Middle Schoolers Celebrate Clean Power on Earth Day

WindJeffersonOn Earth Day, April 22, Jefferson Middle School hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of their 3.5 kW h wind turbine project.

The clean energy project was funded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, ISTC, and high efficiency light bulb sales by the school’s Green Team.

The little turbine spun energetically during the morning ceremony, producing an estimated three percent of the school’s energy requirements. Members of the Green Team gathered around a commemorative plaque while a green ribbon was ceremonially cut.

Science teacher Jeff Freymuth (right) explained that the idea for collecting wind power came from a visit to a school in Springfield. “They had a wind turbine, why can’t we?” he recalled. The installation will be used in clean power course work for both the middle school and Centennial High next door, he said.

The 13.4 foot diameter rotor will produce an estimated 5550-11,300 kW h directly into the school’s power grid. Also pictured (left) is Jefferson Middle School Principal Angelica Franklin.

FREE Sustainability Film Festival, April 22-24 at Spurlock Museum

With funding from the UI Office of Public Engagement, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is hosting a Sustainability Film Festival next week on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Three documentaries will be screened at the Spurlock Museum‘s Knight Auditorium on the evenings of April 22, 23, and 24th from 6-7:30 PM: Living Downstream, Terra Blight, and Waste=Food, respectively.


Admission is FREE and open to the public on a first come, first served basis; doors open at 5:30 PM. After each film, a Q&A/discussion will be held with ISTC staff and other relevant campus and community experts. Panelists will answer questions about their organizations/programs, the issues dealt with in that evening’s film, and provide guidance for the audience on what they can do to prevent pollution, avoid exposure to and release of environmental toxins, and contribute to a cleaner environment in their own lives.


The Festival kicks off on Earth Day (April 22) with Living Downstream. Based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. This poetic film follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. After a routine cancer screening, Sandra receives some worrying results and is thrust into a period of medical uncertainty. Thus, we begin two journeys with Sandra: her private struggles with cancer and her public quest to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention. At once Sandra’s personal journey and her scientific exploration, Living Downstream is a powerful reminder of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the health of our air, land, and water.

On the evening of Wednesday, April 23, we’ll be screening Terra Blight. This 55-minute documentary explores America’s consumption of computers and the hazardous waste we create in pursuit of the latest technology. Terra Blight traces the life cycle of computers from creation to disposal and juxtaposes the disparate worlds that have computers as their center. From a 13-year-old Ghanaian who smashes obsolete monitors to salvage copper to a 3,000-person video game party in Texas, Terra Blight examines the unseen realities of one of the most ubiquitous toxic wastes on our planet. By the film’s end, the audience will never look at their computer the same way again.



Finally, on the evening of Thursday, April 24, we will show Waste=Food. In a world where more and more societies with high consumption rates generate excessive amounts of waste, traditional environmental notions of reducing or recycling waste products are no longer sufficient. The new theory of ecologically intelligent design, green design and building, argues that manufacturers’ products, when discarded, should either be completely recyclable in the Technosphere or become biodegradable food for the Biosphere. Waste = Food explores this revolutionary “cradle to cradle” (as opposed to “cradle to grave”) concept through interviews with its leading proponents, American architect William McDonough and German ecological chemist Michael Braungart, coauthors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Their ideas are increasingly being embraced by major corporations and governments worldwide, unleashing a new, ecologically-inspired industrial revolution.



DVDs of the documentaries will be available after the film series at the Prairie Research Institute Library. The DVDs will have online activities and resource lists associated with them to enhance the educational impact of the films.


For more information, contact Joy Scrogum. We hope to see you at the movies!

Free Residential Electronics Recycling Collection Event, Champaign Co., 4/12/14

http___www.ccrpcChampaign County (IL) will be hosting a FREE residential electronics collection event on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 8 a.m. to noon at Parkland College (parking lot M-4). Parkland College is located at 2400 W. Bradley in Champaign. See http://www.parkland.edu/about/maps.aspx for directions to Parkland, as well as a map of the parking lots.


Electronic items to be accepted include:

  • Televisions of any type*
  • Computers, laptops, monitors*
  • Home entertainment electronic items (VCRs, Betamax, DVD players, cassette players, Blue Ray players, 8‐track players, turntables, etc.)
  • Kitchen electronic items / kitchen appliances (blenders, food processors, toasters, microwaves, etc.)
  • Bathroom electronic items (curling irons, flat irons, night lights, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, clocks, blow dryers, etc.)
  • Office electronic equipment (printers, scanners, copiers, etc.)
  • Dehumidifiers

* no broken glass accepted!


Items which will NOT be accepted include:

  • Broken glass televisions / broken glass monitors
  • White goods: refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners
  • Stoves, washer/dryers, dishwashers
  • Treadmills
  • Fluorescent lighting, CFLs, ballast and other devices containing PCBs
  • Thermostats, fire detectors
  • Alkaline batteries, other than installed in equipment
  • Household hazardous waste
  • Medical waste
  • Gas powered equipment or lawn equipment


For more information on electronic devices which are BANNED from disposal in Illinois landfills, as well as a list of local businesses which accept electronics for recycling year-round (with devices accepted and any restrictions for each location), please see the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide. For questions related to the 4/12/14 electronics collection event, you may call 217-328-3313.



Mark Your Calendars for Sustainability Film Festival April 22, 23, & 24

LDcropWith funding from the UI Office of Public Engagement, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is hosting a Sustainability Film Festival during Earth Week on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Three documentaries will be screened at the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium on the evenings of April 22, 23, and 24th from 6-7:30 PM: Living Downstream, Terra Blight, and Waste=Food, respectively. Mark your calendars–admittance will be free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 5:30 PM. After each film, a Q&A/discussion will be held with ISTC staff and other relevant experts. Panelists are being confirmed and will be announced as the time of the screenings approaches.


The DVDS of the documentaries will be made available after the film series at the Prairie Research Institute Library for professors, students, and members of the general public to check out for use in classes, meetings, and for personal enrichment. The general public will have access to materials either from their local public library via inter-library loan through the University’s participation in the Illinois Heartland Library System, or directly from the Institute library if they have a UIUC Library courtesy card. The DVDs will have downloadable activities and resource lists associated with them to enhance the educational impact of the films.


A flyer for the film festival is available at http://istc.illinois.edu/docs/SustainabilityFilmFestFlyer.pdf. The Spurlock Museum is at 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana, IL 61801. The Institute Library is in the Forbes Building, at 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL, 61820. Further information on each of the films is available at http://www.livingdownstream.com/, http://www.terrablight.com/, and http://www.icarusfilms.com/new2007/waste.html.  For more information on the series, contact Joy Scrogum at 217-333-8948 or jscrogum@illinois.edu.



Let Go of Your Old Dusty Electronics for Free


ISTC will accept electronic waste for recycling from 2-6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18. As part of the national 2014 Recycle Mania Tournament, electronic waste can be dropped off at three locations on the University of Illinois campus. ISTC will feature vehicle drop off collection behind its 1 East Hazelwood Drive facility in the Research Park.

Walk up collection of e-waste will also be accepted at Allen Hall Circle Drive and Ikenberry Commons on Euclid. The event will give citizens a way to get rid of all personal electronic devices that have a plug or run on batteries. Illinois law bans the disposal of e-waste in the state’s landfills.


Please note that university-owned inventory cannot be accepted at this event.


For more information about the Recycle Mania Tournament, go to www.recyclemania.org. For more information about the local event, contact Bart Bartels at bbartel@illinois.edu.

Registration Open for Green Chemistry Conference

2014-logoRegistration is open for the The Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference: Innovating for Success in Cleveland on April 1–2, 2014.


The purpose of this conference is to show how innovations in green chemistry practices drive advances in business, academia, policy, and human health protection in the Great Lakes region, and how integration and collaboration in these areas is crucial for success.


The conference will include keynote presentations by John Warner, Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry; Julie Zimmerman, Center for Green Chemistry and Engineering at Yale; and Dennis McGavis, Global Sustainability Director at Goodyear Tire & Rubber along with plenary sessions, panel sessions, breakout sessions and a poster networking exchange.


This conference will be preceded by a half-day Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) meeting and followed by one-day training on the hazard assessment tool, the GreenScreen™ for Safer Chemicals..Separate registration is required for each event. Co-sponsors include the U of I, ISTC, and GLRPPR.

Haiti’s First Bio-fuel Project Gets New Boost

Joe Pickowitz spent part of the winter break working on a first — Haiti’s first bio-fuel production facility.


It has been a multi-year collaborative effort between the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and a non-profit organization, Jatropha Pepinyè, which has focused on an indigenous source of diesel fuel as a foundation for building a stable Haitian economy.


Pickowitz and ISTC teamed up with Jatropha Pepinyè [a nonprofit Haitian business – which is administrated by Partners for People and Place (PPP) – a 501c(3) nonprofit] and Esperance et Vie [a Haitian nonprofit, nongovernmental organization] to help implement a biodiesel pilot plant and start farm growth of a native feedstock, Jatropha, in 2008.


Picowitz, an environmental engineer at ISTC, has served as a technical expert for the group, traveling to Haiti a number of times to help build the infrastructure for a continuous biofuel production process.


Jatropha Pepinyè has planted a sufficient supply of native Jatropha curcasa trees and have nurtured them to maturity. The beans from the tree have among the highest concentrations of bio-oils among plant varieties. They can be grown easily in marginal soil and they are not a food crop, in fact animals will not eat them due to toxic compounds they contain. Currently the project has about 150 acres planted with Jatropha. The project also contributes to the re-vegetation of deforested landscapes.


The goal for this trip was to add a pretreatment unit to crush the beans for maximum fluid extraction.


The pilot plant can make a 40-gallon batch of biodiesel in about two days.  However, once the Haitians are able to make consistent quality batches, Pickowitz predicts that they could scale up to 200-gallon batches in the same two-day time frame as well as add more holding containers so that the next batch of biodiesel can be prepped during the two-day reaction time of the current batch.


In the impoverished country of Haiti, people often have a hard time getting essential items needed for living and working, especially food and fuel.  The Haitian people currently use about 71 percent wood/charcoal and 29 percent petroleum/hydroelectric (65 percent of which is diesel) for fuel according to Kathleen Robbins, co-founder of Jatropha Pepinyè. However, 98 percent of Haiti is deforested so wood and charcoal soon will not be an option.


Most homes in Haiti that have electricity are powered by a diesel generator because Haiti has no power grid.  Because 100 percent of Haiti’s petroleum is imported and with the rising price of crude oil around the world, it will be even harder for the Haitian people to maintain even the poorest standards of living. This project will reduce Haiti’s dependence on foreign oil and create jobs.

Homes Needed for Indoor Air Quality Research

Air quality inside our homes is one of the leading areas of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Garages, where we store our cars, often also house all types of solvents, paints and other chemicals, are of particular interest to researchers.


The Indoor Climate Research and Training program is conducting an ASHRAE-funded study on how to reduce the negative impact of attached garages on the air quality in our living spaces.


Homes in Champaign Country with attached garages are needed for this study.  The testing will last 3-4 weeks and will involve multiple home visits by researchers.


For more information regarding the study, please follow the link to the ICRT web site: http://www.indoorclimate.istc.illinois.edu/news.cfm

Students Honored for Fresh Ideas in Sustainable Electronics

International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards 2013 Winners



Old smart phones don’t have to be doomed to silence in a drawer or a landfill. According to two winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition the phones can keep track of your cattle, or be tiled together to form large-scale electronic displays.


The winning entries were announced in a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nine students on four teams from around the world were awarded prizes for their ideas on the beneficial reuse of electronics to prevent e-waste generation.


The Sustainable Electronics Initiative at ISTC has held the annual competition since 2009 to prompt dialogue about the environmental and social impacts of electronics and to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal for electronics. The competition is open to college and university students and recent graduates.


The winners in the Product Category (items intended for sale) were:

  • E-waste Meets Farming, smart phones remanufactured as cow collars (Platinum, $3,000) Michael Van Dord, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia;
  • Mion, a multi-purpose dynamo lighting system (Gold, $2,000) Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar from the University of Alberta, Canada;
  • Cellscreen, a large scale display system made from old phone displays (Silver, $1,000) Sam Johnston, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.


One platinum level ($3,000) winner was named in the Non-product Category (concepts valuable for artistic, educational, policy, or similar content):

  • ENERGENCIA, a children’s’ game encouraging the use of recycled materials and renewable energy concepts by Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla, Mexico.


“The world must find ways to end the tide of e-waste in the environment,” said Craig Boswell, U of I graduate and president of HOBI International, an ISO 14001 certified electronics recycling and asset management company. “This competition, and these brilliant young winners, help us advance the dialog about environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal of electronics,” he added.


Boswell was one of an expert panel of six judges consisting of industry professionals, recycling experts, and the competition founder, William Bullock, professor of Industrial Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The cash prizes were funded by donations from Arrow Electronics, Professional Field Services and ISTC.


Other jurors were: Jason Linnell, executive director, National Center of Electronics Recycling; Bill Olson, director, Office of Sustainability and Stewardship, Motorola Mobility, LLC; Lynn Rubinstein, executive director, Northeast Recycling Council; and Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixt and Dozuki.


Joe Verrengia, director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Arrow Electronics, participated in the ceremony, noting “We understand more than ever now that the end of life of all of those electronics is often very short. We need to come up with something better to deal with that. Competitions and incubators can develop those ideas that hopefully help the world, help Arrow, and maybe be a source of really smart new workers in the future.”


The videos of the winning entries are featured on the competition site, ewaste.illinois.edu, the SEI site, sustainelectronics.illinois.edu, and SEI’s You Tube channel, youtube.com/seiatistc.



See below for a more complete description of the winners and their entries.


Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): E-waste Meets Farming. This project tackles e-waste through the reuse of discarded but internally (circuit board and CPU) functioning smart phones in the manufacture of cow collars. A cow collar is a device worn by cattle on dairy farms which can store information about the individual animal wearing it. It can also send that information to a central hub to be backed up, and communicate with machinery on the farm so that the cow is fed correctly and milked for the correct amount of time, etc. Cow collars can warn farmers of sickness or other health concerns for individual animals by monitoring activity and conditions through the inclusion of a GPS and accelerometers. The advantage of reusing smart phones in cow collars is that all the necessary components are assembled in a very compact and highly functional way. The phone has GPS, accelerometers, wireless technology, printed circuit boards, and software compatibility. Furthermore phones damaged beyond the point of being internally functional can also be used for the manufacture of cow collars, by being recycled via normal streams. The resulting materials, such as plastics, can be used in the construction of casing and external collar components. This concept was submitted by undergraduate in product design engineering, Michael Van Dord, from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.


Gold ($2,000): Mion. Mion is a multi-purpose, dynamo-powered bike light for people living in disadvantaged communities. Their lack of an adequate source of lighting makes it difficult to perform evening tasks, including children’s studies, resulting in a significant barrier to human development. Mion is designed with consideration for the people living in these communities and who are lacking traditional furniture. Its organic form provides multiple lighting angles when placed on a flat surface, one focused and one ambient. This allows for optimal lighting, giving the user an option between more open or focused coverage. Mion uses the energy provided by a dynamo: a small motor that generates electricity using the propulsion of a bicycle wheel. The dynamo uses rotating coils of wire and magnetic fields to convert mechanical rotation into a pulsing direct electric current through Michael Faraday’s law of induction. In the long term, a dynamo is both cheaper and more ecological than a battery-powered system. When Mion is clamped onto the bike frame, it uses a direct energy source from the dynamo, charging its reserve AA batteries while also having the ability to provide light during the evening hours. Its detachable clamp allows the user to bring the lighting fixture wherever needed. In addition, the reserve, rechargeable AA batteries, may be removed and used within other products. These batteries become a significant object in themselves as the lack of reliable electricity can lead to other issues with day-to-day activities. Each part of Mion is made from recycled electronic waste. The internal components of the light and dynamo are repurposed parts from old electronics such as desktop computers, cameras, and cell phones (including LEDs, magnets, copper wire, and gears in the dynamo). Both the housing unit for the light and the dynamo casing are made of recycled plastics which can be reclaimed from electronic devices. Mion was submitted by a group of design students (Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar) from the University of Alberta in Canada.


Silver ($1,000): Cellscreen. The Cellscreen is a large-scale, coarse display intended to function as an advertisement or public display. The Cellscreen itself can be thought of as a tile which forms the base unit from which many different configurations can be made. Each tile is comprised of disused cell phone displays which form the display matrix. The premise is that a run of tiles can be produced from one set of screens at a time due to the large volume of cell phones that are disposed of. For example, there might be a range of tiles comprised entirely of iPhone 3g screens. Grouping screens by type is intended to circumvent any issues that might arise from display quality when mixing and matching screens from different manufactures and for compatibility. Cellscreen tiles comprised from older devices, such as early color screens, might be well suited to large scale advertising whereas those from newer devices with high pixel density and touch functions might be suited to other applications, such as information kiosks. Cellscreen is targeted toward manufacturers and suppliers of cell phones encouraging them to reclaim their obsolete products for reuse in a new product. Cellscreen was submitted by Sam Johnston, an undergraduate in product design from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.


Non-Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): ENERGENCIA. ENERGENCIA is a game kit in which children can build their own toys using recyclable materials, reusable electronic devices, and renewable energy concepts to create projects that can move, turn lights on, etc. These projects employ reusable, reclaimed electronic components like small engines supplied in the game kit. The other recyclable materials like cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles can be obtained by children themselves to complete a project. Through the projects made possible by the game kit children learn about alternative energy sources and develop environmental awareness and positive environmental behaviors. The students who submitted this concept developed theories related to the ideal age range of children for which this kit would be effective, and they investigated these ideas through a hands-on workshop for children conducted in cooperation with teachers from schools at the American School of Puebla. This concept was submitted by undergraduates Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla in Mexico.



Campus-wide Sustainable Electronics Consortium Formed

On Oct. 2, 2013, a group of interested individuals on the U of I campus met to discuss the issues involving the environmental and social impacts of electronics and the current relevant policies, education, and research taking place.  As a major public university that purchases, uses and disposes of thousands of electronics, we have a duty to address these issues and lead by example to “green up our act.”


An overview of the issues and what ISTC (through its Sustainable Electronics Initiative) and other entities are doing on campus with regards to electronics involving  education, research, and operations was explained by Joy Scrogum (SEI Co-Coordinator), who led the meeting, as well as possible activities and goals for this campus group. Attendees provided feedback on these suggestions, group structure, and themes for possible future smaller group meetings focusing on those three categories of research, education, and operations. ISTC/SEI will distribute minutes, make arrangements for the themed focus group meetings, and coordinate the sharing of information among those subgroups.


The result was a new Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium which explored ways to address the issue. Present were engineers, faculty, administrators, students and participants from off-campus communities.  Anyone interested in joining the Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium talks can contact Joy Scrogum to be added to the email list of upcoming meetings and topics or visit the SEI Campus Consortium page.