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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or by phone (630) 472-5016.
Remember, applications are due May 3. Start your application now!
If your organization has done a lot in the name of sustainability – from projects that save money and resources, to initiatives that strengthen the people and communities you work for – what are you waiting for? The Illinois Sustainability Award (ISA) provides a great opportunity for you to pull all of your sustainability work together into a single document: Your award application!
Because sustainability encompasses the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – it can be tough to wrap one’s brain around all that should be included in your application. Our How To Apply page and FAQ’s will help you in that process, but we know that’s a lot to read! Here are three tips to help you cut to the chase, and get started on your application (due by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 3).
1. Start driving. Get key people on board.
ISA Applications are typically a team effort, but there is often a single person or small team that drives the process forward. The application drivers can be anyone – from top management to employees who volunteer time on a Green Team. If you’re reading this, you may be the driver!
Send a note out to co-workers letting them know you’re preparing a Illinois Sustainability Award application. Here are some key people to get on board early (positions vary by organization):
• Top Management
• Facilities/Operations Manager
• Plant Manager
• Sustainability Officer/Green Team Lead
• PR Officer
2. Read these two guides. Narrative Guidelines – You have up to six single-spaced pages to describe your sustainability accomplishments. These guidelines tell you how. Metrics Form Instructions – Download the Metrics Form (Microsoft Excel format) and read the Instructions tab.
3. Check out the sample applications.
The sample applications, available HERE, display best practices from past winners’ applications. Note that a good application typically includes a variety of projects touching on multiple impacts or aspects of sustainability. The project descriptions will also include some detail on how they were conceived and who was involved. We want to hear how your organization went from idea to implementation.
BONUS TIP: Consider normalizing your data.
Normalized data is reported on a relevant per-unit basis. One of our previous award winners, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, tracked their water use in this way before and after implementing water conservation measures in their wash bay. Instead of simply reporting total gallons of water consumed, they reported gallons per vehicle-hour, providing us with a water-use measure that can be compared across years, regardless of how many trips the buses make. This type of measurement, a normalized metric, is extremely helpful for evaluating your progress – the true impact of a sustainability project.
Check out the Illinois Manufacturer Inc. sample application (Microsoft Excel format) for more normalization examples and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application.
If you still have questions about the process, contact Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 630.472.5016.
A ban on the use of 24 antiseptic ingredients, including triclosan, for use in health care settings will take effect at the end of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month. That extends a 2016 ban on Triclosan, and other active ingredients, from use in consumer products.
The action is the latest development in a long road of coping with the competing rights and responsibilities of marketplace innovation, regulatory power, public health, and rapid advances in our scientific ability to detect such compounds.
Since then triclosan and other antibacterials have continued to find their way into many consumer products. For example, Hasbro, the maker of Playskool toys, was fined in 1997 for false advertising because they claimed their toys made with antibacterials were safer for kids than those without.
Present in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and body washes, triclosan is considered a Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product (PPCP), which the Water Quality Association defines as “products used by individuals for personal health/well-being or for cosmetic purposes.” PPCPs have been identified as emerging contaminants of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because little is known about their impact on the environment or their risks to human health when released into the ecosystem.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the FDA in 2010 to force a decision on triclosan and other antibacterials. Four years later, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) supported the FDA’s original findings by reporting triclosan as one of the top contaminants of emerging concern detected in biosolids. The FDA finally made the decision to ban triclosan in consumer products in 2016; now in 2018, this ban will be extended to the medical industry.
Why all the concern? They are pervasive. The widespread use of triclosan and other antibacterials has left residues in our environment, as well as in our bodies. Using bio-monitoring, triclosan residue was detected in 75 percent of Americans over six years old. Thought to be absorbed through the skin, tests have found traces of triclosan in human blood, urine, and breast milk.
Also research at ISTC and elsewhere have shown PPCPs can act as endocrine disruptors (EDCs), which alter hormone functions. Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters the way hormones work in the body, which is alarming considering potential impacts on human health. To spread awareness of the most recent emerging contaminant research, policies, and education, ISTC is hosting its third conference on emerging contaminants this June 5-6.
ISTC has also sponsored research to study the impact of triclosan on the environment. A three-year study ran from 2009 to 2012 and involved researchers analyzing two rivers in the Chicago area receiving effluent from wastewater treatment plants. Effluent from wastewater treatment plants can serve as a point source for a range of pollutants, including PPCPs. When analyzing the rivers, researchers found that increased exposure to triclosan was linked to both an increase in triclosan resistance and a decrease in biodiversity within the benthic bacterial communities. These results show that the common and widespread use of triclosan could have negative ecological consequences.
Further laboratory studies have matched ISTC’s suggestion that triclosan may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has significant impacts to human health, as it could diminish the effectiveness of some medical treatments, including antibiotic treatments.
Despite being used for the past four decades, manufacturers have proven neither the effectiveness nor the safety of long-term use of triclosan. The FDA has determined that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and water and challenged the industry to demonstrate otherwise.
Excluded from the new regulative action are six antiseptic active ingredients: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, povidone-iodine, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. The FDA said further research is needed before commenting on the safety or effectiveness of these six ingredients.
The new FDA rule will go into effect Dec. 20, 2018.
You may have heard that a new Star Wars movie came out last week. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, don’t worry, we won’t spoil it for you. But it got us thinking about sustainability in the Star Wars universe.
Yes, it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But are there lessons, and warnings in the story for us? On one end of the sustainability spectrum there are the Ewoks, who live respectfully off the land and use their resources wisely. On the other end of the spectrum there’s the Death Star, which destroys entire planets just to show off its power. Generally speaking, folks in our world fall somewhere in between.
The Ewoks’ Forest Moon of Endor sustained them in their happy lifestyle. But what happened on Tatooine, where Anakin and Luke grew up? Environmentally it took a wrong turn at some point, reminding us of droughts and wildfires growing more common in California and across the country.
Habitat preservation is important if we want our world to remain habitable for generations to come. On Tatooine, they acknowledged the scarcity of water on their planet and relied heavily on moisture farms. One predicted effect of climate change here on earth is altered weather patterns, leading to a shift in agricultural growing zones. In the Midwest, we love our corn and soybean farms. No one wants to replace this valuable facet of our economy with moisture farms, which use moisture vaporators to pull water from the humidity in the air, just to have access to clean water. If avoiding the effects of climate change means reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, count me in.
C-3PO, rebuilt by young Anakin Skywalker from scrap parts, demonstrates the value of reusing resources and recycling. Han Solo and Chewbacca also repaired and refurbished the legendary Millennium Falcon many times rather than scrapping it for a new starship. The electronics and machinery repair in Star Wars is inspiring, as we have so much electronic waste in our society today. To learn how to reuse, recycle, and repair your electronics, visit the Illini Gadget Garage, or check what repair resources are available in your community.
You may be wondering what fuel these spaceships used to travel such great distances – let’s hope they didn’t have to deal with inflated gas prices around the holidays! The Millennium Falcon and other standard starships use different sorts of fuels, commonly Rhydonium, mined on the planet Abafar. According to Wookieepedia, the Millennium Falcon used hypermatter to go into hyperdrive and reach lightspeed. While we’re not sure about the sustainability of using hypermatter, we do know about at least one renewable energy source in the Star Wars universe.
As part of Jedi training, younglings were sent to the Crystal Caves of Ilum to mine kyber crystals for their lightsabers. Kyber crystals, while rare, are inexhaustible sources of energy as their power does not diminish over time. These crystals are used to power lightsabers as well as the Death Star’s planet-destroying superlaser — I guess both the light- and dark-sides appreciate renewable energy!
When we look to our own world we can see renewable energy sources such as wind and solar on the rise. Innovations in these areas include printable solar panels, floating wind turbines, and sustainable lighting that help fight mosquito infestations.
Ah, Star Wars…. A fictional story perhaps it may be. But, teach us much about how to keep our light in the galaxy it can.
What a wonderful world when we can shop online and get free two-day shipping.
What could be better?
From a climate perspective, perhaps slower is better.
More than thirty years of engineering have made passenger cars highly efficient and clean burning. That trip to the local store might have a smaller footprint than that uber-delivery to your door. Diesel trucks are lightly regulated and impact air quality more.
Experts at the University of California say today’s competition to get it to you fastest is eroding the logistical progress they had made in consolidating their shipments. Grist explains some of the complexities of shipping that determine the carbon-intensively of your shipping choice. All of those individual shipping boxes have also been implicated for their impacts.
But now there is the added variable of free two-day shipping? Just because it is free you don’t have to choose it, according to Miguel Jaller, of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis. Consolidate your own purchases and choose a slower delivery option — that gives shippers the best chance of consolidating their shipments. Happy Holidays!
This annual upbeat reminder that “we use too much, buy too much, and toss too much” shines a light on a society that more and more gets it.
At our homes and schools, the interest and the opportunities for recycling keep growing, slowly. Here in Champaign, IL, two collection events this year gathered 146 tons of electronics for recycling.
But as much as we waste at home — over-consuming our disposable goods — that is a small fraction of the estimated volume of non-household waste (i.e. industrial, manufacturing, commercial, construction, mining, etc.).
A new analysis of winners of the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award suggests many of those big players get it too. The number one sustainability initiatives by ISA winners was for waste reduction. When AbbVie took down three buildings on its North Chicago campus they wasted nothing. All of the metal was recycled and all of the masonry and concrete was crushed for current and future use.
Caterpillar, Inc. knows big. When its Surface Mining and Technology site in Decatur committed to a Zero Landfill goal, they created a by-product catalog, devising a “plan for every waste.” The result has been an average recycling rate in the 90s.
Dynamic Manufacturing Inc. in Melrose Park is in a recycling business of sorts. They restore used automotive transmissions and torque converters for reuse “as-new.” By installing a solvent recovery system, they now recycle 35,000 gallons for reuse on-site rather than transporting it for disposal.
What was number two? Maybe better news – process upgrades, optimization, and planning. These achievements eliminate waste before it exists. Here is where sustainable supply chains, sustainable product design, and better packaging open doors to easier recycling and hopes of a circular economy.
The third most prevalent achievement leading to a 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award was community involvement. That brings us back home. These companies value recycling and that is reinforced by employees and their communities. Marion automotive parts maker Aisin Manufacturing Illinois purchased four collection trailers for the Recycle Williamson County program. Caterpillar in Decatur encourages its employees to reduce waste and recycle by donating all recycling proceeds to local charities and agencies, also nominated by those workers.
Scientists from seven Chinese universities visited the University of Illinois July 11-13 to compare research goals and approaches in their efforts for cleaner air, water and soil.
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) China Workshop deepened relationships begun in recent years by environmental experts of both countries to strengthen scientific collaborations. The workshop examined environmental concerns about air, water, and soil pollution that are of mutual interest to help solve a wide range of critical issues in these areas.
The Chinese visitors represented the College of Civil Engineering at Nanjin University, Jiangsu Insitute of Environmental Industry, the College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University, the School of Environmental Engineering and Sciences of North China Electric Power University, the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Peking University, Chongqing Institute of Green and intelligent Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the School of Space and Environment at Beihang University, and Beijing Dopler Eco-Technologies Co.
The visitors also sampled a number of high-profile U of I research projects including agricultural enhancement at SoyFace (top), weather and air quality monitoring (second from top) and (third from top) soil reclamation (Mud-to-Parks dredging project at Lake Decatur).
Wide-ranging technical presentations during the workshop included focuses on:
• air pollution modeling, health effects and remediation;
• surface and groundwater contamination and new treatment strategies; and
• soil contamination prevention and remediation.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin (bottom) welcomed the Chinese scientists, describing the long history of friendship and cooperation between cities and universities in China.
A valuable bumble bee colony was rescued from the loading dock at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) last week and is now is a colony-in-residence at the entomology lab at Illinois State University (ISU) in Bloomington.
John Marlin, research affiliate at ISTC and also an entomologist, spotted the bees making its home in an abandoned robin’s nest on the center’s loading dock. Marlin wondered if they were Bombus pensylvanicus, a once abundant Illinois species that has suffered a rapid decline in recent years.
Marlin contacted Sydney Cameron, the U of I’s authority on bumble bees about the find. Cameron was traveling so she referred Marlin to Ben Sadd, assistant professor of infectious disease ecology at ISU. The loading dock was soon to be very busy with ISTC deliveries. Additionally the bees were stressed by the 90+ degree weather and as many as seven adult bees were fanning the nest with their wings during the day to cool it. Sadd packed up the nest and moved it back to the cool Bloomington lab.
Sadd identified the bees as Bombus auricomus, not as rare, but still of considerable interest. Inside the nest was revealed seven workers a queen tending to healthy brood cells and nectar pots. The brood was in good condition so he said the colony could continue producing. It is the only B. auricomis nest in the facility.
Bumble bee populations are declining all over the country as suitable prairie, grassland, and other habitats disappear in both rural and urban areas, Marlin pointed out. Homeowners can help bees by including native flowering plants in gardens and only using soil insecticides when necessary, he added.
The plight of many bee species (there are over 300 in Illinois alone) has drawn national attention, including efforts to list some as endangered. The Trump administration halted the protection of Bombus affinis under the Endangered Species Act in January. Congress is debating changes to the act this summer.
Experts worldwide are meeting this week in Calabria, Italy to focus on ways to deploy carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.
Today Kevin OBrien, who leads both the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois State Water Survey, spoke about the opportunities to treat “CCUS as a Regional Economic Development Tool.”
Reducing CO2 emissions while also maintaining economic growth requires balancing many complex technological, political, and social aspects, according to OBrien.
Deployment will bring significant implications for regional energy, water, and transportation, he said. By focusing on job growth and community resilience, OBrien said, CCUS can draw on, and build on, regional alliances for education, business, and community development.
The Prairie Research Institute, through its Illinois State Geological Survey and ISTC, have become leaders in the development and implementation of carbon capture and storage. ISTC is also developing a Center for Carbon Utilization on the University of Illinois campus.
“The goal is to not only evaluate technologies, but also demonstrate how communities may be able to monetize captured CO2,” said Kevin OBrien. The effort provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and build new markets, he said.