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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Regeneration in ACTION!
    Since inception Elemental Impact (Ei) lived the tagline Sustainability in ACTION! Working with a powerful team of Ei Pioneers and Ei Industry Experts, Ei evolved into a respected national non-profit known for introducing sustainable best practices within a range of industries.

    Beginning with the Zero Waste Zones, Ei initiatives epitomized the following mantra:
    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.
    As documented in The IMPACT Blog, Happy 8th Birthday, Ei!,  2017 was the Year of Shifting Gears. In 2017 Ei announced Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, was a prime focus, replacing the prominent Recycling Refinement (RR) work. In addition, Ei Leadership experienced a changing of the guard and Ei welcomed new Strategic Allies.

    The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, recounts how Ei RR work was complete within the above mantra parameters, yet serves as the foundation for Soil Health initiatives.

    For documentation of Ei's RR era, visit the Milestone's page for a monthly listing of profound action within the Ei journey dating back to pre-inception; the Mission Accomplished page lists Ei endeavors with achieved goals and considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished!

    With gears shifted, the time arrived to assess the use of "sustainability" in the Ei tagline.

    Beyond Circles: the Spiral
    Ei Founder Holly Elmore never aligned with the terms: closing the loop, circular economy and any other nomenclature referring to a circle. The concept of a circle implies a process always returns to its starting point in the same structure as it began.

    Grass naturally
    curls in spirals
    Innately, Holly understood natural cycles align with Fibonacci Sequence geometries. The Fibonacci Sequence is derived by adding a number with its predecessor to arrive at the successor number: 0,1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ... in perpetuity. According to
    Fibonacci numbers and Phi are related to spiral growth in nature.  If you sum the squares of any series of Fibonacci numbers, they will equal the last Fibonacci number used in the series times the next Fibonacci number.  This property results in the Fibonacci spiral, based on the following progression and properties of the Fibonacci series:
    12 + 12 + 22 + 32 + 52 = 5 x 8 
    A Golden spiral is very similar to the Fibonacci spiral but is based on a series of identically proportioned golden rectangles, each having a golden ratio of 1.618 of the length of the long side to that of the short side of the rectangle:
    The Fibonacci spiral gets closer and closer to a Golden Spiral as it increases in size because of the ratio of each number in the Fibonacci series to the one before it converges on Phi, 1.618, as the series progresses (e.g., 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13 produce ratios of 1, 2, 1.5, 1.67, 1.6 and 1.625, respectively.)
    As stated by the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies Chairman of the Board George Dvorsky: The famous Fibonacci sequence has captivated mathematicians, artists, designers, and scientists for centuries. Also known as the Golden Ratio, its ubiquity and astounding functionality in nature suggest its importance as a fundamental characteristic of the Universe.

    Flowers blooming within a spiral
    In his 15 Uncanny Examples of the Golden Ratio in Nature article, George lists a range of the Golden Ratio in Nature examples along with supporting details: 1> flower petals, 2> seed heads, 3> pine cones, 4> fruits & vegetables, 5> tree branches, 6> shells, 7> spiral galaxies, 8> hurricanes, 9> faces, 10> fingers, 11> animal bodies, 12> reproductive dynamics, 13> animal fight patterns, 14> uterus, and 15> DNA molecules.

    In 2012 the ZWA Blog articles, Perpetual Life Cycle System - simplicity is key and The Perpetual Spiral, the evolution from a zero waste focus to nature's no waste systems is introduced as an Ei platform. Here are several quotes from the articles:
    In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. 
    Remember death is always followed by birth - we are in the process of birthing a civilization where technology-based solutions mirror nature's perfect regeneration processes. 
    Beyond Sustainability, Beyond Resilience: Regeneration 
    Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon | water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue to melt, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

    Beginning with the above paragraph, the ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, articulates the pending oxygen deficiency and food crisis substantiated with prominent scientific research. The article questions whether the established sustainability movement and the new resilience focus are enough to reverse the out-of-balance carbon cycles causing the pending crisis.

    To avoid a doom and gloom perspective, it is important to simplify the scenario and discover regenerative solutions. Beyond sustainability and resilience, regeneration focuses on rebuilding and restoring nature's perfect system.

    Finian with the Ga Tech team
    During his recent Atlanta visit, Ei Strategic Ally Kiss the Ground (KTG) Co-Founder Finian Makepeace joined the Ei Team for a whirlwind day of empowering meetings focused on regenerative solutions. In the first meeting with Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) Director of Solid Waste & Recycling Cindy Jackson and Ga Tech Director of Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide, Finian was impressed with the amazing regenerative grounds maintenance practices in place.

    As the meeting closed, the theme for the day emerged: water infiltration rates. The Ei Team pledged to work with Ga Tech on increasing water infiltration rates at their urban campus. In urban settings, impervious surfaces coupled with compacted soils result in common stormwater runoff vs. rainwater replenishing the soils and underground aquifers. Most often stormwater runoff collects significant pollutants from roadways and gutters before flowing into the sewer system.

    The next meeting was at the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI) Convention Center Pilot, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. SFI Chair Tim Trefzer, GWCCA director of sustainability, and GWCCA  Landscape Manager Steve Ware met with the Ei Team. It was empowering to learn specifics on the redesign of Olympic Centennial Park, a 20-acre park located in Atlanta's downtown convention & entertainment district.

    Steve educated on the challenges inherent within employing regenerative landscape practices at the nation's fourth-largest convention center (and world's largest LEED-certified convention center!) Much of the landscaped common areas are built on top of the nine-floor main parking deck. Thus, well-structured soil infiltrated with ample water exceeds safe weight limits for the areas.

    Closing meeting conversation centered around increasing water filtration rates at Olympic Centennial Park and landscaped areas located on solid ground.

    Nancy & Finian with SF&G copies
    Next Holly and Finian met with Southern Farm & Garden (SF&G) Publisher Nancy Suttles. The fall SF&G issue featured a seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems; the articles give an overview of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) stellar sustainability commitment at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality, The Commons (KSU’s Gold LEED-certified dining hall), and Hickory Grove Farm. Holly provided the copy and photographs for the publication feature.

    As a result of the meeting, KTG and SF&G are co-promotional partners with KTG providing SF&G content on regenerative agriculture along with examples of successful farms. In return, KTG promotes SF&G in their powerful social media networks.

    The final meeting was at the SFI - Atlanta Airport to learn about work-in-progress on Finding the Flint, an underdevelopment multi-faceted project to restore the Flint River headwaters.  At the meeting, ATL Senior Sustainability Planner Polly Sattler educated the Ei Team on the Flint River scenario and the Finding the Flint status.

    Polly educating the Ei Team
    on the Flint River
    The Flint River headwaters are a series of springs and tributaries meeting to form the Flint River near
    the Atlanta Airport; the river then flows underneath the airport runways. A significant portion of the headwaters is covered with building structure | pavement or flows through drainage ditches.

    With 220 miles of unimpeded flow through Georgia, the Flint River is one of only 40 rivers in the U.S. that flows more than 200 river miles unimpeded. In 2009 and 2013, American Rivers listed the Flint River as one of the most endangered rivers in America.

    Through the SFI-ATL, the Ei Team will find a perfect niche within Finding the Flint projects that supports the Atlanta Airport and the Ei Soil Health platform.

    Regeneration in ACTION
    The following day, Finian was the lead panelist on the Ei-Hosted panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, at the U.S. Composting Council Conference hosted in Atlanta. In his excellent A New View presentation, Finian introduced the Degenerative → Sustainable → Regenerative model.

    When early humans moved from their hunter | gatherer lifestyle to communal living with domesticated plants and animals, humanity entered the degenerative era. The ground was cleared of trees and other plants and then tilled for gardens and small farms with no regard for the destroyed soil ecosystems.

    The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, explains how traditional agriculture methods are a root cause of the current carbon crisis and mass desertification underway around the globe. Thus, the symbol for the degenerative era is a downward facing arrow.

    Within the sustainability movement, used materials are returned back to their original state or a renewed purpose. Though admirable, sustainability goals are to stop the destruction yet do not focus on restoring soils and resources lost within the degenerative era. In addition, sustainability is merely a movement without broad acceptance across cultures; the majority of humans remain within the degenerative era, further diminishing the Earth's limited resources. Thus, the sustainable symbol for is the recycling circle of connecting arrows.

    Aligning with perfected natural cycles and systems, regeneration heals damaged soils by supporting the underground ecosystems. KTG's The Soil Story introduces regenerative agriculture | landscape practices as a solution for restoring soil ecosystems. Healthy, alive soil nurtures plants with strong, deep root systems; the plants "pump" carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. In addition, healthy plants grown in alive soil produce abundant, nutritious food.

    Once the atmospheric carbon reduces to a certain threshold, the oceans will release carbon into the atmosphere, reversing ocean acidification. Thus, marine plant life once again thrives, generating ample oxygen into the atmosphere. Soil regeneration addresses the food | desertification and oxygen components of the pending crisis. The symbol for regeneration is a spiral with an upward facing arrow at the top.

    Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils panel PPT presentations are available on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels website page.

    The time is NOW to move beyond sustainability | resilience and embrace regenerative solutions that return the carbon cycles to a healthy, balanced state. The food and oxygen crisis is real and grounded in solid scientific research. Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems.

    ... and Ei's new tagline is Regeneration in ACTION!
  2. Ei Announces the Sustainable Facilities Initiative
    In 2009 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) were launched as the nation's pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for composting. Under the ZWZ program participants perfected the best practices for back-of-the-house prep waste collection and shared their lessons learned, challenges and successes with their industry colleagues.

    The Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) was launched in 2011 to address the zero waste challenges associated food courts and post-consumer food waste. When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in late 2012, the SFCI emerged as Elemental Impact's central Recycling Refinement focus through 2016.

    Industry Milestones
    Compostable Packaging
    In general, a successful front-of-the-house post-consumer food waste collection program requires the use of BPI Certified compostable food & beverage packaging or reusable service ware.

    With impeccable timing, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport Pilot was in the midst of the concessionaire RFP for the entire airport when the SFI launched in 2011. The City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability and Department of Aviation team, led by Michael Cheyne, Director of Asset Management & Sustainability for the Airport, made the bold, courageous and successful move to include the following provision in the RFP and subsequent concessionaire contract:
    “Concessionaire shall use compostable service ware along with consumer-facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off-airport composting facilities.”
    The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold  Sustainable Statement, announces the compostable packaging contract provision. With Ei Strategic Ally Institute for Local Self-Reliance Co-Director Brenda Platt taking the lead, the SFCI Team crafted the Compostable Packaging Info Packet to educate concessionaires on the contract provision; the ZWA Blog article, Exemptions | Exclusions Added to Atlanta Airport Info Packetis an overview of updates for exempted | excluded items to the Info Packet. The document is available for download on the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet website page.

    In October 2011, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport received the Going Green Airport Award at the fourth Annual Going Green Airports Conference hosted in Chicago. The prestigious award recognized the value of the project, as well as outstanding leadership in pursuit of sustainability within the aviation industry.

    Plastic Film Recycling
    Around 2011 the garment industry shifted from bulk packaging for retail shipments to individual plastic film-wrapped garments; the packaging shift was a response to the explosion of internet sales. Shopping malls witnessed a dramatic increase in tenant plastic film waste, increasing their waste-hauling charges.

    SFCI Team with first
    plastic film bales at Concord Mills
    Yet plastic film is a valuable commodity with recycling rebates often matching or exceeding OCC (old corrugated cardboard). Large commercial generators source-separate plastic film and sell the standard-sized bales weighing 700 - 1000 pounds in the commodities market. Thus, plastic film is a strong contributor to their recycling profit centers.

    In 2012 SFCI - Concord Mills (CM), a Simon mall in Charlotte, NC, crafted the nation's first shopping mall plastic film recycling program. The SFCI Team, including Mecklenburg County Government, worked closely with CM General Manager Roy Soporowski on developing the successful program. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announces the mall's plastic film recycling program.

    Shortly thereafter, SouthPark Mall, a sister Simon mall in Charlotte, replicated the CM plastic film recycling template, modified for their mall logistics.

    The Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls prepared by Ei on behalf of the Wrap Recycling Action Program, an American Chemistry Council Plastic Film Recycling Group program, was officially released at the 2016 Annual Ei Partner Meeting. The ZWA Blog article, Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls, announces the case study release along with an overview of the plastic film recycling program development.

    For additional SFCI history and accomplishments, visit the SFCI - Accomplished website page.

    Shifting Gears
    In 2017 Ei shifted gears within humanity's environmental impact spiral. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life.

    KSU Hickory Grove Farm
    regenerative ag in action
    Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils' direct relationship with the carbon crisis, out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, stormwater management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the microplastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are:

    In addition, the Water Use | Toxicity platform plays a strong supporting role.

    Simultaneous with the Soil Health platform announcement, Ei work related to Recycling Refinement, including zero waste, food waste, plastic film recycling and other materials-oriented areas, was moved to the Ei Mission Accomplished! website section. Recycling Refinement expertise is available via Ei Founder Holly Elmore's private consulting practice at

    Sustainable Facilities Initiative 
    In alignment with the new Ei focus, the SFCI evolved into the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI). Georgia World Center Authority Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the SFI Chair. The ZWA Blog article, Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team, announces Past SFCI Chairs Doug Kunnemann and Scott Seydel passing the leadership baton to Tim.

    SFI Chair Tim Trefzer @
    KSU Hickory Grove Farm
    Meetings are in process with the SFCI Pilot executives to discuss the segue to a SFI Pilot. In addition, Tim & Holly are meeting with new potential pilots

    The SFI Pilots represent facilities within various industry segments. SFI Pilots agree to the following parameters:
    • Pioneer - pilots serve as industry pioneers and assess each SFI platform for implementation within their operations. 
    • Industry Leader - once best practices are established within a platform, the pilot managers share with their industry colleagues.
    • Strategist - pilot managers work closely with the SFI Team to strategize on expanding platform impact and/or developing new platforms.
    The SFI Pilot focus areas align with the overall Ei Platforms:

    Soil Health:
    Within Soil Health, pilots address the following focus areas:
    • Regenerative landscape practices
    • Water infiltration rates
    • Native vegetation
    • Pollinator habitat gardens or other support for pollinators
    • Food waste compost from foodservice operations used within grounds maintenance
    • On-site urban agriculture or partner with a hyper-local farm for food used in campus foodservice operations

    Water Use | Toxicity:
    Within Water Use | Toxicity, pilots address the following focus areas:
    Utilizing the strong SFCI foundation, the Sustainable Facilities Initiative is staged for tremendous impact within the Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms and beyond. Stay tuned!
  3. Redefining WASTE: impact of common landscape & grounds maintenance practices on urban wildlife
    Over the past decade, zero waste grew from a grassroots movement to a buzz word to a common term for reducing waste across the spectrum of commercial, government and private facilities. Traditionally, zero waste referred to materials used within daily operations and lifestyles.

    The U.S Green Building Council Total Resource Use & Efficiency (TRUE) Certification takes a strong step in redefining waste within the point-based program. Point achievement goes beyond the facility's physical structure and materials used on-site; TRUE addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment. 

    Within its holistic protocol, TRUE takes impressive steps to redefine the zero waste industry with points related to grounds maintenance, cleaning practices, and supply chain management. The ZWA Blog article, TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy, is an overview of the zero waste certification program.

    Tidy gardens = wasteful gardens
    Pupal cases within two
    fallen leaves
    It is time to further redefine zero waste by addressing the impact on urban wildlife, especially pollinators, songbirds and other small creatures. From an urban wildlife and flora perspective, common landscape and grounds maintenance practices are filled with unnecessary waste. The concept of neat, well-groomed lawns and greenways is detrimental to urban lifecycles.

    Raking (or blowing) leaves for transport to compost, landfills or incineration is wasteful on many levels. Beyond nutrition for its parent tree or bush, leaves provide winter homes for larval insects and shelter for organisms who nestle into the soil for the dormant months. By removing the leaves, humans disrupt Nature's perfected, intertwined lifecycles between invertebrates, insects, birds and larger prey species. Removing leaves wastes food & shelter designed for winter survival and spring's rebirth.

    ... and labor is required to aggregate the leaves and haul them off the property. Thus, the property owner (or manager) wastes costly labor via a disruptive task. When gas-powered blowers are used in the removal of leaves, energy is wasted coupled with contributions to Green House Gases (GHG).

    Nesting material from a seed pod
    A common landscape practice is to remove plants once they enter the dormant stage. Yet dormant plants generally are filled with winter food for non-migratory birds, insects, and other small creatures. When opened, remaining plant pods reveal abundant seeds and often fluffy material perfect for nest building.

    Nature loves diversity
    According to the Times Magazine April 2015 article, You Asked: Are the Honeybees Still Disappearing?, crops, manicured lawns and fields barren of pollen sources now replace the once abundant meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers. Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College explains, “Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers. A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly.”

    Most manicured lawns are comprised of a single grass species, often not native to the area, and mowed prior to seeding. Volunteer grass and flowering plant species are considered weeds and eradicated via hand pulling or other weed | pest control methods.

    Suburban manicured lawn
    photo credit:
    Moscarino Outdoor Creations
    Many communities, whether at-large or a subdivision, establish by-laws stipulating lawn care including a single-grass species cut to a specified height. Though considered beautiful by common cultural perception, most "well-kept" neighborhood lawns are poisonous green deserts for urban wildlife. 

    As reported in the Huff Post August 2015 post, The American Lawn Is Now The Largest Single ‘Crop’ In The U.S., a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there are an estimated 63,000 square miles of lawn in America — about the size of Texas. Maintaining a well-manicured lawn uses up to 900 liters of water per person per day and reduces carbon sequestration effectiveness by up to 35 percent; emissions from fertilization and the gas or electric-powered mowing equipment reduce the carbon sequestration effectiveness.

    Manicured lawns are an expense for the property owner and contribute to GHG, as most lawns are cut with gas-powered mowers. From an urban wildlife perspective, modern lawns are wasteful. By their nature, lawns preclude food production in the form of flowers, fruits and seeds, shelter for nest building, and the necessary ingredients for healthy soils.

    A healthy garden is a diverse garden
    Robust soils require diverse root systems, invertebrates, microbial communities and fungi that feed optimum nutrients to the plants. Through the photosynthetic process, plants sequester carbon into their roots, stems & leaves and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Well-nourished plants and their subsequent decomposition are integral to the soil regeneration process and restoring balance to the carbon cycles. 

    The ZWA Blog articles, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance and Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, introduce the out-of-balance carbon cycles along with soil regeneration as a viable, immediate solution.

    Weeds, or NOT
    Enacted in 1975, the Federal Noxious Weed Act established a Federal program to control the spread of noxious weeds. Per the Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
    "The Secretary of Agriculture was given the authority to designate plants as noxious weeds by regulation, and the movement of all such weeds in interstate or foreign commerce was prohibited except under permit. The Secretary was also given authority to inspect, seize and destroy products, and to quarantine areas, if necessary to prevent the spread of such weeds. He was also authorized to cooperate with other Federal, State and local agencies, farmers associations and private individuals in measures to control, eradicate, or prevent or retard the spread of such weeds."
    Honeybee working milkweed
    By 2001, the common milkweed was classified as a noxious weed in 35 states. As described in My Altona Forest's April 2014 post, Monarchs and Milkweed – The Precarious Cycle: "There is a symbiotic relationship between the native milkweed plants and the monarch. The monarch butterflies enjoy the nectar from the flowers and help pollinate the plants. The successful pollination allows the milkweed to thrive and thus provide more nurseries for the crucial ‘fourth generation’ of monarchs. Unfortunately, there are no substitutes for where monarchs can lay their eggs."

    Pursuant to The New York Times November 2014 article, For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back
    "Less than 20 years ago, a billion butterflies from east of the Rocky Mountains reached the oyamel firs, and more than a million western monarchs migrated to the California coast to winter among its firs and eucalypts. Since then, the numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent, hitting a record low in Mexico last year after a three-year tailspin."
    Through research and action plans, a multitude of national and local organizations work diligently to reverse the impact of wasteful practices, such as eradicating native plants like the milkweed. Pollinator habitat gardens, often accompanying community gardens, are an example of effective programs in the implementation phase.

    Pollinator Habitat Gardens
    The fleabane "weed" was filled
    with happy pollinators
    In her November 2016 Wild Habitats article, More than Just a Pollinator Garden, Tara Mitchell compares the Pollinator Garden effort with the Victory Gardens promoted by the government during World War I and II. While the Victory Gardens were intended to address human food shortages, Pollinator Garden goals are to provide sufficient food (nectar and pollen) to reverse the decline of pollinators, bees in particular, and to provide habitat (milkweed) for monarch butterflies.

    Diversity is essential to an effective pollinator garden. Many pollinators are attracted to a single plant species (monarch butterflies) or are limited by their mouth structure to a certain size/shape of a flower. Clusters (or drifts) of flower type within the garden make it easier for insects to pollinate the plants.

    On his popular The Pollinator Garden site, Marc Colton gives the following advice:
    "Flowers evolved with pollinators, not for people, so I approach garden planning from the pollinators' perspective. Insects feed on pollen, nectar or both, and it isn’t just bees, but butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and hoverflies too.
    My second principle is to concentrate on flower forms which are close to nature, so no double flowers, complex hybrids or horticultural novelties.
    There is evidence that insects have to learn to use each different flower type and shape, and that they prefer large stands of the same species. The honey bee “waggle dance” evolved to pass on information about large stands of suitable flowers."
    Grove Park Community Garden,
    home to a Pollinators in Parks garden
    Pollinator habitat gardens are essentially a garden of any size containing flowering plants designed to attract and feed pollinators as well as provide homes for the next generation. Often pollinator habitat gardens accompany community gardens and contribute to robust crops for local consumption. The gardens are an excellent vehicle for the community to come together and provide benefits beyond food, whether for the pollinators or the gardener.

    It is common for local governments, non-profits, foundations and citizen groups to partner for formal programs. Elemental Impact (Ei)'s Strategic Ally Park Pride's Pollinators in Parks program is a prime example of the community coming together to create pollinator gardens in City of Atlanta Parks. 

    In February 2017, Park Pride received a $60,000 Home Depot Foundation grant in partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) for a pollinator garden pilot initiative; the pilot purpose was to increase the presence and impact of pollinator gardens in five City of Atlanta Parks.

    Grove Park Pollinator Garden as
    it enters the dormant stage
    The five Pollinators in Parks pilot locations, in neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta proper, are Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Four Corners Park, Gilliam Park, Grove Park, and Welch Street Park.

    Requirements for pilot participation included an adjacent community garden along with an established park group designated to plan, develop, and maintain the pollinator habitat garden. For the first year, Park Pride landscape architects and ABG pollinator experts worked closely with the park group on the garden design, building, and planting.

    According to Park Pride Visioning Coordinator Teri Nye, “Starting with a planting plan and a ‘menu’ of host and nectar plants ensures that each garden has a seasonal succession of food for our native pollinators during all stages of their lifecycles.” Teri's comment emphasizes the important role gardens play throughout the four seasons. In fact, Park Pride interns designed creative, informative signs for the gardens that illustrate each season's contributions to a healthy ecosystem.

    Park Pride winter pollinator sign
    In December 2017, Teri hosted Ei Founder Holly Elmore on an educational tour of the Grove Park Pollinator Habitat Garden. It was enlightening to witness first-hand the value within a dormant garden. Holly revisited Grove Park for a photo shoot of the impressive pollinator habitat garden along with the adjacent community garden. In addition, Holly visited the Blue Heron Nature Preserve pollinator habitat garden for several photo shoots. 

    The Holly Elmore Images FB album, The Power of Pollinators, is a collection of the garden photo shoots along with commentary.

    Captain Planet Foundation (CPF)'s Project Learning Garden (PLG) provides schools with outdoor learning laboratories and is another example of how gardens empower communities. Gardens in the schoolyard are effective outdoor learning spaces for students to engage in inquiry-driven, project-based learning across all disciplines. Pollinator gardens accompany each PLG.

    Children planting @ a PLG
    photo courtesy of CPF
    Supported by an array of corporate sponsors, the CPF PLG provide the following resources to participating schools: gardens & tools, curriculum & kits, mobile cooking cart, professional learning, program support, and a PLG library. K-8 public schools in the following school districts are eligible for PLG: Atlanta metro area districts, Los Angeles districts, and Santa Barbara | Ventura county districts. Schools in other districts and private schools may purchase the PLG for their students.

    When a school accepts the PLG grant, the school agrees to: 1) have teachers complete online or in person training; 2) support teachers using the garden as a regular instructional space; 3) file any necessary paperwork through their facilities team for their garden; 4) arrange for a few volunteers to help install the garden; and 5) respond to surveys sent out by CPF from time to time.

    CPF developed four ecoSTEM Resource Kits, a perfect tool for educators getting started with project-based learning. The Pollination ecoSTEM Kit includes a classroom set of milkweed seeds for students to take home. When students plant milkweed seeds at home, they create a monarch butterfly corridor or “way station.”

    A common thread between Pollinators in Parks and PLG is the support and education provided during garden planning, building and planting. Yet the programs require the school or park group to eventually accept full-garden responsibility. Thus, the programs empower for long-term success.

    Redefining WASTE
    No matter its flavor, waste is expensive for the generator, the community, and the environment. The Earth's natural resources are limited yet Nature's perfected plan is regenerative with no waste. Thus, unlimited abundance is evident within Nature's cycles.

    Healthy scenario: fall leaves left on
    the diverse field of grass at Grove Park
    It is time for humanity to redefine waste beyond materials and energy expended to include the destructive waste inherent within current systems; common agriculture, landscape, and grounds maintenance practices are examples of systems with destructive waste. It is time for humanity to understand disruptive behavior to natural systems circles back around into a wasteful, costly scenario to the community as well as to local and global ecosystems.

    Eventually, the tremendous cost of waste will invoke simple economic laws and demand corrective action. Yet, will the timing be too late to regenerate the Earth's resources and restore balance?

    Though the current scenario is daunting and overwhelming, the regeneration movement momentum is strong and filled with hope for an abundant, healthy future. Pioneering organizations like the USGBC, Park Pride and Captain Planet Foundation are at the forefront of redefining waste, social responsibility, and acceptable human behavior.

    Author's note: this article serves as the foundation for a series of articles related to redefining waste along with available regenerative solutions. Future articles will expand beyond pollinators, gardens, landscape and grounds maintenance, as well as dive deeper into these topics. The use of the Cides - herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides, and water infiltration rates were specifically not mentioned; each topic warrants its own article series. 
  4. GAME WON: 2018 composting conference breaks records
    On January 22 - 25, 2018 Atlanta hosted the 26th Annual U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference & Tradeshow at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. As a pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for compost via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch, Atlanta was an ideal host for the empowering conference. 

    The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, a Founding ZWZ Participant, boasts an embedded sustainability culture, including their food waste collection for compost program. 

    SUCCESS: the 2018 USCC Conference was record-breaking on many levels! Conference attendees topped 1100 registrants and the post-conference equipment manufacturing demonstration boasted 550 attendees; 2018 stats are an impressive 10% increase over the 2017 conference hosted in Los Angeles!

    Attendees traveled to Atlanta from 43 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.  From an international perspective, every continent except Antartica was represented at the conference. 

    The Composting Council Research and Education Foundation raised $63,000 at the conference for compost research. 

    Conference success was the result of a growing compost manufacturing industry and team effort. According to USCC Executive Director Frank Franciosi:
    “Atlanta is our most successful conference to date. We could not have done this without the help from our staff, exhibitors, sponsors, volunteers, media partners and the boots on the ground in Atlanta. A special thanks to Scott Jenkins, Doug Kunnemann, Gloria Hardegree, Boyd Leake, Wayne King, Laura Turner Seydel, Liza Milagro and Holly Elmore.”
    Opening Plenary
    Joe Lamp'l @ podium
    After Frank's opening remarks, Atlanta's own Joe Lamp'l of Growing a Growing a Greener World welcomed the international audience to the conference. Following Joe, Kiss the Ground's The Compost Story video, launched in May 2017, was shared with the audience. 

    The Compost Story funding was secured during the 2017 USCC Conference; thus, the 2018 screening validates the powerful USCC network. Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace thanked those who supported the video launch with funds and in-kind donations. Within his closing comments, Finian announced the fall 2018 Kiss the Ground, the book publication along with a documentary under development.

    During the plenary session, the first four Certified Compost Operation Managers (CCOM) were honored: Anthony Teachey (McGill), Nick Kranz (McGill), Erik Martig (LA Compost), and Denise Philips Winter (Synagro). In October 2016, the Certification Commission of the USCC formally launched the CCOM. 

    Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chair Scott Jenkins gave an excellent plenary keynote presentation, What do Sports Have to do with Composting?

    Within his remarks, Scott expressed the potential to educate millions of fans at sporting events on sustainability and shared impressive stats:
    • 81% of sports fans express concern about the environment.
    • Environmentally concerned fans spend 20% more on tickets; less concerned fans spend $340 annually while fans more concerned about the environment spend $403 annually.
    • Scott Jenkins @ podium
    • 58% of the fans expect teams to use environmentally-friendly practices while 50% expect teams to operate LEED-certified facilities
    Additionally, Scott shared alarming waste-related facts: 
    • 500 million - the number of plastic straws consumed daily in the U.S., enough to circle the Earth 2.5 times.
    • 100 billion - the number of plastic shopping bags used per year in the U.S.
    • 2.5 million - the number of plastic bottles discarded per hour in the U.S.
    • $165 billion - the value of food thrown out annually in the U.S.
    • 14% - the volume of plastic recycled in the U.S. 
    • $11 billion - the value of recyclable materials landfilled annually in the U.S. 
    • $306 billion - the 2017 record-breaking cost of climate and weather disasters in the U.S.
    From a sports team | facility viewpoint, sustainability practices are excellent opportunities for bottom-line savings, partnership revenue, and increased brand value. In addition, a sustainability commitment fulfills social responsibilities and improves environmental performance. Scott emphasized owners may leverage brands to raise consumer awareness and drive change.

    Throughout his presentation, Scott used examples from his tenure at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, and the MBS, home of the Atlanta Falcons, to showcase successful implementation of zero waste and other sustainability practices.

    Certified Compost Operation Mgrs
    Scott ended his presentation by answering the presentation's title, What do Sports Have to do with Composting? According to Scott: 1> composting is key within the path to zero waste and 2> we can leverage the cultural and market influence of sports and entertainment to promote healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play.

    Pre-conference, MBS hosted morning and afternoon tours at the only LEED Platinum Certified professional sports stadium in the world.

    Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils
    Atlanta-based Elemental Impact (Ei), a conference media partner, hosted the popular panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, to a near room capacity audience. Per the program, the following is the panel description:
    Soil is the foundation of life. Healthy, vibrant soil eco-systems are the building blocks for healthy communities with effective stormwater management programs, solid erosion control systems, and nutritious urban food production. … and compost feeds the soil eco-systems!
    Industry experts shared about compost’s empowering role in carbon sequestration / climate change, soil management systems grounded in solid economics, and green urban infrastructure.
    In her panel introduction, Ei Founder Holly Elmore educated on the oxygen deficiency and desertification pending crisis. Though the situation is tragic, Holly explained the panel topics abounded in optimism with regenerative solutions for restoring the out-of-balance carbon cycles. The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, mirrors the panel intention.

    Frank Franciosi & Finian
    Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace began the panel presentations with New View, a perspective of the past environmental destruction, the current "sustainable" focus, and a regenerative future filled with the promise of ecosystem restoration. 

    On his The Great Exchange slide, Finian gave a high-level synopsis of how soil is built from the air and the integrated roles photosynthesis, plant roots, soil microbes & enzymes, and mycorrhizal fungi play in a balanced, healthy environment. Introduced by Finian, increasing water infiltration rates in soils was a common topic thread within each presentation.

    Next, Kellogg Garden Products (KGP) Director of Sustainability & Chairperson of the Board Kathy Kellogg Johnson grounded Finian's "big picture" with her Soil Life, beyond dirt! presentation. Kathy described compost as the Swiss army knife for environmental solutions, ranging from air pollution, ocean acidification, desertification, drought, floods, food shortages and many more.

    Kathy Kellogg Johnson
    As an almost century old, family-owned company, KGP is a pioneer in organic gardening, farming, landscape practices and grounds maintenance. Taking a holistic approach, KGP ensures their zero waste facilities operate with a minimum carbon footprint; in fact, KGP facilities operate at a negative Carbon Equivalent, taking into consideration energy savings (including solar power installations), buying RECYCLED, water conservation, waste recovery, displacement of chemical fertilizers, and water-savings with the use of organics in soil.

    Kathy concluded her presentation with the four main organisms who provide nutrients and protection for maximum, healthy plant growth: bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa.

    Industry icon and Ei Advisor Wayne King of ERTH Products followed Kathy with his Soil Strategies for the Urban Environment presentation. Highlights from Wayne's presentation were 1> Importance of an urban soil strategy, 2> the soil and water connection, 3> managing soil organic matter, 4>  engineered soils and landscape systems, and 5> examples of sustainable soil projects.

    Further enforcing prominent points in Finian and Kathy's presentations, Wayne shared a quote from the National Resources Conservation Services, Managing Soil Organic Matter, The Key to Air & Water Quality, Technical Note 5:
    “Managing for soil carbon can reduce the severity and costs of natural phenomena, such as drought, flood, and disease. 
    In addition, increasing soil organic matter levels can reduce atmospheric CO2 levels  that contribute to climate change.”
    Cory Rayburn & Holly Elmore
    City of Atlanta, Watershed Manager II Cory Rayburn completed the panel with his impressive Building Green: Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Approach presentation. In his opening topic, Cory educated on how urbanization causes flooding. Prevalent impervious surfaces result in low shallow stormwater infiltration and minimal deep infiltration. Thus, flooding may occur in stormy weather.

    In 2017, the Watershed Management Green Infrastructure Task Force released the City of Atlanta Green Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan with a goal to reduce annual runoff by 225 million gallons. Beyond working with various City of Atlanta departments, the task force partners with an array of local non-profits and organizations including the Atlanta Beltline, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Invest Atlanta, Park Pride and others.

    Throughout his impressive presentation, Cory gave visual examples of green infrastructure replacing gray infrastructure, which consists of pipes and relies on stormwater runoff versus infiltration. Cory showcased the Historic Fourth Ward green infrastructure project with stunning before | after images; photos from an April 2017 flooding event demonstrated the project's success. In addition, the project spurred $500 million in neighborhood redevelopment including apartments, condos and Ponce City Market.

    Panel Q&A
    Almost half of the audience remained post-panel for a question & answer session. 

    Ei Supporter NaturTec sponsored the important panel - THANK YOU, Rick Lombardo, Vineet Dalal, and Miran Saric!

    The panel PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels page.

    Awards Ceremony
    The Annual Awards Ceremony was integrated within the closing plenary session and included USCC awards as well as other industry-related honors. The U.S. EPA Region 4 honored their Food Recovery Challenge award recipients during the session: Clemson University, Food Lion, and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

    Emerging Composter Challenge
    The University of Florida (UF) was the recipient of two prominent awards. Dr. Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF associate professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, received the 2017 Rufus Chaney Award for excellence in compost research and outstanding contribution to furthering the science of compost. The 2017 Composter of the Year award recipient was the UF Gainesville Student Compost Cooperative; Dr. Ann Wilkie, Professor, Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology at UF accepted the award on behalf of the cooperative.

    Organized by the USCC Young Professionals, the Emerging Composter Challenge award winners were announced as the conference closed. The Younge Professionals is a group formed in 2013 to support composters under 40 years old and/or with less than five years of industry experience, 

    Nine emerging composters competed in the challenge; the three finalists "pitched" their business at the beginning of the closing plenary session. As the conference closed, the winners were announced:
    • First Place ($5000) - Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli (Common Ground Compost)
    • Second Place ($1,500) - Kristen Baskin (Let Us Compost)
    • Third Place ($750) - Joel & Roo White (White's Environmental Services)
    Wayne King with his family
    Wayne King of ERTH Products received the Hi Kellogg Award for Outstanding Service to the Composting Industry. Over the decades, Wayne's unwavering commitment to compost manufacturing was a strong force in building a  substantial industry and establishing the USCC as a global leader. In the past, Wayne served as USCC President, USCC Board Member and in many other industry-related positions. Hi Kellogg's daughter Kathy Kellogg Johnson was in the audience to congratulate her close friend and award recipient. 

    Closing Plenary Keynotes
    Kathy Kellogg Johnson introduced her dear friend Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation Chair and Ted Turner's dynamic daughter, and joined Laura on stage for a conversation on an array of topics. 

    Importance of school gardens:
    Captain Planet Foundation's Project Learning Garden provides schools with outdoor learning laboratories. Gardens in the schoolyard are effective outdoor learning spaces for students to engage in inquiry-driven, project-based learning across all disciplines. Pollinator gardens accompany each of Project Learning Gardens.

    Atlanta's commitment to urban agriculture
    Kathy Kellogg Johnson &
    Laura Turner Seydel
    In 2016, the City of Atlanta was named a 100 Resilient Cities member, a program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. Subsequently, the Office of Sustainability evolved into the Office of Resilience. Understanding the imperative role food access plays in a resilient city, the Director of Urban Agriculture position was created to support urban food production, assist with brownfield redevelopment, and help community members seeking to establish and sustain community gardens, farmers markets, and food hubs.

    Impact of Turner Ranches on ecosystem regeneration
    With approximately two million acres of personal and ranch land, Ted Turner is the second largest individual landholder in North America. Turner Enterprises manages over 51,000 bison across the various Turner ranches. By restoring bison to their native lands, Turner ranches actively regenerate the soils and related ecosystems.

    The soil regeneration movement
    In her closing remarks, Laura endorsed two books driving the regeneration movement including Kiss the Ground, the book mentioned in the opening plenary section. Additionally, Laura showcased Paul Hawkin's Draw Down,  a comprehensive plan proposed to reverse global warming. ... and Paul Hawkins sits on Kiss the Ground's Board of Directors.

    Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Senior Sustainability Planner Liza Milagro closed the conference with a comprehensive overview of the busiest airport in the world's sustainability commitment, programs in-place and future plans.

    For a pictorial conference recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2018 USCC Conference.

    The record-breaking 2018 U.S. Composting Council Conference set the stage for an encore performance in Phoenix, AZ January 27 - 30, 2019 with the perfect theme: Renew & Regenerate!
  5. Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions
    Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon | water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue to melt, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

    A Pending Crisis
    Abandoned farmstead in
    American Dust Bowl, Oklahoma
    photo courtesy of 
    According to a senior United Nations official, there are only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues at current levels. In a Scientific American article, Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, states,"We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming."

    A dangerous dilemma is brewing with an increasing global population and a diminishing ability to produce food.

    In addition, plankton is perishing at alarming rates due to ocean acidification and warmer water temperatures. Marine plant life (phytoplankton, kelp, and algal plankton) photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars for energy - generates the vast majority of atmospheric oxygen.

    The December 2015 Science Daily Failing phytoplankton, failing oxygen: Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth article states:
    "About two-thirds of the planet's total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton -- and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans."
    Is sustainability enough to stave off the building crisis of the diminishing food and oxygen supply?

    In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program; the 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

    Resilient Atlanta
    Strategy Launch
    photo courtesy of City of Atlanta
    The City of Atlanta was named a 100RC member in 2016. Subsequently, the Office of Sustainability evolved into the Office of Resilience. As a cosmopolitan city with the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the nation, Atlanta is challenged with an overtaxed transportation network. 

    A lack of affordable transportation options segues into challenges with food access for the city's underserved population. Understanding the imperative role food access plays in a resilient city, the Director of Urban Agriculture position supports urban food production, assists with brownfield redevelopment, and helps community members seeking to establish and sustain community gardens, farmers markets, and food hubs.

    Is resilience enough to stave off the encroaching food and oxygen crisis?

    Regenerative Solutions
    To avoid a doom and gloom perspective, it is important to simplify the scenario and discover regenerative solutions. Beyond sustainability and resilience, regeneration focuses on rebuilding and restoring nature's perfect system.

    Kiss the Ground's empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story, states the problem and the solution are a matter of balance. Simply: there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and ocean pools. To restore balance, excess carbon must transfer to the fossil, biosphere and/or soil pools. The ZWA Blog article, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance, explains the carbon cycles and the current out-of-balance scenario.

    The Soil Story introduces regenerative agriculture | landscape practices as a solution for restoring the soil ecosystem. Healthy, alive soil nurtures plants with strong, deep root systems; the plants "pump" carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. In addition, healthy plants grown in alive soil produce abundant, nutritious food.

    Once the atmospheric carbon reduces to a certain threshold, the oceans will release carbon into the atmosphere, reversing ocean acidification. Thus, marine plant life once again thrives, generating ample oxygen into the atmosphere.

    Thus, soil regeneration addresses the food and oxygen components of the pending crisis.

    In The Compost Story video, the sequel to The Soil Story, compost is introduced as a key ingredient in the soil regeneration recipe.

    Kiss the Ground, the book
    On the surface, the Industrial Revolution introduction of fossil fuel burning seems the main culprit in the out-of-balance carbon scenario. Yet a deeper dive, reveals a web of intertwined human activities set the foundation for the pending crisis.

    In the recently released Kiss the Ground (KTG), how the food you eat can reverse climate change, heal your body and ultimately save the world book by Josh Tickell, the well-searched chapters dive deep into the destruction of the Earth's soils. 

    Before industrial agriculture equipment was introduced to commercial farming, the soils were tilled with hand tools (shovels, hoes, picks, etc.) or with draft-animal-powered equipment. Simply, tilling is turning over and breaking up the soil. By its intent, tilling destroys the soil infrastructure built and maintained by mycorrhizal fungi network and results in degraded, unhealthy soil. 

    Without the soil infrastructure designed to hold moisture and nurture roots, plants lack the necessary nutrients to produce abundant, healthy crop yields. Plant immune systems weaken often resulting in disease and insect infiltration. 

    Thus, the introduction of synthetic fertilizers along with the "cides" - herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides. The KTG "Nazis and Nitrogen" chapter chronicles the development of common agrochemical practices from Nazi chemical warfare. It is chilling to realize the chemical compounds designed to kill humans are the foundation of the products routinely used in food production.
    Buffalo (bison) herd grazing
    photo courtesy of American Expedition

    In an effort to separate native American Indians from their lifeblood, the U.S. government embarked on a massive buffalo massacre operation in the 1800's. Effective, the estimated 20 - 30 million buffalo population that once dominated North America was reduced to just over 1,000 by 1889.  Tragic on many levels, the buffalo massacre was the first step in the desertification of once lush American prairies. As discussed in the KTG "The Buffalo Bank Account" chapter, the buffalo grazing patterns were integral to prairie grassland health. Manure is nature's fertilizer and nutrition for the soil's prolific life forms. 

    Another strong contributor to prairie desertification was the introduction of monocrop farms where the same crop is grown year after year on the same soil with no plant species rotation. Fallow fields left barren with no crop cover contribute to the deterioration of soil health. Vibrant soil ecosystems thrive on diversity and ensure the top soils are covered with a variety of plants.

    Initiated in the 1930's, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) is a wholly own government corporation managed by the Risk Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As presented in KTG, the FCIC requires farmers to grow corn, soybeans, wheat and|or cotton from GMO seeds and employ agrochemical practices to qualify for the insurance program. Though they may not agree with the practices, many farmers are not willing to leave the FCIC safety net. Thus, the FCIC contributes to the death of the nation's soil. 

    Soil Regeneration Success
    The KTG "Bismark or Bust" chapter introduces Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch, regenerative landscaping for a sustainable future. At his 5,000-acre farm networked with owned and leased land, Gabe and his son Paul use regenerative agriculture practices with amazing results. Since 1993 Brown's Ranch is a no-till farm and uses a diverse crop strategy with cover and companion crops. An ever-evolving grazing strategy rests and rejuvenates the soil.

    Gabe & Paul Brown
    showcasing their healthy soil
    photo courtesy of Brown's Ranch
    No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or glyphosate are used on the farm. The Browns eliminated synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides use and only employ a minimum amount of herbicides.

    Beyond restoring the soil, the farm produces abundant, healthy food, makes a solid profit, and provides a higher quality of life for the Browns. The "Bismark or Bust" chapter is an inspiring chapter filled with hope of what can be done.

    Once a solution for the pending food | oxygen crisis is established, Josh shifts gears to creating a viable market for food produced with regenerative farming practices. Engaging the power of consumer demand, readers are encouraged to purchase healthy food that regenerates their health while restoring carbon cycle balance. Simple supply | demand economics will build strong markets for regenerative agriculture products.

    In the final chapter, "The Regenerative Revolution," a wide array of examples for practical personal action is provided to participate in the Regenerative Revolution.

    KTG is a must-read book for those concerned about the future of humanity and earthly life as we know it. The book is an easy, engaging read with personal anecdotes that build a connection with Josh. With its well-orchestrated media launch, KTG is a powerful catalyst to ignite the Regenerative Revolution.

    Ei Soil Health Focus
    In July Elemental Impact (Ei) announced Soil Health, regenerating life's foundation, is the primary ongoing focus. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are: 

    With prominent corporate and government connections, Ei intends to promote the use of regenerative landscape practices on corporate complexes, college | university campuses, highway medians | shoulders, airport land surrounding runways, parks, and other available urban lands. Collectively, the regenerative landscaped areas are destined to serve as urban carbon sinks and aid in restoring the carbon cycle balance.

    The GWCC Team with the
    Hickory Grove Farm management
    On July 31 Ei Founder Holly Elmore hosted the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC ) team on an empowering Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm tour to learn about regenerative agriculture practices. Since the tour, GWCC Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer worked with Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCC Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use food produced in the employee dining facility.

    Hickory Grove Farm Manager Michael Blackwall & KSU Professor Jorge Perez educated on regenerative agriculture practices along with crop choice advice; Steve shared his extensive horticulture expertise, especially pertaining to plant | tree identification on the farm's old growth forest areas.

    The ZWA Blog article, The Power of Tours, features the July Hickory Grove Farm tour; farm tour photos are included in the Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality.

    A seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems, in the Southern Farm & Garden fall issue gives an overview of KSU's stellar sustainability commitment at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality, The Commons (KSU’s Gold LEED certified dining hall), and Hickory Grove Farm. Holly provided the photographs and copy for the publication feature.

    In September Kiss the Ground joined the Ei Strategic Ally program. With abundant synergies, Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace is the lead panelist on the Ei-Hosted panel Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils at the January 2018 U.S. Composting Council Conference. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Hosts U.S. Composting Council Conference, includes an overview of the prominent panel.

    The time is NOW to move beyond sustainability | resilience and embrace regenerative solutions that return the carbon cycles to a healthy, balanced state. The food and oxygen crisis is real and grounded in solid scientific research. To survive, wildlife (including humans) must eat and breath oxygen - starvation and slow suffocation are painful deaths!

    Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems. It is time for humans to stop attempts to "outsmart Mother Nature" and relax into a symbiotic relationship with the planet.
  6. Atlanta Hosts U.S. Composting Council Conference
    On January 22 - 25, 2018 Atlanta hosts the 26th Annual U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference & Tradeshow at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. As a pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for compost via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch, Atlanta is an ideal host for the empowering conference. 

    The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, a Founding ZWZ Participant, boasts an embedded sustainability culture, including their food waste collection for compost program.

    In a formal statement, the City of Atlanta, Mayor's Office of Resilience Senior Policy Advisor Boyd Leake welcomes the conference to Atlanta:
    “The City of Atlanta and the Mayor’s Office of Resilience welcome the USCC Conference to Atlanta for the first time in January 2018. Composting is a critical part of the City’s strategy to address food residuals and yard trimmings, the need for soil amendments for local urban farms, and to combat climate change.”
    Mercedes-Benz Stadium
    With a special focus on sports/events organics recycling and green infrastructure, the 2018 conference theme is GAME ON! Building Sustainable Communities. In alignment with the theme, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chair, Scott Jenkins is the conference opening plenary speaker.

    Three years prior to the MBS summer 2017 opening, Atlanta Falcons owner AMB Sports + Entertainment brought Scott to Atlanta to ensure the stadium was designed and built to impeccable sustainability standards. SUCCESS: MBS is on target to achieve LEED Platinum certification!!!

    Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Scott brought Seattle's Safeco Field to zero waste in his role as Vice-President Ballpark Operations. A food waste collection for compost program, complete with compostable food & beverage packaging, was integral to the ballpark's success.

    During the pre-conference activities, MBS tours are offered in the morning and afternoon.

    In addition to the MBS tours, the Sustainability in Action: Atlanta's Green Infrastructure bus tour showcases Atlanta's diverse application of green infrastructure techniques. A sampling of tour stops include:
    • Atlanta City Hall Green Roof - built as a pilot program in 2003, the City of Atlanta green roof is the first municipal green roof in the Southeast. The intention was to raise awareness and demonstrate how green roofs may enhance Atlanta’s urban landscape.
    • Ponce City Market - opened in 2015, Ponce City Market is located in the historic Sears, Roebuck and Co. warehouse & store, which operated from 1927 - 1987. With local and national retail anchors, restaurants, a food hall, offices, and residential units, the 2.1 million-square-foot building on 16 acres is one of the largest by volume multi-use complexes in the Southeast U.S. 
    • Southface Energy Institute - the Southface headquarters building uses sustainable technologies to reduce energy, water, and waste, including its rooftop garden and an invessel composting system.
    Atlanta-based Elemental Impact (Ei) is a conference media partner. In addition Ei Founder Holly Elmore moderates the Ei-hosted Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils panel discussion:
    Soil is the foundation of life. Healthy, vibrant soil eco-systems are the building blocks for healthy communities with effective stormwater management programs, solid erosion control systems, and nutritious urban food production. … and compost feeds the soil eco-systems!
    Learn from industry experts about compost’s empowering role in carbon sequestration | climate change, soil management systems grounded in solid economics, and green urban infrastructure.
    The prominent panelists and their respective topics are:
    • The Compost Story – Finian Makepeace, Kiss the Ground Co-Founder
    • Soil Life: beyond dirt! – Kathy Kellogg Johnson, Kellogg Garden Products, Director of Sustainability & Chairman of the Board
    • Soils Strategies for the Urban Environment – Wayne King, Sr., ERTH Products CEO
    • Building Green: Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Approach – Cory Rayburn, City of Atlanta Watershed Manager
    Joe Lamp'l of Growing a Greener
    World with Kathy @ Laura's luncheon
    Environmental activist Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation Chair, is the conference closing keynote speaker. In August, Laura hosted a powerful Sustainable Soils luncheon at the EcoManor, her Atlanta LEED-certified home. Though the program format was discussion-based, Kathy Kellogg Johnson gave an informal presentation. The important role compost plays in sustainable soils was intertwined throughout the luncheon discussion. Future plans include reconvening the powerful, diverse group on a regular basis within the auspice of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic.

    Beyond Atlanta's strong influence, the stellar conference program has a wide range of presentation topics related to the compost manufacturing industry. A sampling of topics includes: Commerical Organics Diversion Program Development, Cultivating Community Composting, Composting Process Improvements, Collecting Organics at Events & Venues, Compost Quality Updates, Minimizing Contamination in Organics Collection, Improving the Bottomline, and much more.

    In addition to the popular tours, pre-conference activities include a plethora of half and full-day workshops led by respected industry experts. The conference tradeshow exhibitors are ready for on-the-spot education. Post-conference, Dekalb County Landfill & Compost Facility hosts the annual Equipment Show and Demonstrations.

    Plan to join the nation's largest gathering of compost industry professionals at the 2018 GAME ON! Building Sustainable Communities USCC Conference & Tradeshow.

    Conference REGISTRATION in open! Westin Peachtree Hotel rooms are available, yet the conference block is limited. See you in Atlanta this January!
  7. Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success
    On October 24 Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) hosted the first annual Facilities Sustainability Forum to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond.

    Within his welcoming remarks, Ga Tech Vice-President Facilities Management Chuck Rhodes educated on Ga Tech's strong sustainability commitment and impressive accomplishments. Most importantly, Chuck expressed his support for Ga Tech's continued sustainability leadership by building on existing programs and introducing new endeavors.

    Elemental Impact
    Following Chuck, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore presented as the forum featured speaker. Within her opening remarks, Holly shared the long-term, powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dating back to the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009. Ga Tech Associate Director, Office of Solid Waste Management & Recycling Cindy Jackson attends the Annual Ei Partner Meetings and joined the 2014 Atlanta Ei Partner Tours.

    In industry circles, Holly refers to Cindy as the AMAZING Cindy Jackson!

    There are many layers to the AMAZING aspect of Cindy Jackson, each indicative of Ga Tech's profound sustainability commitment and award-winning accomplishments. Thus, in essence, the reference is to the AMAZING Ga Tech facilities department management.

    Clean, student-separated
    As a recycling industry pioneer, Ga Tech received early national awards: American Forest & Paper Association 2008 University Recycling Award and the National Recycling Coalition 2008 Best Overall Recycling, Outstanding College or University Program Award.

    Most importantly from a recycling perspective, the Ga Tech Solid Waste & Recycling Department never succumbed to single-stream recycling. During her presentation, Holly explained single-stream recycling increases "diversion rates" yet decreases actual recycling due to contaminated material streams. Diversion rates most often refer to the first stop after collection versus the material's final destination.

    Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling generally results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

    Under Cindy's oversight, Ga Tech boasts incredibly clean, source-separated streams; clean material equates to valuable material sold in local markets as manufacturing raw material. Ga Tech students take their recycling seriously and source-separate items in accordance with the clear bin signage.

    In addition to Ga Tech's program, Holly shared other sustainability successes within the Southeast:
    Throughout her presentation, Holly emphasized two keys to successful sustainability programs: 1> collaboration within the organization, the community and with purveyors and 2> a sustainability culture driven by top management. The themes were reinforced throughout the forum program.

    In her closing remarks, Holly shared Ei's new primary focus is Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life. Recycling Refinement expertise gained over the years is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

    Ga Tech Building Services
    GA Tech renewblel cleaning in action
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    Following Holly, Ga Tech Associate Director, Building Services Tommy Little educated on their impressive, award-winning renewable cleaning practices. Renewable cleaning is beyond green cleaning and the safest, healthiest way to maintain indoor environments.

    Over the years, Ga Tech was recognized by The National Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, Green Cleaning Award for American Schools & Universities, Princeton Review, and The National Wildlife Federation for their renewable green cleaning. In addition, Ga Tech achieved independent certification under the Green Seal GS-42 Green Cleaning Standard.

    At the foundation of Ga Tech's renewable cleaning program is the GenEon cleaning system supported by SouthEast Link, a local custodial supply company dedicated to renewable cleaning programs and systems. 

    Tommy during a cleaning demo
    for President Peterson & Cabinet
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    After a two-year evaluation, Ga Tech transitioned cleaning and disinfecting | sanitizing solutions to GenEon Technologies ECA products. ECA (electrical chemical activation) combines salted water with an electrical charge. By varying the mineral catalysts, the GenEon system produces three distinct products: sanitizer | disinfectant | deodorizer, glass & general purpose cleaner, and heavy-duty cleaner | degreaser.

    ECA cleaning products are generated on-site, Thus, transportation carbon footprints and cleaning supply packaging associated with mainstream janitorial systems are reduced. Supply inventory is drastically reduced and chemical-related injuries are eliminated.

    Tommy and his team performed extensive, detailed testing on the ECA system effectiveness, at visual and microbial levels. The results were impressive!
    Over nine years, Ga Tech reduced their on-campus cleaning chemicals by 90.7%! 
    Beyond the tremendous cost-savings experienced with the ECA cleaning program, according to Tommy, "Best of all ...MY STAFF LOVES IT!!" Why does the Ga Tech building services staff love the program? Here a few reasons:
    • The cleaners work as well or better than prior cleaners.
    • Solutions do not dry out hands or cause respiratory problems.
    • Sanitizers | disinfectants actually eliminate odors.
    • The system portability - solutions may be made anywhere on campus.
    Kudos to Tommy for taking the time and energy to implement a cleaning system that makes Ga Tech a healthier campus and improves the bottom line!

    Solid Waste Management & Recycling
    Ga Tech Recycling Logo
    The AMAZING Cindy Jackson presented on Turning Trash into a Resource. To set the stage for her empowering presentation, Cindy shared the department's mission:
    • Encourage and expand recycling opportunities.
    • Develop waste diversion and reuse programs.
    • Promote efforts to decrease the amount of waste produced on campus. 
    • Encourage an environmentally conscious campus community. 
    As established in Holly's session, a culture committed to sustainability driven by top management is key to program success. GA Tech President G.P. Bud Peterson endorses the recycling program with the following statement:
    “We in the Carnegie building joined the AWARE program in 2009. It is a simple and effective waste minimization initiative that enables Georgia Tech to use our resources more efficiently. I support the campus-wide implementation of this program and encourage your active participation.”
    The AWARE Program (Actively Working to Achieve Resource Efficiency) is an innovative waste minimization program implemented in ten campus buildings.

    Tom, Tim & Tiny
    In the AWARE buildings, each workstation is equipped with three interconnected waste | recycling receptacles. Custodians do not service these containers. It is each employee's responsibility to empty his or her containers into larger bins located within the building. To maintain a sense of humor, the bins are named Tom (big blue bin for paper only), Toni (side blue bin for aluminum & plastic), and Teeny (small side black bin for trash).

    With top management support, Cindy uses clever, consistent communication to the students, administration and campus guests. The public relations | marketing plan consists of an active Ga Tech Recycling website page, program promotional tables at campus events, the Recycling Buzz, because we care monthly newsletter, and clear, consistent recycling signage.

    Ga Tech Game Day Recycling celebrates ten years of success! Below are some 10-year program highlights:
    • 3 million football fans attended Ga Tech games.
    • 1,300+ volunteers supported the Game Day Recycling program.
    • 198+ tons of collected material.
    • 30% game day trash diversion achieved.
    Student move-in and out are biannual events with tremendous opportunity for material recovery, including cardboard, clothing, non-perishable food, household items, and clothing. The Ga Tech recycling team harnesses the opportunity with an organized system including designated areas for the various materials.

    A second theme established in Holly's session is collaboration is key for success. In 1998 Cindy founded the first annual Earth Day as a vehicle to educate students, faculty, and administration staff on recycling and other sustainability endeavors. Earth Day serves as a vehicle to develop community participation, especially among the students and alumni. Recently, the Student Alumni Association presented Campus Recycling with more than $20,000 through its Gift to Tech program. 

    Recycling alcove in the
    Klaus Building
    As a class project, students designed and painted cool decor in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building recycling alcoves. The designs ranged from educational (Ecosystems - Ecodangers) to whimsical, clever (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss) to communicate the importance of recycling valuable materials.

    Always striving to improve Ga Tech recycling, Cindy ended her presentation with an announcement of a composting pilot underway for building restroom paper towels.

    Landscape Services
    Klaus Building
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    In his How Tree Campus USA Program Accelerated Environmental Stewardship at Georgia Tech presentation, Ga Tech Associate Director, Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide continued with another forum theme: Ga Tech award-winning programs! 

    In addition to the prestigious Tree Campus USA designation, Ga Tech Landscape Services received awards | recognition from the following organizations: GIS Tree Inventory, Professional Grounds Management Society, Georgia Urban Forest Council, Campus Arboretum, and Bee Campus USA.

    The Landscape Services Department is charged with the maintenance of both the landscape and hardscape, including the 12,000 trees on campus. Department Mission: 
    Enable Georgia Tech to achieve its goal of environmental sustainability by maintaining an integrated, ecologically-based landscape and open space system that serves as a beautiful, attractive and safe campus environment where students, faculty, staff, and visitors can enjoy, live, work and study in comfort.
    Located on 426 acres, Ga Tech consists of  312.5 landscaped acres, 110 building acres, and 3.5 naturalized acres. 

    In 2004, Ga Tech established The Campus Landscape Master Plan. Updated in 2006 and 2010, the Landscape Master Plan Objectives are:
    • To increase campus tree canopy to a minimum of 55%.
    • To increase campus woodland coverage to 22%.
    • To use predominately native plants or ecologically appropriate to this region for planting.
    • To increase biodiversity in the plant population.
    • To reduce stormwater discharge into the Atlanta sewer system.
    In recognition of their excellent plan, Ga Tech’s 2009 Tree Care Plan is used as a sample within the Tree Campus USA application procedures. Within the Tree Campus USA criteria, an annual budget of $3 per student must be dedicated to campus trees. With 27,000 students, Ga Tech's requirement is $81,000; Ga Tech's current expenditure is $642,320.

    2014 Ga Tech Campus
    Tree Care Plan
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    On December 15, 2015, Ga Tech was recognized as the second university in the nation certified by the Bee Campus USA program. Supporting the certification, the GIS Tree Inventory identified campus pollinator species and issued a guide for future plantings.

    In alignment with the Ga Tech recycling culture, the landscape department reuses cut trees where practical, grinds unusable debris into wood chips and composts campus leaves for maintenance and planting programs.

    The Tree Campus Advisory Committee, required within the Tree Campus USA criteria, continues the forum themes of collaboration is key for success and the importance of campus culture. Bringing together university faculty from various departments, engaged students, and campus staff together, the committee fosters collaboration and instills a campus tree-oriented culture.

    Panel Discussion
    The forum concluded with an interactive panel discussion moderated by Ga Tech Campus Recycling Coordinator Maria Linderoth. Panelists included Associate Director, GA Tech Facilities Management Gary Jelin, Co-Chair, Facilities Sustainability Committee | Ga Tech Facilities Management Registered Architect II Maria Del Mar Celallos, Ga Tech Energy Manager Ben Mason and Holly. 

    Gary is the lead on the Ga Tech Living Building design with strong support by Maria and his internal and external teams; the Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. With the launch around the corner, the Living Building design was the predominant panel topic. 

    Ga Tech Living Building
    design rendering
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    According to the International Future Living Institute site, living buildings give more than they take, creating a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them. The Living Building Challenge includes seven performance areas called petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Certification is based on actual performance over twelve consecutive months.

    On November 2, the Ga Tech Living Building was launched in a ceremony where attendees spread seed packets on the ground. With the delicate design balance between living building criteria and functionality | practicality complete, the Miller Hull Partnership and Lord Aeck Sargent passed the baton to Skanska for the construction phase.

    Within the panel discussion, the two common themes throughout the presentations were intertwined into dialogue: 1> collaboration is key to success and 2> culture is imperative for long-term, sustainable impact. 

    Forum presenters were given a treasured gift: a slice of a Ga Tech branch with Buzz drawn on the wood. Ga Tech landscape associate Jean-Sebastian Camiul donated his exceptional talent for the gifts.

    Congratulations to the Facilities Sustainability Committee for hosting a stellar forum!

    The Forum PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

    Ga Tech has the ingredients for incredible sustainability leadership: top management support, program diversity across university department boundaries, established award-winning programs, a commitment to student & community health, an unwavering enthusiasm by department management, and most importantly: a culture steeped with collaborative spirit!
  8. TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy

    Third-party certifications play a valuable role in evaluating products, services, and industry practices. Independent review | testing ensures the product manufacturer | facility proclamations are valid and follow industry standards. In addition, third-party certification is instrumental in setting standards and protocol within evolving industries.

    In response to industry requests for zero waste standardization and third-party validation, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) launched the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) in March 2013. As the first zero waste certification program in the nation, the ZWFC established protocol and defined parameters for zero waste claims.

    The USZWBC Board signing
    USGBC documents
    photo compliments UZWBC
    In October 2016 the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) acquired the USZWBC to integrate the ZWFC into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors.

    Established in 2008, the GBCI exclusively administers project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.

    The ZWFC joined a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

    A true integration, USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger joined the USGBC executive team as Director, Market Transformation & Development. The USZWBC staff are GBIC team members who facilitate zero waste certification. The majority of the USZWBC Board members serve on the GBIC Zero Waste Advisory Council.

    TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency)
    On September 7, 2017, the GBCI unveiled TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency), the new brand identity for its zero waste rating system. TRUE helps businesses and facilities define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals through project certification and professional credentialing.

    With the TRUE announcement, the USZWBC is completely integrated within the GBCI family of certifications.

    Consistent with GBCI certifications, TRUE is built on a point system within a variety of categories. Baseline qualifications are established before a facility may apply for zero waste certification. Of the 81 available points across 15 categories, the applicant must meet a minimum of 31 points for the first level, Certified (followed by Silver, Gold & Platinum levels).

    According to Stephanie, “Our goal is to help develop a zero waste economy for all that delivers financial, environmental and social benefits. The TRUE team is working with organizations across industries to help set benchmarks, track performance, educate employees and deliver innovative solutions that move them closer to zero waste.

    Currently, there are 88 TRUE-certified facilities around the world. Microsoft, Tesla, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Nature’s Path, Earth Friendly Products, Raytheon, Cintas and Northrop Grumman, among others, have facilities certified under the program.

    Beyond Landfill Diversion
    A TRUE certification applicant must achieve 12 consecutive months of an average of  90% or greater diversion from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy) and the environment. Diverted materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.

    TRUE Advisory Council
    Member Scott Lutocka on a
    source-separated plastic film bale.
    For the TRUE certification, 90% or greater diversion is merely a baseline for the program with a maximum of 5 available points for facilities with 100% diversion; only one point is earned for an applicant with 90 - 94.9% diversion.

    Though it does not specifically prohibit single-stream recycling, the TRUE certification program inherently requires source-separated materials recycling. Facilities are required to track the collected materials’ final destination, rather than use the hauler’s first drop-off. Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling in general results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

    Within the Redesign, Reduce, Recycle and Zero Waste Reporting categories, a minimum of 7 points relate to a solid, well-documented source-separated materials program that promotes highest good material use and local end markets.

    Culture is Key
    Intertwined within the TRUE certification points is creating a zero waste culture established by top management and communicated to employees on a regular basis. The Leadership category offers six points including a formal zero waste goals announcement, upper management monthly review of diversion reports, rewarding those who make outstanding contributions to waste reduction, and more.

    Earth Friendly Product
    Zero Waste Employee Bulletin Board
    Consistent communication to employees on zero waste policies, activities, and successes earns a point. Another point is available for at least one employee job description that includes zero waste-specific responsibilities. 

    Human resources departments are integral to a rich zero waste culture. Points are earned by including zero waste within the employee hiring process as well as established training programs.

    The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success, discusses the imperative role culture plays in developing sustainable zero waste practices.

    A Zero Waste Value Chain
    The TRUE certification requires rethinking the resource lifecycle. According to the website:
    TRUE is a whole systems approach aimed at changing how materials flow through society, resulting in no waste. TRUE encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.
    TRUE promotes processes that consider the entire lifecycle of products used within a facility. With TRUE, your facility can demonstrate to the world what you’re doing to minimize your waste output.
    Reusable stacked packaging boxes
    photo courtesy of Subaru
    Within the Zero Waste Purchasing category, a total of 9 points are available that impact the facilities' relationship with their supply chain. In addition to an in-place Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) guideline or policy, points are available for using the power of consumer demand to work with suppliers on eliminating, reducing and/or reusing transport packaging. Supplier zero waste practices impact the intangible waste inherent within delivered products.

    Use of durable, reusable products, such as beverage cups, plates, and flatware, instead of single-use products earn a point.

    Additionally, manufacturers receive points for selling and shipping products in a waste-free manner, where the packaging is recyclable or even better, reusable.

    A Holographic Viewpoint
    By using a systems approach to materials flow, the TRUE zero waste certification is holographic in nature. The program is not bound by the facility's physical structure; it addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment.

    Holly receives zero award; with
    then USZWBC Founder & President
    Pursuing the TRUE certification may seem overwhelming with the multitude of point categories impacting the organization’s entire spectrum of administration, management & operations. Holly Elmore Consulting (HEC) simplifies the certification process into a manageable, time-lined roadmap supported by specific action points via a series of available consulting packages.

    The HEC Zero Waste Consulting packages begin with a Zero Waste Certification Review: 
    A simple package for facilities choosing to pursue TRUE Zero Waste Certification. The package includes a facility review via a pre-visit conference call and an on-site visit. A certification checklist summary is provided of completed points with recommended steps for achieving certification.
    As Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO, Holly is a respected zero waste industry expert with a long list of accolades, including the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) 2009 launch. The ZWZ were the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for composting and were sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012.

    In July 2017, Ei announced the primary organization focus shifted to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, and the Ei Recycling Refinement platform was moved to the Mission Accomplished website section. Thus, Ei zero waste | food waste | source-separated materials recycling expertise is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

    Companies initiate zero programs for a variety of reasons: economic benefits, customer demand, product differentiation, it is “the right thing to do,” to name a few. The U.S. Green Building Council’s TRUE zero waste rating system ensures integrity is established and maintained via written corporate policies, material management practices, procurement procedures, and effective communication tools. TRUE sets industry standards and establishes integrity within the pathway to a zero waste economy.
  9. Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team!
    With the July 2017 Soil Health platform announcement, Elemental Impact (Ei) evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, with the Water Use | Toxicity and Product Stewardship platforms remaining in strong supporting roles. The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life, announced the Ei Soil Health platform.

    Tim during the KSU
    Hickory Grove Farm Tour
    In alignment with the new Ei focus, Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joins the Ei Leadership Team as the new Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Chair.

    Instrumental in the Soil Health platform development, Tim participated in the 2017 Ei Farm Tours documented in the ZWA Blog article, The Power of Tours. Inspired by the tours, Tim teamed with Levy Restaurants GWCCA Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCCA Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use regenerative agriculture practices at the on-campus mini-farm to produce food for the employee dining facility. 

    SFCI History
    The GWCCA hosted the acclaimed 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch press conference, beginning the long-time, powerful Ei | GWCCA relationship. In December 2010, Tim joined the GWCCA as the first sustainability director and took the complex's sustainability to new dimensions. The ZWA Blog post, GWCC Hits Recycling Stride, is an overview of Tim’s immediate impact on the GWCCA recycling practices.

    Tim presenting at the 2016
    Annual Ei Partner Meeting
    photo courtesy of Scott Seydel
    Within the state-owned GWCCA umbrella is the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the fourth-largest convention center in the nation and the world's largest LEED Certified convention center. In addition to the GWCC, the GWCCA manages Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta and the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. Through the 2017 Falcons season, the Georgia Dome was one of the GWCCA's hallmark facilities.

    The Georgia Dome accepted the invitation to serve as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot in spring 2012. As a founding ZWZ Participant, the Georgia Dome was well-acquainted with zero waste practices with impressive practices in-place: 
    • Compostable packaging – Levy Restaurants (GWCCA foodservice contractor) used compostable foodservice items where practical (about 85% of items) when food was served in single-use packaging. Polystyrene foodservice items were eliminated from use in the facility.
    • China service in suites – Levy Restaurants used reusable plates, flatware, napkins, serving platters and beverage cups & glasses in the suites and at catered events.
    • Condiment pump stations – Concession condiments were dispensed in self-service, refillable pump containers. Pump stations eliminated individual condiment packets, a common contaminant in recycling and food waste streams.
    • Tailgate recycling – A tailgate recycling program was initiated during the 2012 season with the support of the Atlanta Falcons Recycling Partner.

    Tim @ a SMAT Dinner with
    Ken Fraser
    In 2014 the SFCI announced its stated prime focus was post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a state-permitted destination other than landfill. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) supported the Georgia Dome post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection to a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility. 

    With the November 2017 decommissioning of the Georgia Dome, the GWCCA stepped forward as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot. The SFCI - GA Dome page showcases the accomplishments during its 2012 - 2016 tenure as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot.

    The ZWA Blog article, What Can Be Done!, announces the SFCI - GWCCA Pilot along with an impressive list of sustainability accomplishments under Tim's leadership.

    Sporting Event Expertise
    As host to the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe, Atlanta set a high standard for sporting event sustainability practices. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee (ALOC) stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Tim took the helm for achieving the lofty goal.

    SUCCESS: the comprehensive ALOC plan culminated in impressive green footprints before, during and after the games. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, gives an overview of event sustainability stats; the May 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is the official in-depth report.

    Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established!

    Tim & Jack Groh at a Super Bowl
    Urban Forestry Event
    For the past two years, Tim consulted with the College Football Playoff and the Super Bowl leadership on establishing sustainability standards at their prestigious sporting events. In addition, Tim is the sustainability liaison for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and the 2019 Super Bowl host committees. The events are hosted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, located on the GWCCA campus.

    Validating Tim's significant contributions to sporting event sustainability, National Football League Director of Environmental Programs Jack Groh honored Tim, along with two other icons, in his 2017 Green Sports Alliance Environmental Leadership Award acceptance speech: 
    "There are too many people to thank everyone by name but I need to mention a few. I have been blessed to work with the “three musketeers” of sports sustainability for several years. David Crawford of the Vancouver Olympics, Nate Gassmann of PepsiCo, and Tim Trefzer of the World Congress Center in Atlanta. Three of the smartest and hardest working people in the sports sustainability movement.
    My original partner, Ed Augustine, along with Scott Jenkins, David Crawford, and I represent the “old guard.” There are new folks like Erik Distler, Nate Gassmann, and Tim Trefzer who form a new generation of leaders to carry on the work and build the future of this movement."
    Changing of the Guard
    Founding SFCI Co-Chairs Scott Seydel and Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks lead the SFCI through grand successes within the Recycling Refinement and Post-Consumer Food Waste focus areas. With the shift to a Soil Health focus, Scott and Doug pass the SFCI leadership baton to Tim with strong accolades.

    From Scott
    It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome our friend Tim Trefzer of the Georgia World Congress Center as the new SFCI Chair. I was honored to serve as SFCI Co-Chair with Doug Kunnemann and work with the SFCI Team, including Tim, on Recycling Refinement and post-consumer food waste projects. During our tenure, the SFCI experienced impressive achievements within compostable packaging, post-consumer collection of food, and source-separated materials recycling programs and pilots.

    With Ei's shift in focus to Soil Health, I pass the baton to the next generation of leaders to continue Ei's stellar track record. I am most impressed with Tim's professionalism, expertise and sincere commitment to creating a sustainable world. Though I pass the baton, Tim may count on me for unwavering support and advice.

    From Doug:
    Doug & Tim @ a SFCI meeting
    I am excited to announce Tim Trefzer of the Georgia World Congress Center is the new SFCI Chair! It was a pleasure to work with Ei Founder Holly Elmore and serve as Co-Chair with Scott Seydel. Our thanks to Holly’s leadership during our SFCI tenure. 

    With Tim as SFCI Chair – “there are no limits!” Tim – congratulations to you! We wish you great success!

    With the SFCI leadership baton passed to Tim Trefzer, Ei is staged to soar in renewed directions within a solid foundation built by the founding regime!
  10. What Can Be Done!
    In 2010 Elemental Impact (Ei) was formed as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), a program launched in 2009 within the Georgia Restaurant Association umbrella. The ZWZ epitomized the Ei mantra:
    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.
    ZWZ Participants were true pioneers as the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost. With the tremendous media coverage - a CNN story and New York Times front-page article - the pioneers were recognized as heroes!

    When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in 2012, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) emerged as Ei's central Recycling Refinement focus through 2016. 

    Under the ZWZ, best-operating practices were established for back-of-the-house food waste generated in commercial kitchens. The SFCI addressed front-of-the-house food waste, recycling, and trash collection where the consumer source-separated material.

    SMAT members at a pre-season
    Falcons game
    In 2014, Ei announced post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a state-permitted destination other than landfill was the prime SFCI focus. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) formed to support post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection, and a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility. In addition to the SFCI, SMAT supported the EPA Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte, NC Grant.

    By 2016 numerous sporting event facilities, venues, outdoor festivals, and other food-related businesses achieved zero waste, including post-consumer food waste. Thus, Ei's post-consumer food waste-related work was complete.

    In addition to post-consumer food waste, the SFCI Pilots were active in the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template, plastic film recycling pilots. and milk jug recycling programs.

    Ei Soil Health Platform

    With the July 2017 Soil Health platform announcement, Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, with the Water Use | Toxicity and Product Stewardship platforms remaining in strong supporting roles. The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life, announced the Ei Soil Health platform. 

    In alignment with the new Ei focus, Georgia World Congress Center Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the new SFCI Chair.

    Tim on a farm tour
    Instrumental in the Soil Health platform development, Tim participated in the 2017 Ei Farm Tours documented in the ZWA Blog article, The Power of ToursInspired by the tours, Tim teamed with Levy Restaurants GWCC Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCC Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use regenerative agriculture practices at the on-campus mini-farm to produce food for the employee dining facility. 


    With the November 2017 decommissioning of the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) stepped forward as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot. Within the state-owned GWCCA umbrella is the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the fourth-largest convention center in the nation and the world's largest LEED Certified convention center. In addition to the GWCC, the GWCCA manages Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta and the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

    The SFCI - Georgia Dome page showcases the accomplishments during its 2012 - 2016 tenure as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot.

    As host for the 2009 acclaimed ZWZ launch press conference, the GWCCA is a committed sustainability leader with an impressive list of accomplishments:

    • GWCC earned LEED Silver in 2014 making it the world's largest LEED certified convention center and is actively working towards LEED Gold (anticipated Fall 2017).
    • GWCCA-managed Savannah International Trade and Convention Center earned LEED Gold in July 2017, making it the first convention center in the State of Georgia to achieve Gold LEED status.
    • GWCCA diverted more than 14 million pounds of material from landfills since 2008; the GWCC received the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge 2016 Waste Diversion Award.
      Atlanta Better Building Challenge
      2016 Waste Diversion Award
      photo courtesy of the GWCCA
    • GWCC reduced water consumption by 41% since 2008 through the installation of new irrigation, restroom fixtures, and chillers.
    • GWCC is approximately 28% more energy efficient than similar buildings.
    • GWCCA uses janitorial paper and cleaning products that meet sustainability criteria, including recycled content materials and|or reduced harmful chemicals. (86% of the products meet the criteria)
    • GWCC’s 1,900-solar panel canopy located in the marshaling yard produces enough energy to power 89 Georgia homes annually.
    • GWCCA employees donated 1730 lbs. of clothing, recycled 152 lbs. of batteries and electronics, and donated nearly 500 meals worth of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the 2016 holiday season.

    Customized lighting installed
    via the performance contract
    photo courtesy of the GWCCA
    In 2015 the GWCC entered into a $28 million energy-savings performance contract to upgrade old, outdated equipment with a collaborative financing plan. The GWCC performance contract is the largest stand-alone project in Georgia and the largest in the country for public assembly venues.

    GWCC equipment upgrades cut energy consumption by at least 39%, saving in excess of $2.5 million in the first year alone. During the October 2015 through April 2017 construction period, GWCC achieved the following impressive stats:
    • $1,827,241 of energy costs saved.
    • 17,810,772 kWh of electricity saved (enough to power 1,781 homes in Georgia).
    • 13,704,856 gallons of water saved (the amount of water in more than 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools).
    • 18,481 therms of natural gas saved (average annual usage of 26 Georgia homes).
    • 578,277 pounds of construction waste recycled (the equivalent weight of 18,504,864 empty soda cans).
    Event Venue Challenges
    Event venues face unique challenges when embarking on energy-savings, zero waste, and other sustainability programs. The following details several of the challenges:

    Typical booth at a trade show
    • Event contracts – Facility sales departments often book events years in advance; by event time, contract provisions may not complement facility sustainability practices. Common practice includes one waste haul per exhibit hall within the contract price; thus, there is no financial incentive to reduce event waste.
    • Third party contractors - Most conferences contract with a local event management company for equipment rental along with delivery, set-up, and tear-down. Event team communication of sustainability practices often does not reach the subcontractors; thus, specified tasks do not happen.
    • Move-out timing - Contracts include a tight post-event timeline for the staff to clear out the exhibit hall. Due to the time-sensitive urgency, the staff focuses on "clearing out" in the fastest manner possible; often recyclable material ends up in the waste container, versus separated for recycling.
    • Government-owned facilities – Many conference centers are owned by local and state governments with bidding processes required for service and equipment contracts. 
    • Event day driven – By their nature conference centers experience high-level activity followed by slow or dormant time.
    With the plethora of event venue challenges, the GWCC successes to date are impressive. 

    What Can Be Done

    Years ago, the GWCC stepped forward as an industry pioneer with a commitment to bring the possible out of impossible. As the SFCI Event Venue Pilot, the GWCC continues to showcase the power of What Can Be Done

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