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Monday, April 27, 2015

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:

Corporate:
Individual:
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!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

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!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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:

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

Mission:
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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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: