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Monday, August 4, 2014

Ei Charlotte Visit: Busy, Productive & Fun!

The Elemental Impact Team visited Charlotte, NC July 30 through August 01 to reunite with long-term pals, meet new pioneers and brainstorm on the powerful Ei | Mecklenburg County Government (MCG) synergies. It was a busy three days filled with meetings, tours and strategy sessions.

Kim & Sarah kept tradition with a
Starbucks stop before leaving Atlanta
From Atlanta, Sarah Martell with Innovia Films, Kim Charick with the EPA Region IV and Ei founder Holly Elmore traveled to Charlotte. The four-hour travel time was spent in active discussions on background and future plans for Charlotte work and beyond. On the second and third days Ei Partners Natur-Tec and Keter Environmental Services (KES) joined the Atlanta folks.

Ei Charlotte work began when Concord Mills (CM) accepted the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Shopping Mall Pilot role in 2011. Ei Partner HMSHost's foodservice operations at the CM food court and the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport provides a strong foundation for Charlotte business and government relationships.  

In March, 2013 HMSHost and Simon Property Group | CM hosted the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours to educate on the SFCI - CM successes via presentations and tours. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of the tours while the ZWA Blog post, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, dives into zero waste successes. PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Partner Tours page.

Kim checking out the clean
plastic film bale @ Concord Mills
The August 2012 ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announced the food waste collection for compost, excess food donation and plastic film recycling programs.

The first Ei Team meeting was at CM with discussions centered on a game plan to refine existing practices into new dimensions of impact.

As the pioneer in mall plastic film recycling, CM general manager Ray Soporowski orchestrated an excellent system that flows with his tenant base and back-of-the house (BOH) logistics. Due to available space, there is one Orwak baler servicing approximately 70% of the tenants. With pending renovations, there is potential space at the opposite end of the large mall to service the remaining tenants. A refinement exploration is using the small baler for other materials currently destined for landfill. An example is the abundant receipts generated at tenant point-of-sale stations.

In alignment with the SFCI's stated post-consumer food waste focus, the goal is to move forward with front-of-the-house food waste collection in the popular food court. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the post-consumer food waste focus at each of the SFCI Pilots. 

Ray with Sarah & Kim next
to the Orwak baler
CM program refinements are slated for fall planning with January | February 2015 implementation, after the busy holiday season.

In addition, the SFCI Team intends to create a mall manual with simple instructions for BOH food waste collection for compost and excess food donation program development. With an abundance of malls in Mecklenburg County there is ample opportunity to refine the manual instructions while implementing BOH food waste collection practices.

A first-time visit to Wallace Farm Soil Products was a delight! Family-owned since the mid 1800's, Wallace Farm is a compost, soil and mulch  farm where most of the products are bagged on-site for retail sale. Although food waste generated by foodservice operations is not currently accepted, Eric Wallace is enthusiastic to explore pilots with food waste and compostable packaging geared towards the impact on final product specifications. Laurette Hall - MCG environmental manager waste reduction - joined the Ei Team for the Wallace Farm tour.

A Wallace Farm mare enjoying
a tasty lunch
Beyond discussing food waste composting pilots, the Ei Team was thrilled to discover the miniature horse herd, complete with an hours old foal.

After the Wallace Farm tour, the group headed for a late lunch at Whiskey Warehouse located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Lunch was an excellent time to discuss the full Thursday and Friday itinerary.

A casual Ei dinner at Atlanta-based Taco Mac was a great setting to relax from a busy day. Conversation flowed between personal and business topics while the local and out-of-town folks enjoyed getting to know each other. Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec joined team at dinner and was briefed on the next day meetings. Eric & Betsy Dryer - local distributor for Ei Partner Grease Lock Filters - were a welcome addition to the dinner group along with Brian Shetron of HMSHost-CM and Justin Senkbeil of CompostNOW.

Thank you Sarah Martell of Innovia Films for hosting the dinner.

The second day began at Joseph A. Grier Academy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elementary school, with a focus on their impressive recycling practices. It was empowering to witness the staff's engagement, excellent educational signage and the painted recycling dumpster.

Grier Academy Paint-A-Can
recycling dumpster
Grier Academy participated in the 2014 Paint-A-Can Contest and their recycling eight-yard dumpster was fantastic! The 2014 Paint-A-Can Video is an excellent contest overview along with featuring the winners. Here is the formal contest description:
Elementary, middle and high schools throughout the County are participating in an innovative program that rewards schools for thinking creatively about the subject of recycling.Registered teams are provided with everything they need to work with their students to design and then paint a recycling-themed landscape on their exterior recycling containers. Five lucky schools will rise to the top and take home their shares of the $12,500 bounty.  
Coca Cola Bottling, Republic Services, ReCommunity, Sherwin Williams and Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful, want to thank all the participants for their excellent, innovative entries in the 2014 Paint A Can contest.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Charlotte professional sporting event facility owners | managers.The meeting purpose was to introduce the group to Ei pilots in the development stage and garnering interest to participate in template creation. 

Devin Hatley, UNC Charlotte environmental educator & volunteer coordinator, attended the meeting and shared the new Jerry Richardson Stadium's first season zero waste success. The Zero Waste initiative recognized for outstanding collaboration and partnership is an excellent overview of how UNC staff, students and foodservice provider Chartwells worked in unison to achieve zero waste success. 

Thank you to The Charlotte Knights for hosting the great meeting. Mark McKinnon, Charlotte Knights director of stadium operations, was enthusiastic to explore working together once the 2014 season ends in September. The timing is perfect for an October Ei Charlotte visit!

Mall tours were on the afternoon agenda as Ei Partners KES COO Matt Hupp and diversion manager Micah Beck met the team at Carolina Place, a General Growth Properties mall. Jake Wilson - MCG environmental supervisor, joined the Ei Team for lunch at Harper's along with touring the recently implemented BOH food waste collection for compost program. Thank you Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec for hosting the delicious and productive lunch.

A happy server scraping dishes into
the compost bin @ Harper's
As an EPA Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte Grant participant, Carolina Place receives support from the Grant Team along with food waste compost program upfront costs covered under the Grant. In April the Grant Team visited Charlotte for three days to educate foodservice operators on the Grant and recruit participation. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support, chronicles the April Grant Team visit. Ei is a sub-grantee while Ei Strategic Ally The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is the grantee. 

Carolina Place's two seated dining restaurants, Harper's and McAliister's Deli, are separating prep food waste along with plate scrapings for collection for compost. It was thrilling to witness the Harper's staff enthusiasm to separate food waste for compost.

Jake Wilson (MCG), Jim Lanier (Earth
Farms) & Matt Hupp (KES)
Next stop was SouthPark Mall to tour the plastic film recycling practices in-place. Due to corporate reorganization within the Simon sustainability department, SouthPark Mall will delay joining the EPA Grant program until the fall.

A busy day ended with an Ei | KES strategy session to develop an action plan through year end. An excellent dinner followed at Rooster's where conversation remained food waste-oriented, when not discussing our love of well-prepared food!

The final day began with a powerful MCG | Ei brainstorming session. In addition to Laurette and her team, Jeff Smithberger - MCG director, solid waste - joined the session as an invaluable contributor to the vibrant discussions. Outcome: 1> recap call with Holly and Laurette and 2> potential October Ei visit for introductory meetings with the City of Charlotte and local sustainability | hospitality organizations.

The Charlotte visit ended with a lovely lunch at the Charlotte Airport compliments of HMSHost. Eric Dyer met earlier with Brian Shetron of HMSHost to quantify the GLF airport-wide installation within the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease, a proactive approach, Initiative. Thank you Brian for hosting a fabulous lunch.

recycling bins at Grier Academy
For new Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec, the Charlotte visit was an inaugural Ei adventure! It was lovely welcoming Rick into the Ei family and learning another "foodie" is part of the team. Next week Rick travels to Atlanta for his second adventure at the August 8 pre-season Atlanta Falcons game.

For a pictorial recap of busy, productive and fun Charlotte trip, visit the Ei FB album, July | August 2014 Ei Charlotte Visit.

The four-hour return drive was perfect to recap the visit and strategize on action plans. Before hitting the Georgia state line, the brand new Sustainable Materials ACTION Team was grounded with its name, scope, activities and members. Sarah serves as the SMC Chair and Kim joined the committee from her back seat position. 

Next Friday morning SMC members tour Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - the busiest airport in the world AND the SFCI - Airport Pilot! - concessionaire operations.

YES, it was a productive visit on many levels, impacting Charlotte and beyond.

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