ISTC and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County have a history of working together to improve sustainability. Their latest partnership has resulted in the Forest Preserves’ Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan, in which they set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
The plan is divided into five priority areas:
Utilities & Emissions
Focus areas include GHG emissions measuring, reporting and reductions; green infrastructure integration; and water use tracking and efficiency
Major objectives include reducing energy consumption by 4.5 percent annually and developing green building and site standards for future projects
Focus areas include transportation and waste and recycling
Major objectives include reducing fuel usage by 4.5 percent annually and expanding recycling program to all FPCC facilities
Learning & Engagement
Focus areas include awareness and visibility, community engagement and employee engagement
Major objectives include promoting green practices with permit holders and enhancing Earth Day sustainability programming
Focus areas include natural resources management and practices
Major objectives include establishing Mitigating Impacts to Nature Policy as well as a Native Seed Policy outreach plan
Implementation & Advancement
Focus areas include green purchasing
Major objectives include establishing a Green Purchasing Policy, establishing and promoting a plastic reduction campaign, and increasing energy rebates and incentives with utilities
ISTC’s latest case study features 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award winner Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, which is based in Marion. Aisin manufactures a wide variety of products for the automotive industry, including sunroofs, grill door shutters, back door components, center pillar garnishes, roof rails, and door handles. They serve various customers, including Toyota, General Motors, Lexus, and Subaru.
AMI utilizes several tools to continously improve on their sustainability efforts. These include:
An ISO 14000 Management System;
Employee opinions and improvement suggestions are incorporated into the environmental planning process;
Environmental “Go Green” incentives for employees that extend outside of the workplace;
Community outreach initiatives that promote a wider adoption of sustainability practices; and
Use of outdoor space around the facility to improve habitats for plants and wildlife.
As a result of these projects, Aisin:
Achieved $212,982 in energy savings from 2008-2013;
Avoided emitting 1,709 tons of carbon dioxide;
Diverted 12,040 tons of material from the landfill from 2009-2016;
Recycled 2,214 tons of material in 2016; and
Paid $9,268 in incentives to employees for green purchases in 2016.
For more details on Aisin Manufacturing Illinois’ sustainability projects, read the case study.
The 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference (ECEC19) will be held on May 21-22, 2019, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL. The call for abstracts will open in mid-October and registration will open in February.
Coffee has a rich history rooted in cultures around the world. International Coffee Day, Saturday, September 29th, celebrates coffee and its history, but we should also be thinking about its sustainability. The United States is the biggest consumer of coffee, which is the largest tradeable commodity in the world after oil. Globally, we drink more than 600 billion cups of coffee every year.
Coffee growing has a large environmental impact. Coffee has been reported to have a water footprint of 140 liters per cup. This measure includes all of the water required to bring the product to market. Many growers adopted the sun grown method of growing coffee in the late 1970’s to expedite the growing process. This led to extreme deforestation and biodiversity loss. Shade grown coffee is a much more sustainable growing method. It requires little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
Coffee companies and researchers have recognized the problem and are making changes. Counter Culture Coffee and Think Coffee are two examples of businesses that have embraced sustainability. Counter Culture Coffee makes detailed contracts with each of their partners that sets specific goals for quality and sustainability. Think Coffee believes that sustainability starts with people. They have invested inhousing reconstruction in Colombia, feminine hygiene in Ethiopia, or clean water access in Nicaragua.
ISTC has also been involved in sustainability surrounding coffee in the past. Researchers at ISTC have studied the use of spent coffee grounds. In their study, they produced biodiesel, bio-oil, and biochar from the spent grounds. They were then able to extract lipids from spent grounds and convert the material to biodiesel. Sustainably managing the waste that coffee produces is a great way to minimize the environmental impact.
Climate change is also becoming an increasing threat to coffee production because coffee is grown in very specific conditions. Climate change is causing the once ideal temperature and precipitation levels in the tropics to fluctuate dramatically. It is also causing drought, which has led to an increase in the range of diseases that kill insects that pollinate coffee plants. Drought can also lead to soil degradation that can make the once fertile land unproductive.
For over 30 years, the Illinois Sustainability Award has recognized private and public Illinois organizations that have demonstrated outstanding and innovative sustainability practices that reduce the use of raw materials; reuse and recycle what was once waste; and prevent toxic materials from entering the environment.
The 2018 Awards Ceremony and Symposium is scheduled for October 23, 2018 at the Union League Club in Chicago. The morning symposium will feature keynote speaker Jacob Madsen, director of sustainability at SC Johnson, as well as panel discussion focused on the water/energy nexus.
Because today is also #ThrowbackThursday, I’m going to highlight some classic P2 publications. Although they were originally in the published in the 1990s through early 2000s, they contain a trove of useful information about implementing pollution prevention in today’s industrial facilities.
EPA Sector Notebooks (U.S. EPA, late 1990s) EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) developed the EPA Sector Notebooks to provide chemical profiles of selected industries. Each profile includes information about the processes conducted in the industry, chemical releases and transfers of chemicals, opportunities for pollution prevention, pertinent federal statutes and regulations, and compliance initiatives associated with the sector. Although these notebooks were published in the late 1990s, they still contain a wealth of information about the production processes, environmental impacts, and pollution prevention options for these sectors.
Facility Pollution Prevention Guide (U.S. EPA, 1992)
For those who are interested in and responsible for pollution prevention in industrial or service facilities. Summarizes the benefits of a company-wide pollution prevention program and suggests ways to incorporate pollution prevention in company policies and practices.
The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management (National Academies Press, 1997)
This volume examines industrial circulation of materials, energy efficiency strategies, “green” accounting, life-cycle analysis, and other approaches for preventing pollution and improving performance. Corporate leaders report firsthand on “green” efforts at Ciba-Geigy, Volvo, Kennecott, and Norsk Hydro.
Organizational Guide to Pollution Prevention (U.S. EPA, 2001)
This Pollution Prevention (P2) Guide provides information to help organizations get P2 programs started or to re-evaluate existing P2 programs. It presents an alternative method for working on P2 projects and four approaches to implementing a P2 program in an organization.
Searching for the Profit in Pollution Prevention: Case Studies in the Corporate Evaluation of Environmental Opportunities (U.S. EPA, 1998)
This research was initiated to more fully illuminate the challenges facing industry in the adoption of pollution prevention (P2) opportunities, and to identify issue areas that can be studied and addressed by policy-makers and industry. The case studies in this paper describe three P2 projects that were chosen/or analysis precisely because they were in some way unsuccessful. This analysis, based on a small and non-random sampling, is not necessarily representative of the experiences of all companies or all P2 investment possibilities.
When most people think about things they can borrow from their local library, books and DVDs are most often what comes to mind. However, many libraries are going beyond their typical collections and lending a plethora of other things. Some of these include:
Tools are handy to have around the house, but they can also be expensive and difficult to store. Tool lending libraries, which aren’t always affiliated with public libraries, are becoming increasingly common. Find one near you or start one if your community doesn’t have one already. Libraries throughout the country loan Kill-A-Watt power meters, which help you measure the efficiency of your appliances. Many libraries have also started loaning technology, including internet hot spots.
Cake pans, cooking tools, and maker/crafting kits
If you like to cook or bake, you may eventually run across a recipe that requires a special type of pan or kitchen tool that you may only use once. Libraries have you covered there too. The Northlake Public Library in Northlake, IL lends a wide variety of speciality kitchen equipment, including food processors, panini presses, and crepe pans. They also lend crafting tools like sergers and knitting looms.
Musical instruments are an investment if you aren’t sure you’re going to continue playing. Libraries have you covered there too. For example, you can borrow a Moog theremini and a wide variety of other instruments from the Ann Arbor (MI) Public Library.
Seed libraries, often located in public libraries or other community gathering points, are institutions created for the purpose of sharing seeds. The idea is that a library patron can “check-out” seeds to grow themselves, let “go-to-seed”, and then return seeds to the library to share with other community members. Learn more about seed libraries here or find one near you.
The next time you need household tools, electronics, games, or even formal wear, check to see if your local library has you covered. You can save money and reduce your environmental impact at the same time.
Those of us in the Great Lakes region (and the rest of the US and Canada) live in a so-called “throw-away society” in which consumerism is rampant, and goods are not often designed or produced with durability in mind. In fact, in recent years, more and more goods are designed to be explicitly or implicitly disposable. Even complex products, such as consumer electronics, are treated as if they are meant to be ephemeral. The classic example is the smartphone. These devices are astounding feats of scientific innovation and engineering. For perspective, consider ZME Science’s article from September 2017: Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969. Despite their complexity, and the fact that you, and probably everyone you know, barely scratch the surface in terms of using these devices to their full potential, we are constantly bombarded with cues to upgrade to the latest model. And new models seem to be released ever more frequently, always being touted as somehow greatly more advanced than their predecessors. A simpler example is clothing–when was the last time you sewed up or patched a hole in a shirt or pair of pants? Something that once would have been done by most people as a matter of course might now be deemed peculiar. A modern member of our culture might wonder why one would bother to patch a pair of pants when a new pair could be obtained so cheaply.
Our “take-make-dispose” model can also be called a linear economy, and the message you receive in such a system is clear: if you have something that becomes damaged or has minor performance issues, you should just replace it. In fact, even if what you have is working well, the time will quickly come when you should just replace the old with the new. Replace, rinse, and repeat. A linear economy is one in which natural resources are extracted and used to create goods which will entirely, or partially, inevitably end up in landfills or incinerators. Some materials may be recovered and recycled, but over time these materials degrade in quality and are used for increasingly lower grade purposes, so that ultimately they will become waste, of little or no further use.
Of course, in order to replace whatever is being disposed of, new goods are required. And those new goods require as much or more resources as the ones that went before them–new minerals and other raw materials must be extracted. Extraction processes can have negative environmental and social impacts (e.g. pollution, habitat destruction, human rights issues related to labor practices, health issues related to exposure to chemicals or physical risks, etc.). Materials are transported to factories (requiring the use of energy in the form of fuel) where they are transformed into new products, again potentially with new human exposures to toxins or other adverse conditions, and potential new emissions of toxins or other substances of concern. In the case of products such as electronics, sometimes components are manufactured in places distant from each other and must be further transported to be brought together in yet another factory to create a complete device. And the finished product is in turn transported across the globe to reach consumers, resulting in more expenditure of energy, more emissions. By the time most products reach the consumer, a great deal of natural and human resources have been invested in them, and however positively the product itself may impact a human life or the broader ecosystem, the number of potential negative impacts all along the supply chain have stacked up. Clearly, any tendency to treat products as disposable, purposefully or incidentally, exacerbates those negative impacts by requiring the manufacture of more products, more quickly than might otherwise have been the case, as long as the demand for product does not diminish.
The tragedy of this linear cycle of use and disposal has lead to the advocacy for a circular economy–one in which extraction of resources is minimized and products and services are designed in such a way as to maximize the flow of materials through resource loops as close to perpetually as physically possible. In such a system, what might have once been considered “waste” continues to be valued in some form or another. A circular economy is built upon design for durability, reuse, and the ability to keep products in service for as long as possible, followed by the ability to effectively reclaim, reuse and recycle materials.
There are many barriers to repair, including costs (real or perceived), knowledge, confidence in those performing the repair (one’s self or someone else), and access to tools, instruction manuals and repair code meanings which tell technicians exactly what the problem is so they can address it. Manufacturers of a variety of products, particular those with electronic components (everything from automobiles to cell phones to tractors) have come under pressure in recent years over the attempt to monopolize access to parts, tools, and necessary information for performing repairs, leading to what is called the Right to Repair movement. Currently, 18 US states, including Illinois, Minnesota, and New York in the Great Lakes region, have introduced “fair repair” bills which would require manufacturers of various products to make those tools, parts, and pieces of information accessible to consumer and third-party repair shops. You can read more about the history of the right to repair movement and right to repair legislation on the Repair Association web site.
In an increasing number of communities around the world, citizens are coming together to share their knowledge, tools, and problem-solving skills to help each other repair every day items for free. I’m writing this on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and here are some examples of local projects that can help you repair the items you own:
Illini Gadget Garage. This one’s my favorite, but I’m admittedly biased, since I helped launch this project and coordinated it for the past few years. The IGG is a collaborative repair center for personally-owned electronic devices and small appliances. “Collaborative repair” means that project staff and volunteers don’t repair your device for you; rather they work with you to troubleshoot and repair your device. Assistance is free; consumers are responsible for purchasing their own parts if needed, though staff can help determine what parts might be necessary. In addition to working with consumers by appointment at their campus workshop, the IGG crew conduct “pop-up” repair clinics in various public spaces around the Champaign-Urbana community and across campus. Consumers not only benefit from the “do-it-together” approach, they also get access to specialized tools (e.g. soldering irons, pentalobe screwdrivers, heat guns, etc.) that enable device repair, which many folks wouldn’t have in their tool box at home. Though successful repair obviously can’t be guaranteed, project staff say that if it has a plug or electrical component, and you can carry into the shop (or pop-up), they’ll help you try to figure out and fix the problem.
The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign. Including both a downtown Urbana shop and a Campus Bike Center, this project provides tools and space for bicyclists to share knowledge and repair bicycles. This project sells refurbished bikes, and individuals who are willing to work on fixing up a donated bike (with assistance) can eventually purchase a bike at a discount. See https://thebikeproject.org/get-involved/join-the-bike-project/ for membership fees; an equity membership based on volunteer hours is available.
CU Community Fab Lab. Though technically a makerspace, this project provides access to a variety of tools that individuals may not own themselves, as well as a community of tinkerers and creative minds to foster sharing of knowledge. See http://cucfablab.org/inside-the-lab/tools/ for available tools. Note that some fees may apply for consumable materials. Workshops are also offered to help you learn various skills. The Fab Lab is free to anyone in the community during open hours.
Restart Project. Focused on electronics, this is a UK project, but you can host a “restart party” anywhere, and some K-12 schools, including some in the US are integrating restart centers to help teach repair skills and instill ideas of sustainability among students.
In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act. Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, celebrated during the third week of September each year (September 17-23, 2018), highlights the efforts of EPA, its state partners, industry, and the public in preventing pollution right from the start.
Pollution prevention is a cornerstone of community resilience. By reducing the use of toxic chemicals and eliminating waste, communities improve the health and welfare of their citizens and reduce their risk when natural disasters strike.
ISTC’s annual report for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 is now available. The report features ISTC’s technical and research efforts during the period. Highlights include ISTC’s success with winning awards for all five of the DOE grant applications that our researchers submitted in fall 2017. The report also details new initiatives such as solar panel recycling and free assessments for wastewater treatment plants to reduce operating costs. With these efforts, ISTC continues to advance sustainability in Illinois and beyond. Check out the report for more details.