Midwest Biochar Confab 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 http://illinoistimes.com/article-14158-science-to-solve-tomorrow%25E2%2580%2599s-problems.html


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.

Middle Schoolers Celebrate Clean Power on Earth Day

WindJeffersonOn Earth Day, April 22, Jefferson Middle School hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of their 3.5 kW h wind turbine project.

The clean energy project was funded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, ISTC, and high efficiency light bulb sales by the school’s Green Team.

The little turbine spun energetically during the morning ceremony, producing an estimated three percent of the school’s energy requirements. Members of the Green Team gathered around a commemorative plaque while a green ribbon was ceremonially cut.

Science teacher Jeff Freymuth (right) explained that the idea for collecting wind power came from a visit to a school in Springfield. “They had a wind turbine, why can’t we?” he recalled. The installation will be used in clean power course work for both the middle school and Centennial High next door, he said.

The 13.4 foot diameter rotor will produce an estimated 5550-11,300 kW h directly into the school’s power grid. Also pictured (left) is Jefferson Middle School Principal Angelica Franklin.

Kids Invited to ‘Reuse and Rediscover’ at Ill. State Museum

Families with children aged 3-10 will find a fun day of art and science at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. “Reuse and Rediscover” is a free event from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26. Everyday items that clog our garbage cans will be repurposed as a bottle cap art mural. Packing peanuts will be studied for their eco-friendliness. A Recycle Relay will help children understand what other items are recyclable or not.   The Illinois State Museum is at 502 S. Spring Street, Springfield, IL 62706. Free parking!

Wise Words in the Fight Against Sustainababble


ISTC’s John Mulrow tries to peel back the obfuscation of the term “sustainable” in a GreenBiz.com’s P2 Pathways column.



Free Residential Electronics Recycling Collection Event, Champaign Co., 4/12/14

http___www.ccrpcChampaign County (IL) will be hosting a FREE residential electronics collection event on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 8 a.m. to noon at Parkland College (parking lot M-4). Parkland College is located at 2400 W. Bradley in Champaign. See http://www.parkland.edu/about/maps.aspx for directions to Parkland, as well as a map of the parking lots.


Electronic items to be accepted include:

  • Televisions of any type*
  • Computers, laptops, monitors*
  • Home entertainment electronic items (VCRs, Betamax, DVD players, cassette players, Blue Ray players, 8‐track players, turntables, etc.)
  • Kitchen electronic items / kitchen appliances (blenders, food processors, toasters, microwaves, etc.)
  • Bathroom electronic items (curling irons, flat irons, night lights, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, clocks, blow dryers, etc.)
  • Office electronic equipment (printers, scanners, copiers, etc.)
  • Dehumidifiers

* no broken glass accepted!


Items which will NOT be accepted include:

  • Broken glass televisions / broken glass monitors
  • White goods: refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners
  • Stoves, washer/dryers, dishwashers
  • Treadmills
  • Fluorescent lighting, CFLs, ballast and other devices containing PCBs
  • Thermostats, fire detectors
  • Alkaline batteries, other than installed in equipment
  • Household hazardous waste
  • Medical waste
  • Gas powered equipment or lawn equipment


For more information on electronic devices which are BANNED from disposal in Illinois landfills, as well as a list of local businesses which accept electronics for recycling year-round (with devices accepted and any restrictions for each location), please see the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide. For questions related to the 4/12/14 electronics collection event, you may call 217-328-3313.



Three Tips on the Road to a Great Governor’s Award Application

TrophyPath2If your organization has done a lot in the name of sustainability – from projects that save money and resources to initiatives that strengthen the people and communities you work for – what are you waiting for? The Governor’s Sustainability Award provides a great opportunity for you to pull all of your sustainability work together into a single document: Your award application!


Because sustainability encompasses the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – it can be tough to wrap one’s brain around all that should be included in your application. Our How To Apply page and FAQ’s will help you in that process, but we know that’s a lot to read! Here are three tips to help you cut to the chase, and get started on your application (due May 22).


1. Start driving. Get key people on board.

Governor’s Award Applications are typically a team effort, but there is often a single person or small team that drives the process forward. The application drivers can be anyone – from top management to employees who volunteer time on a Green Team. If you’re reading this, you may be the driver!


Send a note out to co-workers letting them know you’re preparing a Gov.’s Award application. Here are some key people to get on board early (positions vary by organization):

  • Top Management
  • Facilities/Operations Manager
  • Plant Manager
  • Sustainability Officer/Green Team Lead
  • PR Officer


2. Read these two things.

Narrative GuidelinesYou have up to six single-spaced pages to describe your sustainability accomplishments. These guidelines tell you how.


Metrics Form InstructionsDownload the Metrics Form (Microsoft Excel format) and read the Instructions tab.


3. Check out the sample applications.

The sample applications, available HERE, display best practices from past winners’ applications. Note that a good application typically includes a variety of projects touching on multiple impacts or aspects of sustainability. The project descriptions will also include some detail on how they were conceived and who was involved. We want to hear how your organization went from idea to implementation.



BONUS TIP: Consider normalizing your data.

Normalized data is reported on a relevant per-unit basis. One of our 2013 award winners, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, tracked their water use in this way before and after implementing water conservation measures in their wash bay. Instead of simply reporting total gallons of water consumed, they reported gallons per vehicle-hour, providing us with a water-use measure that can be compared across years, regardless of how many trips the buses make.  This type of measurement, a normalized metric, is extremely helpful for evaluating your progress – the true impact of a sustainability project.


Check out the Illinois Manufacturer Inc. sample application for more normalization examples and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application.


If you still have questions about the process, contact John Mulrow for more information via e-mail at jmulrow@illinois.edu or call him at 630.586.9168.

Midwest Biochar Conference

Biochar continues to fascinate researchers as a net-carbon negative fuel source and soil amenity which continues to surprise the scientific community. The Illinois Biochar Group, in conjunction with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois and the U.S. Department of Agriculture as co-organizers, announces the 2014 Midwest Biochar Conference which will be held on August 8, 2014, in Champaign, IL. The conference will feature presentations and posters on the latest in biochar research and plenty of opportunities for discussion with those interested in all aspects of biochar work. The event will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm CST, with a reception following from 4:30 – 6:00 pm.
For more information, submit an abstract, or register for the conference please visit the conference website.


Topics from last year’s conference include:
• Cook stoves
• Large scale biochar production
• Biochar’s effect on soil
• PAHs in Biochar
• Biochar supercapacitors
• Biochar as a filtration or aeration media


2013 Conference Agenda

Illinois Biochar Group logoISTC logoUSDA logo

Series Focuses on Sustainability at Illinois EPA

Elmo Dowd, Associate Director of the Illinois EPA will speak on “Illinois EPA: Sustainability Practices for Air, Water and Land Protection, at 1 p.m. Friday, March 21 at ISTC. The event is part of the spring ISTC Sustainability Series on the theme “Perspectives on Sustainability in Illinois.”


Illinois EPA is working to incorporate sustainability practices into its policies, programs and services.  This presentation will outline the agency’s major program areas and discuss how it is working to help improve the quality of life of communities, enhance local economic vitality and promote stakeholder engagement.  The presentation will include information on several projects, including green infrastructure, statewide nutrient reduction, greener cleanups, community methane recovery and environmental justice outreach.


This webinar will be broadcast live and also archived on our website www.istc.illinois.edu for later viewing. If you cannot attend the event at ISTC, you may view the webinar live by registering at: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/317489175.