More than half of all people live in cities, a number expected to rise to 60 percent by 2050, according to the United Nations. That means that how we build and manage our urban areas is “one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century,” wrote John Wilmoth, director of the United Nations Population Division, in a recent report.
It’s not surprising, then, that the University of Minnesota has recognized the need to focus on cities in its recently released strategic plan detailing the first of a series of grand challenges it aims to address over the next 10 years: cultivating a sustainable, healthy, secure food system; advancing industry while conserving the environment and addressing climate change; and building vibrant communities that enhance human potential and collective well-being in a diverse and changing world. Continue reading
If you ever thought a young adult is too inexperienced to make a difference, you haven’t met the participants in the Institute on the Environment’s Acara impact entrepreneurship program.
Through Acara, students from colleges across the University of Minnesota build practical business skills and global experiences while simultaneously launching impactful entrepreneurial ventures aimed at addressing global grand challenges. They are motivated to change the world for the better, and many who participate in the program go on to do so during their careers. Continue reading
Student-run impact ventures focused on solar-powered microgrids for rural India and environmentally friendly feminine hygiene products have been selected Gold Level winners of the 2015 Acara Challenge, a competition held by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management. The top-level teams and other awardees will have the opportunity and resources to further develop their innovative business solutions for environmental and social challenges. Continue reading
Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Laura Musacchio, associate professor in the College of Design. Let the conversation begin!
How does your work fit into the transdisciplinary framework of IonE?
With my IonE resident fellowship, I am working on how to enhance theory-to-practice integration of landscape stewardship and ecosystem services. There is a vast storehouse of academic knowledge that is waiting to be translated to real-world problems in professional practice. It is a key opportunity to enhance knowledge and action across the numerous disciplines at universities. However, one of the challenges is the multiple steps needed to decode the language of scientific research into the language of professional application and then back again.
Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Jonee Kulman Brigham, a sustainable design program faculty member in the College of Design and visiting scholar in the College of Education and Human Development. Let the conversation begin!
Which of your projects relates to the transdisciplinary mission of IonE?
Through my fellowship at IonE, I’m working on a project called “River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi.” This project is taking place at River’s Edge Academy Charter Environmental High School, where I am collaborating with teachers, staff and students on a yearlong art-led environmental exploration of water through their school, tracing the flows to the Mississippi River both upstream and downstream. With the assistance of project partner U-Spatial, students will use online mapping software (ArcGIS online) to share their learning about the water cycle and increase public awareness. Community contributors include the National Park Service, St. Paul Regional Water Services, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, the Lower Mississippi River Watershed Management Organization and others. You can read more about it on the River Journey blog. Continue reading
A 2014 Acara Challenge winner is using his award to pilot his start-up in Uganda. Brice Aarrestad, a student in the College of Design, won the Acara Challenge International Bronze Award for his venture, Help Desk, which aims to address three major issues Aarrestad saw in Uganda: inadequately furnished schools, high unemployment and deforestation. By exporting high-quality, artisan-made furniture to America, he hopes to provide job training and stable employment, support sustainably sourced materials, and provide resources to schools in need.
The Acara Challenge is a competition held each year by IonE’s Acara program to spur start-ups with creative, sustainable solutions that can have impact in the world.
Read more about Help Desk’s work in Uganda.
Banner photo: Help Desk’s Strap Bench prototype on the bank of the River Nile in Jinja, Uganda, by Brice Aarrestad.
With its innovative work to encourage impact entrepreneurship around the world,we’ve always had a hunch the Acara program is something special. That hunch got some solid affirmation recently when Acara won the C. Eugene Allen Award for Innovative International Initiatives (III Award) from the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance. The award recognizes faculty and staff who internationalize their work or the work of their department. The recipients receive an award trophy and a $2,500 professional development or program assistance stipend.
Plenty of folks were out enjoying the overdue warmth of the spring sunshine on Earth Day yesterday — appropriate weather and occasion for a TV news spot highlighting an IonE-supported study at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on how different landscapes affect local temperatures. The study is part of a project on the urban heat island effect, in which buildings and other urban infrastructure absorb and radiate the sun’s heat, causing cities to be relatively warmer than their rural neighbors. Continue reading
Students from across the University of Minnesota will vie for top honors in the 3rd annual Sustainability Symposium this Friday, April 11, 1:30-5:00 p.m. at Institute on the Environment.
Undergraduate, graduate and professional students from such diverse programs as civil and mechanical engineering, psychology, architecture, music, finance, chemistry, animal science and more will present past and current projects, describing how their work supports or advances sustainability goals.
This year’s Sustainability Symposium kicks off with a keynote address from Chuck Bennett, former vice president of Earth & community care at Aveda Corporation. Bennett, whose career spans more than two decades of corporate citizenship advocacy, will talk about “leading from every chair,” the idea that everyone–no matter their level of expertise or chosen discipline–has important contributions and must be willing to engage in developing sustainability solutions if we are to be successful.
For more information about the event, visit www.susteducation.umn.edu/symposium2014.
Photo: poster competition, Sustainability Symposium 2013, courtesy of Madeline Geifer
The community of North St. Paul is working toward some ambitious goals with the help of University of Minnesota faculty and students, including attracting more residents and visitors Continue reading
A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China. Continue reading
What do eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces have in Common? The Great Lakes! Recently, Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now Connect invited Institute on the Environment resident fellow Stephen Polasky to join a panel of experts to talk about the importance of investing in natural environments to enhance the quality of the Great Lakes.
It’s easy to understand that clean water is important for drinking, fisheries, irrigation, recreation and other benefits that people reap from the Great Lakes. What may not be as obvious is the effect that coastal and upland habitats have on water quality. Continue reading
Spirited voices mixed with the scent of Indian spices in The Commons: Meeting and Art Space at Institute on the Environment last Monday night. Dozens of Acara students, mentors and investors were gathered for a showcase of the 2012-13 Acara Challenge contestants.
Attendees supped on fare from Gandhi Mahal and mingled with the young entrepreneurs before settling in for brief presentations on seven start-ups developed by Acara alumni. The goal of each business – in addition to viability and profit – is to address a social or environmental issue at home or abroad. Continue reading
On Monday, September 9, two former Institute on the Environment-affiliated students celebrated a major victory. Eric Sannerud and Ally Czechowicz were on the team that won the Forever St. Paul Challenge, a million-dollar prize for the best idea to uplift a St. Paul community.
Tracy Sides, who holds a Ph.D. in public health from the University of Minnesota, came up with the winning idea to build the Urban Oasis, transforming an existing structure in a city park into a venue connecting food, nature and culture. Continue reading
In the early years of the new millennium, more than 1,000 worldwide experts compiled a report about the condition of Earth’s ecological systems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment findings “provide a state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide (such as clean water, food, forest products, flood control and natural resources) and the options to restore, conserve or enhance the sustainable use of ecosystems,” according to the MA website.
The next step, says Laura Musacchio, is to translate the information for nonscientists, to be applied by designers and planners for the enhancement of urban environments.
Musacchio, an IonE resident fellow and associate professor of landscape architecture in the College of Design, assert that this type of translation is a specialized skill she calls “knowledge brokering.” A knowledge broker is a “cross-pollinator of ideas among professionals from different disciplines,” she explained at the May 1 Frontiers in the Environment seminar. Continue reading
If you’re a fan of IonE’s Momentum magazine, we have some good news for you: Momentum is no more.
Why good news? Because Momentum is now Ensia, an innovative online and print magazine and event series that’s out to change the world. Reaching across sectors, disciplines, political persuasions and continents, Ensia aims to provide people who have the power to shape new solutions to environmental grand challenges with the innovative ideas, information and inspiration they need to do so.
Writing term papers, doing problem sets … it’s easy for college students to wonder whether what they do really matters. But members of 10 University of Minnesota classes last fall had no question at all about the relevance of their work. Inaugural participants in the University’s new Resilient Communities Project, they spent their semester helping solve very real sustainability challenges for the city of Minnetonka. Continue reading