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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. 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? 
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill!
    Sponsored by Councilmember Felicia Moore, the City of Atlanta proclaimed November 11, 2014 "Affairs to Remember Caterers Day" in recognition of sustainability efforts, and in particular the milestone of having diverted one million pounds of recoverable materials from Georgia landfills. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It is amazing to witness the zero waste progress over the past years. Within the progress is a knowing the journey is merely beginning. Industry pioneers are enthusiastic to move beyond business as usual and into the frontier of a World Without Waste

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