Interview with Kate Zerrenner – Environmental Defense Fund

kate zerrennerTo highlight our speakers at the Governor’s Sustainability Awards Ceremony, we asked them to answer a few short questions to give a sneak peak into their presentation before the event. Kate Zerrenner, Climate and Energy Project Manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, gave us a little more insight into the energy-water nexus. Join us on October 27th at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers to learn more.


We know that there is more buzz about the energy-water nexus and how it relates to our utility systems and economy, but tell me briefly why you started working on this topic.


When the drought hit Texas in 2010, I felt that we needed to have a voice in the environmental community about energy as a water conservation strategy. My background is in energy and I saw the connection, and I wanted to help make that connection for others: water saves energy and energy saves water.


There are many opportunities for infrastructure to improve their policy and development of these systems to save both energy and water, but why is this nexus so important for businesses to be aware of?


Many businesses have large energy bills – one way to improve that line item is through water efficiency, which also saves energy. Also, in water-stressed areas, investing in things like energy efficiency and other clean energy can help preserve scarce water resources.


Sometimes, as we are working in companies and manufacturers throughout Illinois, we see that energy efficiency can be tough sell, even with a significant payback. How can companies or organizations speak with upper management about the importance of both energy and water efficiency, and how they affect each other?


zerrenner diagram

Evidence shows that in some cases water conservation could save as much energy as the utility energy efficiency programs, but at half the cost. By looking at both energy and water together we can find the synergies and opportunities for efficiency—investing in one saves both, so businesses can maximize their resources by investing in a more coherent strategy.


So there are savings opportunities and efficiency opportunities here that organizations can capitalize on – Why is it important to share this information on the energy-water nexus  at events such as the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards?


Many people think that water scarcity is just something that dry Western states have to worry about, but climate models predict hotter and drier conditions for much of the country, including parts of the Midwest. In addition to preparing for new normal of drier or hotter conditions, it’s important to help businesses and industry realize the connection between energy and water so they can make their usage more efficient and lower their utility bills and their carbon footprints.


Are there any new initiatives that you are working on at the Environmental Defense Fund that you would like to share?


We are starting work with cities to help understand how much embedded energy is in municipal water systems, which will hopefully lead to opportunities to invest in targeted efforts to reduce cities’ energy bills and protect water resources.

Free Champaign County Electronics Collection Event, Oct. 10

A free countywide residential electronics collection event will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2015 from 8 AM to noon at Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., Champaign, IL. The collection will be in Parking Lot M; enter from Duncan Rd.

Residents may bring the following electronics items (working or non-working) to the collection event. The limit is 10 items per household.

Computer components:

  • Computers, printers, copiers, monitors*, keyboards, speakers, mice, cables, PDAs
  • Software, CDROM/floppy disks, UPS, tablet computers
  • Computer parts including but not limited to: circuit boards, hard drives, optical drives, power supplies, ribbon cables, RAM
  • Networking equipment, hubs, switches, routers, cables, modems, scanners
  • Ink cartridges


  • Televisions*, VCRs, radios, stereo equipment, tape recorders, record players, remote controls, MP3 players, compact disc players, e-readers
  • Electronic toys, amplifiers, electronic keyboards
  • Hand-held gaming devices, game consoles, Walkmans, sewing machines
  • Digital cameras, camcorders

Communication Devices and Other Electronics:

  • Cash registers, typewriters, adding machines, calculators
  • Copiers, duplicators, voice recorders
  • Label makers
  • Portable power banks and coin counters
  • Telephones, PBX systems, answering machines, fax machines
  • CB radios, ham radios, cell phones, pagers, Black Berry/Palm Units, GPS units, Bluetooth serial port adapters
  • Rechargeable batteries, battery chargers and adapters, surge strips
  • Video recorders, video monitors, security systems, walkie-talkies

Miscellaneous: cables/cords/wire

*not accepted: broken glass cathode-ray-tube televisions or broke glass cathode-ray-tube monitors. For a complete listing of items not accepted, please visit the Champaign County RRR webpage at

Event: Water Problems, Water Solutions: The Future of Clean Water in Illinois

Nutrient runoff, pollution, and sewage contamination are just a few of issues threatening the water we all depend upon. The Clean Water Rule went into effect on August 28th, closing loopholes in the Clean Water Act and restoring protections to over 48,000 miles of waterways in Illinois.


Impact, Environment Illinois, the Green Observer, and Students for Environmental Concerns are co-hosting a panel discussion with open Q&A on the importance of clean water for Illinois, and in general, as well as the threats it faces. The event, entitled “Water Problems, Water Solutions: The Future of Clean Water in Illinois,” will be held from 5:00 – 6:15 PM on Wednesday, September 30, in Room 319 Gregory Hall (810 South Wright Street Urbana, IL 61801) on the UI campus.


On September 18th the US Senate introduced a measure to overturn the Clean Water Rule. This event is part of Environment Illinois’ campaign to defend the Clean Water Rule. There will be the opportunity at the end of the event to participate in the campaign, as well as learn more about working on social change as a full-time career after graduation.


Speakers will include:


Learn more at



Past Governor’s Award Winner: City of Arcola

arcolaIn this humble farming community, rich with Amish heritage and home to the founder of Raggedy Ann dolls, ISTC found a wind turbine, solar panels on city hall, and a community that was excited to be taking the lead in sustainability.


Founded in 1855, the City of Arcola is nestled off I-57 and marks the entrance to Illinois Amish County. With 2,900 residents, the city has many shops, learning opportunities and restaurants. Over the last seven years, the city has worked with Tick Tock Energy to continually integrate electrical improvements that increase efficiency and reduce overall electrical consumption.


arcola upgrades

  • Lighting upgrades: In 2008, the City began retrofitting old incandescent and T12 lighting to CFLs and T8s. Additionally, 295 watt HID fixtures were replaced with T8 fixtures to reduce energy by 85% in their fire station. With all of their lighting upgrades, they will be saving about $8,500/year. They are currently looking to transition all of these bulbs to LEDs in the future, and has already started with their street lights.
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant – Blower Upgrade: The City of Arcola’s wastewater treatment plant was one of the highest electricity consumers within the city – mainly because of a 30 year old blower system that provided aeration for sludge ponds. These blowers were upgraded to an HIS HT-30 turbo blower which reduced energy consumption by 97,000 kWh, saving the city over $9,800/ year.
  • Wind Turbine at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP): While the City was looking to reduce energy, they were also looking to produce their own clean, renewable energy. With the incentives for renewable systems at their peak, the City decided to invest in a turbine at their WWTP, producing enough electricity to cover 25-35% of the facility’s energy use.
  • Solar Panels on City Hall: In 2012, the City decided that City Hall was the optimal location for solar panels, after extensive surveying of all City buildings. A forty-two Sharp 240 watt solar PV system was installed on the rooftop, covering about 17% of City Hall’s electricity bill.


The City of Arcola has embraced energy efficiency for their facilities and county because they believe in using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively. Bill Wagoner, City Administrator, said that if solutions were available that could help save the city and its residents more dollars, then why not invest in these technologies and increase efficiency? Tick Tock Energy’s fact sheet on their work with Arcola is available here.


After winning the Governor’s Sustainability Award, the city also believed it was important to help their local industries become more cost-effective. They brought the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center into the community and introduced them to their major employers. In Arcola, which has a population of 2,900, a handful of companies employ over 700 people. It is extremely important for the city that these employers stay in Arcola.


The City of Arcola is just one of many examples of why this award’s program is so important. It helps educate organizations and companies about best practices; provides opportunities to connect applicants with various services throughout the state; and encourages locations throughout Illinois to reduce environmental impact.


Join us to celebrate the 29th Annual Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards on October 27th at the Sheraton Hotel Chicago. Find more information here.


View detailed case studies of past Award winners here. A comprehensive list of past Award winners is available here.

Researcher Spotlight: Junhua Jiang

Photo of Junhua JiangDr. Junhua Jiang is a Senior Research Engineer in ISTC’s Applied Research on Industrial Environmental Systems Program. Jiang conducts cutting-edge research and develops interdisciplinary research programs in a range of areas, including electrochemical energy storage, nanostructured materials, electrochemical sensors, waste utilization, water treatment and purification, and green chemical processes. He joined ISTC in 2011.


Jiang graduated from China’s Wuhan University in 1997 with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. He conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow in London at Imperial College and in China at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Prior to joining ISTC, Jiang worked as a staff scientist for fuel cell company NuVant Systems, and a research scientist and manager at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center. In these roles, he conducted innovative research on fuel cell and hydrogen technology, electrolytic processes of renewable ammonia, nanomaterials, and more.


Jiang’s research interests include energy-conversion technology, fuel cells and hydrogen technology, batteries and supercapacitors, green-chemistry processes for renewable fuels and chemicals, advanced materials, electrochemical treatment, water purification and desalination, and other areas of sustainable energy. He is currently developing biochar supercapacitors for energy storage and water purification; advanced carbon materials from renewable and waste feedstocks; and nanostructured materials and components from ionic liquids.


He is also working on electrochemical detection techniques for water contaminants. Jiang holds five issued and pending patents, has authored or presented more than 100 highly-cited peer-reviewed articles and conference papers, and has obtained more than $2.5 million in research grant funds.


Check the ISTC home page periodically for more Researcher Spotlights. Thanks to Lauren Quinn for writing the original profile of Junhua for the home page!

P2 Resources You Can Use

image001This post is adapted from a post that originally appeared on the GLRPPR Blog. See all of their P2 Week posts here.


In the not-to-distant past, it was difficult to locate pollution prevention and sustainability information. Those days are gone. Now, we go to Google and we’re inundated. In this post, I’ll point you toward some resources that you may have forgotten about when you’re trying to locate information to solve a problem. Whether you’re an organization that wants to start a sustainability program or a seasoned pollution prevention technical assistance provider, there’s something on this list that will help you do your job better.

ISTC Publications

ISTC publishes a number of fact sheets and reports of interest to P2 professionals. Most of these are included in our collections of fact sheets and technical reports.


If your company wants to learn more about implementing pollution prevention, be sure to take a look at Pollution Prevention : A Guide to Project and Program Implementation. Although it was last updated in 1999, the steps involved for establishing a pollution prevention or sustainability program in your organization are still valid.

Topic Hubs and LibGuides

Topic hubs and LibGuides are similar. Both are curated collections of resources on specific topics that also include explanatory information. The only difference is the delivery platform. GLRPPR converted its Topic Hubs to LibGuides several years ago. Guides of particular interest to the P2 community include:

The Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide will be particularly useful to those new to the P2 field. It includes links to essential resources and training that will help get you up to speed quickly.

GLRPPR Sector Resources

GLRPPR’s sector resources are curated collections of documents organized by sector or topic. Each resource includes a link and a brief description. Sector resources includes links to fact sheets, manuals, videos, journal articles, case studies, and software tools. Browse by sector/topic or search by keyword using Google site search.

GLRPPR Webinar Archive

GLRPPR hosts two to three webinars per year. Recordings of these webinars are archived on their web site.

GLRPPR Help Desk

If you have a sustainability question or problem you’re trying to solve, the GLRPPR Help Desk is the place to visit. You get one free hour of literature/web searching and will receive a response within a week. Note that they won’t often give absolute answers. Instead, they’ll give you references and let your draw your own conclusions based on the available information. They also won’t answer homework questions.

E-Mail Discussion Lists and GLRPPR E-mail Newsletter

E-mail discussion lists are a great way to tap the hive mind of your pollution prevention colleagues. GLRPPR members are automatically subscribed to the Roundtable regional e-mail discussion list. P2Tech is an international discussion list for pollution prevention and sustainability professionals. To subscribe to either list, contact Laura Barnes.

GLRPPR’s e-mail newsletter keeps you up-to-date on sustainability news, resources, events, and funding opportunities. Subscribe here.

P2 Impact

P2 Impact is a collaboration between GreenBiz and the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange. Each month, P2 practitioners write about topics related to pollution prevention and sustainability. The goal of the column is to tell the P2 story to GreenBiz’s business audience. The archives of the column are available here. If you would like to write a column, contact Laura Barnes.

P2 InfoHouse

P2 InfoHouse, maintained by the Pollution Prevention Information Center (P2RIC), is a searchable online collection of more than 50,000 pollution prevention (P2) related publications, fact sheets, case studies and technical reports. It includes a vast number of legacy pollution prevention documents that were originally released in hard copy. The collection is searchable by keyword.

Zero Waste Network Success Story Database

The Zero Waste Network’s Success Story Database contains case studies that are examples of how real facilities saved money, reduced waste, and/or lowered their regulatory burden through innovative P2 practices. The studies are often written in a companies own words, with minimal editing.

P2 Week Spotlight: Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards

image001This year not only marks ISTC’s 30th anniversary, it is also the 25th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act. Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, celebrated during the third week of September each year (September 21-27, 2015),  highlights the efforts of EPA, its state partners, industry, and the public in preventing pollution right from the start.


In a P2 Week post over on the GLRPPR Blog, Cassie Carroll writes about the history and impact of the Governor’s Awards program. For more information about P2 Week and a roundup of activities in the Great Lakes Region, see:

ISTC hosts Events on Environmental Effects of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products

As P2 Week kicks off this week, we are reminded of the important legislation of the past that has helped achieve cleaner waters in the U.S.; however, there is still work to be done. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 in response to the growing awareness that raw sewage, industrial wastes, and other pollutants were regularly being dumped into waterways. The goal of the Clean Water Act was to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of our nation’s waters.” The law called for “zero discharge of pollutants into navigable waters” and water quality was to be improved so waters were both fishable and swimmable again. Progress has been made, but even after more than 40 years, water pollution is still a problem in many areas of the U.S. with excess nutrient runoff, mine drainage, oil or chemical spills, overflow of sewage during high rain events, etc.


In the past 10 years, the widespread occurrence of emerging contaminants, including pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) and steroid hormones, in waterways has been recognized as a critical environmental issue. To learn more about new research in that area and to provide opportunities for collaborations, ISTC is arranging a meeting on Thurs., Sept. 24 from 11 a.m.- noon for U of I faculty and staff from campus units studying PPCPs to discuss their projects. At noon, Dr. Wei Zheng from ISTC will present a talk on his PPCP research work. The talk will be broadcast live and also archived on the ISTC website. To register for the Sept. 24th webinar, visit


In addition, on April 4, 2016, ISTC is organizing a conference, along with IL-IN Sea Grant and funded by the U of I Extension, titled ”PPCPs in the Environment”. The event will be held at the I-Hotel Conference Center in Champaign. The call for abstracts will be announced in December. More information on the conference will be available on the ISTC website at that time.




Water Environment Federation Technical Conference to broadcast two sessions free on Sept. 28

WEFTEC®, the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, is the largest conference of its kind in North America. Cutting-edge technical sessions and workshops address topics including collection systems; resource recovery, including nutrients and energy; plant operations, treatment, and management; regulations and research; residuals and biosolids; stormwater management; water recycling, and more.


WEFTEC 2015 will be held at McCormick Place in Chicago from September 2630, 2015. Two sessions will be broadcast live on the morning of Monday, September 28.

  • Opening General session – Leading the Water Resource Revolution will be from 8:15 – 9:30 am CDT. The session will feature remarks from WEF President Ed McCormick and a keynote address from Rob Stewart, an award-winning biologist, photographer, conservationist, filmmaker, and author. Stewart will discuss his film, Revolution, and his efforts to raise awareness about the greatest evolutionary journey in human history and the awe-inspiring revolution that’s underway to save life on Earth. Stewart’s thought-provoking presentation will help frame the water sector’s own revolutionary efforts to transform sustainable water management and push water to the forefront of innovation.
  • Water Leaders session – The Impact of Leadership: Culture, Communication, and Community in Great Water Cities – will be shown from 10 – 11:45 CDT. All water utilities and cities are faced with rapidly changing pressures. Whether it’s changing economic conditions, increasing regulations, or a changing climate, strong leadership is needed to plan, respond, and move quickly, all while maintaining current levels of service. Come hear from water leaders who are driving transformational shifts at their organizations, effectively changing the culture, communicating strategically, and engaging the community for a more resilient future.

Producing a Sustainable Event: Governor’s Awards Ceremony

green checklist The 2015 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards Ceremony is ISTC’s premiere event, highlighting public and private entities who have gone above and beyond the standard method of business and incorporated sustainability throughout their organization. We strive to create a zero-waste, low impact Ceremony to celebrate these Award winners each year.


There are many things to consider when organizing a sustainable event. These include waste reduction, energy use, and use of local foods. During the event planning process, think about things you need, such as food and refreshments, transportation, plating, speaker sessions, and guest stays. Then, either use an existing green event checklist or create your own to integrate sustainability in as many steps as possible. Collect information on the venue’s sustainable practices as well. Here are a few suggestions.


Food and Plating

  • Use local, seasonal, and organic produce for meal preparation. Ask your caterer or venue what portions or ingredients of each meal qualify under these categories.
  • Sustainable seafood and meat sourced for meals
  • Choose meatless meal options for guests – vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free
    • Due to the high impacts of the meat industry on our environment, choose to not serve red meat as a meal option.
  • Serve all condiments, water, tea, coffee in bulk
  • Use reusable utensils, plates, glasses and mugs – no disposables!

waste reductionWaste Reduction

  • Recycling services in place – paper, cardboard, beverage containers, plastic, steel, and plastic film in the back of the house and front of house
    • Advertise this to your guests so that they are aware of these efforts.
    • Make signage clear and readily visible so that guests know that they have the opportunity to sort their waste appropriately.
  • Collect food scraps and organics from kitchen and meal preparation
  • Ask your venue or caterer to use only reusable linens and napkins
  • Line booths with reusable linens
  • Do not provide individual garbage cans exhibitors
  • Purchase reusable, bio-based name tags – collect them at the end of the event for future use.

Guest Rooms

  • Provide in-room recycling bins for all guests associated with the event
  • Provide the ability for guests to reuse towels, bedding and toiletries

green choiceKeep track of what your venue or caterer can accommodate so that you are clear when you communicate the sustainability of your event. You want to keep your credibility, so it’s important make sure that your actions match your words.


Here are some other great resources that can help you plan your next sustainable event:

Come see how we’ve made the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards a green event. The symposium and ceremony will be held October 27th at the Sheraton Hotel Chicago. More event information can be found here: