A history of greenhouse gases and our transition to emissions-free transportation
By: Anu Verma
What is greenhouse gas, why it’s a problem and why it’s blamed for global warming and climate change? In 1827 Jean Baptist Joseph Furier realized that the atmosphere keeps us warm. Outer space is very cold and if it was not for the layers of gases that wrap the planet, we would all freeze...
He said, “earths gases are like the greenhouse’s glass walls.” Napoleon made him a baron because of this scientific breakthrough. A few decades later John Tyndall in 1850 showed that when infrared radiation strikes carbon dioxide molecules with three atoms, they start shaking and trembling and carbon dioxide molecules flap their bonds like birds. As they flap, they give off energy in the form of more infrared radiation. Some energy goes out in space and half of it returns to the Earth as heat contributing to the greenhouse effect. In April 1896, Arrhenius explained it in the London philosophical magazine that “we are evaporating our coal mines into the air" - published during the reign of Queen Victoria.
“It’s as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our Taste” wrote Tyndall in“Science and Man”.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, as we were burning and depleting the planet's fossil fuels, our planet has absorbed pollution and waste to a large extent. Our oceans can absorb 1/4 of the carbon dioxide emissions that human activity generates each year and capture 90% of the excess heat and generate 50% of the oxygen. The forest absorbs and stores carbon for thousands of years earning a name of natural carbon sinks. Altogether the planet absorbs and emits hundreds of billion tons of carbon dioxide through its natural cycle, and it dwarfs humanity's contribution which is 10 times more by burning fossil fuels. Now this extra chunk of carbon dioxide has tipped out the equilibrium of what was once a balanced cycle.
Now that we know what the greenhouse effect is and what’s causing it, it’s easy to understand the need for reducing our carbon emissions. The Biden
administration gave an upbeat news in the form of a blueprint of decarbonization of the nation's transportation system. As the 83-page report points out, transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA, responsible for 1/3 of all the emissions. Getting to net zero, which USA has pledged to by 2050, will require more or less eliminating these emissions. The passage of the IRA authorizing some 400 billion dollars (about $1,200 per person in the US) on clean energy was a turning point and could produce emissions cuts as early as this year if the government can fast track implementation. Emissions are down only around 15% using 2005 as the baseline which leaves a 35% cut to be achieved in just 7 years.
Electric school buses in Illinois can change the emissions drastically as the current buses are the least efficient vehicles on the road because of long idling period and diesel power contributing to poor air quality for the developing lungs of young children.
All this makes these buses an excellent candidate for electrification.
Lion electric, a 900,000 square foot facility, the largest all electric U.S. plant dedicated to medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle production, sees only upside in its future where it will be making 20,000 electric vehicles annually.
At a press conference on July 19th our leaders from Illinois namely Governor Pritzker, US senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth along with EV advocates and stakeholders made an historic opening with a diesel fuel hose (ribbon) cutting ceremony.
Lion Electric is an innovative manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles. The company creates, designs, and manufactures all-electric class 5 to class 8 commercial urban trucks and all-electric buses and minibuses for the school, paratransit, and mass transit segments. Lion is a North American leader in electric transportation and designs, builds and assembles many of its vehicles' components, including chassis, battery packs, truck cabins and bus bodies. Always actively seeking new and reliable technologies, Lion vehicles have unique features that are specifically adapted to its users and their everyday needs. Lion believes that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment, and overall quality of life.
NEST Youth Share Results of the 2023 School Sustainability Survey
In the News:
Students urging Indian Prairie and Naperville districts to reduce carbon footprint, energy costs, by Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun.
Teen Activists Urge Eco-Friendly Changes in Naperville and Aurora Schools, by Mariyam Syed (COD student and NEST volunteer), The COD Courier.
Co-Sponsored GeoPower Hour
On June 5, NEST co-hosted a GeoPower Hour to educate our community about energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling and how to save on installation costs through a group-buy. You can see a recording of a GeoPower Hour and learn more here.
Walkability/bikability radio appearance
NEST Presents Local Sustainability Experts
2021/11/14: Greg Hubert of CLEAN, the Clean Energy Alliance of Naperville, provides the latest on Naperville’s coal electricity from the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) and the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC).
Sustainable Naperville Schools
Imagine your kids riding to school in electric school buses, no longer having to breathe the polluted air from burning diesel. Envision every school rooftop covered in solar panels or thriving with plant life... read more
...Think about money redirected from heating and cooling school buildings to educational opportunities for students because the buildings are now highly energy efficient. Picture healthy school lunches that do not create mountains of plastic and food waste.
This is the vision of NEST’s School District Engagement team. This team formed to work with both District 203 and Indian Prairie School District (District 204) on sustainability. In September and October, we had the chance to meet with the superintendents and other administrators from both districts. Here are some of the things we learned:
Both districts understand that they have the responsibility to undertake sustainability measures.
District 203 is writing a sustainability plan.
District 204 is preparing a Facilities Master Plan, which will consider efficiency upgrades, solar, and electric vehicle charging. They understand the need to be “future-ready” so that their buildings will last another 50 years.
Student voices matter. The more they hear from students, parents, and the community that sustainability is a priority, the more they will make it a priority.
Fiscal responsibility is a top concern, so demonstrating that investing in sustainability saves money over the long run is a winning argument.
The next step for the School District Engagement team is to work with the NEST Youth team to create and distribute a survey on sustainability priorities for students, parents, and staff. In addition, the team will be creating fact sheets, infographics, and white papers on a variety of topics, which we will share with the districts. We will also continue to work to develop positive, collaborative working relationships with decision-makers in each district.
A big thank you to all the volunteers who planned and participated in the meetings with the districts. A special shout out to our student members: Riley Leu (Metea), Vallabh Arun (Waubonsie Valley), Madie Weir (Naperville North), Milo Weese (Naperville North), Emma Orend (Naperville Central), Claire Savage (Naperville Central), and Grace Niketas (Naperville Central).
The Inflation Reduction Act and You!
We can all agree that saving money is nice. The latest technology can be cool to own. Working to save the planet can make you feel pretty great inside. Combining all three would be awesome. The Inflation Reduction Act allows every family in Naperville to achieve this level of awesomeness!... read more
For lower income families, starting in 2023 upfront costs are covered up to the amounts shown:
Tax credits are available for any household (some available this year and others starting in 2023):
*Also available to renters.
By adopting these technologies, a typical household can save around $1250 per year in energy costs.
If you want to calculate your own potential savings based on your household size and income, visit the IRA Calculator page on the Rewiring America website.
In addition to these incentives, Naperville Electric Utility and IMEA (our electricity provider) and the state of Illinois offer additional incentives, making the right choice for the planet the smart choice for your wallet. Details on how to access these incentives are found on our website.
Considering making these energy efficient, greenhouse gas reducing, cutting edge technology upgrades in 2023, but aren’t sure where to start? Email email@example.com and we will share our experiences and guide you to what will have the greatest impact. It’s time to #electrifyeverything!
Natural Resources Team Roundup
Before the settlers arrived and the steel plow was invented, this area of Illinois was covered in tall grass prairie. The loss of that habitat is one of the causes of biodiversity loss, including the reduction in populations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and many plant species... read more
Nature provides us with so many benefits, the technical term is “ecosystem services.” These services include management of stormwater runoff, air pollution reduction, oxygen to breathe, beauty and recreation, and holding onto carbon dioxide so that it doesn’t become climate pollution.
To enhance these benefits and ensure that they are there for future generations, it is critical that we address the biodiversity crisis. Thanks in part to the efforts of the NEST Natural Resources team, the City of Naperville is making strides in supporting biodiversity. The 2023 budget under consideration will dedicate funding to adding native plantings in multiple locations throughout Naperville. The City Council will be holding a budget workshop on November 9 where they will be discussing sustainability budget items, including this one. Once the meeting date is closer, you can signup to make a public comment here.
The Natural Resources team has also begun discussions with Naperville Public Library staff about adding native plantings at each of their libraries. To be part of those discussions, you can volunteer with the team at www.sustainnaperville.org/volunteer.
Progress is also being made in replacing highly polluting gas-powered lawn equipment. Under consideration at the November 9 workshop will be a proposal to incentivize the purchase of electric lawn equipment, after last year’s highly successful pilot program. In addition, Naperville Park District officials had the opportunity to view autonomous, electric lawn mowers that have the potential to replace gas mowers and address lawn maintenance staffing challenges. As the planet heats up, outdoor work will become more and more dangerous, so alternatives like this can help both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changing climate.
What We Learned on Our Trip to the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) by Anu Verma
Many Naperville residents aren’t sure what happens to the items they place in the blue bin after it leaves their curbside in the Groot truck. Under the single stream recycling system, we combine paper, aluminum, plastic and cardboard, and yes, glass as well, into our one blue bin... read more
...Often the perception is that material goes to the facility and gets magically turned into new products. The reality is not that! The NEST Waste Team had the chance to visit the Groot material sorting facility in Elk Grove Village, and found that this is where material from our blue bins goes through an intense sorting process to create various commodity streams (large bales of one type of item each) for sale to the market.
Single stream recycling was introduced in 1990 as a lower cost alternative to dual-stream collection, meaning we didn’t have to sort our paper from everything else in the bins. It requires that once collected, our items must be sorted elsewhere in order to be recyclable. What the people at Groot don’t want to see is “wish-cycling”. Wish-cycling is when people place items in their recycling bin whose recyclability they are unsure of, and hope they will end up being recycled. Unfortunately, when unrecyclable items get into the bin, it must be physically sorted out, slowing the process, costing more, and anything that is missed by the various sorting steps and gets into the final products is considered contamination of that product.
We saw the incoming recycling material in huge piles dumped into the building from trucks coming from all over the Chicago area. Materials are placed onto a multitude of conveyors that take them through both manual and automatic sorting steps. The automatic steps were things like magnets that pick up the iron-containing metals, a visual sorter that ‘sees’ the types of plastics and uses precise puffs of air to blow them off of the conveyor belt to a bin, and a super fast robotic arm that can pick things up with a vacuum and drop them into bins. Most cardboard is pulled out by hand, and paper is blown off of the line. It was all fascinating to watch!
Here are some important recycling Don’ts we learned:
Don’t drop the coffee cup with some coffee in the recycling bin or a jar of peanut butter with some butter clinging to it. Items should be clean and dry.
Don’t put medical waste in the recycling bin.
No plastic bags, dry cleaners’ garment bags or hangers, hoses, Christmas lights, or shredded paper. These items are called ‘tanglers’ since they tend to get caught up in the crevices of the sorting machinery, and must be manually cut out. This is a risk to the workers as it is dangerous to climb into the machines.
No lithium batteries!! They are a fire hazard (can, and often do, self-ignite) and are one of the biggest problems facing the waste industry today.
No potato chip or tortilla chips bags or mylar balloons - there is no process to re-manufacture this material currently.
And a few Dos as well:
Please leave the caps on all containers (milk jugs, laundry soap or your water bottle for plastic), on larger ‘juice box’ type containers, and on glass jars (even if the lid material is not the same as the container. The lids generally are too small to be sorted by machinery, and will drop through the process and end up in the landfill. If lids are left on, they will get into the recyclable commodity bales.
Do recycle your glass - there is currently a strong market that is looking for recycled glass to use in road base material. So you could soon be driving over that used pickle jar or wine bottle!
Do recycle your pizza box if it only has a couple of grease stains (prefer no cheese and definitely no sauce). If the bottom has heavy grease stains, tear off the top and recycle that, or vice versa.
The bottom line is - we don’t have a magical recycling system. Rather, we have a hyper-disposable material world and the vast majority of packaging products won’t ever get a second chance at life if we don’t recycle. If we can recycle correctly and responsibly at our end, it will be cheaper and more effective down the recycling process chain, and help to minimize our carbon footprint in the long run.
Making New Naperville Homes Future-Ready
At the November 1 City Council meeting, the Council will be considering the following agenda item: “Provide feedback on the items provided under the Discussion section and direct staff to prepare the necessary agreements and ordinances approving the Naperville Polo Club development (6 positive votes) - PZC 22-1-056.”... read more
...The proposed development is north of 119th St. and west of Book Road. A site plan is available attached to the agenda item linked above. The development would include 401 single family dwellings, retention ponds, soccer fields, and some open space. A portion of the development is to be set-aside for “affordable housing,” i.e., families making 80-100% of the annual median Naperville income
NEST will be making the following public statement at the Council meeting:
One of NEST’s priorities is to guide Naperville towards a sustainable future with significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings, both existing and newly built. While we expect more rigorous efficiency provisions in Illinois building codes in the next couple of years, we should start taking advantage of cost effective, inexpensive improvements in building provisions TODAY. Pulte’s Polo Fields proposed development is one of those opportunities. We encourage the City Council to use your influence to move Pulte towards making pragmatic, cheap, easy to enable enhancements in their plans so future residents can avoid retrofits costing many times more. Examples of these suggestions include adding a circuit for future EV charging, electric appliances rather than natural gas, solar-ready roofs, and cold climate electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. In addition, we encourage the preservation of the current natural resources on the site, including existing ponds and trees. NEST met with Pulte’s representative some weeks ago to discuss these future-ready solutions. Despite a cordial, respectful discussion, we noted no movement nor any interest to explore our suggestions. These are not radical ideas. Looking to the future, they are inevitable. Let’s get started now.