choose an urban sustainability problem that interests you and research a possible solution for it.

For this assignment you will choose an urban sustainability problem that interests you and research a possible solution for it.


State a question related to an urban sustainability challenge for which research may offer answers. It is fine for you to adjust your question based on research you are able to identify! 


List the (combination of) search terms you used to identify research to help answer your question (you are expected to use between 3-5 combinations of search terms, depending on your question).


List the databases (see lecture notes on finding research and library guides) you searched using these terms (you are expected to search between 2-3 databases, depending on your question).

4. ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY (around 300 words)

List the references in American Psychological Association (APA) format (e.g., see for two peer-reviewed research articles that you found that would be most helpful in answering the question you selected.  Under each reference write a paragraph (around 150 words) summarizing the article. This summary should: 

a) evaluate the background of the author(s) (you may have to google them)

b) describe the scope of the study

c) outline the methods used

d) summarize the key findings

e) explain how this work relates to your research question. 

For more guidance on annotated bibliographies see this


Provide recommendations for how to address your chosen urban sustainability challenge. Support your argument using insights and examples from the research articles you found. Do not use direct quotes from the articles, instead put the information into your own words. You should use correctly formatted APA in-text citations whenever you are presenting information from the articles. If you will use additional sources, create a references page at the end and include proper in-text citations. 

An example is also attached.

Andrew John De Los Santos

PUP 190/SOS 111 Sustainable Cities

March 21, 2019

Assignment 4: Researching Urban Sustainability Solutions


How can composting food waste help reduce climate change and enhance sustainability?


I used different combinations of search terms:

1. Compost AND Sustain*

2. Compost AND “food waste” AND environment

3. “Compost Biochar” AND “Carbon Sequestration”

4. “Food Waste” AND “Carbon Sequestration”


I used the following databases:

1. Scopus

2. Web of Science


Bolan, N. S., Kunhikrishnan, A., Choppala, G. K., Thangarajan, R., & Chung, J. W. (2012). Stabilization of carbon in composts and biochars in relation to carbon sequestration and soil fertility. Science of The Total Environment424, 264–270.

(Word Count: 194)

Dr. Nanthi Bolan previously worked for the Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and the Cooperative Research Centre for Contaminants Assessment and Remediation of the Environment at the University of South Australia, and now at the University of Newcastle, and he has published many highly-cited studies on biochar, according to Google Scholar. Current intensive farming techniques removes carbon from the soil, so it’s necessary to enhance its capacity to act as a carbon sink and thereby help to mitigate climate change. In Dr. Bolan’s paper, she looked at how to enhance carbon sequestration in soil using compost and biochar from organic materials to mitigate GHG emissions. The methodology used was to run different decomposition experiments on various organic amendments to measure the release of CO2. Results showed that compost combined with clay materials increased the stabilization of carbon the most. However, when organic material undergoes pyrolysis (heated at high temperatures with little oxygen) and becomes biochar, it further enhances its ability to stabilize and sequester carbon. Additionally, it was found that both compost and biochar enhance soil quality. Therefore, composting food waste or turning it into biochar can improve soil quality and reduce carbon emissions.

Oldfield, T. L., Sikirica, N., Mondini, C., López, G., Kuikman, P. J., & Holden, N. M. (2018). Biochar, compost and biochar-compost blend as options to recover nutrients and sequester carbon. Journal of Environmental Management218, 465–476.

(Word Count: 155)

Dr. Oldfield works at the School of Biosystems and Food Engineering at the University College Dublin, Ireland. In his paper, he looked at the potential environmental impact of end-of-life of organic materials in agriculture and how the applications compare to that of traditional mineral fertilizer. He looked at global warming, acidification, and eutrophication impacts among pyrolysis (biochar), composting (compost), and its combination (biochar-compost blend). His methodology utilized a life cycle analysis software (GaBi v6) to analyze inventory and impacts associated. It was found that although all three end-of-life scenarios yield benefits to agriculture, the biochar-compost blend was the most effective since it allowed synergies between the composting need for energy and the pyrolysis net gain. Additionally, it allows for carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. This allowed for similar yields compared to mineral fertilizer, while reducing environmental impacts. Therefore, food waste either composted or turned into biochar, can increase yields for growing crops while decreasing emissions.


(Word Count: 485)

Universities like Arizona State University can provide a local end-of-life solution to food waste generated on campus and work towards their sustainability goals by drawing on research on compost and biochar. Since most food waste in the US ends up in the landfill, it creates emissions due to transportation, equipment energy use, and GHG due to carbon dioxide and methane released in the landfill (Gunders 2012). A solution to reducing GHG and lessening climate change is to sequester the carbon that would have otherwise been wasted. Studies show that combinations of compost and biochar can be highly effective in sequestering carbon and improving soil quality (Boland, 2012; Oldfield, 2018). As carbon is captured in the compost or biochar and placed in the soil, it slowly releases carbon back into the soil instead of being sunk into the landfill and created emissions (Boland, 2012).

Arizona State University aims to become a zero-waste campus by 2025, meaning that 90% of waste will be diverted from the landfill. Since food waste makes up 12% of the overall waste stream on campus, it includes finding ways to repurpose food waste generated in dining halls and food courts (Zero Waste Annual Report Fiscal Year 2018). Developing a compost yard and biochar generation facility on campus could be a logistical and environmental solution to keeping waste materials within campus limits and producing a soil amendment that can benefit the larger Phoenix metropolitan agricultural areas. Using machinery that runs on renewable energy (i.e. hydroelectric, solar, wind) would make the composting and biochar production processes carbon positive by avoiding emissions if food waste as disposed in the current business-as-usual scenario.

ASU may already use compost for their many raised beds throughout campus that grow different types of flora from native desert plants to beautiful multi-colored flowers. However, this has an economic cost since it is likely purchased from an outside source and an environmental cost due to packaging and transportation associated with bringing the compost to campus. If the campus were to switch to compost that was generated on site, they could conduct an experiment like what Oldfield (2018) did comparing compost, biochar, and biochar-compost blends to mineral fertilizer. ASU can compare the quality of its campus-generated compost with a third-party compost or fertilizer. If the campus-generated compost can offer similar, if not better, yields than other soil amendments purchased elsewhere, it can be cost-competitive while reducing emissions and providing a quality organic compost. Students can also be hired to help collect the food waste, manage the compost yard, or even help run the biochar facility. This would yield a social value by providing local jobs to students while providing an experiential learning experience like a living lab for sustainability. Therefore, by investing in an on-campus composting yard and biochar facility, it embodies the campus’ sustainability values by appealing to the three pillars: social (job creation), economic (cost saving), and environmental (GHG reduction).


Gunders, D. (2012). Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to

Fork to Landfill. Natural Resource Defense Council. Retrieved from

Zero Waste Annual Report Fiscal Year 2018. Arizona State University. Retrieved on 21 March

2019 from

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