November 30, 2012
Your yard in the Valley of the Sun may have many commonalities with a yard in wintry Minnesota. The plants you choose, the fertilizer you use, and how you landscape your yard may have a larger, widespread impact than you think.
A recent NY Times article profiled ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research‘s four-year NSF project analyzing how and why America’s urban landscapes are starting to look the same. ASU is partnering with universities from Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Miami, and Los Angeles to develop theories to explain what they call “ecological homogenization.”
It is noted in the article that over time, Americans have progressed a single type of landscape preference. The article’s author, Maggie Koerth-Baker, writes:
“Over the course of the last century, we’ve developed those preferences and started applying them to a wide variety of natural landscapes, shifting all places — whether desert, forest or prairie — closer to the norm. Since the 1950s, for example, Phoenix has been remade into a much wetter place that more closely resembles the pond-dotted ecosystem of the Northeast.”
Sharon Hall, a sustainability scientist and project investigator, hopes that CAP LTER’s research will show the impacts of our everyday decisions and the implications of ecological homogenization.
November 29, 2012
Efforts to reduce dependence on conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal is spurred by the desire to alleviate the harmful environmental impacts of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the production and use of these sources.
Researchers are working on using sunlight as a catalyst for a process to produce clean hydrogen fuels, or looking at converting biomass (plant materials) as a clean fuel for power plants.
Arizona State University civil and environmental engineer Mikhail Chester weighs in along with other noted experts on alternative-energy issues in a recent article in a prominent international science magazine.
November 29, 2012
Researchers at Arizona State University are working to identify these unseen contaminants and to measure their effects on human and environmental health.
Some of those unnoticed pollutants are directly linked to consumer practices. Chemicals in the products we use often end up in the water supply. For example, many stain and stick resistant products are made with something called perfluorinated compounds. Their chemistry, which makes them useful in the home, also makes them persistent in the environment. They simply do not degrade.
“What’s needed is a combination of more foresight in the way we pick and produce chemicals and then education of the consumers,” says Rolf Halden, a sustainability scientist and the director of the new Center for Environmental Security in the Biodesign Institute at ASU. “Right now, people are completely in the dark – they don’t even know what they’re buying. If you work with pollution control, the best, most effective way to deal with pollution is to not create pollution.”
November 29, 2012
The Arizona Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council recognized Arizona State University for its accomplishments in achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications for building construction.
ASU received two awards for the number of LEED building certifications in Arizona: Highest LEED Achievement – Most Certifications in Arizona and LEED New Construction – Most Gold Buildings.
“The benefits of attaining LEED certification demonstrates ASU’s dedication to incorporating many sustainable models in the built environment, such as water and energy conservation, and the reduction of landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ed Soltero, assistant vice president and university architect at ASU. “LEED silver certification is our minimum target for all new construction across all four ASU campuses.”
November 28, 2012
Arizona State University is joining together with Intel to challenge college and university students everywhere to create more optimistic and engaging stories about sustainable futures.
Tomorrow Project USA, a collaboration between ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination(CSI) and Intel’s Tomorrow Project, is currently hosting a student writing competition, “Green Dreams,” to solicit original stories and essays that envision the beauty of green: fact-based, thoughtfully optimistic visions of the future powered by sustainable living, renewable energy and game-changing technologies.
The competition ends on Saturday, Dec. 1.
November 27, 2012
Note: Bruno Sarda is the director of global sustainability operations at Dell, a consultant for the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, and a faculty member at the School of Sustainability.
Our world faces ‘wicked’ problems.
Wicked problems, as explained by Ann Kinzig, chief research strategist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, are challenges that are complex “all the way down.” They resist simple solutions.
Wicked problems include how to deal with a rapidly changing and unstable climate. How to feed a projected 9 billion people on this planet while enabling many to rise out of poverty. And how to do all of the above while respecting the physical boundaries and finite resources of our planet. These problems are the key challenge of sustainability.
November 27, 2012
The Conservation Alliance, a partnership of conservation organizations, parks departments, and Arizona State University researchers, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to further work on studying, restoring, and promoting Phoenix’s mountain park reserves.
Launched in late 2011, the Alliance brings together Arizona State University’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program and the School of Life Sciences’ Ecosystem Conservation and Resilience Initiative (ECRI) with the Desert Botanical Garden, Audubon Arizona, the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, and the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council.
The Desert Botanical Garden leads the initiative and was the main recipient of the three-year grant from the Pulliam Trust, which will enable the Alliance to begin work on several projects this winter.
“This grant will allow the Alliance to realize many of its ambitious goals to further the preservation and conservation of the metro area’s open spaces, supporting both recreational enjoyment and ecosystem health now and into the future,” says Nancy B. Grimm, director of CAP LTER and professor in the School of Life Sciences.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust awards grants to nonprofit groups focusing on job creation, land preservation, and local cultural enrichment. The Conservation Alliance’s awarded portion is part of the $2.2 million the Trust granted to 24 nonprofit organizations in Arizona in 2012.
November 26, 2012
Many consumers wonder how products are made and what the footprint behind developing, delivering, and purchasing a product is. There are plenty of metrics and tons of information out there tracking a product’s journey from conception to shelf, but what information is correct? Different metrics are supported by different companies and organizations. How does a consumer decide if a product is sustainable?
That’s where The Sustainability Consortium comes in. As an organization made up of 10 universities, several nonprofits, and eighty international companies, The Consortium aims to create an “end all, be all” metric for measuring product sustainability.
Called the “Ultimate Sustainability Index” by the Scientific American, the metric will be used to evaluate the first 100 products ranging from laundry soap to cereal. The data from the index will be more comprehensive than other developed metrics due to large pressure put on suppliers to make their emissions, waste, resource use, and labor practices public.
November 21, 2012
Team FlashFood continues to improve its education in entrepreneurship en route to developing a venture aimed at helping communities alleviate hunger.
Most recently the group of former and current ASU engineering, marketing and sustainability students learned valuable lessons while competing in the 2012 YUM! Global Sustainability Challenge in Louisville, Ken.
The team was one of six finalists selected from among the 40 teams that initially entered the Yum! Challenge. FlashFood members are recent ASU biomedical engineering graduate Eric Lehnhardt, computer science graduates Steven Hernandez and Ramya Baratam, along with marketing and sustainability graduate Jake Irvin, sustainability graduate Loni Amundson and junior materials science and engineering major Katelyn Keberle.
The first-place prize of $15,000 was awarded to Berkeley’s Team EZ Green. A second-place prize of $5,000 went to Louisville. FlashFood earned the Best in Showcase award, voted on by members of the local community attending the event and by YUM! employees.
November 20, 2012
As a key player in sustainability science, Professor Soe Myint uses his background in geospatial statistics and modeling to help policymakers and land users manage resources sustainably. This year alone, Myint was awarded three grants—by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—a notable accomplishment.
Even though all the projects utilize satellite imagery, each one has different outcomes: understanding how cities alter the environment, identifying drought-tolerant crop species, and advancing satellite imagery methods.
“Researchers at ASU are developing new materials in an effort to solve society’s most pressing problems in energy, health, public safety, sustainability, and other areas,” says Myint. “These projects will help build ASU’s strategic area that seeks to identify the cause of today’s environmental challenges in land use and create solutions that will allow us to preserve our natural resources for the near and distant future.”
November 15, 2012
Arizona State University adds a composting program and joins the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge. The EPA’s voluntary program kicks off Nov. 15, 2012 in celebration of America Recycles Day. According to the EPA, food is the single largest material sent to landfills and accounts for 25 percent of all waste sent to landfills.
“This year, ASU sent 6,778 tons of waste to the landfill and 25% of that total tonnage was meal scraps,” said Nick Brown, director of university sustainability practices at ASU. “In celebration of the EPA Food Recovery Challenge kick-off, we are introducing ‘back-of-the-house’ composting at two dining halls on the Tempe campus.”
Food-service workers at the Hassayampa and Barrett, The Honors College dining halls are using “Green Bins” to compost all food and paper food-service items.
November 14, 2012
What does an energy narrative look like? Why do we need an energy narrative, and how do we tell that story? These are just some of the many questions ASU LightWorks, Project Humanities, and Energy, Ethics, Society, and Policy (EESP) hope to answer through a variety of collaborative interactions.
EESP is an interdisciplinary research community where graduate students at ASU have opportunities to hear from a collection of speakers, including policy makers, industry representatives, faculty, researchers, and community leaders to gain a more holistic perspective of the social implications of energy system transformations.
Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks and sustainability scientist, has expressed a need for an energy narrative that shows us what stories are already being told, what our different futures could look like, and how to understand the power of narrative as an analytical tool for evaluating our energy choices.
November 12, 2012
In an ASU News op-ed piece, Sustainability Scientist Tirupalavanam Ganesh reflects on education and career access for women in the hard sciences amidst the 40th anniversary of Title IX. During November 5-9, ASU participating in Title IX Week, a celebration and examination of the landmark piece of legislation that paved the way for equal opportunities in education and sports for women and girls. Ganesh writes:
“Why do we have so few women in our nation’s ‘hard’ sciences – physics and chemistry and engineering degree programs?
Reflecting on this question in 2012, at the 40th anniversary of Title IX, helps me appreciate the function social structures, families, role models and mentors play to ensure that females have opportunities to explore and pursue education and career pathways in science. Women scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are needed to enhance our research and development enterprises. Their creativity and perspectives will only enrich the design and development of technological innovations that improve the quality of our lives in this global economy.”
November 10, 2012
A research effort led by Arizona State University engineer and Sustainability Scientist Mary Laura Lind is among 10 projects the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently chose to support.
Lind has been awarded a grant from NASA’s inaugural Space Technology Research Opportunities for Early Career Faculty program. The new program focuses on aiding development of technologies that can help the nation reach its space-exploration goals as well as boost commercial space ventures.
The NASA grant will provide $200,000 a year –renewable for up to three years – to support Lind’s work to improve technology for wastewater recovery and recycling systems designed for use in space stations and other vehicles.
November 9, 2012
ASU professor Rolf Halden has been appointed to lead a new effort to protect human health and critical ecosystems, called the Center for Environmental Security (CES).
“The goal of CES is to protect human populations and our planet by detecting, minimizing and ultimately eliminating harmful chemical and biological agents through engineering interventions,” said Halden, a professor in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, Biodesign Institute researcher, and senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. “We will be utilizing a proactive approach to examine chemical and biological threats in the environment locally and globally, to track human diseases caused by environmental exposure, and to develop intervention strategies suitable for mitigating these threats.”
The new center is being established as the 11th research center at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, and the first partnership to leverage expertise and resources of ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative (SDSI), led by ASU professor Werner Dahm.
November 7, 2012
With many homes still running on generators and some commuters returning to work by automobile, gasoline is in high demand in the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Lines are long, and tempers are short.
In an interview with CBS This Morning, ASU’s John Hofmeister explains that, while there is plenty of gasoline supply to meet this demand, it cannot be distributed without electricity.
“In order to pump the gas, you need electricity. In order to run the cash register or to run the credit card system from the pump to the credit card company, you need electricity,” he said.
Getting the gas to the open fueling stations is impeded by power outages, too. “If you don’t have electricity at the depots, which fill the delivery trucks – or if you don’t have electricity at a retail station – then you really can’t sell gasoline to the public.”
November 7, 2012
Growing cities around the world sometimes encourage development of taller and taller buildings as a strategy for alleviating urban congestion and sprawl. Are they overlooking what in many cases may be a more effective solution: building down instead of building up?
Arizona State University professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist Samuel Ariaratnam talks about the possible advantages of developing our underground “real estate” in an extensive discussion broadcast recently on the Australia Radio National network.
On the program Future Tense, Ariaratnam joins a group of experts to examine what underground construction could provide in not only reining in urban congestion but in public safety, efficient land use, environmental sustainability, and protection from extreme heat, cold, and natural disasters.
November 6, 2012
A team of Arizona State University engineering students advised by Sustainability Scientist César Torres finished in eighth place among 35 teams that competed recently in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Chem-E-Car national championship.
The competition requires students to design and build a small vehicle powered by a chemical source.
The ASU team produced a vehicle – named Hydrospark – powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell, with an electronic system to control speed, and using a chemical-reaction process to stop the car.
November 4, 2012
A team of former and current ASU engineering, marketing and sustainability students developing a venture to combat hunger are in the finals of a national competition focusing on entrepreneurship and sustainable solutions to social challenges.
Team FlashFood will compete in the Yum! Global Sustainability Challenge Nov. 7 to 9 in Louisville, Ken., against teams from the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Louisville, the University of South Florida, the University of Southern California and American University in Washington, D.C. Yum! is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, with more than 36,000 restaurants under its operations, including the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains.
FlashFood is known for developing a mobile phone application to connect a food recovery and distribution network. The idea is to collect leftover and excess food from restaurants, catering services and banquet halls and deliver it to various community and neighborhood locations from where it could be distributed to people in need.
November 2, 2012
As a doctoral student in History and Philosophy of Science at Arizona State University, Lydia Pyne ended up sharing an office with her father Steve Pyne, a professor of environmental history in the university’s School of Life Sciences and senior sustainability scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability. Steve’s extra storage space – for housing his many books and projects – also offered his daughter a small, private workspace away from the crowded graduate student office.
It also offered the pair the opportunity to turn their frequent, playful intellectual banter into a co-authored book and, for Lydia, a dream come true. Their exchanges inspired “The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins and the Invention of the Pleistocene.” This nonfiction book is an intergenerational work representing the authors’ intellectual adventure into the rich scientific and historical underpinnings of an important geological time period.
The Pleistocene, an era that lasted from more than 2.6 million years ago to approximately 10,000 years ago, is defined by the last great ice age and the appearance of modern humanity’s ancestors. Yet, as presented in the book’s title, just what is the “invention” of the Pleistocene?
“Even the ideas we developed to explain the epoch have a history – they are themselves cultural inventions,” explained Steve. “This work argues that we need to supplement science of human origins and evolution with other scholarship.”