Huge donation to Caltech to be used to fund climate research

Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, have pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology to support cutting-edge research into environmental sustainability.

The commitment is the largest ever for research into environmental sustainability and the second-largest gift to a US academic institution, Caltech announced.

The Wonderful Company has brands such as Fiji water, Pom Wonderful and Teleflora under its umbrella. The Resnicks pledged $21 million to establish the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech in 2009, and they gave an additional $15 million to the Pasadena university in 2014.

A permanent endowment will be set up to fund the work of the researchers, and it will bring experts from physical sciences, life sciences and engineering together to help solve what may be the greatest threat facing humanity today: climate change.

This will allow researchers to pursue research into solar science, climate science, energy, biofuels, decomposable plastics, water and environmental resources, and ecology and biosphere engineering,” Caltech said.

“In order to comprehensively manage the climate crisis, we need breakthrough innovations, the kind that will only be possible through significant investment in university research,” said Stewart Resnick, chairman and president of The Wonderful Company. “Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water, and sustainability.”

A new 75,000-square-foot building will be constructed at Caltech and named the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. It will be the hub for energy and sustainability research on campus and have state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching labs.

According to Caltech, the Resnicks’ pledge will support four main research initiatives:

Sunlight to Everything, which will focus on building smarter electricity infrastructure and converting the sun’s energy into fuels and other chemicals.
Climate Science, which will advance efforts in measurement and modeling meant to identify the largest effects of climate change, and efforts in mitigation and adaptation to offset some of the impact of carbon emissions.
Water Resources, which will ensure that this vital resource is managed most effectively through the mapping and monitoring of surface and sub-surface water, together with improvements in water treatment and reuse.
Global Ecology and Biosphere Engineering, which will consider the biosphere and its response to climate change, engineering ways in which microbes may help plants adapt to the changing climate and how best to use biological tools to improve water and nutrient use.

“Sustainability is the challenge of our times,” said Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum. “Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s generosity and vision will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change. The Resnick Sustainability Institute will now be able to mount efforts at scale, letting researchers across campus follow their imaginations and translate fundamental discovery into technologies that dramatically advance solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”