Category: Case studies

Case studies on restoration in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern

The International Association for Great Lakes Research has published a series of case studies about the progress of restoration in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The case studies to date include:

  1. River Raisin Area of Concern
  2. Detroit River Area of Concern
  3. Severn Sound Area of Concern
  4. Collingwood Harbour Area of Concern
  5. Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern
  6. Muskegon Lake Area of Concern
  7. Cuyahoga River Area of Concern

Incorporating Climate Change into TMDL Decisions for Lake Champlain

Read the full case study from the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange.

Lake Champlain, located between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York, has historically suffered from problematic blue-green algae blooms that are dangerous to the health of humans, fish, and wildlife. The blooms are primarily caused by excess non-point source pollution entering the lake, which is likely to be exacerbated by climate impacts such as changes in precipitation and flashier storms. In light of this threat, the Conservation Law Foundation began investigating existing regulatory policies and the ways in which they could be revised to limit algal blooms under future climate change. This case study is also part of a Climate Adaptation Toolkit, developed in partnership between EcoAdapt and Freshwater Future.

New Illinois Sustainability Awards case study: Loyola University Chicago

ISTC’s latest case study features 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award winner Loyola University Chicago. Loyola is an urban Catholic Jesuit university located in near the Chicago lakefront. In 2015, they released a climate action plan which called for them to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Loyola incorporates several tools to ensure that sustainability issues are front and center to their students, staff, and communities. They include:

  • Extensive use of gardens to manage storm water run-off and provide native
  • Integration of sustainability issues into undergraduate curriculum providing
    a environmental foundation for all students
  • Building, renovating, and managing campus structures to a high standard
    of energy efficiency
  • Engaging the wider community in sustainability initiatives

Loyola’s actions have resulted in a variety of annual reductions and cost savings, including:

  • 1,469,000 gallons of water saved
  • 616 tons of material diverted from landfill
  • 683,575 kWh reduced from high-performing buildings
  • 19,288 mtCO2e reduced
  • $130,000 dollars saved from natural gas use reduction

New Illinois Sustainability Awards case study: Aisin Manufacturing Illinois

ISTC’s latest case study features 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award winner Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, which is based in Marion. Aisin manufactures a wide variety of products for the automotive industry, including sunroofs, grill door shutters, back door components, center pillar garnishes, roof rails, and door handles. They serve various customers, including Toyota, General Motors, Lexus, and Subaru.

AMI utilizes several tools to continously improve on their sustainability efforts. These include:

  • an ISO 14000 Management System;
  • employee opinions and improvement suggestions are incorporated into the environmental planning process;
  • environmental “Go Green” incentives for employees that extend outside of the workplace;
  • community outreach initiatives that promote a wider adoption of sustainability practices; and
  • use of outdoor space around the facility to improve habitats for plants and wildlife.

As a result of these projects, Aisin:

  • achieved $212,982 in energy savings from 2008-2013;
  • avoided emitting 1,709 tons of carbon dioxide;
  • diverted 12,040 tons of material from the landfill from 2009-2016;
  • recycled 2,214 tons of material in 2016; and
  • paid $9,268 in incentives to employees for green purchases in 2016.

For more details on Aisin Manufacturing Illinois’ sustainability projects, read the case study.

Estimating the Environmental Effects of Green Roofs: A Case Study in Kansas City, Missouri

The EPA-published case study, Estimating the Environmental Effects of Green Roofs, demonstrates the environmental and health benefits of green roofs for Kansas City, Missouri. The case study lays out a replicable analytical framework using free quantitative tools created by EPA and others that state and local decision-makers and practitioners can use to assess the multiple benefits of green roofs.

Product Environmental Footprint Case Studies

Product environmental footprinting – also called product life cycle assessment (LCA) – is a method of evaluating environmental impacts of a product or material across its life cycle, including supply chain, manufacturing, transport, use, and discards. By demonstrating where in the life cycle the largest impacts occur and comparing alternatives, product footprinting can help businesses prioritize their sustainability efforts and invest in actions that result in deeper and more meaningful benefits.

Previous research commissioned by the States of Oregon and Washington documented that some businesses report environmental and/or financial benefits from evaluating the environmental footprints of their products. But not all do. Many businesses report difficulty conducting or understanding product footprint studies.

In response, the Washington Department of Ecology and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, working with the Oregon Sustainability Board, commissioned four diverse case studies of businesses with experience evaluating their product environmental footprints. The businesses have used product environmental footprinting to assess environmental conditions, identify opportunities for improvement, uncover business potential, and communicate with customers.  The case studies highlight benefits, challenges, lessons learned and best practices.

The case studies include:

Energy efficiency and environmental assessment of papermaking from chemical pulp – A Finland case study

Fabiana Corcelli, Gabriella Fiorentino, Jarmo Vehmas, Sergio Ulgiati (2018). “Energy efficiency and environmental assessment of papermaking from chemical pulp – A Finland case study.” Journal of Cleaner Production 198, 96-111. Online at

Highlights:  A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of papermaking in Finland was performed. The main environmental hotspots in each process step were identified and discussed.
Energy and material efficiency solutions leads to a noteworthy reduction of impacts. Pulp and paper industry is a benchmark model to transition towards a circular economy.

Abstract:  Pulp and paper manufacturing sector constitutes one of the largest industry segments in the world in terms of water and energy usage as well as of significant use and release of chemicals and combustion products. Since its chief feedstock –wood fiber– is renewable, this industry can play an important role in sustainable development, becoming an example of how a resource can be managed to provide a sustained supply to meet society’s current and future needs. This calls for a thorough assessment of environmental costs and impacts associated to pulp and paper operations, including both direct and indirect inputs supporting the whole papermaking process as well as the main outputs, co-products and by-products. By means of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, this paper aims at assessing the environmental sustainability of the pulp and paper production so as to identify those phases across the whole supply chain that entail the highest environmental loads, thus requiring improvements. To determine the environmental impacts as accurately as possible, the manufacturing stages performed in the pulp and paper mill complex of Stora Enso Oyj Veitsiluoto Mills at Kemi, Northern Finland, were taken as a model and assessed by means of the SimaPro 8 LCA software, utilizing ReCiPe Midpoint (H) method for the impact assessment. As expected, most of the resulting impacts are caused by the industrial production phase. The production processes of pulp and paper jointly affect all the investigated impact categories with the highest shares, ranging from 50% of generated impacts on water depletion up to 88% on freshwater eutrophication. Generally, the main contributions to environmental loads come from the electricity and heat requirements and, only at a minor extent, from the use of chemicals such as the sodium hydroxide and sodium chlorate. In particular, pulp production process generates the main loads on global warming (46% of the total impacts), ozone depletion (39%), freshwater eutrophication (55%), human toxicity (46%), metal depletion (42%) and fossil depletion (46%). In the remaining investigated impact categories, namely terrestrial acidification, photochemical oxidant formation and terrestrial ecotoxicity, most of impacts derive from the use of optical brighteners and fillers in the final steps of paper production and from the intensive consumption of water in the recycling step of end-of-life affecting water depletion. Moreover, the implementation of measures for material and energy efficiency in the assessed system, such as the use of renewable energy generated in situ from black liquor and residual biomass to support the requirements of the integrated pulp and paper mills and the waste paper recycling, resulted to be crucial in lowering the environmental burdens. In particular, the partial fulfillment of electricity and heat requirements by means of a circular use of residues within the system leads to a noteworthy reduction of impacts in all the investigated impact categories, up to more than 70% in global warming and fossil depletion potentials, thus contributing to higher process sustainability compared with other averaged European systems for paper production.

The obtained research results are a valuable source of management information for the decision makers, at both company and national levels, with the aim to improve the environmental performance of pulp and paper industry.

5 ways hospitals can launch effective recycling programs for single-use products

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

By the nature of their work, it is no surprise that hospitals produce millions of tons of waste annually.

According to Practice Greenhealth, surgical departments are some of the worst offenders, producing up to 33 percent of total hospital waste. As institutions dedicated to making and keeping the population well, hospitals have begun to pay more attention to how they can curtail their waste and institute more environmentally friendly practices. Not only does adopting these practices help the environment, it also can have the added benefit of trimming costs and increasing employee engagement.

Dignity Health — the fifth largest health system in the nation, comprising 39 hospitals across California, Arizona and Nevada — has a long history of implementing innovative sustainability efforts, guided by the belief that a healthy environment leads to healthy people. As Dignity Health’s vice president of corporate responsibility, my role — and passion — is cultivating programs that will improve the experience of our employees and patients, and make a positive impact on the broader community and environment. In 2014, I had the opportunity to launch an extremely rewarding program: an effort to recycle our used sterilization wrap, a single-use product designed to maintain the sterility of surgical instruments until use in the operating room.

Alaska Native Villages Work to Enhance Local Economies as They Minimize Environmental Risks

Read the full story in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

As reduced sea ice conditions bring increased shipping and development opportunities to the Arctic, Alaska Native Village Corporations are at the table with resource developers, representing the interests of their people and land.

An Existing Building Portfolio on a Path to Net-Zero Energy

Read the full post from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Many developers cite first-cost as a barrier to pursuing net-zero energy in their new and existing building projects. But one leading developer in Colorado is flipping the script on this assumption, showing that prioritizing energy performance can open up new cash flows, as opposed to draining existing ones.

John Madden Company (JMC) just closed on an energy efficiency project that will result in 30 percent energy savings for two buildings in their portfolio at no cost to JMC, and it will be cost-neutral to their tenants starting on day one. Existing building owners can learn a lot from understanding this project. Below, we’ve highlighted a few lessons learned that can advance buildings practitioner’s thinking about ways JMC’s approach can fundamentally shift performance economics.

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