant and contractor technical assistance opportunities in certain focus areas. Sustainability initiatives supported by EPA encompass smart growth/walkable & transit-oriented communities, green infrastructure, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste reduction & materials reuse and recovery, sustainable water & wastewater infrastructure, and green fleets, among others. Our tools often highlight best practices and exemplary programs implemented in urban and rural communities across the U.S. that can serve as case studies or templates for other communities.

Learning more specifics about the types of sustainability initiatives that Arizona local and tribal governments are interested in pursuing, as well as local needs and priorities, can help me identify which EPA tools and resources would be the most relevant and useful, as well as available resources from other organizations. I can also facilitate connections to Region 9 staff with topical expertise, if not myself, to offer support. For example, one of Region 9’s offices works to expand pollinator habitat; conversations fostered through the SCN network have led to interest by this office in pursuing a pilot project with an SCN member community to develop a pollinator protection plan, along with pollinator habitat.

Q: What activities are happening in other EPA Region 9 states that can benefit Arizona communities?

A: Several California communities (urban and rural, small and large) are leaders in sustainability, benefiting from State programs and funding that support implementation of environmentally beneficial practices. EPA Region 9 tracks many of these activities and can share with Arizona communities successful examples from California that are replicable in other areas.

Q: What are some opportunities that you can see for communities to improve their sustainability efforts? Low-hanging fruits?

A: There are many ways communities can incrementally improve their sustainability efforts – one of the lowest-hanging opportunities is to expand the objectives of a current project a local agency is already pursuing to add complimentary sustainability elements. For example, if a public works agency is re-designing a road to make it more pedestrian friendly, the re-design can integrate other ways to make the road project more sustainable, such as tree canopy, landscaping that infiltrates water, greener paving practices and pavement (e.g., to reduce urban heat island effect and use recycled materials), energy-saving light fixtures, pollinator-friendly plants, and clean construction equipment. Many of these elements can be implemented at equivalent or lower cost compared to conventional practices. Other low-hanging fruit opportunities exist with local government procurement and contracts, building permit review & approval, water and wastewater utility projects, fee structures for trash and recycling, and donation of edible food that would otherwise be wasted.

Q: How can cities get in contact with you and EPA Region 9 as a whole?

A: I encourage cities to reach out directly to me by phone (415) 947-4116 or email (irwin.karen@epa.gov). I’m also happy to connect Arizona communities to other EPA Region 9 staff who address various aspects of sustainable approaches for water, air, and land.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to highlight?

A: EPA Region 9 is a resource! I see great opportunity with ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network structure to exchange ideas, consider how EPA assistance may be beneficial in securing robust local outcomes, and to share information on successful examples and how to overcome obstacles.

 

Since its convening in 2008, the Sustainable Cities Network has maintained contact with EPA Region 9. This ongoing connection has allowed for each body–Region 9, ASU, and Arizona communities–to learn and share knowledge, case studies, and resources, so that each’s lexicon of sustainability best practices steadily expands and so partnerships may emerge when interests align.

 

Interview conducted by Erin Rugland, SCN Student Assistant, via email