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The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign addresses issues related to pollution, resource conservation, waste reduction and reuse, and sustainable economic development that impact Illinois and the global community. For more information about the Center, visit the ISTC website at

In This Issue
Save the Date for the 2017 Sustainability Awards
several sustainability award trophies in a line 

The 2017 Sustainability Awards will be presented on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, at the Union League Club of Chicago, 65 W. Jackson Blvd. Please mark your calendar and plan on joining us for the day. The program includes a morning technical session, industry-leading keynote speaker, luncheon, and awards trophy ceremony. The morning technical session will highlight trending national and local sustainability topics and also provide key cost-saving, environmentally beneficial information from noted industry leaders. Registration will open in August.

See last years winners by visiting our Previous Ceremonies and Winners page!

Consider becoming a sponsor of the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award Ceremony. Continue the 30-year legacy of providing recognition of the leadership demonstrated by organizations committed to the environment and the growth of a more sustainable Illinois economy. A variety of sponsorship opportunities are available and offer a multitude of benefits and exposure for your organization.

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Emerging Contaminants
colorful pills spilling from a pill bottole 

ISTC is making an impact on reducing emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment by addressing the issues at the cause. In conjuction with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), ISTC sent out over 400 mailers to independent pharmacies in Illinois that included a letter about the importance of unwanted medicine disposal programs, a poster that pharamacies could put up describing the steps the public can take when disposing of unwanted medicines, and a video link with more information about medicines' impact on the environment and talking to patients about proper disposal. The response rate to a survey included with the letter to pharmacists was seven percent. Of those replying, 91 percent indicated that they posted the informational poster, 68 percent said they have or intend to watch the informational video, and several indicated in the open comments that they have been participating in medicine take-back programs for many years. The educational video will be sent to additional pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals as well as health-related professional programs this summer to increase awarness of how to talk to patients about proper disposal and impacts of improper disposal on the environment.

In addition to the medicine take-back and education campaign, ISTC is cohosting the 2017 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference with IISG at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, IL, on May 31-June 1. The two-day conference will be packed with many experts, including four keynote presentations by researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Loyola University Chicago, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Sea Grant Law Center. The conference also will provide an opportunity for discussion and collaboration with those from a wide range of fields in research, policy, and education & outreach, as well as a technology demonstration on June 1 of two contaminant removal systems developed by ISTC researchers. The keynote presentations from the conference will be available online on the ISTC website in mid-June.

Free Technology Demonstration for Liquid Manure Management and Wastewater Treatment
diagrams of technology shown in the demonstration 

In addition to the demonstrations that are part of the Emerging Contaminants Conference, there will be free technology demonstrations of systems for liquid manure management and wastewater treatment on June 2, 2017, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the University of Illinois Swine Research Center, Curtis Road entrance. The event is recommended for farmers and farm operators, wastewater treatment professionals, sustainability professionals, and researchers. Lunch will be provided to attendees. Please register by May 30 at if you would like to attend the June 2 demonstrations. View the flyer for diagrams and a map or watch a short video for more information.


Technology Demonstrations:

  • Vegetable Oil Filtration - This filtration system is 55 gallons in size and can be put in series or parallel to work with small- to medium-sized animal feeding operation liquid manure lagoons and small rural wastewater treatment lagoons. It uses the hydrophobic nature of any hormones remaining in the liquid manure or sewage to trap them in the oil to prevent their release into the environment.
  • Algae Treatment and Energy Production - This treatment method is fully scalable to any size system and works best with large animal feeding operations and traditional wastewater treatment plant technologies. The algae remove nutrients and other contaminants from liquid sewage and manure. Then the algae are separated from the water. The water can be discharged and the algae are processed using hydrothermal liquefaction to create liquid fuel and other bioenergy products.

The algae treatment and energy production technology is currently being tested at the Urbana Wastewater Treatment Plant and there are plans to scale up the technology and test a large pilot-scale version at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant later this year.  Stickney WRP is on the southwest side of Chicago and is the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world.

Make Your Facility More Water and Energy Efficient
worker checking pipes 

 In January 2017, ISTC’s director, Kevin OBrien, was appointed the interim director of the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS). Since then, Dr. OBrien has been helping ISWS modernize and strengthen their excellent research and technical assistance programs. One ISWS program aligned so closely with ISTC’s mission and activities, it was a no brainer to have them join ISTC. That program is the Institutional Water Treatment Program (IWTP). The program provides unbiased, professional water treatment advice at more than 100+ state facilities and results in substantial annual savings in costs of chemicals, fuel, water, and maintenance in industrial and potable water systems for the participating facilities and the State of Illinois. These services fit in perfectly with ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, which provides similar services and much more to any organization in Illinois. ISTC’s Environmental Engineer and new IWT Services Group Leader Mike Springman said, “I’m excited to be working more closely with this excellent program that has been running since 1949. This is a proven program used on state facilities that we are now expanding to include municipalities and private sector companies.” Contact Mike if you want to explore how IWT can make your facility more water and energy efficient.

National Guard Thanks ISTC for 20 Years of Environmental Assistance
Mike Springman, Joe Pickowitz, and Shantanu Pai on the right posing for photo with Army representative and the award 

The Illinois Department of Military Affairs (IDMA) recognized ISTC for its “long, outstanding and professional support” during a ceremony at Camp Lincoln, Springfield, on April 28. A plaque was presented to Technical Assistance Program personnel Mike Springman, Joe Pickowitz, and Shantanu Pai in appreciation of a 20-year collaboration to help the Illinois Army National Guard meet its commitment to sustainable operations using sound environmental management practices.  MORE

Small Companies Save Big with Tech Advice
down town area of a small Illinois town 

ISTC offers technical assistance for companies in smaller towns and rural areas through a program which has saved Illinois business an estimated $24 million dollars during its first eight years. The Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) program finds ways to save energy, waste, and water so companies are more profitable and sustainable. MORE

Army to Pilot ISTC Innovation to Improve Installation Resilience, Energy Security
aerial photo for wastewater treatment plant 

The U.S. Army has funded a project to demonstrate technology developed on the University of Illinois’ South Farm that disposes of wastewater biosolids by turning them into energy. MORE

Volunteers Flip This Corner of Campus for a ‘Natural’ Makeover
Google Maps Satilite view image of South Arboretum Woods at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Windsor Road 

This spring, volunteers worked to change the South Arboretum Woods closer to its “natural” state with plantings of native wildflowers and many other improvements. It is the latest project funded by the Student Sustainability Committee for sustainable landscaping on campus. The clean-up effort led by John Marlin, ISTC research affiliate, attracted many U of I student volunteers and others from throughout the Champaign-Urbana community. MORE

New Research Helps Narrow the Choice Between Affordable and Long-Lasting Roads
Large farm equipment in the field close to a road 

A two-year study of asphalt binders will improve the use of recycled material in making long-lasting roads. Research by ISTC, the Illinois Center for Transportation, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT) advances knowledge of the role of chemistry and composition on asphalt binders’ performance. MORE

Researchers Develop Eco-friendly Solution to Oil Spills in Bodies of Water
conseptural model showing carbon spheres in oil spill 

Oil spills have a new nemesis in the form of tiny carbon spheres developed by a U of I team, including researchers at ISTC, which have demonstrated more than 80 percent removal rate while accelerating natural remediation of the remainder. The work, the result of funding by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE), was reported in Nature Publishing, a publication of Scientific Reports, one of the Nature Research journals. MORE

Biobased Lubricants Improving, Gaining Favor in Natural Workzones
clip art - chain saw with a bottle of oil and corn and other plants near 

Non-petroleum biobased lubricants are an increasingly important strategy for preventing pollution in environmentally sensitive workplaces, such as forest, agricultural, and marine applications. ISTC Senior Research Engineer B.K. Sharma’s new book focuses on the promising area of eco-friendly lubricants made from vegetable oil. MORE

ISTC Has Revamped Its Website
ISTC's new homepage 

ISTC has converted its website to a content management system called SitePublish, which is offered through the University of Illinois. With the consolidation of each Survey’s communications, web development, and IT teams under one Prairie Research Institute (PRI) umbrella, the conversion of our static pages to SitePublish allows for the day-to-day maintenance of ISTC’s website to be handled by the University. In addition, ISTC is using the same content management system as the Illinois State Archaelogical Survey and soon the Illinios State Water Survey. The ease of maintenance on the websites for PRI will increase dramatically by switching to similar content management systems.

With the move, ISTC's website navigation has been revamped and many pages have been updated. A new “Events” section hosts both current and archived events such as ISTC's Sustainability Seminars. The research section sports up-to-date listings of our projects in the areas of contaminants, water, energy, and resource recovery. The technical assistance section has many new opportunities for Illinois organizations to take advantage of such as assistance with sustainability certifications and site assessments for zero waste as well as water and energy efficiency. The ISTC website also offers resources to assist the public, researchers, government officials, sustainability officers and managers, and many more with their sustainability needs with ISTC's "Resources" section that contains publications and networking groups.

Facelift on the Home Front
Researchers organizing a refridgerated room 

ISTC staff have taken on a major effort to re-energize our workspace over the past six months. Storage areas and underutilized labs have been cleaned up. New workstations have been installed in the foyer and the Gallery has been updated with new displays. These efforts stem from a number of factors. One of these is that ISTC likes to practice what we preach. The research staff participated in the 2017 North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge. The Challenge supports best practices to achieve high quality science and resiliency (read more on ISTC’s blog). In addition, the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of Illinois has asked the Prairie Research Institute to consolidate its space. These efforts are a strategic move on ISTC’s part to prepare for a sustainable and resilient future.

ISTC Earns Gold in State Electronics Challenge!
SEC award plaque 

ISTC was one of seven organizations across the nation to earn gold level recognition in the State Electronics Challenge for their commitment to “’green’ the lifecycle of their electronic office equipment.” This is the third year in a row that ISTC has earned gold, the top recognition level. To earn gold level, organizations must complete the general requirements and all three lifecycle phases. A few of these tasks include documenting purchasing, use, and end-of-life management for all electronics; ensuring that 95% of electronics are EPEAT registered products; establishing and promoting “sleep” or “power down” policies for devices not in use; and ensuring that devices get recycled or donated at the end of their useful life.

ISTC’s Sustainability Specialist Joy Scrogum was instrumental in helping ISTC receive this award. She said, “We’re really pleased to have received this recognition and value our participation in this program. The guidance and resources available through the State Electronics Challenge (SEC) were very helpful in creating ISTC’s policy on purchasing, use, and disposal of IT equipment. They also create a useful framework for discussing operational changes in terms of these lifecycle phases for electronics with ISTC’s own technical assistance clients. Even though public entities and non-profits are the types of organizations which may participate in the SEC, I often refer other types of organizations to the Program Requirements Checklist for a simple guide to best practices.”

New Data Paper from GLRPPR: Spotlight on Illinois’ Manufacturing Sector
Great Lakes Reginal Pollution Prevention Roundtable logo 

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze data from U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), Greenhouse Gas Emissions database, and the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns database to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. GLRPPR’s most recent paper summarizes findings for Illinois’ manufacturing sector (NAICS 311-337).

The full report, The Economic and Environmental Impact of Great Lakes Manufacturing: Snapshot of Emissions, Pollution Prevention Practices, and Economic Impact Using Public Data, is available in IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.

Sustainability Seminar Series Wraps Up Its 10th Year
Previous speaker in the ISTC conference room 

In 2007, ISTC began organizing seminars on various sustainability topics. Sustainability related to buildings, business, water, energy, and more have been covered in the past 10 years. This spring's topic focused on contaminants in the environment - persistent organic pollutants, nutrients, algal toxins, and microplastics. All of the past 10 years of seminars are available for viewing on ISTC's Sustainability Seminar Series event page. The seminar series will continue in September 2017 with the theme of "Examining the Roles of Business, Communities, and Research in Sustainability." Currently ISTC is working on closed captioning for all of the archived seminars.