First Training Accreditation to Improve Home Weatherization in Illinois

Training programs for Energy Auditors and Quality Control Inspectors at the University of Illinois’ Indoor Climate Research & Training (ICRT) program have been awarded accreditation by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.(IREC).


The ICRT energy conservation training programs are the first to earn accreditation in Illinois. Successful completion of such training programs prepares workers to obtain Home Energy Professional (HEP) certification under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). There are 35 local agencies delivering weatherization services in the state of Illinois, including CEDA in Chicago, which is the nation’s largest weatherization agency.


“It means we are recognized as having a high-quality curriculum that meets all the requirements of DOE’s Home Energy Professional certification for Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector,” said Paul Francisco, the Director of the ICRT training center. “Someone who successfully completes our training program can feel confident that he or she has everything they need to pass the HEP examination.”


ICRT is part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois. It operates a training center for weatherization contractors, assessors and develops training curricula for the national home performance industry.  ICRT also performs research into issues related to residential energy and indoor air quality.


Accreditation affects the certifications for Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector now offered under the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program. The Quality Control program was granted provisional accreditation since it has been available for less than a year.


There are a limited number of accredited weatherization training programs in the U.S., according to Francisco. The next goal for ICRT is to seek accreditation for its Retrofit Installers Training Program, he added.


Also a research engineer at ISTC, Francisco’s research focuses on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and their interactions in residential buildings. His work emphasizes building science principles and understanding the ‘House as a System’ approach that includes both energy and the indoor environment. He is a member of the ad hoc Health and Safety Committee for DOE’s low-income Weatherization Assistance Program and a member of the Board of Directors of the Building Performance Institute.  He is also vice-chair of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Environmental Health Committee and the chair of the ASHRAE standard on residential ventilation.


Congress created WAP in 1976 to decrease residential energy expenditures, particularly of low-income Americans. WAP has distributed $200-250 million to weatherize about 100,000 homes per year nationwide. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $5 billion through March, 2013 to weatherize some 300,000 homes per year and to stimulate the economy by providing new jobs in the weatherization field.


Accreditation of training programs help drive effectiveness of WAP’s energy savings and health and safety goals, in addition to overall cost-effectiveness of the program, Francisco noted. He estimated that the ICRT program trained 300 workers and 300 contractors in Illinois during the ARRA period.


Champaign County Electronics Collection Event – October 12, 2013

Pile of abandoned computers and monitors in empty school classroom.http___www.ccrpc

Do you have electronics piling up in your garage or other storage area? Wonder what you can do with them? You are in luck. The Champaign County Electronics Collection event is coming up on October 12, 2013. This is a free drop off for specific items such as: televisions, computers and laptops, computer monitors, keyboards, mice, cables, printers and scanners, radio and stereos, VCRs and DVD Players, mobile phones, office electronics, digital camera, communication devices, microwaves, and gaming systems.  There is a limit of 10 items per resident.  Many recyclers have stopped accepting TVs and computer monitors because of the problem of proper recycling of the CRT (leaded glass) in those units, so this event is a perfect opportunity to get rid of those items now. The event is being held at 3202 Apollo Drive (News-Gazette Distribution Center) in Champaign from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and will be held rain or shine. If you participate in the county’s recycling survey, you could enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Visit to complete the survey. For more information on the Illinois landfill ban, please see the Illinois IEPA website.


There are other businesses that accept electronics during the year including: Goodwill (912 W. Anthony Drive, Champaign, 217.359.8729 and  111 Calvin Street, Savoy, 217.290.1864), Habitat for Humanity ReStore (119 E. University Avenue, Champaign, 217.355.6460), Marco Steel* (302 S. Market Street, Champaign, 217.352.4707), Mack’s Twin City Recycling* (2808 N. Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, 217.328.2100), Green Purpose* (807 Pioneer Street, Champaign, 217.954.1450), Best Buy* (2117 N. Prospect Avenue, Champaign, 217.352.8883), Office Depot* (111 Convenience Center, Champaign, 217.373.5202), Staples* ( 2005 N. Prospect Avenue, Champaign, (217.373.8490). There are restriction on items accepted at locations with an asterisk (*), so it is advisable to call first.

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.



Paper Work Aimed At Preserving Forests, Climate

Craft beers are all the rage. Craft papers not so much. Fresh Press, an agri-fiber laboratory on the University of Illinois campus is pointing the way to turn agricultural waste, not into fuel, but into paper. Their formulations sound like up-scale beer brands: Northwinds Switchgrass Blonde, Double Cooked Soy Brown, Unleashed Mutt.


This clever fun has a serious message. We have an abundance of wild grasses, corn stover and other agricultural by-products, some of which end up in landfills. Paper from trees reduces an environmental resource.


At noon, Thursday, Oct. 3, Eric Benson, Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at the U of I will discuss how Fresh Press brings together farmers, artists, designers, and academics to demonstrate a more sustainable paper industry. He will present “Fields of Gold, Deckles, and Moulds: Fresh Press and Agri-Fiber Papers” at Room 218 Mechanical Engineering Building.


The presentation will also be viewable as a webinar by registering at Benson’s appearance is part of the fall sustainability seminar series of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.


Congrats to Technology Assistance Program at U of I

The Technology Assistance Program which helps local governments and companies prevent pollution and conserve resources received a national MVP2 Award in Washington DC earlier this month. The ICORE program received its Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award for saving Illinois more than $6 million over the past four years.

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) award went to ICORE’s PI, Debra Jacobson and to ISTC environmental engineers Dan Marsch, Mike Springman. The Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project is part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and focuses its efforts on populations in small, rural communities in parts of the state which have had little access to conservation or pollution prevention programs. More about the program and the award is available at:


(L to R) Jeff Burke, Executive Director the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable congratulates Dan Marsch and Michael Springman on the award of a Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award in Washington D.C.


(L to R) Jeff Burke, Executive Director the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable congratulates Dan Marsch and Michael Springman on the award of a Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award in Washington D.C.

Trash Into Treasure: New Advances in Upcycling Electronic Waste

Innovative companies are adding upcycling to their repertoire of materials reuse for electronic waste. Upcycling brings added quality or environmental value to things we throw away. ERS International develops and utilizes new technologies which allow them to obtain maximum recovery value of electronics via electrostatic separation & particle classification. But ERS has also made significant headway in this untapped field of upcycling.  They have discovered how to conjunctionally reuse waste materials from other industries as well – such as natural stone waste.


At noon Thursday, Sept. 26, Jeff Mendez, Global Communications Director of ERS International will present “Recycling and Upcycling of Electronic Waste,” in the ISTC’s next “Sustainability in Action” seminar/webinar.  The presentation will be broadcast live from Toronto, Canada and can be viewed at the Stephen J. Warner Conference Room at ISTC (One Hazelwood Dr., Champaign), or at Room  218 Mechanical Engineering Building at U of I (1206 W Green St. in Urbana).


The webinar will also be simulcast live by registering at  The presentation will also be archived on the ISTC website for later viewing.


Sustainability in Action Seminar Series Announced

The fall Sustainability Seminar Series resumes at noon, Thursday, Sept. 26 with Jeff Mendez, Global Communications Director, ERS International, speaking on “Upcycling of Electronics.” Mendez will speak via a live webinar from Toronto.

Plan ahead to participate in all of this fall’s seminars. They will be live at ISTC’s Stephen J. Warner Conference Room, or at Room 218 Mechanical Engineering Building at the University of Illinois. They will also be available as a live webcast. Check back here for details on accessing the webcasts, or check All of the seminars can be viewed at both venues.

Oct. 3        Eric Benson, Associate Professor and Chair, UIUC Graphics Design Program, “Fields of Gold, Deckles, and Moulds:  Fresh Press and Agri-Fiber Papers” – 218 MEB

Oct. 10     Dr. John Marlin, Research Affiliate, UIUC Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, “Mud-to-Parks: Beneficial Use of Sediment as Reclaimed Topsoil in Illinois”  – ISTC 

Oct. 24     Dr. Sam Weaver, Proton Power Inc., Lenoir City, Tennessee, “Powering a Clean Tomorrow:  Cheap Hydrogen from Biomass”  – ISTC 

Oct. 31     Dr. Mark Taylor, Assistant Professor, UIUC School of Architecture – 218 MEB – “The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Competition and the Progress to Solar Ready Housing” – 218 MEB

Nov. 7      Dr. Sherri Mason, Associate Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Fredonia, NY, “Great Lakes Plastic Pollution Survey 2012” (via webinar from New York)   Nov. 14    Mike Hoadley, Founder,, Chicago 218 MEB  “Challenges in Vertical Farming and Controlled Environments Agriculture” – ISTC

Dec. 5       Joy Scrogum & Nancy Holm, co-coordinators, Sustainable Electronics Initiative, UIUC, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, “2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards Presentation” – ISTC 

Engineer Introduces Thermally-Reversible Polymer to Desalination

According to, 780 million people lack access to clean water. The need to provide access to clean water is one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering.


At noon this Thursday, Sept 12, Dr. Xinying Wang will present “Polymer Assisted Forward Osmosis for Desalination and Water Reuse,” at U of I’s Mechanical Engineering Building, Rm. 218 (1206 W Green St. in Urbana, IL).


This webinar, as part of the ISTC’s Sustainable Technology Seminar Series “Sustainability in Action,” will be broadcast live and also archived on our website for later viewing. If you cannot attend the event at Rm. 218 MEB, you may view the webinar live by registering at: It will also be viewable live at the ISTC Conference Room at 1 Hazelwood Dr., Champaign, IL.


Dr. Wang is a Chemical Engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute. The following is his abstract for the seminar:


“Forward osmosis (FO) for dewatering/desalination applications has received increasing interest due to its potential use of low grade thermal energy, ability to operate at low pressure, and  reduced tendency to foul. Developments in FO are primarily focused on two areas: (a) expanding the availability of draw solutions that generate high osmotic pressure; are easily separated from water using physical and/or chemical means; are non-corrosive, nontoxic, and chemically stable; exhibit near neutral pH; and are inexpensive and (b) developing membranes that exhibit high flux and suitable salt rejection under FO conditions. In this presentation we focus on the challenges of draw solution utilization and regeneration.


In this presentation, we will talk about a forward osmosis desalination process that employs a temperature-reversible polymer to recycle the draw solute. In our work, a high concentration MgSO4 solution is used as draw solution. After forward osmosis, the diluted draw solution is mixed with a thermally-reversible polymer, poly (propyleneoxide) –co-poly (ethyleneoxide). This polymer extracts water from the diluted draw solution and the whole solution forms two phases, a polymer-water phase and a concentrated MgSO4 solution phase (bottom). The bottom MgSO4 solution phase is recycled back to the forward osmosis module, while the polymer-water phase is heated above the polymer’s cloudy point (60⁰C) to recycle the polymer and to produce clean water.  Experimental details on the process will be presented.”



Engineer to Share Latest Research for Recycling LCD Screens

Old TVs and monitors are becoming old TVs and monitors at record rates as screen size and new capabilities grow and prices shrink. Most of their toxins build up in landfills where they can leach into the environment. If it works sell it or donate it. If it doesn’t,  check with a local repair shop to see if they will refurbish it. See if you can return it to the store where you purchased it, or watch for a recycling day from your local waste management service. Commercial electronics recyclers may charge you to drop off your old TV.


As researchers are constantly improving television technology they are also advancing technology for recycling their complex remains at the end of their lives. At noon this Thursday, Sept. 5, Dr. Fu Zhao, Associate Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University-West Lafayette will present “Recycling of Liquid Crystal Displays for Maximum Resource Recovery” as part of the ISTC’s Sustainable Technology Seminar Series “Sustainability in Action.”


Dr. Zhao will be speaking at ISTC with a live webinar of the presentation broadcast in Room 218 MEB).  You can also register at: to watch the broadcast live.


Here is Dr. Zhao’s abstract: “Hundreds of millions of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) will reach their end of life in the next few years, and most of them have cold cathode fluorescent lamps as the backlights. These mercury containing backlights bring challenges to the end of life treatment of LCDs. Communications with electronic waste recyclers indicate that recycling LCDs using available equipment and tools is not profitable in U.S. due to high equipment/labor cost. With the support of an EPA P3 Phase I grant, our team at Purdue University developed a four-step procedure for LCD disassembling. Appropriate tools for these steps have been designed and fabricated and the team was able to limit the total disassembling time to less than five minutes, the breakeven time suggested by e-waste recyclers. All the tools can be readily built using low-cost tools available on the market. The disassembling time can be shortened further after optimization. Toward the end of the talk, lessons learned from the project and challenges associated with developing sustainable electronic products will be discussed.”

Registration Now Open for International Sustainable Electronics Competition

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is pleased to announce that registration is open for the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition. Participants will explore ideas to address the social and environmental impacts of electronics, and contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design for current and future technology products. Entries can be made in one of two categories“Product” and “Non-product”–with criteria that incorporate the ideas of reuse and prevention throughout. This allows for students of all disciplines to participate in ways to reduce the generation of electronic waste and extend electronic product life cycles.


Teamwork across disciplines, backgrounds, and ages is encouraged. One entry per person or team (5 person maximum) is allowed. The competition is open to current college and university students as well as recent graduates from universities around the world. Registration is FREE. Expert jurors award cash prizes to the top three projects in each category.


Entries must include an original video composition uploaded to YouTube, along with supporting materials uploaded to the registration page of the competition web site. See the competition web site, for details on registration requirements.