Student-Staff Leadership Boosts U of I Campus Recycling Record

QuadRecyclingImprovementsSMPeople at the University of Illinois who care about recycling think about changing human behavior. They wonder how to make the distinction between the landfill bin and the recycle bin so convenient and so obvious that even the most stressed and preoccupied student hits the right target. At the Champaign-Urbana campus, zero-waste is a serious commitment. It is included as a component of the Illinois Climate Action Plan which obligates the U of I to achieving carbon neutral status by 2050. Read more on recycling improvements.

Illini Gadget Garage Project Will Extend Useful Life of Student and Staff Electronics

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) are pleased to announce that a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign consisting of SEI coordinator Joy Scrogum (ISTC), William Bullock (Art + Design), Martin Wolske, and Jon Gant (both of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) has recently received funding from the Student Sustainability Committee for a project entitled “Illini Gadget Garage: Education through Electronic Product Life Extension.” This seed funding will be used to launch a center where UI students and staff will bring their personal electronic devices for assistance with assessment and repair. The center will be called the Illini Gadget Garage. Using the same “collaborative repair” model employed at the campus bike shop and MakerSpace Urbana’s computer Help Desk, clients with devices in need of repair/troubleshooting will work together with Gadget Garage student staff and volunteers to perform the necessary device assessment and maintenance activities. Depending upon the situation, activities may range from guidance on how to make your computer/device run faster to actual repair and replacement of components.


Beyond the avoidance of waste by extending the useful life of products, desired outcomes for students, staff, and the community include:

  • Hands on experiences for UI students, not only in terms of performing repairs, but also in process documentation and fostering sustainable behavior on a larger scale through the iFixit Technical Writing Project; marketing and business operations; lessons in industrial design for repair and recyclability; and in environmental education and communication.
  • Increased awareness of electronics laws and recycling options.
  • Increased awareness of sustainability issues surrounding electronic products throughout their lifecycles.
  • Decreased misconceptions regarding the disposability of devices and prohibitive complexity of electronics repair and maintenance.
  • Contribution to the overall efforts to make ours a more sustainable campus with a reduced carbon footprint.


The project team will use SEI’s Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium as an advisory group, providing input and feedback on project progress and development. The project is just getting started, but there will be more information on the SEI web site and posted here on the blog over the coming months. In the meantime, if you have questions or want to be added to the campus consortium list so you can become involved in meetings on this and other relevant efforts, please contact Joy Scrogum.



This post originally appeared on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative Blog on 6/24/15. You may subscribe to the SEI blog via email, and learn more about sustainable electronics issues on the SEI web site. You may also make a donation via the U of I Foundation to support this and other SEI educational efforts.  

Zero Waste at International Symposium

compost bin in the foreground with conference patrons using compostable cups for coffee in the background
An example of one of the ISMS break rooms and the compost bins.

ISTC’s Zero Waste Illinois program helped make the 70th annual International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy a zero waste event. They symposium hosted 500+ guests this week (June 22-26, 2015) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ISTC made it possible for 100% of all waste from symposium break rooms to be diverted from landfill to compost. ISTC provided compost bins, liners and signage and the conferences organizers provided serving ware that can be composted. ISTC is also providing labor to collect the compost and take it to Landscaping Recycling Center in Urbana, IL.


If you are interested in hosting a zero waste event or making your office more sustainable please contact Bart Bartels. ISTC also offers free site visits to assess zero waste opportunities for businesses, manufacturing, government, and other organizations.

College, University Recyclers Set the Stage for Generation ‘Green’

Multi-bin recycling is a key to zero-waste strategies.
ISTC’s Zero Waste Program is innovating on the University of Illinois campus as a partner of student and administration leadership

College and university administrators going to the Illinois Recycling Association’s (IRA) June workshops for higher education will be inspired by the great ideas included on The Best Colleges dot org website.

ISTC is one of the sponsors of two training workshops for Illinois colleges and universities on planning, audits, analyzing data and other issues. Kennedy-King College will host a workshop for the City College of Chicago from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. The deadline to register is June 10. Illinois Central College will be the site of the second workshop from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 17. (Meet in the morning at nearby Embassy Suites, East Peoria.)  The deadline for that one is June 12. The East Peoria workshop is conveniently scheduled the day before the IRA/ILCSWMA/SWANA Annual Joint Conference. For more information and to register, visit

As far as hip green universities go, we can all envy UC Davis’ commitment to zero-waste, which they plan to achieve by 2020. They have had their version of the U of I’s ‘Dump and Run’ since 1975. Such programs allow students to ‘donate’ good stuff they don’t want to take home and sell it back to other students next semester.

Maine’s College of the Atlantic is another beacon of greenness, where students recycling enterprise is ubiquitous.  It is easy to recycle on campus and reportedly, no pizza crusts ever escape the compost bins.

Here in Illinois, take notes from Loyola University Chicago, which is featured in the latest One Billion Gallon Water Challenge Research Update. Faculty, students and staff there are the focus of experiments to improve water conservation behavior on campus. Their goal is to save up to three million gallons of water a year. They are designing a Resource Tool Kit to share their results with other Illinois colleges and universities.

Talk about student leadership of the green hue, it is hard to beat the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where year’s ago students voted to charge themselves a Sustainability Fee. Since then the Student Sustainability Committee has used the fee to drive green initiatives in many fruitful directions. Read here some recent results of their leadership.





Eco-heroes, Bargain Hunters Need Apply

4-yard-dumpsterTechnophiles, fashionistas and Earth Citizens take note: Volunteers at the University YMCA’s 2015 Dump & Run get exclusive, first dibs on the quality clothing, electronics and other cool stuff that students tend to chuck, not carry, at year’s end.


At the spring Dump & Run the YMCA accepts good stuff that they don’t want in dumpsters and sells them cheap to returning students in August.


The YMCA needs volunteers to collect and sort contributions May 11-16 and May 18-22 and May 25-29. Volunteer six hours or more and you get your pick of the mechandise in the fall.

ISTC for the Gold!

Certified Green Office Program logoBobby Knight – 1984 U.S.A. men’s Olympic basketball coach – said,

“The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”

This statement is very true for the staff at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.  They not only want the world to be sustainable, they are willing to prepare for a sustainable future and create new ways to be more sustainable.  Some examples include their efforts on Zero Waste Illinois and their research on innovative ways to mitigate emerging contaminants. Continue reading “ISTC for the Gold!”

Researcher Spotlight: Joy Scrogum

photo of Joy ScrogumJoy Scrogum has been a sustainability professional for over 13 years, with ISTC’s public engagement and technical assistance programs. Joy has provided support for the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) since 2001, particularly in the development and maintenance of online resource compilations (Topic Hubs and Sector Resources) on a wide variety of sustainability issues. GLRPPR is a US EPA-funded regional center in the national Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) network. Joy also played a key role in Greening Schools, a joint project between the IL EPA and ISTC which focused on making K-12 facilities & curricula more sustainable.


Joy’s most recent work with ISTC has centered around the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), for which she serves as coordinator. SEI is dedicated to the development and implementation of a more sustainable system for designing, producing, using, and managing electronic devices. She managed SEI’s International Sustainable Electronics Competition for college and university students; coordinates consortium meetings on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus related to sustainable electronics research, education, and operations; and taught a class in collaboration with the UI Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering (ENG/TE 498: Sustainable Technology: Environmental and Social Impacts of Innovations) which used electronic products as the framework for discussion. Joy also currently works on Zero Waste Illinois projects.


With a MS in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Joy says her education has prepared her for the complex considerations associated with sustainability. “It may seem strange for someone with a background in wildlife ecology to be talking about design and end-of-life management related to electronics, but I think that ecological perspective is exactly what’s needed. Whether you’re talking about the life cycle of an organism or a product, you have to consider interactions with the larger system when it comes to sustainable solutions. It’s useful to think of products, services—any human activity—in the context of the ecosystem which is constantly impacting, and being impacted by, us. Helping students develop that sort of worldview, regardless of their field of study, is my favorite part of my job. I feel education for sustainability is a critical part of the University’s role in today’s society.”


Joy’s other duties include writing grant proposals and reports, blog posts, and fact sheets; contributing to social media campaigns; project development; and presenting at professional and public events such as the Naturally Illinois Expo. She also enjoys reviewing applications for the annual Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards Program, the oldest continuously running environmental awards program in the US. She is a member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, the Reuse Alliance, and the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition.


Connect with Joy on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Zero is the Favorite Number for Waste Fighter

Bart Bartels calls the shots at the Fighting Illini’s Zero Waste football game during Homecoming.

ISTC’s Bart Bartels has joined the Purchasing, Waste, and Recycling  SWATeam at the U of I. It is one of six SWATeams (Sustainability Working Advisory Teams) helping evaluate the university’s progress since the 2010 Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP). Their work will be important for the formulation of the next iCAP later this year.


As Sustainability Outreach Specialist at ISTC, Bart has helped organize zero-waste events on campus. The next one will be the Naturally Illinois EXPO  (with something for all K-12 students) sponsored by the Prairie Research Institute. Bart also is the driving force behind the Illinois Green Office Challenge.


He has also worked as Zero Waste Coordinator within campus Facilities & Services and Campus Sustainability Manager at Grand Valley State University (MI). The SWATeams will be important to the successful updating of the iCAP this year by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.

Upcoming Food Waste Training & Toolkit Piloting Opportunities

Several upcoming training opportunities are available for those interested in zero waste, specifically the reduction of waste in food service operations.


The US EPA Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program will present a webinar on January 15, 2015, entitled “Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a Unique Industry Collaboration.” The webinar will take place from 12:00 to 1:30 PM CST. Online registration is available.


As defined by EPA, sustainable materials management (SMM) is “a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire lifecycles. It represents a change in how our society thinks about the use of natural resources and environmental protection. By examining how materials are used throughout their lifecycle, an SMM approach seeks to:

  • Use materials in the most productive way with an emphasis on using less;
  • Reduce toxic chemicals and environmental impacts throughout the material life cycle;
  • Assure we have sufficient resources to meet today’s needs and those of the future.”

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) is a collaborative project of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (representing food and beverage companies), the Food Marketing Institute (representing food retailers), and the National Restaurant Association (representing the food service industry), working to reduce food waste generation, increase food donations to the needy, and to divert unavoidable food waste from landfills through recycling.


In addition to the webinar overview of the FWRA, there will be a series of free webinars to guide users through the waste assessment and reduction process presented in the Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit (available at All are welcome to participate. The schedule for that series is below. Click on a webinar title to register online.


US EPA Region 9 is also inviting food service facilities (restaurants, cafeterias, grocers, and other commercial and institutional kitchens) in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands to pilot the toolkit. Along with the free webinar series, pilot participants are offered one-on-one technical assistance from an EPA team member; the opportunity to participate in peer groups to troubleshoot the tracking process; the chance to present in future EPA webinars; and the ability to jumpstart or enhance participation in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Learn more about the opportunity to pilot the Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit at


Questions can be directed to Amanda Hong at Thanks to Amanda for sharing information on these opportunities.