December 19, 2012
In a technical report to be included in the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, climate scientists say temperature changes and shifts in species ranges and moisture will have major effects on natural ecosystems, especially watersheds. These effects will trickle down to human activities like commercial fishing and storm preparedness.
The report’s findings are covered in the Arizona Republic. The team of scientists come from Arizona State University, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and professor in the School of Life Sciences, served as a lead researcher on the report.
“U.S. ecosystems are undergoing massive change due to climate change,” says Grimm.
December 18, 2012
TEMPE, Ariz. – Dec. 18, 2012 – As you do your shopping this holiday season, would it help to know exactly which toys, electronics, food and other items are better for the environment? A prominent researcher at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is helping to develop a system that will tell retailers, manufacturers, and eventually consumers, about the sustainability of many of the products we buy every day.
Professor Kevin Dooley is research director of The Sustainability Consortium, an impressive group administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, featuring big-name-members, such as Unilever, BASF, MillerCoors, Mars and Walmart, with combined revenue of more than $1.5 trillion. The consortium is developing criteria that will allow you to easily identify which products are the most sustainable in their categories, based on factors like emissions, labor practices, water usage and waste creation. The consortium’s efforts were recently named among 10 “world-changing ideas” that are “radical enough to alter our lives” by Scientific American, and this year, the consortium’s work really vaulted forward.
“We have now established the critical issues and best areas in which to improve more than 100 types of the most common products — everything from electronics and toys, to food, drinks and personal care items,” says Dooley, also a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “We’re helping businesses focus on the most important sustainability issues and giving them a way to measure and share their progress in making products better. This year, we were able to make rapid progress, thanks to the intense efforts of our staff and the stakeholders involved.”
December 18, 2012
A report by more than 60 federal, academic, and other scientists, including lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation, and Arizona State University, warns that climate change is having immediate negative effects on natural systems and wildlife. As the global temperature rises, the timing and geographic ranges of many innate processes animals go through, like breeding and migrating, are being shifted, causing an imbalance.
“These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a sustainability scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.
These changes can influence survival for many species and can affect humans, too. The ecosystem services we depend on, like food, clean water, and wood products, can suddenly change and become scarce.
The report is one of many to be included in the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment, a federally required assessment of climate change and its impacts.
December 18, 2012
Sustainability scientist and professor Ann Kinzig says, while we do measure the bounty that nature provides, we fail to measure the intrinsic wealth that’s found in natural goods. That’s the reason why our inclusive wealth is not growing, and one of the reasons why we haven’t achieved sustainability.
“On our national accounting and indices, we track some forms of wealth but not others,” Kinzig, a professor in the School of Sustainability and School of Life Sciences, says. “And when we don’t track something, we are sending the signal that it is not important – that we don’t need to take care of it.”
Kinzig discussed natural capital and the wealth of nature at the Arizona Science Center on Oct. 26. As part of Arizona State University’s partnership with the Arizona Science Center, Kinzig was one of three prominent university researchers giving “lightning lectures,” or five minute talks about everything ranging from technology, to the environment, to health.
December 17, 2012
Growing up in Phoenix, sustainability and Spanish literature senior Kim Pearson was first introduced to the basics of sustainability through class projects on issues such as deforestation.
“I first heard the term, ‘sustainability’ when watching a documentary and I thought, ‘Now I can give a name to what I’ve been interested in all these years,’” she says.
Pearson is graduating from the School of Sustainability with an emphasis in sustainable economics because she wants to understand the economic policies behind agriculture and trade.
“I have been interested in sustainability concepts since elementary school, as I began to learn about environmental issues and their relation to human behavior, politics and economics,” Pearson says.
December 17, 2012
Tim Exposito’s interest in construction is nothing new. At 16, he helped his brother build a house. In high school, he worked at a cousin’s construction business. During his high school senior year, Exposito spent his mornings at a construction site and his afternoons in the classroom.
His passion for sustainability has always been there, too.
“I’ve always written papers about recycling, impacts and implications,” Exposito says. “Sustainability has always been a fascination of mine. It’s always been a goal of mine to reuse something instead of throwing it away. I do this in construction and everyday as much as possible.”
Now, Exposito gets to combine construction and sustainability in his career.
December 17, 2012
Most five year olds may be more concerned with cartoon TV shows rather than their neighborhood community garden. But Braden Kay started his life mission early – at a local youth garden when he was just a kid.
“I grew up in Washington, D.C., and saw the challenges of providing quality services to an economically and racially segregated city,” he says. “From starting at the local youth garden at age five, I always wanted to be part of producing solutions that bring diverse people together to make their city better with opportunity for all.”
Kay says it was ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of Arizona State University as a New American University that drew him to the School of Sustainability to study urban development and sustainability challenges.
“The School of Sustainability provided me with the opportunity I was looking for – to become a world-class urban solution developer,” he says.
December 13, 2012
Global Institute of Sustainability’s research is profiled in a recent State Press article. State Climatologist Nancy Selover and Senior Sustainability Scientist Nalini Chhetri both warn that the urban heat island effect, especially in the Valley, may have quicker repercussions than global warming.
Since development in the Phoenix metropolin area exploded in the 1970s, the urban heat island effect has taken its toll.
“Now, because of the heat island, we are seeing nighttime temperatures in the low 90s a lot more than we used to,” Selover says. “The record high at night is 96, and we’re hoping we don’t end up seeing it go above that.”
So what can people do? Chhetri advises implementing xeriscapes, providing shade whenever possible, and planting native trees to help mitigate the higher temperatures, which can prove fatal to the elderly, homeless, and low-income populations.
“It’s a combination of technology and lifestyle changes and disseminating knowledge, information, and awareness,” she says. “We must not force people to make decisions or give them doomsday scenarios.”
December 11, 2012
ARIZONA, USA, – December 11, 2012 – As the consumer goods industry continues to drive sustainability throughout the supply chain, there is an increasing need for a globally harmonized science-based approach to measure and communicate product life cycles. Today, a partnership between two leading global organizations was announced that will create tremendous progress in achieving this goal. The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an independent organization of global participants developing science and integrated tools to support informed decision making for product sustainability across the consumer goods industry and The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network with over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders are announcing a strategic alliance.
December 11, 2012
The Tempe Republic covered a mayoral forum that took place on Sept. 25. In the Southeast Valley Opinion article, each mayor’s opinions and remarks are recorded regarding sustainability plans and future improvements for Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix.
Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, believes sustainability is “an environmental issue, an economic issue, a planning issue.”
Mark Mitchell, the mayor of Tempe, adds that the hardest challenge in implementing urban sustainability is education.
“The biggest challenge we have is educating the policy makers, making sure we have a good plan, a mass-transit system, to make sure we have the tools to attract economic-development opportunities,” he says.
Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, advises that sustainability must be taken into consideration now and into the future.
“Push us to be better leaders,” he says. “A lot of people made a lot of money with a sprawl economy. Even when the economy comes roaring back, let’s not do things the same way.”
The mayoral forum was part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability’s Sustainability Series.
December 10, 2012
American Indians experienced their own civil rights movement during the 1970s and 80s as national legislation was passed that gave tribes the rights to determine their own destinies as sovereign nations.
Groundbreaking acts that were passed during this era addressed American Indian health care, child welfare, education, environmental management and self-determination.
“It was almost a perfect storm in a positive way where things came together through the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act,” said Eddie Brown, professor, sustainability scientist, and executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “In the past, cities and counties would barely consider dealing with Indian tribes as governments.”
December 10, 2012
After spending countless days in a cubicle working for a local bank, ASU senior Ryan Winkle knew he needed a change. Armed with just his ambition, he applied to ASU in search of a new path and the tools to make a difference in the changing world.
Winkle is currently pursuing dual undergraduate degrees in sustainability and urban planning to fulfill his passion for creating policy changes regarding nutrition and education.
“There is a disconnect now between people and how they get their food. The lettuce you eat is probably from Mexico and your tomatoes from Chile. That’s really far away,” he said.
To assist with more organic and local food opportunities, Winkle teamed up with his friends this fall to begin working on a proposal for a Mesa Urban Garden (M.U.G.) that would unite the local community and bring awareness to sustainable dining.
December 7, 2012
Erin Frisk is a doctoral student and researcher in the School of Sustainability. Her work focuses on K-12 sustainability education by incorporating behavioral theories into instruction. She is married to Aaron Redman, a School of Sustainability alumnus. In 2009, Frisk created a line of reusable mesh produce bags called FAVE Bags (Fruit and Vegetable, Etc.). Redman and Frisk collaborated with women in El Salvador to sew the bags, thus providing much-needed income and professional development for the women. In 2010, the FAVE Bags invention earned a $2,000 grant from ASU’s Innovation Challenge competition. Frisk and Redman will be moving to Mexico to work at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to develop a sustainability undergraduate program and outreach center. Frisk’s FAVE Bags will continue to be sold in Mexico with possible development in South Africa.
December 6, 2012
George Basile is a professor in the School of Sustainability and a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability. He is an internationally recognized creative thinker who was recently on the cover of Sustainability: The Journal of Record. Basile received a B.S. in physics and a Ph.D. in biophysics. He helped develop green M.B.A programs in the U.S. and Sweden. Basile advises Fortune 500 companies on sustainable business practices and is a sought-after speaker on the subject. His expertise lies in green business practices, biotechnology, strategic leadership and sustainability, and entrepreneurship.
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.