ISTC Technical Assistance Program collaborates with Forest Preserves of Cook County on Clean Energy Framework

Forest Preserves of Cook County Clean Energy Framework cover

ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Forest Preserves) have a history of working together to improve sustainability. In 2014, the Forest Preserves, a public agency responsible for protecting and preserving nearly 70,000 acres of natural areas and public open space, engaged TAP to evaluate the current state of materials management operations, assess opportunities for improvement, and take steps toward making the Forest Preserves a national leader, among similar organizations, in waste reduction practices. The success of that project led the Forest Preserves to engage TAP to assist in developing and implementing their Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan, which was released in September 2018. That plan hinged upon an overall goal to reduce the Forest Preserves’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 2016 baseline. It also identified a road map for Forest Preserve lands to be resilient in a changing climate, recognizing that such conditions will significantly impact land management operations as the range and distribution of species shift, along with the availability of water and other key aspects of the local ecosystem.

On January 22, 2019, in response to a United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report, which demonstrated that the consequences of man-made climate change will become irreversible in 12 years if global carbon emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Net Zero Resolution. This resolution revised the 80% GHG emissions reduction goal to net-zero by 2050, as well as reducing facility GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and committing to the development of a renewable energy plan. 

TAP is currently working with the Forest Preserves on updating their Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan accordingly, while simultaneously assisting with the implementation of previously identified objectives and strategies to achieve their ambitious GHG reduction goals.

The most recent result of this collaboration is the development of a Clean Energy Framework, modeled after the Cook County Energy Plan. The Forest Preserves of Cook County Clean Energy Framework documents existing conditions through a needs assessment and review of current initiatives. Further, it prioritizes renewable energy technologies and strategies which the Forest Preserves might employ and creates a roadmap to achieving the Forest Preserves’ 2030 and 2050 goals. A Net Zero Emissions implementation schedule is presented, and the relationships between the Clean Energy Framework objectives and the objectives of the broader Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan are outlined.

Within the Framework it is noted that to actualize the goals and strategies outlined, energy conservation and efficiency of the many existing facilities must be prioritized and continuously pursued to reduce the existing operational footprint of the Forest Preserves. On a parallel course, the concept of green building must be thoroughly explored, redefined, and codified to embody building operations, ecosystem services, and renewable energy generation, fully encompassing the Preserves’ values of environmental stewardship and fostering human well-being in any building upgrade or new building project. Simultaneously, the Forest Preserves must aggressively pursue vetting, selecting and ongoing implementation of on-site renewable energy systems, coupled with collaborative pursuit, in partnership with Cook County, of a large-scale renewable energy installation, and sourcing of RECs to account for any emissions balances.

Principal authors of the Framework include Anthony D. Tindall, Policy & Sustainability Manager of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, along with April Janssen Mahajan, Joy Scrogum, Savannah Feher, and Shantanu Pai of TAP. Jennifer Martin of TAP was also among the advisors for the report.

The Clean Energy Framework was finalized in May 2021 and adopted by the Forest Preserves’ Board of Commissioners in June 2021. The Framework is available for download at https://fpdcc.com/downloads/plans/FPCC-Clean-Energy-Framework-071221.pdf.

For more information on the ISTC Technical Assistance Program, see http://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

 

ISTC Technical Assistance Program launches new webpages

TAP homepage

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has a new web presence. You may now find information on TAP at https://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

TAP makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science, and government to help organizations achieve profitable, sustainable results.

The new website makes it easier to find information on TAP programs, services, and projects. Visitors can sign up for free site visits or learn about fee-for-service opportunities to engage our sustainability experts. Any Illinois organization, business, manufacturing facility, institute of higher learning, government entity, public utility, or institution may request one free site visit (per location) at no cost to the facility.

General inquiries may be addressed to istc-info@illinois.edu. You may also reach out to specific TAP team members for assistance in their areas of expertise.

Ten: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Video

30thBlogThing10Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 10: Mark Ryan After leading the assembly in “Happy Birthday” to ISTC, Ryan shared a brief survey of the history of “sustainability in the modern context.” In 1980, sustainable development was called a global priority in “World Conservation Strategy” published by the International Union for of Conservation of Nature.

 

The United Nation’s Bruntland Commission defined it in 1987: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 

But sustainability in the sense of natural resources goes back thousands of years to so many cultures across the globe that Ryan said he was comfortable labeling it a “universal truth.”

 

For examples in ancient times he cited, “Deuteronomy’s” caution not to kill female birds with young, forest management practiced in the Han Dynasty, and the Roman latifundium which managed the production of wood and other crops. Ryan noted that when Rome fell, and latifundia disappeared, so did many of the forests in Italy and France.

 

Ryan continued to offer examples of preserving resources for future use through the centuries, right up to the establishment of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center in 1985.

 

ALL VIDEOS and other ISTC 30th Anniversary information is available at this ISTC web page.

Nine: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Celebration Videos

30thBlogThing2Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 9: State Senator Scott Bennett’s presentation gave insights on how policies work their way through the state legislature. For 10 years politics, policy and science questions surrounded a proposal to store PCBs and manufactured gas plant waste in a DeWitt County landfill positioned over the Mohamet Aquifer.

 

He has been active in promoting legislation to protect the aquifer, which is a critical source of drinking water for a large region of central Illinois. Another pending bill to protect the state’s natural infrastructure is a comprehensive program to monitor the quality of air, water, and land resources. Also, a proposed law would allow cities to collect fees from power plants to prepare for the costs of environmental cleanup when the plant eventually closes down.

 

NEXT UP: Mark Ryan, PRI executive director, “A Brief History of Sustainability.”

 

Eight: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Videos

30thBlogThing9Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 8: Jerri-Anne Garl represented the federal Environmental Protection Agency during the ISTC Anniversary Celebration. Since EPA’s pollution prevention program started in the early 1990s, ISTC “has been one of our most effective and innovative partners,” Garl said. “ISTC itself has served as a model for other state programs.” She outlined successes of ISTC programs in assisting local communities and small companies, as well as major manufacturers, save money, water, energy, and make their operations more environmentally friendly.

 

Garl reviewed federal priorities for the EPA: 1) making a visible difference in communities; addressing climate change and improving air quality; launching a new era of state, tribal and local partnerships; and embracing EPA as a high performing organization. She added that the agency has set three emphasis areas for its work: climate change, food manufacturing, and hazardous materials mitigation.

 

“We believe that the ISTC is really well-positioned with the tools, experience, connections and the innovative spirit, to be a central partner in this effort.

 

NEXT UP: Scott Bennett, Illinois Senate (52 Dist. D), “Protecting Our Environment.”

Seven: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Videos

30thBlogThing8Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 7: Kevin Greene’s career in the environmental arena spans almost 30 years, including nearly 20 years at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. During the early days of the pollution prevention movement, he viewed the reaction against environmental contamination from several perspectives — as an environmental issues consultant, lobbyist, and regulator.

 

He noted that during the 1970s there was a wave of federal environmental laws which represented a change in the environmental community from public activists for change working from outside institutions to working inside them. Early regulations were also aimed at dealing with managing pollution after it was created.

 

A second wave of community activism developed in the 1980s over concern about how effectively industrial by-products were being handled, and their potential health impacts, he said. “Specialists or technocrats” continued to be “at the table” in seeking waste management solutions, but public activists were growing less trusting, he recalled.

 

Activists’ focus shifted away from calls for regulations that manage pollutants to local level activism to halt proposed storage/disposal facilities.  Increasingly the questions became “why is waste being generated in the first place” and the response shifted to getting critical information about pending waste projects to affected communities.

 

NEXT UP: Jerri-Anne Garl, U.S. EPA, “Working with ISTC on Pollution Prevention: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities from a Federal Perspective.”

Six: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Videos

30thBlogThing6Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

 

VIDEO 6: Timothy Lindsey As long-time head of technical assistance at the Center, Timothy Lindsey, helped pioneer more effective technical assistance efforts by applying the principals of innovation diffusion. He recalled he and his colleagues at the Center were frustrated when they made recommendations that would clearly save money and trim waste, yet often they were not adopted.

 

As part of his doctoral studies, Lindsey began to apply the ideas of Everett M. Rogers in his book “Diffusion of Innovation.” Innovations are initially perceived as uncertain and even risky, Lindsey said. They must be demonstrated in the context of the scale and type of the existing process. Innovations are most likely to be shared among trusted peers and the process can be slow.

 

Lindsey explained that sustainability in an innovative way of doing business, similar to innovations like the assembly line or electronic commerce. Following innovations in sustainable business, he said,  financial performance, environmental performance and social performance must be considered over the long term.

 

Now Global Director of Sustainable Development at Caterpillar Inc., Lindsey has applied principles of innovation diffusion to the multi-national manufacturer. Sustainability has long been important at Caterpillar, he said. But 2104 was a formative year at the company when sustainability became more than just an important thing they do. “Sustainability became an important part of who we are,” as one of the corporation’s core value, he said.

 

NEXT UP: Kevin Greene, “Pollution Prevention: Looking Back Towards the Future.”

Five: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Videos

30thBlogThing7Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 5: Jeff Levengood, spoke about the strong collaboration between ISTC and the other four state surveys during its history. The diverse expertise of the scientists at the Prairie Research Institute’s four other surveys — spanning water, geology, natural history, and archaeology — enabled them to examining complex, place-based, legacy environmental contamination and degradation issues.

 

The work resulted in research reports published by the center, but also in refereed journal articles. He said this work helped communities around Illinois in managing their contamination problems but the collaborations also made significant contributions to the knowledge base in the field.

 

At Lake Calumet, Waukegan Harbor, Lake DePue and other post-industrial natural habitats, the surveys studied exposure and uptake of pollution by wildlife. They tracked changes in habits including nesting, foraging, reproduction in the birds, fish and the greater ecosystem. The information helped lead to innovative restoration projects at compromised sites in the state.

 

“I think we have to be proud,” Levengood said, “anybody that was involved in those early studies, because we really kind of kicked this off and helped to show what could be, what was possible.”

 

He quoted Nicole Kamins Barker, who worked on the Lake Calumet restoration as part of the Chicago Department of Environment, who said “The Surveys’ involvement took our work in the Calumet region to a new level of effectiveness by merging the latest scientific research with natural resource planning and management.”

 

NEXT UP: Timothy Lindsey, “Incorporating Innovation into Pollution Prevention and Sustainability.”

Four: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Video

30thBlogThing4Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 4: Craig Colten While working at the Center, Craig Colten, conducted pioneering longitudinal analyses of manufacturing techniques in urban manufacturing sites throughout the state.  The work accounted for changing hazardous materials produced and changing waste handling practices over more than 100 years.

 

The research was valuable for understanding not just current threats but residues from long forgotten industrial sites. Building on this data, Colten was able to construct a general historical geographic model in urban areas, as well as a series of tools and applications including a Historical Hazardous Substance Data Base and a Historical Hazards Geographic Information System. These tools helped establish the ground work for Superfund litigation and the ability to support real estate transactions.

 

Colten and others at the Center became national leaders in sustainability by addressing emerging concerns about brownfields, as well as abandoned, derelict sites, especially sites where the industrial land use changed several times. He established the long-term relationship of industry and environment — adding a time component to our the state of knowledge about what was toxic, how wastes were managed, what was the technology for managing wastes, and what was the regulatory framework then.

 

Later Colten co-authored “The Road to Love Canal: Managing Industrial Waste before EPA.” Today he is Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography, Louisiana State University.

 

NEXT UP: Jeff Levingood, “ISTC and the Other Surveys: Working Together to Solve Illinois’ Legacy Pollution Issues.”

Three: 10 Days of ISTC; Anniversary Presentation Videos

30thBlogThing5Videos of presentations at ISTC’s anniversary event provide a fascinating look at problems of pollution contamination in Illinois and how the Center contributed to the clean up. Links to the videos will be made available over the next two weeks as they become available.

ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary

VIDEO 3: Gary Miller, the center’s first assistant director, spoke about the center’s research program. Up to this day, the mandate of ISTC is to provide 1) research, 2) technical assistance, and 3) public information about hazardous materials and other contamination threats. Miller said over 30 years the center has funded well over 200 studies, all available online.

 

Large contaminated sites in Illinois, such as Waukegan Harbor, Lake Calumet and industrial sites near Rockford got a lot of attention in those first years.  At that time a lot of work was necessary to establish the toxicity of contaminants present at those sites,  including some of the earliest studies of PCBs in the environment.

 

Other important research focused on waste issues such as improved landfill design and modeling of groundwater contamination from landfills. The early years also produced a comprehensive inventory of Illinois landfills that is still in use today. He added that the center also helped pioneer remediation, stabilization, and clean-up techniques through demonstrations and analysis.

 

NEXT UP: Craig Colton, “Historical Hazards: Innovation and Application at the Center.”