Summer Sustainability

Both the weather and the planet are heating up. We can’t do much about the current temperature, but there are things we can do to cool down the planet. Summer is the perfect time to develop new habits. Below is a list of sustainability tips and ideas to help you on your sustainable journey this summer that will hopefully last long after.

Minimize Meat

Reducing your meat consumption is one of the best ways to live a more sustainable life. Meat’s carbon footprint is much higher than that of plant-based foods. Summer is fresh fruit and vegetable season, so it’s a great time to start making them a feature on your plate. Consider making Meatless Mondays a habit.

Eat Farm Fresh Food

Supporting local farmers markets is good for the local economy and for the environment. Local food travels a shorter distance between the farm and your plate than food sold in the average grocery store. Buying from local producers also helps the local economy by keeping your dollars in the community. Both Champaign and Urbana hold farmers markets every week during the summer. The Sustainable Student Farm also holds a farm stand on the quad every Thursday which is a great option if you live on campus and don’t want to travel far.  

Bring a (reusable) Bottle

Staying hydrated in the summer is important, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the planet. Each day, people in the U.S. throw away more than 60 million plastic water bottles, most of which end up in landfills or as litter in America’s streets, parks, and waterways.

Valuable Vacations

Vacations are a huge part of summer for most people. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers some great tips for greening your travel.

Summer Cleaning

Although spring is traditionally when people deep clean, summer is also a great time to sort through your house and decide which things you no longer need. You can take old or broken electronics to the Illini Gadget Garage, which is an organization that works to keep electronic waste from entering landfills by offering guided repair sessions. For items you no longer want, get together with some of your neighbors and have a yard sale. Also, consider donating or recycling what you don’t need.

Ditch the Car, Ride a Bike

As the weather warms, switching out your car for a bike or a walk is a great way to significantly reduce your carbon footprint and get some exercise at the same time.

Volunteer at Sustainable Places

If you’re looking to get more directly involved in sustainability efforts but don’t know where to begin, try volunteering at different places to see what you are most interested in. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities in Champaign and Urbana. You can volunteer to help out at either of the local farmer’s markets, or if you’re interested in the process of growing food, you can volunteer at local farms like Sola Gratia, Prosperity Gardens, or the Student Sustainable Farm. There are also opportunities to volunteer at thrift stores like Courage Connections that sell recycled clothing and work to reduce the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills every year.

For more information on living a greener life, visit the Green Living LibGuide. Looking for information on other sustainability topics? See ISTC’s full list of guides to sustainability by topic.

From PFASs to Plastics, Earth’s Waters Need Our Help

TheISTC Director Kevin OBrien chats with conference attendees Yu Feng-Lin (ISGS) and Dr. Xuefei Zhou (Tongji University, China) Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois co-hosted the 2018 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference (ECACE18) which  was held on June 5-6 in Champaign, IL. The third annual conference highlighted research, education, and policies related to recently detected emerging contaminants and chemicals that are re-emerging as concerns.

This year’s conference focused on a variety of specific issues ranging from PFASs and microplastics to pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), as well as many other types of emerging contaminants found in water and the environment.

PFASs, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals that are typically found in fire-fighting foams, water- and stain-resistant textiles, and non-stick cookware. They were described by one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Rainer Lohmann who is professor of oceanography at University of Rhode Island and director of a new Superfund Research Center on PFASs, as being “an even bigger environmental problem than PCBs”. PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyl compounds have been a major contaminant in soil, water, and air since the 1970s and are still being cleaned up from old industrial sites and other areas.  PFASs are as persistent as PCBs, bioaccumulate, and are even more soluble in water than PCBs. Dr. Lohmann went on to discuss how PFASs have been found hundreds of feet below the surface of the oceans and have moved through air and water to remote areas such as the Arctic.

The conference not only featured national speakers such as Dr. Lohmann and presenters from as far away as Florida and California, but also international speakers. They included:

  • keynote speaker Dr. Stefan Krause from the University of Birmingham in the UK who discussed multi-contaminant interactions between aquifers and rivers;
  • keynote speaker Dr. Xuefei Zhou from Tongji University in China, who gave an overview of the problem of pharmaceutical pollution in China and potential advanced technology treatment options; and
  • Dr. Matt Taylor from the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute in New South Wales, Australia, whose research examines PFAS contamination in estuarine fisheries.

Prairie Research Institute scientists from ISTC, the Illinois State Water Survey, and the Illinois State Geological Survey also presented their research results on microplastics and PPCPs detected in karst groundwater in Illinois. This widespread participation of researchers, educators, and policy makers from across the globe illustrates the ubiquitous nature of emerging contaminants in water throughout the world and emphasizes that it will take a collective effort by all of us to solve these pollution issues.

The videos of the 3 keynote presentations will be available on the ISTC website within the next two weeks.

#BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day

Today is an important “holiday” of sorts for those of us who are sustainability professionals. On this day in 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm Sweden, began (June 5-16, 1972). The purpose of that conference was to discuss human interactions with the environment, as well as encouraging governments and international organizations to take action related to environmental issues and providing guidelines for such action. This was the UN’s first major conference on international environmental issues, and it culminated in what’s commonly called the “Stockholm Declaration”—the first document in international environmental law to recognize the right to a healthy environment. Two years later, in 1974, the first World Environment Day was held on June 5 with the theme of “Only One Earth.” Since then, World Environment Day has been celebrated annually on June 5th. Each year has a theme around which activities center, and beginning in the late 1980s, the main celebrations began to rotate to different cities around the globe. Learn more about the UN Conference on the Human Environment at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/milestones/humanenvironment and the history of World Environment Day at http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/about/world-environment-day-driving-five-decades-environmental-action.

This year’s World Environment Day theme, chosen by the host nation, India, (New Delhi is the host city) is “beating plastic pollution,” with the tagline “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.” According to the World Environment Day web site: “While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use. Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment. Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates. Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies. What harm does that cause? Scientists still aren’t sure, but plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.”

To combat the environmental and human health issues associated with the global addiction to single use plastics, the UN Environment Programme is encouraging people to join the global game of #BeatPlasticPollution tag. Here’s how to play:

  1. Choose which type of single-use plastic you’re ready to give up.
  2. Take a selfie (photo or video) showing yourself with the reusable alternative that you’re ready to embrace.
  3. Share your selfie on social media and “tag” three friends, businesses or high-profile people to challenge them to do the same within 24 hours. Be sure to use the #BeatPlasticPollution hashtag and mention @UNEnvironment.

So what single use plastic item will you pledge to give up today—plastic straws, disposable plastic shopping bags, disposable coffee pods, plastic water bottles, or something else? For inspiration, see http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/get-involved/join-global-game-beatplasticpollution-tag.

Image of 2018 World Environment Day poster promoting #BeatPlasticPollution Tag, outlining the steps for the global game listed in this blog post.

This post was written by Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist, for the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) Blog.

Maintaining Nature’s Most Essential Technology by Boasting About Composting

Did you know that there are more living things in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth? Soil holds an abundance of nutrients and is necessary for life on earth. Unfortunately, soil health isn’t something people often consider. Research shows that one-third of the earth’s soil is already moderately to highly degraded due to various issues such as erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, urbanization, and chemical pollution.

Soil health is essential for growing food. We can’t have a sustainable future if we don’t maintain it properly. Composting is one of the best ways to naturally fertilize and replenish our soil. Compost is composed of decomposed organic material that can be added to soil to nourish and encourage its natural regenerative cycle.

Composting turns trash into treasure. In addition to fertilizing the soil, composting enriches the soil and helps it retain moisture, reduces methane emissions, increases carbon sequestration, encourages production of nutrient-rich materials, and reduces the need for harmful chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, compost is an excellent way to reduce food waste because all fruit and vegetable scraps are compostable. This is beneficial because every year sixty million tons of mineral-rich food waste goes into landfills.

Compost also increases the ability of soil to sequester carbon, especially when combined with biochar. When paired with nitrogen, carbon improves soil health. Creating and applying compost is pretty easy. You don’t need fancy equipment or lots of land. Composting can even be done indoors in small spaces by vermicomposting, which uses worms to expedite the decomposition process.

Compost requires three basic ingredients: browns, greens, water, and air. Browns include things like dead leaves, branches, and twigs. They supply carbon. Greens include grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. They supply nitrogen. The water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. Cornell University recommends a 30:1 ratio of carbon (browns) to nitrogen (greens).

Turning is the final component, though it is not a necessary one. Turning involves moving the material on the inside of the compost to the outside. Nitrogen builds up in the center of your compost so turning the compost is necessary if you want to expedite the decomposition process. If you turn your compost more it will take a shorter amount of time to create the nutrient-rich soil.

Across the state, there are many efforts to encourage community-wide composting. Locally, the Champaign County Landscape Recycling Center recycles yard waste into two types of compost. Champaign County has been hesitant to implement a county-wide composting program that would include food waste after pushback from community members who were concerned about potential odors. Contrary to popular belief, compost is not waste and it does not emit odors, as long as it is properly maintained. The University of Illinois Extension has provided a great overview of how and why to compost if you are interested in creating an individual compost system.

The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition is developing a scope of work related to advancing food scrap composting in Illinois. A score of municipalities in the Chicago area provides curbside organics recycling. In addition, there are dozens of composting facilities around the state. Finally, SIU Carbondale is recycling tons of dining hall food waste into compost at the on-campus Forced Air Composting Facility, where student workers also learn about the composting process.

Universities in other parts of the country are also generating compost. Yale University collects paper towels, and Cornell University provides composting education materials and programs through the Cornell Waste Management Institute. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, they’re not only composting all food waste generated on campus, they’re also selling that compost to the community.  By continuing to boast about compost, we can work to keep our soil healthy and continue the natural regenerative cycle.

PFASs: Complex Chemicals that Could Cause Catastrophic Contamination

WRITTEN BY: Margaret Golden, ISTC staff

When we think of chemicals that could be on our food, we usually think of the pesticides that are used to eliminate pests. We rarely think of the cookware that we use to prepare it. Maybe we should start.

One of the most common ways that people come in contact with chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) is through nonstick cookware. PFASs are a collection of man-made chemical compounds that include PFOA, PFOS, and newer GenX chemicals. They were created in the mid-twentieth century and have been used in manufacturing of various products ever since. They’re popular because they don’t degrade and can make products stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick. Because of their popularity, they have managed to make their way into water systems and living organisms through leaching and contamination. In addition to cookware, you can find PFASs in a variety of food packaging, household products, clothing items, fire-fighting foams, industrial waste, and drinking water. They also accumulate in the tissue of living organisms, including humans.

The prevalence of PFASs in the environment is a concern because they have been proven to harm both the environment and human health. PFASs are stable molecules, which make them resistant to most treatment methods. This resistance to breakdown means they stay in any living organisms that they come in contact with and can accumulate in the body over time. Additional research has shown that these chemicals can lead to a wide range of adverse health effects, which include immune system deficiencies, low infant birth weights, cancer, thyroid hormone distribution, developmental and liver problems, and potentially many more. Water contamination specifically is becoming a large concern. Drinking water in two Detroit suburbs has tested positive for PFAS contamination. PFASs also have been detected in several other of Michigan’s drinking water sources such as waterways and lakes. It is clear that PFAS are increasingly becoming more of a problem for our health and the environment.

Thanks to the PFOA Stewardship program, most PFASs production has been phased out in the United States. However, people can still come in contact with them through imported goods because they are not yet banned internationally. In addition, companies in the U.S. are still producing next generation PFASs, called GenX. These compounds are found in firefighting foams and food packaging. Because of that, further research on these chemicals is being done all over the country and world.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has teamed up with researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the University of California at Riverside to combat this issue and work toward a solution. Researchers from each university are currently investigating the effects of cobalt (Co)-catalyzed defluorination to degrade PFASs. ISTC is working to connect the PFAS research community and increase public awareness through seminars and conferences surrounding research findings.

The first conference will take place in the beginning of June. ISTC will be collaborating with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to hold the 2018 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference. Be sure to mark your calendars and register online if you’re interested. One speaker to specifically look forward to is Rainer Lohmann, a professor of Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, who will be doing a keynote presentation on PFASs. With this conference and series of seminars, ISTC hopes to help eliminate the use of PFASs and help to find more sustainable replacements.

 

 

Plastic Is Forever – or Is It?

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner, ISTC staff

lots of bottles all lined up outside to show how wastefull single use bottles are

Plastic waste is one of the leading environmental concerns in the world today.

Many times, consumers use a plastic product just once before throwing it away. We might only see it for a short time – a plastic shopping bag, for example – but that plastic bag can sit in a landfill for decades before it is broken down completely.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, areas of floating plastic pieces and microplastics (<5mm) in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, is estimated to be three times the size of France. Dianna Parker of the NOAA Marine Debris Program insists that cleaning up the garbage patch isn’t enough. She explains,  “until we prevent debris from entering the ocean at the source, it’s just going to keep congregating in these areas.”

What if there was a way to stop plastic from filling up our landfills and polluting our waterways?

ISTC researchers B.K. Sharma and Kishore Rajagopalan worked with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to convert plastic bags into fuel.

Two jars: one contains a plastic shopping bag, the other contains oil made from the plastic shopping bagThe team collected high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bags from local shops and used a pyrolysis unit to turn them into plastic crude oil (PCO). After distilling the PCO, analyzing the resulting fuels, and adding antioxidants, the products met nearly all specifications of the conventional diesel standards.

In fact, the researchers’ HDPE-derived fuels beat out conventional petroleum diesel when it came to the fuel’s lubricity and derived cetane number, which is an indicator of the combustion speed. The team concluded that their plastic-based fuel could be blended safely and efficiently with petroleum diesel fuel, reducing the amount of plastic ending up in landfills or out into the environment while also creating something valuable from the waste plastic.

More recently, ISTC researchers B.K. Sharma and Sriraam Chandrasekaran developed the first energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process to separate mixed polymers in waste plastics, allowing the waste plastic to be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products.

Single polymer plastics, such as water bottles, are easy to recycle because they are made with a uniform plastic. Sharma explained that products that are made of more complex polymer blends, such as cellphone cases, “pile up at recycling centers and eventually end up being incinerated or sent to landfills” due to the lack of safe and efficient ways to recycle them.

Currently, the most efficient method for this process involves a chemical called DCM that releases carcinogenic vapors in conditions close to room temperature. The method created by Sharma and Chandrasekaran uses a solvent called NMP, which Chandrasekaran assured, “will only release vapors when heated to 180 degrees Celsius, far above the temperature needed to dissolve the polymers.”

ISTC isn’t the only organization committed to reducing plastic waste.

thousands of bottle caps inside a rubber tire. someone's dirty hands are sorting the capsSanjeev Das, Global Packaging Director at Unilever, announced that through a partnership with Ioniqa, a start-up company in the Netherlands, they have found a way to recycle any kind of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic. By using this new technology, they are able to break down the PET plastic to the molecular level, remove any colors or impurities, and turn it back into clear food-grade PET plastic.

While not available yet, Das estimates the technology could be ready for widespread use by the third quarter of 2019. He believes this technology can revolutionize the plastic recycling industry. By bringing value to PET waste, people and communities all over the world will be motivated to collect plastic, creating a circular economy.

In a commitment to sustainability, Nestle pledged to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. Nestle CEO Mark Schneider stated, “plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach.”

There are smaller steps companies can take to reduce plastic waste and encourage sustainable habits. Coffee giant Starbucks offers a discount to customers who bring in reusable mugs and has been doing so since 1985. Urbana-Champaign coffee chain Espresso Royale offers a similar discount. Retailers such as Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s offer discounts for bringing in your own reusable shopping bags.

While the best option for eliminating plastic waste is to reduce our reliance on single use products, plastic use is so heavily engrained in our culture that we might never phase it out completely. These scientific advances in plastic recycling pave the way for a future where there is minimal, if any, plastic waste.

Advancing Carbon Capture Technology

WRITTEN BY: Lisa Sheppard, PRI staff, and Nancy Holm, ISTC staff

 

Research is progressing on a novel biphasic solvent absorption method that holds promise as an innovative, cost-saving alternative to the conventional CO2 capture process in power plants. ISTC researchers have been assisting the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) on a lab-scale (10KWe) project developing a biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP) with multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, which improves CO2 absorption kinetics and increases the carbon capture capacity.

 

“And, more importantly,” explained Wei Zheng, senior research chemist at ISTC who is working on the project, “this new technology can also significantly reduce both the energy use and equipment cost for CO2 capture compared to the conventional amine-based process.”

 

The lab-scale research is being led by ISGS, supported by a grant from U.S Department of Energy (DOE).

 

Currently, the team has evaluated the corrosive properties of solvents on carbon and stainless steel, which are main materials used for CO2 absorbers and strippers. “Corrosion is not a concern,” said ISTC senior research engineer Brajendra Sharma. “We’re moving forward with the project and are on track with all our milestones.”

 

Now the research efforts are ready for the next step.  Recently U.S. DOE announced $3M of additional funding for ISGS and ISTC to conduct a three-year bench-scale (40KWe) study of their BiCAP technology.

 

The primary goal of this new project is to leverage the BiCAP process and validate its technical advantages through a fully-integrated bench-scale testing in a relevant flue gas environment. The proposed technology is aimed at achieving a CO2 capture cost of $30/tonne and >95% CO2 purity to meet DOE’s Transformational CO2 Capture goals.

 

Read more about the biphasic project on ISTC’s website.

Show impact by adding metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award application

Adding metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award application allows evaluators to truly see the quantitative or qualitative impacts that your organization, program or technology have achieved. Plus, metrics are important for your own use—to tell your story to stakeholders, to evaluate next steps in your sustainability efforts, and to determine the effectiveness of what you’ve done thus far.

Without an understanding of resource use before starting a project, how can you truly understand its impact on your bottom line and resource reduction? A major key to understanding project or program impact is to create a baseline for your project, program or initiative. By creating a baseline, you are creating a road map to tracking the success of an initiative and seeing what resource use looks like before implementing a new program, technology, initiative, or strategy. This is important to tracking the success of your efforts and can even help when asking for more money or resources for future environmental projects or initiatives.

There are many tools and calculators that can be used to help create an annual baseline, such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (tracks energy, water, and waste). However, entering use data in a simple Excel spreadsheet can also yield a baseline. Important resources to baseline in your organization or business are energy and water use, waste, chemical use, and purchasing. If you have a fleet, fuel use might also be a good metric to track.

Before you start your project, choose an evaluation timeline – how long are you going to track metrics to see if your project was successful? What information would you need to collect? Remember to keep it simple and hone in on exactly which metrics will show reduction in resource use. Throughout the duration of the project, continue to track those metrics, even after the initiative or project has been implemented. Then, take time to analyze the data and see if a change has been made in the resources used.

Metrics don’t always need to be quantitative – especially if you are tracking impact of outreach or effect of a program on a particular group of people. Data such as number of people reached with information, or number of people participating in the program can be valuable as well. If you’re working with a group of people, get testimonials on impact of the program in their organization or everyday life. Ask whether the initiative, project or program will, or has already, affected their future success, or if connections outside of the project, program or initiative were made that otherwise would not have occurred.

The Sample Application section of the ISTC website can give you an idea of how to enter in data and metrics into our metrics spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel format) and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application. If you have further questions, contact Deb Jacobson or Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail (djacobso@illinois.edu or izlevor@illinois.edu) or by phone (630) 472-5016.

Remember, applications are due May 3. Start your application now!

The Illinois Sustainability Award by the Numbers

adding metrics to a ISA application
Adding metrics to an ISA application makes a stronger case.

 

Adding metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award application allows evaluators to truly see the quantitative or qualitative impacts that your organization, program or technology have achieved. Plus, metrics are important for your own use—to tell your story to stakeholders, to evaluate next steps in your sustainability efforts, and to determine the effectiveness of what you’ve done thus far.

Without an understanding of resource use before starting a project, how can you truly understand its impact on your bottom line and resource reduction? A major key to understanding project or program impact is to create a baseline for your project, program or initiative. By creating a baseline, you are creating a road map to tracking the success of an initiative and seeing what resource use looks like before implementing a new program, technology, initiative, or strategy. This is important to tracking the success of your efforts and can even help when asking for more money or resources for future environmental projects or initiatives.

There are many different types of tools and calculators that can be used to help create an annual baseline, such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (tracks energy, water, and waste). However, entering use data in a simple Excel spreadsheet can also yield a baseline. Important resources to baseline in your organization or business are energy and water use, waste, chemical use, and purchasing. If you have a fleet, fuel use might also be a good metric to track.

Before you start your project, choose an evaluation timeline – how long are you going to track metrics to see if your project was successful? What information would you need to collect? Remember to keep it simple and hone in on exactly which metrics will show reduction in resource use. Throughout the duration of the project, continue to track those metrics, even after the initiative or project has been implemented. Then, take time to analyze the data and see if a change has been made in the resources used.

Metrics don’t always need to be quantitative – especially if you are tracking impact of outreach or effect of a program on a particular group of people. Data such as number of people reached with information, or number of people participating in the program can be valuable as well. If you’re working with a group of people, get testimonials on impact of the program in their organization or everyday life. Ask whether the initiative, project or program will, or has already, affected their future success, or if connections outside of the project, program or initiative were made that otherwise would not have occurred.

The Sample Application section of the ISTC website can give you an idea of how to enter in data and metrics into our metrics spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel format) and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application. If you have further questions, contact Deb Jacobson or Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail (djacobso@illinois.edu or izlevor@illinois.edu) or by phone (630) 472-5016.

Remember, applications are due May 3. Start your application now!

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes ISTC as a 2017 Gold Award Winner

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a Gold Award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge (SEC)–a comprehensive nationwide environmental sustainability initiative that currently reaches more than 223,000 employees in 39 states. ISTC was recognized for its accomplishments in green purchasing, energy conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment in 2017.

 

SEC Gold level recognition certificate for ISTC in 2017 calendar year, displayed in frame made of repurposed circuit boards

“The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is truly an outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, SEC Program Manager. “This is the fourth year in a row that ISTC has earned a Gold Award.”  She added that “ISTC is one of only 16 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

 

“We’re honored to have received this recognition, and value our participation in the SEC program,” said Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist and coordinator for its Sustainable Electronics Initiative and Illini Gadget Garage projects. “The guidance and resources available through the SEC were very helpful in creating ISTC’s policy on purchasing, use, and disposal of IT equipment. They also create a useful framework for discussing operational changes in terms of these lifecycle phases for electronics with ISTC’s own technical assistance clients. Even though public entities and non-profits are the types of organizations which may participate in the SEC, I often refer other types of organizations to the Program Requirements Checklist for a simple guide to best practices. I’d love to see more units at the University of Illinois join the SEC, and in general see more participants in the state of Illinois.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2017, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible reuse and recycling:

  • Prevented the release of 5,503,212 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 1,163,470 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply almost 5,000 homes per year .
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 1,258 refrigerators.
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by more than 750 households/year.

A full list of winners and their environmental accomplishments can be found on the State Electronics Challenge website (www.stateelectronicschallenge.net).

 

“The State Electronics Challenge provides state, tribal, regional and local agencies, as well as schools, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into their operations,” added Ms. Rubinstein.  “It’s inspiring to see programs such as this one developed and implemented ISTC to ensure that the highest environmental practices are met through the lifecycle of office equipment.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge awards were made possible through donations from Samsung and the R2/RIOS Program.

 

About the State Electronics Challenge

The State Electronics Challenge assists state, regional, tribal, and local governments to reduce the environmental impact of their office equipment.  It annually recognizes the accomplishments of Partner organizations. The Challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org). Currently, 168 state, tribal, regional, colleges, schools, universities, and local government agencies, and non-profit organizations, representing more than 223,000 employees, have joined the SEC as Partners.  For more information on the SEC, including a list of current Partner organizations, visit www.stateelectronicschallenge.net.