Southeast Green - Business depends on the environment and the environment depends on business

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey
    When launched in early 2009 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) embarked on developing commercial back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost practices. By late 2009 the Founding ZWZ Participants issued quotes stating "this is easy, a no brainer - why wouldn't you collect food waste for compost?" One ZWZ mission accomplished!

    SFCI Team "picking the bowl"
    post-Falcons game
    In 2011 Elemental Impact launched the Sustainable Food Court Initiative to address sustainable best practices in front-of-the-house operations where the consumer is responsible for material disposition. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport joined as the SFCI - Airport Pilot, followed by the Georgia Dome as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot and Concord Mills, a Simon Mall in Charlotte, NC, as the SFCI - Shopping Mall Pilot.

    Challenges abound at food courts for implementing effective material management systems:
    • Common property waste and recycling contracts for the entire property
    • Landlord | tenant relationships with contractual legal restrictions and obligations
    • Franchisee | franchisor relationships with contractual legal restrictions and obligations
    • Consumer disposition and separation of food waste, recycling and trash
    • Third party products brought into the food court not purchased from the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) or retail outlets
    • Food may be prepared in a commissary or off-site kitchen and transported to the QSR with minimal on-site preparation
    • Multiple packaging items used in the front and back-of-house by QSR’s and the landlord or property manager
    • Contracted custodial services by the landlord or property manager
    In addition, each pilot category has its own unique challenges.

    On June 15, 2015, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter (LEDI | ATL) accepted the invitation to serve as the SFCI - Event Pilot. Though the Pilot is for the organization as a whole, the first action points are to establish zero food waste practices for two of their premier events: Afternoon in the Country (AITC) and Culinary Futures.

    LDEI is a worldwide society of women dedicated to creating a culture in the community that fosters excellence and promotes the achievement of women in culinary professions through educational and charitable activities. Founded in New York in 1976 by Carol Brock, a food reporter for the New York Daily News, LDEI is a membership-by-invitation, philanthropic organization that provides education, networking opportunities and scholarship support.

    The LDEI | ATL membership boasts nearly 100 prominent women in career paths ranging from professional chefs, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, food retailers, event planners, cookbook authors, food journalists and historians, winemakers and wine industry professionals, food publicists, and culinary educators to hospitality executives.

    Afternoon in the Country (AITC):
    2013 AFITC donation check
    to scholarship fund
    Known as one of Atlanta’s most unforgettable food and wine tasting events, AITC is a fund-raiser for local non-profits and scholarships for women in the culinary profession. The November 8, 2015 AITC is the 15th Anniversary event, perfect timing to embark on formal zero food waste practices.

    The 2014 AITC raised over $115,000 for its beneficiaries: Georgia Organics, Wholesome WaveGlobal Growers Network, The Giving Kitchen, The Wylde Center, The Atlanta Community Food Bank and Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s scholarship fund for women in the culinary, beverage and hospitality arts. Approximately 85% of the event’s net proceeds fund the beneficiaries.

    Hosted by the Inn at Serenbe within the Serenbe Community, the AITC is held in an idyllic setting where nature, passion, creativity and community are valued. With over 1800 guests tasting delicious food samples served by nearly 40 prominent restaurants, hotels and caterers, there is a significant amount of food waste generated at the event. In the past, food waste was landfill-destined.

    A crowd view under the main tent
    Working closely with the SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann of Natureworks & SMAT - Sustainable Material ACTION Team, LDEI | ATL is committed to creating zero food waste practices for the 2015 AITC. In future years, the practices will extend to overall zero waste practices. The intent is for the practices to segue into standard policy for all LDEI | ATL events and other annual events in the metro Atlanta area.

    AITC Event Producer Sue Ann Morgan of ideaLand gives her strong support of the Ei | LDEI ATL partnership and bringing zero food waste practices to AITC:
    As Event Producer for Afternoon in the Country on behalf of Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International and their beneficiaries, I am thrilled we now have Elemental Impact guiding us as we strive to create an extraordinary experience for our guests, raise money for great causes AND ensure that our event footprint is gentle on the earth.
    Ei will serve as a media partner for AITC to document and publicize the zero food waste journey, including action steps taken, challenges and successes. 

    The 2014 Afternoon in the Country Video showcases the event flavor and importance to the culinary community and beyond. Ticket sales are open for the 2015 AITC - note the event sells out early every year!

    Culinary Futures (CF):
    Hosted in January at the AmericasMart Atlanta in conjunction with The Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market®, CF partners each year with the Gourmet Housewares Scholarship Foundation (GHSF) to provide college scholarship funds to deserving high school women in the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP).

    C-CAP works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. At the inaugural 2014 event, CF raised $20,000 in scholarship funds.

    The intent is to modify best zero food waste practices developed at the AFITC from an event hosted within a farm community to one held in a large showroom facility.

    A zero food waste plan breaks down into three main categories, each equally important for an effective plan:

    Food & Beverage (F&B) Serviceware:
    Ken Fraser w/ EcoProducts
    educating on compostable packaging
    • Compostable packaging – all single-use f&b service ware must be BPI Certified compostable; an exception is pre-packaged beverages in recyclable containers, such a bottled water. 
    • Education – event foodservice operators must be educated on the WHY, WHAT & HOW to serve f&b in compostable packaging; includes support with purchasing unique serving items.
    • On-site Monitoring – volunteers visit foodservice operators upon arrival at event to observe f&b serving items provided by the establishment.
    Food Waste Collection:
    • Waste | recycling bins – for the first year a three-tier bin is used:  1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling, 3> Landfill; at future events the system evolves into a two-tier system: 1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling.
    • Clear signage – the bins must be supported by clear signage designating proper disposal; visuals are most helpful.
    • Monitor attendee disposal – volunteers assist attendees with disposal of items into proper bins to prevent contamination.
    Food Waste Destination:
    • Donation – ensure a plan is in-place for donation of leftover food in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
    • Compost – deliver all remaining food waste, back & front-of-the-house, to a composting site operating within state food waste permit regulations.
    • Animal feed – when compostable packaging is mixed with food waste it is not fit for animal consumption; food waste generated under the same roof as meat is often not permitted for animal feed pursuant to respective State Department of Agriculture regulations due to past disease outbreaks.
    The zero food waste plan is simple with plenty of examples to follow; instilling new practices at a 15-year old event may prove interesting at times.

    The first SFCI - LDEI | ATL
    meeting group
    With Doug's leadership, the SMAT members will share their vast array of experience garnered from guiding stadiums, event venues and corporate offices with zero food waste practices implementation. The SMAT members include Rick Lombardo of NaturBags, Tim Goodman of NatureWorks, Sarah Martell of Innovia Films and Sarah Martinez | Ken Fraser of EcoProducts.

    On June 15, Ei Founder Holly Elmore and Doug met with LDEI | ATL Past President & AITC Event Chair Shelley Pedersen, LDEI | ATL President Gayle Skelton and Sue Ann to discuss the potential SFCI - LDEI | ATL. It was thrilling to witness sincere enthusiasm for the industry leadership role. Most importantly, the ladies understood the far-reaching impact of AITC implementing zero food waste practices. The meeting ended with a simple, profound YES to serve as the SFCI - LDEI | ATL.

    Gayle voiced her enthusiastic support of the Ei | LDEI ATL partnership:
    Les Dames d'Escoffier International, a leader in the culinary arena, is 100% committed to organic, sustainability and enhancing the environmental condition of our Earth. Ei is the perfect partner for LDEI to take Afternoon in the Country, our largest fundraiser, to new dimensions. We are excited to serve as a trendsetter for zero food waste practices at future Atlanta festivals and beyond.
    Holly accepting her Green
    Skillet Award
    With her 15 years as owner of Executive Catering & Events along with two restaurants, Holly is one of Atlanta's foodservice "old regime" and is close with many of the LDEI | ATL members. At the 2014 AITC, Holly was honored with the Green Skillet Award. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei Awards, Milestones & Recognition, features the prestigious, heart-warming honor. For a recap of Holly's long-standing, powerful foodservice industry relationships, visit The IMPACT Blog article, Annual NRA Show: fun, empowering & good for business!

    The key ingredient for success - teamwork - is strongly established. Next steps include crafting a detailed action plan filled with education, communication and enthusiasm. Follow future blog articles to learn how easy zero food waste is accomplished at a premier event when the recipe is followed.
  2. ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill!
    Sponsored by Councilmember Felicia Moore, the City of Atlanta proclaimed November 11, 2014 "Affairs to Remember Caterers Day" in recognition of sustainability efforts, and in particular the milestone of having diverted one million pounds of recoverable materials from Georgia landfills. 


    Richard holding the Proclamation
    Councilmember Moore read the Proclamation at a National Restaurant Association (NRA) event, hosted by the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters, re-launching the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) program in Atlanta. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 4 Chief, Materials and Waste Management Jon Johnston began the program with a recount of Atlanta's recycling and ZWZ history.

    With gratitude, Affairs to Remember Caterers (ATR) General Manager Richard Wilmer accepted the Proclamation and cited mentors and partnerships instrumental to their successful recycling, food donation and collection of food waste for compost practices. 

    Beyond ATR's impressive achievement, the City of Atlanta made a profound statement on the importance of recycling and food waste diversion programs to city policy.

    ... and the journey began with the clever August 2009 ATR The Thrill is Gone press release:
    Restaurants and caterers seem to have a passionate love affair with landfills: Did you know that 1 in every 8 pounds of material in a landfill is created by food?? Well, the landfill love affair is over at Affairs to Remember Caterers, and the delicious divorce was swift.
    Chef Ahmad at food
    waste bin 
    Earlier in 2009 ATR was designated Atlanta's First ZWZ Caterer by the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA), the ZWZ founding organization within the GRA umbrella. As a ZWZ Participant, ATR pledged to implement and maintain the following criteria:
    • Spent grease collected for the production of bio-fuel.
    • Common recyclables (cardboard, paper, glass, plastic and metals) collected for recycling.
    • Excess food donated in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
    • Food residuals, from preparation and service, and excess food not compliant with the Food Donation Act collected for composting or other approved destinations.
    In addition, ATR Managing Director Patrick Cuccaro served on the GFA Advisory Board and was instrumental to the ZWZ success. In 2012 the NRA purchased the ZWZ with intention to expand the program within the state restaurant association network. ATR retained their ZWZ leadership role through the program transition.

    In 2008 ATR launched their Legacy Programs with a mission to improve the community and the environment. ATR Director of Communications Travis Taylor oversees the Legacy Programs. Through Legacy Green, sustainable practices were incorporated into every facet of operations, launching ATR into the forefront of the Green movement. In addition to zero waste practices, ATR impacts the sustainability arena in the following areas:

    Food Innovation
    Chef Ahmad using compost on
    the original chef's garden
    • Sourcing local and organic foods
    • Serving Beanealogy's USDA organic certified coffee
    • Forging alliances with local farmers
    • Cultivating an on-premise chef's garden
    • Designing sustainable menus
    • Serving as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) location

    Greening the ATR Facility
    • Motion-activated office lights
    • Low-flow restroom facilities
    • Low-flow kitchen spray hoses and valves
    • Energy-saving cooking and HVAC systems

    In February 2013 ATR Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad was honored as a Georgia Grown Executive Chef by Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black at the Annual Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception hosted by the GRA. The Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program offers Georgia-based chefs the platform to share their commitment to sustainability and buying local—tenets of Georgia Grown’s mission—throughout the State of Georgia.

    Chef Ahmad crafted the Farm to Party menu offering where the client leads in creating a dynamic, culinary experience made from the freshest seasonal choice organic and/or local ingredients available. Close relationships with local farmers is key to sourcing and success.

    ATR | EPA FRC meeting group
    Always a leader, ATR was the first Atlanta caterer to join the EPA Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). Modeled after the EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy, the FRC is a voluntary program. 

    Participants pledge to provide a food waste baseline along with annual goals to prevent food waste, donate wasted food and | or recycle food waste in a state-permitted non-landfill destination. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, is an overview of the FRC along with Atlanta's stellar food waste handling history.

    Indeed, Affairs to Remember is Atlanta's Greenest Caterer!

    Through Legacy Giving, ATR donates and provides sponsorship of in-kind services to non-profit organizations, assisting in their service and fundraising. Since the program launched in late 2008, ATR donated a generous portion of revenue to Legacy charities. To date, charitable giving and sponsorships exceeds $2,000,000. When they choose ATR, clients fund the ATR Legacy Giving program. What an innovative way to give back to the community!

    At the core of ATR's sustainability platform is taking care of their employees. Every work day, employees are treated to a delicious, nutritious meal. Wages are well above standard industry rates. ATR is awarded with long-term, dedicated employees, many boasting decades of loyal service. 

    Sustainable operating practices make good, solid business for ATR. Beyond overall cost-savings, ATR attributes over $300,000 in revenue directly to clients choosing a caterer who "walks the green talk" front and back-of-the-house. 

    image description
    In the November 2014 press release, ATR launched The Green Files with the following copy: ATR invites you to follow the raucous adventures of super-duper Special Agents Patrick Cuccaro and William Neal as they explore all things Green and sustainable chronicled on the company's new blog, The Green Files. But they warn, "Not everything about Green is black and white."



    Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore gives her ATR | The Green Files kudos:

    "The initial success of Zero Waste Zones was largely creditable to pioneers like Patrick Cuccaro, Managing Director at Affairs to Remember Caterers…and who knew he was a Special Agent?! The right role models, and role models who back up their commitment with action, are key to any initiative. Patrick and the staff at Affairs to Remember have demonstrated a commitment that ensures Atlanta is well represented as a city dedicated to sustainability."

    Integral to industry leadership is the commitment to share experiences, lessons learned and otherwise assist colleagues as they embark upon the sustainability journey. Patrick and the ATR staff share their sustainable operating practices within the industry via an open door policy. In the early ZWZ days, ATR invited competitors to their back-of-the-house to show how easily food waste collection for compost flows into daily kitchen practices.


    Sustainability is one of many facets within ATR's commitment to excellence. As one of the largest privately held, full-service luxury catering companies in the United States, ATR is the recipient of a multitude of local and national awards | honors. In 2013 ATR received a highly coveted Achievement in Catering Excellence Awards (ACE Award) for "Best Caterer in the South." A highly prestigious honor—only four caterers in the United States and one international caterer are recognized each year at the annual CaterSource Conference.

    ATR Dames
    photo courtesy of Travis S. Taylor
    ATR has the unmatched distinction of four Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) members, including Senior Catering Consultant Nancy Lutz, Senior Catering Consultant Kristy Cook, Executive Sous Chef Ashley Mitchell and Director of First Impressions and LDEI Atlanta Chapter Past President Shelley Pedersen. LDEI is a worldwide society of women dedicated to creating a culture in the community that fosters excellence and promotes the achievement of women in culinary professions through educational and charitable activities. Membership is by invitation only and through a rigorous application process.

    Serving through leadership roles is another ATR industry contribution. After several years on the Executive Committee, Patrick was elected GRA Chair for the 2012 term. Later in 2012, Patrick was appointed to the Yelp Small Business Advisory Council (YSBAC), an international 19-member team comprised of business owners from the United States, Canada, and Europe. The Council’s task is to provide input on existing Yelp features and policies, products under development, and brainstorm new ideas with regard to interacting with local businesses.

    The strong Ei | ATR bond spans decades grounded in Holly's fifteen-year tenure as Executive Catering & Events' owner and Patrick's role as the Off-Premises Catering Coalition Founder. While working at the GRA | GFA Holly recruited ATR to join with Patrick chairing the GRA Off-Premises Catering Roundtable. As the ZWZ Founder & Director, Holly worked closely with the ATR Team building the successful program. In 2010 Ei was formed as the new ZWZ home and Patrick was instrumental to a graceful transition.

    The Trees Atlanta Team w/
    Ei's planted tree
    While at the podium accepting the City of Atlanta ATR Day Proclamation, Richard spoke of the long-term Ei | ATR relationship and the supporting role Ei played in their recycling and food waste success. It was a touching affirmation of Ei's important work.

    For Ei's five-year anniversary, ATR planted a six-foot Shrangri-La Ginkgo tree honoring Ei in the Virginia - Highlands neighborhood. Travis and Holly attended the Trees Atlanta planting on a cold late February Saturday morning. During the tree planting, the combined ZWA & The IMPACT Blogs topped the coveted 250,000 pageviews milestone - a lovely nod from the Heavens for ATR's generous, long-lasting and nurturing gift.

    The Ei FB album, Affairs to Remember plants tree in Ei's honor, is a pictorial recap of the tree planting.

    In June Ei orchestrated an introductory lunch meeting for the ATR Team and in-coming City of Atlanta Director of Sustainability Stephanie Benfield. ATR Architect of Events, Innovation & Development William Neal joined Patrick and Travis at the lunch; Moniqua Williams with City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability joined Stephanie. 

    During lunch conversation, Holly often interjected to include additional details on the ATR outstanding sustainability commitment. Stephanie was thrilled to meet the ATR Team and hear Patrick's affirmation of support for her City sustainability policies, programs and endeavors. Patrick voiced accolades for Stephanie with the following comment: 
    The ATR | City of Atlanta
    lunch attendees
    “When Mayor Reed first created his Office of Sustainability several years ago, the message was clear: Atlanta will be a world leader in all things green. Recently he appointed Stephanie Stuckey Benfield to lead the charge. Clear the runway – watch Atlanta soar!”
    It was an empowering, fun and AMAZING lunch!

    The journey began with a "delicious divorce from landfills" and propelled ATR into a national sustainability leader recognized for impressive achievements. ... and the BEST part: the journey is gaining momentum as Affairs to Remember Caterers refines recycling practices and embarks on new sustainability adventures!
  3. Elemental Impact: a business approach to sustainability
    In conjunction with the Fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference - The Stars of Zero Waste -  hosted in Los Angeles, ecotopiaU media interviewed a series of the Zero Waste Stars presenting at the conference. For an overview of the excellent U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) conference, visit the ZWA Blog article, Business NOT as Usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey.

    Holly @ USZWBC Conference
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore was included in the interview series hosted by Michelle McGinnis of ecotopiaU media. USZWBC Business Advisory Council Member Tom Wright of Sustainable Bizness Practices co-hosted the interviews with Michelle. In her thirteen-minute filmed interview, Holly covered Ei's zero waste origins, major strides at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and current initiatives within the Ei Recycling Refinement platform.

    When asked about her background, Holly emphasized her strong business acumen was grounded in early career years as an Arthur Andersen auditor, followed by Controller, Southeast Region for Trammell Crow Company

    A national non-profit, Ei maintains a business focus when developing new programs. Whether improving the bottom-line, meeting customer demands, serving as media | public relation opportunities or increasing employee morale, Ei initiatives make good, solid business sense.

    In 2009 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) were launched in response to Atlanta losing a convention as the client perceived another city "greener." Thus, the ZWZ were grounded in strengthening Atlanta's economic vitality. Via the ZWZ, Atlanta took a leadership role as THE forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost.

    When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in late 2012, Ei shifted focus from zero waste to Recycling Refinement (RR), moving beyond landfill diversion. Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value, minimal energy expended - is the premise for RR initiatives.

    Sign @ SFCI Vendor Fair
    for ATL concessionaires
    While the ZWZ focused on "easy wins" via back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) moved into challenging front-of-the-house collection. With perfect timing, the SFCI - ATL Pilot launched in unison with the 2011 new airport concessionaire contract RFP - request for proposal. 

    As documented in the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, ATL Director of Asset Management & Sustainability Michael Cheyne spearheaded the following concessionaire contract provision:
    “Concessionaire shall use compostable serviceware along with consumer facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off airport composting facilities.”
    The ATL contract provision has far-reaching implications and set new industry standards. Of the thirteen-minute interview, almost five minutes was dedicated to the ATL contract provision.

    In the interview, Holly emphasized Ei supports contract provisions that require the teamwork necessary for zero waste success. At the conference Holly moderated the Zero Waste at Multi-Tenant Faculties panel. Ei General Council Greg Chafee of Thompson Hine closed the powerful panel with his Contract Provisions: A New Zero Waste Resource presentation.

    The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require teamwork necessary for zero waste success, announces Ei's foray into educating on contract provisions with Greg taking the leadership role.

    first SSMRT aluminum
    bale at GWCC
    Within the closing minutes, Holly gave an overview of the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (SSMRT) where Atlanta serves as the pilot city; the Georgia World Congress Center Authority - the GWCC (nation's fourth largest convention center), Georgia Dome (home of the Atlanta Falcons) and 20-acre Centennial Olympic Park - is the Lead Pioneer. 

    Although national in scope, Ei often creates templates in Atlanta designed for replication across the country. Atlanta was a bright sustainability star during the interview.

    In addition to Holly, the Michelle & Tom dynamic co-host duo interviewed Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute President Bridgett Luther, USZWBC Board Member Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates, Eco-Cycle International Executive Director Eric Lombardi, University of Colorado Boulder Development Director, Recycling Jack DeBell and Elvis Nolasco of ABC's American Crime.

    Ei initiatives - the Zero Waste Zones, Sustainable Food Court Initiative and the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template - use a business approach to sustainability. Success is inevitable as Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense!

    To watch the interview, visit the ecotopiaU media Holly Elmore Interview @ USZWBC link.
  4. Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense
    As the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) official media partner, Elemental Impact (Ei) was prominent at the Fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference hosted in Los Angeles May 6 & 7.  Sustainability leaders - including Ei Partners, Strategic Allies, Advisory Council Members & Pals - traveled from across the nation to learn, share and network with the Stars of Zero Waste.

    Source-separation in action
    at EFP
    The ZWA Blog article, Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste," is a comprehensive overview of the impressive program; the Business NOT as Usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey, article chronicles the conference's impressive plenary sessions.

    Arriving early for the conference, Ei Founder Holly Elmore met with Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Vice-President Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh for a tour of their zero waste-certified Garden Grove plant. Each of the five EFP plants across the nation are zero waste-certified via the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP). 

    At EFP ALL materials are source-separated and bundled for recycling collection; EFP does not participate in single-stream recycling. In addition to larger, traditional items (cardboard, various plastics, & paper,) smaller, unique items (staples, toilet paper rolls & latex gloves) are separated by employees during daily operations for recycling collection. It was an empowering tour!

    Christy (on left) with industry friends
    Ei Advisory Council Member Christy Cook, Sodexo senior manager sustainability deployment and field support, along with four Sodexo sustainability coordinators, attended the conference. As first-time attendees, four of the five Sodexo team associates attended the pre-conference USZWBC Zero Waste Business Associate Scorecard Workshop. According to Christy, an immediate action item was a right-sizing analysis for waste & recycling bins as programs evolve. By using "right size" bins, waste | recycling collection charges are minimized.


    Ei Partner CleanRiver Recycling Solutions (CRS) sponsored the workshop and CRS Founder & CEO Bruce Buchan presented on Zero Waste - The Three C's Approach. The ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's, introduced the Three C's: Culture, Communication, Collection, via a feature of Ricoh Electronics' presentation on the Five R's at the 2012 USZWBC Conference.

    Following the workshop, the afternoon Loyola Marymount University Campus Sustainability, Comprehensive Recycling, Food Waste Diversion Tour was a walking visit of university zero waste practices-in-action.

    Tom Lembo (CRS) finishes his
    intro w/ Holly admiring him
    Rounding out the pre-conference activities was the speaker | sponsor dinner where the "program" was self-introductions featuring the motivation for zero waste passion. It was a perfect venue for the zero waste stars to reconnect or meet via a personal story, many citing a grandparent's influence.

    The timing was perfect for Title Sponsor LA Sanitation to host the National Zero Waste Conference. With the Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan under development, LA is transitioning to a new waste and recycling system for all businesses and large apartment complexes. 

    As mentioned above, the Business NOT as Usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey  article gives a synopsis of the conference opening plenary sessions. Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles gave a powerful Welcome followed by the plenary panel Discover the Zero Waste Stars of LA. Matt Peterson, LA chief sustainability officer, closed the LA-dedicated morning sessions with his keynote presentation on The Sustainable City pLAn: Transforming LA: Environment, Economy & Equity.

    The first-day conference afternoon program included two concurrent break-out session series featuring a wide range of topics. In the first series, Holly moderated the Source-Separation Maximizes Material Value panel including Ei Partner Rick Lombardo, Natur-Tec director of business development - North America, Ei Supporter Tim Trefzer, Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) director of sustainability, and Nadereh with EFP.

    Rick with his presentation props
    Photo courtesy of  Scott Lutocka
    After Holly's opening remarks, Rick led the panel with a presentation on the important role source-separation plays in maintaining material value in corporate operations. Intertwined within general education on materials in landfills, single-stream recycling, and overall source-separation, Rick focused on separating food waste for compost collection. 

    Food waste is a valuable resource when collected for compost yet a major contaminant in waste streams, often rendering recyclable material landfill bound. In addition, food waste decomposing in a waste compactor smells, often requiring more frequent pulls to the landfill than justified by the tonnage. Thus, higher waste hauling charges are incurred.

    Rick closed his presentation with dialogue on the state of our soils and the role compost plays in rebuilding soils. As reinforced by Kathy Kellogg of Kellogg Garden Products in her plenary panel presentation, Rick emphasized our abused soils are often not capable of producing nutrient-rich fruits & vegetables. Compost - nutritious food for the soil microbial communities - is necessary for rebuilding soils; healthy soils produce nutrient-rich foods for human and animal consumption.

    Next Tim opened his excellent presentation with an overview of the facilities under the state-owned GWCCA umbrella: 
    Tim during pre-conference
    dinner introductions
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    As the Lead Pioneer in Ei's Source-Separated Material Recycling Template, the Georgia Dome is committed to source-separating materials generated at Falcons games and other stadium events. The ZWA Blog article, Remember: if it was easy, it would already be done!, is an update on template pilot progress-to-date.

    Southern Roots, operated by Levy Restaurants, opened in early 2015 at the GWCC as a zero waste restaurant concept. With compostable packaging essential to post-consumer food waste collection, Tim requested Ei to educate the Levy staff on compostable packaging. 

    First source-separate bale
    @ Georgia Dome
    On April 8, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, presented a two-hour Compostable Packaging Education Session to the Levy GWCC team. Rick took a leadership role within SMAT during the session preparation and inaugural presentation. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: essential to zero waste programs and soils rebuilding, introduces the SMAT education session.

    Within his presentation, Tim addressed the zero waste challenges at large event facilities: 
    • Ever-changing events; only consistent events are Falcons games.
    • Limitations within service provider contracts (e.g. janitorial services).
    • Limitations within third party contracts - the conference | meeting planner contracts with a convention services company to stage the event and clean-up afterwards.
    • Impact of internal politics.
    The waste generated at large events is astounding. Industry pioneers like the GWCC are navigating event challenges to create zero waste practices at convention centers and event facilities. Financial motivation will ground success: 1> on-site material source-separation is proven to generate profits at large facilities and 2> facility zero waste practices is often included in event RFP (request for proposal) criteria.

    Nadereh during her
    presentation
    Nadereh was the final presenter on the panel with the EFP zero waste story. Education was a predominant theme along with infiltrating zero waste into the corporate culture. During the early days, Nadereh got up-close and personal with EFP waste via her own spontaneous literal dumpster dive. The discoveries spurred Nadereh into action-mode with shifts in purchasing to prevent trash and creation of source-separation practices throughout their five plants. Source-separation is a cost-saving endeavor for EFP.

    Employee engagement is key to success. Frequent fifteen-minute education sessions are held to reinforce practices and maintain open dialogue. In addition to zero waste, EFP educates and promotes healthy lifestyles. Complimentary fresh fruit is available in plant break rooms and employees may enjoy their lunch in the on-site fruit, vegetable and flower garden.

    In the second breakout session, Ei Pal Scott Lutocka of Piazza Produce presented on the Solutions for Organics Diversion panel. In his Conquering the Challenges & Barriers to Commercial Compost presentation, Scott emphasized three main points for successful food waste collection programs:
    Scott with Jeff Clark of the
    National Restaurant Association

    1. Conduct a waste audit to understand the amount of compostable materials generated.
    2. Identify legal or permitting issues to resolve or obtain.
    3. Locate a commercial food waste hauling vendor or create an alternative solution if none operate in your vicinity.
    Ei Partner Tom Lembo of CRS spoke on the Pieces of Zero: Critical components for a successful Zero Waste program breakout session on the Zero Waste: The 3 C Approach. Refer to the article section on pre-conference workshops where The 3 C Approach is further discussed.

    On the Supporting Actors: The critical role nonprofits can play in your Zero Waste plan breakout panel, Ei Strategic Ally Pat Spencer, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance - Cork ReHarvest executive director, spoke on their Natural Cork Recycling Program. In 2014, 100 tons (21 million corks) were collected through their expanding program.

    Holly & friends @ reception
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    A lovely reception completed the first-day conference program with conversations continuing in a casual setting. Long-time friends reunited and new acquaintances became friends over a glass of wine and delicious food. In true Ei-style, a group of eighteen Ei Pals gathered for a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

    In the afternoon concurrent breakout panels, Holly moderated the Zero-Waste at Multi-Tenant Properties panel. Among the multitude of zero waste challenges for multi-tenant facilities, the most common are 1> material generators do not control their waste | recycling collection and hauling, 2> landlord | tenant contractual obligations, 3> service provider contract provisions, 4> franchisee | franchiser contract terms (generally, consumer-facing food & beverage packaging related) and 5> space constraints.

    Ei Partner Keter Environmental Services Chief Operating Officer Matt Hupp presented on the Landord and Tenant Perspective. During his tenure as the Director of Waste and Recycling Services at Simon Property Group, Matt was responsible for waste and recycling operations at over 300 shopping malls in 41 states. While in the position, Matt developed programs that increased diversion rates and operational efficiencies while decreasing overall program costs.

    Matt during his presentation
    At Keter Matt oversees the waste and recycling management for over 200 large retail, office, and mixed-use projects across the country. Committed to minimizing landfill-destined compactor pulls, Keter implements zero waste practices at managed properties where feasible. For malls, plastic film recycling and food waste collection for compost are the main material focus areas; in general, cardboard is separated as standard operating practice.

    In his presentation, Matt listed tenant and landlord challenges. Per Matt, top tenant challenges are:  
    • Confusion on what is recyclable
    • Maximizing what is collected in a minimum amount of space
    • Lack of internal training
    • High turnover
    • Lack of control with services
    Main landlord challenges are:
    • Waste | recycling haulers
    • Logistics | property layout
    • Multiple streams and use types: OCC (old corrugated cardboard), various plastics, and food waste 
    • Back-of-house not controlled
    • Tenant training and compliance
    After a success story example, Matt emphasized tenant | employee education and use of clear, multi-lingual and visually oriented signage at the waste and recycling collection areas. Matt finished with the important role metrics reporting and calculating the cost-savings plays in successful zero waste programs.

    Sue at podium
    Following Matt, USZWBC President Sue Beets with SBM Site Services presented on SBM Management Services: Delivering More Than Cleaning and gave the service contractor's perspective. With more than 21 years of solid waste management and recycling experience, Sue has directly overseen more than 1.071 billion pounds of material recycled in her career. SBM provides janitorial services for 350 million square feet in 43 states, three countries and employs 7,000 individuals. In 2014, SBM documented $3.4 million in client cost-savings from zero waste programs.

    A common thread across the board is the importance of ongoing employee training along with clear, multi-lingual and visually oriented signage at the waste and recycling collection areas. Sue advises to keep signage simple so building occupants may identify correct bins within seconds. Consistent color coding of signs and bins is another key to effective zero waste programs.

    Throughout her presentation, Sue emphasized the role contract provisions play in SBM's ability to implement successful recycling programs at client facilities. The final Legal Provisions slide was the perfect segue to Ei General Counsel Greg Chafee's, a partner at Thompson Hine, Contract Provisions: A New Zero Waste Resource presentation.

    In his slides, Greg gave an overview of three main contract areas for a multi-tenant facility: 1> buildings and facilities (landlord | tenant leases), 2> janitorial services and 3> waste hauling and recycling. In each category, Greg gave specific terms to address in the respective contracts along with examples where provisions supported zero waste practices. 

    Matt & Greg enjoying the reception
    In addition, Greg listed items to include in the RFP (request for proposal) and bid specification process. "One size does NOT fit all" was a strong point and Greg detailed areas to customize within a waste and recycling hauling contract to optimize cost-savings while maximizing recycling.

    The closing slide "Zero Waste Requires Teamwork" epitomized the underlying theme of the panel with New Atlanta Stadium General Manager Scott Jenkin's quote:
     “Contract language is a key element that sets the appropriate expectations of all parties involved in any zero waste initiative. Zero waste is a team effort that requires every party to be on the same page.”
    At the November 2014 Ei Partner Meeting, Greg presented on the role legal provisions play in establishing sustainable best practices. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require teamwork necessary for zero waste success, announces Ei's foray into educating on contract provisions with Greg taking the leadership role.

    KB & Rick at dinner
    Photo courtesy of  Scott Lutocka
    In a concurrent session, Ei Pal KB Kleckner, Frontline Industrial Consulting president, presented on the Making Zero Waste Happen: Changing Behavior for Total Participation panel moderated by Emily DeCremer, USZWBC zero waste associate. During his tenure as Mohawk Industries corporate vice-president, KB was the key executive leading sixteen manufacturing sites to “Mohawk Certified Zero Waste to Landfill.” 

    KB made four major points in his Leading Zero Waste to Landfill to Reality on the Frontlines presentation: 
    1. Sustainability is integral to business and environmental success …and fuels financial success!
    2. Rigorous leadership results in focus, follow-up, innovation, and culture evolution.
    3. Culture is key to instilling common sustainability values, mission, purpose, and character. 
    4. Sustainability must be "personal," getting to the spirit of each person. 
    Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute President Bridgett Luther presented on the Complement your Zero Waste Efforts with Additional Certifications panel during the afternoon breakout sessions. In her previous job as director of the California Department of Conservation - appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 - Bridgett was keenly aware of the gap between the collection of millions of tons of recycled cans and bottles and their actual reuse.


    Holly with her camera
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products (CCCP) program goes beyond traditional zero waste efforts and ensures products are designed for a perpetual life cycle, via reuse or redesign into another valuable product. Waste is a foreign concept within the Cradle to Cradle product design.

    Within the CCCP program, product health is measured in accordance with five standards: 1> material health, 2> material reutilization, 3> renewable energy, 4> water stewardship and 5> social fairness. Bridget emphasized the CCCP standard is based on continuous improvement - getting started at BASIC is just the first step in getting to amazing.

    Platforms like Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy and Biomimicry catapult the global economy beyond zero waste to a World Without Waste. The CCCP is a MAJOR step towards educating global leaders product design is the foundation for necessary shifts in "business as usual."

    As documented in the Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey article, the conference closed with an empowering Our World Without Waste: The Global Crisis Suggests New Opportunities plenary panel.


    The USZWBC Four-Year Club includes a handful of folks who attended each of the four USZWBC Conferences. Pictured from left to right: Randy Van Winkle (SBM), Ryan McMullan (Toyota), Stephanie Barger (USZWBC), Gary Liss (Gary Liss & Associates), Holly Elmore (Elemental Impact), Sue Beets (SBM) & Scott Lutocka (Piazza Produce). Rick Anthony and Bruce Buchan were not available for the photo.

    Ei Strategic Allies Susan Collins, Container Recycling Institute executive director, and Jordan Figeiredo, End Food Waste founder, along with Ei Partner Sarah Martinez, Eco-Products sustainability maven, were prominent conference attendees.

    The day following the conference, Marialyce Pederson,The Walt Disney Company senior representative, Disney Corporate Citizenship - Environment & Conservation, treated Holly to a tour of the Disney Burbank Studios. It was inspiring to see the food waste compactor in the dining facility loading area!

    For a pictorial recap of the conference, visit the comprehensive Ei FB album, 2015 National Zero Waste Conference - "The Stars of Zero Waste." Thank you Scott Lutocka for your invaluable teamwork documenting the conference and contributing many of the album photos. 

    Food waste compactor
    @ Disney Burbank Studios
    Congratulations to Stephanie Barger, Emily DeCremer and the USZWBC Board, staff and volunteers on an excellent conference!

    Throughout the presentations, a common theme emerged: zero waste makes good business sense. Beyond cost-savings and revenue generation, organizations enjoy a multitude of intangible benefits including honors | awards, improved employee morale, answering consumer demands and valuable marketing | public relations opportunities.

    ... remember beyond zero waste is a World Without Waste!
  5. Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey
    Stephanie Barger & Gary Liss
    of the USZWBC
    The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) hosted their fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference in Los Angeles at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on May 6 & 7, with pre-conference workshops and tours on May 5. Sustainability leaders traveled from across the nation to learn, share and network with the Stars of Zero Waste. The ZWA Blog article, Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste," gives a comprehensive overview of the impressive program.

    At the 2014 National Zero Waste Conference hosted in Atlanta, the evolution of the zero waste industry was evident in the plethora of success stories. Industry standards, grounded within the Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP) launched in 2013, were established by the many pioneers receiving certification for their comprehensive materials management programs. In addition, the Zero Waste Business Associate (ZWBA) certification was launched to train professionals on zero waste practices and learn how to achieve zero waste certification at their facilities.

    The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, recaps the amazing conference as well as chronicles the zero waste evolution since the inaugural 2012 conference. 

    Throughout the 2015 conference presentations, it was evident the zero waste industry evolution continues via fine-tuning of practices and standards. The progress was inspiring as conversations focused on necessary shifts in packaging, how the supply chain impacts the corporate and personal consumer, hard-to-recycle items, and the importance of maintaining maximum value of generated materials.

    Scott Lutocka during
    his introductions at dinner
    At the pre-conference speaker | sponsor dinner the "program" was self-introductions featuring the motivation for zero waste passion. It was a perfect venue for the zero waste stars to reconnect or meet via a personal story, many citing a grandparent's influence.

    The timing was perfect for Title Sponsor LA Sanitation to host the National Zero Waste Conference. With the Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan under development, LA is transitioning to a new waste and recycling system for all businesses and large apartment complexes. The goals of the new system - a franchise program called Zero Waste LA - include:
    • Higher Recycling (90% diversion from landfills by 2025) 
    • Fair Customer Rates 
    • Reduced Street Impacts & Cleaner Air
    • Superior Customer Service
    Official conference festivities opened with a profound Welcome by Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles. It was empowering to witness the Mayor's core commitment to zero waste public policy evolving into "business as usual." 

    Following the Mayor, the plenary panel Discover the Zero Waste Stars of LA moderated by LA Director Infrastructure Services Greg Good educated on LA zero waste successes and programs under-development. The panel featured LA key stakeholders: Enrique Zaldivar, LA Bureau of Sanitation director, David Piper, LA Unified School District director and Timothy Eng, Kaiser Permanente project manager.

    Stephanie Barger with
    Matt Peterson
    LA Chief Sustainability Officer Matt Peterson closed the LA-dedicated morning sessions with his keynote presentation. Prior to joining LA, Matt was co-founder & president of Global Green USA for 19+ years. During Matt's Global Green tenure, the Coalition of Resource Recovery was launched first in New York City and later expanded to a national platform. 

    Matt presented on The Sustainable City pLAn: Transforming LA: Environment, Economy & Equity released by the Mayor on April 8, 2015.  A comprehensive plan, the Mayor says:
    It is important to emphasize that the pLAn is not just an environmental vision - by addressing the environment, economy and equity together, we will move toward a truly sustainable future.
    Another aspect of zero waste fine-tuning is integration within sustainability, economic and social consciousness public policy. The comprehensive pLAn accomplishes the necessary integration for long-term, sustainable success.

    Source-reduction and reuse of materials is at the foundation of effective zero waste programs. Though easy with a hindsight lens, determining how to reduce and reuse can be challenging, especially when the value chain is involved. 

    Completing the morning program, Reuse Institute CEO MaryEllen Etienne moderated the Exploring Source Reduction and Reuse plenary panel. A powerhouse team from The Walt Disney CompanyHewlett Packard and IFCO shared their respective journeys to successful programs.

    Mariaylce Pederson at podium
    In her presentation, Marialyce Pederson - Disney senior representative, corporate citizenship - shared how Disney reuses film sets and repurposes the plethora of character costumes from movie production and Disney Parks. Laundry lint from washing cotton towels and bed linens is composted at the zero waste-certified Circle D Ranch.

    As the first-day lunch keynote, Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) co-founder, explained his company's pioneer role in environmentally sound operating policies. BAMCO provides foodservice to corporations, universities, and museums in 32 states. Complementing its longstanding food-waste reduction efforts, BAMCO was an early partner of the Food Recovery Network and has three dozen cafés Food Recovery Certified.

    In his closing remarks, Fedele addressed food quality issues: GMO's - they are in everything from baking soda to canola oil, Salmon - there is no such thing as sustainably farmed salmon; purchase wild-caught or not at all, and Meat Consumption - reduce the centerplate (meat) & increase vegetables & starch; BIG step in addressing food crisis.

    Afternoon sessions launched with the Hard-to-Recycle Packaging plenary panel moderated by Tom Wright of Sustainable Bizness. Associates from the Carton Council, Upstream and Recycling Analytics & Titus MRF Services (Titus) shared their expertise on the panel. Mike Centers of Titus educated on how MRF (material recovery facilities) miss approximately 20% of the single-stream material delivered. Secondary MRF may further sort the remnant material; density is key: it takes four primary MRFs to support one secondary MRF.

    Holly Elmore taking photos
    during breakout sessions
    photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    The remainder of the first-day conference program was filled with two concurrent break-out session series. A wide range of topics were addressed in the panels: Getting Down & Dirty: A practical guide to Zero Waste audits,What Waste Haulers & Recyclers Wish Businesses Knew, Green Labeling: What does that label mean and why should I careTaking a Lesson from Higher Education on Environmentally Preferred PurchasingSource-Separation Maximizes Material ValueMarketing your Zero Waste EffortsSolutions for Organics DiversionMeasuring What CountsSupporting Actors: Critical role non-profits play in your Zero Waste PlanPieces of Zero: Critical components for a successful Zero Waste program.

    After the first-day program closed, conference attendees enjoyed a lovely reception and appreciated the opportunity to continue conversations in a casual setting. Long-time friends reunited and new acquaintances became friends over a glass of wine and delicious food. Groups gathered for dinner at various downtown restaurants.

    USZWBC President Sue Beets of SBM Management Services (SBM) welcomed attendees to the second day along with thank yous to the event sponsors, volunteers and others who contributed to conference success. Dual keynote speakers Eric Lombardi, Eco-Cycle International executive director, and Michelle "Mitch" Hedlund, Recycle Across America (RAA) founder & executive director, gave excellent presentations on fine-tuning the zero waste industry.

    Eric Lombardi at podium
    photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Eric emphasized the importance of the business community and corporate citizens coming to the front lines for zero waste policy and program development. The local chambers of commerce along with business associations were specifically cited as important players for effective city-wide zero waste platforms. Social enterprise was highlighted as a strong vehicle for necessary shifts in "business as usual."

    Using her over 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and branding, serving Fortune 500 companies as well as small to mid-sized companies, Mitch founded RAA in 2010. RAA promotes standardized recycling labels as a major step in alleviating consumer confusion, a leading cause of contamination in public and corporate facilities. RAA partners with Green | Blue Institute's How To Recycle product labeling campaign.

    In her presentation, Mitch used a series of standard protocol, including "Stop Signs," created to alleviate confusion while promoting public safety. The "Stop Sign" was once a novelty that flowed into an accepted standard; RAA is committed to evolving consistent recycling bin signage into common practice. Per Mitch, "Do not wait for government to make changes; standards bring safety and health."

    Mitch Hedlund during
    dinner introductions
    Following the keynote speakers Sierra Nevada sustainability manager Cheri Chastain moderated the USZWBC Certification panel. As the first Platinum Zero Waste-Certified business, Sierra Nevada is an industry leader and Cherie was perfect to moderate the panel. Associates from Disneyland ResortsFetzer Vineyards and Raytheon Company presented on their certification experiences and accomplishments.

    A prominent zero waste certification program is an effective tool for grounding emerging protocol into standard industry practices, infiltrated with integrity. For example, incineration was a hot topic at the inaugural 2012 National Zero Waste Conference as "waste to energy" was considered recycling by a minority. Subsequently, incineration was classified equivalent to landfill in the ZWCP and is no longer a discussion point.

    The ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, introduces the ZWBCP, honors the pioneers who earned the first certifications and lists program parameters.

    Prior to lunch, USZWBC Executive Director Stephanie Barger gave the USZWBC 2015 State of Zero Waste and facilitated a participatory Next Steps for USZWBC discussion session. 

    Elvis Nolasoc speaking while Mitch
    Hedlund & Nicole Starr listen
    During the tasty vegetarian lunch, Mitch moderated the Moving the Needle to Zero Waste through media and celebrity support plenary panel featuring Nicole Starr of Participant Media | Pivot TV and Actor Elvis Nolasco of ABC's American Crime. It was empowering to learn Elvis' story of overcoming challenges in his youth along with his passion for zero waste. 

    Celebrities and media reach the consumer in avenues not available to local, state and federal governments and corporations. Consumer consciousness shifts are necessary for zero waste communities to emerge from current wasteful conditions. In RAA campaigns, Mitch brings celebrities to the forefront with "let's recycle right" endorsements.

    As zero waste moves from an emerging to a maturing industry, strong leadership is essential to ensure integrity is maintained. Albertsons|Vons Manager Refuse & Recycling Curt Smith moderated the Leadership: Directing the Zero Waste Journey plenary panel during the second day afternoon sessions. Executives from Kellogg Garden ProductsToyota Motor Sales and Ingersoll Rand shared their respective roles in guiding standard industry practices development.

    While at the podium, Kathy Kellogg of Kellogg Garden Products spoke on the state of the soils, the valuable role compost plays and how our soils are often not capable of producing nutrient-rich fruits & vegetables.

    The mid-afternoon program consisted of the following concurrent break-out sessions: Zero Waste at Multi-Tenant PropertiesConnecting National Chains to Local ProgramsMake Your Event Shine - Zero Waste Events, Big & SmallMaking Zero Waste Happen: and Changing Behavior for Total Participation,and Complement your Zero Waste Efforts with Additional Certification.

    Thanks to USZWBC volunteer Jason Sanders of EcoSafe Zero Waste the conference walked the zero waste talk. Jason educated hotel staff on food waste collection for compost practices. 

    Jason Sanders honoring hotel staff
    Each morning and afternoon, the kitchen staff received a brief training on the how’s and why’s to composting and recycling. The conference was the hotel's first food waste collection experience.

    Near the conference close, Jason gathered the key kitchen and other back-of-the-house staff to the stage for recognition. Hotel General Manager Wanda Chan joined the staff on stage to add hotel management kudos. The audience gave the hotel staff a standing ovation!

    A keynote discussion, Our World Without Waste: The Global Crisis Suggests New Opportunities moderated by Christine Nguyen with the USZWBC, officially closed the conference's stellar program. Eric Lombardi was joined by Richard (Rick) Anthony of Richard Anthony Associates, a consulting firm that focuses on Zero Waste planning, and Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Marine Research founder and discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

    Captain Charles Moore adorned
    in plastic pollution from oceans
    In late March, Charles was the closing keynote presenter at The Plastic GYRE Symposium hosted in Atlanta. The ZWA Blog article, Plastic GYRE Symposium: Artists, Scientists and Activists Respond, gives an overview of Charles' similar eye-opening presentation on the stark reality of plastic pollution in the oceans.

    The closing discussion emphasized humanity may no longer live within "business as usual" mode. Beyond fine-tuning, an overhaul of our civilization's foundation is necessary to navigate within and beyond the global trash crisis. Consistent with his earlier keynote presentation, Eric sent a call-to-action for corporate citizens to join the front lines on creating viable pathways to a World Without Waste.

    For those who arrived a day early, there were substantial pre-conference activities including the morning Achieving Zero Waste at Colleges and Universities Workshop sponsored by CleanRiver Recycling Solutions

    Tom Lembo & Bruce Buchan
    of  CleanRiver
    Within the program CleanRiver founder Bruce Buchan spoke on Zero Waste - The Three C's Approach. The ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's, introduced the Three C's: Culture, CommunicationCollection, via a feature of Ricoh Electronics' presentation on the Five R's at the 2012 USZWBC Conference.

    Running concurrent in the morning, the Zero Waste 101 Workshop was tailored for those embarking on the journey. The introductory workshop provided the basics for starting or evolving recycling programs. In the afternoon Loyola Marymount University Campus Sustainability, Comprehensive Recycling, Food Waste Diversion Tour was a walking tour of the impressive zero waste practices-in-action.

    An all-day ZWBA Scorecard Training 101 Course was intended for those interested in pursuing the professional ZWBA Certification, though open to anyone interested in learning more about the ZWCP.

    The USZWBC Four-Yr Club
    The USZWBC Four-Year Club includes a handful of folks who attended each of the four USZWBC Conferences. Pictured from left to right: Randy Van Winkle (SBM), Ryan McMullan (Toyota), Stephanie Barger (USZWBC), Gary Liss (Gary Liss & Associates), Holly Elmore (Elemental Impact), Sue Beets (SBM) & Scott Lutocka (Piazza Produce). Rick Anthony and Bruce Buchan were not available for the photo.

    For a pictorial recap of the conference, visit the comprehensive Ei FB album, 2015 National Zero Waste Conference - "The Stars of Zero Waste."  Thank you Scott Lutocka for your invaluable teamwork documenting the conference and contributing many of the album photos. 

    The ZWA Blog Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense  article features the conference breakout sessions along with Ei’s strong conference participation.

    Congratulations to Stephanie, Emily DeCremer and the USZWBC Board, staff and volunteers on an excellent conference!

    It is amazing to witness the zero waste progress over the past years. Within the progress is a knowing the journey is merely beginning. Industry pioneers are enthusiastic to move beyond business as usual and into the frontier of a World Without Waste
  6. Zero Waste in ACTION Blog tops 200,000 pageviews!
    On May 12, 2015 the ZWA Blog topped 200K Views!

    The 200,000 milestone for a niche blog is a monumental achievement, catapulting the published article collection into a prominent industry resource and respected journalism.

    Launched in early 2009 as the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) Blog, the original posts chronicled the challenges and successes of the ZWZ program along with industry specific topics. When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in 2012, the name evolved into the Zero Waste in ACTION (ZWA) Blog.

    When the ZWA Blog surpassed 100,000 pageviews in July 2013, the ZWA Blog article, ZWA Blog: A Powerful Industry Resource & Voice, chronicled Elemental Impact's evolution from a zero waste cheerleader to current work in Recycling Refinement, moving beyond landfill diversion. Below is an excerpt from the article:
    Authored by Ei, the ZWA Blog articles document the evolution of zero waste from concept to emerging industry standard, tell the story of zero waste pioneers and warriors who shifted paradigms in materials management, and shine light on fallacies within accepted recycling practices
    The first 100,000 pageviews accumulated over 52 months - over four years. With accelerated readership, the second 100,000 pageviews occurred in 22 months - less than two years!

    With a total of 322 blog articles, the ZWA Blog is a valuable industry resource and plays a leading role in Ei's powerful cyberspace voice. Over the past year, the average pageviews per article increased from 475 to 620 while the number of annual articles published decreased. In 2012, the ZWA Blog published 73 new articles, in 2013 31 articles and a further decline to 22 articles in 2014. To date 9 articles published in 2015.

    In 2013, the ZWA Blog evolved into an on-line magazine as most posts are in-depth articles with readership continuing long after publication. The all-time most popular ZWA Blog articles are:
    Ei Chair Scott Seydel with
    Laura Turner Seydel & Dianna Cohen
    Within a mere six weeks The Plastic GYRE article soared into the third most popular post! In addition to Ei's FB and LinkedIN posts, Twitter played an invaluable role in the readership momentum. The Earth Island Institute (@earthisland - 72.6K followers) and the Plastic Pollution Coalition (@plasticpollutes - 18.1K followers) retweeted most of Ei's tweets on The Plastic GYRE article and were significant drivers for the impressive readership.

    Ei was named the US Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) 2014 Conference Media Partner for the Atlanta-hosted event. In 2015, Ei was named the USZWBC Media Partner for the annual conference as well as the organization. ZWA Blog articles are vital to the media partner status with the USZWBC staff promoting the articles within the organization's network. Most USZWBC-related articles well exceed the average 620 average pageviews.

    The ZWA Blog strong readership stats are grounded in Ei's powerful cyberspace network including the Ei website (average 5,000+ monthly visits), Ei Twitter (1,080 followers), Ei Newsletter (3,000+ distribution) and Ei FB page (nearly 600 likes & growing). In addition, Ei Founder Holly Elmore uses her significant personal connections and cyberspace presence to promote article readership.

    Holly "shooting"
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Personal e-mails to those featured in articles are another important vehicle for driving readership and encouraging others to promote articles within respective networks.

    In addition, the Ei FB Albums include over 150 albums documenting Ei's important work and serve as a valuable industry resource. Photos are often used by industry professionals in PPT presentations at national conferences and other events. In general, the photos are provided by Holly.

    To date, Holly's "fingertip press" published each of the ZWA Blog articles.

    The IMPACT Blog, the ZWA sister blog, stands her own in readership with 68,250 views for the 120 published articles with an average of 570 views per article.

    With the monumental 200,000 pageviews benchmark surpassed, a well-orchestrated foundation is built to catapult into dimensions beckoning exploration and activation. Stay tuned, exciting times are around the corner!
  7. Atlanta Airport honors sustainability partners at greeningATL Excellence Awards
    Michael Cheyne 
    On April 24, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) hosted the first annual greeningATL Excellence Awards 2015, Recognizing Excellence in Sustainable Business Practices. The well attended event honored corporations and individuals within the airport community who contributed to ATL and the surrounding area's sustainability success.

    ATL General Manager Miguel Southwell states the airport's sustainability vision and commitment:
    “At Hartsfield-Jackson, we don’t want to be known as just the world’s busiest and most efficient airport, but also the most sustainable airport. Our guiding principles are very clear. We are focused on striking an effective, meaningful balance between environmental sustainability, economic stability and social responsibility. Today’s award winners illustrate our collective and demonstrated commitment to these goals.”
    With more than 63,000 employees, ATL is the largest employer in Georgia and boasts a direct economic impact of $34.8 billion in metro Atlanta and $70.9 billion in Georgia. ATL has tremendous impact, economic and otherwise, on travelers, employees and the surrounding community. 

    In March 2014, the Atlanta Aerotroplis Alliance, a new economic coalition centered around the airport, was launched. In addition, the ATL EcoDistrict, comprised of various stakeholders within the defined airport area, was founded on the concept of continual improvement and provides a unified voice to focus on sustainable practices within the airport community.

    Myrna @ podium
    Teamwork among internal divisions and organizations along with concessionaire, airline and other business partners is integral to success. Local, state and federal government, non-profits and the surrounding community schools and businesses are vital players in building a solid sustainability platform.  At the awards luncheon, ATL honored businesses and individuals who excelled in their respective roles.

    Arriving guests were greeted with a personal welcome by Michael Smith, ATL senior deputy general manager, and Michael Cheyne, ATL director of asset management and sustainability. In the ample pre-program networking time guests enjoyed catching up with long-time friends and meeting new colleagues.

    ATL Director, Office of Public Affairs Myrna White opened the luncheon program and served as the Master of Ceremonies. Michael Smith gave welcoming remarks followed by a lovely Invocation by ATL Interfaith Airport Chaplain Reverend Dr. Chester Cook.

    Scott @ podum
    After the delicious lunch, Myrna introduced Elemental Impact Chair Scott Seydel for his keynote address. In his usual entertaining manner, Scott used clever humor to chronicle ATL's early history from racetrack (no planes!) to the current status of busiest airport in the world. Within his presentation, Scott applauded the airport on sustainability successes intertwined with fun visuals.

    The award presentations were tag-teamed by Myrna and Michael Smith. Ei Partner HMSHost was a double winner for the corporate Innovation and individual Innovative Leadership Awards. 

    Dating back to 2009, HMSHost took the leadership role in the collection of spent grease (from fryers) for bio-fuel production. Working with their sub-concessionaires and the other master concessionaire, HMSHost created a working model where all airport spent grease was collected for bio-fuel production.

    In 2011, Ei worked with HMSHost on crafting a milk jug recycling program for the ATL Starbucks. With approximately 2500 milk jugs used per week, 130,000 milk jugs per year, HMSHost took the initiative to bale the milk jugs back-of-the-house in one store location and deliver the mini bales to a local recycling company. Revenue generated covered the baler and labor costs. 

    Scott DeFife (NRA), Holly & Tim
    w/ Going Green Airports award
    The ZWA Blog post, Milk Jugs Recycled @ Atlanta Airport, is an overview of the system. The Ei FB album, 12-05-11 SFCI ATL Airport Milk Jug Recycling, gives a pictorial play by play of the collection, compacting and baling process.

    Later in 2011 HMSHost worked closely with ATL on a successful back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost pilot on Concourse T. During this time frame, Michael Cheyne included the groundbreaking compostable food & beverage packaging provision in the then Concessions Contract RFP - request for proposal. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the groundbreaking contract provision.

    As 2011 drew to a close, ATL was the recipient of the prestigious Going Green Airport Award for the monumental concessionaire contract provision. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport wins National Award, announces the award.

    In 2013, HMSHost was the leader in Ei's Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG), a proactive approach to a costly cooking by-product, initiative. Pei Wei, an HMSHost restaurant on ATL's international terminal, participated in the eight-week AKG pilot. The Water, Chemical, & Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters (GLF), an independent engineer's report, established the cost-savings inherent within the GLF system. 

    Devon & Tony with awards
    The ZWA Blog article, GREASE: a new frontier filled with economic & environmental promise, announces the pilot report and describes how an AKG proactive approach saves water, toxic chemical use, labor and dollars.

    As documented in the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Presents a Proactive Approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease, ATL committed to a campus-wide GLF installation. Due to the AKG proactive approach, ATL anticipates 1.1 million gallons per year in water-savings and an estimated $7,000+ cost-savings per concessionaire. HMSHost was the first concessionaire to install GLF in their ATL restaurants. With a GLF contract in-place, HMSHost is developing a national GLF installation plan for their airport and travel plaza operations.

    Devon Ray, HMSHost senior manger, contracting, flew in from D.C. to accept the corporate award. As he was unavailable to attend the lunch, Tony Szajdek - HMSHost assistant general manager - accepted the individual award on behalf of Tim Slaney, HMS senior director operations. 

    Other greeningATL Excellence Awards included:

    Corporate:
    Individual:
    greeningATL awards
    • Community Leader Award - Ray Williams, Benjamin E. Mays High School
    • GreeningATL Eco-Employee Award – Pat Gallimore, Atlanta Airlines Terminal Corporation 
    The creative greeningATL eco-sphere awards were compliments of ATL senior sustainability planner, Liza Milagro's ingenuity.

    As lunch closed, Liza announced each table was complete with Ei Supporter Asean | Stalkmarket compostable containers and requested guests to place uneaten food in the containers for later composting. Ei founder Holly Elmore and Sustainable Food Court Initiative Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks joined Rick Mills, Asean national account & sales manager, and Paul Brown of Paul Brown Consulting at the Asean sponsor table. Paul Brown recently joined forces with Asean to share his airport concession expertise.

    Michael Cheyne gave the greeningATL luncheon closing remarks as well as facilitated the raffle drawings.

    Ei Partners EcoProducts and NaturBag were sponsors and recognized in the event program as well as during the raffle drawing.

    Doug, Scott, Stephanie & Michael C.
    Incoming City of Atlanta Director of Sustainability Stephanie Benfield made the greeningATL event a priority in her hectic schedule. Twice Stephanie was honored during presentations. Friends from the metro area were thrilled to personally congratulate Stephanie on her new role and offer their support.

    The Ei FB album, greeningATL Excellence Awards 2015, gives a pictorial recap of the impressive first annual awards ceremony.

    Ei has a long-standing close working relationship with ATL dating back to early 2011 when Michael Cheyne's current position - Director of Asset Management & Sustainability - was created. With new projects within the Water Use | Toxicity platform underway, Ei is a strong supporter in ATL's quest for "greenest airport in the world" designation.

    The greeningATL Excellence Awards are an important vehicle to recognize ATL's partners, whether employee, contractor or area organization, who accelerate sustainability success at the world's busiest and most efficient airport. .... soon to be the world's greenest airport!
  8. Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding
    During the early Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) days, in 2009 | 2010, Atlanta foodservice pioneers led the nation in the commercial collection of food waste for compost. 

    ZWZ Chair Laura Turner Seydel
    @ ZWZ Two-Yr Anniversary Event
    Immediately following the renowned February 2009 ZWZ launch press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), then ZWZ director Holly Elmore made a monumental announcement at the Meeting Planners International conference closing luncheon: 
    All food related to this 1200-person luncheon was consumed, donated to the Atlanta Community Food Bank or collected for food waste compost! 
    The ZWZ food waste collection focus was back-of-the-house where employees were responsible for separating food from recyclables and trash. Before long, quotes were abundant with the message: This is easy, why would an operator NOT separate food waste for compost?

    In 2011, Elemental Impact formed the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) to address the much more challenging collection of front-of-the-house food waste. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) joined as the SFCI - Airport Pilot in 2011, followed by the Georgia Dome as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot in 2012.

    By its nature, front-of-the-house food waste collection requires operators to address their food and beverage (f&b) packaging. Within current technology, reusables or compostable f&b service ware are the options for successful programs. Recyclable service ware is not recommended due to food contamination.

    Typical Georgia Dome suite
    foodservice set-up
    At the Georgia Dome, Levy Restaurants opted to use reusable f&b serviceware in the suites with great success. Though the reusables brought the suites foodservice to near zero waste, the impetus was cost-savings for Levy. Added value: an enhanced fan experience with china, stainless flatware and glass beverage service accompanied with cloth napkins in the suites!

    ATL committed to compostable f&b packaging with a provision in the 2011 concessionaire contract requiring food vendors to use compostable consumer-facing packaging & flatware. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport’s Leadership Role in Compostable Packaging, gives a brief history of the contract provision along with an update on implementing the provision at the busiest airport in the world.

    Ready to expand their recycling practices to the next dimension, GWCC Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer requested the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - to present a comprehensive Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session to Levy Restaurants' downtown campus. Foodservice operations are contracted with Levy at the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena and the New Falcons Stadium.

    Doug & Tim after session
    Under the direction of SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann with Natureworks, SMAT crafted a powerful two-hour session that included ample time for Q&A and discussion throughout the presentations. On April 8 the SMAT members converged on Atlanta for the Levy education session. 

    Tim welcomed the Levy associates from the downtown Atlanta campus as well as Spencer Treadwell, Atlanta Falcons director of logistics and facilities, with an emphasis on the GWCC's sustainability commitment. Ei founder Holly Elmore followed with an Ei overview flavored with the long-term Ei | GWCC relationship.

    In her presentation, Holly reminded the audience of the challenges inherent within food courts, specifically event venue operations. Holly's closing comments delineated the three-step approach: 1> establish baselines 2> create a game plan and 3> implement in stages. A final reminder: Baby Steps, lots of baby steps, are Key to Success! 

    Rick explaining role compostable
    bag play in food waste separation
    Rick Lombardo of Natur-Bag gave the core presentation establishing the important role compostable packaging plays in zero waste programs. Within his slides, Rick educated on bio-plastics and their integral relationship with most compostable foodservice products. Importantly, Rick explained the difference between fragmentation and decomposition along with the impact of contamination on compost and soils. Several examples of "greenwashing" in the market place were given. 

    Finishing on a high note, Rick included several prominent examples where compostable packaging was standard within corporate operations.

    Following Rick, Doug introduced the importance of independent, third-party certification when choosing f&b packaging products. BPI Compostable Certified is the industry standard recognized by food waste destination facilities. The slides included the certification parameters & what they mean, benefits of certification, and where to find certified products. Doug concluded his informative presentation with Levy successes at stadiums and facilities across the nation.

    Ken during his presentation
    Ken Fraser with Eco-Products was next on the agenda to showcase success stories. Along with listing program stats at Safeco Field, University of Colorado and Red Rocks Amphitheater, Ken included a pictorial page of compostable products used. The visuals demonstrated products may be branded to serve as consumer-facing marketing vehicles.

    Closing the formal program, Sarah Martell of Innovia Films presented on the ramifications of contamination along with suggestions for prevention, especially within the back-of-the house. Sarah emphasized the technology is available for a shift to compostable packaging for challenging items, including snack packaging. Several samples of retail products were on-hand to emphasize the point.

    Suppliers have solutions - it is important for the foodservice operator to set new packaging standards and communicate the standards to their distributors. The power of consumer demand is necessary to evolve industry packaging practices. Sarah encouraged Levy to use their consumer voice for a shift to compostable packaging for their pre-packaged items sold in concessions.

    Sarah presenting on contamination
    Holly moderated a vibrant Q&A session that meandered through many pertinent topics. As part of an answer, Holly spoke about the critical state of our soils and the imperative role food waste collection for compost plays in rebuilding the Earth's soils. The ZWA Blog article, Urban Ag: vital on many fronts, includes an introduction to the state of our soils.

    After the formal program conclusion, many of the Levy associates stayed to continue the dialogue. Tim was most pleased with the session.

    With a substantial industry resource validated in a successful event, the Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session is available upon request for local governments, trade associations and large groups. An abbreviated presentation PPT is available on the SMAT page. Contact Holly with inquiries.

    SMAT before lunch
    In true Ei-style, the SMAT members convened for a lovely lunch at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks located around the corner in the CNN Center. Lunch was an excellent opportunity to regroup on session success and suggestions for improvement.

    Later in the evening SMAT members gathered at Ecco - Georgia's first dumpster-free restaurant - for a lovely dinner. Tim along with Liza Milagro, ATL senior sustainability planner, and Michael Smith, ATL deputy general manager, joined SMAT for the festive, productive dinner.

    The Ei FB album, 04-08-15 Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session, gives a pictorial recap of the GWCC | Levy session.

    Dinner at Ecco
    Compostable f&b packaging is integral to zero waste programs where foodservice is involved. With many options available and abundant greenwashing, education is key to creating programs grounded within integrity. 

    It is time for the foodservice industry to step to the plate, take responsibility for food waste generated in their operations, send their food waste in a contaminant-free, beneficial stream to composting or other state-permitted facilities, and use their power of consumer demand to evolve packaging standards and establish ample permitted food waste destinations. Several years ago industry pioneers launched effective food waste programs; a path to follow is well-established.

    The Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session is a valuable industry resource and an easy first step. 

    Our soils, the foundation for our food system, require immediate rebuilding to sustain an ever-growing population. Compost is food for the soil's microbial community and essential to rebuilding our soils. Food waste is a key compost recipe ingredient and nearly all is destined for landfill in most communities.The time for action is NOW!
  9. Urban Agriculture: vital on many fronts
    On a crisp early spring day, Elemental Impact orchestrated a tour of Atlanta's robust urban agriculture (ag) for Fulton County and EPA Region 4. The overt tour purpose was to introduce Valerie Rawls, Fulton County senior policy advisor to Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Eaves, and Kim Charick, EPA physical scientist in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Division, to the local farmers | non-profits operating farms.

    On a deeper level, the tour educated Valerie, Kim and Ei founder Holly Elmore on the urban ag systems in-place, their connectivity (or lack thereof), the far-reaching implications of urban farms beyond providing fresh, seasonal produce to impoverished neighborhoods, and the valuable role compost plays on the farms. 

    Valerie is charged with crafting and executing a sustainable community development plan for Fulton County, the largest county in Georgia including downtown Atlanta. Urban agriculture, community gardens and food waste composting are integral to the plan as well as addressing the penal system (re-entry | recidivism) and the homeless population.


    Greenhouse @ Good Samaritan w/
    compost pile in foreground
    The Ei | EPA close working relationship is grounded in the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch where Stan Meiburg, the Acting Regional EPA Director, opened the program announcement press conference. More recently Ei is a sub-grantee under the EPA Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte Grant to GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition

    The ZWA Blog article Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte introduces the grant; the Charlotte: A Land of Opportunities is an overview of the empowering February Charlotte Grant Team visit.

    Creating a solid, local composting infrastructure for food waste generated in homes and commercial foodservice operations is a strong EPA focus. Each farm visited had active compost piles and mentioned they could always use more compost for their soil. 

    On-farm or community garden compost is limited to produce, egg shells and farm debris. Proteins & fats are not permitted since pile temperatures may not kill pathogens.The potential varmint attraction from proteins is an issue in urban environments.


    Boyd at the Good
    Samaritan compost bins
    Pursuant to state regulations, commercial composting operations are required to reach specified temperatures for designated time frames to ensure pathogens are killed. Thus, the general rule for commercial composting: if it once lived, it can compost - relates to sea life, animals (including road kill), birds, reptiles and vegetation.

    While the EPA focus is on expanding food waste destination options, Ei is intent on creating strong end markets for compost. Urban ag is a developing end market as the farms work to rebuild the often abused soils. In addition, Department of Transportation road maintenance and Parks & Recreation erosion control represent two government end markets.

    Note sediment is the #1 water pollutant source; the U.S. spends approximately $44 billion dollars per year to clean top soil out of waterways. Healthy, well-structured soil with solid plant root systems, does not as easily run-off into waterways or blow away in storms. Compost is food for the soil's microbial community and key to rebuilding healthy soils. Thus, the government will save significant funds via a commitment to soil rebuilding.

    By identifying valuable compost end markets, many of the challenges with food waste composting destinations will dissipate due to simple supply | demand economics. It is important for city, county and state government agencies to "demand" compost for their operations and work with their counterparts in the permit | regulatory division on resolving the current lack of supply.

    With established deeper intentions, the group set out on a fun day touring urban ag, learning from the experts and making notes for future action points. Boyd Leake with Community Environmental joined the group and shared his vast wisdom from operating the Georgia State Prison recycling and composting programs for 18 years.


    Chris at Good
    Samaritan Farm
    First on the tour agenda was The Good Samaritan Farm operated by the Southeastern Horticultural Society (SHS) on a one-acre plot behind the Good Samaritan Health Center founded by Dr. Bill Warren. Part of Dr. Warren's vision was to create a FoodRx program by “prescribing” a farm share to patients with identified nutrition needs. The intent is to implement the FoodRx program with the 2015 farming season. Farmer Chris Theal, a SHS employee, runs the Good Samaritan Farm including its volunteer and educational events.

    Upon arrival, SHS Executive Director Caroline Leake educated on the SHS history and their urban farm projects. With roots dating back to mid-1930's, the SHS predecessor organization produced the original Atlanta Flower Show later evolving into the Southeast Flower Show. In 2008, the SHS was born out of the Southeast Flower Show as a non-profit planning to promote the knowledge, art and enjoyment of horticulture throughout the Southeastern U.S.

    Launched in 2010, the SHS Learning Gardens & Farms serve as outdoor classrooms that advocate environmental literacy. These classrooms promote healthy lifestyles through organic gardening and farming and teach people in local communities about good nutrition. Along with providing professional development for educators, the classrooms introduce teens and young adults to green jobs and careers in the environmental sector, and serve as locations to teach current sustainable techniques.

    In addition to the Good Samaritan Farm, SHS currently partners with the following gardens | farms:
    Next on the tour agenda was a visit to Urban Fresh, a community garden supported by the SHS. Located in a challenging area of town, Urban Fresh is a creative avenue to bring community together through gardening. Beyond the fresh food produced, camaraderie and self-esteem rebuilding are several of Urban Fresh's contributions to the community.

    Urban Fresh Community Garden
    Originally, Urban Fresh re-purposed plastic milk crates for their garden "plots."  Though effective, the system limited the type and quantity of produce planted. With the SHS's assistance, a new raised bed program is gearing up for its first resident gardeners. Several of the raised beds are higher for elder folks with challenges bending over. 

    In the next weeks a gravity-fed water catchment system is scheduled for installation. Once operational, the water catchment system will make Urban Fresh water self-sustaining, using no city or well water.

    Powerful mural by Xuan Alife from
    Spain on Urban Fresh back building 
    Alejandro Delgado property owner & manager is on a mission with a vision for the run-down, closed apartment complex Urban Fresh uses for its garden beds. Though the buildings appear dilapidated, Alex confirms the structure is solid for rebuilding back into a vibrant community for elderly veterans and others outcast from society's mainstream. The back side of several buildings are the backdrop for amazing Living Walls murals holding the promise of Alex's vision.

    Leaving Atlanta's Westide, the group converged on Truly Living Well (TLW), Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, where urban ag icon Rashid Nuri, TLW CEO & President and former Clinton Advisor on Agriculture, spent time educating the group. Per the website, TLW mission is:
    Natural urban agriculture combines the vitality of city life with the benefits of being close to nature, creating communities that are TRULY LIVING WELL.
    • We grow Food
    • We grow Community 
    • We grow People 
    TLW is truly an urban farm!
    In addition to growing abundant food within the historic Sweet Auburn district, Rashid is committed to education, including potential new farmers, enthusiastic citizens and community leaders. In addition to a robust raised bed farm, the TLW Wheat Street Gardens visited by the group is a gathering site for workshops, programs, tours and events geared towards sharing the community benefits of urban ag.

    At the Plastic GYRE Symposium hosted at the Center for Disease Control & Prevention last month, Rashid gave a passionate, empowering talk on the role urban agriculture plays in social justice. In his talk Rashid dispelled the term "food desert" as the residents are no farther from stores with healthy food than affluent neighborhoods; these individuals lack the means to travel to the stores. In addition to its direct health benefits, Rashid linked food grown within an urban environment to significantly reduced plastic packaging. 

    The ZWA Blog article, The Plastic GYRE Symposium, Artists, Scientists, Activists Respond, is an overview of the empowering event and features Rashid's session.

    Following a lovely lunch at the close-by Sweet Auburn Curb Market, the group traveled to their final destination, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm (MAUF), located on Main Street in College Park near the Atlanta Airport. MAUF CEO Bobby greeted the group and hosted an excellent walking tour of the five-acre farm. Per the website, the MAUF Vision | Mission are as follows:

    Vision:
    At the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, our vision is to build strong and healthy communities through sustainable urban agriculture.

    Mission:
    The Mission of The Metro Atlanta Urban Farm is to reduce barriers to Metro Atlanta healthy living in urban communities by encouraging, promoting and supporting health education and sustainable high-quality low-cost agricultural production through gardening and farming training.

    MAUF five-acre farm
    In addition to the commercial farm, MAUF includes community garden plots offered to local residents for $10 per month. Gardeners may grow any legal crops yet are required to adhere to organic-style farming methods. MAUF staff is available for assistance upon request.

    Holly and Bobby know each from the early ZWZ days when Bobby assisted ZWZ Participants create on-site chef's gardens. At the time, Bobby served as the Fulton & Dekalb County ag extension agent, a position he held for nearly 30 years.

    Common themes emerged at each urban farm visit:
    • Community education on the invaluable role urban plays in healthy, vibrant communities.
    • Central gathering place for community events including volunteer programs.
    • Compost is integral to farming operations; each farm visited had an active compost pile used to rebuild and maintain the farm soil.
    With many new friends made, the group departed enthusiastic to embark on the tours' deeper intentions. A next step is a tour of a closed metro Atlanta government facility that may serve as an indoor food waste composting facility along with an on-site garden or farm, depending on available space.

    A farewell group shot @ MAUF
    The Ei FB album, 04-03-15 Atlanta Urban Ag Tours, is a pictorial recap of the monumental day.

    Rebuilding soils, urban and rural, is critical to building a secure food system based on local agriculture with community engagement. The current soils cannot sustain food production levels to feed the world's growing population. In addition, food grown is often void of necessary nutrients due to the soil's depleted state. A food crisis is on the brink of an explosion.

    As stated above, compost is food for the soil's microbial community and key to rebuilding soils to a healthy condition. Food waste collection for compost is essential to soil rebuilding yet there are often no local composting destinations. Simple economic principals of supply | demand may prove the equalizer that breaks through destination challenges.

    On the surface the urban ag tours were a fun day spent with new and long-time friends. Yet the undercurrent of imperative action was strong and it was thrilling to realize urban ag's vital role on fronts beyond food security and community engagement.
  10. Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste"
    LASanitation logo resizedOn May 5 - 7, 2015 sustainability leaders from across industry boundaries will converge on the City of Los Angeles (LA) for the Fourth Annual National U.S Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference,The Stars of Zero Waste. Announced at the 2014 USZWBC Conference hosted in Atlanta, the 2015 star-studded event is staged for grandeur. 

    In December, the ZWA Blog article, 2015 Zero Waste Conference: A Star-Studded Event, announced the conference along with the first-day prominent keynote speakers. LA chief sustainability officer Matt Peterson welcomes attendees to his fine city as the 2015 USZWBC Conference opening keynote speaker. Prior to joining LA, Matt was co-founder & president of Global Green USA for 19+ years. During Matt's Global Green tenure, the Coalition of Resource Recovery was launched first in New York City and later expanded to a national platform.

    Matt Peterson
    The timing is perfect for the Title Sponsor LA Sanitation to host the 2015 UZWBC Conference. With the Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan under development with a stated 90% zero waste commitment by 2030, LA is transitioning to a new waste and recycling system for all businesses and large apartment complexes. The goals of the new system - a franchise program called Zero Waste LA - include:
    • Higher Recycling (90% diversion from landfills by 2025) 
    • Fair Customer Rates 
    • Reduced Street Impacts & Cleaner Air
    • Superior Customer Service
    Following Matt's keynote presentation, LA director Infrastructure Services Greg Good moderates the Discover the Stars of Zero Waste LA plenary panel of LA key stakeholders. Panelists include: Enrique Zaldivar, LA Bureau of Sanitation director, David Piper, LA Unified School District director and Timothy Eng, Kaiser Permanente project manager.

    Sue giving welcoming remarks
    at 2014 conference
    Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) co-founder, shares his company's pioneer role in environmentally sound operating policies as the first-day lunch keynote. BAMCO provides foodservice to corporations, universities, and museums in 32 states. Complementing its longstanding food-waste reduction efforts, BAMCO was an early partner of the Food Recovery Network and has three dozen cafés Food Recovery Certified.

    On the second conference day Sue Beets, USZWBC board president & SBM Management Services corporate sustainability manager, gives opening remarks. Eric Lombardi - EcoCycle International executive director - and Recycle Across America (RAA) executive director Michelle "Mitch" Hedlund follow as morning keynote co-presenters. With his 20+ year tenure at the helm of EcoCycle, Eric is an authority on creating comprehensive community-based programs and is often a keynote speaker and consultant on the social and technical aspects of creating a “Zero Waste - Or Darn Near” society. 

    Using her over 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and branding, serving Fortune 500 companies as well as small to mid-sized companies, Mitch founded RAA in 2010. RAA produces standardized recycling labels as a major step in alleviating consumer confusion, a leading cause of contamination in public and corporate facilities.  

    Charles in the midst of his keynote
    presentation at The GYRE Symposium
    A keynote discussion, International Discussion on Zero Waste, officially closes the conference's stellar program. Eric is joined by Richard (Rick) Anthony of Richard Anthony Associates, a consulting firm that focuses on Zero Waste planning, and Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Marine Research founder and discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In late March, Charles was the closing keynote presenter at The Plastic GYRE Symposium hosted in Atlanta. The ZWA Blog article, Plastic GYRE Symposium: Artists, Scientists and Activists Respond, gives an overview of Charles' empowering presentation.

    Source reduction and reuse of materials is at the foundation of successful zero waste programs. Though easy via a hindsight lens, determining how to reduce and reuse can be challenging, especially when the value chain is involved. Reuse Institute CEO MaryEllen Etienne moderates the Exploring Source Reduction and Reuse plenary panel. A powerhouse team from The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett Packard and IFCO share their respective journeys to successful programs.

    A barrier to achieving zero waste often revolves around hard-to-recycle items, especially if there is limited local infrastructure available. Challenging items include food waste, many types of packaging, unique material used within operations to name a few. Tom Wright of Sustainable Bizness moderates the Hard to Recycle Packaging plenary panel. Associates from the Carton Council, Upstream and Recycling Analytics & Titus MRF Services share their expertise on the panel.

    Scott with his certification &
    award at the 2014 conference
    Continuing on the hard-to-recycle theme is the Solutions for Organics Diversion breakout session moderated by Rick Anthony. Associates from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and EPA Region 5 join Piazza Produce facilities manager Scott Lutocka on the panel to present on overcoming challenges with one of the largest materials in waste streams nationwide. Achieving Gold USZWBC Facility Certification in 2014, Scott has solid experience in creative approaches to solutions for food waste generated at Piazza's produce distribution center and their foodservice customer operations.

    In response to industry requests for zero waste standardization and third party validation, the USZWBC launched the Zero Waste Businss Certification Program (ZWBCP) in March 2013. As the first zero waste certification program in the nation, the ZWBCP establishes protocol and defines parameters for zero waste claims. For example, incineration is often included in the term "landfill diversion" yet is specifically NOT a zero waste material destination within the ZWBCP.  

    The ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, introduces the ZWBCP and honors the pioneers who earned the first certifications.

    Ann Thomas, Jared Blumenfeld and Lisa Hanf
    Cherie receiving the EPA 2010
    Green Business of the Year Award
    photo courtesy of EPA
    On the second day, Sierra Nevada sustainability manager Cheri Chastain moderates the USZWBC Certification panel. As the first Platinum Zero Waste Certified business, Sierra Nevada is an industry leader and Cherie is perfect to moderate the panel. Associates from Disneyland Resorts, Fetzer Vineyards and Raytheon Company present on their certification experiences and accomplishments.

    As zero waste moves from an emerging to a maturing industry, strong leadership is essential to ensure integrity is maintained. Albertsons|Vons manager refuse & recycling Curt Smith moderates the Leadership: Directing the Zero Waste Journey during the second day afternoon sessions. Executives from Kellogg Garden Products, Toyota Motor Sales and Ingersoll Rand share their role in guiding standard industry practices development.

    Intertwined within plenary keynotes and panels are a plethora of breakout sessions on an array of topics. Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore moderates two breakout sessions: Source-Separation Maximizes Material Value and Zero Waste at Multi-Tenant Properties.

    Material source-separation at the generation site is essential to Recycling Integrity – maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended - and creating recycling profit centers. Industry veterans Tim Trefzer, Georgia World Congress Center Authority director of sustainability, Rick Lombardo, Natur-Tec director of business development - North America, and Nadereh Afsharmanesh, Earth Friendly Products director of sustainability, share how source-separation creates a scenario where ALL win: the environment, the community AND the corporate bottom line.


    Tim showing mixed paper that
    may be easily baled separately
    Challenges abound for zero waste programs at multi-tenant facilities, many grounded in tenant and service provider contract provisions. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require necessary team work for zero waste success, introduces the role contract provisions play in creating a scenario conducive to successful zero waste programs. 

    The panel team includes three stakeholders in multi-tenant facilities: the owner | property manager, Keter Environmental Services chief operating officer Matt Hupp, service provider, SBM corporate sustainability manager Sue Beets, and legal counsel, Ei general counsel & partner at Thompson Hine Greg Chafee. 


    The Making Zero Waste Happen: Changing Behavior for Total Participation panel addresses a key component in zero waste programs: total participation from top management to the frontline employees. USZWBC zero waste associate Emily DeCremer moderates a prominent panel including associates from Frontline Industrial Consulting, REV and Action Research. Grounded in his leadership role bringing sixteen sites to “Mohawk Certified Zero Waste to Landfill, Frontline president KB Kleckner understands 99% of the time, financial benefits and sustainability benefits are mutually inclusive. For strong top management buy-in, the financial benefits of zero waste programs must be proven.

    The Ladies of Zero Waste:
    Emily & Stephanie at 2014 conference
    Continuing the Know Your Trash, up close & personal theme introduced at the 2013 USZWBC Conference by Scott Stephenson of Mitsubishi Electric America, the Getting Down and Dirty: A practical guide to Zero Waste audits panel educates on why waste audits are a critical step to zero waste success. Moderated by SBM associate sustainability manager Randy VanWinkle, panelists from Sierra Nevada, Go2Zero Strategies and Sandia National Laboratory share their experiences digging through their dumpsters.

    Collaboration is always a key ingredient for success. The Complement your Zero Waste Efforts with Additional Certifications panel, moderated by USZWBC vice-president Gary Liss, explores how the ZWBCP is complementary to other established sustainability certifications. U.S. Green Building Council, Cradle to Cradle and Nutiva associates share their expertise on the panel.

    Beyond the breakout sessions highlighted above, the conference offers a plethora of panels educating on a wide range of topics: importance of metrics, marketing zero waste success, role non-profits play to name a few. The USZWBC Conference Program page details the entire program including pre-conference activities.

    Infiltrated within the excellent program is ample networking time to meet fellow attendees | presenters, reunite with industry pals and visit the sponsor booths. Each conference day begins with a delicious breakfast buffet and the first day ends with a reception. A plated lunch is served each day in the plenary room. The conference is well-balanced with formal educational sessions and relaxed time.


    Bruce w/ 2014 Conference opening
    keynote Laura Turner Seydel
    For those who arrive a day early, there are substantial pre-conference activities including the morning Achieving Zero Waste at Colleges and Universities Workshop sponsored by CleanRiver Recycling Solutions. Within the program CleanRiver founder Bruce Buchan speaks on Zero Waste - The Three C's Approach. The ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's, introduces the Three C's - Culture, Communication, Collection, via a feature of Ricoh Electronics' presentation on the Five R's at the 2012 USZWBC Conference.

    Running concurrent in the morning is the Zero Waste 101 Workshop tailored for those embarking on the journey. The introductory workshop provides the basics for starting or evolving recycling programs. In the afternoon Loyola Marymount University Campus Sustainability, Comprehensive Recycling, Food Waste Diversion Tour is a walking tour of the impressive zero waste practices in action.

    An all-day ZWBA Scorecard Training 101 Course is intended for those interested in pursuing the professional Zero Waste Business Associate (ZWBA) Certification, though open to anyone interested in learning more about the ZWCP.

    The USZWBC Conference Program is designed for the seasoned zero waste veteran ready to evolve their program to next dimensions as well as the novice interested in learning how to create effective systems. In addition to the formal education, the industry connections are invaluable once the conference is a memory.

    The stars of zero waste shine bright in the conference program! Plan to attend the 2015 Conference confident that you will depart filled with zero waste wisdom, new industry friends and inspired to make a difference at your organization and beyond.

GASCar 500