This World Water Day, Don’t Take Clean Water for Granted

For those of us in the Midwest, water feels like something that will always be there, as constant a fixture in life as the air we breathe. Although it seems that water is ubiquitous, freshwater comprises only 2.5 percent of the world’s supply. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Furthermore, only one percent of freshwater is available for human use. The rest is trapped in glaciers and snowfields

 Image Courtesy of Phys.org

This tiny percentage is found in our lakes, rivers, and aquifers. As the population continues to increase and weather becomes more unpredictable, the amount of available fresh water has decreased. In Illinois, the supply of water is unlikely to completely disappear in the near future. However, the Illinois State Water Survey has projected that as urban areas continue to grow, water supplies will be unable to keep up with the boost in population. Cost is another factor. Extracting fresh water from surface and subsurface sources is no easy feat, and it will increasingly become more costly as demand rises.  

Another issue is contaminants in water supplies.  Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are of particular concern These compounds are increasingly found in groundwater and surface water. They negatively impact the water quality and can also severely impact aquatic species.  For example, steroid hormones are highly potent endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which, even at levels as low as nanograms per liter (10-9 g/L or ppt), can adversely affect the reproductive biology of aquatic species. These aquatic species aren’t the only ones  to be the only ones impacted. Plant roots could absorb the PPCPS in water and may accumulate in the edible portions of the plant.

In 2018, the Illinois legislature requested that the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) conduct a scientific literature review of chemicals identified in wastewater treatment plant effluents that are recognized as contaminants of emerging concern. It also requests that PRI compile a listing of the specific actions recommended by various state and federal agencies to address the environmental or public health concerns associated with the chemicals.PRI will provide its impartial report to the General Assembly by June 30, 2020. Because of its long history of pollution prevention expertise, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, is taking the lead on this effort. ISTC researchers have studied a variety of inorganic and organic environmental contaminants as well as developed methods for waste and pollution prevention. Read more about the literature review here..

Water scarcity is also an issue, both within Illinois and throughout the world. ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) works with Illinois companies to benchmark how much water they currently use and help them find ways to reduce it. In addition, the Institutional Water Program assists facilities equipped with institutional water systems including cooling towers, chillers, and boilers. IWP advises these facilities to help them reduce their chemical, energy, water, and maintenance costs.

Finally, ISTC’s research program has developed a new technology to filter salt and contaminants from water. The system, dubbed Aquapod, appears most applicable to small- or medium-sized desalination units and for thermally sensitive operations such as food and pharmaceutical processing small- or medium-sized desalination units and for thermally sensitive operations such as food and pharmaceutical processing. The technology is also being tested in coal-fired power plants.

March 22nd is World Water Day. By continuing research into the occurrence, fate, and transport of emerging contaminants, as well as developing new methods for filtering water for reuse and helping companies to reduce their water use, ISTC ensures a future of clean water for all.  

A Very (Last-Minute) Sustainable Christmas

Are you a last-minute holiday gift shopper? Personally, I have a knack for waiting until the last possible second to take care of my yuletide errands, but I always (somehow) pull it off just in time. Wanting to incorporate sustainability into your holiday plans but afraid that there’s not enough time? You may have not factored sustainability into your holiday plans months in advance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Here are a few tips to have a very (last-minute) sustainable Christmas.    

Photo Courtesy of History.com 

Recycle

Recycling is an easy way to make your Christmas festivities more sustainable. While plastic cellophane and metallic wrapping has to go to landfills, wrapping paper can be reused. When it’s time to open presents, take out a recycling bin. Make an effort to direct people to it after they’ve opened their gifts. If you have some over-excited present-openers that like to haphazardly rip and throw their scraps, resist the urge to toss it all. Pick it up at the end of the night and put into the bin. You’ll have a cleaner house and feel better about yourself.

Ornaments

While decorating the tree is a Christmas tradition, it’s hard to find time these days to take part. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the racks and racks of gaudy, expensive ornaments lining store shelves, each with more glitter than the next. You don’t need the most showy decorations to stand out. Instead, make creative ornaments from materials at home. It’ll give you the traditional display you want while also adding a unique, personal touch and saving some extra cash.

If you’re from Champaign-Urbana ,The IDEA Store is a great place to fulfill your last-minute eco-ornament needs.

Lights

Looking to spruce up your house before having guests over? Head to the store and buy some  some energy efficient LED or solar powered lights. They may be pricier, but they typically last longer, which means you’re covered for next year. Less electricity used, same festive impact. And, remember, while those twinkle lights may look pretty, flashing lights actually use more energy, so stick with traditional.

If you find yourself wanting to have a more sustainable Christmas with only a few days left on the calendar to do so, don’t fret. Like those last-minute gifts, sustainability is something that can still be achieved with days to spare. Pair these tips with our other suggestions for a sustainable holiday and you’ll be good to go. May your days be sustainable and waste-free, and may all your holidays be green.

Giving Tuesday

After the conspicuous consumption messages of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday provides an opportunity to think about how we can give back.  Vox has some tips to help you choose which charities to support. Resources like Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and GuideStar can help you determine how your money gets spent.

ISTC is working to combat the effects of consumerism by coming up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems. This important work would not be possible without generous support from our funding organizations and supporters like you. Thank you!

Staying Green on Halloween

Ah, fall. The temperatures are dropping, pumpkins and spooky decorations adorn nearly every front porch, and Halloween is just around the corner. Holidays are a great opportunity to be more sustainable. In fact, the concept of an eco-friendly Halloween isn’t new. Bellevue, Washington mom Corey Colwell-Lipson founded the Green Halloween initiative in 2006. But how do you decide where to start?  

 Photo courtesy of History.com 

The World Wildlife Organization has several tips on keeping your Halloween festive, yet environmentally-friendly.

  1. Start by making your own costumes. Instead of going for the big-box, chain costume retailers, go local. Get your outfits from second hand stores or yard sales. Check out the Idea Store at their new location at Lincoln Square in Urbana for supplies. You can even give your costume a green theme. If DIY isn’t your thing, organize a costume swap and repurpose a friend’s old costume. You could even repeat some outfits from years past. Trust me, no one is going to remember that you went as a police officer three years ago. Save yourself the extra money and wear it again.
  2. When it comes to parties, make sure there’s as little waste as possible. Use reusable dishes. Put labels on your guest’s drinks so they’re encouraged to stick with one cup instead of unnecessarily wasting several. Maybe setting a good sustainability example will encourage them to make some changes as well.
  3. Use households items to collect candy when you take the kids trick-or-treating. Replace plastic bags with buckets, reusable “guilt-free” grocery store bags, even pillowcases. This is an opportunity to get creative. For example, make a craft project out of decorating plain pillowcases to use as trick-or-treat bags.

These aren’t the only ways to have a more sustainable Halloween. From buying pumpkins at local farmer’s markets to reducing carbon emissions by walking instead of driving, the room for eco-friendly holiday improvement is limitless.

So kick back in your chair, pop a Kit-Kat or five, turn on a scary movie, and remember that sustainability isn’t always the big, time-consuming projects, but the small, day-to-day changes a person makes to show that they care. Help put the “green” in Halloween.  

New ISTC Annual Report Now Available

ISTC’s annual report for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 is now available.  The report features ISTC’s technical and research efforts during the period. Highlights include ISTC’s success with winning awards for all five of the DOE grant applications that our researchers submitted in fall 2017. The report also details new initiatives such as solar panel recycling and free assessments for wastewater treatment plants to reduce operating costs. With these efforts, ISTC continues to advance sustainability in Illinois and beyond. Check out the report for more details.

Gender Equality and Sustainability

In Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote, “Women hold up half the sky”. In addition, women also manage half the soil, carry more than half the water, and raise more than half of the world’s population.Image result for women carrying water

Women’s Equality Day, (August 26) celebrates the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. The day also serves as a reminder of how much work still needs to be done. This makes it a perfect time to reflect on women’s role in sustainability, understand the way that women are disproportionately affected by environmental disasters, and improve environmental sustainability by focusing on gender equality.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were established in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. They also recognized gender equality as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Furthermore, the UN 2030 Agenda states, “The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities. Women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision making at all levels.”Image result for women in science lab

Women play a crucial role in environmental sustainability. They produce 50 percent of agricultural output in Asia and represent nearly 80 percent of the agricultural labor force in parts of Africa. If women had the same access as men to agricultural resources, production would increase by 20-30 percent, and has the potential to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent, according to research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Women face different types of discrimination depending on where they live. This gender disparity has led to ineffective and unsustainable management of ecosystems and resources worldwide. Moving forward, men and women need to be included in decision making, especially with regard to natural resource management. We have come far since the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted in 1920, but we still haven’t achieved gender equality. Supporting and empowering the women and girls in your life is a great way to work toward sustainability.  

Tools for alternatives assessment

One way that manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact is by replacing a toxic or hazardous process chemical with a less hazardous or non-hazardous one. The following resources are useful when trying to identify less toxic alternatives.
 
SUBSPORT: Substitution Support Portal

SUBSPORT is a free-of-charge, multilingual platform for information exchange on alternative substances and technologies, as well as tools and guidance for substance evaluation and substitution management. It includes:

Program for Assisting the Replacement of Industrial Solvents (PARIS III)

PARIS III, developed by U.S. EPA, is a desktop/laptop application that allows users to find mixtures of solvents with specific physical and chemical properties that also have relatively low environmental impacts. The software helps users find replacements for solvent mixtures that are currently being used in industrial processes but have dangerous environmental side effects. The software can also be used to find solvents with lower environmental impact when designing new industrial processes, as well as more benign solvents that can be added to harmful solvents favored by industry to help reduce the harmful environmental impact of their processes.
 
CleanerSolutions Database

The CleanerSolutions Database, developed by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, helps users select an alternative cleaner that meets their needs. The information is based on lab testing done by TURI. Use the tool to find a cleaner for a particular contaminant; replace a solvent; identify products based on safety and environmental criteria; and search by vendor information.
 
P2OASys Tool to Compare Materials

Sometimes changing chemicals or processes can have unintended environmental and health impacts. TURI’s P2OASys is an Excel based tool that allows companies to assess the potential environmental, worker, and public health impacts of alternative technologies aimed at reducing toxics use. The goal is more comprehensive and systematic thinking about the potential hazards posed by current and alternative processes identified during the TUR planning process. The tool can help companies:

  • Systematically examine the potential environmental and worker impacts of options, examining the total impacts of process changes, rather than simply those of chemical changes
  • Compare options with current processes based on quantitative and qualitative factors.

Chemical Hazard Assessment Database

The Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Chemical Hazard Assessment Database enables users to search for GreenScreen® and Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT) assessments. The purpose of this tool is to promote awareness of assessments conducted on chemicals of high concern, facilitate transparency and discussion, and reduce duplication of effort. IC2 also has alternatives assessment resources, including a guide and links to other assessment materials.
 
Safer Chemical Ingredients List

The Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) is a list of chemical ingredients, arranged by functional-use class, that U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Program has evaluated and determined to be safer than traditional chemical ingredients. This list is designed to help manufacturers find safer chemical alternatives that meet the criteria of the Safer Choice Program. Safer Choice also has other resources available for manufacturers.
 
Environmental, Health and Safety Data Resources

Although chemical manufacturers provide material safety data sheets with their chemicals, sometimes this information isn’t enough. TURI’s librarian created this guide to assist in researching environmental, health and safety information for chemicals.
 

Two new ISTC Fact Sheets now available

ISTC Case Study: Sustainability Certification Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP): GFX International
GFX Printing, located in Grayslake, IL, produces large format graphics printed on a variety of media. GFX earned initial SGP certification in 2010 and was re-certified in 2012 and 2014. Since attaining their certification, GFX has reduced waste to landfill by setting reduction goals and evaluating waste streams for further reduction and recycling. They also reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), hazardous air pollutants (HAP), and carbon dioxide. From 2008-2013, they reduced their landfill waste by 42%, hazardous waste by 32.7%, VOC emissions by 35%, and HAP emissions by 100%.

 

Save 50% Energy by Replacing Linear Fluorescent Lamps with LED Lamps
Lighting is a crucial component of the manufacturing process. It impacts worker productivity, product quality, and facility appearance. Lighting also comprises a significant portion of a facility’s energy costs and is frequently overlooked by maintenance and purchasing personnel. Old lamps are often replaces with new identical lamps without consideration being given to energy efficiency or cost. Today, LED (light emitting diode) technology is changing that practice. Burgeoning LED products offer a variety of energy-efficient alternatives for industrial applications. ISTC has identified a simple, quick-fix solution to a very common scenario of upgrading linear fluorescent lighting.

P2 Resources You Can Use

In the not-to-distant past, it was difficult to locate pollution prevention and sustainability information. Those days are gone. Now, we go to Google and we’re inundated. In this post, I’ll point you toward some resources that you may have forgotten about when you’re trying to locate information to solve a problem. Whether you’re an organization that wants to start a sustainability program or a seasoned pollution prevention technical assistance provider, there’s something on this list that will help you do your job better.

Topic Hubs and LibGuides

Topic hubs and LibGuides are similar. Both are curated collections of resources on specific topics that also include explanatory information. The only difference is the delivery platform. GLRPPR converted its Topic Hubs to LibGuides several years ago. Guides of particular interest to the P2 community include:

The Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide is particularly useful to those new to the P2 field. It includes links to essential resources and training that will help get you up to speed quickly.

GLRPPR Sector Resources

GLRPPR’s sector resources are curated collections of documents organized by sector or topic. Each resource includes a link and a brief description. Sector resources includes links to fact sheets, manuals, videos, journal articles, case studies, and software tools. Browse by sector/topic or search by keyword using Google site search.

GLRPPR Webinar Archive

GLRPPR hosts two to three webinars per year. Recordings of these webinars are archived on our web site and on our YouTube channel.

GLRPPR Help Desk

If you have a sustainability question or problem you’re trying to solve, the GLRPPR Help Desk is the place to visit. You get one free hour of literature/web searching and will receive a response within a week. Note that we won’t often give absolute answers. Instead, we’ll give you references and let your draw your own conclusions based on the available information. We also won’t answer homework questions.

E-Mail Discussion Lists and GLRPPR E-mail Newsletter

E-mail discussion lists are a great way to tap the hive mind of your pollution prevention colleagues. GLRPPR members are automatically subscribed to the Roundtable regional e-mail discussion list. P2Tech is an international discussion list for pollution prevention and sustainability professionals. To subscribe to either list, contact Laura Barnes.

GLRPPR’s e-mail newsletter keeps you up-to-date on sustainability news, resources, events, and funding opportunities. Subscribe here.

P2 Impact

P2 Impact is a collaboration between GreenBiz and the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange. Each month, P2 practitioners write about topics related to pollution prevention and sustainability. The goal of the column is to tell the P2 story to GreenBiz’s business audience. The archives of the column are available here. If you would like to write a column, contact Laura Barnes.

P2 InfoHouse

P2 InfoHouse, maintained by the Pollution Prevention Information Center (P2RIC), is a searchable online collection of more than 50,000 pollution prevention (P2) related publications, fact sheets, case studies and technical reports. It includes a vast number of legacy pollution prevention documents that were originally released in hard copy. The collection is searchable by keyword.

Zero Waste Network Success Story Database

The Zero Waste Network’s Success Story Database contains case studies that are examples of how real facilities saved money, reduced waste, and/or lowered their regulatory burden through innovative P2 practices. The studies are often written in a companies own words, with minimal editing.

U.S. EPA Pollution Prevention Tools and Calculators

U.S. EPA has links to general P2 information; P2 tools for chemical processes and purchasing; and calculators to measure the environmental and economic outcomes of P2 activities.

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.