Letter to the Editor: ASU is doing more to go green than you think

The ASU vice president of University Business Services and University Sustainability Operations officer rebuts SPM editor-in-chief Molly Stellino's investigation into ASU's sustainability goals

The State Press’ Sept. 6, 2019, article titled “ASU abandoned most of its operational sustainability goals” misreports facts and excludes necessary context, painting a completely inaccurate picture of the University’s sustainability efforts. 

The thesis of the article is that ASU has reneged on the promises made to the community, and, arguably, the globe, by quietly pulling back from its efforts around sustainability. That would be quite a story, if there were any evidence to support it. But there is not.

This article resorted to excluding context and distorting facts to reach The State Press’ predetermined conclusion.

Here is the truth: Over a two-year period between 2016 and 2018, ASU updated and expanded its sustainability goals from four to eight and did so transparently.

The updated goals are more rigorous, measurable and flexible. They allow for midcourse adjustments to take advantage of the latest science and best practices in the sustainability field, which is constantly figuring out ways to operate better. 

The new goals consider what others are doing as well; sustainability efforts cannot and should not be implemented in isolation from the community around us.

Here’s one example: ASU leaders considered building a water reclamation plant to recycle the University’s wastewater. With more research, it soon became apparent that the region has ample capacity to recycle wastewater, including the waste coming out of ASU. 

Anything the University built would have been redundant. Far from being an “abandonment” of our wastewater recycling goal, ASU made a smart, and fairly obvious, decision to redirect resources to other sustainability needs. 

But the elimination of that proposed project from the ASU list of sustainability goals is used in this story as an example of some sort of retreat.

This kind of information cherry-picking to fit a predetermined narrative is pervasive throughout the article.

That is a shame, because journalism, properly practiced, is one of the most important institutions we have in this country. 

Fortunately for the entire ASU community, The State Press rarely errs this badly.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. This letter to the editor was submitted by Nichol Luoma, ASU Vice President of University Business Services and University Sustainability Operations Officer.

Reach the author at Nichol.Luoma@asu.edu.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

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