Martinson grant backs sustainable solutions for better future

John S. Martinson

Many solutions to the world’s most pressing problems rely as heavily on the generosity of forward-thinking individuals as they do on the groundbreaking research of bright minds. It is these monetary investments that give flesh to many ideas that shape our future.

John S. Martinson, co-founder of China Mist Iced Tea Company, and his wife Suzanne Pickett Martinson, a writer and educator, are such individuals. The benefactors of the recently-established Martinson Sustainability Solutions Research Grant, they have already witnessed its impact through the work of School of Sustainability students Christopher Kudzas and Angela Cazel-Jahn.

Kudzas, a doctoral student and the grant’s first recipient, focuses his research on improving collective water governance strategies, particularly in areas where the resource is growing increasingly scarce. Guanacaste, a Costa Rican province that has experienced numerous water-related conflicts over the past decade, has proved to be an ideal setting for his work.

In March of 2013, nearly 50 representatives from governmental, agricultural, touristic and non-governmental entities convened at a workshop that Kudzas was instrumental in organizing. After reviewing five possible scenarios for the future of water, conflict and development in Guanacaste, workshop attendees collaborated to develop strategies for avoiding those that were undesirable while working toward those that were sustainable.

“This workshop was an integral part of my dissertation,” says Kudzas, who graduates next week. “Martinson’s financial contribution helped to support it.”

Cazel-Jahn, a second-year student in the Master’s in Sustainable Solutions program and the grant’s second recipient, seeks to spark conversation about sustainability through a conscientiously crafted mural in downtown Phoenix. Because sustainability is a complex – yet critically important – concept, Cazel-Jahn feels that communicating it in a visual and artistically interesting way will provide tangibility while generating interest.

“Communication is emphasized with increasing frequency in the field of sustainability, and the arts are a great way to overcome communication barriers,” Cazel-Jahn says. “This project, which John Martinson has generously funded, pairs the two in order to make the message more easily accessible.”

Martinson, an entrepreneur and current ASU graduate student himself, appreciates being at the forefront of exciting initiatives. Though China Mist Iced Tea Company, the business he co-founded with Dan Schweiker, began in the humble confines of Martinson’s garage, it is now a common name on retailers’ shelves. Its organic, gourmet teas – sold primarily to hotels and restaurants – have won a number of awards for taste, and the company was recognized by ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business with a 2010 Spirit of Enterprise Award.

When asked why he invests in sustainability solutions, Martinson explains, “We want to advance research that makes the world more sustainable for generations yet to come.”

The next Martinson Sustainability Solutions Research Grant will be awarded in fall 2014.