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.
Government agencies produce a tremendous number of publicly available data sets. In this P2 Week blog post, I’ll highlight some resources that will help you get started with a data driven approach to identifying P2 opportunities.
Webinar: Utilizing Public Data to Identify Technical Assistance Targets
The U.S. government has a wealth of data available about the environmental and economic impact of manufacturers. This webinar, hosted by ESRC, demonstrates how to use the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, Greenhouse Gas, and Enforcement and Compliance Online (ECHO) databases and the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns database to identify industrial sectors and facilities that can benefit from pollution prevention technical assistance.
Information that can be easily obtained and utilized from these data sources is key for any technical assistance provider when developing a strategy to target technical assistance. Real-world examples located in regions 3 and 4 are provided.
Presentation slides, resources mentioned during the webinar, and a time-coded index for the video below are available on the ESRC web site.
How a competitor’s data can help your company cut pollution
Module 4: Identify and Target Facilities to Perform Hazardous Substances P2 Assessments
In 2013, U.S. EPA Region 5 (in collaboration with EPA headquarters) developed a 4-part training module to assist technical assistance programs (TAPs) in finding hazardous material reduction opportunities. This module demonstrates how the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program used TRI data to target their P2 technical assistance efforts. It also provides an overview of what types of information are included in TRI emissions and P2 data.
Report: Strategy for using the US EPA Toxics Release Inventory to Identify Opportunities for Diffusion of Innovative Methods for Hazardous Waste and Toxic Emission Reduction
This report shows how P2 technical assistance providers can use TRI P2 data to identify manufacturing facilities that have implemented toxics source reduction methods and facilitate the diffusion of those methods to other facilities that may be facing barriers that block adoption of P2 practices.
Report: The Economic and Environmental Impact of Great Lakes Manufacturing: Snapshot of Emissions, Pollution Prevention Practices, and Economic Impact Using Public Data
The manufacturing sector is an important economic engine within the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. While complying with applicable laws and regulations, these facilities also have an environmental impact on the region.
This 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: