Add Sustainability to your Spring 2015 Class Schedule

As you’re thinking about classes for Spring 2015, consider adding sustainability to your schedule. Use our August post, “Tips for Greening Your Major,” as a starting point.


Sustainability diagram designed by Johann Dréo in 2006

Events Promote Sustainability Awareness at Home and Far-Far Away

PlasticParadiseDirector, writer and actress Angela Sun will visit the Urbana-Champaign campus at 6 p.m. on Tues., Oct. 21 for a screening of her film “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

The documentary records the plight of the natural ecosystem of Midway Atoll as it encounters the Great Pacific Gyre, a swirling garbage patch of plastic washed off of surrounding continents.

Named a National Wildlife Refuge in 1988, Midway’s reefs and sand islands form a habitat for millions of seabirds. The film traces Sun’s investigation of the damage produced by humans’ demand for plastic.

The event will be held in Room 149, National Soybean Research Center.

Co-sponsors for this free community/campus event are the Institute for Sustainablity, Energy, and the Environment (iSEE), and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Plastics in the environment have increasingly raised concerns from researchers, activists and policy makers. California-based Surfrider Foundation has named October “Rise Above Plastics” month, during which they promote consumer awareness against the tsunami of plastic in the human economy. A phenomenon of the second half of the 20th century, plastic production has supplanted the use of natural materials with the benefits of being light and strong. But those very properties mean they degrade very slowly and have alarmed many scientists for their increasing presence in the marine food chain. ISTC has several projects looking at the reuse and recycling of plastics to keep more of them out of landfills or the environment. Click here for a recent report on plastic to oil research at ISTC.

Sun’s visit is also an appropriate warm-up to “Campus Sustainability Day” recognized on the U of I campus and nationally the next day, Oct. 22. Between 1-4 p.m. in Illini Union Room 314B on Oct. 22, iSEE will sponsor a progress report of the university’s Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP). In 2010, U of I became a leader among U.S. universities by announcing ambitious climate goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050. Register here for the iCAP update.

Working teams developing revisions to the 2010 iCAP will review the campus’ progress on the plan and accept public comment on a proposed 2015 iCAP update.

Pollution Prevention Week – Sept. 15-21

EPA logo with

This year marks the 24th anniversary of the federal Pollution Prevention Act, which declares: “pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible.” This week is Pollution Prevention (P2) Week where the EPA features achievements in making pollution prevention a cornerstone of sustainability. Find out more information and how you can participate by visiting the EPA’s P2 Week website.

PCBs: Public Workshop Takes Fresh Look at Familiar Menace


The University of Illinois will present a free public workshop on PCBs, the synthetic molecule that is a poster child for a wonderful technical innovation that ends up being an environmental scourge (remember ice-nine?).

PCBs are still around and still must be destroyed or securely stored. Register for the 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17 workshop “PCBs and Their Impact on Illinois” here. You can choose to attend the live event at University of Illinois at Chicago, via live feed at ISTC’s conference room in Champaign, or on your own desktop.

U of I Library has come up with a brand new lib guide in time for this event. This executive summary of all things PCB is available on the library’s website.




Tips for Greening Your Major

This post was co-authored by Laura Barnes, Elizabeth Luber, and Lauren Murphy.


These days we hear a lot about “Green” energy or “Sustainable” products, but what do “Green” and “Sustainable” really mean?  How do these words affect your life and your major?


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency,

“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”


This diagram about sustainable development, designed by Johann Dréo in 2006, might clear things up.  The three pillars of sustainability – social, environment, and economic, sometimes called people, planet, profit – must be balanced in order for something to be entirely sustainable.




What Does This Have To Do With Your Major? Continue reading

PCBs Not Going to Clinton, But A Solution Still Needed

Village of Summit, a Chicago suburb

The Village of Summit, a Chicago suburb, is one of the Illinois communities in need of a permanent solution to PCB storage.

Now that the U.S. and Illinois Environmental Protection Agencies have rejected proposals for permanent PCB storage at the Clinton Landfill, the problem has not gone away.


Just what is to be done with the once common industrial chemical turned persistent hazard?


On Sept. 17, the University of Illinois is holding a day-long workshop to hear from academic and industry experts to bring the latest science to the policy table.


Register for the workshop being held at the U of I at Chicago campus by visiting: There are also plans to offer a live feed over the Internet.

New ‘Lessons Learned’ Offered on Sustainability Successes

casestudyboxISTC has posted recent case studies or fact sheets on its website developed by its Technical Assistance Group. They are also available on IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ Institutional repository. They illustrate victories by leading companies and organizations in E3 (Economy, Energy, and Environment), Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award Winners, and zero waste. The organizations featured are: American Standard Circuits, Inc.; Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District; J.L. Clark; The Label Printers Lewis & Clark Community College; The City of Urbana; and ISTC’s Champaign headquarters.

Midwest Biochar Conference Approaches

There is just one more week to register for the Second Midwest Biochar Conference. The Illinois Biochar Group, with the help of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture as co-organizers, will present this look at the latest science in biochar Aug. 8 at Champaign’s Hilton Garden Inn. Register by Monday, July 28.

Springfield Newspaper Features People, Planet, Profit Approach at ISTC

ILTimesA lengthy article in the Springfield’s Illinois Times yesterday examined the practical, progressive approach to sustainable action  at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. It is called the “Triple Bottom Line,” describing an approach to balance the interests of the planet, its people and a healthy economy — or, people, planet profits.


In the article, reporter Patrick Yeagle quotes ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien saying “We don’t want Illinois businesses to prioritize profit at the expense of the planet; that’s Texas,” O’Brien said. “Likewise, we don’t want them to forgo profit in the name of saving the planet; that’s California.”


The Times reviews some of the current research and technical assistance efforts of the Center including: making a variety of liquid fuels from plastics; supercapacitors from biochar; low-energy desalinization technology; combatting emerging pollutants; detecting water infrastructure leaks, and; shrinking waste streams to landfills.


To read the full article visit the Time’s website at


Tiny Plastic Pollutants Banned in Illinois

MicrobeadsWhy did Illinois pull the plug on the use of plastic microbeads as exfoliants? ISTC’s B.K. Sharma and Nancy Holm offer insights on the trouble with microbeads in the “A Minute With…” feature on the U of I website.

ISTC has worked on beneficial recycling of plastic waste and the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the ban, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday, June 8, prohibiting the manufacture (by 2018) and the sale (by 2019) of microbeads in personal care products in the state.