Nest-turned-hive requires rescue mission

bees use their wings to cool nest

Bumble bees turned an abandoned robin’s nest on ISTC’s loading dock into  a toasty habitat. Worker bees furiously beat their wings to cool their brood.

 

A valuable bumble bee colony was rescued from the loading dock at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) last week and is now is a colony-in-residence at the entomology lab at Illinois State University (ISU) in Bloomington.

 

John Marlin, research affiliate at ISTC and also an entomologist, spotted the bees making its home in an abandoned robin’s nest on the center’s loading dock. Marlin wondered if they were Bombus pensylvanicus, a once abundant Illinois species that has suffered a rapid decline in recent years.

 

Marlin contacted Dr. Sydney Cameron, the U of I’s authority on bumble bees about the find. Cameron was traveling so she referred Marlin to Dr. Ben Sadd, assistant professor of infectious disease ecology at ISU. The loading dock was soon to be very busy with ISTC deliveries. Additionally the bees were stressed by the 90+ degree weather and as many as seven adult bees were fanning the nest with their wings during the day to cool it. Sadd packed up the nest and moved it back to the cool Bloomington lab.

 

Sadd identified the bees as Bombus auricomus, not as rare, but still of considerable interest. Inside the nest was revealed seven workers a queen tending to healthy brood cells and nectar pots. The brood was in good condition so he said the colony could continue producing. It is the only B. auricomis nest in the facility.

 

Bumble bee populations are declining all over the country as suitable prairie, grassland, and other habitats disappear in both rural and urban areas, Marlin pointed out. Homeowners can help bees by including native flowering plants in gardens and only using soil insecticides when necessary, he added.

 

The plight of many bee species (there are over 300 in Illinois alone) has drawn national attention, including efforts to list some as endangered. The Trump administration halted the protection of Bombus affinis under the Endangered Species Act in January. Congress is debating changes to the act this summer.

 

 

hive inside the nest revealed

Transplanted to a cool entomology lab at Illinois State University, the bees’ brood was healthy.

Illini Gadget Garage Announces Hours for Summer 2017 and Off-Campus Services

The Illini Gadget Garage (IGG) is a collaborative repair center on the UIUC campus to assist students, staff and faculty with troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues for their personally owned electronic devices and small appliances. The project is coordinated by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program as a waste reduction outreach project of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI).

 

Summer hours
The IGG has announced hours for Summer 2017. “Pop-up” repair clinics will be held at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Open hours will be held at the IGG’s physical workshop (INHS Storage Building #3) on South Oak Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM to 2 PM and on Fridays from noon to 4 PM. A map is available for directions to the physical location: http://tinyurl.com/guv4n9z. Note that hours are subject to change, as staff are working to schedule more pop-up clinics in order to bring services to a wider audience, so check the project web site or Facebook page for announcements.

Image which lists the summer 2017 hours for the Illini Gadget Garage

 

Bring a pop-up repair clinic to your facility
Related to that spirit of expansion, the IGG is now offering off-campus pop-ups for companies and organizations that would like to bring “do-it-together” repair to their site as way to engage employees and patrons in product stewardship and sustainability. Staff will come to your location with the necessary tools, and they can arrange to have your audience fill out a diagnostic form in advance so they can research information on the devices and issues being faced ahead of time, making one-on-one interactions during the event more productive. Off-campus pop-ups are 2-4 hours long to allow sufficient time for troubleshooting, repairs, and any additional research. Note that IGG does not sell parts, but if it is determined that a part is needed, staff can assist individuals in determining the exact models of required parts and in researching ways to obtain the part. Staff can also help individuals identify local repair businesses that could help them address more complex damage or businesses that can accept items for proper recycling if they are beyond repair. IGG can help identify local businesses and/or online vendors for informational purposes only; the IGG does not endorse any external business and the ultimate decision of how/where to obtain parts or services is that of the consumer.

 

A pop-up repair clinic can provide a unique benefit to your staff, and be part of your organization’s sustainability efforts, by creating conversations around the impacts of product manufacture, design, and end-of-life management. Such events also provide empowerment and team building opportunities. If you have questions or are interested in scheduling a clinic at your facility, please contact Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist, for more information and pricing. Fees are charged to host organization of a pop-up clinic to support staff members time both at the event and for preparation; however individuals that attend your event (e.g. employees and/or patrons) are not themselves charged for the assistance they receive. Off-campus pop-up clinics are not restricted to the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area, but please be aware that additional fees may apply for travel.

View from above showing a student seated at a table working with tools to dismantle and repair a laptop

 

Support IGG outreach in your community or on the UIUC campus
Companies and corporations interested in sponsoring a pop-up repair clinic in their community or at a particular public space are encouraged to contact Joy Scrogum to discuss possibilities and to receive instructions for contributions to the appropriate UI Foundation fund. Additionally, any individual or company interested in supporting IGG’s efforts to provide product stewardship and waste reduction guidance to the UIUC community at no cost to students, faculty and staff may make online donations via the UI Foundation to the “SEI Various Donors Fund,” which supports the educational efforts of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative. You may indicate “Support the Illini Gadget Garage” in the “Special Instructions” section of the online donation form. We thank you and the project’s current sponsors for your support!

Jobs and growth can help halt greenhouse gas

Experts worldwide are meeting this week in Calabria, Italy to focus on ways to deploy carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.

 

Kevin OBrien

Kevin OBrien, director of ISTC and interim director of ISWS, at CO2 Summit III in Calabria, Italy.

Today Kevin OBrien, who leads both the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois State Water Survey, spoke about the opportunities to treat “CCUS as a Regional Economic Development Tool.”

 

The presentation was made at the CO2 Summit III: Pathways to Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Deployment conference.

 

Reducing CO2 emissions while also maintaining economic growth requires balancing many complex technological, political, and social aspects, according to OBrien.

 

Deployment will bring significant implications for regional energy, water, and transportation, he said. By focusing on job growth and community resilience, OBrien said, CCUS can draw on, and build on, regional alliances for education, business, and community development.

 

The Prairie Research Institute, through its Illinois State Geological Survey and ISTC, have become leaders in the development and implementation of carbon capture and storage. ISTC is also developing a Center for Carbon Utilization on the University of Illinois campus.

 

“The goal is to not only evaluate technologies, but also demonstrate how communities may be able to monetize captured CO2,” said Kevin OBrien. The effort provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and build new markets, he said.

 

 

conference participants

CCUS experts from around the world gathered in Calabria, Italy this week to explore ways to speed the implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage.

International Compost Awareness Week and Illinois Compost News

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), falling on May 7-13 this year, is celebrated during the first full week in May annually. The event began in Canada in 1995 and has since grown as more and more organizations and individuals become aware of food waste issues and recognize the value of composting as a waste reduction strategy with multiple environmental benefits. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food.” Learn more at http://compostfoundation.org/icaw.

 

IL Economic Impact and Market Study
Composting food scraps also has economic benefits as illustrated in a recent report produced by Skumatz Economic Research Associates (SERA). Building on the 2015 Food Scrap Composting Challenges and Solutions in Illinois  report produced by recent collaboration with the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) contracted SERA to identify the problems associated with landfilling organics, food scraps in particular, and recommend solutions emphasizing the development of the Illinois sustainable food industry. The goals of the project were to examine the influence of expanded food scraps recovery and composting programs on improving the viability of commercial composting ventures in Illinois, drive Illinois-based food production, and enhance the local food economy in Illinois, including jobs and revenues.

 

Analyses in this report indicate that the three targeted organic materials – food scraps, compostable yard waste (not including woody materials), and compostable paper– represent significant recoverable resources. Diverting these target materials would reduce 22% of tons disposed, and 16% of the MTCO2e available from all the non-recovered recyclables and organics disposed annually in Illinois. Using estimates of future prices of carbon dioxide, the value of the carbon dioxide represented by the target food scraps is $54 million – $89 million annually (2020 prices). SERA found that if IL can achieve a 65% organics diversion goal, the state will realize 3,185 jobs paying an average salary of $50k annually, $290 million annually in economic output, $10.5 million annually in local and state tax revenue, over 2 million tons of material diverted from landfill annually, and over 800k MTCO2e in GHG emissions reduction annually. This all makes composting of organics seem like a sound environmental and economic investment.

 

The report recommends a multiyear implementation plan for statewide diversion programs, citing Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) as an example. Recommended steps include: setting a statewide goal for organics diversion; adding food wastes to the existing yard waste landfill ban; adding tip fee surcharges for landfilled organics; introducing commerical and residential a Pay-As-You-throw (PAYT); promotion of urban gardens and backyard composting; grant programs to assist businesses and communities with food scrap composting; organics diversion requirements for sectors generating the most material; measurement strategies; and clarification for food donation regulations and encouragement of food recovery.

 

To download the full report, Economic Impact and Market Study Report: Elements of the Case for Advancing Food Scrap Composting Industry and the Link to Building Illinois’ Local Food Economygo to http://illinoiscomposts.org/images/pdfs/Economic-Impact-Report.pdf.

 

Village of Lake Bluff and City of Highwood (IL) Offer Year-Round Food Scrap Programs
Meanwhile, as part of their celebration of ICAW, leaders from the Village of Lake Bluff, the City of Highwood, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO), and recycling businesses held a press conference May 10th to discuss year-round curbside collection of food scraps and yard waste for residents in those municipalities.  They are the latest in a small number of IL communities offering similar services. Starting this month, Highwood is requiring residents to separate food scraps from other waste to keep these materials out of landfill. For more information, read the media advisory on the press conference, coverage in the Chicago Tribune on 5/1/17 and 5/10/17, and a document from SWALCO outlining Lake County’s food scrap composting options.

 

Approval for Composting Facility near Des Plaines, IL Moves Forward
Elsewhere on May 10, Patriot Acres, a proposed composting facility outside of Des Plaines, received approval from the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The facility has faced opposition from some residents who are concerned about odors among other issues. Patriot Acres has agreed to offer a complaint line, operate within set hours, and abide by a list of environmental requirements. Approval from Cook County allows Patriot Acres to move forward with requests for approval from the IL Environmental Protection Agency and the Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. To read more about the proposed facility and the debate surrounding it, see the 5/12/17 edition of WasteDive.

 

IL Resident Wins ICAW Poster Contest
Incidentally, as part of each year’s ICAW celebration, there is a contest for poster designs reflecting the year’s theme. This year’s winner is Ursula Gutowski a graphic designer from Niles, IL. You can read more about Ursula and her inspiration at http://compostfoundation.org/ICAW-Poster-Contest. To order a copy, visit the ICAW online store. More information about the 2018 poster contest will be available soon on the Composting Council’s Research and Education Foundation web site.

2017 ICAW poster contest winning design

Small companies save big with tech advice

Technical assistance available for small, rural businesses.

Manufacturers in smaller towns and cities of Illinois can get help being more profitable and sustainable through ISTC’s Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) program.

 

A model program to provide technical assistance services to underserved rural areas of Illinois has generated $24 million in savings of energy, water, and waste over its first eight years.

 

In smaller, rural communities technical assistance professionals usually have a more difficult time identifying companies that would benefit from their services. ICORE takes a grassroots approach to identify partners and stakeholders with contacts at municipalities, organizations, associations and agencies. Networking at the local level spreads the word of the potential benefits of third-party business assessments.

 

“In big urban areas it is easy enough to find companies that will benefit from sustainability improvements that will save them money,” said Mike Springman, who with fellow ISTC environmental engineer Dan Marsch, have delivered ICORE, which stands for Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy, services from the beginning. “We wanted to find a way to share what we offer to the whole state, in particular businesses located in rural communities.”

 

ICORE offers customized assessments resulting in recommendations to conserve energy, reduce water consumption, reduce hazardous materials/wastes, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and save money.  At two recent assessments at Illinois food companies, a range of recommendations were identified , such as improved efficiencies in compressed air, process heat, motors, lighting, water/wastewater and minimization of food waste.

 

Caseyville’s AdvancePierre Foods implemented more than half of the recommendations, some right after the site visit. “Very good information and details emerged from the audit, which we are still working on,” said Michael Doeden, plant manager of the company’s St. Clair County facility. “It is a great way to start a foundation for continuous improvement and cost savings.”

 

Upgrading old electrical equipment is saving the company $6,000 a month, Doeden said. Other ideas like metering for waste water sewage credits will be adopted down the line, he added.

 

King’s Food Products in Belleville, Ill., welcomed the assessment for third-party expertise on how to be more efficient. “The assessment … generated a list of task items we hadn’t considered,” said Stephanie Fahrner, vice president for operations. “Overall the project/participation will improve us as a company — through savings, efficiency, and employee and environmental safety.”

 

“This is a great way for your team to see ideas generated, resources available, and training provided to help continuous improvement in a manufacturing plant,” Doeden agreed. “Additionally, E3 assessments focus on economy, energy and environment … which will benefit sustainability programs, people and is a good foundation for business practices, he added.”

 

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with five other federal agencies formed the E3 technical assistance framework (Economy, Energy, and Environment). One year later EPA started funding the ICORE approach which has taken hold and today has expanded to deliver EPA’s E3 assessments as well.

 

One way of viewing the impact of the program is as accumulated savings which continue to accrue each year. By this measure, between 2008 and 2016, ICORE assistance has made a difference in Illinois totaling approximately $24 million, 160 million gallons of water, 1.9 million therms of natural gas, 209 million kilowatt hours of electricity, 20 million pounds of waste, 433,000 pounds of hazardous waste, and 200,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided.

 

For more information about ICORE/E3 assessments for your business, visit the technical assistance pages at http://istc.illinois.edu/

 

 

Army to pilot ISTC innovation to improve installation resilience, energy security

waste water treatment plant energy recovery

The U.S. Army will pilot a U of I waste to energy system that converts wastewater biosolids to biocrude oil. The design benefits include removal of many bioactive pollutants and a high efficiency of energy extraction.

 

The U.S. Army has funded a project to demonstrate technology developed on the University of Illinois’ South Farm that disposes of wastewater biosolids by turning them into energy.

 

The Army has embraced a range of innovations in its Net Zero program, which strives for zero waste and clean, on-site, renewable energy sources. Two areas where the Army still pays for landfill disposal are food waste and wastewater biosolids.

 

The U of I system will be demonstrated over a two-month period at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, where Net Zero team members will document the effectiveness of this approach to improve the environmental footprint and enhance resiliency at Army installations. Fort Detrick has been designated to be an Army pilot installation for Net Zero energy and waste initiatives.

 

The pilot-scale reactor developed by university personnel from Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, converts these organic materials into biofuels through a hydrothermal process.

 

Instead of expending energy to sterilize and break down organic wastes for landfilling, the one ton per day reactor can produce 3 million BTUs of heat energy, which corresponds to 300 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. In addition, instead of expending energy to dry the feedstocks, as in most biofuel processes, wet feedstocks are essential to the reaction.

 

“In a hostile theatre, it is dangerous to supply fuel by truck to run electric generators,” said Lance Schideman, the researcher who has led the development efforts at ISTC. “The ability to supply renewable energy on-post promotes readiness and minimizes its environmental impact,” he added.

 

“The system’s small size and portability also make the approach appealing for deployment at military installations here and abroad,” said Stephen Cosper, an engineer with the Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory who has spent a sabbatical year collaborating with researchers at ISTC.

 

National Guard thanks ISTC for 20 years of environmental assistance

The Illinois Department of Military Affairs (IDMA) recognized the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) for its “long, outstanding and professional support” during a ceremony at Camp Lincoln, Springfield, on April 28.

 

ISTC receives recognition from Illinois National Guard

An award for supporting the Illinois National Guard Environmental Office over the last 20 years was presented by Illinois Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes Jr., to Mike Springman, Joe Pickowitz, and Shantanu Pai of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s Technical Assistance Program April 28 at Camp Lincoln.

ISTC is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois that assists citizens, businesses, and government agencies with preventing pollution, conserving natural resources, and reducing waste.

 

A plaque was presented to Technical Assistance Program personnel Mike Springman, Joe Pickowitz, and Shantanu Pai in appreciation a 20-year collaboration to help the Illinois Army National Guard meet its commitment to sustainable operations using sound environmental management practices.

 

As the lead contact with IDMA, Environmental Engineer Springman has helped develop requirements for their Environmental Management System, solid waste management planning, pollution prevention planning, hazardous materials planning, and a range of environmental compliance assessments and audits. He also managed remediation projects and implemented green chemistry upgrades at military installations.

 

TAP expertise has helped IDMA embrace the goals of the Army Strategy for the Environment by planning early for environmental impacts in their operations.

Illinois Sustainability Award keynote shows power of green business

With one week left to submit entries for the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award, ISTC has released the video of one of the 2016 Awards Ceremony’s Keynote Speakers — John Bradburn, Global Waste Reduction Manager at General Motors Corporation.

 

Speakers John Bradburn and Kim Frankovich.

2016 ISA keynote speakers were Kim Frankovich, global sustainability director at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (left) and John Bradburn, global waste reduction manager at General Motors Corporation.

Bradburn’s address, “Stuff, Things and People Working to Grow Economies and Communities,” formed a powerful complement to the second keynote by Kim Frankovich, global sustainability director at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.

 

In her address, “Sustainability within Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company,” Frankovich described the effectiveness of a privately held company to partner with non-governmental and international expert agencies to promote environmental responsibility and social justice for suppliers, workers, and customers.

 

In a more than 30-year career, Bradburn has spearheaded efforts to recycle, upcycle, reduce pollution hazards, and create fundamentally impactful opportunities to advance the prospects for the environment, communities, and his company.

 

Both addresses were inspiring as models for how very different companies can excel in business and in society with creativity and bold action embodied by the Illinois Sustainability Awards. Frankovich’s address will also be made available online as a later date.

 

REMEMBER: Online applications for this year’s Illinois Sustainability Awards are due at ISTC by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 4.

 

2017 ISA awards ceremony, 10.24.17, Union League Club of Chicago

Focus on Food Waste: April 28 Designated “Stop Food Waste Day”

Stop Food Waste Day logoFood service company Compass Group, along with food manufacturer Unilever, and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, are promoting this Friday, April 28, 2017 as “Stop Food Waste Day.” The mission of the effort is, according to the Stop Food Waste Day web site, “to educate and ignite change regarding the food waste epidemic that we are currently facing.  Our goal is to draw attention to the problem as well as create and share creative and impactful solutions.  An educated consumer can have tremendous influence on how we store, farm, produce and buy our food.”

 

Compass Group chefs will be providing cooking demonstrations around the US on the day. On the event web site, the collaborative has compiled facts, food waste prevention tips, and recipes using ingredients that might otherwise be discarded, such as a gratin using cauliflower and broccoli stems, and a dish using chimichurri made from carrot tops.

 

The effort this year may well be lost in the sea of information that has emerged recently focused on food waste issues, and since April 28 is Arbor Day, it’s likely that more attention will be focused on planting trees that day than considering ways to stem the tide of food waste. Still, the web site, which provides several links to the joint NRDC and Ad Council site Savethefood.com, will provide one more source of inspiration and ideas to interested consumers beyond the day itself.

 

For more information see https://www.stopfoodwasteday.com/ and http://www.waste360.com/food-waste/compass-group-unilever-announce-food-waste-reduction-effort.

 

Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle Take Back Toys for Earth Month

If you’re a parent of young children like me, your house may at times resemble a toy warehouse. If you’re also keen to reuse or recycle whenever you can, the collections of old action figures, peculiar fast food kids’ meal giveaway items, or outgrown stuffed animals that linger in your yard sale “FREE” box can be a bit depressing. Some things can be difficult to donate or consign, even when they’re in good condition, and broken toys aren’t typically on the “accepted for recycling” lists of waste haulers.

 

But happy Earth Month to you! Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle have teamed up to keep those unwanted toys out of landfill for a limited time only. Through April 30, you can print out a free shipping label to mail up to 10 pounds of unwanted toys to TerraCycle for recycling. See http://www.tomsofmaine.com/lesswaste/#recycle for details and to print your own label.

 

While the promotion page doesn’t specify what will become of your castoffs, one can assume they will be treated just as materials accepted through TerraCycle’s Toy Zero Waste Box program–which is NOT free and available year round. That program’s site says “The collected waste is mechanically and/or manually separated into fabrics, metals, fibers, and plastics. Fabrics are reused, upcycled or recycled as appropriate. Metals are melted so they may be recycled. The fibers (such as paper or wood based products) are recycled or composted. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products.” If you’re wondering whether they really do want your child’s old water gun, check out their list of accepted materials on that program’s page as well.

 

If you have only a few items to dispose of, and they’re in good working order, remember that reuse should always be explored before recycling, to make the most of the human and natural resources already invested in a product’s manufacture. Members of the Champaign-Urbana community can check out the non-comprehensive list of local organizations and businesses which accept items for reuse or resale beginning on page 2 of our fact sheet “Reducing & Recycling Waste: University of IL & Champaign-Urbana” for ideas.

Box filled and surrounded by toys such as stuffed animals, balls, and plastic cars. Tom's of Maine logo in upper right.