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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Atlanta Shines as Zero Waste Conference Host City
    The common thread in Atlanta's
    zero waste story
    Atlanta, a city with strong zero waste roots, was a perfect host for the third annual U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference in early May. With the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, Atlanta took a leadership role in the commercial collection of food waste for compost.

    National media attention followed with the CNN story City Aims for Zero Waste that aired prime time along with homepage listing during Earth Week 2009. Later in the year, the New York Times front-page article, Nudging Recycling from Less Waste to None, featured ZWZ Champion Steve Simon, Fifth Group Restaurants partner. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta: Host City for 2014 USZWBC Conference, gives a short synopsis of Atlanta's zero waste history along with an USZWBC overview.

    As a conference partner and media sponsor, Elemental Impact played a leading role in bringing the national conference to Atlanta along with orchestrating the local flavor portion of the excellent program. The ZWA Blog article, Creating Value Through Zero Waste, recaps the many powerful Atlanta meetings preparing for the event. Promoted pre-conference in the ZWA Blog article, National in Focus, Local in Flavor, the 2014 USZWBC Conference Program was well balanced between national | local presentations, with sessions geared toward zero waste veterans and those embarking on the journey.

    CleanRiver's Sponsor booth
    Ei Partners, Advisers and Strategic Allies were prominent at the conference serving as panel moderators | presenters, conference sponsors and promotional partners. In addition to their speaker roles, Ei Partners Novelis, NatureWorks, Orwak and CleanRiver Recycling Systems stepped forward as conference sponsors. Ei Strategic Ally Sustainable Atlanta served as the conference Local Host while Allies Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Green Chamber of the South were Promotional Partners.

    Following USZWBC executive director Stephanie Barger's conference opening remarks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 administrator, Heather McTeer Toney welcomed the participants from across North America to Atlanta and gave an overview of the region's zero waste commitment.

    Stephanie & Laura
    Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem 
    As the opening plenary keynote speaker, Ei Adviser and ZWZ Founding Chair, Laura Turner Seydel served as Atlanta's Ambassador with her impressive talk on Atlanta's resilient spirit and the many grass roots organizations who make a tremendous impact, individually and collectively. In her closing, Laura spoke on Captain Planet's profound influence on the generation stepping into national leadership roles and how the Captain Planet Foundation keeps the Planeteer spirit alive through programs like the Learning Gardens.

    After Laura's keynote, Ei founder Holly Elmore moderated the opening plenary panel on Atlanta's Zero Waste Story including Suzanne Burnes, Sustainable Atlanta executive director, Denise Quarles, City of Atlanta director office of sustainability, Michael Cheyne, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta Airport) asset management & sustainability director, and Scott Jenkins, the New Atlanta Falcons Stadium general manager.

    Within the introductions, Holly wove the common ZWZ thread at the foundation of current zero waste success. During the ZWZ launch and early years, Suzanne served as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division assistant director and gave unwavering support through exciting, though often challenging times. At Sustainable Atlanta, Suzanne steers the metro region's EcoDistricts program and LookUp Atlanta, gathering space to share, celebrate and inspire the good work happening every day to create a better, healthier community.

    Holly moderating the panel
    The City of Atlanta joined the ZWZ and was a strong advocate with many introductions, including the Atlanta Airport. In her role, Denise expands upon the ZWZ foodservice industry focus to the community at-large including residential curbside recycling services. Under Denise's tutelage, the City launched Power to Change: One City. One Plan. 10 Impact Areas, a comprehensive city-wide sustainability initiative.

    In addition to joining the ZWZ program, the Atlanta Airport serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot. The 2011 ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, announced the groundbreaking contract provision requiring airport food vendors to use compostable serviceware and consumer-facing packaging under the then new concessionaire contract.

    Michael @ the podium
    Michael gave a profound presentation on the sustainability and zero waste initiatives at the busiest airport in the world. A true pioneer, Michael is taking an industry leadership role in a proactive approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG), a costly by-product of cooking. Approvals are in-process for a campus-wide installation of Grease Lock Filters in airport concessionaires. The proactive AKG approach is staged to reduce airport water usage by an estimated 1.1 million gallons per year while concessionaires save approximately $7,300 annually per location.  

    The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Presents a Proactive Approach to Airborne Kitchen Greaseannounces the American Association of Airport Executives' February | March publication Airport Magazine article, AIRBORNE KITCHEN GREASE: A New Frontier in Sustainability, A simple solution saves tremendous water use, labor and dollars, co-written by Michael and Holly.

    Holly & Scott
    during break after the panel
    Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
    Next at the podium was Scott Jenkins, who recently relocated to Atlanta from Seattle. A zero waste veteran, Scott brought Safeco Field to zero waste during his tenure as the Seattle Mariners vice-president of operations. 

    It was exciting to hear the deep sustainability commitment by Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and Home Depot co-founder, for the stadium construction and operations.The Falcons made a strong statement by hiring the new stadium general manager and contracting with foodservice operator Levy Restaurants three seasons prior to the stadium opening.

    ... and the ZWZ common thread? The Georgia Dome is one of three facilities within the Georgia World Congress Center campus, a ZWZ Founding Participant and host to the 2009 ZWZ launch press conference. In addition, the Georgia Dome serves as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot with intentions for the new stadium to continue as the pilot when it opens.

    During the first conference day lunch, EPA Chief, RCRA Programs & Materials Jon Johnston gave a Food Recovery Challenge overview along with accolades to the impressive program recruitment in less than three months. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, gives program details and an introduction to the food waste dilemma; the Ei Joins EPA FRC article details Ei's role in promoting the program.

    After Jon's presentation, Stephanie took the podium to present USZWBC Zero Heroes 2014 Awards and a Zero Waste Certification plaque. USZWBC Board vice-president Gary Liss was presented with the Board Member of the Year award for his amazing industry dedication and unwavering organization commitment.

    Awards are a team effort
    Ei Team picture courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Ei close friend Scott Lutocka of Piazza Produce received the Zero Waste Cheerleader 2014 Award for his heroic efforts promoting zero waste across industry boundaries. The Zero Waste is a Team Sport ZWA Blog article gives an overview of Piazza Produce's zero waste practices in-place at their distribution center. While at the podium accepting his personal award, Scott also accepted the Piazza Produce Gold Zero Waste Certification plaque. 

    Holly was presented with the Zero Waste Promoter of the Year - what an honor! With tears in her eyes Holly gave a heartfelt thank you as she accepted the award. The conference was indeed a powerful event for Ei.

    Scott & Holly in their
    Zero Waste Warrior capes!
    Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
    In addition to the formal conference awards, Scott and Holly received Zero Waste Warrior Super Hero capes from dear friend Heinz Weverink of Merciel Materials. At Heinz's request, Samantha Heburn made the capes from 100% reclaimed material. The capes are a treasure and most appreciated.

    During the second conference day the plenary keynotes and panels were interspersed with morning and afternoon break out sessions, many moderated by Ei staff or affiliates. In the morning, Holly moderated the Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte panel on the EPA Region 4 Sustainable Packaging Coalition Grant by the same name. 

    Kim Charick with the EPA gave an overview of the grant importance and the EPA's commitment to support food waste collection for compost. Next Laurette Hall with Mecklenburg County gave an overview of the Charlotte metro area's strong waste reduction practices, including food waste collection pilots in several county schools. Wrapping up the panel, Anne Bedarf with the SPC gave a synopsis of the grant goal, tasks and objectives along with a progress-to-date update.

    The EPA Grant Panel
    photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
    For grant details, visit the ZWA Blog article, Scaling up composting in Charlotte, NC. The Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Support article is a recap of the Grant Team April visit to Charlotte.

    In the afternoon Holly moderated the Recycling Refinement panel on the metro-wide recycling template pilot that gives the corporate community an alternative to single-stream recycling while improving bottom lines. Aligning with Ei's concept Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimum energy expended - the template is grounded in material source-separation at the generation point.

    The ZWA Blog article, If it was easy, it would already be done, introduces the template along with inherent challenges. Beginning with plastic film recycling, the template expanded to the common recycled items - PET (#1 plastics common in bottled beverages), aluminum and paper | fiber- when the GWCC joined as a Template Pioneer. The panel represented the template value chain.

    Leading the panel, Mark Lanning with Tomra | Orwak gave an overview of current single-stream recycling systems and how on-site material source-separation using small balers aligned with Recycling Integrity. 

    Next Preston Fletcher with FreshPoint - the nation's largest produce distributor - presented on their role as the Lead Template Pioneer including examples of how internal practices were modified to eliminate contamination.The ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling Video Published, announces Ei's video filmed and edited by Ei Chair Scott Seydel on initial action steps in template development.

    Lorraine @ podium
    photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Preston's comments on the lack of existing infrastructure were the perfect segue to M-PASS Environmental's role in template development. Lorraine White discussed route density creation for small bale collection and working with the template recycling center on aggregating material into standard size bales. From the audience, Marvin Blow - associate warden at the Atlanta Penitentiary - confirmed the Atlanta Penitentiary will serve as the template recycling center where inmates re-bale the material to hold until sold by the tractor trailer load.

    Closing the panel, Kurt Schmitz with Pratt Industries gave an overview of Pratt's 100% recycled content cardboard box manufacturing. In addition, Kurt stressed how keeping the template material local generated jobs and spurred the community economy. With their North American headquarters in nearby Conyers, GA, Pratt is the end market for fiber collected in the template. 

    Keeping with the local theme, Ei program administrator Melissa Selem moderated the Zero Waste: Georgia Grown panel where the ZWZ were once again the common thread among the presenters. Abbey Patterson - Atlanta Recycles (AR) director - worked closely with Holly on the founding ZWZ Participant recruiting; the ZWZ - Downtown Atlanta was in partnership with AR. At the podium, Abbey educated on how AR is central to metro Atlanta's many recycling programs and success stories.

    Gloria Hardegree - Georgia Recycling Coalition executive director - was the AR Chair during the ZWZ launch and a strong supporter. In her presentation, Gloria shared the GRC's Made in Georgia - from Recycled Materials initiative. For an overview, the seven plus minute video GRC - Made in Georgia produced by Greenshortz gives an excellent snippet of the strong end markets for recycled material in Georgia.

    Zero Waste: GA Grown panel
    photo courtesy of Mike Simone
    Following Gloria, Fifth Group Restaurants partner Steve Simon presented on Pioneering Zero Waste for a Restaurateur. As the first dumpster-free restaurant in Atlanta, Steve was featured in the October 2009 front-page New York Times article referenced in the second paragraph. Although easy now with long-term zero waste practices in place, Steve shared the challenges faced by a restaurant group with numerous concepts and varying waste | recycling options offered by landlords.

    With the 2012 National Restaurant Association ZWZ purchase, Jeff Clark - NRA ConServe program director - was perfect to wrap-up the session with his NEW ZWZ, Atlanta's Business-Savvy Conservation Program, presentation. The NRA article, Sustainability, zero waste top agenda at business council conference, is a great session recap supported by industry leader quotes.

    Thanks to Ei's introductions, Suganthi Simon (EPA), Tim Trefzer (GWCC) and Cindy Jackson (Georgia Institute of Technology) presented on the Zero Waste in Sports panel. Suganthi gave a high level perspective in her Fostering a Culture of Sustainability in Collegiate Sports session while Tim and Cindy were grounded in success stories at their respective facilities.

    Laura & Tim happy to reconnect
    In 2013 the Georgia Dome hosted the Final Four with great success on zero waste, community involvement and overall sustainability fronts. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, includes a summary of the Final Four's substantial impact before, during and after the games. For in-depth details, the Final Four Sustainability Report is available for download on the Elemental Impact Resources page under the Event Recycling section.

    A zero waste veteran, Cindy oversees an award-winning recycling program at Ga Tech with on-site source-separation used campus-wide. After a Ga Tech campus overview, Cindy presented on the game day grass roots recycling practices at Bobby Dodd Stadium, including tailgate programs and food waste collection for compost in the stadium suites. 

    Always willing to share her success recipe, Cindy hosted Tim on the GA Tech campus in February 2012, marking the beginning of a strong friendship. For a pictorial recap of the campus tour, visit the Ei FB album, 02-27-12 GA Tech Hosts GWCCA. Check out the pictures of the CLEAN streams collected from student source-separated recycling centers.

    Ei Partner Bruce Buchan of CleanRiver presented on Zero Waste: The 3 C Approach in the Property & Facility Management morning panel. According to Bruce, the Three R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) are augmented with the Three C's: Culture, Communication & Collection in effective recycling programs. For an in-depth Three C synopsis, visit the ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's along with substantiation of CleanRiver's long-term commitment to customers like Ga Tech.

    Michael & Anne chat during a break
    photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
    In the afternoon, Ei Strategic Ally Anne Bedarf of the SPC moderated the Sustainable Packaging panel where Ei Partner Steve Davies of Natureworks presented on Perspective in Packaging and Zero Waste. As the manufacturer of Ingeo - a biopolymer (polylactic acid) - used to create eco-friendly plastics and fibers, Natureworks is at the forefront of incorporating compostable plastics into foodservice and other industries packaging. 

    For commercial food waste collection programs, compostable packaging is essential to prevent plastics and other contaminants from entering the material stream. Steve's colleague, Doug Kunnemann co-chairs the SFCI where post-consumer food waste collection initiatives are the primary 2014 focus.

    A keynote speaker for day two of the conference, Brenda Platt of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Ei Strategic Ally, was inspiring at the podium during her Pay Dirt: Composting in America to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, and Enhance the Soil. Brenda educated the attentive audience about the vital role food waste collected for composting plays in soil, water and air quality.

    Later in the morning, Ei Partner John Gardner of Novelis presented on Driving to a Closed Loop Business Model & Zero Waste. Epitomizing the critical role played by the supply chain in zero waste initiatives, Novelis takes a proactive approach to their environmental footprint as well as their customers' impact. As the world's largest manufacturer of rolled aluminum, shifts in Novelis practices have a profound global impact in many industries and markets.

    In the Zero Waste Branding & Social Marketing panel, Ei Supporter and zero waste pioneer, Patrick Cucarro - Affairs to Remember (ATR) managing director - gave an excellent presentation on how impressive internal practices segue into powerful external messaging. Keeping with an ATR core value "We're Serious About Fun," Patrick used a clever spaghetti analogy intertwined within his presentation.

    The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, is an overall conference recap featuring prime plenary keynote and panel presentations, including more detail on John, Brenda, and Patrick's important presentations. Conference PPT presentations are available to view on the USZWBC 2014 Conference program page by clicking on the specific session title. 

    The amazing duo:
    Emily & Stephanie!
    photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
    For a conference pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2014 USZWBC Conference in Atlanta. The Ei site USZWBC Conference page recaps each of the above keynote & panel presentations along with short descriptions and PPT presentations available for download.

    Conference success is always grounded in strong collaborative efforts. The USZWBC core team - Stephanie & Emily DeCremer - were amazing to work with on the local flavor within an astounding national conference. Kudos to the USZWBC on another phenomenal conference!  ... onward to Los Angeles for the 2015 USZWBC Conference!
  2. USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution
    Inherent within the excellent 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference program hosted in Atlanta, GA was the significant industry evolution since the inaugural 2012 conference.
    Eiko Risch & USZWBC
    executive director Stephanie Barger
    At the 2012 conference held in Costa Mesa, CA, the program featured national and regional companies who took pioneering roles in corporate zero waste practices. Morning keynote speaker Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an impressive overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. As with other speakers, Eiko detailed the necessary ingredients for zero waste success: top management buy-in, employee participation and supply chain engagement to name a few. Bottom line improvement was a common theme among presenters.

    The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC hosts first rate conference, is a conference overview along with dialogue on Zero Waste Basics.

    For the second USZWBC Conference, Cincinnati was the host city for the stellar program. With Zero Waste Basics established the prior year, the 2013 conference program focused on fine tuning practices to ensure zero waste success. At the 2012 conference top management buy-in was discussed as vital to successful programs. In 2013, Scott Stephenson - Mitsubishi Electric America corporate manager - stressed the importance of top management engagement. In addition, Scott emphasized Know Your Trash, Up Close and Personal, the name of the ZWA Blog article documenting the first day of the 2013 conference.

    In addition to "Know Your Trash" several other common themes intertwined the presentations: 
    • securing associate engagement supported by consistent, repetitive training
    • rewarding employees for program participation along with system improvement suggestions
    • utilizing peer pressure as a motivator for the late adopters | nay sayers
    • incorporating simplicity into program parameters and logistics.
    Two additional ZWA Blog articles chronicle the powerful 2012 conference: Zero Waste Success Requires WE Consciousness,and Zero Waste is a Team Sport, a powerful panel.

    For the 2014 USZWBC Conference - Creating Value Through Zero Waste, the superb program topics substantiated the zero waste industry's continued evolution. Hosted in Atlanta, GA - a city entrenched with zero waste roots via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch - the conference sessions addressed the far-reaching impacts of zero waste practices.

    Brenda @ the podium
    Brenda Platt - Institute for Local Self-Reliance co-director - opened the second day programs with her keynote presentation, Pay Dirt: Composting in America to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, and Enhance the Soil. Brenda educated the attentive audience about the vital role food waste collected for composting plays in soil, water and air quality. In addition to environmental impact, Brenda emphasized composting facilities create jobs and contribute to the local economy.

    Food and beverage packaging plays a critical role in food waste collection for composting programs. Plastic contamination, whether from plastic foodservice items or plastic-coated paper plates, cups and bowls, is a serious concern in composting operations. In her presentation, Brenda shared EcoCycles' Microplastics in compost is a BIG potential problem website page, which explains why plastics in soil are as dangerous to our environment as plastics in our oceans. 

    Composting is a local venture and Brenda gave examples how many communities, including Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Austin, address food waste via public policy and regulations. Seattle incorporated packaging requirements within the city regulations. 

    Brenda's slide on the
    SFCI - ATL Airport work
    As an Ei Advisory Council Member, Brenda worked closely with Elemental Impact on the Atlanta Airport's compostable packaging requirement provision in the 2011 concessionaire contract. Brenda featured the Atlanta Airport work in her presentation.

    Along with support from the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team, ILSR | Ei issued the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet that explains the contract provision, defines compostable packaging along with an explanation of its role in food waste collection programs, and includes a frequently asked questions section. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the contract provision.

    Following Brenda's keynote presentation, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company sustainability coordinator Cheri Chastain moderated the Businesses Lead the Way to Zero Waste plenary panel. First at the podium, General Motors global waste reduction manager John Bradburn gave a creative, impressive presentation on Reimagining Waste.

    Volt battery case nesting box
    Committed to traditional zero waste practices, GM has 111 landfill-free facilities with 50 in North America. In 2006, GM initiated a vehicle component recovery program that evolved from landfill avoidance to supporting natural habitats and community involvement. According to John: When is recycling a material bad? When it can be reused for more value, less energy demands. Ingenuity and creativity are necessary ingredients to establish reuse programs that make a difference in the community.

    GM donated 4,000 yards of scrap sound absorption material from the production of Malibu and Verano sedans to a non-profit. Around 800 self-heated, waterproof coats that transform into sleeping bags for homeless individuals were made from the scrap material. Spent pallets are dismantled and used in building construction. Cadillac parts transport packaging are used for raised bed urban agriculture. In Uzbekistan, the grass on the factory grounds is baled for hay.

    By 2020, a GM goal is all manufacturing sites have wildlife habitat certificate or the equivalent, where feasible. In alignment with this goal, scrap Volt battery cases are made into wildlife nesting boxes that provide a safe haven to lay eggs.

    Laura Turner Seydel &
    Bruce Buchan with a CR Nest Box
    In alignment with using manufacturing by-products to benefit natural habitats, Ei Partner CleanRiver Recycling Systems (CR) introduced their Project Nest Box program. Bird box assembly kits are made using 98% post-consumer content plastic board scraps from CR's recycling bin production. The boxes are donated to schools in kit format, complete with assembly hardware required, ready for the students to assemble and place on school grounds.

    At the conference, CleanRiver CEO Bruce Buchan and Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) Chair, discussed Project Nest Box's alignment with the CPF Learning Garden Program. Future blog articles will chronicle the seeds planted at the conference.

    Wrapping up the plenary panel, Ei Partner Novelis Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer John Gardner presented on Driving to a Closed Loop Business Model & Zero Waste. Epitomizing the critical role played by the supply chain in zero waste initiatives, Novelis takes a proactive approach to their environmental footprint as well as their customers'. As the world's largest manufacturer of rolled aluminum, shifts in Novelis practices have a profound global impact in many industries and markets.

    John Gardner @ the podium
    Novelis is the world's largest aluminum recycler with a commitment to reach 80% recycled content in Novelis Aluminum as well as zero waste-to-landfill in operations by 2020. An increase from the current 33% recycled content to 80% will remove 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually from the aluminum value chain.

    In primary aluminum production, aluminum is refined from the raw material bauxite - for every ton of aluminum refined from bauxite, two tons of red mud waste are produced. As recycling reduces the use of primary aluminum, Novelis' use of scrap instead of primary prevented 2.5 million metric tons of red mud waste from being generated in the past year. When the 80% recycled content is achieved, Novelis Aluminum will prevent a stupendous amount of red mud waste and GHG emissions production along with significant other by-product impacts. 

    A catalyst for sustainable innovation, Novelis worked closely with British car maker Landrover on introducing the 100% Novelis Aluminum 2014 Range Rover. With a 700 pounds weight loss, the aluminum Range Rover boasts a 9% miles per gallon improvement and a one second cut in the 0 to 60 miles per hour acceleration improvement. Impressive!

    The introduction of Novelis evercan™ was a world changing leap forward in promoting closed-loop production. Redefining industry standards and quickly closing the loop to make what is already 100% recyclable, made of 100% recycled content, the evercan™ sheet is certified by SCS (Scientific Certification Services), an independent leader in environmental auditing, and is made of a minimum 90% recycled aluminium. Evercan™ is commercially available in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

    Using his charming British wit, John closed his presentation with a challenge to Sierra Nevada to use evercan™ in their beer distribution by handing Cheri a can!

    Sustainability Through Disruptive Innovation - the Novelis 2013 Sustainability Report - reviews the progress and challenges at each life cycle of business sourcing, manufacturing, customer use and end-of-life with customers. Comprehensive and well-organized, the report is an easy-to-follow synopsis of Novelis' sustainability commitment at the core of their corporate values. Recently the report won Ragan's PR Daily Best Report Award, with the following accolades:
    Sustainability is the beating heart of this corporation's very identity ... Novelis' Sustainability Report 2013 is the winner of the Best Report category in PR Daily's 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards because this annual report is a model of clear writing. It contains a minimum of corporate-speak and jargon. Instantly intelligible graphics and the literate, candid formulations of the company's goals - and the obstacles still in the way of those goals  - make it a pleasure to read.
    Beyond the tangible benefits of zero waste practices, the Zero Waste Branding & Social Marketing Panel addressed the value of incorporating sustainability into a company's core messaging. Ei Supporter and zero waste pioneer, Patrick Cucarro - Affairs to Remember (ATR) Managing Director - gave an excellent presentation on how impressive internal practices segue into powerful external messaging. Keeping with an ATR core value "We're Serious About Fun," Patrick used a clever spaghetti analogy intertwined within his presentation.

    Patrick Cuccaro
    @ podium
    photo courtesy of ATR
    According to Patrick, it is important to create a consistent internal script of the company's sustainability practices that may be incorporated into proposals, speaking engagements and other external communications. A simple tagline at the bottom of e-mail signatures is an easy, "free" way to share the company's zero waste story. "Atlanta's first Zero Waste Zones Caterer" is part of an ATR e-mail signature and receives thousands of daily impressions.

    Patrick emphasized "telling your story" in a manner that creates a clear visual image for the audience. ATR recently announced their 300 tons of material diverted from the landfill milestone, the equivalent of 550 stacks of empty soda cans as high as the Empire State Building. ATR is launching the Green Files blog where Not everything about Green is Black and White” is scripted in a seriously fun style!

    In the Zero Waste: Georgia Grown Panel moderated by Ei program administrator Melissa Selem, Jeff Clark - National Restaurant Association ConServe program director - continues the evolution theme with his presentation on the NEW Zero Waste Zones, Atlanta's Business-Savvy Conservation Program. In 2012 the NRA purchased the ZWZ and evolved the program to expand beyond material management to a broad scope of sustainability practices. The NRA article, Sustainability, zero waste top agenda at business council conference, is a great session recap supported by industry leader quotes.

    As promoted pre-conference in the ZWA Blog article, National in Focus, Local in Flavor, the 2014 USZWBC Conference Program was well balanced between national | local presentations, with sessions geared toward zero waste veterans and those embarking on the journey. Topics included a wide range of pertinent topics. The full agenda incorporates ample social time within breaks and a reception at the conclusion of the first-day program. 

    Conference PPT presentations are available to view on the USZWBC 2014 Conference program page by clicking on the specific session title. 

    The ZWA Blog, Atlanta Shines as Zero Waste Conference Host City, documents Ei’s role in the conference and highlights the many Ei Partners, Advisers and Strategic Allies that served as moderators | presenters, conference sponsors and promotional partners. For a conference pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2014 USZWBC Conference in Atlanta.

    The zero waste evolution is staged to continue with the 2015 USZWBC Conference hosted by the City of Los Angeles, a 2014 conference sponsor. Once the host hotel is established the dates will be announced. Ei is excited to partner with the USZWBC on the exciting journey within the Zero Waste Evolution!
  3. Ei Joins EPA Food Recovery Challenge
    Image of the Food Recovery HierarchyIn 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. For EPA Region IV, the FRC launched within the hospitality sector in early 2014. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, gives program details and an introduction to the food waste dilemma.

    With Atlanta's rich history in food waste reduction, donation and recycling via the Zero Waste Zones 2009 launch and the numerous food donation programs, the EPA Region IV FRC launch within the hospitality sector is synergistic with well-established systems. 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 scraps in a state-permitted non-landfill destination. 

    In addition, the FRC serves as a food waste tracking tool with report compilation modules. Information entered into the EPA system is proprietary in nature; the EPA only shares metrics in the aggregate.

    For Atlanta's heroes, the FRC is a recognition program for a job well done as well as an opportunity to share their experiences with fellow operators. The ZWA Blog articles, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction and Food Waste, the business perspective, highlights Atlanta's food waste heroes and successful programs.

    Paula Owens with Ted's Montana
    Grill & Kim Charick
    With strong connections to foodservice industry leaders, Elemental Impact joined the FRC as an Endorser, committing to recruit Program Participants as well as additional Endorsers. 

    Over the pursuing weeks, Ei founder Holly Elmore and EPA environmental scientist Kim Charick embarked on a meeting | call marathon recruiting FRC Program Participants and Endorsers. It was fun reconnecting with the early zero waste pioneers. Eager to join, the pioneers receive recognition for their impressive food waste practices and serve as role models for those new to donation and food waste collection programs. The Ei FB album, EPA Food Recovery Challenge, is a pictorial recap of the meetings.

    Jon Johnston @ podium
    presenting on the FRC 
    During a 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference plenary session, EPA Chief, RCRA Programs & Materials Jon Johnston gave an FRC overview along with accolades to the impressive program recruitment in less than three months. 

    Kudos to the following FRC Participants who said YES to joining the important program and taking a powerful stand on reducing food waste | donating waste food | recycling food scraps:

    In addition, the following organizations pledged their FRC support as Endorsers:
    ... and the recruiting continues! Future blog articles will document new FRC Participants along with metrics on reduced food waste, donated wasted food | recycled food scraps. Stay tuned!
  4. Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support
    During Earth Week 2014 Charlotte received a boost to their strong food waste reduction focus when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IV Grant Team visited the grand city for three action-packed days. With a plethora of back-to-back meetings and tours scheduled, the team recruited participants for the EPA Grant program.

    Kim Charick & Anne Bedarf
    on a Charlotte tree-line sidewalk
    In late 2013 the EPA Region IV issued a "Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC" Grant to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), University of North Carolina Charlotte, IDEAS CenterEarth Farms Organics and Elemental Impact are sub-grantees under the SPC umbrella. In addition, the NC Division of Environmental AssistanceMecklenburg County and Waste Reduction (a private company that works closely with the Mecklenburg County food waste group) are active team members.

    For an overview of the EPA Grant goal, objectives and tasks, visit the ZWA Blog article, Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC. The EPA Grant includes a program to assist Charlotte foodservice operators starting food waste collection for compost programs via start-up cost funding along with training and support.

    Ei founder Holly Elmore, SPC project manager Anne Bedarf and EPA environmental scientist Kim Charick converged on Charlotte to join the local Grant Team members for the tours and meetings series. Thanks to Meckenburg County Government (MCG) environmental manager Laurette Hall, the first day was filled with tours of county facilities to experience the material and food waste recycling practices in-place.

    The Grant Team Ladies
    First on the agenda was a tour of the Metrolina Recycling Center operated by Re-Community Recycling. Consistent with Re-Community's educational commitment, the MRF - materials recovery facility - reception area is filled with empowering recycling displays geared towards children. In addition, the MRF has an auditorium for more formal community programs.

    The MRF tour was fun and impressive! Whenever touring MRFs, especially well-run ones, it is a strong reminder that contaminants are trash, whether put in a recycling or garbage bin. Within Ei's Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended - contamination is defined as an expensive trip to the landfill. 

    After the MRF tour, the team visited The Metro School, where cognitively disabled students ranging in age from 3 to 2receive high quality instruction in academics based on grade appropriate NC EXTEND Content Standards. The Metro School served as Mecklenburg County's recycling and food waste pilot school with stellar success.

    Jan Burlee shows Anne & Kim
    the simple, effective collection system
    The key ingredients for success in-place at The Metro School are: 1> staff support & buy-in, 2> captivated audience and 3> a simple system with clear signage. MCG senior environmental specialist Jan Burlee found practical collection buckets with mesh lined inserts at a local home improvement store. As many students are individually fed in classrooms, the compostable bag company provides small aerated totes for use by the staff at meal time. Grant Team member Earth Farms collects the clean food waste for composting at their state-permitted facility.

    Students learn to plant and grow their own food at the school's greenhouse and garden. Complete with a compost pile for woody waste and garden scraps, the students experience first-hand nature's perfect mechanism for converting waste into nutrition for the soil and plants.

    The delicious lunch at Tupelo Honey CafeNew South Flavors | Scratch-Made Fun, was the perfect opportunity to regroup and prepare for the afternoon meeting with the MCG jail. An added benefit is Tupleo Honey Cafe food waste is collected by Earth Farms for compost.

    The Metro School Greenhouse  
    At the meeting, Captain Michael Greer and Sargent John Maness educated the Grant Team on the jail foodservice operations and expressed strong interest in joining the grant composting program. First, the Grant Team must satisfy the odor and rodent concerns. With many food waste composting systems in-place throughout Charlotte, the team will arrange a site visit for the jail staff to alleviate current concerns.

    Lani Wenman, Keter Environmental Services regional operations manager, joined the team for dinner at Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen and Wine Bar. Dinner served as a lovely introduction to Lani, who attended the second day meetings and tours. With the final trip meeting at Carolina Place, a Keter waste & recycling managed mall in Mecklenburg County, the second day tours were an excellent opportunity to educate Lani on the EPA Grant. Ei Partner Keter is a full-service environmental management company specializing in the commercial waste and recycling industry.

    For the second day initial tour, Concord Mills (CM) - the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Shopping Center Pilot - was a great place to witness success through collaborative effort. CM general manager Ray Soporowski welcomed the Grant Team along with Lani and gave an overview of SFCI Pilot history and success.

    The SFCI food court bin provided
    by Ei Partner CleanRiver 
    Ei Partner HMSHost, CM food court concessionaire, is committed to back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost along with donating wasted food donation. HMSHost food & beverage manager Drew Drayton educated the team on the food waste collection practices in-place. Impressive, the food waste bin was contaminant and unpleasant odor-free!

    In addition, CM was a pioneer in developing a plastic film recycling program for malls; the group was treated to a tour of systems in-place. The ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, gives an overview of the program development and launch. 

    CM success is grounded in strong collaborative effort with mall management, HMSHost general manager Brian Shetron and his staff, and the third party contractors, many Ei Partners, working in unison towards common goals. The ZWA Blog article, Concord Mills: The Power of "WE" in ACTION, chronicles the foundation building that propelled the programs into action.

    During the mall tour, Ray committed to explore a front-of-the-house food waste collection pilot in the mall food court. The goal is to schedule a summer Charlotte visit to discuss logistics and create an implementation plan for early 2015, after the holiday shopping frenzy. 

    Ray with his Orwak baler,
    the workhorse of the plastic film
    recycling program
    Indicative of their pioneer spirit, the CM team hosted the 2013 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours for two days filled with presentations | tours infiltrated with education, camaraderie and fun! Ray and Brian chronicled their pioneering journey to solid, effective food waste collection for compost, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling programs.

    Ray and Brian are happy to share their experiences with potential Grant Program Participants to relieve their rodent, odor and other concerns. New participants often request validation from those experienced with food waste collection practices.

    The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of meetings | presentations while the ZWA Blog article, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, chronicles the tours. Ei's strong MCB relationship was evident at the Ei Partner Tours, one of the reasons Ei is a grant sub-grantee.

    Following the CM tour, the Grant Team along with Lani traveled to Dallas, NC to tour Earth Farms' composting facility. A tradition, Jim Lanier of Earth Farms treated the group to lunch at the North Star Seafood Restaurant prior to the tour. Lunch was a perfect venue for Jim to educate on his background, business model and genuine commitment to compost's vital role in soil rejuvenation. 

    food waste @ Earth Farms
    awaiting its mix with a carbon source
    Earth Farms is a well-run composting facility that survived a 500 year flood last July when most of the expensive farm equipment and operations were destroyed. Resilient as soil, Earth Farms shows no evidence of the devastation less than 9 months ago. It takes tremendous tenacity, commitment and faith to retain focus and rebuild operations, rather than drown in defeat. The metro Charlotte area is fortunate Jim Lanier calls this fine area home.

    The final dinner was reminiscent of the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours. Ei Supporter Betsy Dyer with Grease Lock Filters joined the Grant Team for a lovely dinner at AZN Asian Cuisine, the Ei Partner Tours finale dinner location. In addition, Sandra Clinton with UNC Charlotte met the group for dinner. The ladies-only dinner was fun and filled with potential for future work.

    Breakfast with Sustain Charlotte executive director Shannon Binns was an excellent start to the third and final Charlotte Grant Team visit. It was an enthusiastic meeting culminating with Sustain Charlotte joining the Grant Team. Well-connected, Shannon intends to share his vast connections along with promoting Grant Program participants and successes.

    Shannon Binns with Kim & Anne
    After the breakfast meeting, MCG senior environmental specialist Nick Crawford joined the group for the SouthPark Mall tour hosted by Ron Rentschler, mall director of operations. After an overview of the Ei | SouthPark long-time relationship and prior tours, Ron showed the group the plastic film recycling program implemented last year in association with the American Chemistry Council. It was interesting to understand how two different malls developed plastic film recycling systems to complement their facility and operations.

    Next was a back and front-of-the-house food court tour where Ron was excited to learn about the EPA Grant Program and support. Once SouthPark formally joins the Grant Program, the game plan is to begin with back-of-the-house food waste collection followed by the front-of-the-house.

    After the SouthPark tours, the Grant Team met with the HMSHost Charlotte-Douglas International Airport folks about the EPA Food Recovery Challenge. Since the airport has an on-site in-vessel composting system, the Grant Program was not applicable. With their impressive food waste reduction and wasted food donation systems, HMSHost Charlotte Airport food and beverage manager Matt Wissman began the FRC application process during the meeting. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, recaps the FRC.

    Kim learning how the food donation
    program works
    Carolina Place was the final meeting in the three-day Charlotte visit. Lani facilitated a meeting with mall general manager Susan Barwick and operations manager Randy Davis. After introductions and the grant overview, the consensus was to move ahead with joining the EPA Grant Program. With minimal to no risk for the participant, the grant provides incentives and support to inaugurate food waste collection practices as standard operating practices.

    Success was the theme for the EPA Grant Team Charlotte Visit! Each EPA Grant Program invitation extended was received with enthusiasm, either by acceptance or a request for more information on food waste collection practices. Pioneers like Ray Soporowski and Brian Shetron at Concord Mills, who are willing to open their back-of-the-house doors and share their experiences, are critical to program success. 

    The Ei FB album, April 2014 EPA Grant Team Charlotte Visit, chronicles the powerful three days of tours and meetings. It was amazing to witness Charlotte's strong food waste reduction foundation along with the enthusiasm to catapult their composting status to new dimensions.

    With the full spectrum of support from local, state and federal government, higher education, non-profits and private enterprise for food waste composting, Charlotte is a city staged for success!  
  5. Beyond Easy Wins ...

    Sunny Seattle pre-conference
    The Spring 2014 Sustainable Packaging Coalition Conference in Seattle explored future directions in zero waste initiatives, available recycling options along with the integral role packaging plays in successful recovery systems. With Seattle's leadership role in progressive programs, the host city set the stage for exploration beyond the accomplished "easy wins."

    With pre-conference tours along with two full days of plenary presentations and break out sessions, the SPC Conference was a powerful experience for national and global packaging industry leaders. The Spring Conference was open to members as well as non-members. 

    Pre-Conference Tours included Microsoft Smart Buildings and Microsoft Store, Microsoft Envisioning Center and Microsoft Store, University of Washington Compostable Packaging Expo and Tour of Cedar Grove's Everett Composting Facility, Behind the scenes at Safeco Field, home stadium of the Seattle Mariners, and the Waste Management Material Recovery Facility Tour and Presentation. Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore joined the Safeco Field tour.

    In his Safeco Field presentation, Joe Myhra - Seattle Mariners vice-president of operations - explained the internal commitment necessary to create a successful recycling program. Beyond top management buy-in, Joe and his team spent long hours post-game to ensure the various departments' material disposition followed program guidelines.

    Teamwork was necessary among the various stadium contractors. Mariner's concessionaire Centerplate played a vital role with the conversion to compostable food and beverage packaging for game day purchases. Aramark, Safeco Field custodial contractor, oversees the stadium recycling center with a keen sense of ownership.

    As the Seattle Mariners Zero Waste Sponsor, Ei Partner BASF worked closely with Centerplate on the conversion to compostable packaging. In addition, BASF | Mariners created the Sustainable Saturdays program complete with mascots and the BASF Trivia Challenge. Geared towards fan engagement and education, Sustainable Saturdays are a fun way for the Mariners to give back to the community. To learn more about the BASF | Seattle Mariners partnership, watch the four-minute Sustainable Saturdays video.

    Safeco Field Recycling Center
    With the "easy wins" incorporated into standard operating practices, the Mariners are staged to address more challenging zero waste obstacles. Pre-packaged food items in flexible film destined for the landfill are a frontier with available compostable options. In fact, a compostable peanut bag was introduced in the 2012 season.

    The pre-conference activities included a new member reception sponsored by Dow Chemical followed by an opening reception presented by REI. As a close-knit industry, the receptions were excellent venues for long-time industry friends to reunite and catch-up prior to the formal program.

    A well-rounded sustainability conference, each day began with an optional 6:00 a.m. one-hour yoga class before the SPC Steering Committee meetings.

    Steve Davids with NatureWorks
    during Q&A session
    After opening remarks by GreenBlue executive director & SPC director Nina Goodrich, GreenBiz Group chairman & executive editor, Joel Makower presented on The State of Corporate Sustainability as the plenary keynote speaker. Following his presentation, Joel moderated a Seattle-based dual panel on Top Down | Bottom Up Sustainability that finished with a combined panel on Integrated SustainabilityREI, Starbucks, and Microsoft associates provided valuable insights on the teamwork necessary for sustainability success.

    The morning sessions ended with a series of engaging "flash presentations" on a variety of related topics. Sego Jackson, Snohomish County, WA project specialist, presented on Garbage Burritos to Mariachi Bands: How Are We Going to Get More Packaging Recycled. Literally entertaining, Sego shared successful innovative efforts at the local level where teamwork was a key component. Brett Butler, U.S. Forest Service & University of Massachusetts Family Forest Research Center co-director, gave the conference's most enthusiastic presentation on Family Forestry in the U.S

    After lunch and breakout sessions, the first day ended with a Discussion Cafe on Solving Those Big, Hairy Sustainability Challenges led by Kim Frankovich, Wm. Wrigley Company global sustainability director. The discussion points serve as the foundation for the SPC Fall Conference presentation topics. Note Kim was an Ei Partner during her days as Solo Cup Company vice-president law | sustainability.

    The Seattle Pub Crawl in action
    The Seattle Pub Crawl, orchestrated by Dick Lilly of Seattle Utilities, was a fantastic ending to the first day of superb presentations. For those not enjoying the eclectic local pubs, Dinner & Dialogue was offered for small group discussions on packaging issues.

    For the second and final conference day, the program consisted mainly of plenary "flash presentations" followed by a panel discussion along with break out sessions. Ei Advisory Council member Lynn Dyer, Foodservice Packaging Institute president, presented on the Innovations in Recovery breakout session panel moderated by SPC program manager Anne Bedarf. The presentation was timely with the FPI Foodservice Packaging Recovery Toolkit release earlier this month. Within the Toolkit's Earth Farms Organics Case Study, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative - Concord Mills is an example of a food waste collection for composting program in-place.

    Ei was well represented with Ei Partners NatureWorks, BASF and The Seydel Companies associates attending the conference. Jay Bassett with the EPA Region IV gave a "flash presentation."  Ei works closely with Jay & his team on the EPA SPC Grant in Charlotte and the EPA Food Recovery Challenge. The ZWA Blog article, Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC, gives a grant overview including Ei's sub-grantee role.

    Jay Bassett  & Anne Bedarf
    The Ei FB album, Spring 2014 SPC Conference, is a conference pictorial recap. Refer to the SPC Conference Schedule page for the complete program including topics, descriptions and speakers.

    Two themes emerged throughout the conference presentations: 1> teamwork, within an organization and throughout the value chain, is critical for sustainability success and 2> it is time to move beyond the easy wins into a frontier of possibilities within the packaging industry. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is the perfect organization to navigate the frontier!
  6. Plastic Film Recycling Template Video Published
    Elemental Impact produced our first video!  

    With Elemental Impact Partners in Atlanta for the Annual Ei Partner Meeting, the Metro-Wide Plastic Film Recycling Template team met at FreshPoint's Atlanta distribution center the following morning for interviews and filming. Ei Chair Scott Seydel filmed | edited the video while Ei founder Holly Elmore served as the producer.

    The video is key to documenting the Metro-Wide Plastic Film Recycling Template development where Atlanta serves as the pilot city. For the first video, initial action steps at FreshPoint are the focus. Here is the video:

    Elemental Impact Plastic Film Recycling Pilot at FreshPoint Atlanta

    In simple terms, the City-Wide Template game plan is to recruit 10 - 12 industry pioneers who generate a moderate amount of plastic film in their operations. Using a small baler, the pioneers collect and bale plastic film on-site for periodic collection. A local hauler delivers the small bales to a warehouse. The small bales are re-baled into standard size larger bales and stored in an empty tractor trailer. Once full, the plastic film is sold by the tractor trailer load as raw material to a plastic product manufacturer. 

    The ZWA Blog post, If it was easy, it would already be done, announces the city-wide template and lists the inherent challenges within the groundbreaking program.  

    Pilot pioneers are critical team members. Working closely with the Ei Partners, the pioneers develop the internal systems necessary to collect the plastic film produced at their facility. Creative solutions to the operational and other challenges are integral to template development. Top management buy-in as well as employee engagement are required ingredients for success.

    Unveiling the trial Orwak
    baler @ FreshPoint
    FreshPoint of Atlanta is the template founding pioneer. Owned by SyscoFreshPoint is the nation's largest produce distributor with a strong sustainability commitment. As an early Zero Waste Zones Participant, FreshPoint has strong recovery practices in-place and is eager to forge new recycling frontiers. 

    In the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier, Ei's plastic film recycling foundation and history is chronicled along with template development action-to-date. The Ei FB album, Plastic Film Recycling: building a metro-wide network, published as a comprehensive pictorial recap of the action-to- date in the Metro-Wide Plastic Film Recycling Template Pilot. The album is structured so it accumulate the pictorial story as the template is built.

    Along with FreshPoint, the video features the following team members:
    • M-PASS Environmental - a recycling and materials management consulting company; will orchestrate mini-bale collection, re-baling operations and material sales.
    • Orwak - manufacturer of small balers; provided a complimentary baler for 90+ days at the pilot launch.
    • Hilex Polya global leader in plastic bag manufacturing; contracts with M-Pass to purchase the baled plastic film by the tractor trailer load at a consistent price.
    • U.S. Zero Waste Business Council - a national non-profit committed to educate, inform and document the performance of Zero Waste Businesses using scientific methods to help businesses and communities become more healthy and sustainable. Upon completion, the USZWBC will share the template within their network and encourage national duplication.
    The Team checking out the
    Ga Dome | GWCC plastic film
    The template is destined to expand into other materials - paper, PET (polyethylene terephthalate), aluminum - during the development stage. The Georgia Dome is exploring the feasibility of an on-site MRF - materials recovery facility- where materials generated during events are baled for collection within the template infrastructure. 

    For an overview of 2013 Atlanta Falcons game-day recycling practices tours, see the ZWA Blog articles,  Winning Recycling Seasons Require Team Work and Refining Recycling Practices at the Georgia Dome. Note the Georgia Dome serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Event Venue Pilot.

    Documentation of action taken, accomplishments, lessons learned, challenges resolved along with business | economic impact for participants and the community is critical to successful template development. Ei is excited to add video production to our documentation repertoire! 
  7. EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector
    In 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. For EPA Region IV, the FRC launches within the hospitality sector in early 2014.

    Food waste, the stupendous quantity and its landfill destination, is a hot media topic. In 2010 Jonathan Bloom hit a trigger point with his groundbreaking book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and what we can do about it), and opened the gateways to exposing the tremendous waste inherent in the nation's food production and consumption.

    Months later Dana Gunders with the National Resource Defense Council issued a concise, well-written two-page document,Your scraps add up, reducing food waste can save money and resourcesthat details facts in easy to understand graphs, lists simple behavioral changes, and includes ample live links to resources for those who choose to dig deeper. The document inspired the ZWA Blog's most popular article, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third.

    In August 2012 the NRDC released an Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, researched and written by Dana. The paper serves as an organized, easy to access and quotable document for the plethora of wasted food stories in national media outlets.

    Beginning with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, Atlanta foodservice operators took a leadership role in innovative food waste reduction | elimination programs. ZWZ Participants pledged to donate wasted food and collect food waste for composting. At the time, the Atlanta program was a national forerunner in the commercial food waste collection for compost.

    During the same time frame, Atlanta Pioneers created grass root systems for wasted food - edible food meeting the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act criteria - collection for direct donation to local shelters. Wasted food may require cooking or other preparation at the shelter, often a challenge preventing donation. 

    A volunteer with Second Helpings, Myron Smith used his business acumen to develop a donation program for delicious, nutritious food from farmers markets, grocery stores, festivals and foodservice operators previously landfill bound. In team spirit, Myron works in collaboration with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to ensure their complementary services maximize community benefit.

    Myron & Elizabeth during her
    Atlanta vsit
    In her November 2012 article, Spoil Alert published by Martha Stewart's Whole Living, renown nature | science writer Elizabeth Royte gives Atlanta's wasted food crusaders a national spotlight. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction, is an overview of Elizabeth's whirlwind Atlanta visit for interviews. For a recap of the article along with interesting anecdotes from the local wasted food warriors, see the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta's Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight.

    On January 15, 2013 CBS SmartPlanet published For business, food waste a ripe opportunity for savings by Kevin Gray that approaches food waste from the business perspective. Again, Atlanta is recognized for its leadership role with innovative approaches to reducing food waste. The ZWA Blog article, Food Waste, the business perspective, announces the CBS SmartPlanet article. Additionally, the blog article establishes the food waste scenario is more than an environmental concern - it threatens our nation's economic security.

    Image of the Food Recovery HierarchyWith Atlanta's history of food waste reduction, donation and recycling, the EPA Region IV FRC launch within the hospitality sector is synergistic with well-established systems. 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. 

    In addition, the FRC serves as a food waste tracking tool with report compilation modules. Information entered into the EPA system is proprietary in nature; the EPA only shares metrics in the aggregate.

    For Atlanta's heroes, the FRC is a recognition program for a job well done as well as an opportunity to share their experiences with fellow operators.

    With strong connections to foodservice industry leaders who relish the pioneer role, Elemental Impact works closely with the EPA on the Southeast FRC launch, mainly in Atlanta, Tampa and Charlotte. Ei's role is introductory in nature. Kim Charick of the EPA works directly with potential participants on program enrollment.

    Kim meeting with the GWCC folks
    For foodservice operators new to food recovery practices, the EPA provides a series of educational tools. The industry pioneers will share their stories via case studies along with presenting in webinars.

    The Ei FB EPA Food Recovery Challenge album tracks the EPA Region IV FRC successes and milestones. 

    Over a three-week period, Ei orchestrated introductory meetings | calls with Chick-fil-A, HMSHost, Affairs to Remember, Ted's Montana Grill, Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome, Sysco, HobNob, Federal Reserve, Le Cordon Bleu and the American Culinary Federation, Atlanta Chefs Association. Enthusiasm is strong and Kim is in the follow-up process. Many completed the first stage within the program enrollment process.

    A goal is to announce a strong participation platform at the May 7 & 8 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference hosted in Atlanta. Stay tuned for future articles documenting the EPA Food Recovery Challenge success!
  8. Zero Waste Conference: National in Focus, Local in Flavor
    Westin Buckehad, the
    conference host hotel
    On May 7 & 8 the national zero waste community converges on Atlanta for the 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference Creating Value Through Zero Waste. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta: Host City for the 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference, introduces Atlanta as an ideal host city with a summary of zero waste achievements and gives an U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) overview.  

    In September USZWBC executive director Stephanie Barger visited Atlanta for a whirlwind of introductions and meetings with local industry leaders. The ZWA Blog article, Creating Value Through Zero Waste, recaps the many powerful meetings. Strong local | regional support is key to conference attendance and success.  

    Sustainable Atlanta (SA) is the conference Local Host and Elemental Impact (Ei) is the conference Local Partner and Media Sponsor. In addition, Southeast Green, Captain Planet Foundation, Southeast Recycling Development Council, the Georgia Recycling Coalition, LifeCycle Building Center, and the Green Meeting Industry Council - Atlanta Chapter are local | regional promotional partners. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV is an enthusiastic conference participant and supporter. 

    Local support is key for driving regional attendance; national alliances are essential for stellar program development and attracting participation from coast to coast, along with our neighbor to the north. WasteCap Resource Solutions, Sustainable Brands, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Colorado Association for Recycling, repurposedMaterialsand the Sustainable Packaging Coalition comprise the national promotional partner team. The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation is a conference Silver Sponsor. 

    For the program, the conference committee reached the perfect balance of national focus fused with local flavor. In the opening conference session Atlanta zero waste success is the highlight. Local eco-warrior Laura Turner Seydel, Zero Waste Zones Founding Chair | Captain Planet Foundation Chair, welcomes attendees to her home city.  

    Laura speaking at an event
    Following Laura's remarks, Ei founder Holly Elmore moderates The Atlanta Zero Waste Story plenary panel comprised of Suzanne Burnes, SA executive director, Michael Cheyne, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport director of asset management & sustainability, Denise Quarles, City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability director, and Scott Jenkins, Atlanta Falcons Stadium general manager. 

    The remaining program delves into topics of interest for the seasoned zero waste business | community or those taking inaugural steps into freedom from landfills. In alignment with the conference title, Creating Value Through Zero Waste, the program is designed to educate on the role zero waste plays in creating vibrant local economies and healthy bottom lines.

    Recycling Refinement, Hard to Recycle Items and Counting What's Not There - Measuring Reduce and Reuse are topics of interest for those well down the zero waste path. The Getting Started, Businesses Leading the Way to Zero Waste, and HOW to get to Zero Waste panels are geared towards those embarking on the journey.

    Brenda speaking @ industry
    In addition, many of the panels are industry-oriented with information or tools necessary to address challenges, edge closer to literal zero landfill and celebrate success. Several examples include Metrics & Measurement, Disney's Journey to Responsible Paper,  ZW Branding & Social Media, Vendor Relations and Sustainable Packaging.

    Ei Advisory Council member Brenda Platt with the ILSR opens the Day Two program as the plenary keynote speaker with her Pay Dirt: Composting in America to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, and Enhance the Soil.

    The USZWBC launched the Third-Party Zero Waste Certification Program in early 2013 with Whole Foods' receipt of the first Zero Waste Certifications. In November, Sierra Nevada earned the first Platinum Zero Waste Certificate for reusing or recycling 99.8% of their operation's by-products. For additional information visit the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification page. Day One of the conference program ends with an USZWBC Zero Waste Certification Program Overview by Stephanie and USZWBC president Sue Beets of SBM Management.

    USZWBC groupplaque credit resized
    Sierra Nevada receives first Platinum
    Zero Waste Certification
    photo courtesy of USZWBC
    On May 6th the USZWBC offers a pre-conference Zero Waste Professional training course for those interested in pursuing Zero Waste Business Associate Certification or to learn more about the USZWBC Facility Certification and the scorecard system. 

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

    Beyond Ei's conference partner and media sponsor status, Ei Partners are active with the conference via sponsorship, panel presentations and promoting conference attendance. Ei Partners CleanRiver, NatureWorks, Novelis and Orwak are conference sponsors and share their expertise on panels. Bruce Buchan of CleanRiver serves on the Property and Facility Management panel, Doug Kunnemann of Natureworks on the Sustainable Packaging panel, John Gardner of Novelis on the Businesses Leading the Way to Zero Waste, and Mark Lanning of Orwak on the Recycling Refinement panel.

    Ei Partners @ the CleanRiver booth
    @ the 2012 inaugural conference 
    In addition, Ei Supporters Patrick Cuccaro, Affairs to Remember general manager, Tim Trefzer, Georgia World Congress Center Authority director of sustainability, and Michael Cheyne with the Atlanta Airport share their success stories on panels. Ei Friend Lorraine White of M-PASS Environmental presents on the Recycling Refinement panel.

    Ei Strategic Allies - Sustainable Atlanta, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition - are active conference hosts, partners, speakers and promoters.  

    With ample planning time, the 2014 USZWBC Conference is staged for success along with tremendous industry impact!
  9. Atlanta Airport Presents a Proactive Approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease
    AKG in kitchen exhaust
    system ducts
    Airborne grease and smoke generated as a cooking by-product are a fire hazard, an environmental concern and costly to clean. Local and national fire safety regulations require commercial foodservice operations to install a kitchen exhaust system to evacuate heat, grease effluent, moisture and smoke from the cooking area. Generally consisting of a hood, baffle filters, ducts and exhaust fan, the kitchen exhaust system must be monitored and maintained in accordance with the codes.

    Most kitchen exhaust systems are inspected monthly or quarterly and require a system cleaning due to grease build-up. On average an exhaust system cleaning uses approximately 350 gallons of water along with toxic cleaning agents. In addition, the metal baffle filters are generally cleaned nightly, requiring labor, water and toxic cleaning chemicals. On average 40 gallons of water is used for nightly baffle filter cleaning.

    Feb | Mar 2014
    Airport Magazine
    In the American Association of Airport Executives' February | March publication Airport Magazine article, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) presents a proactive approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG). The AIRBORNE KITCHEN GREASE: A New Frontier in Sustainability, A simple solution saves tremendous water use, labor and dollars article is in the Airport Magazine Asset Management department.

    By capturing the AKG before it enters the kitchen exhaust system the nightly baffle filter and entire system cleanings are significantly reduced. Another cost-savings is the reduction in roof repairs & maintenance due to little to no AKG flowing through the kitchen exhaust system.

    Elemental Impact Partner Ellis Fibre developed the patented, disposable Grease Lock Filters (GLF) made from a proprietary blend of fire retardant wool. Installed in front of the baffle filters, GLF capture 90 -  95% plus of the AKG before entering the kitchen exhaust system. The filters are easily replaced when filled with grease.

    Grease-laden filter next to a
    clean filter
    The ZWA Blog article, Zero WATER Waste: more than a goal, a necessity, introduces the foundation of Ei's Water Use | Toxicity Platform along with a GLF overview. Within the Water Use | Toxicity Platform, Ei is creating a Proactive AKG Approach template. In the ZWA Blog article, Airborne Kitchen Grease, a simple solution to a costly kitchen by-product, Ei establishes the four action steps in template development:
    1. Fire Safety
    2. Cost-Savings
    3. Metrics Platform
    4. Filter End-of-Life
    For a pictorial account of Ei's AKG template development, visit the Ei FB album, Airborne Kitchen Grease, a costly cooking by-product.

    In early 2013 HMSHost - ATL participated in a three-restaurant, eight-week pilot to substantiate the cost-savings experienced by the foodservice operator when using GLF. The Water, Chemical, & Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters, A Report on Restaurant Pilots is downloadable on the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease page. Impressed with the pilot results, HMSHost installed GLF in additional ATL concessionaire operations. 

    Tim Slaney, HMSHost ATL senior director of operations, provided the following quote for the AAAE article:
    We have had great success using the GLF system—it produces energy and cost-savings, and is good for the environment and for us. We are constantly seeking ways to create efficiencies and minimize environmental impact. The GLF system achieves a cleaner system and improves air quality. We use it at several of our restaurants at ATL.”
    Ei GREASE Team meets
    with ATL associates
    In August 2013 the Ei GREASE - Grease Recycling Alternative Solutions for the Environment - Team met with the ATL sustainability, concessionaire and facilities departments to review the GLF pilot report and strategize on action points. 

    Enthusiastic about the potential airport | concessionaire roof repair & maintenance, water, labor, and cleaning cost-savings, ATL embarked upon a campus-wide GLF installation business case justification study. If implemented, ATL will be the first airport worldwide to take a proactive AKG stance.

    As documented in the AAAE article, a campus-wide GLF installation would save ATL an estimated 1.1 million gallons of water usage annually. Each of the 80+ concessionaires would experience approximately $7,300 in cost-savings per year. In addition, an estimated 42,000 pounds of AKG would not deposit on ATL roofs nor release into the atmosphere.

    From an environmental perspective, the water used for cleaning in the current reactive AKG scenario is laden with grease and toxic cleaning agents when released into grease traps or directly into sewer systems. 

    Atlanta Air Quality Image
    courtesy of  Creative Loafing's
    Bad air days
    AKG released into the atmosphere is harmful to air quality and impacts two of the six EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Ground Level Ozone and Particulate Matter. Note the Metro Atlanta area is not in attainment of these two standards. Ei is in the exploration stage to determine if the AKG air quality impact is significant.  

    Kudos to ATL for taking an industry leadership role with a proactive approach to AKG. Thank you Michael Cheyne, ATL director of sustainability and asset management, for devoting your February | March  AAAE Asset Management Column to AKG. The article was co-written by Michael and Ei founder Holly Elmore with Liza Milagro, ATL senior sustainability planner, and Jordan Salpietra of Ellis Fibre | GLF substantiating the ATL-specific estimates.

    Airborne Kitchen Grease is a new sustainability frontier where ALL WIN: the foodservice operator, the facility, the community and the environment. With Industry leaders like HMSHost and the Atlanta Airport - the busiest airport in the world - at the helm, a proactive AKG approach will spread like wild fire, so to speak!
  10. Airborne Kitchen Grease: a simple solution to a costly kitchen by-product
    Airborne Kitchen Grease is a
    by-product of culinary operations
    Elemental Impact's definition of waste expands beyond material | by-products generated in operations to include resources, specifically water. In the ZWA Blog post, Zero WATER Waste: more than a goal, a necessity, the foundation for Ei’s Water Use | Toxicity Platform is established.

    In alignment with an Ei mantra:  Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done, the Ei Team explores areas of significant corporate water consumption where technologies exist to reduce or eliminate water usage. Equipment investment must be offset by water and other cost-savings with a reasonable ROI – return on investment.

    The initial focus is on water reduction in areas where the “spent water” released into sewer systems or other waterways is laden with toxic chemicals. Thus, water use and toxicity are addressed in unison. Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG) is a perfect starting point for Water Use | Toxicity initiatives.

    ATL Airport concessionaire mgr
    Kyle Mastin learning about AKG
    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 to evacuate heat, grease effluent, moisture and smoke from the cooking area. Generally consisting of a hood, baffle filters, ducts and exhaust fan, the kitchen exhaust system must be monitored and maintained in accordance with the codes.

    Most kitchen exhaust systems are inspected monthly or quarterly and require a system cleaning due to grease build-up. On average an exhaust system cleaning uses approximately 350 gallons of water along with toxic cleaning agents. In addition, the metal baffle filters are generally cleaned nightly, requiring labor, water and toxic cleaning chemicals. On average 40 gallons of water is used for nightly baffle filter cleaning.

    Ei Partner Ellis Fibre (EF) manufactures a patented, disposable grease filter that is placed in front of the baffle filters. EF's Grease Lock Filters (GLF) collect 90% plus of the kitchen grease particulates before entering the kitchen exhaust system. By eliminating grease build-up in the system, the nightly baffle filter cleaning is generally reduced to weekly; the number of third party contracted kitchen exhaust system cleanings are often required annually, down from monthly or quarterly.

    Installed Grease Lock Filter system
    For details on the GLF system, visit the ZWA Blog article, GREASE: a new frontier filled with economic & environmental promise .

    To maximize impact, Ei is developing a city-wide AKG initiative. Addressing four key areas is the first step in template creation:
    1. Fire Safety
    2. Cost-Savings
    3. Metrics Platform
    4. Filter End-of-Life
    Fire Safety:
    First and foremost is fire safety. Before GLF approached Ei, fire safety was thoroughly addressed. Made from a patented, proprietary-blend of sheep's wool and other natural fibers, the filter is naturally oil absorbent and flame resistant. The filter composition allows GLF to keep the grease out of the hood and increase restaurant fire safety.

    Certified to UL Standard 1046, GLF will not support combustion. Grease collected on the filter may flare-off if excessively heated or subjected to flames; however, when the flame source is removed the filter will self-extinguish and is replaced with a new filter.

    Grease accumulation in the
    kitchen exhaust system
    GLF is tested, compliant and/or recognized by the following:
    • Standard UL 1046/ULC-S649 & UL 710 – Flame Exposure & Abnormal Flare-Up Test
    • NFPA 96 / IFC – Ventilation Control & Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations
    • NSF 2 / ANSI 51 – Food Equipment & Materials-Formulation Review (Sanitation/Toxicology)
    • TYCO – World Leader In Fire Suppression Systems
    • IMC/UMC - Protects Public Health & Safety For All Building Ventilation Design
    With fire safety addressed, the next step is to ensure GLF improves a foodservice operator's bottom line.

    To substantiate and quantify the water, labor and toxic chemical savings, Ei joined forces with Compliance Solutions International for a three-restaurant, eight-week GLF system pilot. The Water, Chemical, & Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters, A Report on Restaurant Pilots prepared by Jay Parikh, CSI president is downloadable on the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease page.

    GLF | HMSHost Team day
    before the GLF installation
    The comprehensive report documents the impressive water, chemical and labor savings experienced by the participating restaurants. In each case, the restaurant’s bottom line improved by using GLF due to reduced cleaning of the baffle filters and the entire kitchen exhaust system.

    In addition to the documented labor, water and chemical savings in the report, the facility experiences reduced fire risk and repairs & maintenance due to less grease accumulation within the exhaust system and the roof ventilation area. The community benefits from reduced emissions due to fewer full-exhaust system cleanings by a third party who travels to the kitchen.

    Metrics Platform:
    Program success is substantiated by quantifiable data. For the GLF system, measurable success is multi-faceted for the foodservice operator, building owner and the community. 

    The foodservice operator experiences cost-savings from reduced third party full-system cleanings, labor for baffle filter cleaning, and water usage. Easily quantified, GLF is building a metrics collection platform that calculates and presents the savings in a simple format for the operator.

    In addition to single-operator reports, the platform aggregates savings by companies, territories or whatever other filters are added to the system. The intention is to also track the tremendous water savings for a metro area. 

    Later template stages will incorporate roof repair & maintenance savings, lower carbon emission from fewer truck miles driven for cleanings, reduced toxic cleaning agents sent to the sewer systems, and improved community air quality due to reduced grease particulates released into the atmosphere from the exhaust system.

    Filter End of Life:
    Grease-laden filter next to
    new filter
    GLF is working with Ei Strategic Ally the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on testing the filters for compostability. Current industry standards | certifications for compostability are designed for foodservice packaging, not filters made primarily of sheep's wool. Based on preliminary trials at composting facilities along with an ingredient review, GLF is confident the filters will meet the yet-to-be-determined compostability tests.

    The grease collected by the filters is a potential valuable GLF system by-product. In the next months, extraction tests will determine the value compared with the effort required to remove grease from filters as a usable commodity.

    With a scenario where all parties benefit - foodservice operator, facility owners, communities and the environment - Ei is developing a strategic plan for a metro-wide GLF installation. Atlanta is the template pilot city.

    SFCI Team @ ATL Airport
    As the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Airport Pilot, the Atlanta Airport takes a leading role with a potential campus-wide GLF installation. Ei Partner HMSHost participated in the above reference pilot with Pei Wei in the Atlanta Airport International Terminal. Impressed with GLF performance, HMSHost installed the system in additional Atlanta Airport locations.

    An Atlanta Airport campus-wide GLF installation is estimated to reduce water usage by 1.1 million gallons per year and on average save each concessionaire $7,500 per year.  

    For GLF installation pictorial recaps at the Atlanta Airport, see the Ei FB albums, 02-20-13 Grease Lock Filter Pilot Tour and 04-17-13 SFCI Team Tour - ATL Airport Int'l Concourse.

    Airborne Kitchen Grease is a new frontier in sustainability. Water usage reduction is the first quantifiable step followed by eliminating significant amounts of toxic cleaning agents from entering the sewer system. Final steps address the airborne grease particulates not dispersed into the atmosphere, impacting air quality.

    ZWA Blog articles will chronicle action taken, success achieved and how challenges evolve into lessons learned. Within frontiers, pioneers develop the most effective paths and create new standard practices. Kudos to the Atlanta Airport and HMSHost for taking the leadership role as Airborne Kitchen Grease pioneers!

Strategic Alliance Partners