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Monday, February 9, 2015

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!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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 ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Green Streets: grass roots social enterprise

Green Streets film cover
Green Streets - a Citizen Film documentary by Sophie Constantinou - follows 29 year old entrepreneur Tyrone Mullins and his friends as they turn trash into cash in the distressed San Francisco housing projects where they live. Through trial and error, they learn to haul 150,000 gallons of waste per month, creating desperately needed jobs, and establishing recycling where all previous efforts had failed.

With five years of success and a solid business in-place, Green Streets serves as a catalyst for similar programs in urban landscapes. Citizen Film holds work-in-progress Green Streets screenings in the Bay Area on a near-weekly basis, at events ranging from closed-door strategy meetings to public screenings | discussions attended by hundreds.

Green Streets employees
sorting @ apt. complex
The frequent screenings to influential public housing, conservation and workforce development stakeholders broadens awareness of Green Streets powerful impact within under served neighborhoods and the city as a whole. 

Post-screening discussions often result in improved waste management operations. Green Streets is a work-in-progress where setbacks become opportunities to aspire to greater achievements.

More than a business, more than a documentary, Green Streets is a social enterprise with a mission to provide a business service, a social service and an environmental service: a triple bottom line. Within the social service mission, Green Streets is an example of how grass roots enterprises are the catalyst for urban revitalization; under-served populations evolve into well-served, thriving communities.

Green Streets on
the streets
Beyond the screening recognition, Tyrone received the following awards and recognition for Green Streets: an Ashoka Emerging Innovator Award, a fellowship from Stanford University's Project Remade, and a "Champions of Change" Award from the White House. These mainstream high honors validate Green Streets as a prominent leader and recognize the societal implications.

What is social enterprise?  According to the Green Streets FAQ page: A social enterprise operates like a business, but manages its operations in pursuit of human and / or environmental wellbeing. Per Wikipedia
social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.
Green Streets presents social enterprise as the connecting path between the Vicious Cycle - Trauma, Unemployment & Waste - and the Virtuous Cycle - Ownership, Community Restoration & Recycling. The path is two-way or holographic, depending upon perspective.

ABFF president Penny McPhee
w/ Sophie @ screening
Thanks to the generosity and vision of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation (AMBFF) Green Streets came to Atlanta for a series of screenings, organized discussions, tours and meetings. 

The Wednesday January 14, 2015 Green Streets Atlanta screening was presented by the AMBFF Film Series and set the stage for a powerful week in Atlanta. The ZWA Blog article, Green Streets Comes to Atlanta!, announces the Atlanta screening and visit.

According to their site, the AMBFF Film Series uses the power of documentary film to address a wide range of societal issues. The Foundation recognizes the documentary medium can concurrently spark imagination, illuminate a subject, challenge conventional thinking, entertain and engage audiences, create awareness and inspire action. 

SUCCESS: The Wednesday Green Streets screening was a complete sell-out with standing room only for late arrivals. After introductions by John Bare, AMBFF vice-president for programs, the audience was enthralled with the 45-minute screening on Green Streets' history, creation, challenges and successes.

Following the screening, Sophie moderated a panel of urban innovators and entrepreneurs from Green Streets and Atlanta consisting of the following individuals:
Panel after screening
  • David Mauroff - director of social enterprise at Urban Strategies where he supports the growth and development of Green Streets. In addition, David provides public safety and resident support services assistance to the McCormack Baron portfolio (owner of housing project apartments.)
  • Rohit Malhotra - founder & executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta; Rohit's background includes social entrepreneurship, digital communications and community organizing.
  • Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic - vice-president & market leader for Enterprise Community Partner's Sourtheast. Meaghan's responsibilities include strategic planning and capacity building assistance for preservation, new production and transit-oriented development opportunities to affordable housing and community development.
  • Tyrone Mullins - co-founder of Green Streets. 
Randolph sharing his
experiences on the panel
Midway through the discussion, Tyrone called Randolph Lee, fellow Green Streets team member, from the audience to join the panel and provide his perspective and experience.

Elemental Impact (Ei) was honored to co-present the Atlanta January 14 screening along with Green StreetsUrban Strategies, Citizen Film and the Fledgling Fund.

The following day the Center for Civic Innovation hosted the Sustainable Thinking: How Green Leads to Good Jobs & Revitalized Neighborhoods roundtable discussion. Ei founder Holly Elmore was among the community leaders from the various Atlanta sectors to participate in the roundtable. Participants represented global corporations, local | national non-profits, local government, private enterprise, schools and clergy.  

After an eight-minute Green Streets film and participant introductions, David moderated and Sophie filmed the vibrant discussions.

Tyrone on-screen, Sophie
standing in reverence 
The conversation centered on unique challenges facing urban entrepreneurs; innovative partnerships and business practices are key to creating healthy, prosperous working environments. For instance, Tyrone mentioned the importance of mental health services to Green Streets success. Through therapy employees understand trigger points, heal wounds from emotional | physical trauma and grow as workers and individuals. 

Two staffing agencies - First Step Staffing and Next Step Staffing - who employ ex-convicts, veterans and severely under-employed individuals - shared valuable insights on how to segue challenges into successful long-term employment opportunities. In addition, Re-Entry Coalition executive director Bob Jackson was active in roundtable discussions and lunch afterwards.

Ei Partner Novelis, the world's largest aluminum recycler and manufacturer of rolled aluminum, was a strong roundtable participant. Parting conversation included a potential Green Streets screening at Novelis' Atlanta global headquarters. Synergies abound: 

Green Streets team with
the Novelis folks
Many new connections were made among the local roundtable participants with commitments to meet in the next weeks to continue the conversation.

Thursday evening the Atlanta University Center Consortium - the largest contiguous consortium of African American private institutions of higher education in the nation - hosted a Green Streets screening at Clark Atlanta University. The enthusiastic crowd was eager to present questions to David, Tyrone and Randolph in the post-screening panel discussion.

Friday morning began with the final Atlanta screening at the Fulton Leadership Academy (FLA) - where young men soar to greater heights. It was an inspirational visit for Tyrone, Randolph and the students; lifelong education was a key message in the post-screening discussions. 

Green Streets folks with
Scott Jenkins on field
With fortitude, leadership and achievement as core values, the FLA is committed to a rigorous academic environment that empowers young men in grades 6-12 to become productive civic leaders. Within the offered curriculum, there is a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and a thematic approach that integrates experiences with aviation and aeronautics.

After "soaring" with the young men, the Green Streets team met with Scott Jenkins for an overview of the New Falcons Stadium construction and operations.

WOW: the Georgia Dome marquees were lit up with the following two messages:
  • Welcome Green Streets!
  • Happy Birthday Tyrone!
Thank you to Scott and the Georgia Dome staff for going the extra yards with the marquee messages. The marquees expressed appreciation at a level not possible with words.

Tyrone with his birthday sign
What an honor for Tyrone to spend his 30th birthday in Atlanta sharing Green Streets with our grand city. The odds were against Tyrone making it to this life milestone; not only did he survive, Tyrone is THRIVING as a prominent contributor to necessary social consciousness shifts. 

The inaugural Atlanta Green Streets visit planted fertile seeds for future visits to build empowering social enterprise grass roots programs. Discussions segued into food waste composting at created community gardens in distressed neighborhoods. 

The Ei FB album, Green Streets Comes to Atlanta, gives a pictorial recap of the empowering visit.

Atlanta is ripe for social enterprise to build a stable path from a Vicious Cycle to a Virtuous Cycle in our diverse communities... and remember prosperous social sectors have their own Vicious Cycles to transform. 

Thank you Green Streets for your vision, fortitude, leadership and commitment to sharing. Thank you to The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for bringing Green Streets to Atlanta!