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ASU in world's Top 3 for sustainability initiatives

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

April 26, 2017

ASU is third in the world and second in the U.S. for sustainability initiatives, according to a 2017 rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, known as STARS, rated ASU highest with the following percentages of available points: 87 percent in academics and research, and 95 percent in campus and public engagement.

AASHE STARS is a comprehensive tool for measuring sustainability at more than 800 colleges and universities around the world. It benchmarks institutions in over 1,000 data points covering academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

To achieve gold, ASU built campus and community collaborations to provide world-class education and research sustainability with the first School of Sustainability more than a decade ago. Now, 12.5 percent of ASU’s courses are recognized as sustainability or sustainability-related and 74 percent of academic departments offer sustainability courses.

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Agriculture in Arizona faces a warmer future

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

March 27, 2017

Rows of green lettuce in a fieldHow might climate change affect Arizona? A decrease in crop yields, for one thing, according to Andrew Berardy – a postdoctoral research associate with the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – and Senior Sustainability Scientist Mikhail Chester.

After studying the food-energy-water nexus that governs agriculture in Arizona, the pair found that the state's yields could drop more than 12 percent per 1 degree Celsius. This would have cascading effects – including more irrigation and increased food prices – that would be felt throughout the region.

In light of roll-backs in environmental protection by the Trump administration, Berardy and Chester advise that farmers upgrade to more efficient irrigation methods like drip irrigation. Their findings were published in IOP Science.

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Navigating the rapids of water management

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

March 24, 2017

We’ve portioned out more of the Colorado River’s water than it can deliver. What now?

Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White, who directs ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City, delivered his ideas for staying afloat in a March 2017 KED Talk. He demonstrated how the lessons he learned while rafting the Colorado River in 1998 are applicable to today's proverbial water rapids – namely drought, climate insecurity, population growth and overallocation.

"The solutions to these problems will require courage, skilled and experienced leadership," says White, "....and the recognition that the vitality of the American West depends on everyone paddling together."

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Sowing the seeds of sustainability education

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 22, 2017

Spotlighting the Sustainability Teachers' Academy – a program of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – ASU was recognized with a 2017 Best of Green Schools award from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.

The award, presented in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network, acknowledges the importance of cultivating lifelong awareness by planting the sustainability seed early and, particularly, ASU's efforts to achieve just that through community education.

The annual Best of Green Schools awards recognize 11 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country. ASU was honored in the higher-education category.

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ASU, Conservation International team up to protect biodiversity

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

March 22, 2017

Group photo of President Crow with CBO staff and Professors of PracticeAs a key program within the Knowledge Partnership between the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Conservation International, ASU welcomed seven Professors of Practice last week.

These scientists will devote time to teaching, mentoring and service initiatives at the university, all aligned toward advancing the three goals of the partnership: protecting biodiversity; promoting sustainable development, particularly in food production and fisheries; and training the next generation of conservation biologists.

“Right now we’re in a race, a race that will not be easily won,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “The forces of nature and the negative force of our impact on nature are accelerating. The acceleration of those forces are such that they will contribute to our need to have something we don’t have, which are better theories, better ideas, better tools, better solutions, better implementation, better translation – none of which comes naturally.”

As the New American University, ASU supports local and global partnerships to ignite innovative solutions to pressing biodiversity conservation issues around the world.

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Cultivating a space to learn and grow

ASU Sustainability News

March 10, 2017

A woman directs a student's attention to something in the garden, where there a numerous plants, squares of hay and a wheelbarrow.Available to faculty, staff and students, the community garden at ASU’s Polytechnic campus helps the community understand food systems and water conservation in the desert. That's part of the reason why it is regularly used for capstone projects and outdoor class lessons.

According to Susan Norton, program manager of sustainability practices, “[The garden] opens the minds of students to what it means to eat local, what it tastes like, and why it is important.”

Much of what the garden grows is donated to food banks – about 370 pounds so far. Those who lease space through Norton’s program maintain it, and the waiting list is growing. That's why Norton wants to expand the garden, moving it to a more central and accessible location.

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Phoenix gets a guide to greener procurement from ASU

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 3, 2017

Nicole Darnall in front of a projector screen that reads "Top 5 Barriers"Wanting to lessen its impact on the environment, the City of Phoenix decided to explore ways to make more eco-friendly purchasing decisions. Sustainability experts Nicole Darnall and Lily Hsueh were among the half-dozen ASU faculty to help them.

The ASU team assessed opportunities for purchasing improvements by conducting focus group interviews with city procurement specialists. After identifying complex organizational barriers and trade-offs, the team provided eight recommendations that will help Phoenix advance its 2050 environmental sustainability goals.

“By engaging city officials, our team was able to address one of the city's concerns — how it can further integrate environmental considerations into its purchasing processes,” said Darnall, the principal investigator. “At the same time, we developed a better understanding about sustainable procurement, advanced our research ideas, and engaged teams of graduate students in project-based learning. This project created wins for everyone.”

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High Antarctic temperatures provide insight to ASU scientist

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

March 1, 2017

Dr. Randy Cerveny sits in his office with books piled behind him.ASU Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Randy Cerveny announced in March 2017 that Antarctica has reached record-breaking warm temperatures – in some places over 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cerveny, a Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for the World Meteorological Organization, has collaborated with other WMO experts to measure the impact of rising Antarctic temperatures on the rest of the planet. The team has published their findings in a recent report.

"The polar regions of our planet have been termed the ‘canary’ in our global environment," he says. "Because of their sensitivity to climate changes, sometimes the first influences of changes in our global environment can be seen in the north and south polar regions...The more we know of this critically important area to our environment, the more we can understand how all of our global environments are interlinked.”

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Sustainability scientist recognized as positive disrupter

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 27, 2017

Manfred wearing a brown jacket and standing in front of a chalkboard full of writingDistinguished Sustainability Scientist Manfred D. Laubichler, a theoretical biologist known as a positive “disrupter” who identifies trends years in advance, is being honored with the Faculty Service Achievement Award at Founders’ Day 2017.

Laubichler is regarded for his work on Complex Adaptive Systems, focusing on complexity as a unifying principle in the social and life sciences. One of his most significant contributions was to the launch of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute's Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, which prepares scientists and policymakers for questions that arise as cities become megacities.

Another project that Laubichler was instrumental in is the ASU-Leuphana Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation. The center – created in 2015 in conjunction with Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany – builds on the universities' shared focus on global sustainability and transdisciplinary research. Its creation included the first dual master’s degree in global sustainability sciences, which enables students to attend and receive degrees from both universities.

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Sustainability students pave a profitable path toward zero waste

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

February 20, 2017

School of Sustainability student Eric presents his project Circle BlueThree School of Sustainability students have come up with a way to guide small organizations painlessly toward zero waste. And they’ll make money doing it.

Eric Johnson, Sean Murray and Daniel Velez – all students in the Master of Sustainability Solutions program – make up the consulting firm Circle Blue. The firm will partner with schools, nonprofits and small businesses to find and eliminate waste, saving money and reducing the amount of garbage that goes to the landfills.

And now they have a financial boost in achieving that aim. The Circle Blue team won a $20,000 grant from the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, defeating two other teams in the pitch competition in February 2017. The event, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, sought the team with the strongest potential to solve a social challenge.

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ASU awarded for commitment to climate leadership

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

February 14, 2017

At the 2017 Presidential Climate Leadership Summit in Tempe, Arizona, ASU Executive Vice President, Treasurer and CFO Morgan Olsen accepted the 2016 Climate Leadership Award on behalf of the university.

The award, announced in September 2016 and presented at a luncheon hosted by Second Nature, recognized ASU's innovative and advanced leadership in sustainability, climate change mitigation and resilience among four-year institutions.

In 2007, ASU President Michael Crow was a founding signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. ASU continues to pursue sustainability solutions across its campuses, including a January 2017 power purchase agreement that more than doubles the university’s solar generating capacity.

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'Slow life' in the big city

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 14, 2017

Colorful balconies of a high-rise apartment complexBig cities are generally associated with fast-paced life, but an ASU study shows that one psychological effect of population density is the adoption of a “slow life strategy.”

The ASU team – including sustainability scientists Steven Neuberg and Douglas Kenrick – collected data from all 50 states and nations around the world. Then, through a series of experiments, they found that perceptions of crowdedness cause people to delay gratification in favor of slower behaviors. These included long-term romantic relationships, having fewer children and investing more in education.

“With the world’s population growing,” Neuberg says, “it seems more important than ever to understand the psychological effects of overcrowding and how living in crowded environments might influence people’s behaviors. Applying a new perspective to an old question is allowing us to reexamine the effects of living in crowded environments.”

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Chinese scholars learn to think sustainably at ASU

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Professional Training and Custom Sustainability Education

February 10, 2017

Visiting Chinese students gather around an outdoor algae bed A two-week workshop at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability brought students from China a new way of systems thinking to analyze complex sustainability problems.

Marty Anderies, professor and senior sustainability scientist, introduced the students to the key sustainability challenge areas of food, water, energy and urbanization – both locally and globally. His sustainability class was a combination of learning activities: documentaries and dialogue, interactive role-playing games, field trips and lectures.

The 16 students came from Beijing's Beihang University, an elite research university known for launching the first light passenger aircraft in China in 1950s. They chose ASU because the university is well-known in Chinese academia for its leading research and heavy focus in sustainability.

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How collecting human waste supports planetary sustainability

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 8, 2017

A little-known fact about ASU – it is home to the National Sewage Sludge Repository, the largest archive of its kind in the country. Samples in the repository come from 200 wastewater treatment plants and represent 10 percent of the U.S. population.

Senior Sustainability Scientist Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security, explains that this collection serves as a window into public health and habits. For example, if wastewater sludge shows high concentrations of opioids, researchers could alert authorities to a previously undetected drug problem.

This potential to point out public health concerns becomes increasingly relevant. As the world's population continues to move to cities, the ability to diagnose human activities, consumption and health in urban centers will be key to understanding and managing human health and planetary sustainability.

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ASU campaign to enhance discovery, success, community

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 2, 2017

Fireworks light up the sky over a band onstage at a baseball parkOn Jan. 26, 2017,  Arizona State University officially launched Campaign ASU 2020,  the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in the nearly fifteen-year tenure of President Michael Crow. This transformational $1.5 billion campaign will engage alumni and friends in expanding the access and excellence for which ASU has become known.

The campaign coincides with the 2020 strategic vision of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability to scale sustainability solutions with like-minded partners around the world. The ASU Wrigley Institute addresses humanity's most pressing challenges in social, environmental and economic sustainability.

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The benefits of bringing the outdoors in

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

February 2, 2017

Sonja talks with lecture attendeesBringing nature back into the classroom and other inside spaces is the objective of ASU adjunct faculty members Joe Zazzera and Sonja Bochart. During a February 2017 lecture on biophilia – or love of nature – they expanded on the numerous benefits of interacting with nature, including enhanced productivity, reduced stress and improved well-being.

Bochart explained that the effects of nature can be measured on a physical level; blood pressure drops and parasympathetic healing activates – benefits that our predominately-indoor lifestyles prevent. By including environmental features like natural materials, water, and “living walls” or hanging plants in our homes, classrooms and workplaces, we can increase our overall well-being.

The lecture was an installment in the ASU Wrigley Institute's Sustainability Series, where speakers discuss a range of environmental, social and economic topics.

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Sharing desert lessons with a drying world

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 25, 2017

Drawing of people looking through windows at a desert landscapeThe U.N. anticipates that almost half of Earth's population will be living in “areas of high water stress” by 2030 as a result of climate change. Experts estimate that, without intervention, as many as 700 million people may find themselves displaced.

To build resilience to this scenario, ASU has partnered with Scottsdale’s future Desert Discovery Center – an expansive research center that teaches “a global audience to value, thrive in and conserve desert environments.”  The center's public face will feature a series of exhibits that address "what I can see, what I can’t see and what it all means."

“There are things going on in the desert that are deep in the crust, and they’re teeming with life,” says Senior Sustainability Scientist Duke Reiter. “But without this research and a sophisticated guide, at both a macro and micro scale, it would be impossible to see.”

The ASU Wrigley Institute is currently exploring opportunities for educational outreach services, particularly those that engage K-12 audiences, through the new center.

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School of Sustainability creates new sustainable energy degree

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 20, 2017

Large wind turbines in front of sunset in field.ASU School of Sustainability's new sustainable energy PhD program will kick off in August 2017, focusing on overcoming obstacles to implementing national renewable energy systems.

Christine Sturm, a PhD candidate in the school, looks to Germany's renewable energy transition to learn from the substantial challenges it has faced.

She explains, "Energy systems are complex amalgams of technologies, institutions, markets, regulations and social arrangements. Nations have little experience intervening in such socio-technical systems.”

According to Professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist Martin Pasqualetti, these are precisely the challenges students in the revolutionary new program will address.

“We’re going to be a leading educational institution on this,” he says.

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Bringing clean water to communities in the Middle East

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 12, 2017

Two ASU sustainability experts talk with a local utility expertParticularly with the growing influx of refugees from neighboring countries, communities across the Middle East are facing severe water shortages. Some communities rely on limited and variable water supplies without the infrastructure to adequately treat and transport the water. Energy sources needed to purify water can be inaccessible, expensive or unreliable.

That's why an ASU-led global consortium will implement a two-year, $1.95 million USAID project to develop and test affordable, portable clean water solutions in the region. The project – established in accordance with community-specific legal and cultural frameworks – will be implemented in 18 communities throughout Jordan and Lebanon, benefiting more than 36,000 people.

Leading the consortium are Richard Rushforth – a project manager for the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – and sustainability scientists Rhett Larson and Nathan Johnson. Together, their expertise spans sustainability, law and engineering, and they are joined in the consortium by public and private partners from across the globe.

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New year, smaller impact: How to consume sustainably in 2017

ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

January 12, 2017

Someone throws a plastic water bottle into a blue recycling container.ASU School of Sustainability instructor Brigitte Bavousett spoke with ASU Now to break down the basics of sustainable consumption and lend insight into lesser-known tactics for reducing our carbon footprints.

Bavousett recommends avoiding products with palm oil, as well as seeking out clothing made with sustainable materials or purchasing clothing at thrift stores. She also insists on avoiding plastic when making purchases. This includes rejecting plastic packaging and bringing reusable bags or requesting paper at check-out.

Bavousett expresses that although sustainable alternatives receive criticism for being more expensive, their benefits far outweigh their financial costs.

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