The McDonough Conversations: Why nature needs humans

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

The latest installment in a regular series of conversations with William McDonough (@billmcdonough), designer, architect, author and entrepreneur. View previous columns here.

Monarch butterflies are dwindling. Humans can rectify that.

Job announcement: Visiting Technical Assistance Engineer, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, is seeking a Visiting Technical Assistance Engineer for our Technical Assistance Program.

This position will be based at our Champaign, Illinois offices and will work with Illinois companies, communities, and the manufacturing industry to identify and document their sustainability efforts, and to identify trends and drivers of sustainability within a corporate/community environment and gaps in resources, tools and technologies creating barriers and challenges to actual implementation of sustainability, waste minimization and recycling opportunities.

This is a full-time, academic professional position offering a salary of $60,000 to $65,000, commensurate with experience. Generous vacation and sick leave. State Universities Retirement System. Group health, dental, vision and life insurance.

ISTC works as a change agent to help customers identify and implement practices that improve efficiency. Here are some ways that ISTC helps organizations become sustainable including Pollution Prevention, Energy Efficiency, Water purification and use reduction, Pilot Technology Laboratories.

Major Duties & Responsibilities

  • Over 50% time of travel required within the state of Illinois and surrounding regions.
  • Identify, visit, and secure Illinois manufacturers, industry, and commercial businesses as clients for the technical assistance program to further increase client base.
  • Work in a collaborative fashion with other ISTC groups to develop programs for Illinois manufacturers
  • Work with manufacturers, municipalities, and state and federal agencies to promote the implementation of sustainable practices
  • Develop business cases for the implementation of sustainable practices for manufacturers within the state of Illinois
  • Use life cycle analysis, carbon footprint determination, and other standard sustainability tools to evaluate potential solutions for Illinois businesses
  • Build a base of industrial and commercial clients within the tri-state region who may benefit from programs and technical assistance, and who may offer future research collaborations.
  • Manage projects and provide appropriate communication with sponsoring agencies and clients
  • Communicate project progress and results in written and oral form
  • Work jointly with a number of varied constituencies while observing standards of professional conduct
  • Keep current on relevant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) requirements and guidelines that would impact the sustainability of manufacturers


Required: Bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Preferred: Master’s degree in engineering and/or Masters in Business Administration


Required: Minimum of five (5) years’ experience in the management of projects related to sustainability, energy efficiency, or process improvement. Previously responsible for financial performance of unit or division (e.g. responsible for profit and loss (P&L)).  Experienced in negotiating contracts.  Extensive experience interacting with customers, clients, and vendors. Ability to perform multiple tasks in a resource limited environment. Developed business cases for a range of sustainable related activities within organizations.

Preferred:  Ten (10) years or more experience in the management of projects related to sustainability, energy efficiency, or process improvement. Experience in the negotiation and management of contracts. Primary interface for key accounts. Adept at life cycle analysis. Experience working closely with economic development agencies. Established track record of building a customer base and satisfying customer needs.

Knowledge Requirements: Demonstrated knowledge of industrial processes and process economics. Excellent oral and written communication skills. Demonstrated capability to interact with clients and customers under difficult and demanding situations. Awareness of the impact of current and potential regulations on industrial processes.

To Apply

Applications must be received by May 31, 2014.  Applications may be reviewed prior to closing date, but all candidates will be reviewed.  To apply, all candidates must submit an online profile by visiting and submitting requested information.  Qualified candidates must submit a cover letter detailing qualifications, curriculum vitae or resume’, working e-mail address, and the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of three professional references. All requested information must be submitted for your application to be considered. Incomplete information will not be reviewed.

For further information on hiring process, please contact Erica Hanson, Human Resources, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, 217-333-6897,  For technical questions regarding job duties, please contact: Deb Jacobson, Search Committee,

Why just capture CO2 emissions when you can turn them into cash?

Read the full story at Smart Planet.

Startup Skyonic is testing technologies that transform captured CO2 into bicarbonates, acids, even limestone. The big question: Can they be scaled?

Fighting the seed monopoly: ‘We want to make free seed a sort of meme’

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The Open Source Seed Initiative aims to provide an alternative to the patent-protected seeds sold by major producers such as Monsanto and DuPont.

Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents – Solvents for the 21st Century

Alexandre Paiva, Rita Craveiro, Ivo Aroso, Marta Martins, Rui L. Reis, and Ana Rita C. Duarte (2014). “Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents – Solvents for the 21st Century.”
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering  2(5), 1063-1071. DOI: 10.1021/sc500096j [Subscription required for full-text — visit your local library for borrowing options].

Abstract: Green technology actively seeks new solvents to replace common organic solvents that present inherent toxicity and have high volatility, leading to evaporation of volatile organic compounds to the atmosphere. Over the past two decades, ionic liquids (ILs) have gained enormous attention from the scientific community, and the number of reported articles in the literature has grown exponentially. Nevertheless, IL “greenness” is often challenged, mainly due to their poor biodegradability, biocompatibility, and sustainability. An alternative to ILs are deep eutectic solvents (DES). Deep eutectic solvents are defined as a mixture of two or more components, which may be solid or liquid and that at a particular composition present a high melting point depression becoming liquids at room temperature. When the compounds that constitute the DES are primary metabolites, namely, aminoacids, organic acids, sugars, or choline derivatives, the DES are so called natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES). NADES fully represent green chemistry principles. Can natural deep eutectic solvents be foreseen as the next generation solvents and can a similar path to ionic liquids be outlined? The current state of the art concerning the advances made on these solvents in the past few years is reviewed in this paper, which is more than an overview on the different applications for which they have been suggested, particularly, biocatalysis, electrochemistry, and extraction of new data. Citotoxicity of different NADES was evaluated and compared to conventional imidazolium-based ionic liquids, and hints at the extraction of phenolic compounds from green coffee beans and on the foaming effect of NADES are revealed. Future perspectives on the major directions toward which the research on NADES is envisaged are here discussed, and these comprised undoubtedly a wide range of chemically related subjects.

The Ocean Floor Is Littered with Humanity’s Garbage

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

Down at the bottom of the ocean, it’s not just thermal vents and whale bones. There’s a vast accumulation of bottles, plastic bags, and other human-generated rubbish – perhaps the world’s largest hidden waste dump, drifting on the currents for a virtual eternity.

The Unpopular Step That Would Popularize Electric Vehicles

Read the full post in The Atlantic.

Electric vehicles continue to make inroads, if you will, into the American car market. Tesla’s Model S — test-driven in a delightful Nate Berg profile for Cities earlier this week — is the car of the moment. The Nissan Leaf had its best month ever in March, selling more than 2,500 cars. But in the larger scheme of U.S. car-ownership, EVs still represent just a fraction of the cars sold each year, and a smaller fraction of all the cars on the road.

There is a pretty direct way to popularize zero-emission cars, but in political terms it would be a very unpopular step: issue a carbon tax.

UT Energy Poll and Surveys Reveal Support for Energy Efficiency and Concerns about Political Squabbling

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

Four out of five American consumers and energy professionals view energy efficiency as a personal priority and at least two out of three believe it could significantly reduce overall energy use if not for political squabbling, two new surveys show.

Findings from the separate surveys, conducted this spring by The University of Texas at Austin and the nonprofit, were released Wednesday morning during an event at the National Press Club at which a panel of thought-leaders in policy, academia and industry shared ideas and insights on future energy efficiency policy.

Visualizing Zero: How to Show Something with Nothing

Read the full post at the HBR Blog Network.

In its most revealing form, data visualization makes the “invisible” visible. It enables people to move beyond just looking at data towards actually seeing the shapes and magnitudes of its physical properties to inform and enlighten.

Discernibility is a prominent guiding decision: making the size of values as readable as possible, the distinction between categories as identifiable as possible, and the nature of relationships between entities as evident as possible.

Yet, what if there is no size? What if there are no amounts for a category? What if no relationships exist?

Welcome to the design of nothing, a delicate and often neglected aspect of data visualization concerned with showing the absence of data, representing zero, and utilizing the property of emptiness. How do we make these slippery attributes of nothingness visible?

How to Make a Map Go Viral

The Atlantic offers advice on viral map making from Nik Freeman.