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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Simple, easy, proven steps culminate in zero food waste success
    ‪On October 11 the Ray C. Anderson Foundation (RCAF) hosted the third annual RayDay in a lovely Serenbe country meadow. Over 1400 guests celebrated Ray's legacy, learned at the plethora of educational booths and enjoyed excellent cuisine served by The Food Movement (TFM) food trucks.

    TFM trucks at RayDay
    photo courtesy of TFM
    Thanks to Event Producer Sue Anne Morgan of ideaLand's sustainability commitment, RayDay was a zero food waste event! 

    Approximately 1200 pounds of food waste was source-separated for on-site composting at Serenbe. The first-time success was flawless due to collaboration by the necessary parties: RCAF, ideaLand, Serenbe, TFM and non-profit Elemental Impact (Ei).

    As the founder of the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009, Ei is a seasoned zero waste veteran and orchestrated the seamless plan. The first step was to secure the RCAF buy-in, which was an immediate YES!  Serenbe was another easy YES; zero food waste means lower landfill tipping fees, provides compost for farm operations, and aligns with the Serenbe community lifestyle. ideaLand selected TFM to cater RayDay based on their sustainability standards; again, another YES almost before the question was asked!

    Ei Founder Holly Elmore
    @ food truck sign
    photo courtesy Scott Seydel
    With the complete food waste chain on-board for zero food waste, Ei went into action mode to set the stage for success. First on the agenda was to ensure only reusable or BPI Certified Compostable food & beverage packaging was used at the event. 

    Ei Partner Eco-Products stepped to the plate as an event sponsor providing the food plates and flatware. In addition, Natur-Tec® Sustainable Biobased Materials provided compostable bin liners to ensure no waste was generated while achieving zero food waste. RayDay gifts attendees with a reuseable beverage container as an event take-away. 

    To permit on-site food waste composting at Serenbe, Ei secured a Letter of Interpretation from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division stating the farm operations were classified as Category One within the state composting regulations. Thus, a state permit was not required as long as the compost remains on the farm.

    Although they had piles for farm waste, eggs shells and other vegetation, Serenbe was new to proteins, fats and compostable packaging mixing into their compost pile. Ei Supporter Let Us Compost (LUC) took the helm for creating a master plan to compost food waste on-site for the many catered events at the lovely Inn at Serenbe. The compost recipe is modified based upon the amount of compostable products versus wet food waste generated at an event.

    TFM prep food waste - not much
    for a 1400- person event!
    TFM brought their prep food waste to RayDay to ensure the event was zero food waste from start to finish. Any remaining food meeting the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was donated to Second Helpings.

    Prior to the event start, Ken Fraser with Eco-Products visited each TFM truck to educate on the compostable packaging. Ken printed signage for each truck to educate the guests on compostable packaging.

    Key to RayDay zero food waste success were the Waste Ambassadors. Contracted by ideaLand, the Waste Ambassadors monitored each tri-bin waste station to assist guests with separating items for disposal. ... and the plan worked! There was minimal contamination in the food waste | compostable packaging brought to the compost area. Per LUC Owner Kristen Baskin the only contamination was two latex gloves worn by the Waste Ambassadors.

    In addition, the Waste Ambassadors assisted with checking food waste for contaminants and separating the compostable packaging for grinding prior to its compost pile destination. LUC brought a truckload of wood chips to use as a carbon source in the compost recipe. Hindsight proved Serenbe has ample woody debris from their everyday operations.

    Subsequent to RayDay, the Ei Team will visit Serenbe to turn the pile to incorporate air into the decomposition process and confirm proper temperatures. LUC will educate the Serenbe staff on how to properly monitor the food waste compost pile. Best practices ensure pathogens are killed and excellent food for the soil microbial community is the end product.

    Ei Chair Scott Seydel enjoyed RayDay with family and friends. While at the event, Scott visited the compost operations and was thrilled with Kristen's education on zero food waste- in-action.

    The Ei Team at the food waste
    compost area
    As documentation is essential to creating a replicable template, the Ei FB album 2015 RayDay is a pictorial recount of the zero food waste journey.

    Lessons learned from RayDay's success are the foundation for Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter (LEDI ATL) 15th Annual Afternoon in the Country's (AITC) zero food waste journey. Hosted at Serenbe on Sunday, November 8, AITC is a more complicated event with 90 chefs serving food versus one caterer at RayDay. 

    The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces Ei | LEDI ATL partnership along with the AITC zero food waste commitment. For details on the action plan, visit the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues.

    RayDay validates simple, easy, proven steps culminate in zero food waste success.
  2. Key steps to zero waste success
    For those embarking on the zero waste journey the path to success is well worn and filled with exceptional support. National organizations like the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) mentor companies new to the journey with webinars, training sessions and conferences. The USZWBC Annual National Zero Waste Conference is a perfect venue to learn from industry veterans via the powerful program. 

    The U.S Environmental Protection Agency is committed to Sustainable Materials Management (SMM). Through their Waste Wise and Food Recovery Challenge programs, the EPA offers webinars, tool kits and resources to those serious about waste reduction. The ZWA Blog article, Sustainability: an industry defining itself - a recap of the 2015 SPC Advance Conference - gives an overview of the EPA SMM Strategic Plan FY 2017 - FY 2022 under development.

    At a local level most states have government agencies | departments and non-profit organizations dedicated to waste reduction support. In addition, county | city governments often offer tools based on the local infrastructure available. Google searches are an easy way to identify available resources.

    With the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) 2009 launch at an acclaimed press conference, Elemental Impact learned steps to zero waste success. These steps flow into two main categories: Collaboration is key to success and Take baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps.

    Collaboration is key to success:
    The ZWZ launch was the culmination of federal, state & local government, trade associations, non-profits and the private sector working together in unison on a common mission. Each player was critical to the ultimate success.  

    Collaborative ZWZ Team at
    Buckhead Zone May 2009 Launch
    From the government, the EPA, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division and the City of Atlanta represented the federal, state and local supporting resources. The Green Foodservice Alliance | Georgia Restaurant Association,and later the National Restaurant Association, were the backbone trade associations who rallied their members. Atlanta Recycles | Georgia Recycling Coalition provided industry expertise to those entering the zero waste frontier.

    In addition, ZWZ Participants worked together to document lessons learned and encouraged their colleagues to join the important movement. The Hyatt Regency Atlanta opened their back-of-the-house operations to fellow hotel operators for source-separating food collection for composting education. It was inspiring to witness the camaraderie among competitors with respect to perfecting zero waste practices. Resulting quotes: This is EASY, a no-brainer, why would you not separate food waste for compost collection?

    Recommendation: Connect with seasoned zero waste veterans to seek their advice on getting started, supplier recommendations and lessons learned. In general, these pioneers are happy to share with you and serve as mentors. In addition, connect with government, trade association and non-profit available resources dedicated to waste reduction and food recovery efforts.

    Take baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps:
    Embarking on a zero waste journey may appear daunting, filled with tremendous operational and behavior change. By breaking the journey into baby steps, the overwhelming energy dissipates in accomplishment. Here is a proven baby step pattern:
    1. Secure top management buy-in - best to also secure Board of Directors support who are responsible to the organization's shareholders.
    2. Identify a "Green Team" from across departments led by a passionate individual in a decision making capacity; for non-management team members, ensure zero waste support is written into job review criteria so they are recognized, versus penalized, for their participation.
    3. Perform a waste audit | material characterization study to set the current baseline; in addition to material type, identify the department source; important for crafting a game plan as well as establishing success metrics.
    4. Quantify value of material in waste stream along with the current disposal cost.
    5. Understand the local recycling markets and haulers available for the material.
    6. Identify "easy win" areas, whether a material type, specific loading dock area (if multiple areas) or another category; prioritize the "easy wins" & give responsibility to team members for action plan development.
      Effective signage at
      Earth Friendly Products
    7. Determine incentives for employee engagement including their suggestions and input.
    8. Develop an implementation plan filled with "baby steps" over specified periods of time; include success metrics along with rewards.
    9. Document the business reasons for implementation; include tangible (cost-savings | revenue generation) and intangible (employee morale | marketing opportunities).
    10. Incorporate an internal zero waste plan communication strategy including fun, effective signage throughout the facility.
    11. Present the well-documented plan to top management for approval.
    12. Begin implementation process, documenting progress along with rewarding success and reminders for compliance.
    13. Review progress on monthly or other specific basis and adjust plan accordingly.
    14. Communicate success & goals internally and externally (if benefits company).

    In addition to the above steps, the following practices are often cornerstones in successful programs:
    • Top management participates in a waste audit and sees firsthand valuable resources the company pays to landfill; often results in new practices eliminating purchases (switch from disposable to reusable coffee cups) and reducing use (install paper product dispensers); an effective tool to keep top management focused on zero waste success.
    • Formal employee engagement program seeking suggestions for improved zero waste practices; often production line employees experience wasteful practices not seen by management.
    • Zero waste evolves into the corporate culture; zero waste culture is incorporated within the new hire interview and training process; signage is placed throughout the facility to emphasize the importance in daily activities.
    • Fun, lighthearted communication for a serious message.
    • Continuing employee education re: at work and personal zero waste practices along with opportunity for employee feedback.
    The original zero waste frontier is conquered with multitudes of impressive successful programs. For those embarking on the journey, there is a well-worn path to follow where often the most biggest challenge is CHANGE!

    While they are happy to share and mentor on basic material management practices, the pioneers are forging evolving zero waste frontiers. With no distinct destination, true zero waste continues to redefine itself. ... and so the journey continues with pioneers seguing into industry heroes.
  3. Sustainability: an industry defining itself
    The sustainable packaging industry leaders converged on Charlotte in early October for the SPC Advance Conference, a GreenBlue (GB) | Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) members only plus guests event. Sustainability professionals traveled from across the nation and around the globe for the profound program of stellar speakers, engaging panel discussions, hands-on workshops and tours of successful Charlotte programs | facilities.

    After welcoming remarks by GB Executive Director Nina Goodrich, opening conference keynote speaker Domtar President & CEO John Williams set the event tone with his Embracing Sustainability As A Business Framework To Enhance Long-Term Shareholder Value presentation. Throughout his empowering talk, John emphasized the imperative role integrity plays in crafting a sustainable corporate sustainability platform.

    SPC Advance attracted a full-house
    from across nation & around the globe
    For success, top management, Board of Director members and shareholders must commit to a long-term program that may include short-run sacrifices. It is important to quantify success and demand the supply chain complements the sustainability platform. John recommends using a corporate scorecard to clearly communicate expectations and audit results to ensure authenticity.

    John emphasized the importance of truth when telling the corporate sustainability story. It is imperative the commitment infiltrates every aspect of operations and the employees are engaged at a core level. With social media's far reaching impact, false or undocumented claims may prove devastating.

    One of John's points - sustainability is an industry - was substantiated in the Two Case Studies Of Materiality And Sustainable Packaging panel discussion moderated by Nina. In his presentation, Sealed Air Executive Director, Sustainability Dan Daggett introduced the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and the International Integrated Reporting Council as examples of an industry defining itself.

    Jay introducing Kathleen
    WestRock Director, Global Sustainability Christopher Davidson mentioned sustainability programs must focus on what is important to the company stockholders. With business strategy the starting point, Christopher recommended a three-step approach to program development: Identification, Prioritization, Validation. In alignment with John's theme, Christopher made a simple, profound closing statement: must be what you do and who you are. Integrity reigns paramount to long-term success!

    After the morning networking break, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 Materials Management Chief Jay Bassett introduced Assistant Director of the EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery Kathleen Salyer for her The EPA’s Strategic Outlook On Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) presentation. It was a treat to learn about the EPA SMM Strategic Plan FY 2017 - FY 2022 under development.

    An evolution from a series of reports stemming from the 2002 EPA’s report, Beyond RCRA: Waste and Materials Management in 2020, which made the argument for focusing efforts on materials management, the FY 2017 - FY 2022 plan has three SMM Strategic Priorities:

    • Built Environment 
    • Sustainable Food Management 
    • Sustainable Packaging 
    Kathleen at podium
    According to Kathleen's presentation 44% of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from products and packaging in a systems-based analysis. A staggering $11,402,020,357 of valuable packaging is wasted in the U.S. Per the Weight of Nations: Material Outflows from Industrial Economies, WRI
    One half to three quarters of annual resource inputs to industrial economies is returned to the environment as wastes within just one year.
    Within the sustainable packaging priority, the EPA identifies three critical action areas:
    1. Convene and foster partnerships around infrastructure development.  
    2. Work with Federal Agencies as Strategic Partners.
    3. Research, Data and Policies for Packaging.
    Currently, in the U.S. over 30% of edible food goes to waste resulting in significant social, economic and environmental costs. It is estimated that Americans waste 141 trillion calories of food annually at a cost of over $161 billion dollars. Food production accounts for 50% of land use, 80% of freshwater consumption, and 10% of total energy use in the United States. Food, when disposed, is a large contributor to the 18% of total methane emissions that come from landfills each year.

    Under the sustainable food management priority, the EPA identifies four critical action areas:
    1. Convene and support partnerships around infrastructure development for alternatives to landfill disposal of wasted food. 
    2. Promote opportunities across food life cycle to reduce wasted food from landfills, with preference for approaches higher on EPA food recovery hierarchy. 
    3. Food Recovery Summit & Future Conferences
    4. Improve and standardize measurement of wasted food. 

    Jeff Wooster (Dow Chemical) w/
    Cheryl & Kathleen (EPA)
    In 2011 the EPA introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. The ZWA Blog article, Elemental Impact Joins EPA FRC, gives a program overview. Thanks to strong EPA support, the Southeast Recycling Development Council is hosting the November 16 -18 Food Recovery Summit in Charleston, SC. The strategic plan has a strong food recovery foundation to build upon within the sustainable food management priority

    With sustainable compostable packaging inherent with Sustainable Food Management, the SPC Advance was a perfect venue for the EPA to preview their SMM Strategic Plan FY 2017 - FY 2022.

    Walmart Senior Sustainability Manager Ashley Hall closed the morning sessions with her Sustainable Packaging 2.0 at Walmart presentation. With an emphasis on selling products in recyclable packaging, Walmart participates in the SPC How2Recycle program. Ashley questions why a company does not use recycling labels on their consumer packaging. In addition, packaging made with recycled content is a Walmart priority.

    After an excellent lunch served by the Omni Charlotte Hotel, Mecklenburg County Director, Solid Waste Management Jeff Smithburger opened the afternoon sessions with his The Local Perspective on Packaging Recovery presentation. On the second day, Laurette Hall, Mecklenburg County environmental manager, waste reduction, augmented Jeff's broad perspective with details on Charlotte | Meckenburg County's SSM programs in-place.

    The remaining afternoon sessions dove into controversial industry issues surrounding extended producer responsibility for packaging, government legislation on foodservice packaging, and finished with the Point-Counterpoint: Bag Bans session. 

    Brad during panel introductions
    Pepsico Director Advanced Research Brad Rodgers moderated the impactful panel discussion. Leading the discussion, Five Gyres Research Director Marcus Eriksen made a powerful visual statement when he exhibited a large plastic mass found with the remains of a decomposed camel. Beyond the "shock effect," Marcus' presentation was grounded in scientific research, his personal experiences exploring the ocean's plastic gyres and infiltrated with the dangers of microplastic pollution in our oceans, waterways, soils and air.

    The ZWA Blog article, Plastic GYRE Symposium: Artists, Scientists and Activists Respond, gives an overview of the powerful Atlanta-hosted event where Marcus was one of the prominent presenters. In addition, the article educates on the ocean's plastic gyres along with their tremendous environmental impact.

    For the counterpoint, Elemental Impact (Ei) Partner Phil Rozenski, Novolex director of marketing and sustainability, presented on the valuable role plastic bags play along with the "cost" of their alternatives. Phil emphasized plastic bags are NOT single-use products; 9 out of 10 Americans reuse their plastic bags. In addition, Phil shared the following plastic bag facts:
    • less than 1% of litter by count, only .12% of litter volume.
    • only 2.1% of U.S. beach litter (by count, much less by volume).
    • .3% of municipal solid waste.
    Bag Bans Panel
    (names in FB album)
    Novolex recycles 35 million pounds of plastic bags, film and wraps and consumes over 120 MM pounds of recycled content.

    Thanks to Brad's artful moderation, the controversial topic was discussed with finesse and grounded in facts. Though a conclusion was not the point, the panel enlightened the audience on the many perspectives inherent within the plastic bag controversy.

    For the evening, the SPC Advance hosted Dinner & Dialogues, small group dinners to discuss topics of interest for the packaging industry.  ... and then there was the popular Second Annual SPC Advance Pub Crawl!

    The conference second day began with two breakout panels followed by plenary sessions. Advancing The Circular Economy: Technologies and Innovations panelists dove into the role SSM and packaging plays in creating a circular economy; advancing technologies open gateways in sustainable packaging evolution.

    The EPA Grant Team
    (names in FB album)
    In a separate panel, Scaling Up Composting in North America: Presentation and Working Session, the EPA Grant to the SPC for Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC was featured; a substantial discussion of food waste recovery options, challenges and successes followed.

    The ZWA Blog article, Scaling up Composting in Charlotte, NC, details the grant goal, objectives and tasks along with listing partners | sub-grantees. "Scaling Up" was used in the grant name as Charlotte has a solid food waste composting program compliments of Earth Farms, a state-permitted facility. The grant served as a catalyst to increase food waste collection for compost throughout the metro Charlotte area. 

    EPA Region 4 Environmental Scientist Kim Charick opened the panel with an overview of the EPA's food recovery commitment along with introducing the grant team. Throughout the panel presentations, the Earth Farms food waste composting facility was heralded as a strong reason Charlotte was chosen for the grant.

    Laurette during her presentation
    Next, Laurette shared details on Charlotte | Mecklenburg County's stellar waste reduction commitment, including food waste recovery. Beyond their financial, staff and other resources grant contributions, Laurette and her team were the door openers for a multitude of grant intro meetings. The Carolina Panthers and Mecklenburg County Jail joined the EPA Grant Program due to Laurette's introductions.

    GB Associate Ryan Cooper and University of North Carolina Charlotte Research Intern Tyler Gilkerson presented on the grant logistics, metrics collections and lessons learned from the participant surveys. It was important to understand the "down and dirty" work accomplished by these two gentlemen.

    Panel moderator Ei Founder Holly Elmore called Earth Farms Owner Jim Lanier and EPA Grant Participant Food Lion Sustainability Manager John Laughead for impromptu talks on their grant experience.

    The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte opportunities segue into ACTION, chronicles the final EPA Grant Team Charlotte visit and summarizes many of the grant successes.

    The pursuing formal food recovery strategy session flowed well into the morning break; informal conversations continued into the late morning program. City of Seattle Business Area Strategic Advisor for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship Sego Jackson asked pertinent questions and added his valuable experience to the discussion. EPA Director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division Cheryl Coleman attended the panel and contributed important federal EPA perspective to dialogue.

    Sarah @ plenary podum
    Conference closing plenary sessions began with Meet Your 2015 Executive Committee Nominees. Ei Partner Sarah Martinez, Eco-Products sustainability maven, was one of six nominees who presented on their qualifications to serve on the SPC Executive Committee. The final two formal program sessions were Setting the Agenda for Sustainable Packaging: A Special Panel of Leadership Companies followed by Advancing the Agenda for Sustainable Packaging: SPC Member Working Session

    In the afternoon SPC Advance hosted a tour of Earth Farms, a 45 minute bus ride from downtown Charlotte. Thanks to Eco-Products' donation, the on-bus lunch was served in compostable packaging and left in windrows to begin their decomposition journey.

    Jim educated on Earth Farms' history, evolution and future plans along with answering a plethora of pertinent questions during the impressive tour. The Ei FB album, Charlotte Ei Ptr Tours - Day 2, is an excellent pictorial recount of an Earth Farms tour several years ago.

    The EPA's strong SSM, sustainable packaging and food recovery commitment was evident at the SPC Advance with two federal and two Region 4 associates active conference participants. With a strong EPA SSM commitment, state & local governments receive support via many avenues to pursue their specific waste reduction goals.

    John Mulcahy of Georgia Pacific
    with Scotto Seydel
    Beyond Holly & Sarah at the podium, Ei was well-represented at the SPC Advance. The Seydel Companies (TSC) President Scotto Seydel traveled from Atlanta to represent GB Chairman Emeritus and Ei Chair Scott Seydel along with TSC interests. Steve Davies & Brian Glasbrenner from Ei Partner NatureWorks and Chris Mitchell with Ei Partner Innovia Films were active conference participants. Ei Advisory Council Member Lynn Dyer with the Foodservice Packaging Institute was a speaker on the Foodservice Packaging Bans and Legislation: Perspectives on the Changing Legislative Landscape panel. ... and GB | SPC is an Ei Strategic Ally!

    A highlight of the conference was embracing GB's SPC Senior Manager Anne Bedarf's baby girl Summer. Prior to her June maternity leave, Anne was the EPA Grant Team manager. It was lovely to reconnect with Anne, meet her family and catch-up on the past months while she was nurturing Summer's arrival.

    The Ei FB album, 10-15 GreenBlue's SPC Advance Conference, is an event pictorial recap through Holly's lens.

    Keeping with the underlying integrity theme,the SPC Advance walked an impressive talk with sustainability best practices. A source-separated five-bin recycling system was used at the conference: 1> food waste for compost, 2> recycle | paper, 3> recycle | paper 4> recycle | cans only and 5> trash | landfill. The Omni contracts with Earth Farms for food waste collection so there was no extra carbon footprint for the compost destination.

    Five-bin recycling | waste station
    The Whova conference app was introduced to attendees weeks prior to the event. By using the app, SPC Advance reduced paper in two main areas: 1> minimal extra small conference agendas were provided since the app included a detailed agenda, and 2> reduced business card usage since the app scanned business cards, eliminating the need for a physical exchange. The app had 2,295 views during the conference.

    Working in partnership with the Omni, compostable packaging was used for the opening reception and reusuable food & beverage serviceware was used wherever practical.

    As documented in the ZWA Blog Beyond Easy Wins .. article, the Spring 2014 SPC Conference in Seattle explored future directions in zero waste initiatives, available recycling options along with the integral role packaging plays in successful recovery systems. 

    Once again the GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition takes a leadership role in establishing future industry directions. The SPC Advance program was designed to provoke discussion, clear confusion and establish truth | integrity within an industry defining itself.
  4. SC ripe for food recovery
    On October 6 the South Carolina (SC) Department of Commerce (SCDC) hosted the Upstate Food Recovery Event in Greenville. Prominent industry leaders shared their impressive food recovery practices in-place, along with goals for further reducing, donating and composting food waste.

    After welcome and introductions, SCDC Recycling Development Coordinator Anna Lange educated on the state resources available for food recovery programs. A speed networking session followed to set the stage for lively dialogue within the powerful morning and afternoon presentations.

    Kim at podium
    Publix Recycling & Solid Waste Manager Kim Brunson led the Solutions for Commercial Food Recovery Panel with an empowering session. An industry leader, Publix has food waste collection for compost or animal feed programs in 607 of their 1100 stores. With 180,000 associates and 11 food waste vendors, consistent corporate training is key to Publix's success. The program uses 95 gallon bins with no pest attraction.

    In partnership with Feeding America, Publix donates food no longer meeting their high quality standards. Supporting local communities is a core Publix value; an event attendee announced Publix Super Markets Charities donated $100,000 to aid in the recent SC flood devastation.

    Responding to a question, Kim shared the intricacies of the Publix plastic bag | film and expanded polystyrene (foam: egg cartons, food containers etc.) programs. With dedicated staff to ensure a clean recycling stream and significant space to accumulate material in salable quantities required, the programs are an investment for Publix. Note foam and plastic bags | film are not accepted in most single-stream recycling programs offered by municipalities. 

    A BIG kudos to Publix for caring, investing and providing consumer recycling options - it is a valuable gift to local communities.

    According to Loaves and Fishes (L&F) Executive Director Paulette Dunn there are 800,000 food insecure residents in SC. As a food rescue non-profit, L&F works with food waste generators, such as Publix, to collect edible food and deliver it to shelters, church pantries & other organizations feeding the insecure population. L&F serves as a transportation liaison with no warehouse or storage facility.

    Following Paulette, Divergent Energy Director of Business Development Scott Harke presented on their onsite food waste solutions with examples of installed systems.

    Solutions for Food Recovery Panel
    Martin Royaards with Michelin completed the panel with his presentation on their impressive zero waste commitment. In 2013 Michelin replaced expanded polystyrene with compostable foodservice products in the corporate dining facility and set the stage for post-consumer food waste collection; the pilot inaugurated with Atlas Organics in 2014 produces 2.5 tons of food waste per month collected for compost.

    Michelin's success is grounded in a solid employee education program including excellent signage for proper disposal. Perceiving zero waste as an evolutionary process is an important ingredient to Michelin achieving their goals.

    As the attendees finished the delicious lunch served with BPI Certified Compostable plates and flatware, Elemental Impact Founder & CEO Holly Elmore gave the keynote presentation. Beginning with a brief Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) history, Holly emphasized current post-consumer food waste work within the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots. 

    With education critical to success, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, produced a two-hour Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Session for Levy Restaurants requested by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority; the Georgia Dome serves as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, summarizes the excellent April 8 session.

    The SFCI - Annual Event Afternoon in the Country (AITC) zero food waste journey was a presentation focus. With meticulous planning, the 15th Annual AITC on November 8 is staged for zero food waste complete with on-site food waste composting and a donation program complements of Second Helpings. The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces the SFCI Pilot; the Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues …, article ties the SFCI – AITC into Atlanta’s strong food waste history and updates the action plan in-progress.

    Holly's presentation ended with the vital role food waste collection for compost plays in rebuilding our soils. Healthy soils produce nutritious, delicious food, retain | filter water and prevent excessive erosion. Holly's PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

    In the afternoon panel, Mike McGirr with Feed & Seed gave an empowering presentation on the maverick market intended to evolve SC (& beyond) agriculture and food system structure. Here is formal Feed & Seed copy:
    Mike at podium
    Feed & Seed is a model private-public partnership devoted to training in commerce of regionally produced farm products. It will serve as an “incubator” for food-system businesses and consortium efforts. This vision of a culinary marketplace for sustainably produced, regional agricultural productivity and its secondary processing, capitalizes on existing business and public structures, while paving the way for future innovation and entrepreneurship.
    Atlas Organics completed the panel with two presentations: 1> Hauling Best Practices and 2> Compost Facility.

    Most important was the closing discussion on next proactive steps facilitated by Chantal Fryer, SCDC senior manager recycling development. Throughout the powerful dialogue a common theme emerged: Collaboration among the private sector, local, state & federal government, non-profits, trade associations, and higher education institutions is essential to expand food recovery.

    Ei has a longstanding history with SC government and the industry. In August 2011 the SC Hospitality Association (SCHA) brought a contingent of Board members, business association executives and City of Columbia staff and councilman to Atlanta for a ZWZ tour. The ZWA Blog article, ATL ZWZ Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour, gives an overview of the tour, documenting the strong food recovery enthusiasm.

    SC Nov 2011 tour group photo
    With the SC operators on-board, the SCHA came to Atlanta in November 2011 for a second tour focused on the commercial food waste composting destination. The November contingent consisted of trade association | non-profit executives, city & state officials along with two Columbia hotel associates. From Atlanta, EPA Region IV and GA Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division staff joined the Ei-hosted tour and meetings to share their experiences in the ZWZ program development. The ZWA Blog article, An Encore ZWZ Performance, documents the tour.

    Fertile seeds planted in 2011 are germinating with the SC Department of Commerce commitment to recycling and food waste recovery. It is thrilling to witness enthusiasm evolve into ACTION!
  5. The Rebirth of Fertile Earth

    Elemental Impact (Ei) is honored to welcome the first ZWA guest blog article by Melissa Selem, Ei program administrator for nearly three years. It is thrilling to witness Melissa segue her Ei experience into personal passions.

    Saying Ei is a strong supporter of composting is an understatement. It’s no secret, Ei’s founder Holly Elmore, is a soil gal, and it shines through her work. From providing education at conferences to bringing together industry leaders for the Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Value Chain meetings, to helping Scale Up Composting in Charlotte, NC – compost is integral to Ei. As Ei’s Program Administrator for 3 years, I learned quite a bit about composting, and chose it as the focus of my work.

    I proudly introduce, Fertile Earth Foundation (FEF), a non-profit focused on uniting and growing the composting community in South Florida. FEF has a rich history beginning in 2008, and evolved into the sole organization dedicated to composting in the region. Among other accomplishments, they successfully completed a composting pilot with the City of Miami, showcasing that composting could be implemented and run successfully in the area. After some years, the powerhouse of women leaders that ran FEF were called to other pursuits, family, business, school. FEF took a hiatus and spent some time in a cold-compost; today, new seeds are sprouting amidst the powerful foundation already built. FEF is officially re-born.

    As the new Executive Director of FEF, I bring renewed vision and a fresh perspective to the organization, informed by my time at Ei as well as my psychology and community health background. I believe a supportive community is critical for a thriving compost ecosystem. Cornerstone works like those of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (an Ei Strategic Ally) on the importance of diverse infrastructure and the vast benefits of composting for the environment, society and economy, all shape my thinking and focus.

    FEF’s revised mission is:
    to catalyze a diverse composting network throughout the South Florida community by educating and connecting people to support sustainable food systems and build healthy soil.
    When many people and organizations, large and small, make compost, this forms a diverse and strong network, the foundation of a resilient composting ecosystem. In this vein, FEF strives to catalyze such an ecosystem through education, mentorship and connection. The goal being that compost is made throughout the community, from backyards, gardens, nature centers, schools, farms, community gardens up to larger scale commercial facilities.

    At the core of this ecosystem are people. Part of FEF’s service is making educational experiences around compost accessible to individuals and organizations – building community along the way. FEF is developing a calendar of events, classes and workshops for all things composting. From introductory composting to in-depth topics such as trouble-shooting, building bins, and interactive workshops. FEF also provides a coached compost system set-up requiring a 6-month commitment where individuals are mentored through the full compost life-cycle; creating community experts in the process.

    An illustration of the diversity
    of life in soil.
    Where Ei’s focus is building a strong supply chain for composting via the corporate sector, FEF mirrors this in the residential sector, while each collaborates with government, academia, and NGOs to accomplish a common goal. The soil’s microbial community is at the heart of both Ei & FEF’s efforts. Healthy soil is packed with microorganisms – one teaspoon of soil holds more microorganisms than the entire human population. Our soil is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our society. Soil is our lifeline, growing our food, cleaning our air, filtering and holding water. Compost feeds the soil and organizations like FEF & Ei are intent on ensuing she is well fed.

    The journey is just beginning, I invite you to join FEF, via our email list, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, learn with us and act with us!

    How can you help feed the soil? 
  6. Zero Waste: breaking down myths & establishing standards
    Over the past decade zero waste evolved from a buzz word to an emerging industry standard for materials management. Inherent within the evolution are growing pains, misconceptions and an identity crisis.

    When the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launched at an acclaimed 2009 press conference, zero waste was a youthful buzz word without grounded definitions and standards. Crafting the ZWZ Criteria required creativity to develop challenging yet feasible program parameters. It was a zero waste frontier filled with pioneers figuring out how to shift wasteful industry protocol into practices respectful of resources and the bottom line.

    In the early years zero waste became synonymous with recycling | food waste composting. 

    ... and then major waste haulers introduced single-stream recycling as the only offered recycling service in many communities. As documented in the Container Recycling Institute (CRI)'s December 2009 Understanding economic and environmental impacts of single-stream collection systems white papersingle-stream recycling increased diversion from landfill rates yet decreased recycling rates.

    Ei Chair Scott Seydel at MRF
    single-stream recycling material 
    Thus, the dichotomy between diversion and recycling rates arose. Zero waste metrics were determined based on an initial destination other than landfill - diversion from landfill - without regard to the final destination. Per CRI Executive Director Susan Collins, approximately 25% of material collected for single-stream recycling is ultimately landfill-destined due to contamination levels. If a community or company utilizes single-stream recycling, diversion rates often overstate actual recycling rates degrading integrity within zero waste metrics.

    Note single-stream recycling is delivered to a MRF - materials recovery facility - where it flows through a series of belts, blowers, optical sorters, human sorters and other mechanisms until the material is separated by type. The material is baled and sold in the commodities market. Contaminated material is hauled to a landfill; the MRF pays hauling charges and landfill tipping fees after it incurred the sorting expense.

    Elemental Impact (Ei)'s definition of contamination: an expensive trip to the landfill!

    ... and then there is downcycling where a valuable material is made into in a product destined for the landfill. A common example is when clean PET bottles (water | soft drink bottles) are made into clothing or reusable grocery bags. IF the product is 100% PET, the item is recyclable yet quantities rarely justify the recycling process. Often other ingredients are added in the manufacturing process rendering the product "trash" at the end of of its useful life. 

    Is extending a material by one life, instead of supporting a perpetual lifecycle, recycling? An important point to consider the next time a sports team or company announces they are "greener" because they now use uniforms made from "recycled" bottles.

    Another side effect of PET clothing are the tiny plastic shards released in the washing cycle. The plastic shards flow into our waterways adding to the microplastic pollution poisoning marine life. Treehugger's post Your cloths are polluting the ocean every time you do laundry gives an overview of one of the biggest ocean pollution sources.

    ... and then there is incineration |  gasification | waste-to-energy. Florida law classifies "burning trash" for electricity as recycling. In the SunSentintel article County planning to burn its way past recycling standards, the controversial law is addressed via Palm Beach County's new incinerator announcement. In the article, Drew Martin of the Sierra Club is quoted:
    "Recycling means you reuse something and it has new life. Burning something is the end of a life."
    Are communities | companies overstating, or falsely stating, their diversion rates by including incinerated material in their zero waste stats? The topic is controversial and often the basis for heated discussions.

    .... and then there is how can 90% be zero? A common misconception is the industry defines zero waste as a 90% diversion from landfill rate.

    Founded in 2011, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) plays an imperative industry role defining zero waste standards and protocol. At the annual National Zero Waste Business Conferences (NZWBC) business leaders gather to share their success stories, learn from their colleagues, and explore defining industry standards. At its foundation, the USZWBC educates on how zero waste practices make good business sense and the importance of integrating zero waste into corporate policy and culture. 

    On March 4, 2013 the USZWBC announced the Zero Waste Business Facility Certification Program (ZWBFC) with the issuance of the first third-party issued Zero Waste certifications to three Whole Foods Market stores in San Diego County. 

    The ZWA Blog article,Third-Party Certifications Edge Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, validates the important role third-party certification plays in defining industry standards. In addition to introducing the ZWBFC along with its specifications, the article features Green Seal and BPI Compostable Packaging Certifications as examples of established programs. Below is the article opening paragraph:
    Third-party certifications play a valuable role for evaluating products and services. Independent review / testing ensures the product manufacturer proclamations are valid and follow industry standards. In addition third-party certification is instrumental in setting standards and protocol within evolving industries. 
    Within the ZWBFC certification criteria, each of the previously mentioned industry misconceptions | challenges are addressed:

    Diversion vs. recycling rates - companies are required to understand the final destination of their material; recycling rates are in accordance with final destinations.

    Downcycling - extending a product by one useful life is not considered recycling.

    Incineration |  gasification | waste-to-energy - burning material is the equivalent of landfill.

    USZWBC Executive Director
    Stephanie Barger with Board Member
    Gary Liss
    90% recycling rate - zero waste is defined as a 100% reduction | reuse |recycling rate; however, the 90% rate serves as the baseline to begin the zero waste certification journey; a challenging yet feasible benchmark for companies to achieve.

    Zero waste is a journey with an ever-expanding path to explore and define. With the ZWBFC clearing confusion on initial misconceptions | challenges, industry pioneers are exploring new frontiers. The value chain impact is an emerging frontier with many questions:
    • How does the supply chain's material management practices impact a company's zero waste policy and rate? Can a company claim zero waste if their raw material suppliers generate landfill waste? 
    • How does the company's product end-of-life impact its zero waste policy and rate? Can a company claim zero waste if their product is packaged in "trash" and | or the product is landfill-destined once used?
    Value chain impact is addressed in the top-tier ZWBFC levels.

    In the ZWA Blog article, Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey, the 2015 NZWBC overview substantiates the industry evolution-in-process and the powerful role pioneers play in fine-tuning the journey. 

    Breaking down myths and establishing standards is a continual process within the evolutionary spiral of creation. Organizations like the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council are essential to establishing and maintaining integrity within emerging industry practices.
  7. Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative Announced
    After diligent work for nearly three years, Elemental Impact formalized the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative (AKG), a proactive approach to a costly cooking by-product, with a four-stage action plan. A formal Ei AKG Initiative launch via a press conference is slated once funding is secured.

    To date, focus was on the foodservice operator, the AKG generator, with a solid platform built on cost-savings and environmental rewards. For the Ei AKG Initiative, the focus is educating communities on the municipal cost-savings associated with 1> preventing AKG from flowing into sewer systems post-cleaning and 2> increased fire safety resulting in fewer fire department responses for grease fires.

    AKG Overview:

    KES image from
    Best Sheet Metal, Inc.
    Airborne grease and smoke generated as a by-product of kitchen operations are a fire hazard, an environmental concern and costly to clean. Local and national regulations require commercial foodservice operations to install a kitchen exhaust system (KES) that evacuates heat, grease, moisture and smoke from the cooking area. Consisting of a hood, baffle filters, ducts and exhaust fan, the KES is monitored and maintained in accordance with the codes to prevent excessive buildup of grease effluent within the system. 

    Grease effluent can accumulate inside the KES rapidly and provide a fuel source in the event of a kitchen fire. Local codes require the frequency of inspections depending on the cooking equipment used and the volume of cooking. Monthly or quarterly required KES inspections are most common and generally result in a system cleaning. 
    The current standard practice of KES grease maintenance is reactive in nature: grease builds up within the KES followed by a system cleaning. 
    On average a complete KES cleaning uses 350 gallons of water along with toxic cleaning agents necessary to remove grease from the system. In addition, the metal baffle filters are generally cleaned nightly, or at least several times weekly, requiring labor, water and toxic cleaning agents. On average baffle filter cleanings use 40 gallons of water plus toxic cleaning agents. 

    AKG accumulated in
    KES ducts
    Local regulations require foodservice operators to install grease traps | grease interceptors designed to prevent kitchen grease from entering the sewer system. When the KES cleaning is complete, the greasy, toxic cleaning-agent-filled water is deposited into the kitchen sinks or other drains; the traps | interceptors flow capacity is exceeded by up to 12X. Thus, the AKG cleaned from the KES flows into the sewer system where it congeals. 

    Beyond the costs incurred by the foodservice operator, the reactive AKG approach is costly to the community and building owners: 
    • FOG (fats, oil & grease) - build up in the sewer system and constrict flow, which can cause sewer back-ups into homes and overflow discharges onto streets. One of the main FOG sources is AKG deposited into the sewer system post-KES cleaning. Flushing KES cleaning water into the kitchen drains results in an estimated annual 1.5 billion gallons of toxic, cleaning-agent-laden water flowing into local sewer systems. 
    • Grease fires – according to the National Restaurant Association, there are over 7,500 restaurant fires each year, resulting in over $250 million in damages, and over 100 injuries. 
    • Roof damage – AKG deposits on the roof after it leaves the KES, causing costly roof damage. 
    • Air quality – AKG not deposited within the KES or on the roof flows into the local atmosphere and impacts two of the six EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Ozone (O3) and Particulate Matter
    A "fatberg" pulled from an Atlanta sewer drain.
    A “fatberg” pulled from an Atlanta
    sewer drain.
    courtesy of  Atlanta Intown article
    In her September Intown Atlanta article, Above the Waterline: The Tip of the "Fatberg," Sally Bethea describes how grease and disposable wipes are wreaking costly havoc in Atlanta and beyond sewer systems. Sally quotes a London water official, “If fat is like the mortar, wet wipes are the bricks in fatbergs,” 

    Per Sally, the flow of untreated sewage and wastewater that backs up behind these gooey blobs has to go somewhere, so it spews from the pipes through manholes and cracks and spills into nearby creeks.

    Ei Partner Ellis Fibre (EF) manufactures a patented, disposable grease filter made from a proprietary blend of sheep's wool. The filter is placed in front of the baffle filters. EF's Grease Lock Filters (GLF) collect over 98% of the kitchen grease particulates before entering the KES. By eliminating grease build-up in the system, the nightly baffle filter cleaning is generally reduced to weekly; the number of third party contracted KES cleanings is significantly reduced. 

    AKG deposited on roof
    photo courtesy of GLF
    Until the patented GLF introduction, there was no cost-effective alternative to reactive kitchen grease management. There are several systems designed to prevent AKG from entering the KES. However, the grease collection devices are metal, require cleaning and allow greasy, toxic cleaning-agent-laden water into the sewer system.  

    The Ei AKG Initiative is grounded in a proactive approach to addressing the grease build-up in KES, deposited on the roof and emitted into the atmosphere. By capturing the AKG BEFORE it enters the KES, a myriad of costly impacts are significantly reduced or eliminated. Developing a city-wide AKG template is the main thrust of the Ei Initiative. 

    With Atlanta slated to serve as the Ei AKG Initiative Pilot City, the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability gave the following Statement of Support:
    The City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is pleased to support the Elemental Impact Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative. Grease that is flushed into Atlanta’s sewer system creates significant harm to the City’s sewer pipes, wastewater system and treatment facilities, potentially leading to millions of dollars in equipment damage. In addition, airborne kitchen grease contributes significantly to the number of calls that the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department responds to each year.
    Report Cover
    As the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Airport Pilot, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) took a leadership role with approval of a campus-wide proactive AKG approach. A campus-wide ATL GLF installation is estimated to reduce water usage by 1.1 million gallons per year and on average save each concessionaire $7,300 per year. A successful metro-wide Ei AKG Initiative would result in an estimated 43.4 million gallons of water-savings for the Atlanta area.

    Ei Partner HMSHost participated in the initial AKG Pilot to support the cost-savings report at one of their ATL restaurants. Subsequently, HMSHost executed a contract with GLF for anticipated national implementation. The independent engineers report Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters, A Report on Restaurant Pilots is downloadable on the AKG Stage 1: Building the Foundation website page.

    Prior to embarking on a city-wide AKG template, integrity within the proactive AKG approach was substantiated. Initial action steps fell into four categories: 
    1. Fire Safety 
    2. Cost-Savings 
    3. Metrics Platform 
    4. Filter End-of-Life 
    The AKG Stage 1 page details the work performed to substantiate the above four categories.

    Ei AKG Initiative Stages:

    The Ei AKG Initiative Action Plan flows in the following four stages:

    AKG is a cooking byproduct
    The work within the Stage 1: Building the Foundation is substantially complete. Once funding is secure, Ei will move forward with the City of Atlanta on developing the City-Wide AKG Template, including a press conference to mark the official launch. A second city will serve as the template replication pilot to support the national expansion plan. 

    Although the initial Ei AKG Initiative focus is cost-savings, the environmental impact is the essence. Cost-savings is a strong, immediate motivator for the community and business owners to take action. Via the AKG metrics platform the water, grease and toxic-cleaning agent-savings are available to quantify the long-term environmental impact. 

    It is imperative to document the extensive AKG environmental impact with scientific research and educate communities, businesses and citizens on the far-reaching ramifications of current AKG reactive practices. A simple proactive approach is available that makes good business sense for the entire value chain, including the water and soil microbial communities.

    Ei AKG Initiative Documentation:

    In true Ei style, AKG-related work to date is well-documented in the following blog articles:

    The following is a common phrase used to describe Ei initiatives:

    Ei is a creator, an incubator.
    Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
    Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
    Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

    Stay tuned as the Ei AKG Pioneers segue into heroes and bring the possible out of the impossible!
  8. Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues ...
    In 2012, the National Resources Defense Council Issue Paper Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food form Farm to Fork to Landfill authored by Dana Gunders launched awareness of the global food waste crisis. The paper revealed the rampant wasteful practices throughout the entire food system: from farms to distribution centers to grocery stores | purveyors to restaurants | foodservice operators to consumers.

    The ZWA Blog's most popular article Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third (over 11.5K views) introduces the food crisis via Jonathan Bloom's ground-breaking 2010 book, American Wasteland - How America Throws Away Nearly Half of It's Food (and what we can do about it). In addition, the article addresses the three primary avenues to reduce food waste: 
    1> prevent waste by reduced purchases, careful food preparation and monitoring food spoilage timelines.
    2> gift excess food to individuals | organizations who ensure food is consumed.
    3> collect food waste for compost, food for the soil's microbial community.

    Atlanta's food waste heroes were recognized in Elizabeth Royt's Spoil Alert, a feature article in Martha Stewart's Whole Living November 2012 issue. Elizabeth traveled to Atlanta for a whirlwind two-day interview marathon hosted by Elemental Impact (Ei) founder Holly Elmore. One of the featured food waste crusaders was Myron Smith of Second Helpings, who met Elizabeth at a local farmers market. Elizabeth refers to Myron as "the palest and gentlest vulture you've ever seen. Smith has his eye on bunches of collards and zucchini that might not sell by the market's closing, in 15 minutes."

    Myron & Elizabeth with
    Second Helpings' truck
    The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight, is an overview of the Spoil Alert article along with commentary applauding Atlanta's heroes.

    Ei, a national non-profit with Atlanta home offices, received national accolades with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch including a prime-time aired CNN story and a front-page New York Times article. One of the ZWZ program criteria was food waste must first be donated in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Food not meeting donation standards must be collected for compost. 

    The Ei ZWZ program was the national forerunner for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In 2012 the ZWZ program was sold to the National Restaurant Association with plans for national expansion.

    Ei works with industry pioneers to craft evolved industry operating practices that benefit the company, the community and the environment. The following is a common Ei intro phrase:
    Ei is a creator, an incubator.
    Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
    Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
    Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

    The ZWZ program epitomized successful completion of the above phrase.

    On June 15, 2015, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter (LEDI | ATL) accepted the invitation to serve as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) - Event Pilot  and joined the ranks of Atlanta Food Waste Heroes. Though the Pilot is for the organization as a whole, the first two action points are to craft 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. 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.

    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.

    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.

    Doug & the ladies @ initial meeting
    The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces the SFCI Pilot status and establishes the action plan categories: Food & Beverage (F&B) Serviceware, Food Waste Collection, and Food Waste Destination. Within the article intro is the SFCI background and challenges inherent within post-consumer food waste collection in food courts | events.

    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. Since the June announcement, the following action steps were taken or are in-process within the designated categories:

    F&B Serviceware:
    • Compostable packaging – all single-use F&B serviceware must be BPI Certified compostable; an exception is pre-packaged beverages in recyclable containers, such as bottled water. 
    • Education – event foodservice providers 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 any F&B serving or other items provided by the establishment that may contaminate the food waste stream.
    Compostable F&B Edu Session
    • Ei Partner Eco-Products is an AITC Sponsor providing BPI Certified plates & cutlery; beverage service is in AITC wine glasses & sponsored water in recyclable bottles. AITC will require the local brewery to use BPI Certified beer cups.
    • Ei Partner NaturBag is an AITC Sponsor providing BPI Certified compostable bags for food waste collection for compost.
    • On August 20, the SMAT hosted a two-hour Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session for the AITC Sustainability Task Force; the session was a modification of the April Georgia World Congress Center-requested education seminar for Levy Restaurants. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, gives an in-depth overview of the session.
    • Event Producer ideaLand will educate F&B providers on the new packaging protocol prior to AITC: LDEI will follow-up with their endorsement of | enthusiasm for the zero food waste journey including exclusive use of compostable packaging.
    • The SMAT Team, supported by the AITC Sustainability Task Force, will greet foodservice and beverage operators upon arrival to ensure the compostable packaging protocol is followed.

    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.
    Inn @ Serenbe, AITC host
    • AITC Sponsor Figi Water provides 20 recycling bins for their plastic bottles as well as any other plastic or aluminum bottles; Another sponsor is considering a food waste collection bin sponsorship. Discussions are in-progress with Ei Partner Glasdon USA to potentially provide the food waste bins. The 2015 fallback plan is to use the recyclable | compostable cardboard bins if an immediate reusable solution is not feasible.
    • Once the bins are determined, ideaLand will craft appropriate signage with guidance from the SMAT members.
    • ideaLand is in discussions with Georgia Organics to provide "Waste Ambassadors" who assist event attendees sort their waste into the designated bins and prevent contamination. The Georgia Organic volunteers will also aid in the contamination cleansing prior to mixing the food waste compost recipe.

    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 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.
    • Discussions are underway with Second Helpings to provide a turnkey donation program, including attendee education, for unserved food as the event closes.
    • Ei is responsible for orchestrating on-farm composting operations:
    • Serenbe site visit
      group photo 
      • obtained a Letter of Interpretation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division stating the AITC food waste falls into Category I of the permit regulations; thus, a formal permit is not required within the regulations.
      • visited Serenbe with Ei Supporter Boyd Leake of Community Environmental Management (CEM) to assess the current Serenbe composting practices and the feasibility of on-farm composting.
      • contracted with Ei Supporter Let Us Compost (LUC) to oversee preparation of the food waste compost recipe, including contamination cleansing. LUC will bring a dump truck filled with wood chips to use if necessary in the compost recipe.
      • FALLBACK - if for an unforeseen reason on-farm compost does not work, LUC will haul the food waste to the Athens-Clarke County permitted food waste compost site.
    • Animal feed is not an option for the AITC food waste.
    Going back to basics, AITC is focused on REDUCING food waste generated at their prominent event. ideaLand is committed to finding the balance between "running out of food" and minimizing leftover food. Reminders to adhere to the 2 ounce portion size are set to send to participating chefs a few weeks prior to the event. 

    AITC event site 
    Post-event Ei, CEM and LUC will visit Serenbe to ensure the compost recipe produced excellent nutrition for the farm's soil. In addition, Ei will work with Serenbe on food waste for compost practices for their many smaller catered events throughout the year. LUC is available for food waste compost consulting on an as requested basis.

    The key ZWZ phrase, Collaboration is Key to Success, remains true with the AITC zero food waste journey. SMAT members share their Industry zero food waste expertise gained working with closed event venues, such as Safeco Field in Seattle and the Rose Quarter in Portland, and modify as appropriate for an annual event. As with the ZWZ, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, joins the support team to share their experiences and assist with development of a replicable template for annual events | festivals.

    In addition, the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability supports the pilot and is eager to understand implications for Atlanta events. LUC is crafting a turnkey food waste collection for compost program targeted for events | festivals in the Atlanta metro area. Since F&B packaging is necessary to create a clean food waste stream, Ei will develop a Compostable F&B Information Packet for event | festival producers to share with their food providers.

    It takes pioneers like LDEI to dive deep and change standard industry operating practices. Often the solutions are simple yet perseverance and tenacity are required for the "trial and error" necessary to discover the easiest, most effective solutions. The biggest challenge is CHANGE! ... and change implemented at an annual event, during "showtime."

    Thank you Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter and ideaLand for joining Atlanta's Waste Food Heroes as the food waste journey continues into next dimensions. Your contributions are tremendous with far-reaching impact well beyond Atlanta.
  9. Charlotte opportunities segue into ACTION
    EPA Grant Team @ Knights Ballpark
    during February visit
    The week of July 13 the Elemental Impact (Ei) | EPA Grant Team converged on Charlotte for three powerful days filled with meetings, tours and dinners. With introductions substantiated in prior visits, the meetings were follow-up in nature with actions points integral within the respective agendas.

    In February the team visited Charlotte for introductory meetings at the Charlotte Convention Center (CCC), Knights' BB&T Ballpark, Hornets Time Warner Cable Arena and Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte: A Land of Opportunities, chronicles the important visit.

    Ei's strong Charlotte connections, along with a substantial history of successful work, are chronicled on the Ei Charlotte Visits website page.

    Concord Mills, a Simon mall in metro Charlotte, serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Shopping Mall Pilot and was the catalyst for Ei's work in the Charlotte area. Ei Partner HMSHost, then Concord Mills food court concessionaire and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport foodservice operator, was integral to Ei's solid sustainability foundation in Charlotte.

    Concord Mills food waste bin
    Beginning in 2011, the SFCI Team worked closely with HMSHost and Simon on creating back-of-the-house (BOH) food waste collection for compost, food donation and plastic film recycling programs at Concord Mills. The ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, is an overview of the programs.

    Charlotte successes were highlighted at the 2013 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours hosted by Simon | HMSHost. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is a tours overview featuring the forerunner programs in-place.

    In fall 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 funded a Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC Grant to GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). To maximize its impact, the grant was extended for an additional year along with funding. Ei is a grant sub-grantee. The ZWA Blog article, Scaling up Composting in Charlotte, NC, details the grant goal, objectives and tasks along with listing partners | sub-grantees.

    "Scaling Up" was used in the grant name as Charlotte has a solid food waste composting program compliments of Earth Farms, a state-permitted facility. The grant serves as a catalyst to increase food waste collection for compost throughout the metro Charlotte area. The Ei FB album, Ei Partner Tours - Day 2, recounts an Earth Farms tour.

    Rick, Kim & Ryan 
    Although Ei orchestrated the February Charlotte visit, the EPA Grant was the focal point with Ei initiatives taking a back seat on meeting agendas. For the July visit, Ei initiatives were center stage at meetings with the EPA Grant playing a strong supporting role. Potential EPA Grant Participants appreciated Ei's Charlotte commitment beyond the grant's September 30 expiration.

    The Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - provides in-depth industry expertise in materials management. SMAT members Rick Lombardo of NaturTec | NaturBag, Ken Fraser of EcoProducts, Sarah Martell of Innovia Films and Kim Charick with the EPA traveled to Charlotte and were instrumental to the visit success. Kim, Ei founder Holly Elmore, Earth Farms Owner Jim Lanier, GreenBlue Project Associate Ryan Cooper among others represented the EPA Grant at the meetings; Ryan took the leading grant role.

    Mecklenburg County Environmental Manager, Waste Reduction Laurette Hall and her department were the local connectors to the prestigious facilities on the visit agenda. Laurette, thank you for your vision and commitment to move the Charlotte | Mecklenburg County waste reduction needle.

    Mecklenburg County Jail
    First on the itinerary was a fantastic meeting at the Mecklenburg County Sherriff's Office regarding food waste collection for compost at the county jails. The meeting was empowering as Chief Deputy Sheriff Felicia McAdoo, Captain Celeste Youngblood, and Officer Thomas Plummer were enthusiastic and asked pertinent questions. SUCCESS: the Mecklenburg County Jail joined the EPA Grant program!

    Thank you Nick Crawford, Mecklenburg County senior environmental specialist, for arranging the Sheriff's Office meeting.

    At the core of the Ei Charlotte visit was an Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG), a proactive approach to a costly cooking byproduct, Initiative meeting at the Charlotte Airport. 

    In February Laurette introduced the Ei Team to City of Charlotte Energy & Sustainability Manager Rob Phocus. An action point was a subsequent meeting with HMSHost at the airport to learn about the Grease Lock Filters (GLF) system, the AKG Initiative foundation within Ei's Water Use | Toxicity platform.

    Rob & Kim during AKG session
    GLF founder Joe Salpietra and HMSHost Senior Manager, Contracting Devon Ray flew to Charlotte for the empowering meeting. HMSHost Charlotte Airport Director of Operations Matt Wissman hosted the meeting along with a subsequent tour of GLF installations. Local GLF distributor Eric Dyer of KescorGreen Solutions for Grease Management, joined the airport meeting, as well as most other meetings. 

    The Airborne Kitchen Grease presentation can be downloaded on Ei's AKG page.

    It was thrilling to witness local, state & federal government associates attend the AKG airport meeting. In addition to the federal (EPA | Kim) and local (county | Laurette & city | Rob) governments, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Organics Recycling Specialist Jorge Montezuma represented state government at the airport and most meetings during the visit.

    As documented in the AKG website page, GLF improve fire safety | employee safety, reduce kitchen exhaust system cleaning (both baffle filters and entire system) and related labor, save on toxic cleaning chemical use, prevent roof damage caused by deposited AKG and result in cost-savings for the foodservice operator.

    Ei launched the AKG Initiative due to the significant water-savings, water that would be filled with toxic cleaning agents.

    Joe & Devon discussing national
    expansion plans
    Subsequent to the airport meeting, Joe, Devon and Holly met to craft a national GLF expansion plan throughout the HMSHost substantial foodservice network, mainly in airports and turnpike service plazas. Last year, GLF | HMSHost executed a national procurement contract.

    Thanks to Eric's local connections, the group enjoyed a lovely dinner at Aria Tuscan Grill's chef table. UNC Charlotte Research Intern Tyler Gilkerson joined the dinner. Tyler analyzes food waste samples collected at EPA Grant Participant sites, providing an added benefit for the grant and operators. It was fun to listen to Tyler and Ryan's tales of sample collection!

    On the second day, the group convened at a Concord, NC Food Lion where Sustainability Manager John Laughead impressed the group with his infectious enthusiasm and thorough zero waste practices in-place. For front-of-the-house, Food Lion provides consumer recycling bins, clearly labeled for aluminum, plastic & glass containers,  plastic bags, film & wrap, and paper. The cashier checkout stations have recycling and trash bins under the counter.

    Food Lion consumer recycling bins
    Back-of-the-house practices include on-site OCC (old corrugated cardboard) baling, transport plastic film | wrap collection for baling at the distribution center and food waste collection for compost. Food waste is from products damaged upon delivery and unsalable prepared food & produce. For edible food beyond quality standards, Food Lion has an excellent donation program in-place that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

    While in Atlanta last month, John met at the EPA offices with Jay Bassett, chief, materials management, Jon Johnston, RCRA branch chief, and Kim. Applicable Food Lion stores were EPA Grant Participants prior to the visit!

    During the back-of-the-house tour, Holly noticed waxed cardboard used for poultry packaging was separated for trash disposal. An action point is guiding Food Lion with their supply chain on shifting to an alternative coating that renders boxes recyclable and compostable. The ZWA Blog article, Waxed Cardboard Boxes =  Landfill Destiny = $$ Lost, gives an overview of the costly scenario.

    Food Lion source-separates material
    The afternoon was spent in follow-up meetings from the February visit with the Charlotte Convention Center and the Hornets Arena.

    During the downtown event | sporting facilities meetings, the Ei focus was source-separated material (SSM) supported by the Total Materials Management Approach, the entire waste / recycling stream is evaluated within one revenue / cost center. Challenging materials are subsidized with rebates (revenue) from separated, clean bales of valuable items. For example, revenue from aluminum bales pays for compostable food & beverage packaging, a necessity for most post-consumer (front-of-the-house) food waste collection programs.

    Inherent within a SSM program is understanding waste | recycling hauler contract provisions. Often contracts stipulate the hauler has rights to ALL material generated at the facility. Thus, SSM rebates belong to the hauler, not the facility generating the material. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require team work necessary for zero waste success, documents the important role contract provisions play in creating an effective stage for food waste collection and source-separated material recycling.

    Steve with the Earth Farms sign
    CCC Assistant Director of Facilities & Engineering Doug Tober joined Food Services Operations Manager Steve Gorham, Procurement Manager Jeff Doerr and Assistant Director of Facility Services Roger Rochelle at the July meeting. After introductions and updates since the excellent February meeting, the group toured front and back-of-the-house operations. It was inspiring to witness the food waste collection practices in-place along with source-separated OCC baling.

    The time together ended with a series of action points with Steve: 1> send AKG Initiative documentation, 2> request specific parameters related to protein | produce packaged in waxed OCC and 3> begin strategy process on how to expand food waste collection practices to front-of-the-house | post-consumer food waste.

    Following the CCC visit, the group walked to the Hornets Arena where Director of Facility Operations Cathy Buchhofer and Hornets Arena Coordinator Alex Mackenzie hosted a superb meeting. With Alex's recent hire, the group gave a strong recap of the powerful February meeting.

    Hornets meeting
    Back-of-the-house food waste collection is slated to begin in the next weeks. Though focused on immediate action, Cathy was interested in the long-term support for solid arena zero waste practices. When the Ei Team returns to Charlotte in October, a longer-term strategy session is slated for the visit.

    Once again relying on Eric's local expertise, the group enjoyed dinner on Ri-Ra Irish Pub's rooftop deck. After a hectic, amazing day, it was important to regroup in a casual, fun environment.

    On the third and final day, Concord Mills General Manager Ray Soporowski welcomed the Ei | EPA Grant Team to the state's most visited tourist destination. In January, HMSHost left the mall as the food court concessionaire. Ray is working with the new tenants on re-establishing back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost practices. During the food court build out, the two-yard food waste dumpsters were removed due to contamination form the construction crews.

    Ray with Ei | EPA Grant Team
    in the plastic film recycling room
    Ray and Holly gave an overview of Concord Mills past successes. Discussion focused on new endeavors with AKG, expanding the plastic film recycling practices, and opportunities via new single-standing restaurants in the lease negotiation phase. SUCCESS: Ray gave his YES to joining the EPA Grant Program during the meeting!

    From Concord Mills, the team traveled the short distance to Northlake Mall and met with management on implementing a back-of-the-house food waste collection for composting program. Ei Partner Keter Environmental Services manages the mall's waste and recycling services; Keter Regional Manager Andrew Lantz traveled to Charlotte for the important meeting.

    General Manager Adam Kamlet shared recent food waste experiences during his tenure at a San Francisco mall while Director of Operations Michael Signorelli expressed his strong program support. A main action point is to provide Michael talking points for the food waste program introduction to mall restaurants.

    Nortlake Mall lunch destination
    The game plan is to implement the food waste practices in phases, beginning with the two seated dining restaurants. Food court restaurants will follow once new operational practices are in-place and any challenges are addressed.

    After a formal meeting in the mall conference room, the group enjoyed a lovely lunch at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. During the lunch, Michael appreciated how the AKG proactive approach prevented costly roof damage; Eric is staged to follow-up on GLF introductions at the seated dining restaurants. Farewells to new friends were intertwined with action points over the next weeks.

    Prior to attending the evening Knights baseball game, the SMAT members met for a two-hour working session on educational documentation under development. In April, the SMAT presented the Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session to the Levy Restaurants downtown Atlanta campus. With the announcement of the SFCI - Les Dames d'Escoffier International | Atlanta Chapter, SMAT is updating the session for a new audience.

    SMAT working session
    The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs & rebuilding the soil, introduces the education session while the Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey article introduces the SFCI - LDEI | ATL Pilot.

    Charlotte Knights Director of Stadium Operations Mark McKinnon welcomed the Ei | EPA Grant Team to the 7:00 p.m. game and gave a thorough tour of game day practices. Ovations General Manager Erik Hassy took time during the game to show the team back-of-the-house kitchen operations.

    Due to provisions within the waste | recycling sponsorship contract, there are challenges creating a cost-effective material source-separation, including food waste, program at the ballpark. In October, a small group will meet with Mark to strategize on a game plan to refine existing recycling practices.

    A limited portion of the ballpark's
    spectacular view
    IMPRESSIVE: the BB&T Knights Ballpark was named Best Ballpark in the Minors. “There can’t be a better view of a downtown skyline anywhere . . . It looks almost fake,” a minor league radio announcer wrote to Baseball America.

    Unfortunately, the Carolina's Panthers Stadium was incredibly busy during the Charlotte visit and not available for a follow-up to the productive February meeting.

    The Ei FB album, July 2015 Ei Charlotte Visit, provides a pictorial recap of the visit.

    In her February closing statement, Laurette summarized the scenario with perfection: Charlotte is a Land of Opportunities! During the July visit, Charlotte opportunities segued into action points, filled with promise to reduce Charlotte area waste along with fueling local economic vitality. 

    .. and the Ei Team returns to Charlotte in early October - stay tuned!
  10. 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 serviceware must be BPI Certified compostable; an exception is pre-packaged beverages in recyclable containers, such as bottled water. 
    • Education – event foodservice providers 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 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.

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