EPA’s Safer Choice Label helps consumers make informed choices

saferchoice_rgbFinding products that are safer for you, your family, and the environment should be easy. That’s why EPA developed the new Safer Choice label. Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance.
More than 2,000 products currently qualify to carry the Safer Choice label. You can find products for your home at retail stores. You can also find products to use in facilities like schools, hotels, offices, and sports venues.
Participation in the Safer Choice program is voluntary. Companies that make products carrying the Safer Choice label have invested heavily in research and reformulation to ensure that their products meet the Safer Choice Standard. These companies are leaders in safer products and sustainability.
Products have to meet stringent criteria in order to earn the Safer Choice label. In addition to product ingredients, the program also considers product performance, pH, packaging and more to ensure that products with the label are safer for you and your family. Once a product meets the Safer Choice Standard, EPA conducts annual audits to ensure that they continue to do so.
You can search for products that meet the Safer Choice Standard here.

Tools for alternatives assessment

One way that manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact is by replacing a toxic or hazardous process chemical with a less hazardous or non-hazardous one. The following resources are useful when trying to identify less toxic alternatives.
SUBSPORT: Substitution Support Portal

SUBSPORT is a free-of-charge, multilingual platform for information exchange on alternative substances and technologies, as well as tools and guidance for substance evaluation and substitution management. It includes:

Program for Assisting the Replacement of Industrial Solvents (PARIS III)

PARIS III, developed by U.S. EPA, is a desktop/laptop application that allows users to find mixtures of solvents with specific physical and chemical properties that also have relatively low environmental impacts. The software helps users find replacements for solvent mixtures that are currently being used in industrial processes but have dangerous environmental side effects. The software can also be used to find solvents with lower environmental impact when designing new industrial processes, as well as more benign solvents that can be added to harmful solvents favored by industry to help reduce the harmful environmental impact of their processes.
CleanerSolutions Database

The CleanerSolutions Database, developed by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, helps users select an alternative cleaner that meets their needs. The information is based on lab testing done by TURI. Use the tool to find a cleaner for a particular contaminant; replace a solvent; identify products based on safety and environmental criteria; and search by vendor information.
P2OASys Tool to Compare Materials

Sometimes changing chemicals or processes can have unintended environmental and health impacts. TURI’s P2OASys is an Excel based tool that allows companies to assess the potential environmental, worker, and public health impacts of alternative technologies aimed at reducing toxics use. The goal is more comprehensive and systematic thinking about the potential hazards posed by current and alternative processes identified during the TUR planning process. The tool can help companies:

  • Systematically examine the potential environmental and worker impacts of options, examining the total impacts of process changes, rather than simply those of chemical changes
  • Compare options with current processes based on quantitative and qualitative factors.

Chemical Hazard Assessment Database

The Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Chemical Hazard Assessment Database enables users to search for GreenScreen® and Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT) assessments. The purpose of this tool is to promote awareness of assessments conducted on chemicals of high concern, facilitate transparency and discussion, and reduce duplication of effort. IC2 also has alternatives assessment resources, including a guide and links to other assessment materials.
Safer Chemical Ingredients List

The Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) is a list of chemical ingredients, arranged by functional-use class, that U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Program has evaluated and determined to be safer than traditional chemical ingredients. This list is designed to help manufacturers find safer chemical alternatives that meet the criteria of the Safer Choice Program. Safer Choice also has other resources available for manufacturers.
Environmental, Health and Safety Data Resources

Although chemical manufacturers provide material safety data sheets with their chemicals, sometimes this information isn’t enough. TURI’s librarian created this guide to assist in researching environmental, health and safety information for chemicals.

Biobased Lubricants Improving, Gaining Favor in Natural Workzones

distilled bio-crude yields fractions which have lubricant properties

Senior Research Engineer B.K. Sharma displays a number of bio-crude fractions he uses to create replacements for petroleum lubricants.


Non-petroleum biobased machine lubricants are an increasingly important strategy for preventing pollution in environmentally sensitive work places, such as for forest, agricultural, and marine applications. The new book Environmentally Friendly and Biobased Lubricants by Brajendra K. Sharma and Girma Biresaw, published by CRC Press, focuses on innovations in this promising area.


Eco-friendly machine lubricants made from vegetable oil are a growing niche in the +$150 billion global lubricants industry. Biobased lubricants are preferred for machines used in total-loss applications (in which the lubrication oils are lost to the environment) because they are renewable, have low ecotoxicity, and are biodegradable when they enter the environment.


They possess good performance properties, such as having lower volatility, higher flash points, higher viscosity indexes, and better boundary lubricant properties, compared with petroleum lubricants, according to Sharma, a senior researcher at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


The book surveys researchers’ growing success in producing designer molecules that reduce heat and minimize friction as well as or better than their petroleum-derived counterparts. Sharma and Biresaw, a research chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Peoria (ARS), have synthesized the broad body of current research in their book.


book: Environmentally Friendly and Biobased LubricantsBiobased lubricants are not likely to replace petroleum completely, Sharma said. Bio-lubricants today are scarcely one percent of the total market demand for lubricants, but their annual demand is growing at a rate of 16 percent per year, compared with the two percent annual demand growth for petroleum versions. “But in applications where lubricants are likely to be lost to the environment, these products are taking a firm hold in the marketplace,” he said.


Using heat and enzymes, researchers strip double bonds from molecules, add new elements, attach branches, or join two molecules together to mimic the properties of petroleum lubricants. They are now finding ways to overcome persistent weaknesses of bio-lubricants, including poor oxidative stability and poor low-temperature flow properties.


Some of the best results leading to commercial products are obtained from processing the fatty acids present in vegetable oils. Estolide lubricants developed at the Agricultural Research Service laboratory solve many of the negatives of raw vegetable oils—excellent lubricity, low-temperature performance, oxidative stability, and biodegradability. In addition to lubrication, estolides are being evaluated for use in food applications, cosmetics, cooling fluids, and inks.


Other naturally derived fatty acid compounds under study for lubricant applications include epoxidized oil, vegetable oil diesters, and isostearic acids, according to Sharma. The increasing interest in eco-friendly lubricants is also good news for farmers in the Midwest who grow the raw materials, he added.


Most studies have shown that canola oil will produce the best overall characteristics for bio-lubricants, but corn, soybean, and rapeseed oils are also widely used. Another biologic crop — sugar cane — is taking a far different path to lubrication. Amyris Inc. is commercializing its renewable hydrocarbon farnesene, made with cane sugar and a bioengineered yeast, to produce hydrocarbons for jet fuel, lubricants, and many other uses.


Sharma is currently designing renewable bio-additives to improve the performance characteristics of eco-friendly lubricants. Just as with petroleum lubricants, additives are blended to improve the lubricity, oxidative stability, friction, wear, and corrosion resistance of the base material.


Sharma’s latest patent is for a new molecule of fatty acid chemically modified with boron to produce an antiwear, antifriction additive for vegetable oil-based lubricants. As Sharma continues to build new shapes for plant-derived molecules in the laboratory, he said his goal is to develop a single additive that optimizes all the critical properties of sustainable and renewable lubricants.

Two new ISTC Fact Sheets now available

ISTC Case Study: Sustainability Certification Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP): GFX International
GFX Printing, located in Grayslake, IL, produces large format graphics printed on a variety of media. GFX earned initial SGP certification in 2010 and was re-certified in 2012 and 2014. Since attaining their certification, GFX has reduced waste to landfill by setting reduction goals and evaluating waste streams for further reduction and recycling. They also reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), hazardous air pollutants (HAP), and carbon dioxide. From 2008-2013, they reduced their landfill waste by 42%, hazardous waste by 32.7%, VOC emissions by 35%, and HAP emissions by 100%.


Save 50% Energy by Replacing Linear Fluorescent Lamps with LED Lamps
Lighting is a crucial component of the manufacturing process. It impacts worker productivity, product quality, and facility appearance. Lighting also comprises a significant portion of a facility’s energy costs and is frequently overlooked by maintenance and purchasing personnel. Old lamps are often replaces with new identical lamps without consideration being given to energy efficiency or cost. Today, LED (light emitting diode) technology is changing that practice. Burgeoning LED products offer a variety of energy-efficient alternatives for industrial applications. ISTC has identified a simple, quick-fix solution to a very common scenario of upgrading linear fluorescent lighting.

New ISTC fact sheet: Zero Waste Program Case Study: Spraying Systems Co.

Download the document.

Spraying Systems Co. manufactures industrial and agricultural spray products, including spray nozzles and accessories. The company wanted to reduce its waste generation and increase diversion. ISTC’s Zero Waste program helped them achieve their goals by providing the company with an accurate baseline measurement of waste generation at its Wheaton, Illinois headquarters. In addition, ISTC staff collaborated with Spray System’s operations, manufacturing, and sustainability teams to devise a plan for improving waste diversion. Finally, ISTC staff conducted a post-implementation waste stream characterization to measure success and identify opportunities for improvement.

Illini Gadget Garage Promotes Reuse, Recycling at Events

The Illini Gadget Garage is inviting University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the surrounding community, to a recycled holiday craft workshop on December 3, from 1 to 3 PM. Check out the Facebook event for more information, including the Gadget Garage address, and some posts of examples crafts that you could make! There will be multiple types of reclaimed materials on hand (e.g. beads made from the keys of broken computer keyboards, plastic circuit sheets, wiring, etc.) for fashioning into ornaments, bracelets, holiday cards, and other handmade items. The event provides a family-appropriate activity that subtly teaches lessons about reuse, product stewardship, and a circular economy. The event is FREE (though donations are always welcome to provide continued funding for student staff and operational expenses), and light refreshments will be served. Besides crafting, you can ask questions about local electronics recycling options and talk about environmental and social impacts of electronics throughout their lifecycle, as well as learn about services, volunteer opportunities, and ways to incorporate project efforts in coursework. If you’ve heard about the Gadget Garage, but don’t have a device that needs repair, or feel uncertain about whether you could tackle repair, this is a great chance to learn more while having some fun!

craft event flyer


Project staff also recently participated in the America Recycles Day Celebration at the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana, which focused on electronics recycling. Not only did they offer their repair services (and help a patron restore a CD player to working order by showing them how to clean the laser reading lens!), but they also engaged the many children in attendance by making bracelets and necklaces from computer key beads while talking to parents and guardians about the project, and the importance of repair, reuse, and recycling of electronics. Madeleine Wolske, a graduate student from the iSchool who coordinates volunteers and oversees repair activities with the public, appeared on CiLiving to promote the event. Check out this clip of the segment:


The Gadget Garage will continue having open hours until the last week in December, at which time is will close for the winter break. Spring 2017 open hours are yet to be determined and will be posted to the project site and social networks when available. The Illini Gadget Garage is a collaboration of ISTC’s Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the iSchool, and the School of Art + Design. Support for the project  is provided by the Student Sustainability Committee and various corporate and individual donors. Questions about the project may be addressed to Joy Scrogum of ISTC.


New ISTC fact sheet: 2015 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award Winner: Hoffer Plastics, Inc.

Download the document.

Hoffer Plastics, located in South Elgin, Illinois, specializes in making custom plastic injection molded items. Their products are used in retail packaging and in the automotive, medical, and appliance industries. Hoffer Plastics used a number of strategies to increase efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. They initiated a 100% facility-wide recycling program that diverted 58,000 pounds of materials from the landfill. Their energy conservation measures reduced their electricity consumption by nearly 4 million kWh. Conservation strategies included: installing high efficiency lighting; replaced chilled water pump motors with variable-frequency drive motors; installed thermal blankets on machine barrels; and implementing a compressed air efficiency initiative. Installing a cooling water filtration system that captures back-flushed water to reuse in the cooling towers has reduced the company’s water use by 1.3 million gallons.

In Race to Capture Carbon Dioxide, Remember the Need to Use It

Kevin O'Brien at the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies

ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien spoke in Lausanne, Switzerland today on the importance of developing new uses for ‘waste’ carbon dioxide.

The capture and utilization of CO2 provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and build new markets. Illinois is leading this charge, said ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien today in a presentation at the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT-13) in Lausanne, Switzerland.


While research on economical technologies to capture and store CO2 is a priority at the University of Illinois and around the world, it is equally important to develop new approaches to monetize and utilize the gas as a commodity, O’Brien said.


He outlined the Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University’s Prairie Research Institute. He called this effort a model for other communities committed to creating jobs and accelerating economic engines.


The University’s openness to discovery and innovation, coupled with the U of I’s interest in becoming carbon neutral by 2050 makes for a fortunate confluence of factors. “There is a need to be able to explore a multitude of utilization approaches in order to identify a portfolio of potential utilization mechanisms,” he said. “This portfolio must be adapted based on the economy of the region.”


The Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University's Prairie Research Institute.

The Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University’s Prairie Research Institute is intended to be a model for other communities to explore new uses for captured CO2.

A research effort like the COOULR Center “is one of the key steps in the formation of a market for captured CO2,” he added. “The goal of the Center is to not only evaluate technologies, but also demonstrate at a large pilot scale how communities may be able to monetize captured CO2.”


The GHGT Conference is held every two years by the International Energy Agency‘s (IEA) Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme. The IEA consists of the U.S. and 28 other industrialized nations that work to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy supplies.


Co-authors of the paper delivered by O’Brien are: Yongqi Lu, Sallie Greenberg, Randall Locke (Illinois State Geological Survey); Vinod Patel (ISTC); Michael Larson (U of I’s Abbott Power Plant); Krish R. Krishnamurthy, Makini Byron, Joseph Naumovitz (Linde LLC); and David S. Guth, Stephen J. Bennett (Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI)). The university team and the private partners are currently involved in major research projects to test advanced carbon capture systems at the University’s power plant.

Illinois Success Story a Model for Sustainable University

purple nitrile gloves are successfully recycled at UIUC


Today Kimberly-Clark recognized two Big Ten Champions in the recycling of nitrile gloves – the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Purdue University.


The company highlighted success stories at the two top research universities who both use large quantities of single-use nitrile gloves. ISTC’s focus was on science laboratories and food service operations across campus. Kimberly-Clark’s successful RightCycle program has grown quickly by nurturing a supply chain for its gloves and related products so that they can be turned into eco-responsible consumer products and durable goods, such as lawn furniture, flowerpots and planters, shelving, totes and storage bins. ISTC boasts a bike rack and a park bench potentially containing from some of it’s own used gloves.


ISTC’s Zero Waste Program engineers took on the nitrile glove recycling project as a natural extension of its robust collaboration with its sustainably minded campus partners, including University Housing/Dining ServicesFacilities and Services, the Institute for Society, Energy, and Environment, and the Student Sustainability Committee.


RightCycle enables the two universities, and hundreds of Kimberly-Clark’s large customers, to advance their sustainability goals by reducing their waste streams and upcycling a raw material for valuable new uses. Read more on the RightCycle Program here. The news release is also accessible here.

Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award, Illinois R&D Demonstrate Growing Commitment to Sustainable World

carbon capture and utilization research

ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien discusses new research in carbon capture and utilization at the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award event in Chicago Nov. 1.


On Friday Nov. 4, the Paris Agreement on climate change became official. The U.S., China, and 53 other nations have ratified the treaty representing half of the world’s carbon emissions.


“The politically difficult step was Paris,” said Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University was quoted today in The Wall Street Journal. “The technically difficult steps now remain.”


While a new administration in Washington could scuttle the U.S. commitment to the international pact, undoubtedly innovation will be essential to decarbonize the atmosphere. Action was evident Nov. 1 at the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards event in Chicago. From towns and neighborhoods to major corporations, the 25 winners for 2016 demonstrated significant ownership of the need to reduce our carbon footprint.


Also on Nov. 4, Shell, BP, and eight other oil and gas giants announced an industry collaboration creating a $1 billion investment fund to accelerate carbon capture and storage and energy efficiency over the next 10 years.


The Prairie Research Institute and its Illinois Sustainable Technology Center are also working to be impactful on a grand scale. PRI’s effort to outfit the power plant at the University of Illinois with next-generation carbon capture represents a collaboration of multinational corporations with state and university partners. Success could be a game-changer for coal- and gas-fired power plants around the world.


Another major research project at ISTC could turn wastewater treatment in America from a cost sink and carbon producer, into a profit center and a carbon sink.


“Our approach is to simultaneously work toward sustainable and renewable energy, while taking responsibility for reducing the problems caused by traditional energy sources,” said Kevin C. O’Brien, ISTC director.