Spotlight on U.S. EPA Region 5’s Food Manufacturing and Processing Industry

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze public data sets to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. The goal of this project was to use the analyzed results to assist pollution prevention technical assistance programs (P2 TAPs) with targeting their assistance efforts.


This paper summarizes preliminary findings related to the food manufacturing and processing industry (NAICS code 311).


GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) national network of pollution prevention information centers and is hosted by ISTC.

Calling All Parks! Get Your Green On

remain green and carry onISTC loves recycling. Last year our Zero Waste Program turned Forest Preserves of Cook County on to a great opportunity with the Keep America Beautiful / Dr. Pepper Snapple Park Recycling Infrastructure Grants. It was a nice boost to a Chicago parks program that had already made sustainability a high art form.


Keep America Beautiful is offering the grants again to parks, athletic fields, nature trails and public beaches. Hurry though! You need to apply by June 10.


Another fabulous KAB opportunty is their Anheuser-Busch Community Restoration Grants Program. When natural disasters affect public areas, this program can assist in restoration.

Proper Disposal of Unwanted Drugs Getting Easier

Got Drugs?



dropboxes for unwanted drugs
Handy, secure dropboxes at Champaign, Urbana and U of I police stations make disposing of unwanted drugs easy.


Saturday April 30 is National Prescription Take-Back Day in the U.S.A. The Drug Enforcement Administration has organized a network of local law enforcement agencies to accept unwanted or expired human or veterinary drugs and to educate the public about the need to properly dispose of these medications.


Check DEA’s handy collection site locator  if you want to drop off your drugs between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.


If you live in the Champaign-Urbana area you can use secure dropboxes ANYTIME in the lobbies of the following police departments:


Champaign: 82 E University Ave.


Urbana: 400 S Vine St.


University of Illinois: 1110 W Springfield Ave, Urbana.


Of course the DEA is interested in halting abuse of unused drugs which are often misappropriated from the home medicine cabinets. But a DEA news release makes the alarming understatement that “Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.” To keep unused medications out of the reach of children and pets and also to prevent abuse by others taking the medications, all unused medications should be taken to drop box collection sites.  You should keep the medications in their original containers and black out your name and address if on the label before dropping them off.


Information on ISTC’s recent research on the emerging problem is available online. A lot more about proper handling and disposal of drugs and personal care products is provided by IL-IN Sea Grant.


ISTC, IL-IN Sea Grant, and the U of I Extension are now working together to improve pharmaceutical give-back locations state-wide. Scientific studies are revealing the bio-active compounds are having observable consequences when they get into the aquatic environment.

Prairie Research Institute’s Large-Scale Watersheds Initiative Recognized Today at White House Water Summit

PRI'a Large-Scale Watershed Initiative was highlighted as part of the White House Water Summit.
PRI’s Large-Scale Watershed Initiative was highlighted as part of the White House Water Summit.




Initiative Aims to Calculate ‘Value’ of Entire Illinois River Watersheds

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The White House Water Summit today highlighted the Resilient Watersheds Initiative of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois in its announcement of new measurable steps being taken across the country to address key water issues.


The White House Water Summit Fact Sheet and the Commitments to Action on Building a Sustainable Water Future report are both available online.


The Resilient Watersheds Initiative seeks to provide a science-based and data-driven approach to promoting resilient, sustainable Illinois watersheds. The interdisciplinary approach includes expertise from the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, other departments across the University, as well as researchers at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in Alton, Ill.


The initiative will organize available data into a multi-dimensional model of the tangible ecosystem benefits watersheds provide (e.g., water storage and filtration, groundwater recharge, biodiversity) in addition to the value they represent for food, drinking water, swimming, fishing, boating, and tourism, etc.


The concept is called Value-based Landscape Design, which works to create tools that evaluate the potential of every acre of habitat. PRI is already engaged in landscape design projects related to the Lower Fox River and Green Bay ecosystems in Wisconsin, as well as Great Lakes coastal wetlands. This latter project was recognized by the White House in April, 2015 as one of the first four Resilient Lands and Waters Initiatives.


The Resilient Watersheds Initiative has set an ambitious goal of building integrated models of the entire Illinois River watershed. Areas suggested as starting points, due to the vast amount of information already available, include the Spoon River and Kankakee River watersheds.


PRI has for decades conducted extensive studies of Illinois’ fisheries, water quality, water supply, floodplains, wildlife habitat, and invasive species, just to name a few, through research by four of its divisions—the Ill. Natural History Survey, Ill. State Geological Survey, Ill. State Water Survey, and Ill. Sustainable Technology Center. The Watersheds Initiative builds on and integrates these efforts.


“The complexity of natural ecosystems, human impacts on them, and the value they represent to us, transcends boundaries of geography, political borders, and science disciplines,” said Brian Anderson, senior deputy executive director of PRI.


“Illinois watersheds are predominantly working landscapes,” added Laura Kammin, outreach program leader at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. “A framework that underscores the broad spectrum of values and the tangible benefits watersheds provide, and quantifies how those benefits change with changes in land-uses and practices, will help us make the best informed decisions for future planning.”


A preliminary report “The Resilient Watersheds Initiative: A Value-based Landscape Design Approach to Promote Watershed Resiliency though Collaboration” was drafted in fall 2015 to set the stage for planning and implementation of the initiative in spring 2016. The organization for the initiative is shown in Figure 1 of that document. Please contact Laura Kammin, or Brian Anderson, for additional information.


The White House Summit coincided with World Water Day.

Tuesday’s White House Water Summit to Focus on Sustainable Solutions

White House Water Summit
The White House Water Summit will be live-streamed from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at


Watch out for the White House Water Summit #WHWaterSummit from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, March 22. The event will feature live streaming of a series of lighting talks on the challenges we face and innovative solutions around the nation to help build a sustainable water future.


We face plenty of water issues: too much, too little, contamination. The White House Water Summit intends to focus not on individual crises, but collaboratives of different jurisdictions, interests, and science disciplines to come up with long-term strategies for meeting our water needs.


The Obama Administration’s Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources called for federal agencies to work with state and local partners throughout 2015 to develop large-scale management approaches toward climate resilience. Tuesday’s Summit is expected to feature many of the results of that agenda.


The Prairie Research Institute is already participating in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative to identify priority wetlands for conservation and restorations. In April, 2015 the Cooperative was cited by the Administration’s Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative as one of four first regional partnerships emblematic of the benefits of this large-scale approach to resource management.


ISTC Signs Call for Action to Limit Global Warming


The paris pledge for actionThe Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has become a signatory to The Paris Pledge for Action, a world-wide call to action to reduce environmental impacts and limit global warming to less than two degrees.


“Minimizing the impact of climate change will require global innovation and cooperation,” said Kevin O’Brien, director of ISTC at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI). “There is not one solution to this societal, governmental, and technological challenge,” he added, “there are as many as we can think of.”


COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, was the United Nation’s 21st climate conference in December, at which 196 nations recognized that climate change represents an “urgent and potentially irreversible threat to all human societies” requiring “deep reductions” in global greenhouse gas emissions.


The Paris Pledge for Action offers cities, businesses, investors, organizations and others everywhere to pledge to impact the goal of halting the rise in the average annual temperature on Earth. It is an initiative of the COP21 French Presidency (diplomatic host of the Conference) and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.


The pledge also reads: We … realize that taking strong action to reduce emissions can not only reduce the risks of climate change but also deliver better growth and sustainable development.”


Researchers at PRI have partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy on its technology roadmap on two approaches to perfect systems that can remove a record proportion of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel energy (especially coal used to generate electricity). With a Phase I DOE grant the team is currently investigating the engineering requirements to install ground-breaking technology at the U of I’s Abbott Power Plant. A second grant is developing a unique bi-phasic solvent as an ultra-efficient carbon capture technique.


“Our mission includes research, technical assistance, and public information to help forge a more sustainable future,” O’Brien continued. “The new technology, and our partners, span three continents and some of the largest power generators in the world so that our findings can quickly have the greatest impact on our Pledge for Action.”


For more on the PRI research, visit and

Take a Good Look at the Bad Old Days, and How Science Saved the Future

bttf-30thThe 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) gathered together many of the original leaders of the effort to get a handle on hazardous pollution in the environment.


It was a valuable window into the spirit of the times before 1985 that convinced Illinois lawmakers to create a center for research, industry assistance and public information. Thousands had been killed in Bhopal, Love Canal had blighted whole neighborhoods, the Cuyahoga River had burned, and in Illinois, contamination at Waukegan Harbor and Lake Calumet had brought home to citizens the need for scientific evidence about the threats.


ISTC took the opportunity to tell this story at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Nov. 9. It was a proud moment for the original players who participated in the event, and for ISTC’s parent Prairie Research Institute, and all of their current researchers who continue to drive sustainable economic development in Illinois. Videos on the presentations will be made available soon at


Webinars on Sediment Remediation

Environmental researchers interested in the assessment and treatment of contaminated sediments may wish to tune into the new webinar series being offered by SERDP and ESTCP, Department of Defense’s environmental research programs. On Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 11 am – 12:30 pm (CT) there will be two presentations on sediment remediation. The first is “The Roles of Biology, Chemistry and Exposure in the Development of Resilient Remedies” by Dr. Todd Bridges (U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center). Following that will be a talk on “In Situ Treatment of Polychlorinated Biphenyl Impacted Sediments by Microbial Bioaugmentation” by Dr. Kevin Sowers (University of Maryland).

Advanced registration for this webinar is required. To register, visit A recording of the online seminar and the presentation will be posted afterwards.

Researcher Spotlight: Laura Barnes

Laura-Barnes smallLaura Barnes serves as ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator and as Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR). In her role as Sustainability Information Curator, Barnes develops new information resources (RefWorks, LibGuides, databases, etc.); responds to scientific or technical inquiries from ISTC researchers and the public; conducts orientations to University Library resources; assists ISTC researchers with developing data management plans and managing their research data; and identifies funding opportunities and publications of interest to ISTC researchers. She also authors the Environmental News Bits blog; writes for the Prairie Research Institute Library’s News from the Library blog; and maintains the Sustainable Technology page on the Institute’s Library website.


In her role as GLRPPR’s Executive Director, Barnes develops and directs regional programs to benefit the organization’s members. She collaborates with the staff of the other centers in the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange’s national network to develop national pollution prevention information and networking tools, which include the Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide and the Social Media Best Practices LibGuide.


Barnes joined ISTC as a graduate student in 1991. She earned a B.A. in American History (1989) and an M.S. in Library and Information Science (1993) from the University of Illinois.

P2 Week Spotlight: Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards

image001This year not only marks ISTC’s 30th anniversary, it is also the 25th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act. Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, celebrated during the third week of September each year (September 21-27, 2015),  highlights the efforts of EPA, its state partners, industry, and the public in preventing pollution right from the start.


In a P2 Week post over on the GLRPPR Blog, Cassie Carroll writes about the history and impact of the Governor’s Awards program. For more information about P2 Week and a roundup of activities in the Great Lakes Region, see: