The Farm to Food Bank project was featured at the recent From Food to Flowers: Everything Local conference in Springfield.
The conference combined the Illinois Food, Farmers Market, and Specialty Crop Conferences and brought together farmers and agribusiness leaders from across the state with other partners throughout the Illinois local food supply chain.
The Thursday evening banquet featured a panel presentation with Feeding Illinois, two Farm to Food Bank producer partners partners (Flamm Orchards and Roth Countryside Produce), The Land of Goshen Community Market, and St. Louis Area Foodbank. The panel discussed how their organizations were involved in the project, what their experiences were like, and what is needed to grow the initiative. During the banquet, Feeding Illinois also presented Rendleman Orchards with a “Friend of the Food Bank” award for their work with Farm to Food Bank.
Watch a video of the banquet program below, which includes remarks by Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. The panel discussion starts at 31:00 and the award presentation is at 1:34:00.
The University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, broke ground on its carbon capture pilot project at the City Water, Light and Power (CWLP) Dallman Unit 4 plant Thursday. The project is meant to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions.
On November 17, 2022 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $100 million in grants for recycling infrastructure and recycling education and outreach projects throughout the country.
Entities eligible to apply for funding through the SWIFR Political Subdivisions Grant Program include “Political subdivisions” of states and territories, such as counties, cities, towns, parishes, and similar units of governments that have executive and legislative functions to be political subdivisions of states and territories.
Applications Due: January 16, 2023 Notice of Intent to Apply Deadline: December 15, 2022 Funding Available: The minimum individual award amount is $500,000 and the maximum individual award is $4,000,000 for the grant period. Grant Period: Up to 3 years
Materials and waste streams considered under this announcement include:
Municipal solid waste (MSW), including plastics, organics, paper, metal, glass, etc. and construction and demolition (C&D) debris.
In addition, materials and waste streams considered include the management pathways of source reduction, reuse, sending materials to material recovery facilities, composting, industrial uses (e.g., rendering, anaerobic digestion (AD)), and feeding animals.
All applications must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
Establish, increase, expand, or optimize collection and improve materials management infrastructure.
Fund the creation and construction of tangible infrastructure, technology, or other improvements to reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream.
Establish, increase, expand, or optimize capacity for materials management.
Establish, improve, expand, or optimize end-markets for the use of recycled commodities.
Demonstrate a significant and measurable increase in the diversion, recycling rate, and quality of materials collected for municipal solid waste.
Eligible activities include (but are not limited to):
Innovative solutions and/or programs that provide or increase access to prevention, reuse, and recycling in areas that currently do not have access; including development of and/or upgrades to drop-off and transfer stations (including but not limited to a hub-and-spoke model in rural communities), etc.
The purchase of recycling equipment, including but not limited to sorting equipment, waste metering, trucks, processing facilities, etc.
Upgrades to material recovery facilities (MRFs) such as optical sorters, artificial intelligence, etc.
Development of and/or upgrades to composting facilities or anaerobic digesters to increase capacity for organics recycling.
Development of and/or upgrades to curbside collection programs or drop-off stations for organics.
Development of and/or upgrades to reuse infrastructure such as online reuse platforms, community repair spaces, technology and equipment to improve materials management reuse options, food donation, and upcycling, staging areas for material reuse/donation, reuse warehouses, and reuse centers, and electronic waste and computer recycling and refurbishing.
Recycling Education and Outreach (REO) Grant Program
The REO Grant Program includes $30 million in funding for projects to improve consumer education and outreach on waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and composting. The grants aim to reduce waste generation, decrease contamination in the recycling stream, and increase recycling rates across the country in a manner that is equitable for all.
Eligible applicants include:
U.S. States, including Washington, D.C.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
Federally recognized tribal governments.
Native Hawaiian organizations, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Applications Due: January 16, 2023 Notice of Intent to Apply Deadline: December 15, 2022 Funding Available: The minimum individual award floor is $250,000, and the maximum individual award ceiling is $2,000,000 for the grant period. Grant Period: Up to 3 years
Materials within the scope of this grant program include commonly recycled materials, such as aluminum and steel containers, glass, cardboard paper, and plastics, as well as food, organics (yard and tree trimmings, wood, etc.), textiles, batteries, and electronics. Also within the scope of this grant program are education and outreach activities that prevent or reduce waste by reducing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing, recycling, composting, or using anaerobic digestor systems to treat these types of materials or to reduce related contamination.
All projects must encourage the collection of recyclable materials and must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
Inform the public about residential or community recycling programs.
Provide information about the recycled materials that are accepted as part of a residential or community recycling program that provides for the separate collection of residential solid waste from recycled material.
Increase collection rates and decrease contamination in residential and community recycling programs.
Eligible activities include (but are not limited to):
Public service announcements.
Door-to-door education and outreach campaigns.
Social media and digital outreach.
An advertising campaign on recycling awareness.
The development and dissemination of:
a toolkit for a municipal and commercial recycling program.
information on the importance of quality in the recycling stream.
information on the benefits of recycling.
information on what happens to materials after the materials are placed in the bin.
Businesses recycling outreach.
Bin, cart, and other receptacle labeling and signs.
Community ambassador education programs or training the trainer programs.
Other education and outreach activities to improve waste prevention, reuse, and recycling, and reduce contamination, such as evaluations and evidence-based messaging and strategies associated with preventing or reducing waste and improving reuse, repair, refurbish, and remanufacture of materials.
What do the members of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program’s zero waste team fear the most? Unnecessary waste! Think about all the products and packaging sent off to be prematurely buried in landfills before their useful “lives” are truly over–it makes our blood run cold. To avoid being haunted by the ghosts of poorly managed materials, check out the following Halloween waste diversion programs to keep waste out of landfills.
Please note that links and/or mentions of organizations or businesses are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the Technical Assistance Program, ISTC, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois.
Pumpkin Smash Events
Did you know that IL leads the nation in production of pumpkins? Did you further know that pumpkins are mostly water? A great deal of labor, land, water, and other resources are invested in growing, harvesting, and distributing pumpkins in our state, and many of them end up being used for brief decorations that may wind up in landfills after Halloween has passed.
When you’re hosting a Halloween party or having kids trick-or-treat at the homes of people you know and trust, there are opportunities to pass out/receive homemade or minimally-packaged bulk treats and reduce the amount of plastic packaging associated with Halloween festivities. However, the reality is that many people pass out candy to or collect candy from strangers; plus, many of us like to purchase Halloween candy to share with coworkers or our family during the month of October as part of celebrating. The result is lots of plastic packaging ending up in landfills because such material is not collected in typical recycling programs because the form or components of the packaging make them difficult to recycle. There are however, a couple of options that can help divert the seasonal increase in candy wrappers from the landfill.
Rubicon, in collaboration with the National Wildlife Foundation, annually offers a Trick or Trash program, in which schools, independent small businesses, and community organizations can order FREE candy wrapper collection boxes. Organizations receive their collection boxes through the UPS Carbon Neutral Shipment program, set them up and collect wrappers until their box is full. Then, boxes are sealed and mailed back using a pre-affixed label. Each participating organization gets a certificate of recycling confirming how many wrappers they diverted from landfill. The recycled plastic can be used to make “doggie bags” used at animal shelters for animal waste collection. See https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/how-it-works/ for more information, and https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/#block_5aee8cc625f6cfa2532fd2b387a4e675 to order a free box. Educational materials, including lesson plans, are available at https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/education/. Note that teachers and organizations are limited to one free box to ensure that more people across the country can participate, and you should allow at least a week for shipping. So if you order a free box now, you might plan to collect wrappers right after Halloween, rather than at Halloween events. Individuals or larger business might choose to purchase a box for participation.
Learn more about reducing and reusing on Halloween
Most people have thought of checking thrift stores for reused costumes or costume elements, and parents of multiple kids know the beauty of hand-me-downs. But did you know that the second Saturday in October is National Costume Swap Day? Make plans to check online for costume swaps in your area next year, or consider organizing your own event. Alternatively, The Halloween Helpersis a non-profit organization that provides gently used costumes to other non-profit agencies that serve children. Check out their website for information on hosting or participating in a costume drive. A similar group, ‘WEEN Dream, is a non-profit that gives free Halloween costumes to children in need. See their website for information on donating your old costumes or applying for costumes in future years.
NPPR established the award in honor of Fred Granek, who suddenly passed away in January, 2014. It recognizes those who travel beyond their own borders to share information, ideas, and technologies that will avoid, eliminate and reduce waste.
Joy works with clients of ISTC’s technical assistance program (TAP) to identify opportunities to alter, improve, or introduce processes, operations, and activities to foster sustainability (including environmental, social, and economic factors). She primarily focuses on zero waste; sustainability planning, goal setting & visioning; communications about sustainability efforts; and stakeholder engagement.
In her twenty-one years at ISTC, she has made a significant impact at the local, state, regional, national, and international level by sharing pollution prevention information, ideas, and technologies. During her tenure, she has:
Developed the idea, found campus partners, and successfully applied for seed funding for the Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center for student- and staff-owned electronic devices at the University of Illinois. As of December 2018, the Gadget Garage had diverted a total of 905.2 lbs. of materials from the waste stream through repair and special materials recycling.
Managed the International Sustainable Electronics Competition , a student design competition that encouraged students to consider sustainability throughout the product lifecycle when designing electronics, as well as ways to reuse scrap electronic components in new products.
Developed and ran the Green Lunchroom Challenge, a voluntary pledge program for schools to improve the sustainability of their food service operations, which was funded by a grant from U.S. EPA. Although the project is no longer funded, Joy still maintains a web archive for the project and a blog on related issues.
Worked with the University of Illinois College of Engineering to develop and teach a class entitled “Sustainable Technology: Environmental & Social Impacts of Innovations.”
Facilitated networking and information sharing among P2 technical assistance providers at both the regional and national levels through her work with the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable and the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange.
In addition to her work at ISTC, Joy is a board member of the Champaign County Environmental Stewards, an organization that fosters waste reduction and the ability of area citizens to responsibly manage materials by advancing improved local options for recycling, composting food scraps, and the safe and convenient disposal of household hazardous waste.
She also serves on the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition’s communications committee. In this role, she promotes IFSC news, as well as general information about food scrap composting and related issues in Illinois and beyond.
Finally, she served on the board of directors for a non-profit that gave rise to the Idea Store, a creative reuse center located in Urbana, IL.
The third week of September every year is celebrated as Pollution Prevention (P2) Week in the U.S. Thus in 2022, we focus particularly on pollution prevention from September 19th to the 25th, although P2 can and should be a priority year-round.
As defined by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR, emphasis added), “Pollution is the contamination of air, soil, or water by the discharge of harmful substances. Pollution prevention is the reduction or elimination of pollution at the source (source reduction) instead of at the end-of-the-pipe or stack. Pollution prevention occurs when raw materials, water, energy and other resources are utilized more efficiently, when less harmful substances are substituted for hazardous ones, and when toxic substances are eliminated from the production process. By reducing the use and production of hazardous substances, and by operating more efficiently we protect human health, strengthen our economic well-being, and preserve the environment.”
Rather than being a burden on industry, NPPR points out that “Adopting pollution prevention practices and techniques often benefits industry by lowering a company’s operational and environmental compliance costs. By preventing the generation of waste, P2 can also reduce or eliminate long-term liabilities and clean-up costs. Furthermore, disposal costs are reduced when the volume of waste is decreased. This can also lead to a reduction in workplace exposures to hazardous materials which can affect workers’ health and hence, their productivity. If less waste is produced, there will also be a diminished need for on-site storage space. Furthermore, by preventing pollution there will be a greater likelihood that a company will be in compliance with local, state, and federal compliance statutes. Finally, as community pillars, businesses shoulder an important responsibility for protecting the environment and natural resources for their own good as well as that of society.”
Helping businesses, organizations, institutions, and government agencies throughout Illinois and beyond to prevent pollution and use resources more efficiently to benefit our shared environment while also ensuring that companies and communities are more competitive and resilient is essentially the mission of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program (TAP). Our team is here to help your organization identify and implement ways to make your operations more sustainable and to prevent pollution. TAP is funded not only by the State of Illinois but also a variety of grants and fee-for-service projects for a variety of clients.
Currently, TAP has funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide free sustainability assessments to Illinois manufacturers in the following sectors:
These assessments can help facilities reduce business costs, energy and water consumption, wastewater generation, emissions, and hazardous material usage, which can result in increased profitability, productivity, and competitiveness as well as recycling or diversion of by-products.
There are opportunities for everyone to learn more about and practice P2–not just manufacturers. To learn more, explore the links below.
U.S. EPA–Pollution Prevention Week. This portion of the U.S. EPA website includes information on various P2 programs at EPA, including Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, Green Chemistry, Safer Choice, and more. There are also resources and tips for practicing P2 both at work and at home.
Learn about the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2RX), which was “a national network of regional P2 information centers whose mission was to advance pollution prevention as a cornerstone of sustainability.” Links to resources from each regional center are maintained on the U.S. EPA website.
Laura serves as a director-at-large on the ILA Executive Board and is the board liaison to the ILA Best Practices Committee. She is also a member of the ILA DEI Subcommittee of the Executive Board. She previously served as board liaison to the ILA Diversity Committee.
Synthetic chemicals are pervasive in our everyday lives. They’re in many of the products we use like fast food wrappers, cleaning products and personal care items. Even when we’re done with those things, the chemicals live on, and the impacts of that are far-reaching. A Chicago Tribune investigation earlier this year found more than 8 million people in Illinois get their drinking water utilities where at least one forever chemical has been detected . That’s six out of every 10 Illinoisans.
WILL-AM’s The 21st spoke to a panel of guests, including ISTC’s John Scott, to hear more about the study and learn about the impacts of emerging contaminants.
The Farm to Food Bank project, a collaboration between Feeding Illinois, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), and Illinois farmers, has been getting some media attention. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Veronica Fall is a climate specialist for ISTC, where she provides science-based communication to stakeholders and communities on issues related to climate and climate change. Fall works with other climate service entities that focus on topics like extreme weather and climate change and develops publications and tools explaining complex issues in plain language to help people understand that climate information is useful and necessary. She is also a climate specialist for the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program (IISG) and the U of I Extension.
She recently answered a few questions about her work.
Tell me a little bit about your role at ISTC. I am a climate specialist. I primarily work with the Illinois Coastal Management program, which focuses on communicating climate science and the coastal impacts it has along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
How does your work at ISTC impact Illinois and the world? At ISTC, we’re really focused on addressing some of today’s biggest challenges and concerns about how climate change is influencing society. In my role, I’m focused on helping to build resilient Lake Michigan communities and the greater Chicago area, helping various communities and stakeholders get access to information that will allow them to reduce their vulnerabilities and help them better understand the next steps that can be taken to become resilient in the face of a changing climate.
Do you work more with citizens or local governments? Between those two options, typically more with local governments, but also federal or state stakeholders within the region. For instance, through ISTC, I primarily work with the Illinois Coastal Management Program, which is part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) so, we’ll partner with FEMA or the Army Corps of Engineers. I also work with regional organizations across the Great Lakes, so less with citizens and more with other stakeholders and experts.
What is your educational background? I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Meteorology and also a professional science Master’s degree in climate change and society, which is based more on the interdisciplinary nature of climate science, not just on understanding the physics at play, but also learning about risk communication and climate literacy, but most of my educational background is in meteorology.
What is the best part of your job at ISTC? The best part is definitely the people. There is a sense of teamwork that we are all working towards a bigger goal to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change and the on-the-ground work and hardships seen within the region.
Is there any scientific topic (outside of your field of research) that you think should have more scientific attention? I think there’s a greater need to better translate and communicate science by not just speaking science jargon but being able to bring a better understanding to a wider audience. I think that’s a skill that a lot of us with a science background are working on – addressing some of those barriers to entry, like jargon and numbers which can seem very intimidating at first glance.
What work/project/outcome are you most proud of in your career? During last summer’s IISG summer internship program, I worked with a student to help develop a few products addressing the needs surrounding variable lake levels in the Chicago area. Getting to work with a student and stepping up to that role was scary at first, but also extremely rewarding.
What are common misconceptions about your field? I have two answers: one is more specific to my meteorology background, and people will ask, “So you want to be on TV?” because that’s what most people’s interaction is with their local meteorologist that they see on the nightly news. The second is a lot of people are still focused on the future impacts of climate change, and I try to phrase it as “The impacts we are seeing today and will continue to see in the future,” but I think a lot of people are still hesitant to say that the impacts are already happening right now. People are hesitant to realize how big a problem it is currently.
Yeah, the climate patterns are amazing, like how the ocean temperatures can change its circulation patterns which can in turn affect El Niño/La Niña climate patterns. People just don’t realize the bigger picture, but that’s also a hard concept to communicate the interconnectedness of it all. It’s really interesting to observe how certain words enter the public sphere. I remember learning about the polar vortex and thinking that it was sort of a niche meteorology term, and now with some of the winters that we’ve had, people are already saying “oh there’s going to be another polar vortex winter,” so that’s a more common phrase these days, but it’s interesting to see how that sort of moves through the public space.
The polar vortex was thought to be such an extreme weather event, and now people have already learned to expect it. Yeah, because that polar vortex is being destabilized because of climate change so rather than staying farther north that polar vortex is going to dip down a bit more frequently and we’ll have those really cold crazy blasts during the winter.
I think meteorologists have it tough because of how public-facing their science is. Not a lot of sciences are directly forecasting events and variables that can be measured on such a short timescale, so it’s unique in that way. Right, like people’s understanding of probability. A 60% chance of rain is still a 40% chance that it won’t rain, but a lot of people round up that 60% chance to mean it is definitely going to rain. Numerical literacy is a skill that many people struggle with and in my role, I try to make those numbers approachable and understandable for non-technical audiences.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career? Moving more into climate change and its impacts space, I’ve had to learn a lot. While my educational background lends more towards the physics and dynamics behind climate change, I now focus more on understanding the impacts. I’ve had to learn from a lot of different fields such as – understanding how climate change will affect different ecosystems, public health, infrastructure, transportation, etc. I really like that this field lends itself to being a lifelong learner, but there are definitely things that I’ve had to try and pick up and get a better grasp of.
When you aren’t doing science, what else do you love to do? In my free time, I like to walk my dog, cook, exercise, read, pretty low-key stuff.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest? I always naturally leaned more toward math and science as my favorite subjects, but probably the first event that sparked my interest was that I really couldn’t pull myself away from the T.V. when Hurricane Katrina happened. Seeing all the devastation of the aftermath was really the first event that made me think that meteorology was a field that I’d like to pursue, so that was in middle school for me.
What advice would you give to people just starting out in your field? It’s okay to not have everything figured out. Many people I’ve talked to have had very circuitous routes to get where they are. But if someone is interested in climate or climate science, it is really helpful to try and dabble in some of the social sciences to try and get an understanding of things like climate or science literacy, risk communication, and the importance of knowing your audience. I think supplementing any of the physical science with social science is key.