Skip to main content

School of Sustainability Graduate Culminating Experiences


Student capstone and applied projects from ASU's School of Sustainability.


Date Range
2016 2018


In Senegal, West Africa, soils are a vital resource for livelihoods and food security in smallholder farming communities. Low nitrogen (N) soils pose obvious challenges for crop production but may also, counterintuitively, promote the abundance of agricultural pests like the Senegalese locust, Oedaleus senegalensis. In this study I investigated how the abundance of locusts and grasshoppers are impacted by soil fertility through plant nutrients and how these variables change across land use types. We worked in two rural farming villages in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. Overall, there was little variation in soil properties and an agricultural landscape low in ...

Contributors
Word, Mira, Hall, Sharon, Robinson, Brian, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-10

This report describes the process by which I created a concise but comprehensive online source of information about best practices in sustainability for urban planners. The goal of the project was to provide accessible information that would help planners in ways that help them comprehend and implement sustainable solutions to common planning problems that are found throughout the United States. To create the website, I researched methods for communicating clearly to planners, took a graduate course in communicating about sustainability, and drew on information that I had compiled on sustainable solutions for transportation, economy, water, green space, and governance.

Contributors
Nassar, Cara, Pijawka, David, Kyle, Kathryn
Created Date
2017-12-01

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a non-profit organization that prides itself in “responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crises”. Through its New Roots program, IRC is using an aquaponics urban garden incubator site “to train refugee farmers in aquaponics agriculture and good business practices in the United States.” The site is an example of the conversion of brownfield into “healthfields” and sustainability and resilience initiatives including the Year of Healthy Communities Program-2017, the Maricopa County Food Systems Coalition, and other community health initiatives that involve major partners including the City of Phoenix. Entering into the next development phase, IRC ...

Contributors
Jordan, Amanda (Toohey), Dunton, Tristan
Created Date
2017-04-28

Infrastructure degradation is a chronic problem for fats, oils, and grease (FOG) pretreatment programs at wastewater utilities, which can lead to harmful bypass and high loss of a renewable energy feedstock. Not only does this exacerbate the potential for environmental harm, but not taking advantage of this resource leaves most FOG anaerobic digestion programs non-resilient and non-scalable. It is vital that there are strategies utilizing a sustainability perspective and integration of hard and soft infrastructure management principles to address this infrastructure degradation issue before there can be fully implemented zero-waste, FOG resource recovery initiatives. This applied project sought to answer ...

Contributors
Phillips, Katie, Mac, Cassandra, McNeil, David, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-27

Since the the Long Walks of the 1860’s Navajo people have wrestled with the problems of acculturation and assimilation, while trying to preserve their spiritual and cultural foundations. Though history has negatively affected Navajo wellbeing (happiness), sustainable Navajo principles and practices act as a positive counterweight. Aspiring to build the most socially and environmentally sustainable chapter house possible, the Navajo Nation’s Tonalea Chapter collaborated with our ASU research team. Two roundtable discussion with Chapter elders and members, led to a vision foundation that embodies physical, functional and environmental conditions, as well as cultural and spiritual beliefs and values. Initially, Houde’s ...

Contributors
Prosser, Paul, Cloutier, Scott
Created Date
2016-11-24

Strategies and interventions have promoted the sustainability of urban communities, but effective communication of these solutions is lacking. Documentation of current solutions tends to be dense and difficult for non-academics to understand. Sustainability scientists and practitioners need ways to meaningfully and intelligibly communicate their experiences to the lay public. This project sought to visually present sustainable community development solutions to address this communication barrier. Members of urban/community gardens in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, and Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark, were photographed, interviewed. Their feedback was then examined to assess the degree to which photographs can tell a holistic sustainability story. The ...

Contributors
Rosenstein, Rachael, Cloutier, Scott, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-11-15

"Community and Composting in Victory Acres” implemented a pilot composting program for a local neighborhood in an effort to increase community cohesion. Victory Acres is a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood located in Tempe that used to have easier access to the Escalante Community Center before the 101 freeway divided the community. Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding ECC do not have access to the Escalante Community Garden except on Community Harvest Days twice a month. The goal of the project was to reconnect broken ties to the ECG through a neighborhood composting service. Through composting, residents could directly benefit from the ...

Contributors
Kiefer, Alyssa, Cloutier, Scott, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-04-28

The City of Apache Junction is located in an environmentally and culturally rich location on the eastern edge of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. This suburb is expected to grow in the future with undeveloped land zoned for development. Despite its uniqueness, the city is challenged by a negative reputation in the region. To help improve the city's image and promote development, the City of Apache Junction has partnered with Arizona State University's Project Cities program. Through this partnership both parties work to work toward sustainable development of Apache Junction. This Culminating Experience project is one of several initiatives working for ...

Contributors
Gonzalez, Andres, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2018-04-27

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cause climate change, and if the world does not lower its GHG emissions soon, it will cause irreversible damage that will have overwhelmingly negative cascading effects on the entire planet (Mann & Kump, 2008). Up to 47% of the United States GHG emissions are the result of energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods that we consume (US EPA, 2009). The linear-economy status quo does nothing to slow down climate change because it puts resources into landfills. This project promotes a circular economy which combats climate change ...

Contributors
Velez, Daniel
Created Date
2017-04-10

Humans, throughout the world, build houses to live in and raise their families. The construction of houses and other buildings produces a large quantity of waste during this process. This waste is not necessarily biodegradable or derived from environmentally friendly materials. They often damage the environment causing pollution and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions (Tam, V. W., & Tam, C. M, 2012). This type of waste is categorized as Construction and Demolition(C&D) waste. My culminating experience focuses on C&D waste and this summary is divided into three parts. In the first part, the report covers the impact of the C&D ...

Contributors
Parthasarathy, Soumya, Breetz, Hanna
Created Date
2017-04-28

Multiple studies have reported potential risks posed by a rapid expansion of glacial lakes in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. People’s perception of such cryospheric hazards can influence their actions, beliefs, and responses to those hazards and associated risks. This paper analyzes local people’s perceptions of cryospheric hazards and risks using a social survey dataset of 138 households in the Khumbu and Pharak areas of the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. A statistical logit model of categorical household data showed a significant positive correlation with the perceptions of cryospheric risks to their livelihood sources, mainly tourism. Local people’s GLOF ...

Contributors
Sherpa, Sonam Futi, Shrestha, Milan, Boone, Christopher, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-18

Sustainable purchasing has become and increasingly salient way by which local governments can decrease their resource consumptions, while also addressing broader climate action goals. Successfully implemented sustainable purchasing policies have the potential to reduce consumption and waste, expand green purchasing markets, and catalyze spillover benefits such as financial savings. Furthermore, city-level actions have become increasingly significant as the federal government ceases critical climate research and pulls out of collaborative climate deals (i.e. The Paris Climate Accord). Using data from the Sustainable Purchasing Researching Initiative at Arizona State University’s Center for Organization Research and Design, as well as qualitative policy analyses, ...

Contributors
Burwell, Caitlin, Darnall, Nicole, Schoon, Michael
Created Date
2017-12-01

Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council is a mission driven organization that aims to help build the leaders of tomorrow. Girls in Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-pine are served through mission building programs that aim to build girls of courage confidence and character who make the world a better place (Girl Scouts, 2017). The intention of my sustainability engagement initiative was to ask staff to take part in a three-phased program that encouraged them to think differently. The initiative asked them to look at how, as an organization they can work to improve their sustainability habits. Tasking them to be just as ...

Contributors
Pontius, Cristi
Created Date
2018-04-13

Sustainable purchasing policies and e-procurement are both fast becoming popular topics across city governments in the United States. As these two relatively new initiatives meet, the relationship they share has some promising implications that have gone mostly unexplored until now. E-procurement systems have gained a reputation of being one of the most effective ways to advance sustainable purchasing goals, but the belief alone may not be enough to create director-level buy-in throughout city governments. The possible link between these two tools was identified while working with the City of Phoenix’s Office of Environmental Programs. While helping them integrate sustainability considerations ...

Contributors
Iles, Jeffrey, Darnall, Nicole
Created Date
2017-04-17

Implementing Social Sustainability solutions requires leaders to utilize a unique set of skills to engage stakeholders, connect with audiences, and a drive a project to implementation and ultimately results. Taking careful consideration for the social system that currently exists leaders must map their project and harness their individual narrative to connect fragmented pieces. The power of clearly articulated purpose coupled with passion are key drivers for implementing change. Systems thinking, and empathy help a leader integrate a project within the organization confines they are trying to work. This paper examines the design, implementation, and leadership of addressing social inequity through ...

Contributors
Wilson, Brandy
Created Date
2018-04-29

Greater cross-disciplinary collaboration between the fields of sustainability and clinical psychology could lead to improved outcomes for both. Moreover, some forms of mental disorder, such as PTSD and Moral Injury, constitute serious challenges that require the attention of sustainability’s interdisciplinary, systems-focused, solutionsoriented approach. My research frames the impacts of combat-related psychological trauma on military veterans as a sustainability problem according to criteria put forward by Arnim Wiek’s Transformational Problem Solving framework. I also provide a review of studies demonstrating the treatment benefits of agricultural therapy for veterans diagnosed with PTSD or symptoms associated with Moral Injury. I then describe my ...

Contributors
Gabriele, Adam, Hirt, Paul, Cloutier, Scott, et al.
Created Date
2018-03-27

As arid cities’ water scarcity concerns grow, so does the importance of residential water conservation. Understanding the drivers of participation in water conservation programs can aid policymakers in designing programs that achieve conservation and enrollment targets while achieving cost-effectiveness and distributional goals. In this study I identify and analyze the characteristics that drive participation in the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Water Smart Landscaping rebate program – a program that pays homeowners to replace their grass lawns with xeric landscaping – and how those characteristics change over time as rebate values and water prices vary. In order to determine what characteristics ...

Contributors
Russo, Jonathan, Abbott, Joshua, Brelsford, Christa, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-21

This project explored the potential effectiveness of sustainable initiative programs in a typical office setting. The project area was focused on the Arizona offices of Expeditors International, a global, Fortune 500, third-party logistics company. The goal of the project was to set up recycling and composting services as well as create a culture of sustainability through educational materials distributed through various means to the employees. Throughout the project, it was discovered that there can be many barriers to effective implementation of sustainable initiatives, such as resistance to change. However, this project also highlighted that with a reasonable amount of effort ...

Contributors
Sponsler, James, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-11-20

Local food systems are now facing a new set of intersecting economic, social and environmental challenges. Recurrent socio-economic and biophysical changes put the sustainability of food systems at risk. There is an urgent need to develop knowledge-based tools or metrics to assess and monitor food sustainability and to identify pathways for food security and resource conservation. Stern Produce is a small scale, family owned business that has been serving our local Arizona community for a 100 years now since 1917. Essentially, it is a food distribution company that conducts wholesale supply of agricultural farm produce, dairy products and meat. Their ...

Contributors
Pradhan, Salomi, Osgood, Kristen
Created Date
2017-11-25

Stern Produce has been a prominent agricultural produce distributor in Arizona since 1917, with three distribution locations in the state: Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff. The company is a wholesale supplier of produce, meat and dairy products. Stern Produce is seeking to create comprehensive sustainability metrics to develop sustainability baseline information on their operations. This project, in partnership with Stern Produce’s Sustainability Coordinator, provides a final report that describes the sustainability indicators and metrics, provides recommendations for future growth, and highlights immediate areas of impact using the Hart and Milstein’s Sustainable Value Framework (2003). Under the three tenets of people, earth ...

Contributors
Fernandes, Nagelle, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-04-28