Sustainable Holidays

 

We’re halfway through December and deep into the holiday season. At this time of year, people tend to focus on how much stuff they can buy. Sustainability doesn’t have to take a back seat though. Check out this post on rethinking the holidays or this fact sheet for more info on how to have a more sustainable holiday season.

Some key tips include:

 

  • Reduce —  Buy only what you need. When you do need to purchase something, look for recycled content or buy used.

 

  • Buy local food —  When possible, support local farmers and reduce your carbon footprint by buying local food.
  • Send E-cards — Communicating the holiday spirit should not be at the price of trees. Instead, consider sending e-cards, which are readily available on the web. If you receive greeting cards, repurpose them as gift tags on your holiday packages.

 

 

Eco-Friendly gift wrapping — Consider wrapping gifts in recycled material like a newspaper or using something that can be reused, like thin cloth. You can also reuse gift bags that you’ve received from others.

U of I scientists pitch $40M carbon capture project for CWLP

Read the full story in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

A research center with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is looking for support from the Springfield City Council on a $40 million pilot project that would retrofit City Water, Light and Power’s newest power plant to capture carbon dioxide.

Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, presented their proposal to council members during Monday’s Utilities Committee meeting. The project would study whether the method of capturing carbon dioxide from CWLP’s emissions is effective and cost-efficient.

Giving Tuesday

After the conspicuous consumption messages of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday provides an opportunity to think about how we can give back.  Vox has some tips to help you choose which charities to support. Resources like Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and GuideStar can help you determine how your money gets spent.

ISTC is working to combat the effects of consumerism by coming up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems. This important work would not be possible without generous support from our funding organizations and supporters like you. Thank you!

Agricultural Chemicals in the Environment: A Study on Nitrapyrin

For a number of farms in the Midwest, nitrapyrin is used to help hold nutrients in agricultural fields until the plants have a chance to use them. Nitrapyrin increases the availability of nitrogen fertilizer, which boosts crop production. Therefore, nitrapyrin can improve nitrogen use efficiency, reduce nutrient losses, and thereby mitigate eutrophication (excess nutrients spurring exponential growth of algae in lakes).

Nitrapyrin and other nitrogen inhibitors work by limiting the conversion of ammonium to nitrite (first step of nitrification). Nitrapyrin also restricts the formation of nitrate from nitrite (second step of nitrification).  Nitrate is one of the major contributors to eutrophication.

While the use of nitrapyrin has benefits, concerns have been raised about whether its runoff from fields into nearby rivers and streams could have an impact on bacteria and the nitrification process in those water bodies. Even though nitrapyrin has been used as nitrification inhibitor and soil bactericide since the early 1970s, there is limited information on its fate and transport from fields into aquatic ecosystems.

As an initial step to quantify the amounts of nitrapyrin present in fields and streams, ISTC researchers Wei Zheng and Nancy Holm collaborated with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to undertake a one-year study of its occurrence in seven streams and nearby farm fields in Iowa and Illinois. The team examined the concentrations of nitrapyrin, its metabolities, and three widely used herbicides – acetochlor, atrazine, and metolachlor – in soil and water samples.

Results from their recently published article showed that nitrapyrin was found in many of the samples. It was sorbed to soil particles, transported from fields via overland flow, and leached into subsurface drains. In addition, all three herbicides were found in the stream samples with atrazine being the most concentrated of the three, especially at peak application times.

This research project extends the previously published pilot study on nitrapyrin by the USGS and is the first to show the transport of nitrapyrin from fields to streams over an entire year. In addition, this study is the first to describe nitrapyrin transport via subsurface drains, although those concentrations were much lower than surface concentrations. Studies such as this can help provide decision makers with a better understanding of the fate of chemicals applied to agroecosystems.

America Recycles Day

November 15th marks America Recycles Day. The event was created to celebrate and prioritize recycling in America. This year Keep America Beautiful and America Recycles Day are pairing together to celebrate the day and are asking people to:

  • pledge to learn about recycling in their communities,
  • act by reducing the amount of waste they produce and recycling what they do, and
  • share their efforts with their family and friends.

Thousands of people and organizations are holding events for the day across the country. Their efforts each year seem to be working as the national recycling rate has increased over the past 30 years, leaving the current recycling rate at 34%.

ISTC prioritizes recycling in many of its activities. It is evident in the research and technical assistance they conduct. They are looking for ways to recycle and reuse everything from solar panels and waste plastics to wastewater. ISTC’s Zero Waste Illinois and technical assistance programs conduct waste audits and other services for Illinois business and organizations of all sizes to help them switch to less toxic chemicals, divert materials from the landfill, and reduce water use.

Recycling is usually discussed in relation to the three Rs. Reduce consumption, reuse what you can’t reduce and, recycle what you can’t reduce or reuse. The fourth R is rethink. Consider ways to improve your environmental footprint, starting with decreasing consumption. . Make every day America Recycles Day.

Three Sustainability Initiatives to be Thankful For

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, many people take time to reflect on the past year and everything it’s brought them. Maybe it’s time with family. Maybe it’s a promotion at work or another big career milestone. Maybe it’s as simple as the copious amount of food that’s waiting to be consumed at Thanksgiving dinner (calories don’t exist on holidays, after all). When people think about what makes them thankful, sustainability doesn’t often come to mind. This Thanksgiving, let’s recognize three Illinois Sustainability Award winners that have made a difference in their communities.    

Photo Courtesy of Genesis Health System                                                                  

 Aisin Manufacturing Illinois  

Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, located in Marion, Illinois, is an automotive manufacturing plant that produces a variety of products, such as sunroofs, grill door shutters, and door handles. Their goal is to help improve people’s living environment under the slogans of “Create with,” “Harmonize with,” and “Be with.” In 2010, AMI implemented a “Go Green” program that provides environmentally-friendly choices with financial incentives. In other words, the company reimburses employees for incorporating sustainability into their lives outside of work. To qualify for incentives, employees must fit one of the following criteria:

  1. Purchased a new or used hybrid vehicle.
  2. Installed geothermal or alternative energy heating or cooling system.
  3. Installed air conditioning or furnace system with SEER rating 13 or higher.
  4. Performed any whole house energy efficiency upgrades.
  5. Purchased LED or CFL light bulbs or any new Energy Star-rated item.
  6. Purchased recycling containers or bins in the program’s inaugural year.

In 2016, AMI reimbursed $9,268 and 138 team members participated.  Learn more about their award-winning projects here.

Sweet Beginnings, LLC

Sweet Beginnings, LLC is an excellent example of the triple-bottom-line of sustainability. Working under the principles of people, planet, and prosperity, the social enterprise produces beelove, an all-natural honey and honey-infused body care product line. Based in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Sweet Beginnings’ employee roster is made up of graduates from NLEN’s “U-Turn Permitted” program. “U-Turn Permitted” is a training and preparedness program for formerly incarcerated individuals with over 383 graduates. In 2011, the program began a partnership with the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Chicago Department of Family Support Services. Their goal? Install and maintain beehives on the property of O’Hare International Airport to educate and promote the public about the health benefits of honey, the environmental benefits of pollinators, and the importance of preserving pollinator and other natural habitats (especially in dense, traffic-heavy urban areas like Chicago). Learn more about their award-winning activities here.

Loyola University Chicago  

The Chicago-based campus of Loyola University is approaching climate change with a focus on three areas: the campus, curriculum, and community engagement. The University has established its commitment to a sustainable future by implementing a social justice mission focused on climate change. Recently, Loyola released A Just Future,  a detailed climate action plan that includes a goal to be a carbon neutral campus by 2025. The campus aims to significantly  reduce energy use, increase clean energy, provide incentives to boost teaching,research, and engagement of climate science and adaptation, procure renewable energy credits and carbon offsets, and implement climate-ready infrastructure projects. Learn more about their award-winning efforts here.

These three organizations are just a few of the many Sustainability Award winners that have been recognized over the life of the program. So this Thanksgiving, between that sixth helping of mashed potatoes and post-meal nap, take a second to appreciate the importance of sustainability in society. It may not be a priority in your everyday life, but sustainability is the steady driving force behind making this planet a better place to live. For that, we should be thankful.

PRI Researchers Gather in Australia for Top GHG Control Conference

Nine Prairie Research Institute (PRI) carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) researchers traveled to Melbourne, Australia in October for the Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference 14, the field’s leading biennial scientific gathering, sponsored by the 30-nation Energy Technology Network.

gas separation test facility for CO2 capture
The $100 million CO2CRC gas separation test facility in Otway, Australia is developing new membrane materials for use in capturing purified carbon dioxide at a high- concentration natural gas well. This apparatus demonstrates the ability to test lab scale, flat membrane sheets and single fibers of hollow fiber membranes.

While at the conference, they visited Australia’s major CCS center, the Otway National Research Center. Otway’s CO2CRC gas separation test facility is developing membranes and techniques for CO2 storage, according to ISTC Director Kevin OBrien.

OBrien added that Dr. Abdul Qader, CO2CRC’s facilities manager, explained new strategies for separating CO2 from methane. “This would be a major driver for the natural gas industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” OBrien explained.

“They also have the ability to test new sorbents as part of their research into pressure swing absorption,” he said.

PRI is also a major player in technology development for CCUS. At ISTC, research focuses on the development of a large-scale U.S. carbon capture pilot at a working coal-fired power plant. Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researchers have developed expertise in sequestration of carbon dioxide in deep rock formations.

Because global demand for fossil fuels is not likely to decline soon, technologies must be developed to reduce carbon emissions by capturing, storing, and finding beneficial ways to use the waste gas, OBrien said. Capture requires a lot of energy and work at PRI and CO2CRC both search for better capture efficiency to lower its cost.

Work is underway worldwide to perfect a wide variety approaches. Successful commercialization of any of these technologies could be a game changer for climate change efforts because most of the world’s economies will continue using coal and other fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, said OBrien.

team of researchers at Australia conference
PRI CCUS researchers (left to right) Chris Korose, Randy Locke, Kevin OBrien, Sallie Greenberg, Scott Frailey, Vinod Patel, Nick Malkewicz (of Projeo Corporation), and Lance Schideman. Steve Whittaker and Keri Canaday (not pictured) also attended meeting.

2019 Notice of Funding Opportunity for Coastal Management Program Grants

The IDNR Coastal Management Program will soon be accepting pre-applications for projects of $1,000 to $100,000 to protect, preserve, and restore Illinois’ Lake Michigan natural and cultural resources.

Funding will be available for projects that:

  1. improve the health of the coast and Lake Michigan;
  2. enhance coastal public access, recreation, and coastal-dependent economic development;
  3. advance coastal community resilience; or
  4. create beach management plans.

Eligible applicants include local governments, universities, and non-profits. These are federal pass-through grants and match is required.

Successful pre-applicants will be invited to submit full applications. Grant guidelines, application materials, maps, and other resources will be available after November 19th at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/cmp/Pages/grants.aspx. The pre-application submission deadline is Friday, January 18, 2019.

We strongly encourage potential applicants to attend a grant information session. CMP will be hosting two sessions in November and December:

Chicago Loop
When: Tuesday, 11/27/18 from 3:30-5pm
Where: 160 N. LaSalle St., N 502, Chicago, IL 60601
Registration: https://goo.gl/forms/6c5S8M2eUFRUAmIX2

Webinar
When: Friday, 12/7/18 from 11am-noon
Registration: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e0fc2753264dc8285e9c0ca13a492d7ea

If you cannot attend the grant information session or have additional questions, sign up for an optional grant consultation. Please contact lisa.cotner@illinois.gov for more information.

Persistent Organic Pollutants on Microplastics Project expanded to include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Great Lakes are an important water and food source for both humans and animals. Anthropogenic contaminants such as microplastics, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are of increasing concern because of their potential impact on the environment and human health. Scientists lack understanding about many aspects of how these recently identified contaminants interact with the environment, aquatic species, and other potential contaminants.

With new funding from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researcher John Scott and his team will be able to expand their research to include more environmental contaminants. With their current project on persistent organic pollutants in Lake Muskegon, they are studying the effects of microplastic type and deployment time in the sediments and the water column on sorption of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to the microplastic particles. This on going investigation includes legacy contaminants like chlorinated pesticides, polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The new funds will also allow the team to look at adsorption of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the microplastics. PFASs are being found to be ubiquitous in the environment. This study will look at the role microplastics may play as a carrier of these compounds disperse them in water and sediment.