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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beyond Easy Wins ...

Sunny Seattle pre-conference
The Spring 2014 Sustainable Packaging Coalition Conference in Seattle explored future directions in zero waste initiatives, available recycling options along with the integral role packaging plays in successful recovery systems. With Seattle's leadership role in progressive programs, the host city set the stage for exploration beyond the accomplished "easy wins."

With pre-conference tours along with two full days of plenary presentations and break out sessions, the SPC Conference was a powerful experience for national and global packaging industry leaders. The Spring Conference was open to members as well as non-members. 

Pre-Conference Tours included Microsoft Smart Buildings and Microsoft Store, Microsoft Envisioning Center and Microsoft Store, University of Washington Compostable Packaging Expo and Tour of Cedar Grove's Everett Composting Facility, Behind the scenes at Safeco Field, home stadium of the Seattle Mariners, and the Waste Management Material Recovery Facility Tour and Presentation. Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore joined the Safeco Field tour.

In his Safeco Field presentation, Joe Myhra - Seattle Mariners vice-president of operations - explained the internal commitment necessary to create a successful recycling program. Beyond top management buy-in, Joe and his team spent long hours post-game to ensure the various departments' material disposition followed program guidelines.

Teamwork was necessary among the various stadium contractors. Mariner's concessionaire Centerplate played a vital role with the conversion to compostable food and beverage packaging for game day purchases. Aramark, Safeco Field custodial contractor, oversees the stadium recycling center with a keen sense of ownership.

As the Seattle Mariners Zero Waste Sponsor, Ei Partner BASF worked closely with Centerplate on the conversion to compostable packaging. In addition, BASF | Mariners created the Sustainable Saturdays program complete with mascots and the BASF Trivia Challenge. Geared towards fan engagement and education, Sustainable Saturdays are a fun way for the Mariners to give back to the community. To learn more about the BASF | Seattle Mariners partnership, watch the four-minute Sustainable Saturdays video.

Safeco Field Recycling Center
With the "easy wins" incorporated into standard operating practices, the Mariners are staged to address more challenging zero waste obstacles. Pre-packaged food items in flexible film destined for the landfill are a frontier with available compostable options. In fact, a compostable peanut bag was introduced in the 2012 season.

The pre-conference activities included a new member reception sponsored by Dow Chemical followed by an opening reception presented by REI. As a close-knit industry, the receptions were excellent venues for long-time industry friends to reunite and catch-up prior to the formal program.

A well-rounded sustainability conference, each day began with an optional 6:00 a.m. one-hour yoga class before the SPC Steering Committee meetings.

Steve Davids with NatureWorks
during Q&A session
After opening remarks by GreenBlue executive director & SPC director Nina Goodrich, GreenBiz Group chairman & executive editor, Joel Makower presented on The State of Corporate Sustainability as the plenary keynote speaker. Following his presentation, Joel moderated a Seattle-based dual panel on Top Down | Bottom Up Sustainability that finished with a combined panel on Integrated SustainabilityREI, Starbucks, and Microsoft associates provided valuable insights on the teamwork necessary for sustainability success.

The morning sessions ended with a series of engaging "flash presentations" on a variety of related topics. Sego Jackson, Snohomish County, WA project specialist, presented on Garbage Burritos to Mariachi Bands: How Are We Going to Get More Packaging Recycled. Literally entertaining, Sego shared successful innovative efforts at the local level where teamwork was a key component. Brett Butler, U.S. Forest Service & University of Massachusetts Family Forest Research Center co-director, gave the conference's most enthusiastic presentation on Family Forestry in the U.S

After lunch and breakout sessions, the first day ended with a Discussion Cafe on Solving Those Big, Hairy Sustainability Challenges led by Kim Frankovich, Wm. Wrigley Company global sustainability director. The discussion points serve as the foundation for the SPC Fall Conference presentation topics. Note Kim was an Ei Partner during her days as Solo Cup Company vice-president law | sustainability.

The Seattle Pub Crawl in action
The Seattle Pub Crawl, orchestrated by Dick Lilly of Seattle Utilities, was a fantastic ending to the first day of superb presentations. For those not enjoying the eclectic local pubs, Dinner & Dialogue was offered for small group discussions on packaging issues.

For the second and final conference day, the program consisted mainly of plenary "flash presentations" followed by a panel discussion along with break out sessions. Ei Advisory Council member Lynn Dyer, Foodservice Packaging Institute president, presented on the Innovations in Recovery breakout session panel moderated by SPC program manager Anne Bedarf. The presentation was timely with the FPI Foodservice Packaging Recovery Toolkit release earlier this month. Within the Toolkit's Earth Farms Organics Case Study, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative - Concord Mills is an example of a food waste collection for composting program in-place.

Ei was well represented with Ei Partners NatureWorks, BASF and The Seydel Companies associates attending the conference. Jay Bassett with the EPA Region IV gave a "flash presentation."  Ei works closely with Jay & his team on the EPA SPC Grant in Charlotte and the EPA Food Recovery Challenge. The ZWA Blog article, Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC, gives a grant overview including Ei's sub-grantee role.

Jay Bassett  & Anne Bedarf
The Ei FB album, Spring 2014 SPC Conference, is a conference pictorial recap. Refer to the SPC Conference Schedule page for the complete program including topics, descriptions and speakers.

Two themes emerged throughout the conference presentations: 1> teamwork, within an organization and throughout the value chain, is critical for sustainability success and 2> it is time to move beyond the easy wins into a frontier of possibilities within the packaging industry. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is the perfect organization to navigate the frontier!

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