Getting dirty to clean up ASU's organic waste

April 28, 2011

It’s a dirty job, and ASU students rallied to do it.

Rolling up their sleeves and getting down and grimy with a full day’s waste from a campus dining hall was just part of regular class activities for students in the School of Sustainability’s Urban Composting Systems solutions workshop.

Aaron Redman, a faculty associate within the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), co-instructs the course with Katja Brundiers, a GIOS academic associate. The pair designed the class – comprised of six graduate and 16 undergraduate students – to asses ASU’s food-waste system, develop a reasonable vision of a sustainable food-waste system, and build strategies that help transition from current practices towards a sustainable system.

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Helping cities adapt to climate change

April 27, 2011

Q&A with Sharon Harlan

Dr. Harlan discussing her Phoenix research at the Scientific Workshop on Climate Change Health Adaptation in Ahmedabad, India.

Graduate students Tommy Bleasdale and Carolyn Crouch making seed pots for inner-city residents as part of a discussion on gardening and urban heat island.

Urban heat affects pets, too - photo by middle school student Brian Garcia Escalante as part of a project to understand youth perspectives on extreme heat in inner-city neighborhoods.

Sharon Harlan is a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability and an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her work addresses the social impacts of climate change in a rapidly urbanizing environment. She also directs the Phoenix Area Social Survey, which examines the impacts of income and residential segregation on environmental inequalities. Dr. Harlan teaches courses on the social and environmental impacts of industrial production systems and on environmental justice.

When did sustainability become part of your research focus?

Ten years ago I was working with colleagues on a proposal for a social survey about the impacts of rapid urbanization on people's attitudes toward community and environment in the Phoenix area. Chuck Redman, then director of ASU's Center for Environmental Studies, gave us some key advice: Frame this work in the context of the emerging concept of "sustainability."

What are your most important sustainability-related research projects?

First, I am leading a project on urban vulnerability to climate change. This research involves social, biophysical, and health scientists in a collaborative effort to understand how various urban land covers and temperatures are associated with different neighborhoods and why we see disparities in heat-related health outcomes between low and high-income neighborhoods. A major objective of the research is to improve the capacity of inner-city neighborhoods to adapt to climate change. To accomplish this, our team is doing basic scientific research on urban ecology and health, and developing future climate scenarios for the Phoenix region. We are also working with community partners to revitalize a community gardening initiative, model the cooling effects of neighborhood parks, and learn from the perspectives of middle school students about how high temperatures affect local families and communities.

Second, I am continuing my work with the Phoenix Area Social Survey. It is repeated every five years to track public opinion on regional and neighborhood quality of life and four areas of the natural environment: land use, water supply, air quality, and climate change. This summer, we will conduct our third survey in the series, which will be administered to 900 households in 45 neighborhoods.

How will your sustainability-related research affect policy decisions?

Cities face significant health challenges from climate change and recent heat wave disasters around the world have given them a wake-up call. At the same time, climate adaptation strategies to deal with extreme heat events, air pollution, flooding, and infectious disease outbreaks have been attracting more attention globally. Our research in Phoenix provides insights about urbanization in a warmer world and also offers lessons on how cities might act to address these challenges.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

My priority is protecting the most vulnerable and marginalized populations from the disruptions of global environmental change. To do this, we must ensure that Earth's resources are consumed equitably, the limits of those resources are respected, and that people in all types of economies have adequate livelihoods, health care, and safe working conditions. Ultimately, we need to eliminate extreme inequalities and poverty on global, national, and local scales.

April 27, 2011

Scientists from U.S. and Mexico advance international sustainability science curriculum at second workshop

April 27, 2011

Dr. Dominguez Perez Tejada (center), director of UNAM's Institute of Ecology, considers proposed program learning objectives along with Dr. Cavazos (left) and Dr. Escalante (right) of CICESE.

Three graduate students from the School of Sustainability (Ben Warner, Chrissie Bausch, and Mark Wood) discuss their experiences in sustainability education with participants.

Dr. Redman describes the challenges and opportunities in interdisciplinary research.

How can Mexico take care of its world-class biodiversity in the face of climate change and other threats? On April 13-15, a multidisciplinary group of researchers from Mexico met for the second time with ASU sustainability scientists and specialists in a workshop on the Tempe campus to advance the development of an international sustainability science curriculum for Mexico’s universities.

The goal is to collaboratively design a new international master’s degree in sustainability that will train the next generation of Mexican ecological practitioners and policymakers to protect Mexico’s rich ecological resources.

At the workshop, 14 members of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability worked with 10 researchers from two prominent Mexican institutions — the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Center for Scientific Research and Graduate Education (CICESE). UNAM researchers represented fields including ecology, biology, climatology, engineering, and ecosystem research.

During three days of meetings, the attendees from Mexico studied pedagogical approaches in sustainability science education, derived lessons from ASU’s experience developing the School of Sustainability’s curriculum, and learned formal approaches to curriculum development and implementation.

The group also reached agreement on three key issues: a broad vision for the new curriculum at UNAM, eight program level learning objectives, and five general content areas (modules) that will form the core of the program.

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Bonnie Nixon Named Executive Director of The Sustainability Consortium

April 26, 2011

April 26, 2011

Bonnie Nixon Named Executive Director of The Sustainability Consortium

Bonny NixonThe Sustainability Consortium has announced Bonnie Nixon, formerly Hewlett Packard’s Director of Environmental Sustainability, as Executive Director. Nixon will be responsible for developing and implementing short- and long-term strategies and growing the organization to include international representation, additional non–governmental organizations (NGO’s), toy and apparel sectors, and the world’s leading life cycle scientists and research institutions.

"It is really exciting to be involved in the science behind improving product footprints and empowering more sustainable production, buying and consumption patterns. The Sustainability Consortium represents an enormous opportunity to make systemic change for social equity, the environment and the economy,” said Nixon.

The Sustainability Consortium ( develops transparent methodologies, tools and strategies to drive a new generation of products and supply networks that address environmental, social and economic imperatives.

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2011 green college guide released; Arizona State University makes the list.

April 26, 2011

If you’re preparing to send a high school student off to college and want to learn more about the prospective university’s sustainability record then Princeton Review’s 2011 Guide to 311 Green Colleges is for you. The Princeton Review and the U.S. Green Building Council joined forces on this year’s edition, which is available as a free download from the Princeton Review website.

The guide includes 308 colleges or universities in the United States and three institutions in Canada. Each of these schools received a score of 80 or higher in the 2010 Princeton Review Green Rating survey.

Read the full story here.

Download the four-part PDF guide here: The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

'Ditch the Dumpster' Initiative Wins President's Award for Sustainability

Institute Press Releases

April 14, 2011

April 14, 2011

Year-end donation and recycling drive earns honors for diverting waste while supporting local charities.

TEMPE, Ariz.— Every year the average U.S. student throws away nearly 200 pounds of ‘stuff’ during end-of-the-year move-out from dorms and other student housing. To turn all that stuff into gold, Arizona State University (ASU) joined with Swift Charities for Children and student housing communities (Capstone Companies and American Campus Communities) to sponsor the Ditch the Dumpster project, an annual year-end donation and recycling drive.

In recognition of the drive’s mission, Ditch the Dumpster was one of the few projects to receive the 2011 ASU President’s Award for Sustainability (awarded on April 13, 2011).

Launched in 2008, ASU’s Ditch the Dumpster initiative is held at the end of every academic year to encourage students to donate or recycle their unwanted, usable items rather than simply toss them in the trash. Over the past three years, the initiative has grown exponentially and students learn about the benefits and value of recycling and reusing.

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Neely Foundation Funds Student Grant Program for Sustainability Research and Applied Projects on Food and Agriculture

Institute Press Releases

April 13, 2011

April 13, 2011

Neely Foundation Funds Student Grant Program for Sustainability Research and Applied Projects on Food and Agriculture

May 4 deadline for $1000-$4000 applied research awards; awards to be determined by May 15


Graduate students in the School of Sustainability and senior and junior undergraduate sustainability majors.


The C.W. and Modene Neely Foundation of Gilbert, Ariz., has awarded a grant to ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability to support graduate and undergraduate student research and applied projects.

The Neely Foundation Food and Agriculture Sustainability Research Grants Program offers funding for ASU sustainability student-proposed research and applied projects designed to support and advance food and agricultural system sustainability. Projects can cover any aspect of food and agricultural systems and range from local to global in scope. Most winning projects may expect $1000-$4000. Awards will be determined by May 15, 2011.

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Sustainability Literacy program engages, educates ASU employees

April 13, 2011

Arizona State University not only is the first institution in higher education to create a School of Sustainability that educates students, but also extends sustainability education to all of its employees through its Sustainability Literacy Education interactive online program. The electronic platform informs ASU employees with examples of sustainable practices that currently are happening at ASU, the university’s sustainability goals, what they can do in large and small ways to support ASU’s promise to become more sustainable, and arms them with the necessary facts to fulfill the sustainability requirement of their yearly work-performance evaluations.

"The literacy program is based in the basic concepts of sustainability and individual responsibility to contribute to implementation," says Ray Jensen, Associate Vice President of University Business Services and University Sustainability Operations officer. "Our successes as a university in sustainable practices are directly related to how each individual employee plays a role in sustainability within their day-to-day activities."

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Tempe Burrito Lovers Raise Green for ASU School of Sustainability Students

Institute Press Releases

April 13, 2011

Tempe-area Chipotle locations to co-host fundraiser to benefit the newly established Chipotle Sustainable Food Systems Scholarship

At least one ASU School of Sustainability student to be awarded a $1,000 scholarship annually from new Chipotle fund


Chipotle (Chi-POAT-lay) Mexican Grill, the chain of burrito restaurants committed to serving food made with more sustainably raised ingredients; Arizona State University (ASU) School of Sustainability students; and all Tempe big burrito lovers.


In 2011, Chipotle established the Chipotle Sustainable Food Systems Scholarship for ASU’s School of Sustainability. Through the fund, Chipotle will annually award at least one $1,000 scholarship to a School of Sustainability undergraduate student, with the first award to be given in May 2011.

To raise funds for the Chipotle Sustainable Food Systems Scholarship, the three Tempe Chipotle locations will host a fundraiser on Earth Day, Friday, April 22, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. During the fundraiser, for customers who stop by one of these locations, purchase some grub and show a fundraiser flyer, event graphic on their smart phone, or just mention they’re dining at Chipotle in support of the fund, 50 percent of their purchase will go directly to the Chipotle Sustainable Food Systems Scholarship.


- Tempe Marketplace Chipotle – 2000 East Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, Ariz. 85281
- Rural & Baseline Chipotle – 815 East Baseline Road, Tempe, Ariz. 85283
- Mill Avenue & 11th Street Chipotle – 1038 South Mill Ave., Tempe, Ariz. 85281


Friday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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ASU Sustainability Scientists part of Planet Forward PBS special

April 8, 2011

Gas prices. Nuclear worries. Oil spills.

Are there any new energy innovations out there to help us kick our petroleum habit?
The answer might lie in a microscopic single-cell plant, a landfill or an iconic building.

For the last few months, You have shared your innovations to help improve how we use or generate energy.

We narrowed down a pool of hundreds to just seven finalists.

Who will be named Planet Forward’s Innovator of the Year?

Watch and find out!

Earth911, Inc. Joins Sustainability Consortium, Looks to Standardize Recyclability Reporting

April 4, 2011

Recycling information leader to aid members in making sustainable recycling and end-of-life decisions

(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) – Earth911, Inc., the nation’s leading consumer recycling information provider, recently joined The Sustainability Consortium, an independent group of scientists and engineers working to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products.

A major focus of the Consortium is to develop Sustainability Measurement and Reporting Standards (SMRS) that will define, for a particular product type, what product manufacturers should measure, how to measure it and how to report it to a common database.

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Applying science to improve healthcare and education

March 31, 2011

Q&A with Lee Hartwell

Dr. Lee Hartwell

Dr. Lee Hartwell is a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability, Virginia G. Piper Chair of Personalized Medicine and chief scientist in the Center for Sustainable Health at the Biodesign Institute, professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2001 for his discoveries of a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle – research that provided important clues to cancer.

In this two-part video interview, Dr. Hartwell describes the issues and goals for his two most important sustainability-related projects in healthcare and K-8 education. He also discusses how he came to embrace sustainability research and teaching at ASU and his concerns about world social inequities.


How did sustainability become part of your research?

I met Michael Crow a few years ago, relatively recently, maybe three-four years ago, when we were on a trip together in the Galapagos. I’ve been following his vision here for Arizona State University, and it’s really, completely in line with my thinking about the future, which is that we need to take the science that we have gleaned over the last several decades and begin to apply it in a more effective way to human problems.

What is your sustainable health project?

My history is about 40 years as a basic scientist and more than a decade being the director of a cancer center. As a result of that experience, I’ve become, first, very aware of some important limitations in our application of science to medicine. So that’s one of my interests and we put it under the rubric of sustainable health.

I think we’re all aware of the fact that medicine is becoming prohibitively expensive in this country and around the world and that it’s not really giving us that much for our money. At least half of the expense or so is being spent on people in the last two years of their life, so it’s not really contributing the way we think it should to the whole of our lives. The real need is to move interventions so that they’re addressing prevention and earlier-stage disease rather than focusing just on very late-stage disease where our interventions are pretty ineffective and where the complete emphasis is upon trying to find a magic pill.

How will you address the sustainable health challenge?

What I believe is possible, as a result of advances in the last decade or so, is vastly improved diagnostic information that will lead to an identification of people at risk for disease, of people who have early-stage disease where we think the interventions can be much more effective. Our project there addresses the opportunity from new technologies, the need that I just expressed, but thirdly the fact that no one is really fulfilling this need – that the standard model for taking a new finding from the laboratory to the clinical medicine arena is the commercial model, where it’s developed by some company and sold at an exorbitant price.

That doesn’t work for diagnostics for two reasons. One is that the return on investment is too small to warrant the investment that’s needed to really validate the information. But secondly, the model is to take one thing forward. In a therapeutic, that’s appropriate: one molecule. But in a diagnostic, with current technologies, it’s not. We need to take panels of markers forward that are informative in a disease, and neither of those things are being done properly. So our model has to do with incubating the validation phase much longer in the nonprofit sector before turning it over to the commercial sector.

How will your sustainable health initiative make a difference?

Our mission in the healthcare arena is to improve outcomes and reduce costs. We think that’s possible through improved evidence for medicine based upon molecular and other diagnostic technologies. The way we see it is that recent technologies are identifying hundreds to thousands of pieces of information that could be used in healthcare, but can’t get there. So our challenge is to build that road that gets the fundamental science into the clinic. Now, that takes a very systematic, comprehensive approach and highly interdisciplinary activity, so we need clinicians who are expert in the disease informing us. We need economists who analyze the costs and the outcomes. We need databases that are collecting the right information. We need the technology people to be applying their different technologies to the problem.

So the question is, where and how can we assemble a huge team like that? We found that, so far, we haven’t been able to do it in the U.S. There are a few healthcare systems like Geisinger or Kaiser that sort of get it, but can’t quite devote their attention or resources to it. But we found that some other countries, where there are single-payer systems and they understand the potential for cost savings – which we don’t seem to understand in this country – are getting behind it. So we have a huge activity going on in Taiwan, at Chang Gung University and Hospital, where they have both the technology at the university and the clinical expertise in the hospital. They care for somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the population of Taiwan, which is 22 million people. And then another 10 or so institutions in Taiwan are joining this effort. That, so far, is our focal point, but we also have a center being formed in Sun Yat-sen University, just right across the strait from Taiwan in China.


What is your sustainability education project?

The second interest is one about educating the public about the science behind our concern for the planet and the whole sustainability movement. What I see happening in our world is that very few people really understand or appreciate science. That’s sort of disappointing, just because it’s so interesting. But for a much more practical reason, it’s fundamental to developing a sustainable model for living on this planet with 7 billion people approaching 9 billion. What’s blocking a lot of the effective technology we have for dealing with these problems is the fact that people just don’t understand the real fundamental issues, and yet they control the decision-making, the politics.

What is the opportunity in K-8 sustainability education?

I think the whole educational arena is undergoing a revolution right in front of us, and we’re sort of not seeing it. That is, we’re still kind of dedicated to the standard classroom routine when the kids are learning everything off of the Internet. It’s completely incongruous and education will eventually take that route, even formal education. We no longer need to become domain experts. Education has been, in the past, trying to stuff enough information in so you kind of know one area and can perform as an expert and recall facts and procedures. That’s just no longer necessary because the information is freely available whenever you need it. We’re seeing the bright young kids able to move from one arena to another and solve problems. The issue is much more about understanding problems, sizing them up, thinking about the complexity and the systems nature of things, understanding what data means, particularly asking questions – asking your own questions – and seeking the answers to those questions and following the path that your natural curiosity leads you.

What we need to do is capture their inherent interest in the world around them before we beat it out of them in the classroom. So I’m just interested in this question of how can we introduce science in a way that feeds the natural curiosity and interest that kids have rather than destroying it by asking them to memorize a lot of stuff.

How will your education initiative make a difference?

I’m developing a course for K-8 teachers that, under the current plan, will be required for all K-8 teachers at ASU – about 1,000 a year. It’s completely Internet based, and we intend to scale it to an online version that reaches beyond ASU. We intend also to maintain a supportive relationship for the teachers who come through this course once they get into the classroom because the technology permits us to do really anything we can imagine. I think one of the problems that teachers face is that when they get in the classroom they’re isolated, they’re alone, they have no support.

The question about how to engage kids in the fundamental excitement and interest of science is something I don’t understand at all. But I do see young kids really interested in everything and older kids not, so there’s something happening there. And I do see kids of all ages totally immersed in technology, and I think there’s an answer there. So I guess that’s my research now. I have an appointment in the school of education, I’m in the classroom with K-8 teachers now, and I’m trying to figure it out. I mean, I think that’s what you always have to do when you have a problem you don’t understand – immerse yourself in it, try to figure it out.

What is the sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

The sustainability challenge for us as humans is twofold: “don’t use up all the resources” and “don’t pollute the planet” is kind of the mantra. So that’s one way to look at it, but it’s much more immediate than that. It’s a little bit strange, I think, to be so concerned about future generations when 70-80 percent, at least, of the world’s population at the current time is suffering in poverty and lack of adequate water, health, food. I think the problem in front of us is really starting to address, in a serious way, the inequities that exist.

March 31, 2011

Spring has sprung at Poly Gardens

Sustainability In Action

March 21, 2011

Poly Gardens has a fan page! Like us today and recieve updates and organic gardening tips every week.

Institute's headquarters renamed for Julie Ann Wrigley

Institute Press Releases

March 21, 2011

The Global Institute of Sustainability headquarters building on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus was renamed in honor of Julie Ann Wrigley. ASU President Michael Crow, along with Rob Walton, chairman of the board of Walmart and co-chair of the Board of Trustees for Sustainability at ASU,  a crowd of community and business leaders, and the ASU community, honored the Institute’s founding benefactor as the university celebrated the newly named Wrigley Hall.

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Clean Agency joins Sustainability Consortium

Institute Press Releases

March 14, 2011

PASADENA, CALIF. (March 14, 2011) -- Clean Agency, a research-based consulting firm that provides consumer product companies with life cycle assessment, carbon footprint and product packaging solutions, has become a member of the Sustainability Consortium. Clean joins a diverse group of retailers, manufacturers, government, academic and public interest groups working to reduce the environmental and social impacts associated with global consumption.

“Joining the Sustainability Consortium is an important step in our continued effort to leverage the power of business to create impactful solutions to global environmental issues,” said Seri McClendon, chief executive officer, Clean Agency. We’re eager to contribute our research expertise and to work with other consortium members to reduce negative impacts on our natural resources and influence consumption towards a more sustainable future.”

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Plastic bags: What a waste!

Sustainability In Action

March 13, 2011

Every year over 100 billion disposable, petroleum-based, plastic bags are consumed and thrown out in the US alone.  Being nearly impossible to recycle, they needlessly consume resources; fill landfills and escape so often that studies have found that plastic bags make up over 25% of our litter. This poses serious danger to wildlife not to mention trashes up our landscapes.  Bringing your own re-usable cloth bag to the grocery store or farmer’s market is a great start, but what about all the clear plastic bags which are needed for all those wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables you bought?

               With the support of an ASU Innovation Challenge grant, a group of ASU students have developed a solution for you.  FAVE Bags are an affordable, durable, and easy-to use alternative to all that wasteful plastic.  Besides making check-out a cinch with its see-through mesh, FAVE Bags will keep all your fresh produce sorted and sanitary from the market to your fridge, with no sogginess.  

                While increasing personal Sustainability is very important, it is insufficient if the whole product life-cycle is not considered.  For this reason FAVE Bags are being produced with an innovative model of production to bring the benefits of international trade and export directly to the people who need it most.  In the countryside of El Salvador seven groups of women work out of their homes to produce FAVE Bags- earning money for their families without the often destructive stress of typical factory work (long hours, time-consuming transportation and low-wages).  In the words of one El Salvadoran women entrepreneur, “I love this opportunity, by being able to work at my home; I can earn the money I need so that my kids can get ahead and have the great future I wish for them.”

You can purchase a FAVE bag for yourself at the ASU Farmers Market for the special price of $3.50 each or 3 for $10 and they are available any time at the Phoenix Urban Grocery and Tempe Farmer’s Market. Consider how you might lead a more Sustainable lifestyle and contribute to a more stable and just economy abroad.

By Aaron Redman

Tree experts envision the return of Phoenix's oasis of green

March 11, 2011

In the early 1900's, the Valley was an oasis of green with lush trees sprouting tall along wide canal banks that crisscrossed Phoenix and its suburbs.

Cottonwoods, among the more common of the area's trees, dug in, drinking water that seeped from the dirt-lined canals.

By the 1950s, as families flocked to the Valley in post-World War II bliss to create a modern community, the oasis withered.


New catering menu offers Decidedly Green options

March 9, 2011

This month, ARAMARK / ASU Catering launched its new sustainable catering menu, Decidedly Green.  The goal of the menu is to support a more sustainable food system – one that benefits health, communities, and environment.

Decidedly Green includes a farmer’s buffet, box lunches and sandwich buffets, cold and hot hors d'ouevres, break buffets and delicious desserts.

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The SRC is expanding so you don’t have to

Sustainability In Action

March 3, 2011

This past week the Tempe Student Recreation Complex (SRC) held a meeting to evaluate proposals for the projects that will be encompassed in the first phase of the much needed SRC expansion.  Many proposals were presented with lots of different and exciting aspects, but those that are selected will be the ones that fit the budget and time line for completion by the fall semester.  The proposals that were approved in the meeting will go to the SRC Expansion Facility Fee Board. The Board is made up of members from all the campuses, which are all in the process of building Recreation Centers. It is they who will make the final decision about the projects.

The  new Center for Student Sustainability Initiatives’s (CSSI) SRC Sustainability Advising Committee submitted proposals that were well-received to install dual-flush toilets to female restrooms, waterless urinals, and to retrofit the water fountains to chilled, filtered, bottle-friendly fountains which will help support the SRC’s reusable bottle campaign.  Assuming all details and budgeting work out, you should expect to see these projects completed in the fall.  Also some other possible sustainability initiatives are shade structures over the pool or pool patio and hydroponic planters that may be a component later on in the expansion.  Sustainability has been a main focus in the development of the plan for the SRC expansion and more initiatives will be part of the design and construction of the additional structure.

If you have thoughts or suggestions about sustainability at the SRC or want to learn how the SRC is being Green, go to:

Or submit thoughts or suggestions about the SRC’s expansion and the first phase proposals at:

If you are interested in being part of the meetings to discuss the SRC expansion, email Tamra Garstka at:  You are very welcome to come and share your thoughts.

By Beth Magerman