Global Institute of Sustainability News

The Sustainability Consortium featured in Scientific American

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.

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Team advances their hunger-fighting venture at national competition

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.

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Professor sets high goals in supporting urban and crop sustainability

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.”

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ASU adds composting program, joins EPA Food Recovery Challenge

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.

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ASU groups seek to collaborate, construct interdisciplinary energy narrative

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.

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Embracing diversity and fostering access to science for all

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.”

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Wastewater recovery research earns NASA grant

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.

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ASU appoints Halden as director of new Center for Environmental Security

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.

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Gasoline distribution is problematic in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

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.”

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Should we be building down instead of up?

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.

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ASU team showcases hydrogen-powered vehicle in Chem-E-Car championship

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.

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Student team moves on to another Global Sustainability Challenge

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.

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Sustainability Scientist and daughter team explores new approach to human origins

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.”

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The Sustainability Consortium continues global expansion plan: Operations begin in China

Institute Press Releases

November 1, 2012

ARIZONA, USA, October 25, 2012 – The Sustainability Consortium is pleased to announce our expansion into China.  The Consortium is an independent global organization that creates science-based knowledge about the sustainability of consumer products.

The Consortium has been awarded a $2 million grant from The Walmart Foundation to launch this effort. The expansion will see The Consortium collaborate with existing members, Chinese stakeholders, civil society organizations and local research partners to improve the systems and tools for product sustainability assessment. This work will support product sustainability improvements in China and beyond.

The Consortium’s product sustainability profiles already provide consumer goods companies with a consistent way to measure and track their products’ social and environmental progress. China has a large manufacturing base and is an important part of many global value chains. The Consortium sees opportunities to apply its work in product and supply chain design, supplier development, infrastructure investments and operational design.

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ASU professor explains Valley Metro rate increase proposal

October 31, 2012

agolubValley Metro, which operates the Phoenix area’s light rail and primary bus system, has proposed a series of fare increase that, if approved, will take effect in March 2013.

In a feature on Phoenix NPR station KJZZ, ASU’s Aaron Golub discusses the proposed increase in terms of the balance between affordability and cost recovery that all public transit needs to maintain.

“Periodically, as costs, ridership and revenues change, transit agencies need to update their fares to take into account the new reality,” says Golub, who is an assistant professor of urban planning and sustainability.

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University anthropologist receives Ecological Society of America Award

October 30, 2012

As an environmental anthropologist, Shauna BurnSilver is concerned with people’s relationships with their environment, how these relationships are changing, and what this means for vulnerability and well-being. She joined Arizona State University’s faculty last year and has already earned accolades for her research. Most recently, one of her research collaborations was recognized by the Ecological Society of America with a Sustainability Science Award.

The awarded research developed out of many discussions BurnSilver had with her fellow researchers and community collaborators about how to do better science. They wanted to implement a new collaborative method that could help alleviate poverty and support sustainable livelihoods and conservation in East African pastoral regions.

“As somebody who really cares about outcomes in terms of poverty and well-being—you can’t help but begin to really think about what your research means and how it is used,” says BurnSilver, a senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability and faculty member in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

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Ensuring a resource-secure future

October 30, 2012

Q&A with Matei Georgescu

Georgescu1 (5)Note: Matei “Matt” Georgescu is a Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and adjunct faculty at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. His work focuses on the environmental impacts of renewable energy expansion, as well as the water and climate effects resulting from large-scale urbanization. Prior to joining ASU in 2010, he conducted research in the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University and, while at Rutgers, was the recipient of a NASA Earth System Science Fellowship.

When did sustainability become an important part of your research?

Plots of switchgrass, a perennial plant, could be used for bioenergy production.

Although my research has gradually integrated sustainability elements from my days as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, it wasn’t until I arrived at ASU in the summer of 2010 that sustainability became a special focus. ASU’s campus-wide emphasis and concerted efforts toward sustainability-related research were essential in facilitating this focus.

What are your most important sustainability-related research projects?

First, I am a principal investigator of a five-year bioenergy project funded by the National Science Foundation under its Water Sustainability and Climate initiative. This project, which includes Sustainability Scientists from across ASU, focuses on the long-term sustainability of growing perennial grasses for ethanol production in the United States. These perennial grasses, such as miscanthus and switchgrass, offer significant advantages over their annual competitors, such as maize.

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Zero Waste Ambassadors are down with recycling

October 23, 2012

Sun Devil Stadium tailgaters may have spoken with small student groups roaming around before recent home ASU football games. These students are not there primarily as sports revelers, but zero waste ambassadors. Outfitted in “Zero Waste by 2015” emblazoned black T-shirts, their mission is simple; to educate football fans about the university’s 2015 zero waste goal.

“Achieving the university’s zero waste goal is something that requires well-engineered, back-of-the-house recycling and waste disposal operations, as well as ASU community involvement to recycle, and to avert and divert waste headed to local landfills,” said Nick Brown, director of university sustainability practices at ASU.

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How rules shape cities: zoning gone wrong

October 23, 2012

Emily Talen, ASU professor of planning and senior sustainability scientist, talked about how city zoning, coding and laws got started, and how they need to be changed to help build more livable cities, as a guest on the nationally syndicated Wisconsin Public Radio show “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” which aired around the country the week of Oct. 21.

In the program, Talen makes the case that in the contemporary United States, the reasons behind zoning codes and laws aren’t always clear, and don’t always foster livable communities.

The history of zoning “is a story of taking a good idea too far, and trying to make zoning solve all kinds of perceived social problems,” argues Talen. She explains that the form-based code movement, in which zoning is backed up by a visual plan, provides an alternative to current zoning code.

“The end goal is to create communities that are walkable, diverse, compact, and are transit-oriented,” she says.

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Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools receives Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Award

October 22, 2012

Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools was honored at the 32nd annual Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards, held September 29th. The awards ceremony brought together over 600 community members from all spectrums—business, nonprofit, education, and technology—to give recognition to those exemplifying sustainability and environmental responsibility in the Phoenix metro area.

This year, Valley Forward chose among over 120 entries. Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools received a merit award for the category, Environmental Education/Communication in the Public Sector. The Sustainable Schools project was recognized for its wide reach and ability to tailor sustainability education to a diverse range of communities and populations.

“We appreciate Valley Forward’s recognition of our graduate students’ and their partner teachers’ work to implement sustainability projects in Valley schools,” says Monica Elser, education manager at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and co-principal investigator of the Sustainable Schools project. “This award provides us with even more incentive to share our program both locally and nationally.”

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Established in 2006, the School of Sustainability’s mission is to educate a new generation of scholars and practitioners and create innovative modes of scholarship by bringing together people from multiple disciplines, leaders, and stakeholders to develop practical solutions to the most pressing sustainability challenges.

 

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