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

Project Desert Canopy: Air Quality in Southwest Forests

Project Summary

A multi-state project funded by the USDA Forest Service to conduct urban forestry ecosystem services assessments in partnering communities. This project utilized i-Tree Eco to capture baseline data that may be used to assist communities to develop municipal and regional planning goals and implement strategies that address regional attainment of federal air quality standards. Four communities (Phoenix, AZ; Albuquerque, NM; Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX) located in regions at-risk of not meeting federal air quality standards partnered in this effort to complete assessments. This project aligned a diversity of committed partners and programs in the arena of southwest green infrastructure, and was focused on improving environmental health and community livability. This project was also initiated as a comparison to similar research that has been conducted in other parts of the country. Through this project, tools and other products are made available to assist Southwestern communities in their efforts to improve community livability. This project addressed community priorities identified in Statewide Forest Action Plans for Arizona, New Mexico and Texas: (1) Recognition of ecosystem services provided by forests; and (2) Implementation of strategies that improve community health and address environmental health factors.

Project Goals

  1. Produce community forest assessments in four targeted municipalities that quantify current ecosystem services being provided (including improved air quality, energy conserved, carbon sequestered, and much more);
  2. Develop and implement municipal goals, planning tools and community forest strategies (planning, development and management) that are recognized by environmental regulators as mitigating factors for air quality;
  3. Develop planning tools and outreach materials and use these tools through traditional and non-traditional partnership forums to increase awareness and develop similar projects and efforts throughout the Southwest and the United States.

This project involved extensive collaboration with municipal, state and federal partners to develop agreed-upon sampling strategies; data analysis and reports; results distribution/dissemination; and in the creation of outreach materials. Community reports and additional information are provided as links below.

Project Partners: Arizona State Forestry, City of Phoenix, New Mexico EMNRD Forestry Division, City of Albuquerque, City of Las Cruces, Texas A&M University Forest Service, and the City of El Paso.

Public Information Dissemination Partner: Arizona State University/ Sustainable Cities Network, Julie Anne Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

More information

Brochure and Fact Sheets


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 ( 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

What’s in a Name? Everything! Put on Your Thinking Caps and Send Us Your Most Creative Program Names!

We need your help naming a new program at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability!  The program brings ASU students and faculty together with a local city government to address urban sustainability challenges over the course of a year.  It would be similar to SDSU’s Sage Project.

Names and/or acronyms should embody terms like:

  • city or community
  • sustainability
  • resilience
  • livability
  • university/education/ASU
  • partnership
  • and urbanism…just to name a few!

Be creative!  If your name is chosen for the program, you’ll receive bragging rights and some Wrigley Institute swag.

Up for the challenge?  Ready… Set..GO!   Email your program name suggestion to

Regional Tree & Shade Summit 2.0 – Branching Out One Community at a Time

Click to view image
Click to view image

March 9th, 2016
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

AE England Building
ASU Downtown Campus
See the schedule of events here!

Find the presentations from this event here.

Urban forestry is critical for providing access to nature and ecosystems services to the dense living populations within Arizona urban areas. A well-established urban forest provides clean air, wildlife habitat, and cooling effects while promoting a sense of place and community in an area. Maintaining a cohesive urban forest enhances a community, more fully integrating it into nature. Arizona State University’s Sustainable Cities Network is hosting the second Regional Tree and Shade Summit in March 2016. Held at ASU Downtown’s AE England Building, this one day event will provide public, private, and nonprofit organizations with the tools, strategies, and best practices for urban forestry management in the arid southwest.

The Summit is free to attend and is open to municipal, private and nonprofit sector professionals and active citizens. It is being hosted in partnership with ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the cities of Avondale, Mesa, and Phoenix, Downtown Phoenix, Inc., the Arizona State Forestry Division, and USDA Forest Service. Funds for this project were provided by the Urban and Community Forestry Financial Assistance Program administered through Arizona State Forestry – Urban and Community Forestry Program, and the USDA Forest Service.


Keynote Speaker – Dr. Greg McPherson

greg-mcphersonDr. Greg McPherson is a Research Forester with the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station located in Davis, CA, Greg grew up under a canopy of American elm trees in Howell, Michigan. Despite attempts to save the trees, all were lost to Dutch elm disease, and having felt the sting of that loss he became a green accountant, developing new methods and tools for quantifying the value of nature’s benefits from city trees. He works with a team of scientists to measure and model effects of trees on energy use, urban heat islands, air pollutant uptake, carbon sequestration, and rainfall interception. Their research is helping justify investments in urban forest planning and management. In 2000, Greg received the International Society of Arboriculture’s L.C. Chadwick Award for Research. Greg was a co-founder and Chair of the Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group and serves on the California Urban Forest Advisory Council. He attended University of Michigan (BGS), Utah State University (Masters in Landscape Architecture), and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Ph.D. Forestry).


Additional Speakers

brad-lancasterBrad Lancaster is a dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of regenerative systems that sustainably enhance local resources and our global potential. He maintains the website, filled with a wealth of information learned from being a Watershed Specialist. His hometown projects have included working with the City of Tucson and other municipalities to legalize, incentivize, and provide guidance on water-harvesting systems, demonstration sites, and policy. Brad’s aim is always to boost communities’ true health and wealth by using simple overlapping strategies to augment the region’s hydrology, ecosystems, and economies—living systems upon which we depend.


kieran-sikdar_0Kieran Sikdar is a Water Resources Engineer with Watershed Management Group. He combines his experience as a Civil Engineer (MS), Certified Floodplain Manager, and Certified Water Harvesting Practitioner with over 10 years of experience in cost benefit analysis, green infrastructure/low impact development design, watershed restoration, and permaculture design. His focus is to implement water-harvesting practices on a broad scale as critical flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure to shade and beautify our communities while repairing our urban watersheds.


Regional Tree & Shade Summit 2.0
Branching Out One Community at a Time

March 9th, 2016
8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

AE England Building
ASU Downtown Campus
424 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

This event is free to attend; however, registration is required to plan for seating and food/beverage.



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A Special Thank You to Our Sponsors

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CEU Providers


Low Impact Development Toolkit

Low Impact Development Toolkit

The Cities of Mesa and Glendale, with a grant from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA), have partnered to develop this Low Impact Development (LID) Toolkit, with the support of consulting planners and designers and the input of city agencies.LID ToolkitThe Toolkit is intended to identify current stormwater management practices and national and regional LID
best practices, ultimately providing a living document with simple, updatable tools, that can guide the city and their businesses and residents, toward more sustainable stormwater design practices.
While the Cities of Mesa and Glendale are distinct entities with their own development and stormwater management challenges, goals and policies, there are enough similarities – in their maturity, development potential, geography and proximity to the metro area – that practices and recommendations from this effort can be readily applied in both communities, as well as elsewhere
in the Valley. Representatives from both cities’ engineering, transportation, planning, environmental, and parks agencies generously contributed their ideas, concerns and challenges.

City policies can either encourage or discourage the use of LID tools. As with other cities in the Valley, Mesa and Glendale have adopted a modified form of Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) standards for guiding development policy and implementing public works projects. This Toolkit includes some practices that are not currently recognized by MAG or the Cities, but should be
reviewed and adopted before being acceptable for use. Many cities have already adopted incentives for both public and private development to encourage increased LID use. For the developer and builder, benefits can include expedited reviews, tiered fees, and even exceptions to certain planning requirements such as overall density, setbacks, parking, and landscaping requirements. For
homeowners, potential incentives include rebates, and reduced landscape water use. The Cities’ role in this effort is to lead by example — by providing funding for pilot projects in highly visible areas to increase public awareness, by updating and supporting policies that encourage more sustainable stormwater management, and by considering the integration of LID into all municipal projects. View the toolkit here.

SCN Steering Committee Member Now Peoria’s Economic Efficiency and Sustainability Manager


Thanks to her enthusiasm for sustainability, Lisa Estrada, Peoria’s representative on SCN’s Steering Committee, has recently changed titles. Previously the Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator, her new title is now Economic Efficiency and Sustainability Manager. Prior to the creation of the position, much of the work in sustainability the City has completed was implemented from the grassroots level with the support of management. Initiatives have focused on integrating sustainability practices throughout the municipality; and despite the economic downturn, Peoria was able to maintain a commitment to green practices, while continually seeking new opportunities in this area. The City’s success led to widespread enthusiasm to do more in sustainability. In January of this year, there was an opportunity to create a position to specifically focus on sustainable municipal practices to guide the City’s sustainability program.


Along with the new position, Lisa is also a member of ASU’s Executive Masters in Sustainability Leadership’s newest cohort. In enrolling in the program, she will be able to learn more about sustainability, as well as the necessary tools, skills and leadership required to demonstrate its value to the City. Lisa is gaining exposure to best practices, success stories, and expert faculty. She finds it to be an “incredible opportunity to be surrounded by sustainability experts who are passionate and committed to a sustainable future.”


Education and outreach are important components of the initiatives Lisa and the City are looking to implement. For residents, the City is looking to expand Peoria’s current Sustainable University community education workshops. For employees of the City, Lisa is making an impact in educating new employees in sustainable practices, emphasizing the importance of setting expectations for all new hires. She is also working closely with City staff on developing best practices for municipal functions; a recent example, redesigning water fountains to function as reusable bottle filling stations that also track the amount of one-time-use bottles that are potentially kept out of the landfill. Other initiatives include establishing new goals for greenhouse gas emissions, greening fire stations, and looking into renewable energy opportunities. SCN congratulates Lisa for her achievements, and wishes her success in these future endeavors.

Resource Innovation and Solutions Network

Resource Innovation and Solutions Network Walton

A new paradigm focused on integrated resource management is emerging in response to the current unsustainable pace of resource consumption, waste production, and the increasing financial, social and environmental cost of managing resources. Recognizing this opportunity, the City of Phoenix and the ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative (WSSI) within the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) have partnered to establish the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN). RISN brings together university, government, business and non-governmental partners to transform the relationship between resources, the environment and the economy in order to create a resource-focused Circular Economy (CE) platform that makes urban areas healthier, resilient and more efficient. CE can be defined as an industrial economy where there is no waste and therefore is restorative by intention, aims to rely on renewable energy, and hopefully eradicates waste through careful design. In the context of waste and waste stream resources, CE flows are self-sustaining and comprise a closed loop of resources that are reused and recycled so that almost no waste is produced.
RISN positions the business case for sustainability that drives industry-related initiatives that promote economic development. It is this business case that not only drives the agenda for decision makers, but also supports the appropriate definition of the scope of problems and related opportunities. It enables them to recognize the conditions under which decisions must be made, implemented and monitored to significantly transform their cities.

RISN advances integrated resource management through a global network of public and private partners using collaboration, research, innovation and application of technologies to create economic value, driving a sustainable circular economy. The initiative connects with innovators and organizations looking to create, implement and/or enhance sustainability solutions. Developing solutions in collaboration with RISN’s public and private partners provides access to research and expertise from the nation’s leading sustainability education institution, feedstock and facility resources from one of the nation’s largest and most ambitious municipalities, and shared knowledge from like-minded organizations working to create economic value that drives a sustainable circular economy.

The potential impacts of RISN initiatives begin with increased waste aversion, diversion and better use of diverted waste and recycling material. More importantly, RISN is focused on economic development outcomes: creation of new new local businesses, growth of existing ones and jobs.

Click here for a full description of current RISN projects:
• Green Organics Regional System Design (coming soon!) to develop a current status map and system design for landscape waste throughout the Phoenix metropolitan region. It will include a regional map of available feedstock volume and type, along with a system design that identifies the specific sites and technologies where the type and volume of available feedstock can be processed economically and environmentally, based on a flexible market demand determination. Within the month, outreach efforts will commence to engage city Solid Waste Divisions.
• Multi-Family Recycling is a solutions-oriented research and student-led project that will identify opportunities and strategies to implement waste-reduction in multi-family housing complexes.
• Food Scrap and Resource Feasibility study will develop a Phoenix food scraps conversion program, in partnership with the local grocers and the City of Phoenix. This project will assess the economic viability of pre-consumer food waste solutions and to quantify the amount, quality, and location of food-waste feedstock in the Phoenix metropolitan region.
• Waste Assessment Tool project is the development of a Resource Valuation Assessment (RVA) Tool to identify the processing costs associated with internal waste management and educate organizations in best waste management practices.
• Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Waste Reduction project is a solutions-oriented and student-led project that is implementing waste reduction programs throughout all PVUSD schools through developing optimal recycling and waste policies. The basis of this project is a student-led research effort and teacher workshops conducted by ASU Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools.
• Living Building Challenge Course and Analysis is being taught at ASU’s School of Sustainability to explore the opportunities to incorporate Living Building concepts into the master plan for the RISN campus as well as the envisioned headquarters building.
• Regional GHG Emissions Measurement project to develop a state-of-the-art comprehensive regional GHG emissions management system that will set the gold standard for how cities address urban climate protection, public engagement and collaborative sustainability-driven economic development.

Sustainable Cities Network Convenes Climate Scientists, Municipal Leaders

By Saritha Ramakrishna

January 21, 2015

On January 8, ASU’s Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) convened municipal and nonprofit leaders in order to discuss the impacts of extreme weather on local government. Held at the Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix as part of the AMS annual conference, this gathering was an exclusive session for SCN members to meet and learn from climate experts.

American Meteorological Society panelists gather with SCN members.
American Meteorological Society panelists gather with SCN members. Photo credit: William von Dauster, NOAA

Attendees came from planning, public works, community development and other city departments in order to gain insights on this pressing topic. Local level policymakers were also present from the cities of Goodyear, Casa Grande and Tempe. In total, 13 communities and public sector agencies were represented from around the Valley and state, in addition to representation from one nonprofit organization.

The event featured a diverse panel of experts from organizations such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Arizona, Portland State University, the University of Chicago and many more. Panelists also came from various academic backgrounds and presented on a variety of topics, describing the effects of extreme weather on human health, economies and urban infrastructure.

The broad range of speakers provided attendees with a holistic perspective of some of the issues Arizona communities are currently facing, and will face in the future. Municipal attendees were provided an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, especially in terms of how climate facts and predictions relate to decision-making at the municipal level.

Increases in both temperature and the intensity of precipitation events were discussed in the context of the infrastructure required to sustain a high quality of life with these predicted changes. Arizona is already known for having extreme weather as a norm, so coping with further changes is something that panelists viewed as vital.

On the topic of the urban heat island effect, Dr. Mary Hayden with the National Center for Atmospheric Research discussed the importance of mapping cooling centers in the urban core. Dr. Amir Jina with the University of Chicago discussed Arizona’s predicted rising future mortality rate due to extreme heat. This is already a pressing issue, as the Maricopa County Public Health Division estimated that 1,050 cases of heat associated mortality occurred in an eight-year period from 2006-2013.

Discussion of mitigation and adaptation strategies focused on city and region-specific solutions. Panelists fielded questions on several different topics, such energy usage, water scarcity, climate modeling and climate communication. Attendees found the information helpful in aiding decision-making and providing uniform narratives on climate science and its greater impacts.


The Sustainable Cities Network is a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.