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New ASU center to offer nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

December 7, 2017

With the aim of finding better solutions to today's food-related challenges, Kelly and Brian Swette have made a major gift to establish the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.

The new center, housed within the School of Sustainability, will tackle food systems from a holistic standpoint, taking into consideration water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition – all with an emphasis on efficiency across the global supply chain. It will also offer the nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems.

Explaining that the new center will accelerate and expand current efforts, Dean Christopher Boone said, "By combining ASU’s assets as a research powerhouse with the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and the expertise from external partners, these sustainable food systems solutions will have profound and positive implications for livelihoods, human health and ecosystem integrity."

Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, as well as an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he and Kelly launched Sweet Earth Natural Foods – a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic fare.


ASU’s Project Cities wraps up a successful first semester

ASU Wrigley Institute News Project Cities

December 6, 2017

ASU Project Cities held its first semester-end project showcase with the city of Apache Junction at the university's Memorial Union on November 29, 2017.

Professors and students from multiple campuses presented on the findings of seven courses, during which extensive time was spent researching and creating recommendations for the city that straddles Maricopa and Pinal counties. Roughly 150 people attended the showcase, including members of the Apache Junction government and community, ASU faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students.

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Johnson appointed to GRI stakeholder council

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 22, 2017

Ryan Johnson, Executive Director of Sustainability Education and Training for ASU's School of Sustainability, has been appointed as a member of the Global Reporting Initiative Stakeholder Council for a term beginning January 2018. Johnson is also a student in the Master of Sustainability Leadership program at ASU.

GRI is an independent international organization that has pioneered sustainability reporting since 1997. The initiative helps businesses and governments worldwide understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, governance and social well-being.

The GRI Stakeholder Council is the formal stakeholder policy forum within the GRI governance structure. The council's key governance functions include appointing Board members and deliberating on issues of strategic importance to GRI.


Can carbon-dioxide removal save the world?

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

November 20, 2017

Carbon-dioxide removal could be a trillion-dollar enterprise because it not only slows the rise in CO2 but reverses it.

Many companies are vying to prove that carbon removal is feasible, but also owe their origins to the ideas of a physicist and sustainability scientist named Klaus Lackner, who now works at Arizona State University.

Featured in The New Yorker, this article chronicles the journey that led Klaus to found the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions.


Seeing the mission through: growing an army for sustainability

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 15, 2017

Alan AtKisson wearing a dark blazer and smilingA Thought Leader Series Piece

by Alan AtKisson

When it comes to sustainability as it is practiced today, I helped get a number of things started, from the use of sustainability indicators, to the concept of training “sustainability change agents," to the search for measures of our planet’s ecological boundaries, to weaving the concept of sustainability into the practice of developing the “Blue Economy” – the economy of our oceans and seas.

By making this statement, I do not mean to imply that I take credit for those things — far from it. The emphasis is on “helped." These were processes that would have happened anyway, no doubt. I was just lucky enough to be around in their early, generative moments, and to lend a hand.

Don’t worry: the main purpose of this short article is not to reminisce, as you will see, but to look ahead and reflect on what the sustainability movement needs going forward. But sometimes, to see the way ahead clearly, we have to look back.

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Forecasting dryland vulnerability for the Department of Defense

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News Global Drylands News

November 9, 2017

A multi-disciplinary team from Arizona State University, U.S. Geological Survey, New Mexico State University, University of Arizona and Utah State University will carry out research to inform the management of Department of Defense drylands in the western U.S. The newly-funded proposal will investigate the interactive effects of climate change and disturbance on vegetation communities and ecosystem processes across three large deserts of the western U.S.

Researchers will assess the vulnerability of vegetation and ecosystem processes to drought and disturbance with a set of factorial field experiments aimed at isolating key drivers of change under drought conditions predicted by climate models. They will combine experimental results with existing long-term climate and vegetation data collected in actively-managed and paired-protected areas to quantitatively model and scale vegetation sensitivity to different climate drivers in relation to disturbance history. Importantly, this allows for frameworks of understanding and planning at spatiotemporal scales not possible with on-the-ground or site-specific measurements alone.

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Enjoy your Spring Break 2018 earning 3 credit hours in Cuba!

School of Sustainability News

November 9, 2017

If you enjoy travel and exploring sustainability, the School of Sustainability is offering a study abroad course in Cuba over Spring Break 2018. It’s a Spring C session, 3-credit course, with 7 weeks of online content to learn about Cuba (January-February), then nine days onsite in Havana (March 3-11). A final Reflections Paper (about 8 pages) is also submitted.

Brigitte Bavousett, lead instructor for the Global Intensive Experience (GIE) course Cuba: Unlocked and On the Edge of Rapid Transitions, was impressed with the variety of learning outcomes her students demonstrated after returning from their trip to Cuba in Spring 2017. The students chose to study diverse sustainability topics, including energy independence solutions, preservation of architecture, plastic waste concerns, agro-tourism benefits, dual-currency issues, food supply challenges and more. Watch snippets from their presentations.

Scholarship funding for 2018 is available. Visit with the Study Abroad Office for more information, including on funding sources like scholarship grants and other resources. Make sure to have your FAFSA on file with ASU in order to be awarded funding. You can reach the Study Abroad Office at (480) 965-5965 or email

MSL Profile: Benjamin Fogg

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 8, 2017

Ben Fogg wearing a suit jacket and standing in front of a windowBenjamin Fogg is a student in the ASU School of Sustainability's Master of Sustainability Leadership program and graduates in Fall 2017.

Fogg was recently promoted to Sustainability Specialist at FedEx Ground in Pittsburgh, PA. Currently, he works to develop internal and external relationships for FedEx Ground with the aim of applying circular economy principles using research from his SOS capstone project.

Why did you choose to major in sustainability?

Sustainability, in a sense, has been ingrained in me since I was a kid. I grew up in the Marshall Islands where I bore witness to beautiful islands and beaches, all while being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The island itself was only three miles long and half a mile wide. Over time, these islands – and many others like them – have fallen victim to issues like climate change, ocean acidification and the plastics epidemic. Knowing that such problems exist and that they threaten the beautiful paradise where I grew up, I decided to pursue an education and career in which I help solve these problems while getting businesses on board to do the same.

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Google's sustainability lead shares circular economy successes

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 8, 2017

Brandt standing at podium in front of audience"We've seen a strong business case for the circular economy transitions we've made at Google," Sustainability Lead Kate Brandt told an audience at her November 2017 Wrigley Lecture.

Titled "Google: Searching for a Circular Transition," Brandt's lecture detailed how the tech giant is working to embed circular economy principles into its infrastructure, operations and culture. She pointed to numerous wins, including using machine learning to avoid 1.5 million pounds of food waste last year and increase efficiency in an already highly-efficient data center by 40 percent.

Google is among the Global Partners of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organization Brandt referenced throughout her lecture for its exemplary work. ASU joined the foundation's Circular Economy 100 program as a pioneer university in 2016, and the ASU Wrigley Institute is developing an ‘Introduction to Circular Economy’ course through that partnership.

Brandt also met with School of Sustainability students, faculty and staff during her visit to ASU. She remarked at how impressed and heartened she was by the university's sustainability efforts.

Military training promotes serving country and planet

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 8, 2017

During an inaugural Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability conference hosted by ASU, over 150 military personnel, Department of the Army civilians and contractors were given the mandate to change the “sustainability DNA” of their organizations. The conference – which took place in November 2017 – brought together experts in the areas of energy security, water security, solid waste diversion and environmental quality from across the Army Reserve, encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation.

Joe Knott, an ASU doctoral candidate in the School of Sustainability and retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped to facilitate the partnership between ASU and ARMRS. He points out that today's young people are better versed in subjects like sustainability and climate change. In that sense, if the Army does not develop a strong sustainability culture, it may have trouble with retention.

“They expect sustainability and doing the right thing in addition to serving their country,” Knott says. “They say ‘what are you as a military organization going to allow me to do to make this earth sustainable for my kids and grandkids?’”


Global Development Research Scholar: Sean McAllister

School of Sustainability News

November 6, 2017

Sean McAllister, a doctoral student in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, is currently researching energy transitions in Brazil through ASU's Global Development Research program.

Coming from Sioux City, Iowa – a city with a rich history of fluctuating social and industrial transitions – McAllister believes the Brazilian community he is researching is like an echo of his hometown’s history. He is interested in learning how different levels of governance, policy and incentives play out on a local level, and how this affects energy outcomes and individual and community decisions.

What is the focus of your research project?

This project, which began last year, started with finding better ways to improve water quality in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Now, we are exploring technological change driven by the community. We have delivered locally-developed technologies, such as solar water heaters and solar ovens, to the community and have seen that people are genuinely interested in the technologies we are putting forth.

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Global Development Research Scholar: Breanna Reeser

School of Sustainability News

November 6, 2017

Breanna Reeser with Saraphi Hospital staffNot all students who travel with the School of Sustainability are sustainability majors. Breanna Reeser, a doctorate student studying integrated behavioral health, is currently researching and interning in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Through ASU’s Global Development Research program, Reeser is collecting data for her thesis. She returns to the U.S. in December and will graduate in May.

What is the research of your GDR project?

I am currently doing my PhD dissertation research and internship at Saraphi District Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand in collaboration with Chiang Mai University. This is a USAID grant-funded project through ASU’s Global Development Research Lab. My thesis question involves predicting risk levels using a patient's ability to understand their doctor’s recommendations (health literacy scores).

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Virtual exchange: ASU and Palestinian university advance design project through the Stevens Initiative

School of Sustainability News

November 6, 2017


The Design School and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, in partnership with An-Najah National University, recently received a grant from the Stevens Initiative to use online, collaborative learning to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy.  ASU and An-Najah National University students exchange unique perspectives and share a common goal -- to design a sustainable community center for a refugee camp in Palestine.

The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international, and collaborative learning. The Initiative honors the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who devoted his life to building bridges between people from different cultures.  Arizona State University and An-Najah National University received one of 13 new grants funded through this international competition, expanding the Initiative’s reach to approximately 30,000 students in 18 MENA countries and 31 American states.

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Alliance makes strides toward phosphorus sustainability

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

November 2, 2017

Lake overgrown with algaePhosphorus is a basic element found in all living things and is a key component of most fertilizers – enabling modern agriculture. On the flip side, phosphorus runoff contaminates rivers, lakes and streams, providing an overabundance of nutrients that leads to toxic algal blooms.

That's why the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, a unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute, continues to grow – to take on the phosphorus problem in the global food system. Following a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the alliance received a second round of funding from the OCP Group – a Moroccan mining company that owns the largest deposits of phosphate rock in the world.

The alliance grew out of industry interest in phosphorus sustainability and recycling during the original NSF grant period, which brought together dozens of researchers from around the world. In 2017, the alliance grew to nine member organizations representing different stages of the phosphorus value chain.


1,000s of lab gloves will be recycled thanks to ASU sustainability student

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 24, 2017

Junkee Justin Ahn holding lab gloves and making the pitchforkWhile interning at paper giant Kimberly Clark, undergraduate School of Sustainability student Junkee Justin Ahn noticed that the company had a nitrile glove recycling program. He recognized the need for a similar program at ASU, where countless gloves are used in labs across its campuses each week, and began collecting information.

By bringing the program – called RightCycle – to ASU, Ahn is helping gloves from the Tempe and Polytechnic campuses reach recycling centers where they are turned into plastic materials. He presented his work at the nation’s biggest higher-education sustainability conference, held by the the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in San Antonio, in October 2017.


Creating smart and connected coastal communities

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News UREx Blog

October 20, 2017

The Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, led by ASU sustainability scientists Nancy Grimm and Chuck Redman, is among 38 recipients of the National Science Foundation's 2017 Smart & Connected Communities grant.

The S&CC grant seeks to harness smart technologies for the enhancement of communities – in terms of economic opportunity and growth, safety and security, health and wellness, and overall quality of life. After observing how these technologies contribute to disaster relief – the social media fundraisers and re-build events after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and María, for example – UREx recognized an opportunity.

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Sustainability professors named 2017 AASHE award winners

Board Letter School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 16, 2017

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) announced Katja Brundiers and Arnim Wiek, both professors in ASU's School of Sustainability, as recipients of a Campus Sustainability Research award for their outstanding achievements and progress toward sustainability.

AASHE bestows its prestigious awards on institutions and individuals that are helping to lead higher education to a sustainable future. This year, AASHE received 230 entries that resulted in 10 winners announced in three campus sustainability categories –  leadership, achievement and research.

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Finding fulfillment through food choices

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Food Systems News

October 4, 2017

What we put on our plates affects our overall health, from our individual bodies to the planet as a whole. Christopher Wharton – director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) – and other researchers from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability are studying the long-term effects of our diets on happiness, sustainability and ethics.

One ongoing FSTI study is examining food and fulfillment, gauging the motivators and barriers of adopting and maintaining plant-based diets. Though results are not yet in, researchers expect a correlation with long-term happiness because of the knowledge that there are positive health, environmental and other sustainability benefits to adopting a strictly or primarily plant-based diet.

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SCN Kicks Off Project Cities at Apache Junction

ASU Wrigley Institute News Project Cities

October 2, 2017

Students arrive for the Project Cities Kick-Off Event

On August 30, 2017, over 130 ASU students and faculty from multiple disciplines filed into the Apache Junction Multi-Generational Center.

The draw? A kick-off event marking a partnership between ASU’s Project Cities program and the City of Apache Junction – one that plugs students into projects that make Apache Junction a better place to live.

Not only did students get to hear more about these projects from Project Cities and Apache Junction staff, the kick-off event included networking with the Apache Junction mayor, city council, board commissioners and staff – not to mention a bus tour of the city. Breakout sessions allowed students to ask city project leaders questions, learn about community history and brainstorm possible solutions to local challenges.

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New Carbon Economy Consortium: Building research programs to support 21st Century economic opportunity

ASU Sustainability News LightWorks News

September 26, 2017

Now is the time to map paths to the breakthrough research programs and forward-looking university-business partnerships that will serve as the hubs for this new carbon economy. This is an economy in which low-carbon industry and primary energy production are joined by industrial centers, agricultural regions and food-producing ecosystems that turn excess CO2 into consumer goods, fuels, building materials and fertile soil. With deliberate but ambitious planning, the United States and collaborators in other countries can develop the knowledge, technologies and human capital to catalyze the new carbon economy by 2040.

In June 2017, a one-day workshop was held at Arizona State University to begin mapping out the work of a consortium focused on creating a framework for the research programs necessary to support the new carbon economy. The workshop brought together experts from Arizona State University, the Center for Carbon Removal, Iowa State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Purdue University.

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