All posts by Sam Tabory


LEADERSHIP: SHCN Director Ramaswami Joins Princeton Faculty, Leads New India Center

August 12, 2019

The  director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network (SHCN), Anu Ramaswami, has joined the faculty of Princeton University as of August 1, 2019. She has been named the inaugural director of the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, a professor of Indian studies,  a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and a professor of the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Dr. Ramaswami will continue to lead SHCN from Princeton while maintaining faculty affiliation status with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she was previously a professor and chair of the science technology, and environmental policy program from 2012-2019. Please see a full announcement of Dr. Ramaswami’s new position below.

The following post was originally published by Pooja Makhinjani for the Princeton Environmental Institute. See the original post here

Anu Ramaswami, an interdisciplinary environmental engineer who is recognized as a pioneer and leader on the topic of sustainable urban systems, has been named a Princeton University professor of India studies, civil and environmental engineering, and the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), as well as the inaugural director of the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India. She will assume her new duties Aug. 1.

The M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, established in 2018 and part of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), will bring together scholars and students from all disciplines to broadly explore contemporary India, including its economy, politics and culture under Ramaswami’s aegis. Ramaswami  also will build a broadly multidisciplinary anchor program within the center focused on urbanization, innovation and global India.

“The way in which India grows and builds her future cities will not only impact human health and well-being within India’s cities, but also affect people and the environment at regional and planetary scales,” said Ramaswami, who comes to Princeton from the University of Minnesota. “Connecting urban sustainability research — of my own group and others at Princeton — with new partnerships in India developed through the center can potentially transform India’s urbanization trajectory, helping build vibrant, inclusive, sustainable and resilient cities. This all has incredible potential to benefit the some 880 million people who will be living in urban India by 2050, while also solving planetary challenges like climate change.

“The potential for such far-reaching impact is very exciting and compelling,” she added. “Understanding and helping in the effort to shape this transformation sustainably will require sophisticated interdisciplinary, systems-oriented, and community- and policy-engaged efforts that the center will be well positioned to advance.”

“Dr. Ramaswami’s scholarship and teaching will contribute tremendously to our activities in urban environments, food and the environment, carbon mitigation and related topics,” said PEI Director Michael Celia, the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “She also will provide major contributions to our efforts to expand our collaborations internationally, as well as across the Princeton campus, especially with our colleagues in civil and environmental engineering and at PIIRS.”

“Few issues confronting India and the rest of the globe are of greater importance than devising sustainable cities — India’s 470 million urbanites are expected to grow to, perhaps, 880 million in our lifetime — and Dr. Ramaswami is the world’s leading scholar on this challenge,” said Stephen Kotkin, the John P. Birkelund ’52 Professor in History and International Affairs and director of PIIRS. “We welcome her as the perfect leader for our center.”

“Dr. Ramaswami is recognized as a pioneer and leading research scholar on the topic of sustainable urban systems,” said Catherine Peters, department chair and professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Program in Geological Engineering. “Her research has profoundly influenced how city governments in the United States, India, China and elsewhere plan for a sustainable future. Her approach is highly interdisciplinary, combining environmental engineering with industrial ecology, social sciences and sustainability. Her transdisciplinary vision will provide intellectual strengths to the engineering school’s urban initiative, The Metropolis Project. In particular, her focus on rapid urbanization in India and China adds an important international perspective to the project. And her efforts to link social science and human behavior in urban systems offer opportunities to strengthen PEI’s efforts in environmental humanities.”

Ramaswami is unlike anyone on the civil and environmental engineering faculty, Peters said, noting that one colleague commented how, in a department of 16 violinists, she is a pianist. “I particularly like this analogy,” said Peters. “Because pianists can represent the entire orchestra, which strikes me as the right way to characterize Dr. Ramaswami.”

“We are excited that the new center will enhance both the study of India on the Princeton campus and the role of India as a nexus for addressing fundamental issues that encompass the entire globe,” said incoming University trustee Sumir Chadha of Princeton’s Class of 1993, whose gift established the M.S. Chadha Center and for whose grandfather the center is named.

Additional generous support from other Princeton alumni has also greatly strengthened the University’s ability to study India and its increasing impact on the world. These include a gift from Sanjay Swani, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1987, and his wife, Preeti, to endow a professorship in India studies and establish a global seminar that will take a group of students to India in the summer.

“That the center is named in honor of a former director general of the Health Services of India makes a focus on developing sustainable, healthy, resilient and inclusive cities in India all the more fitting,” Ramaswami said.

Ramaswami has been the Charles M. Denny Jr. Chair Professor of Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota since 2012. She is a member of the UN Environment’s International Resource Panel and the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE), and has been elected chair of the 2020 Gordon Research Conference on Industrial Ecology. She received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, and her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Ramaswami is scheduled to speak at PEI Dec. 3 as part of the Fall 2019 PEI Faculty Seminar Series.



POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SHC Researchers Collaborate on City-Wide Food Action Plan in Minneapolis

April 19, 2019

SHCN Director Anu Ramaswami and Innovation Manager Dana Boyer are bringing urban food systems research they are leading at the University of Minnesota to a city-wide, multi-stakeholder food policy action planning process in Minneapolis. See the full story below.

The following post was originally published in the Minnesota Daily by  Emma Dill. See the original article here

University researchers help shape citywide food action plan

The new policy will aim to make the Minneapolis food system more sustainable and equitable.

Community members and University of Minnesota researchers are helping the City of Minneapolis develop a more sustainable food system.

Planning efforts for the Minneapolis Food Action Plan kicked off Wednesday at a forum hosted by Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, a committee that represents the City on food-related issues. The action plan, which will be drafted over the next 18 months, will outline goals to improve the Minneapolis food system, including agricultural production, retail and food waste.

The action plan aims to help Minneapolis achieve sustainability goals outlined in the 2013 Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. Minneapolis signed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact in 2017.

Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council Local Food Policy Coordinator Tamara Downs Schwei said the new plan aims to fill food policy gaps in the City’s climate plan. The policy will also help keep Minneapolis accountable to its sustainability goals, Downs Schwei said.

“There’s a number of planning documents and aspirational commitments we made, but what we now need is the concrete and measurable framework and strategies and metrics to articulate our … food system actions,” she said.

Kim Havey, the director of the City’s Sustainability Office, emphasized the importance of food in reaching citywide sustainability goals.

“Really when it comes down to sustainability, the buildings that we have, the cars that we drive are not the things that day-to-day are really affecting our livability and sustainability as an individual,” Havey said at the forum. “It’s really about our food systems — how we get our food systems, what we’re eating.”

Development of the food plan will combine research with community input and will occur every other month during food council meetings. Anu Ramaswami, a University professor of science, technology and environmental policy, will collaborate with the Council to draft the plan.

Two researchers present research to a community forum audience.
SHCN Director Anu Ramaswami speaks at the community food forum as part of the food policy action planning process. Also pictured is SHCN Innovation Manager Dana Boyer. Photo Credit: Graham Ambrose

Ramaswami is the director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, which promotes urban sustainability across various sectors, including food systems. She said the citywide focus on the food system is a “pioneering effort” because many plans examine food production in rural agricultural areas.

“This [idea] that cities can change the whole system because we are on the consuming end is rather radical,” Ramaswami said. “We’ve shown through numbers that if we change how we consume things, we can really change the whole system.”

Dana Boyer, manager of research and innovation products at the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, said the food plan will take a comprehensive approach, examining food production, consumption, waste and equity.

“The approach of the plan is that we’re looking at the whole system. It’s not selective in saying that this part is more important than this part,” Boyer said.

The plan will also study ways to promote social justice in healthy food access and urban farming efforts. Certain areas of the city, including areas around the University, were identified by the United States Department of Agriculture as areas with limited food access.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told forum attendees food justice is a key component of of the City’s sustainability goals.

“You shouldn’t need to drive a mile and a half to then spend $2.50 on an apple. That apple should be in the community,” Frey said. “You should have accessible, affordable and natural food … and I think that’s a big part of what we’re pushing for right now.”


POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SHC Director Presents at First Ever UN Environment Assembly Cities Summit

March 25, 2019

The UN Environment Programme and UN Habitat hosted the first-ever Cities Summit at the 4th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)  in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month. SHCN Director, Anu Ramaswami, was in attendance to present during a plenary session on the future of integrated urban infrastructure systems.

The summit focused broadly on innovation for livable and sustainable cities,  approaching the discussion with a view toward the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production).

Major topics of discussion included: integrated participatory planning, technical and institutional urban systems integration, data needs for informed urban systems decision making, national resources for urban systems, private sector engagement and public-private-partnerships, finance innovation, circular development, and community engagement for social equity.

A detailed outcome document from the Cities Summit can be accessed here.

Framing language from the first-ever Cities Summit at UNEA.

The event was organized in collaboration with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Cities Alliance, the Global Task Force for Local and Regional Governments, and United Cities and Local Governments. Participants in the Cities Summit included representatives from local and regional government, academia, industry, international finance institutions and multi-lateral agencies. The original agenda for the summit can be accessed here.

Broadly, UNEA is an annual convening attended by the highest-level environmental decision makers globally. Ramaswami  attended UNEA4 in her role as a member of the International Resource Panel.


NEW STUDY: In East Harlem, Community Gardens Provide More Than Food

January 10, 2019

SHCN faculty researcher Ben Orlove, of Columbia University, is a co-author of a new study of 35 community gardens in East Harlem considering questions of motivation and social value. Read the post below to learn more.

The following post is excerpted and condensed from a larger piece written by Phebe Pierson originally published on State of the Planet, a blog of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Access the full post here

The original study was published in the journal, Landscape and Urban Planning. Access the full article here

En un jardín crecen más cosas que las que siembra el jardinero.”
“In a garden more things grow than what the gardener sows.”

Community gardens have long been a part of New York City’s alternative spaces. But many of us may take the gardens for granted, unaware of their rich history and of the vast benefits they bring to our communities and the city as a whole. Walking by a community garden in your neighborhood and peeking through the gate, you may recognize it as a green space but not understand it as an anchoring presence in your community.

Researchers at the Earth Institute recently published a paper that investigates the environmental and social dimensions of community gardens in East Harlem. The study was conducted by Nada Petrovic, Troy Simpson, and Ben Orlove, all from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at Columbia University, and Brian Dowd-Uribe of the University of San Francisco. Orlove, who is one of the directors of CRED, says the group wanted to study “what motivates people to engage in green infrastructure—to use it, support it, or maintain it.”

Community gardens help to combat the heat island effect of the city, and they absorb water during weather events to lessen flooding in a city filled with impervious pavement. Simpson says the gardens are also “fascinating physical symbols of people creating value and different forms of community in the areas where they live. [This study] was an opportunity to understand how people relate to the built environment and how it’s changing all the time.”

The study

The researchers investigated the “basic characteristics” of 35 gardens in East Harlem, and the extent to which these characteristics correlated with the gardeners’ feelings about the gardens, particularly their attachment to them. During the summer of 2012, the researchers visited each of the 35 gardens, mapping them and inventorying things like trees, open space, garden beds, seating options, and structures like casitas or gazebos. Simpson recalls “riding bikes around East Harlem and getting to know the gardeners and getting a sense of the whole neighborhood.” The inventories took time— about 1.5 hours each—and sometimes required multiple visits, so the researchers got to know the gardens and communities well.

To collect social data for the study, the team interviewed gardeners in 16 of the gardens, with up to four gardeners interviewed per interview garden. During the interviews, the team assessed members’ feelings about their gardens. They investigated the relationship between place attachment—or the positive emotional bond that develops between individuals and their environment—and the various attributes of the gardens.

A community garden in East Harlem. Photo Credit: Troy Simpson

The findings

In the paper, the team writes that “It is immediately clear from the interview data that the gardens are deeply significant spaces to their members.” The vast majority of gardeners agreed with statements such as, “I am satisfied with the garden,” and “The garden means a lot to me.” Gardeners also indicated that their gardens increase their pride in the neighborhood and make them less likely to move away.

However, almost half of the gardeners reported feeling insecure about the future of their gardens; the researchers noted that this perspective was especially noticeable among members of gardens managed by HPD that could be developed by the city at some point. Annel Cabrera-Marus of NYRP says that with the addition of the 2ndAvenue subway line, there’s a “pending sensation that there are more things coming” to the neighborhood.

The researchers also investigated gardeners’ motivations for participating in their gardens. While they learned that growing food is one of the primary motivations, most gardeners grow only enough food for a few meals a week. The yield appears not to matter, though; the researchers write that, “many garden members indicated that growing food gives them a sense of ownership, connection, and responsibility to the garden,” regardless of the size of their harvests.

The researchers also found that community gardens play a central role in the social lives of their members. Most gardeners that were interviewed had attended at least one event held at the garden in the last month, and during field visits the researchers encountered or were told about barbecues, birthday parties, permaculture classes, dominoes games, and markets. As such, gardeners reported that they know their neighbors better because of their gardens and that they socialize with people they may not see otherwise.

A community garden in East Harlem. Photo Credit: Troy Simpson

What does it mean?

One of the takeaways of the study is that growing produce is very important to the gardeners—but the quantity of produce is not. Kenneth Williams, GreenThumb outreach coordinator in East Harlem, says this aligns with his experiences. “When we pursue growing food, what we physically produce is a [by]product of the overall outcome we seek to achieve: healthier lives, self-reliance, autonomy, etc. By the time we accomplish growing that food and reflect on that process, we discover the various milestones we had, not only with what we physically grew, but also within ourselves.”

Cabrera-Marus notes that food is strongly tied to people’s sense of home and belonging. In immigrant communities, gardens can provide a space to put literal roots down and grow plants and herbs from a gardener’s country of origin; Cabrera-Marus points out the popularity of the herb papalo in gardens with Mexican gardeners by way of example. “People often lose sight of what food means to new Americans. We all come from cultures that grow food, and the herbs can connect you back to that,” she says. One of the gardeners interviewed in the study commented that, “I never thought it was possible to have a piece of land in the middle of the city. It reminds me of my home in rural Puebla, Mexico.”

Orlove notes that “The environmental benefits that matter to many planners and policy makers are different from the social benefits that matter most to the gardeners.” Community gardens are important to the health of the whole city, and yet the benefits come out of the labor and love of relatively few dedicated members.

These findings could inform the development of more, stronger community gardens, and possibly other green spaces, in the future. The researchers point out that policies made supporting community gardens focus almost exclusively on promoting health and environmental benefits because those are easy to quantify. Of course those benefits are valuable, but policies of that type are more likely to succeed if they take into consideration what is important to community gardeners, such as healthy community ties, land security, and agency over decision-making.

Access the full story here


CONVENING: SHC Participates in International Workshops to Advance Science of Co-production

December 18, 2018

Sustainable Healthy Cities (SHC) Network research manager Sam Tabory recently participated in two workshops on the topic of co-production for knowledge and research advancement with practice and policy communities.

The first workshop explored co-production and co-creation for urban transitions and was hosted by the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions. The second workshop considered new directions in academic-practitioner engagement in public management and administration research and was hosted jointly by the University of Barcelona, the University of California Santa Barbra, and University College London.

Professor Anu Ramaswami of the University of Minnesota, who leads the SHC Network, was a co-author on both of the papers presented at these workshops which are expected to lead to special issue publications. Professor Richard Feiock of Florida State University, who co-directs the SHC Network, is a co-author on the paper exploring directions in academic-practitioner research collaborations.

Co-production, co-creation and academic-practitioner collaborations are emerging as particularly important topics among researchers seeking to generate actionable, relevant, and credible science on complex topics that intersect with policy and practice arenas. The SHC Network  actively leverages co-produced science-to-action approaches in its interdisciplinary work on sustainable urban infrastructure transitions, but it also seeks to directly contribute to an emerging science of co-production unto itself.

SHC researchers and city practitioners engaged in a panel discussion at the network’s annual meeting in August 2017. 


CONVENING: Science-Policy Dialogue on Metrics for Equity and Livability in Sustainable Cities

October 26, 2018

The Sustainable Healthy Cities (SHC) Network hosted a workshop October 16-17, 2018 with twenty-five city and policy partners to discuss concepts and metrics for livability and equity in sustainable cities. The workshop was titled “How Do We Define Equity and Livability for Sustainable Cities? A Joint Science-Policy Dialogue on Concepts and Metrics.”

Participants working in small group sessions at the science-policy dialogue discussing concepts of livability and equity in sustainable cities.
Small group working sessions from the science-policy dialogue. Photo Credit: Sustainable Healthy Cities Network


Faculty from the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota jointly hosted the workshop in Tallahassee, FL. Representatives from city and policy organizations across the United States joined the dialogue alongside SHC researchers to consider key questions, including:

  • How do we define and measure equity and livability in cities in the context of sustainable social and infrastructural systems?
  • How do we understand equity and livability’s conceptual relationships with environment, health, and wellbeing?
  • What is the science of these interactions? Are there new data sets and methods that can help cities track these outcomes?

Highlights from the two day event included working sessions to consider definitions for intermediate pathways and final outcomes relevant to considerations of livability and equity in cities, discussions of current trends in data collection and management for tracking equity outcomes including a consideration of the need for fine-scale data and potential citizen science contributions, and future planning for a potential equity-focused measurement pilot in select partner cities.

A group photo with dialogue participants.
Group photo with dialogue participants. Photo Credit: Portia Campos, Florida State University 


The conversations were informed by the diverse operational backgrounds of workshop participants spanning environmental protection, local food policy, public health, resilience planning, transportation and mobility services, electric utility operations, and more.

Represented organizations included the cities of Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Fort Collins, Minneapolis, New York City, St. Paul, Tallahassee, and Urbana. Additionally, Detroit Future City, Leon County (FL), HealthPartners, and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) were also represented.


The workshop was supported with funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation, award No. 1444745, project title “Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities.”


NEW STUDY: Can Local Food Production Meet Household Demand? A Look at 377 US Metros

August 13, 2018

Many US metro areas already have capacity today to be fully self-sufficient for key food items. What does this mean for urban agriculture and the eat-local movement?

A new study from the University of Minnesota, recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, evaluated current local capacity of 377 US metro areas to meet household demand for four specific food items- milk/dairy, eggs, fruit and vegetables through local agriculture in and around urban areas.   Uniquely, the study measured the capacity for local agriculture today to meet both direct demand for these items (i.e., eggs, eaten as scrambled eggs and tomato eaten directly in a salad), as well as the embodied or indirect agrifood demand (i.e., eggs present in bread or pasta, and tomatoes in pasta sauce). For example, while a typical US household may consume 159 lbs pf dairy per year, it would consume almost four times as much (615 lbs) in raw milk equivalents when we look at all the food we eat that includes butter, cheese, yogurt and milk in a variety of food items.

Map depicting whether metro areas are net dairy importers, net dairy exporters or somewhere in between. A view of 377 US metros.
A view of local dairy production across 377 US metropolitan statistical areas, from net importer to net exporter. Nixon. P. & A. Ramaswami. (2018). Assessing Current Local Capacity for Agrifood Production to meet Household Demand: Analyzing Select Food Commodities across 377 US Metropolitan Areas. Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06462

Even when considering the larger direct-plus-embodied demand for these agrifood items, the study found that about one in five (20%) of all US Metro Areas already has enough urban agriculture occurring within its boundary to be fully self-reliant in milk and egg requirements, evaluated on an annual basis. About one in ten (10%) of all US Metro areas already have capacity to fully provide their homes with their fruit and vegetable requirements across the diet. These self-reliant metro areas are areas of high agricultural production of these items.  For other urban areas that need to import agrifood, the median local capacity is about 5% – meaning most of these urban areas can supply about 5% of the full diet demand for items such as eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

When agriculture up to a radius of 100 miles outside urban metro areas is also included, the study found that the proportion of self-sufficient metros increases significantly to 53%, 67%, 18%, and 41% being capable, today, of meeting the full direct plus-embodied needs of their households of dairy-equivalents, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, respectively.

Further, if one focuses on just the fresh/direct demand portion of these items that are minimally processed, i.e. fluid milk, fresh eggs, as well as unprocessed apples and tomatoes, the study finds that even greater numbers of metropolitan areas already have capacity for self-reliance, with 69% self-sufficient in their direct fluid milk consumption, 85% self-sufficient in their unprocessed egg consumption, and 34% and 81% self-sufficient in fresh apple and tomato demand respectively.

These data mean that there is already substantial agriculture already happening in and around several metro regions, sufficient to support at least a significant chunk if not all household demand for these specific agrifood items. This is a new and significant finding given that the public media highlight international cities’ capacity for self-reliance, such as Singapore and Shanghai.

“Our study shows the issue is not that we lack agricultural production for these select items in and around US metro areas, but that our present-day supply chains may not be connecting local production and local demand”, says Peter Nixon, a PhD student in bioproducts and biosystems engineering who worked on this study.

Indeed, the results suggest that we should think carefully about what specific purposes increasing local agriculture in and around cities will serve – is it to boost the local economy, or to serve under-served communities?  Other benefits such as heat island mitigation, social cohesion and improved quality of life from engaging with food and nature in cities, can also play a big role.

“It is really important to assess these co-benefits and understand who will benefit from increasing urban agriculture in cities, and how,” says Professor Anu Ramaswami, co-author and advisor on this study, “Our dataset can help individual urban areas understand their own particular situation with respect to production-demand for food as a starting point for further food systems planning.”


POLICY ENGAGEMENT: Tracking Urban-to-Global SDG Infrastructure Linkages at UN High Level Political Forum

June 25, 2018

The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, together with the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, will host a side event at the 2018 United Nations High Level Political Forum on  Sustainable Development. The event is titled Metrics for Tracking Urban-to-Global SDG Infrastructure Linkages: Science-to-Policy Listening Session on Knowledge Needs and Practice Constraints.”

The event will be held Monday July 9th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm  at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. If you are interested in attending, please register here.

Globally, infrastructure and food supply sectors—sectors that provide energy, water, food, buildings, transportation-communication, waste management services, and public spaces in human settlements—influence our ability to attain almost all of the SDGs. In the context of urban areas, these sectors shape a number of sustainability outcomes within urban boundaries, as indicated in the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11. While a perspective focused on cities’ geographic jurisdictions is helpful to a certain extent for individual cities wishing to advance human and environmental wellbeing, the larger implications of urbanization for planetary sustainability require a view that looks at cities as part of larger systems.

Understanding the full, systemic set of SDG linkages across infrastructure and food sectors from a cross-scale perspective can advance sustainability both locally within cities, as well as regionally and globally.

From a practice perspective, developing transboundary metrics that complement metrics purely focused within a city’s boundary, raises both opportunities and challenges. The objective of this event is to generate an open dialogue about technical best practices, as well as policy and practice opportunities and constraints, for tracking urban-to-global linkages between urban infrastructure/food system choices and SDGs that affect resource use, the economy, inequality, the environment, human health and wellbeing, and the climate.

This session will discuss locally as well as cross-scale relevant metrics for tracking urban sustainability actions focusing on four grounded topic areas that are emblematic of simultaneously local and transboundary challenges:

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions
  2. Air pollution
  3. Water stress
  4. Land expansion and consumption

The goal of the session is to better understand opportunities and constraints in mainstreaming transboundary SDG-infrastructure linkages and concepts as guides for practice, public investment, and policymaking.

For additional information, please contact 


CONVENING: SHC Researchers Attend Prestigious 2018 Industrial Ecology Gordon Research Conference; Focus on Sustainable Development Goals

June 13, 2018

Sustainable Healthy Cities (SHC) researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan attended the 2018 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) and Gordon Research Seminar for Industrial Ecology, held May 19th to the 25th, 2018 in Les Diablerets, Switzerland.

The convening’s theme this year was centered on “The Role of Industrial Ecology in Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals”. The GRC specializes in bringing together international research communities to discuss frontier research in the biological, chemical, physical and engineering sciences. The GRC Industrial Ecology community used this year’s convening to “investigate the newest insights on how Industrial Ecology can contribute to achieving the SDGs,” particularly focusing on “methods and approaches for assessing achievements and exploring synergies and tradeoffs between SDGs.”

SHCN researchers pose for a group photo at the 2018 GRC on Industrial Ecology, swiss alps in the backgroud. Clockwise: SHCN post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng, SHCN director Anu Ramaswami, SHCN post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, and SHCN post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong.
Clockwise: SHCN post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng, SHCN director Anu Ramaswami, SHCN post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, and SHCN post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong.

Two hundred attendees spent the week discussing topics organized within the themes of the 17 SDGs, and how the field of industrial ecology can aid in achieving these goals. SDG 11 directly addresses sustainable cities and communities, while many additional SDGs are directly shaped by actions and activities that are concentrated in urban areas, such as SDG 9 focused on industry and infrastructure, SDG 12 focused on responsible consumption and production, or SDG 13 focused on climate action.

Anu Ramaswami, SHC Network Director and professor of public affairs and bio-systems engineering at the University of Minnesota, served as this year’s conference co-chair. She will chair the next GRC Industrial Ecology Conference, which will be hosted in the United States in 2020. Stefanie Hellwig of ETH Zurich chaired this year’s conference.

Three SHC Network post-doctoral researchers from the University of Minnesota—Dana Boyer, Kangkang Tong, and Lin Zeng—as well as SHC Network faculty researcher Josh Newell of the University of Michigan, also participated in the conference and seminar.

Post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, presented work on, “Diversity of food flows, diets, supply chains and environmental impacts of nine Indian cities.”

Post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong presented work on, “Enabling Factors for Low-carbon Transitions of City-Wide District Energy Systems in the U.S.: Linkage with Multiple UN-SDGs.”

And post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng presented work answering the question, “What is the land use footprint of urban and rural residents in the USA?”

The U.S. National Science Foundation was contributing sponsor to the 2018 Industrial Ecology GRC.


CONVENING: SHC Hosts Successful Internal Research Retreat and External Advisory Committee Meeting

May 21, 2018

May 9th through 11th , the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network  (SHC) hosted a successful internal research planning retreat as well as an annual meeting of its external advisory committee.

More than 60 researchers from across the Network’s eight institutions spent two days in intensive planning sessions to align future research plans around both physical infrastructure modeling efforts as well as social actors and governance studies of diverse infrastructure transitions.

Following two days of internal research planning, the Network hosted its external advisory committee—comprised of academic, industry and policy representatives—for an evening research poster session and a subsequent daylong meeting to consider future strategic planning efforts for the network.

During the evening research poster session, the external advisory committee engaged directly with graduate and post-graduate researchers to learn about the latest research findings from across the network. Committee members, as well as Network faculty members, served as judges for the poster session, awarding top poster prizes in the following four categories:

Theme 1- Measurement of Infrastructure-Related Environment, Health, and Wellbeing Outcomes

  • Title: Changes in Air Pollution Exposure Disparities by Race-Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status: Outdoor Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the United States, 2000-2010.
  • Authors: Lara Clark, Dylan Millet, Julian Marshall
  • Institutions: University of Washington, University of Minnesota

Physical Modeling Group 1- Energy, Transportation, and Waste Resource Recovery

  • Title: Production of Platform Chemicals from Urban Organic Waste Streams Using a Novel Anaerobic Dynamic Membrane System
  • Authors:  Xavier Fonoll, Shilva Shrestha, Gislhain Djessi Tchouty, Brittany Colcord, Lutgarde Raskin
  • Institutions: University of Michigan

Physical Modeling Group 2- Green Infrastructure, Urban Food Systems, and Stormwater

  • Title: Diversity of food flows, diets, supply chains and environmental impacts of nine Indian cities
  • Authors: Dana Boyer, Jatin Sarkar, Anu Ramaswami
  • Institution: University of Minnesota

Social Actors and Governance- Individual Motivations and Behavior Change, Enterprise Strategy, and Institutional Configurations

  • Title: Social Actors Motivations in Urban Food System: Consumer and Producer Perspectives
  • Authors: Graham Ambrose, Rachel Kosse, Anu Ramaswami
  • Institution: University of Minnesota

Following the evening poster session, the external advisory committee spent the next day discussing strategies around research alignment for high impact science advancement, external partner engagement, and science-to-policy research translation and communication efforts. The committee also met privately to prepare its annual evaluation of the Network, which will be submitted to the National Science Foundation for review.

SHC Researchers and External Advisory Committee Members gather for a group photo during the evening poster session
SHC researchers and external advisory committee members gather for a group photo during the evening poster session. 
SHC researchers and External Advisory Committee members discusses network research trajectories over dinner.
SHC researchers and External Advisory Committee members discusses network research trajectories over dinner.
Lara Clark of the University of Washington accepts the award for top poster in the theme 1 group from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy adviser to the network.
Lara Clark of the University of Washington accepts the award for top poster in the theme 1 group from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy advisor to the network.
Xavi Fonoll of the University of Michigan accepts the award for top poster in physical modeling group  from Bob Johns, a senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy adviser to the network.
Xavi Fonoll of the University of Michigan accepts the award for top poster in physical modeling group from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy advisor to the network.
Dana Boyer of the University of Minnesota accepts the award for top poster in physical modeling group 2 from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy adviser to the network.
Dana Boyer of the University of Minnesota accepts the award for top poster in physical modeling group 2 from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy advisor to the network.
Graham Ambrose and Rachel Kossee of the University of Minnesota accept the award for top poster in the social actors and governance group from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy adviser to the network.
Graham Ambrose and Rachel Kossee of the University of Minnesota accept the award for top poster in the social actors and governance group from Bob Johns, senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and strategy advisor to the network.