Sustaining Our Cities

By Allie Nicodemo

Imagine a typical day in your city – the commute to work, walk around the block on your lunch break, trip to the dog park before meeting up with friends at a local restaurant. Now imagine what daily life in your city might be like if twice as many people called it home.

This thought experiment isn’t too far from becoming reality. The world population keeps growing with no signs of slowing down. The Census Bureau projects that today’s 7.1 billion will become 9 billion by 2044, and increasingly, these people are moving into cities. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 6.4 billion people around the globe will live in urban areas – up from 3.4 billion in 2009.

Most of this growth is taking place in developing countries. However, certain cities in the U.S. are experiencing significant population increases as well. Phoenix is one of them, having added more than 40,000 new residents last year alone.

A substantial increase in population, coupled with hotter temperatures and other manifestations of climate change, will present unprecedented challenges for cities. Not only is Phoenix growing rapidly, but its climate also mirrors that of many other cities with populations on the rise, providing a good example of what much of the world is facing now or can expect in the future.

“Phoenix is a place that a lot of people look to for an example of how we will be resilient in the face of what are probably less than optimal conditions,” says Wellington Reiter, a consultant for the Office of the President and former dean of the former College of Design at Arizona State University. “What we learn here and how efficiently we use our resources could be exported as intellectual capital or maybe even on-the-ground know-how.”

Defining sustainability

The challenges of population growth, climate change and other changing conditions are leading many cities to explore sustainability options. But what does sustainability mean, and how do we measure it?

“It’s defined in many different ways,” says David Pijawka, a professor and associate director of ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. These varying definitions have made it difficult for cities to make policy changes that would help mitigate future challenges.

“We’ve been dealing with that for 25 years. We have some good frameworks and we know what we need to do, but we still must learn to articulate it meaningfully and easily for the decision maker,” says Pijawka, who is also a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Many people equate sustainability with environmentalism, but sustainability researchers at ASU are working to broaden our understanding of the concept. They define sustainability as well-being in four key areas: natural capital (plants, animals, water, etc.) human capital (skills, knowledge, etc.), social capital (networks of relationships) and financial capital.

Sustainability is complex because these different sources of capital often conflict with each other. For example, logging a forest reduces natural capital, but can provide jobs that increase financial capital. Different people will prioritize these tradeoffs differently. Someone living in poverty in a rural area might prioritize jobs over environmentalism, while a well-employed person with asthma might place more value on clean air.

“If we want people to continue living here, we have to make certain choices,” says Anne Reichman, program manager of the Sustainable Cities Network at ASU. “Those choices are going to be difficult in the future when we look at the cost of water, the cost of energy, our air quality, and resource availability.”

These are just some of the factors that must be considered when planning for sustainability. And they’re all connected.

See more at ASU’s Office of Knowledge and Enterprise Development

City of Phoenix, Arizona State University to Partner on New Regional Resource Innovation Center

City of Phoenix, Arizona State University to Partner on New Regional Resource Innovation Center

Annual savings expected from regional public/private waste reduction collaborative

PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix took another substantial leap forward as a global sustainability leader Tuesday afternoon as its city council gave policy approval of a four year agreement to work with Arizona State University to establish a ground-breaking public/private sustainability incubator focused on converting waste and other resources into economic value.

The Center for Resource Intelligence (CfRI) will be a network of public and private entities that provides a wide array of research, development, education and solution services to more effectively manage resources and create economic value. Industries ranging from energy, water, resource extraction, product development, manufacturing and recycling will collaborate in this effort that city staff project could result in $1-3 million of savings annually.

“This is about turning trash once destined for the landfill into business opportunities and jobs for our community,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “With this effort, Phoenix can lead the way to discover how to reduce our waste in a way that spurs innovation and advances our economy.”

CfRI will be managed by the Sustainability Solutions Services (S3), a program within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, in collaboration with the city, private sector affiliates and other municipalities and institutions. The city’s investment will initially focus on creating value, economic opportunity and jobs out of waste streams.

“Sustainability is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ when it comes to identifying new ways to save taxpayer dollars and generate new revenue to run our city,” said Vice Mayor Bill Gates, chairman of the City Council Finance, Efficiency, Economy and Sustainability Subcommittee. “This public-private partnership will maximize our efforts by
encouraging green entrepreneurs to bring their businesses and ideas to life right here in Phoenix.”

The center will work with various businesses and government entities to address types
of waste streams including food scraps, recyclables and yard waste using a project oriented collaborative model. Center collaborators will be able to introduce and sponsor projects while taking advantage of the knowledge base and synergies present within the CfRI’s network.

“The city of Phoenix is leading the way in supporting green entrepreneurs and reducing our solid waste,” said Councilwoman Kate Gallego. “Sustainable businesses are the future of Phoenix.”

The CfRI resulted from a series of stakeholder workshops conducted by S3 in collaboration with Phoenix’s Public Works Department to facilitate a regional partnership that will develop technologies and markets and create economic opportunities.

“This seed investment from the city of Phoenix will allow the Center for Resource Intelligence to develop a large network of organizations in the Valley and potentially around the globe that can collaborate to help achieve the levels of resource effectiveness required for 9 billion people to live well on the planet by 2050,” said Dan O’Neill, general manager for S3. “We appreciate the leadership of John Trujillo and the team in the city’s Public Works Department for having the vision to find solutions to our Valley’s – and planet’s – sustainability challenges.”

City staff estimates an additional 10 to 25 percent diversion of solid waste from landfill to other uses through the research and development of the CfRI and partnerships with the private sector.

The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives are the result of a $27.5 million investment in Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability by the Walton Family Foundation. Within the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, diverse teams of faculty, students, entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators collaborate to deliver sustainability solutions, accelerate global impact, and inspire future leaders through eight distinct initiatives. For more information visit sustainabilitysolutions.asu.edu.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives
Jason Franz, 480-727-4072
City of Phoenix
Yvette Roeder, 602-495-0189

EPA Green Government Award Presentation

Honoring ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network

Join us as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld presents ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network with the EPA’s Environmental Award for Green Government.

This award recognizes programs that promote collaboration, cost-savings, and sharing of best practices with other governmental organizations. Share in the success of the Sustainable Cities Network at the award presentation.

As former director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Jared Blumenfeld focused on environmental-justice issues, working with residents and businesses, other city agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community groups to promote air quality, food availability, renewable-energy systems, sustainable land use, and greenhouse gas reduction. He joined the U.S. EPA in 2010.

Parking is available at the Fulton Center garage on the northeast corner of University and College Avenue. Your ticket can be validated at the event.

Monday, March 4, 2013
3:30 – 4:15 p.m.
Wrigley Hall, Room 481
Arizona State University, Tempe campus
(refreshments will be provided)

Please RSVP here: http://sustainability.asu.edu/events/rsvp/epa-green-government-award

SCN awarded President’s Award for Sustainability

Sustainability is a balance of environmental, social and economic concerns. ASU staff and faculty are advancing sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices, leading by example, and sharing solutions to catalyze change.

This award recognizes ASU teams that have demonstrated excellence in fostering the successful development, implementation, and promotion of sustainability principles, solutions, programs, and services in the teaching, learning, research and business missions of the University. Continue reading

Tree and Shade summit receives environmental award

September 26, 2011

Shade – we all crave it during sun-scorched days, and the shade that trees provide creates an escape from the heat. So where are all the trees?

The Sustainable Cities Network at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability is aware of this need for more trees in our urban world. Partnering with the cities of Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix, the Network hosted the Valley’s first Regional Tree and Shade Summit on March 9, in Phoenix. The summit brought together public officials, municipal staff, nonprofit organizations, and professional associations to identify strategies for increasing tree and shade and green infrastructure, and creating a healthier, more livable and prosperous Arizona. Continue reading

Opinion: SEV development good for environment, economy

by Southeast Valley editorial board – Sept. 20, 2011 09:39 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Our View
Commerce, public infrastructure and other developments are necessary components of a bustling metropolitan area.

The developments also can be artful, eco-friendly and serve multiple purposes to create livable communities, as the winners of Valley Forward’s environmental excellence awards affirm. Continue reading

Tree experts envision the return of Phoenix’s oasis of trees

In the early 1900s, the Valley was an oasis of green with lush trees sprouting tall along wide canal banks that crisscrossed Phoenix and its suburbs.

Cottonwoods, among the more common of the area’s trees, dug in, drinking water that seeped from the dirt-lined canals.

By the 1950s, as families flocked to the Valley in post-World War II bliss to create a modern community, the oasis withered. Continue reading

Arizona State University’s Sustainability Achievements Rated GOLD by the Association for the Advancement

TEMPE, Ariz. – In recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Arizona State University (ASU) has earned a STARS Gold rating. STARS®, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a transparent, self-assessment framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability. Institutions report their achievements in three overall areas: Education and Research; Operations; and Planning, Administration and Engagement. ASU earned its highest points in Planning, Administration and Engagement. Continue reading

The Sustainability Consortium Opens European Office, Appoints Three New Board Members Including Two NGOs

TEMPE, Ariz., Aug. 16, 2011 – The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) today announced the opening of its European office and theexpansion of its board of directors to include Non-Government Organization (NGO) members. Both moves strongly align with TSC’s focus of growth, incorporating global partners, and delivering on its mission to design and implement science-based measurement and reporting systems that are accessible to manufacturers and consumers. Continue reading