The recently completed Barret, the Honors College Academic Complex, includes sustainability features such as solar panels, an organic rooftop garden, and a grey water reuse system. Credit Daniel Cavenaugh/ASU
Nation’s First School of Sustainability Calls the East Valley Home
By Selena Larson
From coffee shops to contractors, companies across the country are focusing new efforts around building sustainable business models and practices. As more companies create and maintain environmentally-friendly standards, they are seeking employees who can grow economically and socially focused ideas. This has led to new educational programs teaching students how to develop and implement sustainability programs.
First of its kind
Arizona State University in Tempe is a pioneer in sustainable education. The nation’s first School of Sustainability calls ASU home and attracts students and visitors from across the world. A part of the Global Institute of Sustainability, the school is a comprehensive program focusing on finding real-world solutions to environmental, economic and social problems.
With an education from the School of Sustainability, students are encouraged to think systematically about problems and solutions, think about the environmental consequences of actions or policies, and focus on building a desirable future.
“Our programs shift the focus to not just problems, but to solutions,” said Dr. Chris Boone, associate dean for education at the School of Sustainability. “Sustainability is about hope, not about giving up.”
There has been a tremendous response to the sustainability programs at ASU and the School of Sustainability now has some of the university’s highest entrance standards. The minor in sustainability is growing rapidly, and ASU is offering university-wide, off-campus minors that provide a way for students to be introduced to the messages and approaches.
ASU is just one of the many institutions now providing programs in sustainability. Even though we were a pioneer, it is an idea that is sweeping the nation, as well as the globe,” Dr. Boone said.
ASU is also developing cross-campus “green” initiatives. The Office of Sustainable Initiatives in the Global Institute of Sustainability works with the community outside of campus. The farmers’ markets on the Tempe campus are an example of community-centered initiatives from ASU.
In conjunction with city, county and tribal leaders, ASU has also established the Sustainable Cities Network. It is designed to coordinate efforts and bridge ASU’s research and real-world challenges of sustainability. The goal is to help make sustainable practices a core value in city planning, policy and operations.
Community College Conscientiousness
While ASU is a leader on the university level, community colleges in the East Valley are also some of the first to promote sustainable initiatives.
In 2007, Chandler Gilbert Community College was one of four colleges nationwide awarded the Campus Sustainability Award by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. CGCC was one of the first schools to be a part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging to eliminate or offset all campus greenhouse gas emissions overtime. The college plans to be climate-neutral by 2030.
New courses, like the four-week solar installation course, encourage students to learn sustainable building practices that are quickly growing in popularity.
“CGCC’s Workforce Development’s Photovoltaic System Installation Program is one of the key programs that has helped economic development efforts in the East Valley, in terms of creating new job opportunities and having a workforce trained for bringing new companies to Arizona,” said Ruth Romano, director of the Center for Workforce Development.
CGCC incorporates water conservation, energy management, recycling programs and LEED certified development into its sustainable operations.
Mesa Community College is also committed to being a regional leader in promoting a better environment and quality of life. MCC is also a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and the college is working to help achieve a sustainable community environment. The “Lead by Example” approach is intended to encourage citizens, businesses, and organizations to develop their own “green” efforts.
In 2010, the college implemented new classes on topics such as environmental ethics, sustainable construction/LEED certification, and sustainable cities.
Other unique programs across campus encourage students and the community to get involved in environmentally friendly projects.
The college is home to the largest public rose garden in the desert southwest, and MCC and coffee shops on campus have found a unique way to fertilize the garden. The new “Grounds for Grounds,” project recycles coffee grounds from the Thunderbird Cafeteria and the Grounds for Thought coffee shop and uses it in the garden.
East Valley Leaders
As ASU and the community colleges continue to grow their programs, students will have access to a variety of educational opportunities that benefit the student as well as the community.
With the support of local leadership, colleges and universities can generate environmentally sensitive community leaders that can help propel the East Valley into the next generation of sustainable communities. “Students can be change agents,” Dr. Boone said. “We want them to focus on a desirable future and how to move toward it.”
Expertise in East Valley Ignites Investment in Alternative Energies
Cultures are bubbling and brewing at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus in the Southeast Valley: algal cultures, that is, the star of the biofuels industry. It’s taking place in the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation/Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology (AzCATI/LARB).
These assets, led by faculty in the College of Technology and Innovation, are producing and testing algal feedstock for the biofuels industry, as well as investigating the use of algae to remediate water, in supplements, as fertilizer and in animal feed.
It’s just one aspect of research and program offerings within the college’s alternative energy and environmental focus areas. The college also has expertise, programs and research in:
• hydrogen fuel cells,
• modeling and simulation,
• alternative energy entrepreneurship and
• wildlife and restoration ecology
The college’s success in these areas has resulted in collaborations with local and international companies and government agencies. One of the only Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory (PTL) in the U.S. originally called ASU’s Polytechnic campus home.
In 2008, ASU’s PTL attracted the interest of TUV Rheinland, the global leader in independent testing and assessment services for photovoltaic components and panels for the solar industry, which led to the TUV Rheinland PTL, LLC, partnership.
More recently, the work in AzCATI/LARB led to the formation of Heliae Development, LLC, an aviation fuel company working to bring algae-based kerosene and other products to market.
The college has proven research expertise to advance various alternative energy technologies and looks forward to serving new investment in this area in the future.