Where to donate your used stuff in Champaign-Urbana

There are many non-profit organizations in the Champaign-Urbana area that accept donations all year. My ISTC colleague Joy Scrogum compiled a list several months ago and I’ve added to it. If there are any I missed, let me know in the comments.

Updated August 19, 2015 to the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company’s donation policies. Continue reading Where to donate your used stuff in Champaign-Urbana

2015/2016 Urban Waters Small Grants Request for Proposals

Proposal due date: November 20, 2015

EPA’s Urban Waters Program helps local residents and their organizations, particularly those in underserved communities, restore their urban waters in ways that also benefit community and economic revitalization. One of the ways the Urban Waters Program is accomplishing this mission is through the Urban Waters Small Grants Program. This program recognizes that healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, recreational, social, and employment opportunities in nearby communities. The total estimated funding available for awards under this competition is approximately $1.6 million. EPA expects each award to range from approximately $40,000 to no more than $60,000 in EPA funding. EPA Regional Offices will award the cooperative agreements resulting from this announcement. It is anticipated that each EPA Regional Office will award approximately two to three cooperative agreements. Funding is contingent upon Agency funding levels, the quality of proposals received, and other applicable considerations.

Applicants may not request more than $60,000 in EPA funding – proposals requesting more than $60,000 in EPA funds are not eligible and will not be reviewed. While there is no minimum, EPA suggests that applicants request at least $40,000 in EPA funds. A minimum non-federal cost share/match of $4,000 is required (see Section III.B for information on the cost share/match requirement). It is anticipated that funded cooperative agreements will have a one- to two-year project period.

With the rapid growth of urbanization across the country, much of the natural landscape has been replaced by buildings, roads, and parking lots. When there are large amounts of rain or snowmelt, the water (called runoff or stormwater) runs off roofs and flows down streets. As the runoff moves, it picks up trash, fertilizer, oil, pesticides, dirt, pet waste, and other pollutants. This polluted runoff may go into storm drains or ditches, enter pipes, and eventually flows into ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Some urban waterbodies such as reservoirs and urban lakes can also serve as a drinking water source for the community. In some urban areas, polluted runoff may also flow over land directly into the nearest urban waterbody. Urban runoff pollution is one of the greatest threats to urban waters in our nation. It diminishes the intrinsic value of urban waterways and their potential to be a treasured centerpiece of the
community. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses, and enhance educational, recreational, employment, and social opportunities for the community.

In general, projects should meet the following four program objectives (as described in Sections
I.B and IV.D):

  • Address local water quality issues related to urban runoff pollution;
  • Provide additional community benefits;
  • Actively engage underserved communities; and
  • Foster partnership.

For purposes of this announcement, the term “underserved communities” refers to communities with environmental justice concerns and/or susceptible populations. Communities with environmental justice concerns include minority, low-income, tribal, and indigenous populations or communities in the United States that potentially experience disproportionate environmental harms and risks as a result of greater vulnerability to environmental hazards. This increased vulnerability may be attributable to an accumulation of both negative and lack of positive environmental, health, economic, or social conditions within these populations or communities. Susceptible populations include groups that are at a high risk of suffering the adverse effects of environmental hazards such as, but not limited to, pregnant women, the elderly and young children.

The complexity and widespread impact of urban runoff pollution requires various levels of government and local stakeholders (e.g., community residents, local businesses, etc.) to work together in developing effective and long-term solutions with multiple benefits. EPA supports and empowers communities, especially underserved communities, that are working on solutions
to address multiple community needs, and fostering successful collaborative partnerships.

Eligible applicants include States, local governments, Indian Tribes, public and private universities and colleges, public or private nonprofit  institutions/organizations, intertribal consortia, and interstate agencies.


California Is Building The Country’s Largest Solar Desalination Plant

Read the full story in Fast Company.

If you want to take a shower or wash dishes in East Porterville, California, you’ll probably have to use a bucket. The water stopped running in most houses over a year ago. But nearby, farmers are paying to get rid of around 300 billion gallons of water a year.

The paradox is a result of a geological quirk of the area: Soil in the Central Valley is full of natural salt. That creates problems every time a farmer irrigates a field—the extra-salty runoff can harm both land and wildlife, so water districts have to deal with it. But desalination can turn the runoff from a problem into a valuable resource.

A new solar-powered desalination plant, which will likely begin construction early next year in Fresno County, will make enough water for 10,000 homes or 2,000 acres of cropland in a year.

DC Water develops $470m waste-to-energy project in US

Read the full story in Energy Business Review.

DC Water has opened a $470m waste-to-energy project, designed to generate clean, renewable energy from the sewage solids generated after wastewater treatment process, at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, Washington, D.C.

National Environmental Education Advisory Council 2015 Report Now Available

The 2015 Report of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council (NEEAC) is now available. As one of the primary duties under its charter, the NEEAC is tasked with providing independent recommendations to the EPA Administrator to inform the agency’s strategic vision and enhance EPA’s activities on environmental education.

In this report, the NEEAC reviews the current challenges and opportunities across the environmental education field and provides a resource for both EPA and the broader environmental community to further the effectiveness and availability of environmental education.

Find a factsheet and full text of the report.

NREL cutting four percent of workforce, lays off solar researchers

Read the full story in the Denver Post.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden this week laid off 15 solar energy researchers and notified its workforce of plans to reduce its staff by another 50 to 60 people via buyouts, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The cuts — which would amount to less than 5 percent of NREL’s 1,600 person Colorado workforce — were triggered by the U.S. Department of Energy reducing funding and shifting the priorities of its solar research program, NREL spokesman George Douglas said.

The employees laid off Monday were engaged in long-term fundamental research.


New minor to be offered: Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

Six academic units came together to offer the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program, a campuswide undergraduate minor through the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment to promote systems-level thinking about energy and sustainability, and to foster the development of an integrated view of the economy, society and the environment.

The minor provides selected students an opportunity to develop an integrated perspective on sustainability and understand the feedback, trade-offs and barriers to achieving it and the implications for decision-making.