Lighting Retrofits Save Money And Electricity

act on energy ameren logoISTC recently completed a retrofit of lighting at its headquarters building in Champaign, with assistance from UI Facilities and Services. All T12 fluorescent light fixtures and exits signs have been upgraded to T8s and LEDs. Altogether, the changes are expected to save 160,000 kWhs annually.


T12 lamps are being phased out nationally due to changes in federal energy standards which are meant to encourage improved efficiency at commercial and industral facilities. See Fluorescent Light Standard Changes and Lighting Answers: T8 Fluorescent Lamps for more information on these changes and the comparisons between the two types of lamps. According to the Ameren Illinois Act on Energy program, switching from T12 fixtures to high-performance T8 or T5 lamps and an electronic ballast could result in savings of 33% or more on your electricity bills each year.


If your business is interested in a lighting retrofit to T8 or T5 lamps or LEDs in order to increase efficiency and cut costs, you can apply for cash incentives for your project via the Act on Energy program. Visit the Lighting Incentives page on the Act on Energy web site for application information and assistance with identifying a contractor in your area.

U of I Awarded Second Santucci Greenovation Award for Reducing Solid Waste

RightCycle Award for recycling nitrile glovesThe University of Illinois received its second Greenovation Award July 28 from Kimberly-Clark Corporation for its leading role in supporting the recycling of nitrile gloves in its laboratories, kitchens and housing facilities. One of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s RightCycle program’s top performing partners, the University has recycled a lot of gloves – nearly 3,500 pounds of them through April, 2015.


The local recycling program originated with engineers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and was quickly taken up by the University’s Housing, as well as Facilities and Services Departments. Bart Bartels, technical assistance engineer at ISTC and part of the Center’s Zero Waste Illinois team, is assisting the university with its program.

Water Expertise at U of I Gathered into New Information Hub

waterwheelSMThe Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) launched a new addition to their website on July 30 titled “Water at Illinois” to serve as an information hub for all the water-related research expertise available at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


This access point will also serve as a repository for opportunities in the water field, including grants, educational areas, and jobs. ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien is chairman of iSEE’s Water Council which helps to coordinate the Illinois Water Scholars group, including researchers at ISTC, who are working across a number of disciplines on water issues. Follow this link for more on the new resource.

Illini Gadget Garage Discussion, Wednesday, August 5th

Members of the UI sustainable electronics campus consortium and other interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, Aug. 5th at laptop and stethoscopeISTC to learn more about and discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project. The project team will be meeting to discuss current progress (location, classes to be associated with the project, etc.) and next steps.  Anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring lunch along with you. Because this meeting will involve a group discussion, rather than formal presentations, it will not be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar.


Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, this project involves the establishment of a collaborative repair center on campus for student and staff-owned electronic devices. See our previous post on the project for further information. For those unable to attend, minutes will be posted to the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site. At any time, please feel free to contact Joy Scrogum with any questions about the project, or to discuss ways to become involved. A page devoted to the project will be added to the SEI web site in the near future.


Photo by jfcherry on flickr. CC by 2.0 (

Sustainable Solutions for the Power and Industrial Sector – Call for Abstracts

Logo - Carbon Management Technology ConferenceISTC Director Kevin O’Brien will be chairing a new session titled “Sustainable Solutions for the Power and Industrial Sector” at the upcoming Carbon Management Technology Conference which will take place November 17 – 19, 2015,  in Sugar Land, Texas. The focus of this session is to “discuss products, services, and approaches that are being examined which are part of or in addition to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage activities that impact the overall management of carbon at power generation and industrial facilities.” Abstracts for this session can be submitted through August 15.





Researchers Developing Nano-Scale Carbon ‘Scavengers’ As Solution for Oil Spills

satellite photo of oil spill in the Timor Sea

Oil spills like this one in 2009 north of Australia are the target of new clean up research.

ISTC is part of a multidisciplinary team awarded a research seed grant from the University’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) to develop carbon nano particles (CNP) as a more environmentally friendly technique for cleaning up oil spills.


ISTC Senior Research Engineer B.K. Sharma and Dipanjan Pan, director of the University of Illinois Master of Engineering in Bioinstrumentation Program and assistant professor in Bioengineering, Materials Science and Engineering, will lead a U of I team which was just awarded $85.000 a year for two years by the University’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) to develop CNP as a cleanup strategy for hydrocarbon spills on land and sea.


Cook County Recycling Helps Keep America Beautiful

CookCountyRecyclyingA zero waste audit by ISTC for the Forest Preserves of Cook County led to an expansion of the parks’ recycling capabilities, thanks to a grant from the Coca-Cola/Keep America Beautiful (KAB) Recycling Bin Grant Program.


One of the recommendations from the waste audit was to apply for the KAB grant. The new recycling bins are now used at large special events at the preserve attracting up to 4,000 visitors. More on the Cook County Forest Preserves recycling efforts.

Biochar could help stabilize landfill covers

Dr. Krishna Reddy and his team from the University of Illinois at Chicago has done extensive research on biochar in landfill covers to help reduce methane emissions. Now the question is: when biochar is added to soil, are the geotechnical properties (hydraulic conductivity, compressibility, and shear strength) of the biochar/soil mixture suitable for a landfill cover? After extensive testing, the research team discovered that biochar amendment increases soil hydraulic conductivity, decreases soil compressibility, and increases soil shear strength, all of which are desired geotechnical properties for stable landfill cover materials.


Download Reddy et al. (2015) publication


Reddy’s group is also involved with the Illinois Biochar Group (IBG), hosted by ISTC. Several of their previous research presentation videos or slides are available to watch or download in the IBG meeting archives and past events.


landfill cover - from top to bottom: 1 ft vegetative cover layer, 2 ft infiltration layer, geosynthetic drainage net (double sided), and 40 mil LLDPE geomembrane overing waste

Proposed final landfill cover design by Environmental Waste Solutions, LLC. (

Free July 30 Event to Help Manufacturers Reduce Utility Costs

Please plan to join fellow manufacturers at 8-10 a.m. July 30th at S & C Electric in Chicago to learn more about incentive programs available for reducing utility costs.  This special event is being hosted by the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium and Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing (AIM) in partnership with ISTC, Elevate Energy, and the Calumet Area Industrial Commission.


Register now for this FREE event.


For more information contact Jennifer Ptak, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development at (312) 603-1014, or


Slash-and-char remediation

Biochar (via slash-and-char) could be an effective remediation strategy in agricultural soils contaminated with cadmium, lead, and zinc, according to a recent publication in Environmental Pollution by Niu et al. (2015). Slash-and-char is an ancient agricultural alternative to slash-and-burn, in which vegetation is cut, allowed to dry, converted to biochar by smoldering in simple earthen mounds or pits, and mixed into surrounding soil. The study found that biochar produced in this way could reduce metal concentration to a safe level in vegetable crops.


Download Niu et al. (2015) publication


Contaminated soils could be remediated in a different way. See what ISTC researchers have done with the Mud-to-Parks program.