Global Institute of Sustainability News

Student clubs offer sustainable outlets

October 23, 2013

Sustainability-Student-GroupsAt Arizona State University (ASU), sustainability is a core value – not just of university leadership, but also of many students across the university’s campuses. ASU has student groups related to virtually any interest. Here’s a list of groups related to sustainability. If you’re interested in living, learning about, or solving problems of sustainability, consider joining one or more of these organizations.

Clubs that bring sustainability to ASU campuses »

Clubs for sustainability education and networking »

Clubs for living sustainably »

Clubs for collective action and sustainability solutions »

Learn more about ASU student organizations at Think your group should be included on one of these lists? Contact us at

Sustainability students create documentary on transforming education

October 23, 2013

In School of Sustainability professor David Manuel-Navarrete’s SOS 494 course, Sustainability Leadership and Social Change, students created, edited, and filmed a documentary highlighting the transformations that Arizona State University and the Sustainability branch at CREST (the Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology) are undertaking to put sustainability at the center of education.

“By making the documentary, the balance of power within the class is altered; the instructor is no longer a purveyor of information and the students are not just the consumers,” Manuel-Navarrete says. “Instead, it becomes a process of co-production. The co-production allows the students to effectively absorb the course’s teachings.”

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School of Sustainability teaches impact of climate change to International Finance Corporation members

Institute Press Releases

October 22, 2013

TEMPE, Ariz. — October 22, 2013 — Tasked with determining how best to invest global money in developing countries, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) consulted Arizona State University (ASU) for expert sustainability advice, October 15-16 at ASU.

“Our scientists and faculty bring transdisciplinary expertise, applied research and solutions to global challenges, turning knowledge into action,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “We are honored to contribute that level of experience and applied science to support the exceptional work of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and to help the IFC.”

More than 40 IFC Climate Business Group members from around the world gathered in Tempe for the two-day “short course” about implications of climate change, presented by various experts from ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability.

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Visit ASU’s Wrigley Hall on the 2013 Solar Tour

October 21, 2013

IMG_9756_0472Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has proclaimed October to be Arizona Solar and Renewable Energy month and to celebrate, the 2013 “Living with the Sun” Solar Tour kicks off this weekend Saturday-Sunday, October 26-27. ASU’s own Wrigley Hall, the headquarters of the School of Sustainability and Global Institute of Sustainability, is scheduled on the tour for both Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-4:30 p.m.

The tour is self-guided, but there will be building experts on hand at Wrigley Hall to talk about the building’s specific sustainability aspects including the solar and wind systems, recycled materials, and native vegetation. Wrigley Hall is located at 800 S. Cady Mall on ASU’s Tempe campus on the corner of College Ave. and University Dr.

Tour locations map

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Sustainability Scientists identify climate-friendly crops for AZ farmers

October 21, 2013

With water levels dipping in Lake Mead and population growth at an all-time high, policymakers, government agencies, and growers need to be equipped with proper water-saving agriculture and agro-ecosystem methods. To provide guidance on crop variations and water-conserving cropping patterns, Senior Sustainability Scientist Soe Myint and the Agri-Business Council of Arizona organized a workshop at ASU SkySong on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

Local farmers, USDA, Maricopa County Farm Bureau, Arizona Department of Water Resources, and other stakeholders worked with scientists to compare crop types to alleviate growing season risk and potentially increase profit while saving water for farmers in Arizona. Senior Sustainability Scientists Libby Wentz and Rimjhim Aggarwal served as speakers and Senior Sustainability Scientist Nancy Selover offered her expertise as the AZ State Climatologist.

Myint is the principal investigator of the NOAA-funded project, “Evaluation of Drought Risks and its Impact on Agricultural Land and Water Use to Support Adaptive Decision-Making” with additional funds being supplied by ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research and Decision Center for a Desert City.

Call for Entries: The St. Andrews Prize for the Environment

October 18, 2013

Arizona State University scientists and student researchers are welcome to enter their environmental conservation projects in the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment.

Since 1998, the Prize has awarded works that address human/animal conflicts, water issues, air quality, solar power, food supply, and community regeneration. The top project will win $100,000. The second and third finalists will each win $25,000.

The St. Andrews Prize for the Environment is an international initiative by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and the independent exploration and production company, Conocophillips.

Entries should be submitted online by October 31, 2013.

Spring 2014 course registration opens Oct. 21

October 15, 2013

For many who enroll in ASU’s School of Sustainability, making a difference in the world is a top priority. The School allows students to design their own academic path based on the type of the career they want, whether it be in energy, food, waste, policy, economics, or international development.

“My dream is to help save the world and make a difference,” says freshman Kate Tiffany, a Phoenix native who is studying sustainability and international development. “I’m really happy to be involved in a community that’s really passionate about the environment, and we all love what we’re doing and feel strongly about sustainability. I’m excited to be here.”

Students can preview a list of spring 2014 courses by searching for “SOS” in the online course catalog starting Oct. 17. Course registration officially opens on Oct. 21.

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Peace conference cultivates sustainable agriculture

Institute Press Releases

October 15, 2013

TEMPE, Ariz. — October 15, 2013 — The annual Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability (EmPeace LABS) conference takes place October 19-26 in Maharashtra, India to connect global farmers in a network that will further sustainable farming methods and establish peaceful communities in developing countries.

The EmPeace LABS conference is coordinated by Arizona State University (ASU), Jain Irrigation Systems, Ltd., and the Gandhi Research Foundation. Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful perspective is a core inspiration for the conference’s curriculum.

“When people are hungry, they fight for resources,” says Marek Wosinski, conference organizer, senior sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, and senior lecturer in ASU’s Department of Psychology. “If you want to create stability, you need to secure food.”

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Institute shares sustainability through events

October 15, 2013

Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and its School of Sustainability host many events throughout the year, both on campus and off. These events not only bring world-renowned thinkers and doers, many in our own backyard, from academia, business, and government to ASU; they also provide an outlet for ASU to present its own sustainability research to the public and engage the community in dialogues to address sustainability challenges.

Events are free and open to the public, up to room capacity, so RSVP early. Visit for a list of upcoming events.

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ASU’s Decision Center fosters future science, engineering careers

October 15, 2013

At the National Science Foundation’s “Change the World: Science and Engineering Careers Fair” in Virginia, representatives from ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) inspired young students to consider science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career paths.

“It is vital to expose students in STEM research at an early age to inspire their love of science, improve their confidence in their own ability to pursue education in STEM fields, and show them how research and modeling can help improve their lives and the lives of friends and family,” says Dave White, co-director of DCDC.

Program manager Liz Marquez and graduate research assistant Rashmi Krishnamurthy showcased DCDC’s WaterSim, a simulation model that predicts future water outcomes based on situational factors. The program is used by water managers and K-12 teachers.

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Sustainability a means of achieving change for alumnus

October 15, 2013

Mariela CastanedaMariela Castaneda is a water resource specialist at the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), a job she attained following an internship there during her senior year at Arizona State University (ASU). She graduated in 2013 from ASU’s School of Sustainability.

The Glendale, Ariz. native and graduate of Copper Canyon High School considered Northern Arizona University as well as the University of Arizona, but decided on ASU because of the financial support she received here.

Continue Reading » Should we demolish Glen Canyon Dam?

October 15, 2013

Environmental Reporter Brandon Loomis investigates the wicked problem of keeping or destroying Glen Canyon Dam, a decision that seems to have no positive outcomes. Water managers, some scientists, and activists would like to see the dam removed in order to drain Lake Powell and feed a drought-stricken Lake Mead, a water source for major cities including Las Vegas and Phoenix. Draining Lake Powell would also return Glen Canyon to its former, natural glory.

However, some suggest negative consequences if the dam is to be removed. ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City co-director and senior sustainability scientist Dave White says removing Glen Canyon Dam would rid thirsty cities of a captured and stored water supply.

“(Dam removal) would be fairly catastrophic,” says White, also an associate professor in the School of Community Resources and Development. “We have too much demand on an annual basis to be met by the natural in-flow of the river.”

He says if anything, Glen Canyon Dam would be re-designed, improved, and repaired.

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Welcome new Dean Christopher Boone

October 14, 2013

Christopher Boone, a noted scholar on sustainable urbanism, environmental health, and environmental justice, has been serving as interim dean since July 2013. Boone is also a professor in the School of Sustainability and School of Human Evolution and Social Change and co-principal investigator of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project.

“Professor Boone’s extensive work in sustainable urban infrastructure, public health, and environmental justice gives him a unique insight into assembling the environmental, economic, social, and cultural pieces of the global sustainability puzzle,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “His holistic approach to finding answers to pressing challenges and passion for transforming sustainability education into use-inspired research and practice will train a new generation of students and practitioners to do the same.”

Boone has co-authored two books on urban sustainability, “City and Environment” and “Urbanization and Sustainability.” He currently serves on the editorial boards of journals such as International Journal of Sustainable Urban Development and Environmental Justice. He is also the associate editor of the journal Current Research on Cities and co-editor of a new book series, called “New Directions in Sustainability and Society.”

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Sustainability scientist, biodesign expert wins 2013 Innovation Award

October 14, 2013

Nongjian (NJ) Tao, a senior sustainability scientist and director of The Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors in the Biodesign Institute, is a winner of the Fourth Annual Innovation Award from Microscopy Today. Tao developed the technique he calls Plasmonic-Based Electrochemical Microscopy, or P-ECM, that identifies local chemical reactions of individual nanoparticles.

The method increases speed of imaging, is non-invasive, and could be used in drug and vaccine development.

“While many people are pushing the spatial resolution of microscopy, we are interested in creating new capabilities to image local chemical reactions at extremely fast time scales,” Tao says. “I am glad this effort has been recognized.”

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Triple Pundit: Patricia Reiter on corporate social responsibility

October 14, 2013

In Triple Pundit’s series, “Women in CSR,” ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives’ (WSSI) Director Patricia Reiter describes her role as a female director of a social enterprise within a working university. As the director of WSSI, Reiter leads a team that delivers sustainability solutions, education, and methods to corporations, NGOs, and municipalities.

“Through a generous investment of $27.5 million of seed funding by Rob and Melani Walton, the eight Initiatives [of WSSI] focus on leadership, innovation, and action to co-develop and deliver sustainability solutions, accelerate global impact, and inspire future leaders,” Reiter says.

Reiter says she loves to continue to learn about sustainability and global issues from the many scientists in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and students in the School of Sustainability.

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Sustainability student gains experience for the future

October 14, 2013

Sustainability Student Kevin KeleherKevin Keleher transferred to ASU from Mesa Community College in 2011. He enrolled in Barrett, the Honors College, double-majoring in supply chain management and sustainability. He is set to graduate in Spring 2014.

One thing Keleher has learned from the School of Sustainability is that it’s not enough to have a theoretical understanding of sustainability. To succeed in landing the sustainability-related job of one’s dreams, experience is needed.

Keleher and four other ASU students co-founded a student sustainability consulting service that enables ASU students to gain experience applying their knowledge and enables organizations to begin embracing sustainability. He also interned at PepsiCo, helping the company’s Tolleson facility divert over 400,000 pounds of waste per year from the landfill.

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Volunteers needed for ASU Homecoming 2013

October 14, 2013

The School of Sustainability needs volunteers on Saturday, October 19 for the Homecoming Block Party and the Homecoming Parade.

Volunteers can man the School of Sustainability tent where there will be sustainable swag, a giant thumbprint tree, “bee sustainable” temporary tattoos, and a giant crossword puzzle. Volunteers can lend a hand at the Global Institute of Sustainability tent featuring locally grown date tasting, compost and garden exhibits, a photo booth, and a bee-themed craft station.

If you are a School of Sustainability student, faculty or staff member, sign up for your volunteer time and location here. Specific times are listed in the volunteer sign-up sheet. Questions? Contact Stephanie Quintero.

Student Spotlight: Ariel LeBarron

October 14, 2013

spotlight-alebarronAriel LeBarron is a School of Sustainability Student Ambassador. She participates in networking opportunities meeting experts and professionals in the sustainability field. She also coordinates events for fellow students with the other Student Ambassadors. LeBarron chose the policy and governance in sustainable systems challenge area. After graduation, she hopes to live in Germany to learn about the country’s culture and sustainability policies.

1. Why did you choose the policy and governance challenge area in the School of Sustainability?

I chose the policy and governance track because it best fits my interests within the realm of sustainability. Focusing on policy and trying to implement change seems like a great to make a difference in this world.

2. What is your favorite part about being a Student Ambassador?

I love being able to recruit and meet incoming students. As a freshman, I found it vital to get another student’s opinion and thoughts on sustainability and with the Student Ambassadors I am able to do that.

3. What is the global sustainability challenge that concerns you the most and why? How are you working towards the solution in the School of Sustainability?

Food, composting, and waste are some specific sustainability challenge concerns that I have because they are so important to our existence. I am interning with the Sierra Club and learning the ways the legislature works so I can get a better understanding of lawmaking for the future.

4. What is your favorite memory from your time in the School of Sustainability?

Living in the residential community is probably my favorite memory because I was able to meet so many awesome people. Being a part of that community to discuss and share my experiences with like-minded people has been vital to my college experience.

5. Who are your “sustainable” role models?

John Muir, my uncle, and Claudio Sanchez. John Muir, for obvious reasons: being a leader in environmental preservation and helping to establish our state parks. He was an awesome man and I would loved to have meet him. And my uncle because he has been a support system and someone that has always encouraged me to work hard and desire to be the best I can be. Without his support or any of the support from my family members, I do not think I would be where I am today. Also, Claudio Sanchez is an inspiration to me because of the music and stories he creates. Being able to accomplish his dream and live to share it with everyone motivates me to achieve my goals.

6.  What are your future plans?

I want to travel and live in Germany for at least a year to fully understand and immerse myself in the culture as well as their sustainable ways. Afterwards, I want to come back here and try to make a difference however I can.

7. Some say sustainability is all about “saving the world.” If you could be a superhero, which one would you be and why?

I would be Batman because of his stealthy ways. He is a true hero because he does not need recognition or notoriety for his deeds but helps “save the world” in many different ways, both as Batman and Bruce Wayne. And because he does his own stunts!

Faculty Spotlight: Paul Hirt

October 14, 2013

spotlight-phirtPaul Hirt is an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainability and the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He is also a Senior Sustainability Scholar at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Hirt is a historian and writer whose work has been published by numerous academic presses and journals. His most recent book is titled “The Wired Northwest: The History of Electric Power, 1870s-1970s.” His other writings include a history of national forest management since World War II titled “A Conspiracy of Optimism,” two essay collections on Northwest history titled “Terra Pacifica” and “Northwest Lands, Northwest Peoples,” and two-dozen articles and book chapters on environmental and western history. For several years, Hirt has led students on trips to the Grand Canyon exploring the human history behind this natural wonder and national treasure. He is also involved in projects exploring nature and history in the US-Mexico borderlands and he recently joined an Institute for Humanities Research team exploring the role of the humanities in sustainability research, teaching and outreach.

1. Can you describe the first time when you became interested in history?

I started my academic career as an undergraduate majoring in philosophy fascinated by ideas about the nature and meaning of life. I was raised to embrace a moral commitment to do “good works,” but it was not always clear how to determine in a complex world which works contribute to justice and welfare and which do not. For many years I sought a ground for truth and certainty in philosophical and religious systems, eventually earning a master’s degree in comparative Asian religions. Finding little shelter in the storm of competing belief systems, however, I gravitated toward a pragmatic understanding that ideas and beliefs are limited human expressions shaped by time, culture, and social context. While the struggle for understanding is universal, the results are infinitely variable. I eventually came to understand that what we think matters less than what we do. That empirical focus is what brought me to history.

2. How do you combine sustainability with history?

While working on my doctorate at the University of Arizona in the 1980s, I became deeply involved in citizen efforts to influence public lands management through public participation mandated by the federal government. I was amazed that so many of the western landscapes that I loved were “public lands” owned by the American people: national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, etc. I extended my work on public lands recently with a public education program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, titled “Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon.” A team of researchers and writers from ASU and the Grand Canyon Association spent three years developing narratives about Grand Canyon history for a website and digital audio-tour. We also developed curriculum materials for teachers.

3. How can history help inform our decisions regarding climate change and sustainability?

The historical record reveals the glorious complexity of humanity and human institutions, a complexity that embraces both the admirable and the appalling. Many things in our world need fixing: injustice, poverty, violence, pollution, environmental deterioration, etc. History offers lessons in how we as individuals and as collectives understand our world and seek to shape it to serve our needs and desires. We can see how our actions result sometimes in progress and other times in decline, how in one instance we may improve our lives and our lands while in another instance we exploit and degrade both. History, thus, serves as a guide on the path forward.

4. What is the global sustainability challenge that concerns you the most and why?

Water and energy in arid regions. Living now in one of the largest desert cities in North America, I have recently turned my attention to water supply challenges and alternative, renewable sources of energy, joining collaborative research projects with faculty and graduate students in ASU’s School of Sustainability and ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City. One result of that work is an essay titled, “The Mirage in the Valley of the Sun,” published in the journal, “Environmental History.” I have given many public presentations to community groups, often on mixed panels, about the risks and realities of central Arizona’s water supply. Interestingly, providing water to Metropolitan Phoenix requires a tremendous amount of electrical energy to pump groundwater from deep in the aquifer and to bring Colorado River water uphill to the valley from hundreds of miles away on the California border. Likewise, electricity consumes a tremendous amount of water for steam turbines and for cooling at power plants. Consequently, Arizona and the whole arid Southwest face an integrated water/energy supply challenge. In fact, this is a global problem. The successes and failures of our efforts here in central Arizona will be instructive to other cities and nations facing similar challenges in a warming world where many arid regions are expected to suffer more frequent and intensive droughts.

5. What is your teaching goal?

My mission, my pleasure in life, is to explore the lessons of the past to inform and engage public debates about how to create a more sustainable and just future, “a more perfect union,” in the words of our founders; or, as one of my literary heroes Wallace Stegner put it, to build “a civilization to match our scenery.”

6. How will your teaching affect the future paths of ASU’s sustainability students?

Sustainability problems are complicated and require many disciplinary perspectives—humanities, sciences, and social sciences—to understand and address those problems. My courses focus in particular on the human dimensions of sustainability challenges in a wide variety of places and times. I strive to provide students with substantive grounding in historical case studies of environmental challenges and conceptual frameworks.  Through readings, lectures, in-class discussions, writing assignments, group research projects, films, and guest presentations, students examine the complex social foundations of environmental problems and problem-solving, learn methods of historical and critical inquiry, and develop intellectual tools for understanding and solving contemporary sustainability challenges.

7. Finally, what does the word “sustainability” mean to you?

I like to approach this concept from its negative expression: examining that which is “unsustainable.” We can’t predict the future, but we can easily see where we as a society have made mistakes or taken a wrong turn in the way we organize our production, consumption, and social order. For example, agricultural and forestry practices that deplete soil or otherwise harm the productive capacity of the land are unsustainable. Economic practices that lead to boom-and-bust economies or that create more social poverty than social wealth are unsustainable. Sustainability to me is a moral commitment to a secure, stable, healthy, and just society that lives within the capacities of its biotic environment and that conscientiously and generously shares space and resources with the other creatures that co-habit this miraculous living planet.

Sustainability Scientists make bacteria create electricity

October 12, 2013

César Torres and Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, both senior sustainability scientists, partnered with the Biodesign Institute’s Jonathan Badalamenti to study the relationship of light-sensitive green sulfur bacterium Chlorobium and anode-respiring bacterium Geobacter and how the two generate electricity. These bacterium may help create clean energy from waste sources.

“When you put these two organisms together, you get both a light response and the ability to generate current,” says Badalamenti.

The researchers hope their work will lead to more studies on microbial fuel cells like bacteria in order to create a more sustainably fueled future.

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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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