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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey
    Stephanie Barger & Gary Liss
    of the USZWBC
    The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) hosted their fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference in Los Angeles at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on May 6 & 7, with pre-conference workshops and tours on May 5. Sustainability leaders traveled from across the nation to learn, share and network with the Stars of Zero Waste. The ZWA Blog article, Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste," gives a comprehensive overview of the impressive program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Other greeningATL Excellence Awards included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It is time for the foodservice industry to step to the plate, understand their responsibility for diverting foodwaste from landfill in a contaminant-free, beneficial stream, and use their power of consumer demand to evolve packaging standards. Industry pioneers set the stage with their effective programs in-place, some years ago; a path to follow is well-established.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The stars of zero waste shine bright in the conference program! Plan to attend the 2015 Conference confident that you will depart filled with zero waste wisdom, new industry friends and inspired to make a difference at your organization and beyond.
  7. Plastic GYRE Symposium: Artists, Scientists and Activists Respond
    On March 26 & 27 nationally renowned scientists, filmmakers, artists and activists converged on Atlanta for The Plastic GYRE Symposium: Artists, Scientists and Activists RespondHosted jointly by the Welch Foundation at Georgia State University (GSU), David J. Sencer Museum of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), the Symposium was an effort to raise awareness and discourse on the global crisis of plastic pollution.

    Pamela Longobardi at podium
    Distinguished GSU Professor & Drifters Project founder Pamela Longobardi was the empowering force behind the Symposium. In June 2013, Pamela was Lead Artist in the Alaska Gyre Expedition, a project launched by the Alaska Sealife Center and the Anchorage Museum to assess the impact of debris washing onto Alaskan shores from the Pacific Ocean gyres.

    National Geographic (NG) adventure filmmaker, producer and director J.J. Kelly joined the gyre team to document the four-year in-the-making expedition. On August 21, 2013 the NG twenty-minute film GYRE: Creating Art from a Plastic Ocean was released on the monumental expedition.

    Subsequent to the expedition, Pamela worked collaboratively with Howard Ferren, the GYRE Project originator and Julie Decker, curator of the GYRE exhibition, to form the team of artists aboard the ship, who created art from the foraged plastic debris collected on the expedition. The subsequent exhibition, GYRE: The Plastic Ocean, which then expanded to scores of esteemed global artists working with plastic pollution, is on exhibit at the CDC Museum January 26 - June 19.

    When the CDC exhibit scheduled, Pamela spearheaded an amazing team to create The Plastic GYRE Symposium to coincide with the art exhibit. PPC co-founder, Dianna Cohen provided tremendous support on multiple levels for the empowering Symposium. In addition, Dianna's artwork is included in the GYRE: The Plastic Ocean exhibit.

    What is a gyre? Per Pam, "The Gyre is the scientific term for the ocean currents which now propel plastic pollution around the world." Wikipedia gives a more scientific gyre description:

    gyre in oceanography is any large system of rotating ocean currentsparticularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction, which determine the circulation patterns from the wind curl (torque). The term gyre can be used to refer to any type of vortex in the air or the sea, even one that is man-made, but it is most commonly used in oceanography to refer to the major ocean systems. There are five most notable gyres:
    Scott Seydel at the podium
    The two-day Symposium included a stellar program that ran the gamut of educating on the horrific facts of the plastic pollution scenario to providing a good news blitz of positive action in-place to explaining the social justice (or injustice) surrounding the gyre & other plastic pollution impacts. Prominent industry experts traveled from across the nation to share their experience, research and call-to-action.

    Elemental Impact (Ei) Chair Scott Seydel presented on the Beyond Greenwash: Extended Producer Responsibility panel with a powerful, at times humorous, presentation that emphasized plastic's value in the global economy. Scott focused on the current recycling rates, end uses for the various plastics and how states with bottle bills enjoy significantly higher recycling rates.

    In his presentation on the Greenwash panel, John Lanier - the Ray C. Anderson Foundation director - encouraged the audience to move beyond sustainability and aspire to be restorative. Using examples from Interface's exemplary history to more recent endeavors, including a pilot where nets from a small Philippines fishing village were cleaned, processed and woven into new carpet tiles, John substantiated his impactful point. Note John's grandfather Ray Anderson founded Interface, the world's largest designer and maker of carpet tile, and was a leading pioneer in sustainable | restorative business practices.

    Laura Turner Seydel, Scott Seydel
    & Dianna Cohen between sessions
    Executive Director of Data & Strategy for the Algiers Charter School Association in New Orleans, LA Jane Patton gave an excellent presentation on the implications of plastics in school systems, especially in foodservice programs.  

    As the largest chartered school district in the state, Algiers serves meals to 4500 children twice per day, five days per week, 36 weeks per year and uses 1.6 million polystyrene trays and plastic forks per year. Jane emphasized her stats are from only one school district in the nation - the total polystyrene | plastic usage in schools is astronomical. 

    In her session, Jane spoke of the narrow perception related to "cost."  Administrators tend to focus on product cost without considering hard cost-savings of waste hauling reduction and soft costs associated with the health impact from plastic molecules infiltrating food served to students.

    The first day formal program finished with a screening of the NG film referred to above.

    Liz York announcing the
    CDC water-savings
    On the second day, the Symposium began with a Sustainability Call to Action by Pam and Dianna, followed by a press junket and a GYRE: The Plastic Ocean exhibition viewing. CDC Museum curator Louise Shaw did a superb job orchestrating the exhibit logistics and installation.

    CDC Associate Director for Quality and Sustainability Liz York welcomed attendees to the CDC as the start to the afternoon formal program. In her remarks, Liz announced the CDC reduced water consumption by 300% of the prior current average monthly usage - impressive!

    GreenLaw executive director Stephanie Benfield was slated to moderate the Social Justice panel. With perfect timing Stephanie was at the Capitol to lobbying against the "ban the ban" Georgia House Bill up for vote - the bill was defeated during the panel! Thanks to up-to-the-second updates, Dianna announced the the bill defeat within a minute of the vote. The audience was elated and gave a standing ovation.

    Environmental Working Group executive director Heather White stepped forward as the Social Justice panel moderator and infiltrated her presentation within commentary. Heather brought the plastic pollution scenario close to home. Research of toxins in new born babies was released as Heather embraced her first child - the stark reality propelled Heather into action, eventually leading to her current prestigious position.

    Passionate, PPC co-founder Lisa Boyle presented on the results of living in a throw-away society; cheap products are designed for one-time use and expensive products are designed for replacement. Lisa produced the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, Plastic Pollution and wrote the introduction. Several of the Symposium presenters contributed to the impressive documentation on plastic pollution from an environmental law perspective.

    Rashid Nuri at podium
    Former Clinton Advisor on Agriculture Rashid Nuri of Truly Living Well gave a passionate, empowering talk on the role urban agriculture plays in social justice and was the final panelist. In his talk Rashid dispelled the term "food desert" as the residents are no farther from stores with healthy food than affluent neighborhoods; these individuals lack the means to travel to the stores. In addition to its direct health benefits, Rashid linked food grown within an urban environment to significantly reduced plastic packaging.

    The Symposium's formal program closed with an eye-opening keynote presentation by Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Marine Research founder and discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Charles' presentation was grounded in a video documenting his research over the years; the graphic visuals depicted the magnitude of the plastic pollution within the oceans along with its implications.

    According to Charles, the tremendous plastic pollution volumes are beyond current capabilities for a massive clean-up. Charles recommends a focus on source reduction to prevent further build-up of the already out-of-control scenario. Per the Algalita website, the plastic reality is:

    • 280 million tons of plastic is produced around the world annually. An estimated 5.25 trillion plastic pieces weighing 268,940 tons pollute the global ocean.
    • That's at least 700 pieces for every living human being on the planet, or the equivalent to the weight of 24 billion empty single-use water bottles.
    • To date, reports show that at least 136 marine species have been impacted by plastic entanglement, and 177 marine species have ingested plastic.

    Beyond the overwhelming plastic pollution impact visuals, a serious threat to food safety is the micro-plastics in the flesh of sea life harvested for human consumption. Larger plastics often kill sea life through blockages in the digestive tract, entanglement and starvation. Micro-plastics consumed may fare through the digestive process into the species' flesh & other edible areas.

    The audience gives Charles Moore
    a standing ovation
    A seasoned, effective speaker Charles ended his somber, reality-based presentation on a high note with a lighthearted video of children respecting the earth and sharing the source-reduction message with a cheerful voice. The crowd responded with a standing ovation for Charles' powerful keynote presentation. The Symposium closed with a lovely reception and exhibition viewing.

    For a Symposium pictorial recap from Ei's perspective, visit the Ei FB album, The Plastic GYRE Symposium.

    The plastic pollution cannot be ignored and its impact extends beyond the oceans to our interior waterways and soils. Though solutions are not yet evident, immediate efforts to stop the tremendous annual added accumulation are a must for human and other species survival. 

    Collaborative effort among individuals, governments, research institutes, non-profits and private enterprise with a common goal of first reducing, later eliminating, plastic pollution is necessary. Enlightened solutions will emerge for what seems an insurmountable scenario. It is time to bring the possible out of the impossible! 


    The below lists links for the Symposium's first-day sessions at GSU:

  8. Remember: If it was easy, it would already be done!
    single-stream recycling delivered
    to a MRF for separation
    Within Elemental Impact's (Ei) Recycling Refinement platform a Total Materials Management Approach (TMMA) - evaluating the entire waste | recycling stream as one revenue / cost center - is used. The stated objective is true zero waste with a strong focus on ultimate material destination and the remaining "trash" within the stream. Materials with solid end markets (e.g. aluminum, mixed paper, certain plastics) subsidize more challenging streams generated in operations.
    Until recently zero waste measurement was quantified as diversion rates from the landfill without final destination consideration. Known for high levels of contamination, single-stream recycling - often the only recycling option available for the corporate community - results in a high percentage of recyclable items landfill destined. Thus, “true recycling rates” are frequently inflated with single-stream recycling programs.
    Note effective single-stream MRF – material recovery facilities – separation is limited by the contamination in the delivered material. Published reports substantiate curbside single-recycling programs often contain significant contaminates, which may then pollute the corporate recycling delivered to the MRF.

    First source-separated aluminum
    bale at Georgia Dome
    In September 2013, the ZWA Blog article, If it was easy, it would already be done, announced the  plastic film recycling template that segued into the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT). With the Georgia Dome | Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the Sustainable Food Court Initiative - Event Pilot, stepping forward as the template Lead Pioneer, Atlanta was designated for the city-wide S-SMRT pilot. 

    S-SMRT targets moderate material generators whose current recycling option is single-stream recycling. 

    In simplistic terms, S-SMRT encompasses the TTMA with the following steps:
    • Generators source-separate material on-site and compact into mini bales.
    • Hauler collects bales for transport to the recycling center.
    • Recycling center associates track material received by type | generator, re-bale into standard sized bales, and store in a tractor trailer by material type until full.
    • Hauler sells material directly to a manufacturing | recycling end destination and pays rebates to generators based on their respective percentage of the load sold.
    • Ei oversees the system to ensure the entire value chain makes a reasonable profit.
    Financial template success is grounded in two factors: CLEAN MATERIAL & VOLUME. The template tagline is:

    Contamination is a Mistake!

    Andrew Lantz loading
    bales onto box truck
    The ZWA Blog article, Total Materials Management Approach, gives an in-depth overview of the approach along with a S-SMRT update as of the early December publication. 

    On December 17 the S-SMRT team arrived at the Ga Dome loading dock with an empty box truck to collect the baled aluminum and plastic PET bottles generated during the 2014 Falcons Season. Destination: the Atlanta Penitentiary, the S-SMRT recycling center, to re-bale the material into standard-sized bales.

    The trial run was seamless as the UNICOR - federal prison system employment arm - managers along with inmates greeted the team with enthusiasm. Pallets were weighed empty and then weighed again loaded with material bales; several individual mini-bales were weighed to estimate an average. Next the material was transported for compaction into standard-sized bales.

    loosely compacted first standard
    sized bale 
    At the trial, the only significant challenge was the Penitentiary baler produced a loosely compacted aluminum bale that lost bottles as moved and was approximately 50 pounds underweight. Compaction issues are easily remedied via: 1> adjusting the machine compaction setting, 2> repairing the machine or final remedy 3> purchasing a new machine. It was rewarding to know the main challenge was one with an easy solution.

    Other template challenges include shifts in Ei Partner staff and | or business model. Beyond Ei Partner associates flowing with empowering career choices, the designated hauler shifted their business model and will no longer serve at the template's core. Though a shock, the simplistic genius of S-SMRT is the hauler role merely requires a box truck, qualified drivers and a relationship grounded in trust with hauler management.

    At the Georgia Dome, labor sources and division of time to source-separate material proved a challenge during the first pilot year. Though frustrating, the entire S-SMRT Team is committed to long-term success. Pioneers know immediate disappointments are necessary to create a flexible foundation built to endure many renditions while evolving into a proven format.

    Tim shows the tremendous mixed
    paper volume potential 
    In the first year, source-separation was limited to aluminum and PET plastic bottles. Next year the intent is to add the significant amount of mixed paper from event programs, marketing material and other sources. In addition, GWCC director of sustainability Tim Trefzer intends to explore including GWCC convention and event material in the source-separation process. As the nation's fourth largest convention center, evolving material management practices is a monumental task, one with significant impact.

    By the Atlanta Falcons 2015 Season at the Georgia Dome the goal is to recruit additional Lead Pioneers within the downtown convention district. Route density is key for the hauler's financial success. 

    The Ei FB album, Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template, building a city-wide network, is a pictorial recap of the template from its plastic film recycling inception to current work-in-progress.

    Simplicity is the common thread throughout the S-SMRT. New operating practices are low tech in nature with a mini-baler in general the only necessary purchase. Additional labor is required to source-separate and bale material on-site; thus, "green jobs" are created with the overall bottom line improved - a multiple win!

    Though simple, the S-SMRT is NOT easy. Yet Remember: If it was easy, it would already be done!
  9. Charlotte: A Land of Opportunties
    A proactive city, Charlotte stands strong as a sustainability leader, especially in waste reduction. As Mecklenburg County Government (MCG) environmental manager, waste reduction, Laurette Hall is at the helm of Charlotte recycling successes; Laurette is a visionary who quietly, effectively implements her recycling plan for the county while forging lasting relationships.

    CMS food waste collection for
    compost effective system
    The City of Charlotte is within Mecklenburg County; the city and county work closely together on community services, including materials management. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) - 164 schools and 145,000 enrolled students - is a prime example of the city and county working in unison for citizen benefit.

    Dating back to 2011, Elemental Impact developed strong Charlotte relationships. Jake Wilson, MCG senior environmental manager, was named the February 2011 IMPACTOR of the month and honored in The IMPACT Blog article, A Man of Controversy, A Man of Action.

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

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

    When Charlotte hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the city | county used the convention as an opportunity to expand existing recycling practices for the metro area. Facilities such as the Charlotte Convention Center (CCC) and the Carolina Panthers Stadium implemented food waste collection for compost as the city prepared for the convention. BOH food waste collection is now standard operating practice at the facilities.

    In partnership with Charlotte-based ReCommunity Recycling, festive, well-designed recycling containers were strategically placed throughout the downtown corridor. Keeping with recycling best practices, each bin is paired with a trash container. ReCommunity operates the county-owned MRF - materials recovery facility for single-stream recycling.

    Charlotte successes were highlighted at the 2012 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours hosted by Simon | HMSHost. Laurette and Jake attended the first day of presentations and tours of Concord Mills' impressive recycling programs. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is a tours overview.

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

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

    Earth Week 2014 marked the first official EPA Grant Team visit to the Queen City for three action-packed days. With a plethora of back-to-back meetings and tours scheduled, the team recruited participants for the EPA Grant program. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Support, is an overview of the monumental visit.

    Knights Stadium
    The Ei Team returned to Charlotte in July and overlapped the grant with Ei initiatives. From Ei's perspective, the trip was exploratory in nature to determine if the tremendous Ei | Charlotte | MCG synergies warranted investment in formal programs, partnerships and | or other initiatives. The Charlotte Knights hosted a meeting at their stadium to introduce Ei initiatives and the EPA Grant.

    During the visit, SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - was formed to support the Grant and other Ei work. The ZWA Blog article, Ei Charlotte Visit: Busy, Productive & Fun!, is a recap of the powerful visit.

    Validating the strong Ei | MCG relationship, Laurette attended the November 2014 Annual Ei Partner Meeting in Atlanta. Laurette presented on the extensive synergies & potentials and learned about Ei initiatives beyond Charlotte and materials management. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2014: A Year of Evolution, gives an overview of the meeting along with the history of events that built the substantial foundation in-place.

    The Grant | Ei Team converged on Charlotte the week of February 2 for a series of meetings and tours at the major sports facilities, the convention center and local schools. SPC senior manager Anne Bedarf was supported in meetings with SMAT members: Sarah Martell of Innovia Films, Rick Lombardo of NaturBag, Tim Goodman of NatureWorks, and Sarah Martinez of Eco-Products.

    Laurette, Eric & Kim after the
    City of Charlotte meeting
    For the February 2015 Charlotte visit, Ei founder Holly Elmore and Kim Charick of the EPA arrived a day early for Water Use | Toxicity and other Ei-specific meetings. Rob Phocas, City of Charlotte energy & sustainability manager, was first on the meeting itinerary. Though focused on Airborne Kitchen Grease, a proactive approach to a costly cooking by-product, the meeting was a perfect opportunity to update Rob on the EPA Grant status.

    JR Stewart of Filtrexx treated Ei to a lovely lunch at McCormick & Schmick's downtown location to educate on the Garden Soxx, perfect for community & school gardens. With the strong food waste collection for composting at CMS, the Garden Soxx may prove useful as an educational tool to directly connect food waste to compost to garden produce.

    A lovely dinner at Rooster's downtown location hosted by Eric & Betsy Dyer, local Grease Lock Filter distributors, was a perfect segue into the EPA Grant meetings the following morning.

    The Knights were first on the meeting itinerary as a follow-up to the July meeting and subsequent conference calls. After an overview session including General Manager Erik Hassy and Executive Chef Joseph Marx of Ovations, the stadiums foodservice operator, Stadium Director of Operations Mark McKinnon led the group on a BOH tour to better understand the physical parameters for recycling logistics. Grant partners Sandra Clinton of UNC Charlotte and Jim Lanier with Earth Farms joined the Knights meeting. As the food waste hauler | destination, Jim attended most of the meetings.

    Knights meeting group photo
    The loading dock included ample space for food waste collection and source-separation of high value recyclable material. It was an inspiring visit and rewarding to witness the zero waste "team spirit" evident between stadium facilities and foodservice operations. With plenty of action points documented, the group said farewell to new friends.

    Next on the day's itinerary was an introductory meeting with the CCC. As mentioned above, the CCC is a veteran to BOH food waste collection for composting and eager to take their program to next dimensions. CCC Food Services Operations Manager Steve Gorham hosted the meeting with CCC Assistant Director of Facility Services Roger Rochelle and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) Procurement Manager Jeff Doerr attending.

    CCC meeting
    A primary discussion point was the role legal provisions play in zero waste success, whether with foodservice subcontractors or waste | recycling haulers. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require team work necessary for zero waste success, documents the important role contract provisions play in creating an effective stage for food waste collection and source-separated material recycling.

    Continuing with the common theme of saying farewell to new friends, the group collected business cards with promises of follow-up within an array of action points and information requested.

    The final meeting of the day was at the Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a NC charter school for the highly gifted scholar. Without a formal lunch program, the academy has unique challenges | opportunities not experienced by CMS-operated schools. With strong parental involvement, the school may excel in amazing recycling efforts with parent | student consciousness shifts.

    Common within Ei travels, dinners serve as a relaxed venue to recap the powerful activities along with strategies on how to maximize potentials. The King's Kitchen was the perfect venue for dinner: 100% of proceeds are donated to the homeless and competent staff are those often considered "unemployable."

    The final day began with a productive meeting and tour of the Charlotte Hornets Arena hosted by Andrew Chisholm, manager of arena & event services. With Mike Wann, Levy Restaurants (Levy) assistant director of operations,and Bill Becker, CRVA arena director of support services, in attendance, the necessary trilogy - stadium management, facilities management and foodservice operations - were present at the meeting.

    After introductions and grant overview, the group toured the stadium front and BOH operations. It was exciting to witness the potential for refining the arena's current recycling practices, especially food waste collection for compost. Levy is the foodservice operator for Ei Supporter Georgia World Congress Center Authority, a founding Zero Waste Zones participant. A Levy manager recently transferred from the Georgia Dome to the arena; the Dome is the SFCI Event Venue Pilot with solid food waste donation and collection for compost practices.

    Added bonus: a standard size baler is located near the waste | recycling loading dock area. It is nice to know equipment is in-place to source-separate cardboard, aluminum and other valuable material.

    Kim w/ compost garden sign
    During lunch, the team visited the Chantilly Montessori School as an example of the CMS impressive food waste collection for compost program. It was rewarding to witness the four and five year old children learn to sort their food and pour liquid from the beverage carton prior to recycling.The committed staff is integral to the school's success.

    In addition, the school has a compost area complete with a tumbler, rain barrel collection, and raised bed gardens. Per the wooden sign, the NO to grass & weeds shows the school is careful to prevent weed seeds & pesticides | herbicides from contaminating the compost. The YES includes leaves, fruits & vegetables. 

    The final EPA Grant Team meeting was with the Carolina Panthers hosted by Scott Paul, director of stadium operations, and attended by Delaware North Executive Chef John Morey and Operations Manager Jeff Kelly. In addition to an established BOH food waste collection program, the Panthers have solid recycling practices where cardboard is baled on-site. Over the past season, the Panthers recycled a total of 76.63 tons of materials, including 25.56 tons of source-separated aluminum. The food waste program diverted an additional 6.65 tons of material from the landfill. IMPRESSIVE!

    Panther game-day tailgate recycling
    photo courtesy of Jake
    Jake oversees the Panther tailgate recycling program, a collaboration of many organizations | individuals: volunteers, City of Charlotte Solid Waste for game day collection, the Parking Lot Consortium for engaging the lot attendants, City Center Partners for their stewardship and media outreach, Bojangles sponsorship of bags & award gift cards, and ESPN 730 for sponsorship and support. The 2012 ZWA Blog article, Winning Panthers Recycling Season, recaps the collaboration necessary for a successful tailgate recycling program.

    The 2014 | 2015 season broke records with 45.35 tons recycled at the home games, a 23% increase over last season's 36.76 tons recycled. Ditto on IMPRESSIVE!

    At the Panthers' meeting, the focus was on Recycling Refinement, moving beyond landfill diversion, and how the Grant Team and SMAT may assist the stadium edge closer to zero waste. Front-of-the-house food waste collection, with first steps in the suites, was the meeting focal point. An action item is scheduling a call with industry leaders experienced in bringing a stadium to zero waste.

    SUCCESS: the Knights, Hornets, Panthers and the CCC gave a thumbs up on joining the grant program.  Anne will follow-up over the next weeks to complete the paperwork and discuss next steps. For a list of current Grant participants and to join the program, visit the SPC Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte website page.

    downtown Charlotte
    The Ei Team intends to return to Charlotte midsummer for follow-up meetings on the city-wide Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT). Atlanta serves as the pilot city and Charlotte is a potential template replication pilot city. The ZWA Blog article, Total Materials Management Approach, gives an update on the pilot and explains the approach.

    As the S-SRMT took a side seat in the February meetings, the Grant will take the side seat in the summer meetings. The S-SRMT is an avenue for Ei to continue support to Grant participants beyond its expiration date.

    The Ei FB album, Charlotte Visit: EPA Grant & Beyond, is a pictorial recap of the excellent visit.

    After a team wrap-up, the group dispersed excited to segue the powerful discussions into action. Laurette summarized the scenario with perfection: Charlotte is a Land of Opportunities!
  10. Food Waste Recovery: build it and they will come?? ...

    In August 2012, the National Resources Defense Council released an Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, researched and written by Dana Gunders. The paper served as a wake-up call to reassess the nation's food waste practices from the following standpoints: redirection of edible food to a hungry population, purchasing practices causing waste and food waste destinations.

    According to the EPA Reducing Wasted Food Basics page:
    More than 96 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills. In 2011, we landfilled more than 36 million tons of food waste. 
    Beyond the methane gas produced by food in landfills (20%+ more potent than carbon generated from car emissions and other sources), a high percentage of the 36 million tons of food waste is nutritious, edible food. Note the 36 million tons is food waste generated in commercial operations (food production, grocery stores, healthcare and the hospitality | entertainment industry including dining establishments) and personal consumer | residential food purchases.

    Until recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Food Recovery Hierarchy was the standard for preferred food waste destination options.

    As organizations like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) address how to redirect food waste from landfills to productive uses, the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy is reviewed for local application. In 2014, the ILSR published an updated Hierarchy for Reducing & Recycling Food Scraps and Other Organic Discards:

    The ILSR hierarchy includes the following updates to the EPA version:
    1. Title is expanded as follows: reducing replaces recovery and recycling & scraps are added along with other organic discards.
    2. EPA second tier Feed Hungry People renamed Edible Food Rescue.
    3. EPA third tier Feed Animals is eliminated.
    4. ILSR third tier is Residential Backyard Composting.
    5. EPA fourth tier Industrial Uses is moved to one level above bottom tier Landfill & Incineration and renamed Mechanical Biological Mixed Waste Treatment; anaerobic digestion is included in ILSR fifth tier. 
    6. ILSR expanded Composting to a higher level into two categories: Small-scale Decentralized Composting and Centralized Composting or Anaerobic Digestion.
    7. Bottom tier Landfill & Incineration remained consistent.
    Brenda presenting at the
    F&B Pkging Mtg
    In her presentation at the Fourth Annual Food & Beverage Sustainable Packaging Meeting hosted by Elemental Impact at Global Green's Washington D.C. offices, ILSR Co-Director Brenda Platt included the updated hierarchy in her presentation. Additionally, Brenda announced the publication of two important industry resources: 
    Brenda emphasized the important role grass roots composting systems play in food waste recovery. Working with the Washington D.C. Department of Parks & Recreation, the ILSR and ECO City Farms offer the Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders training program, a community composter train-the-trainer program with a community service component. 

    Over 1,000 New York City citizens completed the Master Composting Program. According to Brendathese Master Composters serve as community activists who encourage fellow residents to embark on neighborhood composting solutions for food waste and rebuilding the soilGrass roots efforts, grounded in neighborhood activism, create the culture where public policy, supported by community leaders and private enterprise, may segue to macro solutions for food waste.

    The ZWA Blog article, Sustainable F&G Packaging: moving from an emerging to a maturing industry, is an overview of the meeting with a recap of the powerful presentations.

    Bringing the focus local is critical to food waste recovery and food security for the nation's under-served populations. With capacity challenges for commercial food waste composting destinations, community garden and other local options may fill the gap while government officials and private enterprise wrestle with regulations, permits and at-times public resistance to state-permitted regional composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.

    The ILSR updated food recovery hierarchy aligns with the necessary local participation to reduce the 40% of the food produced wasted and 96% of food waste destined for landfill.

    Is a grass roots food waste revolution underway? What is the role of social enterprise in creating viable solutions for the entire population, including those currently under-served? 

    Green Streets - a grass roots recycling social enterprise grounded in San Francisco - recently visited Atlanta for Citizen Film's Green Streets documentary screenings, community discussions and meetings. The ZWA Blog article, Green Streets, grass roots social enterprise, is a recap of the powerful Atlanta visit.

    Green Streets empowers by creating jobs, cleaning-up housing projects and bringing dignity to an imprisoned population. Can the master composter training program teamed with community garden development augment the Green Streets template?

    So many questions, so much potential, yet who is willing to step to the plate with necessary resources, community support and wisdom to guide the creation of an effective food waste recovery template? Do we have a "Field of Dreams?" the foundation is built ... build it and they will come ...

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