The Sustainability Laboratory


Project Wadi Attir

A Model Sustainable Desert Community

Project Wadi Attir is a groundbreaking initiative of a Bedouin community in the Negev desert, demonstrating an approach to sustainable desert agriculture, replicable locally as well as in other arid regions around the world. Using The Lab’s sustainability principles as a guide, the project is designed to leverage Bedouin traditional values, know-how and experience with modern-day science and cutting edge technologies.

  • After six years in development, Project Wadi Attir is moving into the implementation stage for all of its major initiatives, including the Herding and Dairy Initiative, Medicinal Plants Initiative, Indigenous Vegetables Initiative, the Vistor, Training and Education Center, and an integrated system of green technologies.
  • “Project Wadi Attir is creating a new reality of empowerment and hope for the future, encouraging a move to self-reliance. In particular, the project creates an unprecedented new situation whereby women are equal partners in leading a significant development process with men. Involvement in the project will open new horizons and new opportunities for women and strengthen their ability to influence the fabric of family and community.”Amal Elsana-Alh’jooj
    Director, AJEEC-NISPED
  • The project features many opportunities for income and employment. It has already trained dozens of local Bedouin women in vegetable gardening and in the creation of high-quality dairy products, which will be available for purchase. The project will also sell cosmetic creams and soaps, infusion teas and essential oils. These products are based on Bedouin traditional medicine, and created from medicinal plants and herbs grown onsite.
  • “This project offers a golden opportunity for people in the Bedouin community to organize in an independent, democratic fashion, with emphasis on common goals, shared effort and commitment to community values. With this project we broke the mythos that ‘these people’ are not able to manage themselves, that they always need someone else to tell them what to do. In all my years in community work, I have never come cross a change-making project like Project Wadi Attir.”Aatef Abu Ajaj
    Founding Member of the Project Team
  • The project will feature an integrated technology system that will maximize use of renewable resources, eliminate harmful emissions, and aim for near-zero waste. Designed by a Project Design team including researchers from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, this system will include a pioneering hybrid wind/solar energy system, a state-of-the-art irrigation system, a bio-gas system, a wastewater treatment system, and a composting system.
  • “Once the project is fully realized, it will undoubtedly serve as a blueprint for the development of rural areas in Africa and other Less Developed Countries. I am very optimistic about the success of this project under the leadership of Dr. Ben-Eli, whose creativity and imagination is put to use to conceive, organize and orchestrate the process.”Professor Jimmy Weinblatt
    President, Sapir Academic College, Formerly Rector, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • The Soil Enhancement and Water Retention Initiative has all but stopped erosion on the site, and the construction of strategic earth mounds have minimized water loss due to runoff.
  • “The project actually enhances our tradition. In the case of preserving indigenous seeds, just as in the case of reviving traditional medicinal plants and animal husbandry, there is much to learn from people in the community. I think that everyone – adults, young people and children – can all join in this project. Everyone can learn, as well as teach.”Mariam Abu Rakayek
    Founding Member of the Project Team
  • There has been a noticeable uptick in biodiversity on the site, which was previously almost void of life. Foxes, butterflies, and many bird species have been observed.
  • Site preparation work began in 2013, and construction of all green buildings will start during the fall of 2014.
  • “It has been an honor for me to participate as one of the founders of Project Wadi Attir. This unique project constitutes an important breakthrough in the area of sustainable development, an idea which resonates with values and principles that were deeply ingrained in Bedouin society, prior to the era of urbanization of the last few decades.”Dr. Mohammed Alnabari
    Mayor of Hura, Founding Member of the Project Team

Global Sustainability Fellows

A Transformative, Graduate-Level Learning Experience

The Global Sustainability Fellows Program is designed to inspire, inform and mobilize future generations of leaders who are committed to adding an in-depth exposure to sustainability issues to studies in their chosen disciplines. Integrating a rigorous theoretical orientation with experience-based learning, international exposure, and cross-discipline work, the program will impart the core competencies required to effectively tackle urgent sustainability challenges on a local, regional and planetary scale.

  • The pilot session of the GSF Program took place over two summer sessions at EARTH University in Costa Rica, during July of 2014 and August of 2015. Students from 16 countries on five continents, and representing a range of disciplines, participated in this session.
  • By incorporating The Lab’s rigorous theoretical orientation with experience-based learning, international exposure, and cross-disciplinary work, the GSF experience adds an essential dimension to the education students receive at their home institutions.
  • As the GSF program grows, we anticipate that fellows’ work pioneering effective solutions to critical sustainability challenges will serve as a real-world testament to the efficacy of the GSF approach.
  • This development plan will be the basis for “Project Transition,” which we anticipate will be implemented with the help of The Lab, past fellows, EARTH University, local NGOs, community leaders, and local and regional government.
  • As the GSF program grows, community-based projects that have sprung from fellows’ work will serve as a real-world testament to the efficacy of the GSF approach, modeling solutions for communities all over the world who are struggling with similar issues.
  • Participants in the program are among the first members of the GSF Alumni Association, a professional, interdisciplinary network, where a common purpose, language and framework serve as the basis for game-changing sustainability innovations and initiatives worldwide.

For more information on the Global Sustainability Fellows Program, please view our photo gallery.

The Sustainability Prize at EARTH University

Incorporating The Lab's "Five Core Principles of Sustainability" into real life practice.

The Sustainability Prize, established in 2009 by The Sustainability Laboratory in collaboration with faculty members from EARTH University in Costa Rica, is awarded to the student project that best exemplifies implementation of The Lab’s “Five Core Principles of Sustainability.” The $10,000 prize is awarded to the winning project in order to support project implementation, with $1,000 earmarked for the high school attended by the prizewinner.

  • Since 2009, over 500 students and 40 faculty members at EARTH University have participated in the Sustainability Prize seminars, where they learn about The Lab’s definition of sustainability and the derived five core principles.
  • “In underdeveloped and developing countries, it is very difficult for young adults to start private businesses. Without family support and financing, it is improbable that any financial institution will lend the necessary capital. The Sustainability Prize is therefore not just monetary – it represents an opportunity for an EARTH University student to fulfill their dreams.”Professor Irene Alvarado
    EARTH Faculty Member
  • Since 2009, $60,000 in prize money has been awarded to nine prizewinners representing six Graduation Projects, with $10,000 returning to the prizewinners’ high schools in rural Latin American communities.
  • “My graduation project designed a system for coffee farmers in my home community of Opórapa, Colombia to associate plantains and coffee in their fields, thereby improving farming practices, taking better advantage of space, and generating income and employment. Many small coffee growers in my community have implemented this plan, and are benefiting from harvesting plantains when coffee growing season is over. They are role models for other community farmers.”Diana Milena Cajibioy Artunduaga
    EARTH University Prizewinner, 2012
  • All but one of the prizewinners are currently working in the fields of environmental research, management, policy and corporate sustainability.
  • “Because of the prize money, we were able to finance a waste management project in the high school I attended, introducing ideas that are new to many areas in Peru. Seeing a change in the quality of life in the place that I live is the best motivation to keep going!”Yngrid Espinoza Villaruel
    Sustainability Prizewinner, 2011
  • More than half of the prizewinning projects have been implemented and have achieved continuity even after the prizewinner’s departure.
  • “To me this prize was more than a recognition of the substantial effort that my classmate and I did in our graduation project – it represented the beginning of my career in the field of scientific research and biodigestion. It also honed my professional skills in project design and coordination in rural communities in developing countries.”Johanny Perez Sierra
    Sustainability Prize winner, 2010
  • Due to the generosity of Dr. Ivor Freeman and Joshua Arnow (pictured here with Maria del Rosario Chavez Lazarte, winner of the 2014 Prize), the program has recently been renewed until 2018.

Project Turquoise Mountain

Turning a toxic site of abandoned mines into a thriving ecosystem

Project Turquoise Mountain is a proposed innovative approach to mine remediation and ecosystem restoration in Gleeson, Arizona, a remote area that contains a slew of long-abandoned mine shafts, tailings, and associated contamination. The Lab is currently collaborating with the owner of the site of these abandoned mines, with the intention of launching a model project that would showcase the application of sustainability principles to the vexing problem of mine remediation.

Projects in Development

Lab Centers

The Lab is being developed as a network linking advanced research centers mapped onto specific eco-zones around the world. The centers will subscribe to a common set of principles, values and operating practices. Each center will aim to pioneer strategies, technologies and best practices that will be applicable in similar eco-zones. Individual centers representing specific eco-zones will also work collaboratively with one another.

Sustainability Entrepreneurs

Following a successful pilot session of the Sustainability Entrepreneurs workshop, held at the Esalen Institute in California in 2008 and inspired by professional interest in the format and content of the recently launched Global Sustainability Fellows Program, The Sustainability Laboratory plans to launch a special yearly workshop geared at helping professionals integrate sustainability concerns into their chosen field.

Project Development

The Sustainability Laboratory is working on establishing a Project Development Fund, which will be used to finance the preliminary stage of projects. This facility will make possible financing of early preparatory activities including preliminary concept formulation, reconnaissance and concept validity assessment, identification and early engagement of key stakeholders, and the establishment of an early project team and strategy.