New carbon capture technology shrinks carbon footprint

WRITTEN BY: Lisa Sheppard, PRI staff

 

A biphasic CO2 extraction method holds promise as an innovative, cost-saving alternative to the conventional carbon capture process in power plants. ISTC researchers are collaborating with the Illinois State Geological Survey on Phase II of this Department of Energy-funded project.

 

The biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP), which involves multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, increases the CO2 stripping capacity because of the increased concentration of CO2 in the second solvent phase. In addition, less energy is required to compress the CO2 and a smaller amount of solvent is used in the process.

 

In Phase I, the research team screened out biphasic solvents to find the best one for the job. They are now studying the corrosive properties of solvents on carbon and stainless steel, which are materials used in power plants.

 

“Corrosion is not a concern,” said ISTC senior research engineer Brajendra Sharma. “We’re moving forward with the project and are on track with all our milestones.”

 

While the researchers have been working on separate parts of the carbon capture process, the next step is to show the effectiveness of the entire system at the Abbott Power Plant on the University of Illinois campus.

 

Read more about the biphasic project on ISTC’s website.

The Illinois Sustainability Award by the Numbers

adding metrics to a ISA application

Adding metrics to an ISA application makes a stronger case.

 

Adding metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award application allows evaluators to truly see the quantitative or qualitative impacts that your organization, program or technology have achieved. Plus, metrics are important for your own use—to tell your story to stakeholders, to evaluate next steps in your sustainability efforts, and to determine the effectiveness of what you’ve done thus far.

 

Without an understanding of resource use before starting a project, how can you truly understand its impact on your bottom line and resource reduction? A major key to understanding project or program impact is to create a baseline for your project, program or initiative. By creating a baseline, you are creating a road map to tracking the success of an initiative and seeing what resource use looks like before implementing a new program, technology, initiative, or strategy. This is important to tracking the success of your efforts and can even help when asking for more money or resources for future environmental projects or initiatives.

 

There are many different types of tools and calculators that can be used to help create an annual baseline, such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (tracks energy, water, and waste). However, entering use data in a simple Excel spreadsheet can also yield a baseline. Important resources to baseline in your organization or business are energy and water use, waste, chemical use, and purchasing. If you have a fleet, fuel use might also be a good metric to track.

 

Before you start your project, choose an evaluation timeline – how long are you going to track metrics to see if your project was successful? What information would you need to collect? Remember to keep it simple and hone in on exactly which metrics will show reduction in resource use. Throughout the duration of the project, continue to track those metrics, even after the initiative or project has been implemented. Then, take time to analyze the data and see if a change has been made in the resources used.

 

Metrics don’t always need to be quantitative – especially if you are tracking impact of outreach or effect of a program on a particular group of people. Data such as number of people reached with information, or number of people participating in the program can be valuable as well. If you’re working with a group of people, get testimonials on impact of the program in their organization or everyday life. Ask whether the initiative, project or program will, or has already, affected their future success, or if connections outside of the project, program or initiative were made that otherwise would not have occurred.

 

The Sample Application section of the ISTC website can give you an idea of how to enter in data and metrics into our metrics spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel format) and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application. If you have further questions, contact Deb Jacobson or Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail (djacobso@illinois.edu or izlevor@illinois.edu) or by phone (630) 472-5016.

 

Remember, applications are due May 3. Start your application now!

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes ISTC as a 2017 Gold Award Winner

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a Gold Award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge (SEC)–a comprehensive nationwide environmental sustainability initiative that currently reaches more than 223,000 employees in 39 states. ISTC was recognized for its accomplishments in green purchasing, energy conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment in 2017.

 

SEC Gold level recognition certificate for ISTC in 2017 calendar year, displayed in frame made of repurposed circuit boards

“The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is truly an outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, SEC Program Manager. “This is the fourth year in a row that ISTC has earned a Gold Award.”  She added that “ISTC is one of only 16 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

 

“We’re honored to have received this recognition, and value our participation in the SEC program,” said Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist and coordinator for its Sustainable Electronics Initiative and Illini Gadget Garage projects. “The guidance and resources available through the SEC were very helpful in creating ISTC’s policy on purchasing, use, and disposal of IT equipment. They also create a useful framework for discussing operational changes in terms of these lifecycle phases for electronics with ISTC’s own technical assistance clients. Even though public entities and non-profits are the types of organizations which may participate in the SEC, I often refer other types of organizations to the Program Requirements Checklist for a simple guide to best practices. I’d love to see more units at the University of Illinois join the SEC, and in general see more participants in the state of Illinois.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2017, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible reuse and recycling:

  • Prevented the release of 5,503,212 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 1,163,470 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply almost 5,000 homes per year .
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 1,258 refrigerators.
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by more than 750 households/year.

A full list of winners and their environmental accomplishments can be found on the State Electronics Challenge website (www.stateelectronicschallenge.net).

 

“The State Electronics Challenge provides state, tribal, regional and local agencies, as well as schools, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into their operations,” added Ms. Rubinstein.  “It’s inspiring to see programs such as this one developed and implemented ISTC to ensure that the highest environmental practices are met through the lifecycle of office equipment.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge awards were made possible through donations from Samsung and the R2/RIOS Program.

 

About the State Electronics Challenge

The State Electronics Challenge assists state, regional, tribal, and local governments to reduce the environmental impact of their office equipment.  It annually recognizes the accomplishments of Partner organizations. The Challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org). Currently, 168 state, tribal, regional, colleges, schools, universities, and local government agencies, and non-profit organizations, representing more than 223,000 employees, have joined the SEC as Partners.  For more information on the SEC, including a list of current Partner organizations, visit www.stateelectronicschallenge.net.

New White Paper Focuses on Food Loss and Waste in North America

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an intergovernmental organization supporting cooperation among NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental concern, has published a new white paper focused on food waste in North America.

 

Image of white paper cover, featuring multiple images of produce at various points along the supply chain as well as icons representing post-harvest food production, food processing, distribution, retail and foodserviceCharacterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America provides statistics about the amount of food lost or wasted collectively, and by country, examines root causes and the environmental and economic impacts. It also summarizes current approaches and opportunities to reduce food loss and waste in the US, Canada, and Mexico. This white paper presents an overview of the accompanying foundational report, and serves as a key resource for policy makers at all levels of government, as well as members of the food industry.

 

Some highlights from the Key Findings section include:

 

“Approximately 168 million tonnes of FLW are generated in North America each year. This estimate encompasses all stages of the food supply chain, including the pre-harvest and consumer stages. Per country, this equates to 13 million tonnes in Canada, 28 million tonnes in Mexico and 126 million tonnes in the United States…When including all stages of the food supply chain, per-capita FLW in Canada is comparable to that in the United States (396 kilograms/person/year and 415 kilograms/person/year, respectively). The per-capita FLW generation in Mexico is much lower—at 249 kilograms/person/year. Nevertheless, when excluding pre-harvest and consumer stages, rates across all three countries are comparable: 110 kilograms/person/year for Canada and the United States, and 129 kilograms/person/year in Mexico.”

 

“Causes of FLW across the food supply chain include:
• overproduction by processors, wholesalers and retailers;
• product damage;
• lack of cold-chain infrastructure (refrigeration during transportation and storage);
• rigid food-grading specifications;
• varying customer demand; and
• market fluctuations.”

 

Among the many listed environmental and economic impacts, is the fact that market value of the food loss and waste in North America per year is US $278 billion.

 

The CEC has also produced an infographic which summarizes the various key findings and suggested approaches to reduce food loss and waste. See http://www.cec.org/sites/default/fwinteractive/index-en.html.

 

Addressing the issues of food loss and waste regionally and nationally will help the global community to make progress toward the following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

 

 

What can you as an individual do? First, become familiar with the sources of food loss and waste and suggested approaches, as outlined in the CEC white paper and other resources highlighted on this blog in the “food waste” category. Let your legislators, and favorite retailers, restaurants, food service operations, and manufacturers of food products know that you appreciate any positive efforts they take to address food waste, and that you expect improvement aligned with strategies identified by CEC and other organizations focused on this issue. Check out the US EPA suggestions for reducing food waste at home, and further their Call to Action by Stakeholders. Also, check out the Save the Food web site produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council. The Love Food Hate Waste web site produced by UK organization WRAP also provides a wealth of tips and even recipes to help ensure food fills stomachs and not landfills. And finally, as you learn more about food waste issues and strategies for reduction, share what you learn and the stories of the actions you’re taking with others. A problem of this complexity and magnitude requires everyone to contribute to the solution. Your sharing knowledge and inspiration is crucial.

 

Three Tips on the Road to a Great Illinois Sustainability Award Application

illinois sustainability award

Illinois companies, communities, and organizations can apply for the Illinois Sustainability Award before May 3.

If your organization has done a lot in the name of sustainability – from projects that save money and resources, to initiatives that strengthen the people and communities you work for – what are you waiting for? The Illinois Sustainability Award (ISA) provides a great opportunity for you to pull all of your sustainability work together into a single document: Your award application!

 

Because sustainability encompasses the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – it can be tough to wrap one’s brain around all that should be included in your application. Our How To Apply page and FAQ’s will help you in that process, but we know that’s a lot to read! Here are three tips to help you cut to the chase, and get started on your application (due by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 3).

 

1. Start driving. Get key people on board.
ISA Applications are typically a team effort, but there is often a single person or small team that drives the process forward. The application drivers can be anyone – from top management to employees who volunteer time on a Green Team. If you’re reading this, you may be the driver!

 

Send a note out to co-workers letting them know you’re preparing a Illinois Sustainability Award application. Here are some key people to get on board early (positions vary by organization):
• Top Management
• Facilities/Operations Manager
• Plant Manager
• Sustainability Officer/Green Team Lead
• PR Officer

 

2. Read these two guides.
Narrative Guidelines – You have up to six single-spaced pages to describe your sustainability accomplishments. These guidelines tell you how.
Metrics Form Instructions – Download the Metrics Form (Microsoft Excel format) and read the Instructions tab.

 

3. Check out the sample applications.
The sample applications, available HERE, display best practices from past winners’ applications. Note that a good application typically includes a variety of projects touching on multiple impacts or aspects of sustainability. The project descriptions will also include some detail on how they were conceived and who was involved. We want to hear how your organization went from idea to implementation.

 

BONUS TIP: Consider normalizing your data.
Normalized data is reported on a relevant per-unit basis. One of our previous award winners, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, tracked their water use in this way before and after implementing water conservation measures in their wash bay. Instead of simply reporting total gallons of water consumed, they reported gallons per vehicle-hour, providing us with a water-use measure that can be compared across years, regardless of how many trips the buses make. This type of measurement, a normalized metric, is extremely helpful for evaluating your progress – the true impact of a sustainability project.

 

Check out the Illinois Manufacturer Inc. sample application (Microsoft Excel format) for more normalization examples and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application.

 

If you still have questions about the process, contact Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail at izlevor@illinois.edu, or call her at 630.472.5016.

Time to Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet – The Right Way

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner, ISTC staff

 

pile of pills

 

Is your medicine cabinet at home filled with old medications or prescription drugs you no longer use? You’re not alone.  But how do we dispose of these medicines safely?

 

Many Americans find themselves in the exact situation every year and either flush the pills down the toilet or hang onto them, unsure if they may be useful in the future.  However, the Illinois EPA warns against flushing drugs.They can get family lifestyle portrait of a mum and dad with their two kids and their dog having fun outdoorsinto the environment, harm wildlife and even pose challenges for drinking water treatment. And keeping medicines you no longer need can pose an unnecessary risk for accidental poisoning and abuse by children, teens, pets, and elderly, especially when stored in an easily accessible place like a family medicine cabinet or drawer.

 

In an interview with Environmental Leader, Walgreens’ senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare, Rick Gates, acknowledged the growing concern over improper disposal and storage of medicines.

 

The best way to dispose of leftover and unwanted medications is to bring them to a medicine collection site. There are many located within Illinois, mostly in local law enforcement buildings.  Accepted items at permanent collection boxes include prescription medications, all over-the-counter (OTC) medications, pet medications, vitamins and supplements, medicated ointments, creams, lotions, and oils, and liquid medication stored in leak-proof containers.

 

After the medications are deposited in the drop boxes, they are taken to an incineration facility to be destroyed. This process is more environmentally safe than other disposal methods and is “highly regulated” by the EPA.

 

unwanted drug disposal bin inside lobby of police station in Champaign ILIn 2013, ISTC got involved in a new program within Champaign County to collect unwanted and old drugs. Goals of the program are to limit accidental poisonings of children and pets, prevent drug abuse, and reduce environmental impacts from improper disposal of medicines. Within Champaign-Urbana, you can now drop off unwanted medications at 3 locations – the police department lobbies in Champaign, Urbana, and on campus. These drop boxes are accessible 24 hours, seven days a week.

 

Walgreens and other pharmacies are also offering take-back programs to help their customers in the disposal process. Gates stated, “We’ve collected more than 155 tons of unwanted medication in first 18 months of the program, [which] goes to prove that there is a need in the marketplace.”

 

woman disposing of medicine at a one day collection eventTwice per year, the U.S. DEA participates in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, with the goal to help Americans dispose of potentially harmful prescription drugs and, ultimately, to reduce addiction and overdose deaths related to opioids. During the event last October, Americans returned a record of 456 tons of unwanted medications to the DEA and their local partners. The next event will take place on April 28, 2018.

 

If neither a permanent drop box nor take-back event are available in your area, you can purchase postage-paid mail-back envelopes for medicine, which are now available at many pharmacies. You can also dispose of the medicine in the trash if you follow Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s recommended tips.

 

Medicines that have expired, changed color, or have a “funny” smell should not be used and should be taken to a medicine collection site.

 

Prescription and OTC drugs, along with most items in your medicine cabinet, are considered Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs). The U.S. EPA has identified PPCPs as emerging contaminants of concern because the extent of these contaminants’ impact on the environment is still unknown.

 

To help reduce impacts of PPCPs and other emerging contaminants on the environment, ISTC is co-organizing a conference on Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment, along with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The conference is June 5-6, 2018, and will feature presentations and posters on the latest in emerging contaminants research, education, and policies. Registration opens in March. The call for oral presentation abstracts is open until March 12 and the poster presentations call is open until April 16.

 

As we continue to learn more about the effects of PPCPs in our environment, we should all do our part to ensure both safe use and safe disposal of medicines and other PPCPs.

 

ISTC will host the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference at the U of I on June 5-6.

Green is the New Gold – Olympics Sustainability

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner, ISTC staff

 

olympic rings logoWhenever you think of sustainability, the Olympic Games, with all its grandeur and flashy ceremonies, probably is not the first event that comes to mind. All it takes is a second look, though, and you’ll see that sustainability is central to the Olympics.

 

This year, the Olympics are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea.  The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Games (POCOG) has integrated sustainability into all stages of its Games – from construction of the venues, to the athletes’ and fans’ experiences and the legacy the Games will leave.

 

There are 92 countries and over 2,900 athletes participating in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, up from 88 nations in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. That is a lot of people and it is not even counting the enthusiastic fans pouring in from each nation.

 

It can be a challenge to host so many travelers at once, knowing they will only stay temporarily.  POCOG has managed this by constructing an Olympic Village to accommodate the athletes and coaches, and once the Games are over, the Village will be used as condominiums. All the condo units were sold  months before the Olympics even started, guaranteeing the Village will be in use long after the athletes have left the city.

 

The Olympic-sized stadiums have also been developed with green infrastructure and eventual repurposing in mind.  POCOG constructed all six new venues to conform to South Korea’s green energy certification standards, G-SEED. The venues utilize solar, wind, and geothermal energy and POCOG repurposed land previously used as a landfill to build the Ice Hockey Arena. After the Games, the arenas will be used for multipurpose sports complexes to accommodate professional athletic training as well as culture, leisure, and sports activities for the public.

 

POCOG’s sustainability report outlines a goal to go beyond “zero emissions” and accomplish “O2 Plus” effects through “low-carbon operations and resource circulation.”  As of September 2017, 1.33 million tons of greenhouse gases were reduced or offset.  To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mass transit transportation has been encouraged. Personal vehicles cannot enter the venues, which encourages fans to park off-site and ride the shuttle.  The high-speed railway was also built to connect Incheon International Airport in Seoul to the venues in PyeongChang and Gangneung. Staff will use electric cars and hydrogen-powered cars during the Games. As a result, charging stations have been installed, which POCOG hopes will encourage locals to use electric cars.

 

To further reduce carbon emissions, POCOG is locally sourcing much of their food and introducing an electronic meal voucher system for Olympic staff for the first time in Olympic history, with the intent to prepare exactly the amount of food needed and avoid food waste.

 

POCOG even accounted for stewardship of nature in their planning. A combined Men’s and Women’s alpine ski course has been implemented for the first time in the Winter Olympics to reduce estimated forest impact. Plants, seeds, and topsoil have been collected to assist in the restoration process post-Games, and 174 hectares of forest have been pledged to be restored. A project to repopulate endangered species in the area has been implemented to maintain biodiversity, and nine additional forests have been designated as protected since 2013.

 

The PyeongChang Olympics was awarded ISO 20121 certification to recognize its work system that “minimizes burden on local communities while maximizing positive impacts,” marking a first for the Winter Olympics and third for Olympic Games after London 2012 and Rio 2016.

 

olympic gold metal with white backgroundThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) has aligned itself with POCOG’s vision for a sustainable Olympics. Olympic Agenda 2020 is made up of three pillars – credibility, youth, and sustainability.  In fact, the field of sports was officially recognized as an “important enabler” of sustainable development by the United Nations in 2015 and is included in the UN’s Agenda 2030.

 

While South Korea doesn’t know its final medal count yet, PyeongChang has definitely earned gold in being green.

The long road of antiseptic chemical concerns leads to a new ban in health care

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner, ISTC staff

 

ISTC will host the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference at the U of I on June 5-6.

ISTC will host the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference at the U of I on June 5-6.

A ban on the use of 24 antiseptic ingredients, including triclosan, for use in health care settings will take effect at the end of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month. That extends a 2016 ban on Triclosan, and other active ingredients, from use in consumer products.

 

The action is the latest development in a long road of coping with the competing rights and responsibilities of marketplace innovation, regulatory power, public health, and rapid advances in our scientific ability to detect such compounds.

 

Triclosan was patented in 1964 as an antibacterial and antifungal agent by the Swiss company Ciba-Geigy. Worldwide production and use began in the early 1970s. Just 14 years later, the compound was detected in U.S. wastewater, river water, and sediment and was labeled as an environmental contaminant.  The FDA proposed banning the use of triclosan in soaps in 1978, but the proposal was never finalized.

 

Since then triclosan and other antibacterials have continued to find their way into many consumer products.  For example, Hasbro, the maker of Playskool toys, was fined in 1997 for false advertising because they claimed their toys made with antibacterials were safer for kids than those without.

 

Present in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and body washes, triclosan is considered a Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product (PPCP), which the Water Quality Association defines as “products used by individuals for personal health/well-being or for cosmetic purposes.” PPCPs have been identified as emerging contaminants of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because little is known about their impact on the environment or their risks to human health when released into the ecosystem.

 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the FDA in 2010 to force a decision on triclosan and other antibacterials. Four years later, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) supported the FDA’s original findings by reporting triclosan as one of the top contaminants of emerging concern detected in biosolids. The FDA finally made the decision to ban triclosan in consumer products in 2016; now in 2018, this ban will be extended to the medical industry.

 

photo of hand washing

FDA experts maintain that washing hands with ordinary soap and water is as effective as using antibacterial compounds.

Why all the concern? They are pervasive. The widespread use of triclosan and other antibacterials has left residues in our environment, as well as in our bodies. Using bio-monitoring, triclosan residue was detected in 75 percent of Americans over six years old. Thought to be absorbed through the skin, tests have found traces of triclosan in human blood, urine, and breast milk.

 

Also research at ISTC and elsewhere have shown PPCPs can act as endocrine disruptors (EDCs), which alter hormone functions.  Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters the way hormones work in the body, which is alarming considering potential impacts on human health. To spread awareness of the most recent emerging contaminant research, policies, and education, ISTC is hosting its third conference on emerging contaminants this June 5-6.

 

ISTC has also sponsored research to study the impact of triclosan on the environment. A three-year study ran from 2009 to 2012 and involved researchers analyzing two rivers in the Chicago area receiving effluent from wastewater treatment plants. Effluent from wastewater treatment plants can serve as a point source for a range of pollutants, including PPCPs. When analyzing the rivers, researchers found that increased exposure to triclosan was linked to both an increase in triclosan resistance and a decrease in biodiversity within the benthic bacterial communities.  These results show that the common and widespread use of triclosan could have negative ecological consequences.

 

Further laboratory studies have matched ISTC’s suggestion that triclosan may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has significant impacts to human health, as it could diminish the effectiveness of some medical treatments, including antibiotic treatments.

 

Despite being used for the past four decades, manufacturers have proven neither the effectiveness nor the safety of long-term use of triclosan.  The FDA has determined that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and water and challenged the industry to demonstrate otherwise.

 

Excluded from the new regulative action are six antiseptic active ingredients: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, povidone-iodine, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. The FDA said further research is needed before commenting on the safety or effectiveness of these six ingredients.

 

The new FDA rule will go into effect Dec. 20, 2018.

 

#ECAEC18 co-sponsors: @ISTCatUIUC, @UCRiverside, @ILINSeaGrant, @CEEatIllinois

Sustainability: A Force for Good in our Galaxy

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner ISTC staff

 

You may have heard that a new Star Wars movie came out last week. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, don’t worry, we won’t spoil it for you. But it got us thinking about sustainability in the Star Wars universe.

 

Yes, it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But are there lessons, and warnings in the story for us? On one end of the sustainability spectrum there are the Ewoks, who live respectfully off the land and use their resources wisely. On the other end of the spectrum there’s the Death Star, which destroys entire planets just to show off its power. Generally speaking, folks in our world fall somewhere in between.

 

recycling is not just for jawas!The Ewoks’ Forest Moon of Endor sustained them in their happy lifestyle. But what happened on Tatooine, where Anakin and Luke grew up? Environmentally it took a wrong turn at some point, reminding us of droughts and wildfires growing more common in California and across the country.

 

Habitat preservation is important if we want our world to remain habitable for generations to come. On Tatooine, they acknowledged the scarcity of water on their planet and relied heavily on moisture farms. One predicted effect of climate change here on earth is altered weather patterns, leading to a shift in agricultural growing zones. In the Midwest, we love our corn and soybean farms. No one wants to replace this valuable facet of our economy with moisture farms, which use moisture vaporators to pull water from the humidity in the air, just to have access to clean water. If avoiding the effects of climate change means reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, count me in.

 

C-3PO, rebuilt by young Anakin Skywalker from scrap parts, demonstrates the value of reusing resources and recycling. Han Solo and Chewbacca also repaired and refurbished the legendary Millennium Falcon many times rather than scrapping it for a new starship. The electronics and machinery repair in Star Wars is inspiring, as we have so much electronic waste in our society today. To learn how to reuse, recycle, and repair your electronics, visit the Illini Gadget Garage, or check what repair resources are available in your community.

 

You may be wondering what fuel these spaceships used to travel such great distances – let’s hope they didn’t have to deal with inflated gas prices around the holidays! The Millennium Falcon and other standard starships use different sorts of fuels, commonly Rhydonium, mined on the planet Abafar. According to Wookieepedia, the Millennium Falcon used hypermatter to go into hyperdrive and reach lightspeed. While we’re not sure about the sustainability of using hypermatter, we do know about at least one renewable energy source in the Star Wars universe.

 

As part of Jedi training, younglings were sent to the Crystal Caves of Ilum to mine kyber crystals for their lightsabers. Kyber crystals, while rare, are inexhaustible sources of energy as their power does not diminish over time. These crystals are used to power lightsabers as well as the Death Star’s planet-destroying superlaser — I guess both the light- and dark-sides appreciate renewable energy!

 

When we look to our own world we can see renewable energy sources such as wind and solar on the rise. Innovations in these areas include printable solar panels, floating wind turbines, and sustainable lighting that help fight mosquito infestations.

 

Ah, Star Wars…. A fictional story perhaps it may be. But, teach us much about how to keep our light in the galaxy it can.

 

New data summary reports from the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze data from U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)Greenhouse Gas Emissions database, and the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns database to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. The following fact sheets are currently available:

The full report, The Economic and Environmental Impact of Great Lakes Manufacturing: Snapshot of Emissions, Pollution Prevention Practices, and Economic Impact Using Public Data, is available in IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.