Green Captains – Stakeholder participation in action

Sustainability In Action

January 26, 2011

Sun Devil Dining makes sustainability delicious - we’re providing Fair Trade certified coffee in all our dining hall locations, we’ve conveniently packaged and clearly labeled local and organic foods with our Green N’ Go offerings in all convenience stores, and we are constantly strengthening relationships with local growers like Maya Dailey at Maya’s Farm at South Mountain.

But our actions certainly aren’t all focused on providing seasonable, local, organic and sustainable foods to customers in the dining halls and convenience stores - we’ve also taken sustainability into our kitchens with our Green Captain program.  Who else besides the people who work every day in the kitchens are best positioned to identify and implement sustainability practices?

Our Green Captains are dining service employees from each dining location who dedicate their time and energy throughout each school year to champion sustainability in every location. Green Captains help develop sustainability programs and practices in Sun Devil Dining kitchens, promote a culture of sustainability among employees and engage customers in our sustainability initiatives.

The Green Captain program is guided by our:

  • Semester-long competitions between kitchens with new challenges each month on recycling, energy conservation, sustainable food, water conservation and personal sustainability.
  • Monthly meetings where we share best practices, discuss obstacles and solutions, and share sustainability information.
  • Sustainability Spotlight Boards focus on a specific sustainability issue and competition each month in both our kitchens and the dining halls. Next time you’re in a Sun Devil Dining hall check out the latest Sustainability Spotlight Board! Most are located near cash registers or dish return stations. (image below)

Aramark's sustainability board

By Maren Mahoney

Sustainability Coordinator

Sun Devil Dining

Researcher's sustainability work earns NSF award

January 24, 2011

Promising research that could help provide a source of clean energy and improve environmental safety has earned an Arizona State University senior sustainability scientist support from the National Science Foundation.

The NSF has given a CAREER Award to Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

CAREER awards recognize young engineers and scientists who are demonstrating potential to be research and education leaders in their fields. The award will provide more than $430,000 over five years to help fund research Krajmalnik-Brown is conducting in the Center for Environmental Biotechnology in ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

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Taking Root: A Southwest Sustainable Food Summit

Sustainability In Action

January 6, 2011

Photo credit: Brian McCollow

Quick riddle: what’s necessary, varied and sumptuous?  Answer: food!

If you’ve been overcome with questions about the origin of your daily vittles portions (or are slightly more than apathetic about the topic), you’re in luck.  From February 11-13, United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) and the Real Food Challenge (RFC) Southwest Regional Chapters are partnering to bring you a weekend full of fair trade and sustainable food activism.

The inexpensive conference will include workshops, lectures and panels about the intersection of food and sustainability.  The topics will include local produce, urban agriculture, grassroots organizing, fair trade, labor and immigration, access and poverty, and workers’ rights in the food system.  Speakers will vary from student leaders to professors, entrepreneurs, producers, and seasoned activists.  We’ve designed the conference to be all-inclusive.  Whether you want to take up gardening or discuss the implications of globalization on national food systems, we’ll provide a forum.

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'Cadillac desert' withstands test of time, technology

December 14, 2010

TEMPE, Ariz. - In 1986, Marc Reisner published "Cadillac Desert: The American West and its disappearing water," a foundational work about the long-term environmental costs of U.S. western state's water projects and land development. It sounded an alarm about the direction of the American West and how it was using its most precious resource. Now it all appears to becoming true.

Researchers applying modern scientific tools and mapping technologies, unavailable during Reisner's time, find his conclusions for the most part to be accurate and scientifically correct. As a result, current water practices are not sustainable and many dramatic initiatives will be needed to correct the current unsustainable path the West is on.

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A positive step in the face of uncertainty

December 14, 2010

Patricia Gober, Decision Center for a Desert City

TEMPE, Ariz. - Enormous uncertainty. These two words describe the condition of Phoenix's climate and water supply in the 21st century. Reservoirs have dipped to their lowest levels, continuous drought has plagued the state and forecasts for even warmer summers are predicted. Despite this uncertainty, professors at Arizona State University say there's no need to be fearful because positive impacts can be made.

ASU professors Patricia Gober and Craig Kirkwood working in conjunction with Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), which specializes in decision making under uncertainty, assessed the climate's affect on water shortage in Phoenix. Their results were published in the Dec. 14, 2010 issue of the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A special section in this PNAS issue focuses on what the 21st century climate in the Southwest will mean in terms of sustainability.

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Seeking bright, enthusiastic fellows for solar technology program

Sustainability In Action

December 8, 2010

Good news!  ASU is offering a brand new Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree in Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization.  This graduate degree offers advanced, interdisciplinary education in solar energy to students with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.  The objective is to enable graduate students to pursue careers in industry, government or the nonprofit sector that involve solar energy and its utilization within various social and political settings.

The PSM is a relatively new type of graduate program aimed at students interested in graduate studies, but who are not necessarily interested in a PhD or an MBA.  Such students strive for an integrated understanding of both technical and nontechnical aspects to their graduate education.  Students select from courses spanning a number of academic programs and schools.  Opportunities exist for engagement with the solar industry and/or government policymakers, including a trip to Washington DC to focus on policy issues affecting the solar industry.   Coursework leads to a culminating applied research project.

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ASU and Mexican experts design sustainability program to save biodiversity

December 1, 2010

School of Sustainability faculty members (L-R) Hallie Eakin and Arnim Wiek outline workshop activities and outcomes with three of their collaborators from the National Autonomous University of Mexico — Patricia Guereca, Institute of Engineering, Luis Zambrano, Institute of Biology, and Marisa Mazari, Institute of Ecology.

Mexico is one of the most biodiverse regions of our planet. In number of species, it currently ranks first in reptiles and amphibians, third in mammals, and fourth in plants.

To help protect this legacy, ecology experts from Mexico’s largest university met with ASU sustainability faculty and staff on Nov. 18-19 to collaboratively design a new international master’s degree in sustainability that will train the next generation of Mexican ecological practitioners and policymakers.

The two-day workshop is a key part of a collaboration between ASU’s School of Sustainability and the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IE-UNAM), one of Latin America’s most prominent university systems. It was co-organized by School of Sustainability faculty members Hallie Eakin, who also manages the project, and Arnim Wiek, one of the project’s principal investigators.

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Kristin Mayes chosen to head new program on law and sustainability

December 1, 2010

Kristin Mayes, Law Professor

Kristin K. Mayes, an Arizona Corporation Commissioner who has helped Arizona become a national model for energy innovation, has been chosen to head the new Program on Law and Sustainability at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Mayes will serve as Professor of Practice and Faculty Director of the new program, created in partnership with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, where Mayes will be Senior Sustainability Scientist.

“Kris Mayes is a major national innovator in developing new paradigms for how utility companies and utility regulators will need to operate in the coming decades,” said College of Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman. “Kris joins Dan Bodansky, hired last year, and together they immediately will catapult this new program to a position of international leadership in an area of law and policy that is crucial both to our nation's economic future and our planet’s long-term survival.”

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Student pursues sustainable living, organizes efforts campuswide

November 22, 2010

Natalie Fleming, a junior majoring in sustainability, is one of about 200 ASU students living in Sustainability House at Barrett (SHAB), the sustainable-living community at Barrett, the Honors College. Her push for the environment extends campuswide, however, as she organizes events and leads a team for the student-led Center for Student Sustainability Initiatives, which she helped found.

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A zero waste day, really?

Sustainability In Action

November 16, 2010

Happy 'America Recycles Day' readers! Conveniently, this day happens to correlate with waste day of "No Impact" week. ( This week everyone is strongly encouraged to take a magnifying glass to their every day practices and critically analyze if it's worth it or not. Basically, do you really need to accept that throw away cup every day at the coffee shop? Or could you slim down your waste contribution by mindfully toting a mug each day?

As part of the experiment, citizens are encouraged to document the waste they generated for the day. So, I snapped a quick photo of my waste footprint! Hopefully you will observe the dirty napkin, tooth picks and stir stick are all biodegradable. They still have an impact, but at least they recycle readily in my compost bin. The cup is of course reusable but the little red decorative plastic things that adorn my tooth picks? Fail! Luckily, this can be easily remidied if we apply a little pressure on the restaraunt and catering indisutries to abandon such tom foolery. Then I can almost get a perfect score on "America Recycles Day"!!!

Thirsty for more? Check out the radio interview with our very own Bonny Bentizin, Director of Sustainability Practices right here at ASU.

By Jehnifer Niklas

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."
-- Vincent Van Gogh

‘No Impact Week’ encourages students to live greener

November 15, 2010

Arizona State University kicked off its No Impact Week on Sunday, November 14. The eight-day initiative, sponsored by the Global Institute of Sustainability, encourages students on the Tempe campus to live greener through daily themes including: consumption, waste, transportation, food, energy, and water.

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To ride? Or not to ride?

Sustainability In Action

November 5, 2010

Were you faced with the conundrum of purchasing ASU's new transit card this year? Since I now find myself working as a full-time Program Coordinator for ASU, I no longer can reap the benefits of the deeply discounted ASU U-Pass for students. As an employee, I receive a nifty little Platinum Pass for $390. For those of you unfamiliar with the pass, both the U-Pass and Platinum Pass allows you unlimited rides both on Valley Metro buses and METRO light rail. So is this pass really a bargain? Let’s bust out our calculation skills (or machine, in my case) and play along.

I know what you are thinking. "You have a car, don't you? Why bother!?" Yes, I do have a car. Do I like driving it every day? No! Is the weather currently a blistering 400 degrees outside? Yes. Ok, not really, but…it will be. I have about 35 work weeks left in the academic year and will use the card for weekends and evening activities too. If I were to take my car everywhere, I would use about a tank a week, which costs me about $35 to fill up. Because the Platinum Pass is prorated, the pass would cost me about $310 for the remaining 35 weeks I have to use it. This comes out to a whopping $8.86 per week! $310 verse $1225 ($915 in savings) is looking good now isn’t it? By taking full advantage of the academic year would yield you even bigger savings – at $390 for the pass that is $7.50 per week! For students, the U-Pass is $80 for nine months of unlimited riding; coming out to $2.22 per week! (I did not even factor in auto insurance savings…)

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AASHE 2010: Exploring, Learning, Connecting

Sustainability In Action

November 2, 2010

The week of October 11 several ASU employees, including myself had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2010 Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Denver with other sustainability-forward representatives from universities all over the world.  There was a wonderful diversity in attendees ranging from students, faculty, Facilities Management to food service professionals and housing representatives.

Many members of our ASU community submitted abstracts about their various sustainability projects and were able to present at this prestigious conference.  Our very own Director of University Sustainability Practices, Bonny Bentzin presented multiple sessions about the status of ASU’s efforts. We also heard from two of our project developers and one of our program coordinators; Alex, Eric and Betty. They presented field reports about successes in waste diversion during the last two years of ASU Move-in and Move-out and a bike share pilot program that was unveiled at GIOS earlier this year in partnership with the Cannon Leadership Program.

The conference was packed with universities of all sorts sharing all types of sustainability ideas.  I heard a myriad of presentations ranging from implementing water bottle bans  to campus energy auditing. As it turns out, many unique ramifications surround all of these policy changes and then some. For instance, a possible consequence of a water bottle ban could be lost revenue for campus dining or even an increased consumption of soda, There were also multiple presentations about the success of on-campus stores that sell items collected at the end of the year to returning and incoming students in the fall. How cool would it be if ASU had a “reduce, reuse” program like that on campus??The conference, which was a zero-waste event, served all compostable items during lunches (including utensils), had preplanned sending their remaining food to homeless shelters, and offered great vegetarian meals.  A large reception was held for the attendees where members of the three Arizona Universities and other state schools, such as Rio Salado and Scottsdale Community College, sat together to network and collaborate. Many people from the different universities are already in partnership tackling and solving sustainability issues common for colleges and for Arizona.  I enjoyed meeting the students from U of A and NAU.  At NAU, students work on campus sustainability issues through a masters degree program, so the students I met were very specialized, informed, and motivated.

Everyone came away from the conference inspired, excited, proud of ASU, and probably a bit tired.  It was a great opportunity to expose everyone to new ideas relating to all aspects of our university and sustainability in general as it pertains to higher education.

By Beth Magerman

Energize Phoenix Revs Up $25M in Grants

FeaturesInstitute Press Releases

November 2, 2010

The city of Phoenix began accepting funding applications Tuesday from multi-family housing owners along a 10-mile stretch of the Phoenix light rail corridor. $25 million in grants are available under the Energize Phoenix program, a joint public-private program that seeks to provide energy efficiency measures for about 2,000 homes and more than 30 million square feet of commercial and industrial space.

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Ensuring long-term health of global ecosystems

October 26, 2010

Q&A with Ann Kinzig

Dr. Kinzig on a research trip in Arizona’s Sky Islands region near the Mexico border.

Dr. Kinzig assesses Panama ecosystems with a colleague from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

In Tanzania’s Saadani National Park, salt production coexists with ecotourism to supplement a traditional fishing economy.

Ann Kinzig is chief research strategist for the Global Institute of Sustainability, affiliated faculty in the School of Sustainability, and professor in the School of Life Sciences. In her research, she studies ecosystem services, interactions between conservation and development, and the resilience of natural resource systems. She also teaches courses in biodiversity and ecosystem services, urban ecology, current environmental issues, and undergraduate research training.

What triggered your focus on sustainability?

As a graduate student in 1989 with an M.A. degree in physics, I decided to expand my horizons. I went to work with John Holdren (now President Obama’s science advisor) at Berkeley – basically thinking systemically about society’s natural resources and energy requirements and the types of economic and political preconditions for successfully managing them. Two years later, as I was feeling increasingly drawn to the life sciences, the Ecological Society of America published their Sustainable Biosphere Initiative. This was a clarion call for me. Here, suddenly, was a field that allowed one to not only do interesting science, but also help save the world.

What are your most important sustainability-related research projects?

I am wrapping up Advancing Conservation in a Social Context, a grant with the MacArthur Foundation aimed at improving ways to identify, analyze, and negotiate the complex trade-offs between conservation and development. After five years, we can say that conservation organizations are getting better at navigating the trade-offs, but numerous challenges remain. For example, many beneficial natural systems remain undervalued, in part because we lack mechanisms for making difficult choices among different ecosystem services (some of which are delivered globally) and incorporating the value of these services into decision-making at the local level. In response, I plan to work with colleagues at Conservation International to model how ecosystem services are delivered under different policies and landscape configurations. This work builds on an ongoing collaboration between the ASU ecoServices group (faculty and students focused on international biodiversity projects) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

How can your research affect real-world policy decisions?

Our models can tell decision-makers and managers how local policies will affect landscapes and the wider flows of ecosystem services. For example, we are currently working in the Panama Canal Watershed to model the ecosystems that provide water for the locks. If the delivery of water were substantially diminished, the world would see major consequences for global shipping and trade. Our goal is to identify the best landscape configurations for both local and global benefits.

What is the world sustainability challenge that concerns you most?

First, I am concerned about our capacity to understand and manage complex adaptive systems. We have to recognize that these systems are not linear or fully predictable and that policy decisions must be revisited as we monitor results and correct course. A second challenge is that most of our major environmental issues transcend national boundaries. We need global governance mechanisms in place to deal with this.

What are your plans as new chief research strategist for the Global Institute of Sustainability?

My goal is to launch a collective exercise among faculty to imagine what sustainability science should look like a decade from now if it is to serve society. We need to identify both the looming challenges and the gaps in meeting those challenges, and then decide which gaps we at ASU want to fill. One example may be to join our strengths in energy technologies with our knowledge about society and decision-making to improve our understanding of the potential promise and unintended consequences of next-generation energy technologies. Few places examine innovation from both a technological and social perspective, but it is essential in meeting global challenges in a timely fashion without creating new hazards.

October 26, 2010

ASU loves its cyclists

Sustainability In Action

October 26, 2010

Almost every bike rider has experienced the pain of a flat tire and the agonizing search for a way to fill it back up. Now, the ASU community will have a quicker, easier solution for their flat tires! With financial support from State Farm Insurance, ASU is installing seven air compressor stations across the university that cyclists can utilize. Four stations will be installed on the Tempe campus, and one on the Polytechnic, Downtown, and West campuses. In addition to the conventional Schrader valve used on most beach cruisers and mountain bikes, there will also be a high pressure Presta valve for road and racing bikes. The system was designed to be easy for users of any experience, with the pressure set to prevent the possibility of blowouts. Additionally, there will be a sign with instructions on how to use the air station.

If you need more help with your bike, stop by the Bike Co-op, which is located on the south side of the Student Recreation Center (Tempe) or inside of the PAC (Poly). The Bike Co-op, sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government, has student mechanics that can fix your bike and carries common bike parts for easy repairs. Check for more details on the shop.

Locations for the new air pumps:

Tempe: GIOS, Palo Verde Main, Hassayampa, Physical Education West(near the MU)

Polytechnic: Santan Hall

Downtown: University Center Parking Garage

West: TBD

By Alex Davis

Gene Baur Interview

Sustainability In Action

October 19, 2010

Gene Baur: Sustainability Series from Sustainability in Action Blog on Vimeo.

How and what we eat is quite a hot topic right now in sustainability. Much like the challenge of curbing air pollution, clear cut solutions to this ethical dilemma are broad and far reaching. Watch this video and see what Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary has to say about it.

By Jehnifer Niklas and Daniel Cavanaugh

Scientists From Around the Globe Convene to Address Urbanization, Land, and Climate Change

Institute Press Releases

October 12, 2010

ASU hosts two international conferences to advance sustainability efforts and progress                

PHOENIX/TEMPE, Ariz. – Reinforcing its role as a leader in interdisciplinary global environmental and climate change conversations, Arizona State University (ASU) will host conferences for both the International Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) and the Global Land Project’s (GLP) Open Science Meeting.

How have humans changed the Earth’s surface? How do urbanization and global environmental change interface? What are new pathways for sustainability that link urbanization and land change? How can we adapt to changes that have already occurred?

These themes play significantly in both of the groups’ individual and joint conferences. They are also top of mind among next-phase thinkers in the fields of environment and sustainability and are expected to play prominently in upcoming agenda-setting reports.

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Tour de Fat cycles through the heart of Tempe

Sustainability In Action

October 5, 2010

Bike enthusiasts unite! The Tour de Fat is making its annual homage to our dear city of Tempe. Named for one of the organizations most popular brews, Fat Tire, featuring an iconic red bicycle on the label will amuse and delight crowds with their whimsical bike festival this Saturday, October 9th. The event features a bike parade filled with costumed cruise-aders that plan to take the city by storm at 9AM. The parade concludes its trek back at Tempe Beach Park where doors open at 10AM for a fun filled day of food, drinks and entertainment. This event is so special and unique. Not only does it focus its efforts on the many wonders the bike brings us, but they strive for zero waste! Event goers will be greeted by friendly volunteers who help them recycle and compost their event generated waste all day long.  My favorite attraction of the day is the squirm burpee circus.  Comedic performance artists dress up in clothing reminiscent of time long ago and delight onlookers with witty banter and death defying stunts.  For more information on the event, visit:

By Jehnifer Niklas