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Monday, August 21, 2017

Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the SFCI leadership baton passed to Tim Trefzer, Ei is staged to soar in renewed directions within a solid foundation built by the founding regime!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What Can Be Done!

In 2010 Elemental Impact (Ei) was formed as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), a program launched in 2009 within the Georgia Restaurant Association umbrella. The ZWZ epitomized the Ei mantra:
Ei is a creator, an incubator. 
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. 
Ei brings the possible out of impossible. 
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.
ZWZ Participants were true pioneers as the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost. With the tremendous media coverage - a CNN story and New York Times front-page article - the pioneers were recognized as heroes!

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

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

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

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

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

Ei Soil Health Platform

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

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

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


SFCI - GWCCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can Be Done

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Power of Tours

Tour group shot @ a
Charlotte MRF
Throughout Elemental Impact's (Ei) eight-year history, tours played an integral role in educating the Ei Team on current scenarios and creative solutions to challenging situations.

In the early Zero Waste Zones days, tours centered around MRFs (material recovery facilities), recycling centers, manufacturers where recyclable items are raw materials, and generators with successful source-separated material systems in place. As Ei work segued to Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots, tours focused on large generators where the consumer is responsible for material disposal. 


As the SFCI-Airport Pilot, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, hosted the SFCI Team on International Terminal tours during construction and post-opening. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI Team Tours New ATL Airport Int'l Concourse, chronicles the during construction tour; the SFCI Atlanta Airport Pilot: ACTION Resumes article showcases the post-opening tour.


Tim with post-game collected
food waste & packaging 
At the SFCI-Event Venue Pilot, the Georgia Dome hosted several Falcons games tours to understand post-consumer food waste and packaging generated by the concessionaire and disposed of by the fans. The ZWA Blog article, Winning Recycling Seasons: Team Work Required!, provides a recap of the 2013 game day recycling tour with the Mercedes Benz Stadium architects.

The Ei Tours website page details the many Ei-hosted tours, segregated by Farm, Industry, Partner, and SFCI Tours. Each tour is supported by a blog article and Ei FB album.

In July 2017, Ei shifted gears within the spiral of humanity's environmental impact. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and Post-Consumer Food Waste to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life. The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life, announces the new platform and showcases the powerful foundation built within the Recycling Refinement platform and Post-Consumer Food waste focus area.

In preparation for the official Soil Health platform announcement, Ei embarked on a Farm Tour series in early 2017 with Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer. Ei Farm Tours are focused on farms following regenerative agricultural practices, with a strong emphasis on rebuilding healthy soils. In addition, Tim stepped into his new Ei Leadership role as the SFCI Chair.


David educates Tim on the food
waste composting windrows
First on the tour agenda was the February tour of the King of Crops Farm, located 25 minutes from downtown Atlanta. King of Pops, a popular hand-crafted popsicle company, purchased the farm to source locally grown organic ingredients nurtured within regenerative agriculture practices. Farm Manager Russell Hondered treated the group to a thorough farm tour including a narrative on its history as a well-established nursery. Remnants from the past are evident throughout the land adding character to the farm.

In addition to farming, King of Crops is a state-permitted food waste compost site. Commercial and residential food waste hauler Compost Wheels delivers their material to the farm. Compost Wheels CEO David Paull joined the tour and educated on the farm food waste composting practices.

Hickory Grove Farm entrance
Next on the agenda was a Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm tour. Kim Charick with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 (Southeast Region) joined Tim and Ei Founder Holly Elmore. Farm Operations Manager Michael Blackwell and KSU Professor Jorge Perez gave a thorough farm tour, along with details on the land history.

In 2013 the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) leased the 26-acre tract of land to KSU for farm use. Formally, the site was the GDOT cement mixing site for nearby I-75 construction. Though not toxic, the soil was severely compacted and devoid of necessary minerals to sustain a healthy soil ecosystem. In addition, storm water flowed off the property, rather than hydrate the "dead soil."

Natural farm retention pond
With patience, tenacity and a strategic plan, the KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality restored the land through regenerative agriculture practices. Simple, effective storm water management techniques retain water on the property, including a vibrant natural retention pond. Soil restoration is a partnership with the land; continued nurturing through compost use, crop rotation and other regenerative applications are necessary to maintain and improve soil health.

In addition to serving as a laboratory for the Leven School and other departments, the farm supplies produce for The Commons, KSU's Gold LEED Certified dining hall. The farm's happy hens often supply 100% of the dining service's egg demand!

Student farm worker with
the happy hens
Within the farm operations is the state-of-the-art Hydroponic Lab where tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are grown year round. Student volunteers stamp out soil blocks for seed planting in the Propagation Lab. Once germinated, the seedling soil blocks are planted in the High Tunnel and tended through harvest. By using soil blocks, the use of small plastic containers to grow saplings is eliminated.

Inspired by the farm tours, Tim teamed with Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCC Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use regenerative agriculture practices at the on-campus mini-farm to produce food for the employee dining facility. 

In late July, Ei hosted the GWCC Team at Hickory Grove Farm where Michael & Jorge educated on regenerative agriculture practices along with crop choice advice; Steve shared his extensive horticulture expertise, especially pertaining to plant | tree identification in the farm's old growth forest areas.


Tour group shot within one of
the American Chesnut sprouts.
In the farm's old growth forest, there are two healthy shoots from former magnificent American Chestnuts killed by the chestnut blight. It is estimated 3 - 4 billion American Chestnuts were killed by the blight in the first half of the 20th century. Though healthy in appearance, the shoots remain vulnerable to the blight.

The GWCC team departed in high spirits, thrilled with on-campus farming opportunities and new friends at a fellow state-owned Institute.

For a pictorial recount of the Hickory Grove Farm tours, visit the Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. The Ei FB album, Ei Connects, includes a section on the King of Crops Farm Tour.


Beyond their educational value, tours build strong bonds among industry colleagues and inspire new, innovative projects. Ei is excited to embark on a Farm Tour series filled with new discoveries, inspiration, and empowerment within the Soil Health platform.


The potential GWCC on-campus mini-farm is a prime example of The Power of Tours! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Building a Zero Waste Economy, one step, one city at a time

In late July, Elemental Impact (Ei) hosted U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Global Zero Waste Director Stephanie Barger on a whirlwind Atlanta zero waste-focused visit. For three days, Stephanie met with Atlanta's sustainability leadership to educate on the USGBC Zero Waste Certification (ZWC) and their commitment to building a Zero Waste Economy.

Stephane presenting at the 2016
Annual Ei Partner Meeting
As the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Founder & Executive Director, Stephanie and Ei Founder Holly Elmore forged a strong, long-term partnership, with Ei serving as the USZWBC and National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) media partner. The partnership expanded beyond media relations via Ei-hosted NZWBC industry panels, Stephanie presenting at Annual Ei Partner Meetings, and much more.

On October 5, 2016, the USZWBC joined forces with the USGBC. The prominent USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification was integrated into the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), a USGBC organization that drives sustainability across all sectors. The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, announces the powerful union.

Stephanie with keynote presenter
Laura Turner Seydel @ 2014 NZWBC
With USZWBC | USGBC | GBCI integration nearing completion, Stephanie steps into her new role transforming markets to embrace zero waste practices and building a Zero Waste Economy. The whirlwind Atlanta visit was designed to reconnect with Atlanta sustainability leadership and educate the Georgia USGBC community on the ZWC.

Atlanta hosted the stellar 2014 NZWBC. Thus, Stephanie is well acquainted with Atlanta's zero waste leaders in the private sector, non-profit realm, and local, state and federal government. It makes good sense to build off the powerful foundation and establish Atlanta as a USGBC zero waste community pillar city.

The meeting marathon began with a multi-billion dollar manufacturing company enthusiastic to understand zero waste in concept and practice. Customer demand for manufacturing sustainability, including zero waste, was the impetus for taking first steps. One of the parting comments was a common Ei zero waste phrase, 
Take Baby Steps, lots & lots of baby steps!
The Epsten Group 
In the afternoon, The Epsten Group hosted Stephanie for a two-hour education session beginning with general zero waste information and finishing with a ZWC overview. Intertwined within Stephanie's presentation, Holly educated on Recycling Refinement, moving beyond landfill diversion, using the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots as prominent examples. It was empowering to showcase Atlanta's pioneers and leadership status. Holly's PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

The day finished with a light dinner at an eclectic restaurant nestled in Cabbagetown, a neighborhood originally built for the nearby cotton mill workers. Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined Stephanie and Holly for a fun, relaxed catch-up. 

Under Tim's leadership, the GWCC achieved LEED Silver Certification and is the world's largest LEED Certified conference center. In 2009, the GWCC hosted the prominent Zero Waste Zones' launch press conference, culminating in a CNN Story and a front-page New York Times article. The GWCC is an early zero waste pioneer and hero!

Rubicon condiment station in
employee break area
On the second day, Rubicon hosted Stephanie and Holly for a breakfast meeting in their amazing new offices. As a founding USZWBC member, Rubicon was interested in a leadership role within the USGBC zero waste community. In addition, Rubicon VP Investor Relations Elizabeth Montoya shared the impressive new high tech, app-oriented Rubicon service designed to maximize material collections, enhance route efficiency, and report community observations, such as pot holes in roadways. 

It was a pleasure to witness zero waste practices in action within Rubicon's offices. In the employee break area, beverage condiments are dispersed in individual servings, creating no packaging waste. Honey & blue agave are available in bulk, recyclable packaging. Landfill and recycling bins use Ei Strategic Ally Recycle Across America's standard labeling. ... and Rubicon contracts with close Ei pal Compost Wheels for commercial food waste collection!

Meredith. Laurene & Stephanie
with AJC ZW sign in Cox lobby.
Next on the meeting agenda was a visit to Cox Enterprises (Cox), a long-time Rubicon client. Cox Recycling & Waste Diversion Manager Meredith Brown gave an overview of zero waste initiatives in-place and planned. In addition, Meredith inquired on the leadership opportunities within the USGBC zero waste community. Owned by Cox, the Atlanta Journal & Constitution is the nation's first zero waste-certified newspaper.

Afternoon meetings included visits at Ernst & Young and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Airport), the busiest airport in the world. Airport Senior Sustainability Leader Liza Milagro updated on the concessionaire contract compostable packaging provision implementation. In 2011, Ei worked closely with the Airport on the contract provision and issued the Compostable Packaging Info Packet on behalf of the Airport. The Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet page details the ground-breaking contract provision.

The day ended with a casual, yet powerful, meeting with Mercedes Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager Scott Jenkins. Only weeks into his new position, Scott delivered his first presentation as MBS General Manager at the 2014 NZWBC. During the design and construction phase, Scott ensured the stadium was built for zero waste success. In a few short weeks, the stadium is slated to host its first game! In his role as the Green Sports Council Chair, Scott and Stephanie strategized on complementary programs in place and how the two organizations may work together. 

USGBC-GA meeting
On the final day, USGBC-GA Director Shelby Buso hosted a meeting to educate the Georgia community on the ZWC. Meeting participants were eager to learn about the USGBC zero waste commitment and share their zero waste challenges, lessons learned, and successes. The City of Atlanta, Office of Resilience Senior Policy Advisor Boyd Leake stayed after the morning meeting to meet privately with Stephanie and Holly. The conversation topic centered on Atlanta serving as a USGBC zero waste pillar city.

Shelby joined Stephanie and Holly for a mid-morning meeting with Tim at his GWCC offices. Tim gave an awesome update on the Georgia Dome decommissioning, GWCC remodeling, and Olympic Centennial Park redesign. Under the GWCC umbrella, the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center is in the LEED Certification application process.

Shelby, Paula & Stephanie
after a fun, inspiring lunch
A fun, productive lunch with Ted's Montana Grill Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens was the perfect final meeting on Stephanie's whirlwind Atlanta visit. After meeting Paula at an Annual Ei Partner Meeting, Stephanie invited Paula to present on a food waste-focused plenary panel at the 2016 NZWBC in Austin.

The Ei FB Album, USGBC Zero Waste Certification and Education, includes a pictorial recap of Stephanie's Atlanta visit.

Similar to creating a successful facility zero waste program, a Zero Waste Economy requires a methodical process filled with a multitude of consecutive, small steps. Essential to success is a template where businesses, the local community, and the environment benefit. 

USGBC Global Zero Waste Director Stephanie Barger's July Atlanta visit was a strong step in building a Zero Waste Economy, one step, one city at a time!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life!

In 2017 Elemental Impact (Ei) shifted gears within the spiral of humanity's environmental impact. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Healthregenerating the foundation of life. 

Founding ZWZ Participant
Chef Ahmad Nourzad
of Affairs to Remember
Early steps within the Soil Health journey began with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch; the ZWZ were the nation's forerunner in the collection of commercial food waste for compost. Inaugural ZWZ years were dedicated to raising awareness of food waste compost within the foodservice industry and establishing new sustainable standard operating practices. Founding ZWZ Participants perfected back-of-the-house food waste collection practices and shared their successes with industry colleagues.

The National Resources Defense Council's 2012 Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill issue paper publication alerted mainstream media to the food waste crisis. Numerous powerful organizations formed within the foodservice and retail industries to directly address the crisis and affect change. 

Thus, the established operating practices combined with national food waste awareness earmarked successful completion of Ei's role. In late 2012 the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ; the ZWA Blog article, National Restaurant Association Acquires Zero Waste Zones, announces the monumental milestone in Ei history.

SMAT members collecting food
waste after a Falcon's game.
In 2014 the Sustainable Food Court Initiative announced its stated prime focus was post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a state-permitted destination other than landfill. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) supported the SFCI - Georgia Dome Pilot post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection, and a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility.

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

Steam rising from windrows at a
permitted food waste composting site.
Limited state-permitted food waste composting facilities (or other technologies) are a significant obstacle to mainstream source-separated food waste collection, at the consumer and commercial levels. Using simple economic principles, a stronger demand for food waste compost will drive an increase in capacity, from the opening of new sites to an expansion of existing facilities. By shifting focus to increasing compost demand, Ei embarks on new industry frontiers within the Soil Health platform.

Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils' direct relationship with the carbon crisis, out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, storm water management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the micro plastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are: 
As validated in Kiss the Ground's empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story, the carbon problem and the solution are a matter of balance.

Earth Carbon Pools
image courtesy of The Soil Story
Simply: there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and ocean pools. To restore balance, excess carbon must transfer to the fossil, biosphere, and/or soil pools. The Carbon Crisis article referenced above features The Soil Story along with an explanation of the carbon pools and the out-of-balance scenario.

In May 2017 Kiss the Ground released The Compost Story, a sequel to The Soil Story, to an enthusiastic national audience. Ei joined the prominent video launch team and participates in an executive committee focused on developing educational tools. Kiss the Ground intends to develop soil | compost educational materials targeted at three prime sectors: 1> municipalities, 2> schools and 3> businesses. 

U.S. Green Building Council Global Zero Waste Director Stephanie Barger and Ei Founder Holly Elmore took leadership roles in the business sector.

Plastic mulch used on a small
farm's blackberry field
Integral to Kiss the Ground's mission is how regenerative agriculture rebuilds our soils and sequesters atmospheric carbon into the soils. Compost use is integral to regenerative agriculture. Within the Macro Cost of Micro Contamination platform, the Ei Team will initially focus on two main areas:
  1. Contaminant-free food waste stream delivered to commercial, farm and community garden compost operations. BPI Certified Compostable food and beverage serviceware is a must for single-use packaging to prevent fragmented plastic contamination within the finished compost.
  2. Widespread use of plastic mulch and other plastics in conventional farming and agriculture. Plastics fragment into tiny pieces yet does not decompose, causing micro plastic contamination in the soils used to grow food.
Ei Farm Tours are focused on farms following regenerative agricultural practices, with a strong focus on rebuilding health soils. Kennesaw State University's Hickory Grove Farm is an excellent example of a bountiful farm whose regenerative practices brought "dead" soil back to life.

Hickory Grove Farm pond formed
 naturally via simple a simple
storm water management system
By employing simple storm water management practices, a farm pond naturally formed complete with a pair of mallard ducks, ample frogs, and abundant foliage and insects. Pond water is used in the Hydroponic Lab to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers for The Commons, the KSU Gold LEED Certified dining hall.

The Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, is a pictorial recap of a recent Hickory Grove Farm tour.

Soil Health brings Ei back to core roots on many levels, including alignment with the Ei mantra:
Ei is a creator, an incubator. 

Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. 
Ei brings the possible out of impossible. 
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.
American Culinary Federation - ATL
President Michael Diehl with then
GA Dept of AG Commissioner Tommy
Irvin at a 2008 GFA event.
In her years as the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) Founder & Executive Director, Holly was a leader in the local, sustainable | farm to table movement. Holly worked closely with the Georgia Department of Agriculture team on launching the first Georgia Grown food show in 2008. Introductions to Atlanta's culinary community were integral to the Georgia Grown food show success. The GFA Advisory Council consisted of prominent Atlanta leadership, including Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in his prior Georgia Agribusiness Council President role.

Ei was formed in 2010 as the new home for the ZWZ, which was launched as a GFA program. Within the Soil Health platform, Holly may build off her strong sustainable agriculture foundation cultivated within the powerful GFA Producers Task Force.

Soil Health brings a vibrancy to Ei's important work along with renewed and new industry relationships. The spiral of humanity's environmental impact is perpetual; Ei is honored to bring past expertise to new light within Soil Health programs under development.