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Monday, May 18, 2015

Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey

Stephanie Barger & Gary Liss
of the USZWBC
The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) hosted their fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference in Los Angeles at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on May 6 & 7, with pre-conference workshops and tours on May 5. Sustainability leaders traveled from across the nation to learn, share and network with the Stars of Zero Waste. The ZWA Blog article, Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste," gives a comprehensive overview of the impressive program.

At the 2014 National Zero Waste Conference hosted in Atlanta, the evolution of the zero waste industry was evident in the plethora of success stories. Industry standards, grounded within the Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP) launched in 2013, were established by the many pioneers receiving certification for their comprehensive materials management programs. In addition, the Zero Waste Business Associate (ZWBA) certification was launched to train professionals on zero waste practices and learn how to achieve zero waste certification at their facilities.

The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, recaps the amazing conference as well as chronicles the zero waste evolution since the inaugural 2012 conference. 

Throughout the 2015 conference presentations, it was evident the zero waste industry evolution continues via fine-tuning of practices and standards. The progress was inspiring as conversations focused on necessary shifts in packaging, how the supply chain impacts the corporate and personal consumer, hard-to-recycle items, and the importance of maintaining maximum value of generated materials.

Scott Lutocka during his
introductions at dinner
At the pre-conference speaker | sponsor dinner the "program" was self-introductions featuring the motivation for zero waste passion. It was a perfect venue for the zero waste stars to reconnect or meet via a personal story, many citing a grandparent's influence.

The timing was perfect for Title Sponsor LA Sanitation to host the National Zero Waste Conference. With the Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan under development, 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
Official conference festivities opened with a profound Welcome by Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles. It was empowering to witness the Mayor's core commitment to zero waste public policy evolving into "business as usual." 

Following the Mayor, the plenary panel Discover the Zero Waste Stars of LA moderated by LA Director Infrastructure Services Greg Good educated on LA zero waste successes and programs under-development. The panel featured LA key stakeholders: Enrique Zaldivar, LA Bureau of Sanitation director, David Piper, LA Unified School District director and Timothy Eng, Kaiser Permanente project manager.
Stephanie Barger with
Matt Peterson

LA Chief Sustainability Officer Matt Peterson closed the LA-dedicated morning sessions with his keynote presentation. 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 presented on The Sustainable City pLAn: Transforming LA: Environment, Economy & Equity released by the Mayor on April 8, 2015.  A comprehensive plan, the Mayor says:
It is important to emphasize that the pLAn is not just an environmental vision - by addressing the environment, economy and equity together, we will move toward a truly sustainable future.
Another aspect of zero waste fine-tuning is integration within sustainability, economic and social consciousness public policy. The comprehensive pLAn accomplishes the necessary integration for long-term, sustainable success.

Source-reduction and reuse of materials is at the foundation of effective zero waste programs. Though easy with a hindsight lens, determining how to reduce and reuse can be challenging, especially when the value chain is involved. 

Completing the morning program, Reuse Institute CEO MaryEllen Etienne moderated the Exploring Source Reduction and Reuse plenary panel. A powerhouse team from The Walt Disney CompanyHewlett Packard and IFCO shared their respective journeys to successful programs.

Marialyce Pederson at podium
In her presentation, Marialyce Pederson - Disney senior representative, corporate citizenship - shared how Disney reuses film sets and repurposes the plethora of character costumes from movie production and Disney Parks. Laundry lint from washing cotton towels and bed linens is composted at the zero waste-certified Circle D Ranch.

As the first-day lunch keynote, Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) co-founder, explained his company's pioneer role in environmentally sound operating policies. 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.

In his closing remarks, Fedele addressed food quality issues: GMO's - they are in everything from baking soda to canola oil, Salmon - there is no such thing as sustainably farmed salmon; purchase wild-caught or not at all, and Meat Consumption - reduce the centerplate (meat) & increase vegetables & starch; BIG step in addressing food crisis.

Afternoon sessions launched with the Hard-to-Recycle Packaging plenary panel moderated by Tom Wright of Sustainable Bizness. Associates from the Carton Council, Upstream and Recycling Analytics & Titus MRF Services (Titus) shared their expertise on the panel. Mike Centers of Titus educated on how MRF (material recovery facilities) miss approximately 20% of the single-stream material delivered. Secondary MRF may further sort the remnant material; density is key: it takes four primary MRFs to support one secondary MRF.

Holly Elmore taking photos
during breakout sessions
photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
The remainder of the first-day conference program was filled with two concurrent break-out session series. A wide range of topics were addressed in the panels: Getting Down & Dirty: A practical guide to Zero Waste audits,What Waste Haulers & Recyclers Wish Businesses Knew, Green Labeling: What does that label mean and why should I careTaking a Lesson from Higher Education on Environmentally Preferred PurchasingSource-Separation Maximizes Material ValueMarketing your Zero Waste EffortsSolutions for Organics DiversionMeasuring What CountsSupporting Actors: Critical role non-profits play in your Zero Waste PlanPieces of Zero: Critical components for a successful Zero Waste program.

After the first-day program closed, conference attendees enjoyed a lovely reception and appreciated the opportunity to continue conversations in a casual setting. Long-time friends reunited and new acquaintances became friends over a glass of wine and delicious food. Groups gathered for dinner at various downtown restaurants.

USZWBC President Sue Beets of SBM Management Services (SBM) welcomed attendees to the second day along with thank yous to the event sponsors, volunteers and others who contributed to conference success. Dual keynote speakers Eric Lombardi, Eco-Cycle International executive director, and Michelle "Mitch" Hedlund, Recycle Across America (RAA) founder & executive director, gave excellent presentations on fine-tuning the zero waste industry.

Eric Lombardi at podium
photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
Eric emphasized the importance of the business community and corporate citizens coming to the front lines for zero waste policy and program development. The local chambers of commerce along with business associations were specifically cited as important players for effective city-wide zero waste platforms. Social enterprise was highlighted as a strong vehicle for necessary shifts in "business as usual."

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 promotes standardized recycling labels as a major step in alleviating consumer confusion, a leading cause of contamination in public and corporate facilities. RAA partners with Green | Blue Institute's How To Recycle product labeling campaign.

In her presentation, Mitch used a series of standard protocol, including "Stop Signs," created to alleviate confusion while promoting public safety. The "Stop Sign" was once a novelty that flowed into an accepted standard; RAA is committed to evolving consistent recycling bin signage into common practice. Per Mitch, "Do not wait for government to make changes; standards bring safety and health."

Mitch Hedlund during
dinner introductions
Following the keynote speakers Sierra Nevada sustainability manager Cheri Chastain moderated the USZWBC Certification panel. As the first Platinum Zero Waste-Certified business, Sierra Nevada is an industry leader and Cherie was perfect to moderate the panel. Associates from Disneyland ResortsFetzer Vineyards and Raytheon Company presented on their certification experiences and accomplishments.

A prominent zero waste certification program is an effective tool for grounding emerging protocol into standard industry practices, infiltrated with integrity. For example, incineration was a hot topic at the inaugural 2012 National Zero Waste Conference as "waste to energy" was considered recycling by a minority. Subsequently, incineration was classified equivalent to landfill in the ZWCP and is no longer a discussion point.

The ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, introduces the ZWBCP, honors the pioneers who earned the first certifications and lists program parameters.

Prior to lunch, USZWBC Executive Director Stephanie Barger gave the USZWBC 2015 State of Zero Waste and facilitated a participatory Next Steps for USZWBC discussion session. 

Elvis Nolasoc speaking while
Mitch Hedlund & Nicole Starr listen
During the tasty vegetarian lunch, Mitch moderated the Moving the Needle to Zero Waste through media and celebrity support plenary panel featuring Nicole Starr of Participant Media | Pivot TV and Actor Elvis Nolasco of ABC's American Crime. It was empowering to learn Elvis' story of overcoming challenges in his youth along with his passion for zero waste. 

Celebrities and media reach the consumer in avenues not available to local, state and federal governments and corporations. Consumer consciousness shifts are necessary for zero waste communities to emerge from current wasteful conditions. In RAA campaigns, Mitch brings celebrities to the forefront with "let's recycle right" endorsements.

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 moderated the Leadership: Directing the Zero Waste Journey plenary panel during the second day afternoon sessions. Executives from Kellogg Garden ProductsToyota Motor Sales and Ingersoll Rand shared their respective roles in guiding standard industry practices development.

While at the podium, Kathy Kellogg of Kellogg Garden Products spoke on the state of the soils, the valuable role compost plays and how our soils are often not capable of producing nutrient-rich fruits & vegetables.

The mid-afternoon program consisted of the following concurrent break-out sessions: Zero Waste at Multi-Tenant PropertiesConnecting National Chains to Local ProgramsMake Your Event Shine - Zero Waste Events, Big & SmallMaking Zero Waste Happen: and Changing Behavior for Total Participation,and Complement your Zero Waste Efforts with Additional Certification.

Thanks to USZWBC volunteer Jason Sanders of EcoSafe Zero Waste the conference walked the zero waste talk. Jason educated hotel staff on food waste collection for compost practices. 

Jason Sanders honoring hotel staff
Each morning and afternoon, the kitchen staff received a brief training on the how’s and why’s to composting and recycling. The conference was the hotel's first food waste collection experience.

Near the conference close, Jason gathered the key kitchen and other back-of-the-house staff to the stage for recognition. Hotel General Manager Wanda Chan joined the staff on stage to add hotel management kudos. The audience gave the hotel staff a standing ovation!

A keynote discussion, Our World Without Waste: The Global Crisis Suggests New Opportunities moderated by Christine Nguyen with the USZWBC, officially closed the conference's stellar program. Eric Lombardi was 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. 

Captain Charles Moore adorned
in plastic pollution from oceans
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' similar eye-opening presentation on the stark reality of plastic pollution in the oceans.

The closing discussion emphasized humanity may no longer live within "business as usual" mode. Beyond fine-tuning, an overhaul of our civilization's foundation is necessary to navigate within and beyond the global trash crisis. Consistent with his earlier keynote presentation, Eric sent a call-to-action for corporate citizens to join the front lines on creating viable pathways to a World Without Waste.

For those who arrived a day early, there were substantial pre-conference activities including the morning Achieving Zero Waste at Colleges and Universities Workshop sponsored by CleanRiver Recycling Solutions

Tom Lembo & Bruce Buchan
of  CleanRiver
Within the program CleanRiver founder Bruce Buchan spoke on Zero Waste - The Three C's Approach. The ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's, introduced the Three C's: Culture, CommunicationCollection, via a feature of Ricoh Electronics' presentation on the Five R's at the 2012 USZWBC Conference.

Running concurrent in the morning, the Zero Waste 101 Workshop was tailored for those embarking on the journey. The introductory workshop provided the basics for starting or evolving recycling programs. In the afternoon Loyola Marymount University Campus Sustainability, Comprehensive Recycling, Food Waste Diversion Tour was a walking tour of the impressive zero waste practices-in-action.

An all-day ZWBA Scorecard Training 101 Course was intended for those interested in pursuing the professional ZWBA Certification, though open to anyone interested in learning more about the ZWCP.

The USZWBC Four-Yr Club
The USZWBC Four-Year Club includes a handful of folks who attended each of the four USZWBC Conferences. Pictured from left to right: Randy Van Winkle (SBM), Ryan McMullan (Toyota), Stephanie Barger (USZWBC), Gary Liss (Gary Liss & Associates), Holly Elmore (Elemental Impact), Sue Beets (SBM) & Scott Lutocka (Piazza Produce). Rick Anthony and Bruce Buchan were not available for the photo.

For a pictorial recap of the conference, visit the comprehensive Ei FB album, 2015 National Zero Waste Conference - "The Stars of Zero Waste."  Thank you Scott Lutocka for your invaluable teamwork documenting the conference and contributing many of the album photos. 

The ZWA Blog Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense  article features the conference breakout sessions along with Ei’s strong conference participation.

Congratulations to Stephanie, Emily DeCremer and the USZWBC Board, staff and volunteers on an excellent conference!

It is amazing to witness the zero waste progress over the past years. Within the progress is a knowing the journey is merely beginning. Industry pioneers are enthusiastic to move beyond business as usual and into the frontier of a World Without Waste

1 comment:

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