Food and beverage manufacturers explore new efficiency approaches at ISTC workshop

On October 3,  participants from seven different food manufacturing companies gathered at Thatcher Woods Pavilion in River Forest to learn how to take sustainability to the next level at a workshop sponsored by ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, ComEd, Peoples Gas, and North Shore Gas.

Speakers updated the attendees on:

  • ways to reduce a facility’s environmental footprint and save money with pollution prevention and energy efficiency
  • improving water conservation by ensuring proper water chemistry in water and wastewater treatment systems
  • using aqueous ozone, a safer, more effective alternative to chemical sanitizers
  • LEAN for food and beverage manufacturing
  • utility energy efficiency programs
  • renewable energy opportunities
  • developing a supply-chain sustainability program

Two companies requested a free technical assistance visit during the workshop. If you work for a food or beverage manufacturer and want to improve your operating performance, decrease your costs, and use fewer toxic chemicals, schedule your free on-site assessment today.

Download the workshop presentations here.

A Water Quality Activist Tests Missouri Waters For Tiny Pieces Of Plastic

Read the full story from NPR. ISTC researchers are analyzing the samples for this project.

Missouri waters are polluted with microplastics, small pieces of plastic smaller than a pencil eraser.

Microplastics can come from large pieces of plastic that degrade into smaller pieces and consumer products, like toothpaste and cosmetics, that contain microbeads. While research has shown that plastic pollution can threaten aquatic life, scientists are still trying to understand how microplastics could affect human health.

Understanding the impact of microplastics starts by knowing how much is in local waters, said Rachel Bartels, co-founder of the nonprofit Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper.

Champaign County Household Hazardous Waste Collection scheduled for October 26; Online registration begins September 23

The online registration for the fall Illinois EPA-Sponsored One-Day Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event in Champaign County will open on Monday, September 23, at 8 a.m. The link to the online registration system is The collection event will take place on Saturday, October 26, in Champaign. Residents can find drop-off location information on the registration website.

This drop-off event is open to all Illinois residents. Residents must register for an appointment in order to attend. On September 23, residents can reserve one of the available 15-minute time slots between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Immediately upon reserving a time, a confirmation email and/or text message will be sent. The resident will also receive a postcard in the U.S. Mail five to seven days before the event which serves as their “ticket” into the event.

A complete list of household hazardous wastes that are and are not accepted is available online at

The online registration will remain open until all 15-minute time slots are full.

If residents need assistance registering for the event, they can contact Nichole Millage, Environmental Sustainability Specialist by email at or call 217-403-4780.

Illinois EPA’s Office of Energy awards grant to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for innovative engineering project

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John J. Kim has announced that the Agency’s Office of Energy has issued a $900,000 grant award to SIU Carbondale for a unique solar photovoltaic plus energy storage and communication resiliency project.

The SIU Solar + Storage project will feature more than 150kW of solar generation and 310kWh of storage capacity in a highly-visible section of campus at the SIU College of Engineering.

As proposed, this project will:

  • reduce SIU’s demand on the grid;
  • serve as an important educational tool
    to the College of Engineering; and
  • add resilience to the electricity and communications infrastructure of
    SIU and the surrounding Carbondale community.

The SIU Solar + Storage project is the first investment of its kind by Illinois EPA’s Office of Energy and designed to be replicated and applied to other contexts and potential future investments across Illinois in and out of the higher education setting.

“The SIU Solar + Storage project will provide energy savings and emergency communications resiliency for the campus and Carbondale community as well as enhance educational opportunities for the University’s College of Engineering,” said Director Kim. “Illinois EPA looks forward to watching the
project evolve as students engage with the technology from different perspectives.”

There are two other important components of the project. First, solar powered long-term evolution (LTE) communication modules will sustain cellular communication for the SIU police department, the Carbondale police department, and the Carbondale fire department in the event of power disruption.

Second, the project intends to demonstrate that photovoltaic (PV) systems with energy storage provide a viable alternative when selecting backup power sources for small-scale applications. This will be achieved by closely monitoring the operation of the battery storage backup in response to utility power disruption.

The Office of Energy is working closely with the SIU Office of Sponsored Programs, the SIU Physical Plant Engineering Services, and the College of Engineering to design an impactful project with meaningful educational opportunities for engineering and communications students.

Meet April Janssen

April Janssen is a Sustainability Specialist at ISTC’S Oak Brook Office, where she works with businesses and communities improve their waste management practices.

How old were you when you first became interested in sustainability? What sparked your interest?
Growing up in Wisconsin on a river, I’ve always had a connection to nature and sustainability. I recall saving my modest childhood allowance to adopt an acre of rainforest through the Nature Conservancy so I could somehow be part of this wonderous ecosystem. Living in Chicago that has manifested to personal actions, studying and professionally pursing sustainability.

Who or what drew you to study sustainability?
While initiating and growing the Chicago Marathon’s Sustainability Program, I began applying my personal practices professionally and acknowledged my passion for topic, as well as the need for a more formal foundation.

What is your background prior to working at ISTC?
I worked on the Chicago Marathon (Chicago Event Management) for 7 years, managing the Volunteer Program and developing the Sustainability Program. As an event invested in health and fitness, the community hosting the 26.2 mile course and the dozens of charities who use the event to raise millions of dollars, an environmental aspect was the next natural step. We utilized the Council for Responsible Sport’s certification as a framework to guide the program and our initiatives, as well as earn certification. I left to pursue a Master’s in Sustainable Urban Development and began working at Bright Beat, a sustainability consultancy, where I was able to gain more experience in sustainable operations, facilities, communication and engagement through a variety of projects.

What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at ISTC?
I am looking forward to supporting and learning more about the many diverse sustainability applications ISTC’s project partners are seeking – from waste characterization studies aimed at achieving zero waste, to renewable energy generation recommendations in support of net zero commitments, and everything in between. I am excited to be here!

What are common misconceptions about your career? OR What question do you get asked most frequently about your career?
The most common misconception is that sustainability is ‘too difficult’ or ‘too costly’, when often small changes make big impacts, at little to no cost, or there’s a cost savings. The most common question I am asked is, ‘Can I recycle this?’

What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
People who don’t care. I take the carrot rather than the stick approach, ultimately educating, inspiring, and enticing people to care.

What advice would you give to future sustainability professionals?
Stick with it! There are many approaches to sustainability and paths to where you want to be.

If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I would love to work on the sustainability program of an Olympic Games. Years in the making, the world stage, excellence in sport, a time of peace and camaraderie – the Olympics exemplify the best humanity has to offer.



ISTC receives $2,998,040 grant from U.S. DOE for Phase II of Large Pilot Testing of Carbon Dioxide Capture Technology project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced funding for Phase II of ISTC’s project titled ”Large Pilot Testing of Linde/BASF Advanced Post-Combustion CO2 Capture Technology at Coal Fired Power Plant”. ISTC will receive $2,998,040 in funding from DOE for Phase II.

During Phase II, the project team will continue plans to design, construct, and operate an advanced amine-based post-combustion carbon dioxide (CO2) capture system at a coal-fired power plant using technology developed by Linde/BASF. City Water, Light, and Power’s Dallman Unit 4 generating station in Springfield, IL will serve as the host for Phase II. The project will allow for knowledge-sharing with coal-fired plant generators across the U.S. and beyond, leading to larger scale operations to reduce energy costs and limit emissions.

“This first-of-its-kind large scale demonstration is vital to the carbon capture knowledge base and experience and will serve as a reference for future commercial projects,” said Kevin C OBrien, ISTC’s director and the project lead. “Technology that helps keep energy costs low while limiting carbon emissions is of interest to communities in the region, our nation, and internationally. The successful completion of this phase and subsequent project phases will demonstrate the technical feasibility of the retrofit and provide a blueprint for power facilities globally. Installing capture facilities to coal-fired power plants also contributes to workforce and professional development opportunities, which are especially critical for economically depressed regions being hit hard due to the collapse of the coal industry and its related supply chain.”

City Water, Light, and Power (CWLP) is a municipally-owned utility that supplies electric and water services for residents and businesses of Springfield, IL. The Dallman 4 unit with an approximate nameplate generating capacity of over 200 MW, was commissioned in 2009, and is the largest and newest of CWLP’s four generating units.

Doug Brown, Chief Utility Engineer at CWLP said, “We are excited to be involved in a project that manages CO2 emissions. It fits well with our interest in supplying energy and water to Springfield in a highly sustainable fashion. We welcome the opportunity for CWLP to be one of the largest R&D capture pilots from a global perspective.”

Learn more about the project at

Meet Savannah Feher

Savannah Feher is a Sustainability Technician with ISTC’s TAP group. Savannah supports research and sustainability reporting for a variety of clients. She also assists with waste assessments and implementation planning for the Zero Waste program.  She is based in ISTC’s Oak Brook office.

Savannah will be speaking at the Illinois Recycling Association’s event Recycling in Transition on Wednesday, September 11 at IEPA headquarters in Springfield.

How old were you when you first became interested in sustainability? What sparked your interest?

As long as I can remember my family has been composting, growing their own organic produce and hanging clothes out to dry on a clothes line outside. Growing up, it was just a way of life that, as I got older I began to want to know more and more about.

Who or what drew you to study sustainability?

Again, my upbringing played an instrumental role. Growing up with so many facets of sustainability woven into my everyday life, it took a while for me to realize that everyone does not know what composting means. Understanding that there is, above and beyond a need for education and implementation has driven my path to assist with that.

What is your background before coming to work at ISTC?

As a fairly recent graduate, I have interned with the Missouri Botanical Gardens Earthways Center as a Sustainability Education Intern, along with being an Assistant Canvassing Director of a campaign office for the Fund for the Public Interest. Right before this position I worked at Allbirds, a sustainable shoe brand that opened it’s first location in Chicago this year.

What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at ISTC?

I look forward to the variety of clients, partners and community members that I will be working with. Getting to know and understand the challenges and opportunities that different people and industries are facing will allow me to approach future projects with an increasingly broadened view on how to solve the problems that we face.

What question do you get asked most frequently about your career or the subject you study?

Most questions stem from a general misunderstanding of what it means to work in sustainability. In my position there is not only one right answer to the question of what I do. That seems to be something inherently coupled with sustainability though, the involvement in many different facets of life, which keeps things interesting for me.

What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?

Discovering where my true passion lies within sustainability has been the most notable journey for me.

What do you wish more people understood about science or being a scientist?

It can take many forms. Sometimes it requires sorting through wet trash during a waste audit, or collecting data through meetings, phone calls or interviews. It is both hands off and hands on, and there is not simply one way or avenue to finding answers.

What advice would you give to future sustainability professionals?

Ask questions. There are so many technologies, industries, issues and potential solutions out there that it can be intimidating at times. Never be afraid to ask, to learn, to inquire about anything and everything new.

If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be? (Doesn’t have to be a co-worker)

I am not sure of a specific individual who does this, but I have recently taken up soapmaking, and would not mind getting to let my creativity go wild in that department.