September 16, 2013
A GreenBiz.com article reports on the current sustainability undertakings of universities across the U.S., including Arizona State University.
There are many benefits that come with sustainability, as outlined by reporter Jonathan Bardelline, that include student recruitment, lower costs, improved branding, and healthier student and staff experiences. ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability houses the nation’s first transdisciplinary School of Sustainability, where students gain first-hand knowledge and application of sustainability concepts.
“We’re trying to find the right balance of theory and practical implementation,” says Nick Brown, senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
September 15, 2013
In a September 10 broadcast on PBS’ program, Arizona Horizon with Ted Simons, Senior Sustainability Scientist and associate professor Hallie Eakin talks about her research on water management among cotton farmers in the Southwest. Eakin is currently partnered with experts from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension to study cotton farmers’ perspectives on water sustainability.
During her interview, Eakin says Arizona has experienced an economic recession and continued drought that has brought unique opportunities for cotton farmers.
“Cotton is a water-consumptive crop compared to some other alternatives,” Eakin says. “But we have to think about the conditions in which cotton is grown here. It’s not only a crop that can survive in highly salinated soil, it actually does really well here in the desert. Part of our study has been looking at what really are the things that worry farmers in terms of the viability of their production.”
September 14, 2013
Senior Sustainability Scientist and School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment professor Enrique Vivoni says economic, social, and political cooperation is needed to ensure a sustainable future for the southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico region. To assist, Vivoni created the U.S. Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training program (UMB-West) to bring together ASU and Mexican faculty and students to investigate major water scarcity issues and possible solutions.
Students researched water plant dynamics in a semi-arid climate and completed their own studies using civil engineering methods and community-based surveying.
“It was surprising to see how the research, or lack of research, can really have an impact on a whole community,” says Seth Morales, a civil engineering student. “It was amazing to see people living in the same hot summer climate as in Arizona, but without abundant water resources. Some homes only have access to water every three days for a two-hour window.”
September 13, 2013
Arizona State University Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Carlos Castillo-Chavez visited Mexico last month to investigate population growth impacts on agriculture. Working with representatives from Mexico’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Castillo-Chavez discussed the center’s MasAgro program that helps small-scale farmers partner with organizations to gain access to sustainable agriculture tools and technologies.
A mathematician, Castillo-Chavez says mathematical models can help expand the program’s reach to hopefully create “a culture change [that] takes place where farmers and politicians are in constant communication.”
Castillo-Chavez is faculty in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the founding director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.
September 13, 2013
In an article by Phoenix Business Journal reporter Hayley Ringle, Arizona State University Sustainability Scientist and researcher John Sabo shares recent findings from his report on water scarcity in the western U.S., co-written by author Robert Glennon.
Unfortunately, Arizona’s complicated mix of increasing population and development and never-ending drought makes for an unknown sustainable future. Many policymakers may turn to water rationing, but the report’s authors warn that rationing is not a sustainable option.
“The threat of water rationing will be a recurring theme over the next couple decades because of the drought, growing population and inefficiency,” says Sabo, also director of research development for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “At some point, there is going to be rationing and it will affect pocketbooks one way or the other.”
Instead, Sabo and Glennon suggest other options for water sustainability in the West: farming efficiency, municipal water re-use, and natural conservation. However, financing these options will only get more expensive as water becomes more scarce.
September 12, 2013
Arizona has five Cs: copper, cattle, citrus, climate and cotton. In September’s Green Living AZ Magazine, the latest in cotton research, farmer livelihood, and climate change impacts are highlighted by Michelle Talsma Everson. In the article, Sustainability Scientist Hallie Eakin shares insights from her research on water management by cotton farmers.
“The cotton farmers who have stuck it out in the industry are pretty committed to being here,” Eakin says. “They of course want cotton farming to continue, and this study can help address what that means for water availability, electricity, and more.”
The researchers hope this study will alleviate any misconceived notions about cotton farmers, and assist cotton growers, policy makers, and urban planners in water conservation and sustainable agriculture in Arizona’s arid climate.
September 12, 2013
Honors students in Senior Sustainability Scientist David Pijawka’s course will have their research photographs and videos displayed in October’s Biophilic Cities Launch exhibit.
Pijawka’s course, Sustainable Cities, focused on sustainability issues within urban cities. The honors students explored Valley locations and analyzed their “biophilic,” or natural designs. Biophilia, a concept popularized by ecologist E.O. Wilson, suggests that humans have an innate connection to nature and need it to be happy and healthy. Cities apply biophilia to design buildings, parks, preserves, and residences.
“Biophilia is a ‘hook’ for sustainability; students often engage with this concept really quickly because they can think about themselves and how nature plays a role in their life,” says Dorothy Trippel, Pijawka’s teaching assistant and a graduate of the School of Sustainability.
The exhibit will take place on October 17-20 at the University of Virginia.
September 10, 2013
Senior Sustainability Scientist and engineer Mikhail Chester is teaming with experts from University of California, Los Angeles to study Phoenix and LA’s susceptibility to rising temperatures. Specific at-risk communities usually fall in the low-income areas, where people have poor access to air conditioning, clean water, and shade.
The ASU/UCLA team is particularly interested in how urban infrastructure can help alleviate the negative side effects of increasing urban temperatures. The National Science Foundation is funding the research, awarding $480,000 over the next four years. The researchers hope they will find very specific construction and design methods that can protect people from the threat of heat.
September 10, 2013
In his latest column for The Arizona Republic, Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan discusses biomimicry, or the process and study of using nature to inspire practical solutions to everyday problems. Panchanathan is the senior vice president for ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.
In his article, Panchanathan describes the research Arizona State University engineers, biologists, and computer scientists are doing with biomimicry.
“Researchers in ASU’s Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis are studying nature’s original clean-energy solution — photosynthesis,” says Panchanathan. “The ASU scientists are analyzing the biochemistry of photosynthesis in order to design new systems for harvesting solar energy and converting light into fuel.”
September 9, 2013
Participants are invited to scale up their knowledge of algae growth and management Nov. 4-8 at the Algae Testbed Public-Private-Partnership (ATP3) fall workshop on Large-Scale Algal Cultivation, Harvesting, and Downstream Processing. The weeklong workshop will take place at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, the leading ATP3 testbed site at the ASU Polytechnic campus. To sign up for the workshop, visit atp3.org/education.
The workshop will cover the practical applications of growing and managing microalgal cultures at production scale. ATP3 is a network of 12 agencies, which range from private industries to educational institutions and national labs, funded through a $15 million grant from the US Department of Energy.
September 6, 2013
Arizona’s official state bird is the cactus wren, just one of the many animals that call the Sonoran Desert home. On October 19, the Arizona Chapter of The Wildlife Society will present the Wildlife First Symposium, sponsored by Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation.
The symposium aims to gather wildlife experts and interested community members to discuss conservation efforts for native Sonoran Desert wildlife. The event will feature numerous speakers from ASU, as well as from various organizations such as the Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, The Center of Biological Diversity, and others.
Register now at http://www.aztws.org.
September 5, 2013
A new event series called “Arts and Humanities in Sustainability” will explore the human connection and place in relation to the natural world, as well as integrate different sets of knowledge to ultimately find new solutions for a sustainable future.
“The goal of this new series is to demonstrate the impact the arts and humanities have on sustainability,” says Ann Kinzig, a series co-creator, senior sustainability scientist in Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, and professor in the School of Life Sciences. “Many sustainability challenges have no easy solutions.This means we have to go well beyond science to understand how people see the world, relate to it, and imagine what it could be.”
The Global Institute of Sustainability partners with the Institute of Humanities Research, ASU Art Museum, and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to sponsor the series that examines sustainability concepts through a diverse range of ideas, emotions, actions, and contexts.
September 3, 2013
John Sabo, director of research development for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, recently published an article with Robert Glennon in the journal Solutions that outlines the very imminent threat of water scarcity in the western U.S.
“To grasp the scale of water scarcity in the West, consider that earth fissures have opened up in Arizona from excessive groundwater pumping,” the authors write. ”In Southern California, lack of water has prompted the cancellation of scores of commercial and residential construction projects.”
Despite low supplies, farmers, meat suppliers, and other water users are still guzzling water at a higher pace. Sabo and Glennon warn of the imbalance between supply and demand, suggesting increased residential tap water rates to improve infrastructure and revision and expansion of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) to offset costs.
September 3, 2013
Arizona State University and Sandia National Laboratories have signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage collaborative research, build educational and workforce development programs, and inform policy endeavors for renewable energy. The potential areas of focus are solar hybrid fuels, solar thermochemical fuels, concentrating solar technologies, photovoltaics, electric grid modernization and algae-based biofuels.
“As the largest university in the nation and the largest of the national laboratories, we have high expectations for our future efforts under this partnership,” said Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks and the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.
Sandia National Laboratories is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) using science and engineering to provide solutions for national security and innovative technology.
September 3, 2013
Andrea Baty, a School of Sustainability master’s graduate, recently became VF Corporation’s newest sustainability coordinator. VF Corporation is an $11-billion clothing company that includes brands like Nautica, Wrangler, Kipling, and The North Face. Baty joins the Sportswear division, working with the Nautica and Kipling teams.
As the sustainability coordinator, Baty designs employee education programs, organizes volunteer events, develops a sustainability strategy for both brands, and presents on corporate sustainability.
“My duties allow me to see the impact of shifting a company to more sustainable operations,” Baty says. “There is a large effect of one company’s operations that ripples down to supply chains and people.”
August 28, 2013
The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the Green Sports Alliance has named Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Athletics a top 10 athletic department working towards sustainability.
“Progress toward sustainability requires the reconceptualization and reorganization of all of university enterprises,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Nowhere is this more visible than in athletics, where the interaction between the university and its constituents is most public.”
Sun Devil Athletics has nine athletic-specific solar installations that generate about 7.5-megawatt hours of electricity each year, the most of any university athletic department in the country. The nine solar power systems are part of ASU’s current 72 collective systems across all four campuses.
August 27, 2013
Note: John Sabo is the Global Institute of Sustainability’s director of research development, where he leads a grant proposal team that since 2008, has brought in over $44 million in expenditures. Sabo also collaborates with scientists across the U.S. investigating the impacts of water shortages on the sustainability of human and natural systems.
The year 2013 will be remembered in the U.S. as a year of extremes: The effects of Hurricane Sandy continue to cripple New York City. Droughts across the Corn Belt are causing massive crop failure. Devastating fires destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado for a second year in a row. Flash floods have claimed lives and businesses from coast to coast, including communities experiencing recent drought and fire. This year was exceptional. Or was it?
When most people think of climate change, they think of global warming—the trend of rising air temperatures that causes a shift in expected or long-term average climate conditions. There are valid exceptions to the trend of course. Many people observe their cities occasionally cooling, and therefore think global warming is not happening. Local observations that differ from the global average from time to time are an example of a second aspect of climate change that is equally, if not more important, than the global trend: Climate change exacerbates regional differences in climate as well as the swing between years of famine and years of plenty.
August 26, 2013
As part of a GreenBiz webcast, Arizona State University Senior Sustainability Scientist George Basile and Dell’s director of global sustainability operations Bruno Sarda shared their advice on what it takes to tackle sustainability challenges: sustainability leaders.
“One of the big challenges is that sustainability is typically framed as a set of disparate problems,” Basile says. “It doesn’t allow business leaders to be effective.”
A sustainability leader needs to inspire and transform businesses and organizations if improvements are to be made. Sarda shares his six steps for implementing sustainability at Dell: vision, strategy, goals, plans, execution, and communication. Fortunately, both experts agree sustainability leadership can be learned.
August 26, 2013
Julie Anand, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Art and a Senior Sustainability Scholar in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, designed and organized a photography workshop at a Honduran nonprofit this past summer. She partnered with Guaruma, an organization that provides photography and computer science after-school programs to local Honduran youth.
“We created cyanotypes because they are very elemental—only needing sunlight, water, and observation of natural patterns,” says Anand. ”Through photography classes at Guaruma, the children learn to understand their place, to be wide awake in it, and to love it.”
The students’ artwork will be displayed at ASU’s Step Gallery September 16-20, with an opening reception on Tuesday, September 17, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Sales from the artwork will go to Honduran primary and secondary schools. All are welcome to attend.
August 26, 2013
Every scientist knows it’s hard to keep track of data, especially if it’s data taken from hard-to-reach wildlife subjects. That’s why Senior Sustainability Scientist Heather Bateman and her colleagues in the College of Technology and Innovation created a mobile phone app that allows researchers to enter data at any time at a more accurate and faster level.
Bateman studies lizards and came across the app idea when she was finding errors in data collection. The current field methods allowed for more human errors than scientists would like.
“We realized this was a problem for us, and probably a problem for anyone who collects data in the field,” Bateman says. “Not having a way to track electronically while on site meant we couldn’t immediately check for errors or duplications.”