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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Circular Economy Approach for Urban Nutrient Cycles

On March 28, 2017 the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) issued the groundbreaking Urban Biocycles scoping paper as an introduction to a Circular Economy approach for urban nutrient cycles. The well-researched paper addresses the valuable nutrients within current organic waste streams and how urban environments disrupt nature's perfected nutrient cycles. 

In August 2012 the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published the Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food form Farm to Fork to Landfill issue paper, researched and written by Senior Scientist & Author Dana Gunders. The NRDC paper opened America's eyes and hearts to the global food crisis. Ignited by the paper, pursuing awareness and action produced a multitude of food waste reduction initiatives, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Challenge.

While the NRDC paper brought the food waste crisis to center stage, the EMF Urban Biocycles paper expands the scope to all organic streams with a focus on economic-driven solutions. A consciousness shift from disposition | treatment to capturing valuable nutrients within productive cycles is at the paper's foundation.

Similar to the NRDC paper's impact, the EMF Urban Biocycles scoping paper is staged to propel global action with a shifted perspective on organic waste solutions. A basic premise is natural cycles produce no waste; nutrients are continuously recycled within the perfected cycles. Elemental Impact (Ei) wrote on this topic in the 2012 ZWA Blog article Perpetual Life Cycle Systems - simplicity is key. The article opens with the following paragraph:
In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. Using modern technology, on-farm anaerobic digestion systems seem to emulate nature's integrated approach to resource management.
Ei Team during on-farm AD tour
The key to success in the featured on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD) system was the entire nutrient cycle remained on the farm. Livestock manure fueled the on-farm AD system; the AD digestate by-product was used for livestock bedding, which returned to the AD system once soiled with manure; the nutrient-rich AD water by-product irrigated the fields used to grow livestock feed; the AD plant supplied the farm with ample electricity. Thus, the complete on-farm nutrient cycle flowed with perpetuity. 

Urban development breaks natural cycles by transporting nutrients outside of their respective cyclic boundaries. Agricultural products are often not consumed within the farm vicinity. Thus, plant | animal remains no longer decompose back into the farm grounds as nutrients for the soil's microbial community. Two challenges ensue: 1> soils are deprived of nutrients within the cycle and 2> nutrients are deposited outside of the cycle system in the form of food waste and human | animal excrement.

Modern farming relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers to replace the lost nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Yet these same nutrients cause havoc, including "dead zones," as they flow through sewer systems and water treatment facilities into waterways and oceans. According to the EMF paper: 
Urban waste streams represent a significant opportunity to recover nutrients and return them to the soil. In theory, the recovery of 100% of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in global food, animal and human waste streams could contribute nearly 2.7 times the nutrients contained in volume of chemical fertiliser currently used.
Small-scale biofuel production
facility
By crafting regenerative nutrient cycles within urban environments, organic streams shift from "expensive waste" to valuable raw materials. In addition to soil enhancements, bioenergy generation is integral to the Circular Economy model, including AD and biorefineries. From the EMF paper: The World Economic Forum estimates that potential global revenues from the biomass value chain – comprising the production of agricultural inputs, biomass trading and biorefinery outputs – could be as high as USD 295 billion by 2020.

Throughout the paper, well-documented research is used to substantiate the two main sections: The Biocycle Economy and The Circular Economy Vision – how to close the nutrient loops. In addition the paper is filled with case studies from around the globe and call-out boxes for barriers to potential solutions.

The Urban Biocycles paper was issued under the Project Mainstream (PM) umbrella. Launched in 2014 by EMF and the World Economics Forum, PM is a multi-industry, global initiative.

PM aims to accelerate business-driven innovations and help scale the Circular Economy (building awareness of it, and increasing impact and implementation). It focuses on systemic stalemates in global material flows that are too big or too complex for an individual business, city or government to overcome alone, as well as on enablers of the Circular Economy, such as digital technologies.

In January 2016 PM issued the monumental The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics. The January 2017 report The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action provides a global action plan to move towards 70% reuse and recycling of plastic packaging, endorsed by over 40 industry leaders, while highlighting the need for fundamental redesign and innovation of the remaining 30%.

Intention is to follow a similar path with the Urban Biocycles paper. The inaugural paper delineates the current scenario, complete with documented research, case studies, potential solutions and barriers to implementation. In 2017, PM intends to develop an action plan to present at the January 2018 World Economics Forum at Davos. 

Congratulations to EMF Project Manager & Lead Author Dale Walker on an excellent job researching, organizing the multitude of information, and writing the superb Urban Biocycles scoping paper.

Using a Circular Economy approach, the EMF takes a high level global perspective for resolving challenges to sustain civilization | humanity. Inherent within the Circular Economy approach is recognizing the myriad of intertwining cycles at play within the global economy.

The ZWA article, Carbon Crisis: merely a matter of balance, explains the Earth's carbon cycles are out-of-balance and offers the soil as the hero for a simple balance restoration solution. Kiss the Ground's The Soil Story video is featured in the article as a creative, effective carbon cycle explanation along with a grass roots action plan. The Soil Story's sequel The Compost Story is slated for a May 2017 release to correspond with International Compost Awareness Week.

A combination of global, long-term, research-oriented planning coupled with immediate, action-oriented, grass roots efforts is a recipe for a Circular Economy to emerge. Ei is honored to support the global planning and grass roots efforts.

Ei Chair Scott Seydel serves on the EMF USA Board and Ei Founder Holly Elmore is listed in the Urban Biocycles paper credits as an Expert Input and Case Study Contributor. In addition, Ei is a launch partner for The Compost Story.

When humanity aligns with natural cycles a magical balance comes forth where businesses, communities and the environment thrive in harmony. Organizations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are conduits for balance restoration within the Earth's cycles.

_________________

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. Since its creation the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, establishing the circular economy on the agenda of decision makers across business, government and academia. With the support of its Core Philanthropic Funder, SUN, and Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Company, and SYSTEMIQ), the Foundation’s work focuses on five interlinking areas: Education, Business & Government, Communications, Insight & Analysis, and Systemic Initiatives.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Power of Connection

One of Elemental Impact (Ei)'s valuable industry roles is connecting colleagues | organizations together who share synergistic missions and programs. Often introductions evolve into important Ei initiatives. Other times introductions result in powerful alliances yet do not directly involve Ei in subsequent programs.

NRA & USCC associates post-meeting
A prime example is Ei's 2011 introduction of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to the U.S. Composting Council (USCC). As home to the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) - the nation's forerunner for the commercial collection of food waste for compost, Ei worked closely with the foodservice industry on collection of food waste for composting. In addition, Ei developed a strong relationship with the USCC and food waste compost manufacturers.

It was natural to introduce the respective national trade associations for food waste generators to food waste destinations. SUCCESS: the ZWA Blog article, Collaboration is Key to Successannounces the formal Memorandum of Understanding executed between the NRA and the USCC.
  
The Ei Team - Industry Pioneers, Industry Experts, Strategic Allies and Advisory Council - is a powerful entourage of industry leadership eager to share their expertise, experience and wisdom. Ei introductions are central to a multitude of successful pilots, programs, grants and relationships.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
The EPA Region 4 was instrumental in the ZWZ launch and worked closely with Ei Founder Holly Elmore, then Green Foodservice Alliance Founder & Executive Director, on developing the program. With a solid relationship, Ei and the EPA continue to work together on industry initiatives.

EPA Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC:
In 2011, Charlotte-based Concord Mills accepted the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Shopping Mall Pilot role with an emphasis on food waste collection for composting, excess food donation and plastic film recycling. A strong relationship developed with Mecklenburg County Government along with a powerful network of Charlotte businesses and organizations.

EPA Grant Team
photo courtesy of Steve Davies
When Ei Strategic Ally Green Blue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) submitted the EPA Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC grant proposal, Ei was included as a lead sub-grantee. Ei’s role centered on powerful Charlotte government and private enterprise connections, commercial food waste program experience, grant work documentation via blog articles & FB albums, and coordination of grant team visits.

The ZWA Blog article, Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC, gives an overview of grant objectives, tasks and goal.

During the two-year grant period - October 2013 to September 2015 - Ei orchestrated five Charlotte visits filled with powerful meetings, site visits | tours along with productive dinners where the magic flowed into action plans. The Ei Charlotte Visits page documents the important visits.

Food Recovery Challenge:
In 2011 the EPA introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. EPA Region 4 focused their 2014 FRC launch on the hospitality sector. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, gives program details and an introduction to the food waste dilemma.

With strong connections to foodservice industry leaders, Ei joined the FRC as an Endorser, committing to recruit Program Participants as well as additional Endorsers.

The GWCC EPA FRC meeting
In February 2014 Holly and EPA Environmental Scientist Kim Charick embarked on a meeting | call marathon recruiting FRC Program Participants and Endorsers. It was empowering to reconnect with the early zero waste pioneers, most Founding ZWZ Participants.

Eager to join, the pioneers receive recognition for their impressive food waste practices and serve as role models for those new to donation and food waste collection programs. The ZWA Blog article, Ei Joins EPA Food Recovery Challenge, recaps the recruiting process while the Ei FB album, EPA Food Recovery Challenge, is a pictorial recount of the meetings.

2016 Earth Day Farmer's Market:
Due to Ei's strong, longstanding EPA Region 4 relationship, Public Relations Specialist Davina Marraccini called Ei to recommend a chef for the 2016 Atlanta Federal Center Earth Day Farmer’s Market the following week.

Thanks to Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer's quick action, Levy Restaurants Chef Juliet educated students and attendees at the event. Levy Restaurants provides the foodservice for the GWCC and its affiliated facilities.

Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
The ZWZ launched in February 2009 at the GWCC in an acclaimed press conference led by the EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Director. Thus, the strong GWCC | Ei relationship is grounded within Ei's foundation.

SFCI Team @ Ga Dome 
In spring 2012, the Georgia Dome accepted the SFCI Event Venue Pilot invitation. Along with the GWCC and Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Dome was one of three facilities under the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA). In addition, the GWCCA manages the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

With the spring 2017 Georgia Dome decommissioning, the SFCI Event Venue Pilot shifts to the GWCC.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech):
At Holly's request, Cindy Jackson, Georgia Tech manager, solid waste management & recycling, hosted Tim for an afternoon of fun and education at the GA Tech campus.  

GWCC Ga Tech Tour
The gathering catalyst was Tim's enthusiasm to create a successful Atlanta Falcon's tailgate recycling program for the 2012 season. Years ago Cindy launched GA Tech tailgate recycling on game days with success and was happy to share her program logistics. Conversation quickly moved beyond tailgate recycling to GA Tech's comprehensive program, culminating in an amazing campus tour. 

Subsequent to the introduction, GA Tech and GWCC developed a close working relationship and Tim | Cindy separately thanked Ei for the introduction. The ZWA Blog post, ZWZ Participants Work Together, is an overview of the tour and the Ei FB album, 02-27-12 GA Tech Hosts GWCC, is the pictorial recap. 

Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session:
Ei Partner Rick Lombardo educates
on compostable bags
Ready to expand their recycling practices to the next dimension, Tim requested Ei to present a comprehensive Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session to Levy Restaurants' downtown campus, including the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena and the under-construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

The Ei Team crafted a powerful two-hour session that included ample time for Q&A and discussion throughout the presentations. On April 8, 2015 the Ei Partners converged on Atlanta for the Levy education session.

The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, is an overview of the session and the important role packaging plays in zero waste programs; the Ei FB album, 04-08-15 Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session, gives a session pictorial recap. 

King of Crops Farm Tour:
David educating Tim on food
waste composting-in-process
On February 6, 2017, Ei orchestrated a King of Crops Farm food waste composting tour for Tim. Compostwheels Founder David Paull hosted the tour; CW partners with King of Crops for commercial food waste composting at the farm. ... and Holly's home food waste is delivered to the farm!

A pictorial recount of the tour is included in the Ei FB album, Ei Connects.


SC State Government & Hospitality Association
ZWZ Tours:
Ei has a longstanding history with South Carolina (SC) government and the state's hospitality industry. In August 2011 the SC Hospitality Association (SCHA) brought a contingent of Board members, business association executives and City of Columbia staff and councilman to Atlanta for a ZWZ tour. The ZWA Blog article, ATL ZWZ Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour, gives an overview of the tour, documenting the strong food waste recovery enthusiasm; the Ei FB album, 08-11 SCHA ATL ZWZ Tour, gives a pictorial recount.

SC zero waste tour group
With the SC operators on-board, the SCHA came to Atlanta in November 2011 for a second tour focused on the commercial food waste composting destination. The November contingent consisted of trade association | non-profit executives, city & state officials along with two Columbia hotel executives. From Atlanta, EPA Region 4 and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division staff joined the Ei-hosted tour and meetings to share their ZWZ program development experiences. 

The ZWA Blog article, An Encore ZWZ Performance, documents the tour. For the tour pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB albums, DAY 1 - SC Hospitality 2nd ATL ZWZ Tour and DAY 2 - SC Hospitality 2nd ATL ZWZ Tour.

Upstate Food Recovery Event: 
Kim Brunson with Publix 
On October 6, 2015 the SC Department of Commerce (SCDC) hosted the Upstate Food Recovery Event in Greenville. Prominent industry leaders shared their impressive food recovery practices in-place, along with goals for further reducing, donating and composting food waste. In recognition of their longstanding Ei relationship, Holly gave the keynote presentation during the locally-sourced lunch served on compostable serviceware.

Holly's presentation ended with the vital role food waste collection for compost plays in rebuilding our soils. Healthy soils produce nutritious, delicious food, retain | filter water, and prevent excessive erosion. Holly's PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page. The ZWA Blog article, SC ripe for food recovery, gives an event overview, including presentations by Publix, Michelin and other industry leaders.

U.S Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC)
Ei and the USZWBC forged a strong relationship from its 2012 inception when Holly presented at the inaugural National Zero Waste Business Conference. With tremendous synergies, Ei connections were a valuable resource as the USZWBC grew in prominence.

USZWBC Board signing
USGBC documents
On October 5, 2016 the U.S.Green Building Council (USGBC) and USZWBC formally joined forces to advance zero waste business practices. The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, announces the monumental achievement for the zero waste industry.

Ei continues to work closely with former USZWBC Executive Director Stephanie Barger in her new USGBC Director of Market Development, Zero Waste Programs position.

Ei-Hosted NZWBC Panels:
Zero Waste is a Team Sport panel
At the second annual NZWBC, Holly orchestrated the first Ei-hosted panel presentation, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, comprised of Ei Partners. The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, a powerful USZWBC conference panel, gives an overview of the panel presentations.

Thus, an Ei-hosted conference panel model was born: Holly crafts a pertinent panel topic, recruits panelist from the Ei Team, coaches panel PPT presentations to ensure seamless flow, and moderates the panel at the conference. The Ei-Hosted Conference Panel page details the plethora of conference panels.

Ei-hosted panels were standard practice at future NZWBC.

2014 NZWBC Conference:
Ei took a leadership role in bringing the 2014 NZWBC to Atlanta and influenced the local flavor of the excellent conference program. ZWZ Chair & Ei Advisor Laura Turner Seydel welcomed conference attendees to Atlanta with her opening remarks. In addition to USZWBC introductions to Atlanta zero waste icons, Ei hosted the following panels:

Scott Jenkins & Holly
photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
  • The Atlanta Zero Waste Story, opening plenary panel moderated by Holly
  • Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte, NC, breakout panel moderated by Holly
  • Recycling Refinement ... moving beyond landfill diversion, breakout panel moderated by Holly
  • Zero Waste, Georgia Grown, breakout panel moderated by then Ei Program Administrator Melissa Selem
The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Shines as Zero Waste Conference Host City, provides an in-depth synopsis on Ei Partners' and Strategic Allies' role in the conference program.

USZWBC | NZWBC Official Media Partner:
Ei served as the Official NZWBC Media Partner for the 2014, 2015 & 2016 conferences and as the Official USZWBC Media partner for 2015 & 2016. In addition to writing USZWBC-related blog articles, Ei served as a connection base for the USZWBC on many fronts. With the USZWBC under the USGBC umbrella, the strong Ei relationship moves into a broader scope.

Zero Food Waste Journeys
In 2015 the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - embarked on zero food waste journeys at two prominent Atlanta events, RayDay and Afternoon in the Country (AITC). Both events were hosted by the Inn at Serenbe, within the Serenbe community.

Boyd Leak and Doug &
his wife working AITC
SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks took a leadership role with SMAT during the education, planning, and execution phases. The first step was to educate event organizers on the importance of using BPI-Certified compostable serviceware. Ei contracted with Let Us Compost (LUC) to orchestrate the AITC | RayDay on-site food waste compost operations along with post-event follow-up.

Amidst idyllic weather and a sole foodservice provider, RayDay achieved zero food waste, including the kitchen scraps from the food truck caterer.

While a perfect scenario came together for RayDay, AITC was riddled with extraordinary challenges on event day. A rainy event day, coupled with prior ten days straight of rain, culminated in tremendous mud during set-up and throughout the event. ... and there were 90+ chefs | restaurants participating at AITC! Thanks to heroic team work, a total of 1,800 pounds of food waste was composted on site.

With perfect timing for the 2016 Annual Ei Partner Meeting, NatureWorks published the RayDay Embraces Path to Waste Reduction and Proven Steps Culminate Into Waste Reduction Success case studies to showcase the 2015 Ei Zero Food Waste Journeys. The case studies are announced in the IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2016: Year of Recognition, within the powerful meeting recap.

The ZWA Blog article, NatureWorks publishes zero food waste case studies, gives an overview of the case studies along with links to download the documents.

Affairs to Remember (ATR)
In 2009 ATR was designated Atlanta's First ZWZ Caterer by the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA), the ZWZ founding organization within the Georgia Restaurant Association umbrella. In addition, ATR Managing Director Patrick Cuccaro served on the GFA Advisory Board and was instrumental with Ei's 2010 formation as the new ZWZ home.

The Ei | ATR connection grows stronger each year. With exemplary hospitality, ATR hosts powerful Ei-orchestrated introductory meetings. Beyond the important business at hand, guests are treated to a divinely delicious experience!

ATR Ei Tree planting team
For Ei's five-year anniversary, ATR planted a six-foot Shrangri-La Ginkgo tree honoring Ei in the Virginia - Highlands neighborhood. 

Sponsored by Councilmember Felicia Moore, the City of Atlanta proclaimed November 11, 2014 "Affairs to Remember Caterers Day" in recognition of sustainability efforts, and in particular the milestone of having diverted one million pounds of recoverable materials from Georgia landfills. 

The ZWA Blog article, ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill!, announces the proclamation and includes the ATR sustainability story along with several of the below introductions.

SC ZWZ Tours:
In the above mentioned SC ZWZ Tours, ATR hosted a lovely lunch at their offices for the August 2011 tours. In addition to an impressive ATR facility tour, guests were treated to a 100% compostable boxed lunch. Back in 2011 it took research and ingenuity to craft a compostable lunch with readily available products. 

Green Seal (GS) Lunch:
ATR GS lunch group photo
When Ei Strategic Ally Green Seal (GS) President & CEO Arthur Weissman visited Atlanta in February 2016, ATR hosted a luncheon to introduce the potential Ei | GS Atlanta Hospitality Program to industry leaders. City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability Senior Policy Advisor Boyd Leake and Tim (GWCC) joined the lunch. The Ei | GS program focuses on the GS foodservice and cleaning certifications.

City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability:
Continuing tradition, Ei facilitated an introductory lunch meeting in June 2015 for the ATR Team and in-coming City of Atlanta Director of Sustainability Stephanie Benfield. Several years earlier Ei orchestrated a similar introductory luncheon for then City of Atlanta Director of Sustainability Denise Quarles.

March 2017 lunch group photo
When the City of Atlanta was chosen as one of the 100 Resilient Cities pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, Stephanie was appointed to the Chief Resilience Officer position. 

On March 8, 2017 Ei orchestrated a powerful meeting of Atlanta's sustainability leadership hosted by ATR. The overt meeting purpose was to introduce new City of Atlanta Director of Sustainability John Rutherford Seydel to ATR. In addition to John and Boyd from the City of Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager Scott Jenkins and Ray C. Anderson Foundation Executive Director John Lanier joined the meeting. It was an inspiring lunch filled with empowering conversation and amazing cuisine.

Food & Beverage Packaging Value Chain Meetings
Each December 2011 through 2014, trade association and non-profit executives from the entire sustainable food & beverage packaging value chain met in Washington D.C. for a day of vibrant dialogue and sharing.

F&B Value Chain Final Meeting
photo courtesy of Scott Seydel
For the final three years, Global Green's D.C. office hosted the meeting. Ei oversaw meeting administration, moderated the meeting presentations and strategy session, and documented the powerful meeting dialogue in a ZWA Blog article.

Mission Accomplished: the original meeting intention was to harness industry synergies among the complementary organizations. During the 2014 presentation, it was empowering to witness the many joint pilots | programs among meeting participants. 

The ZWA Blog article, Sustainable F&B Packaging: moving from an emerging to a maturing industry, documents the final 2014 meeting.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
Ei connected with MBS General Manager Scott Jenkins upon his Spring 2014 arrival in Atlanta, three years prior to the stadium's summer 2017 opening. During his first months in Atlanta, Ei was instrumental in introducing Scott to Atlanta's sustainability community. 

More recently, Ei introduced Scott's team to a local food waste collection option for the stadium. In addition, Scott attended the previously mentioned ATR-hosted City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability luncheon.

2014 NZWBC Plenary Panel:
Scott during NZWBC panel Q&A
photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
Within weeks of his arrival, Scott served on the above mentioned NZWBC The Atlanta Zero Waste Story opening plenary panel orchestrated by Holly. The plenary panel was Scott's first presentation as MBS GM!

Atlanta Ei Partner Tours:
In June 2014 Scott joined the Atlanta Ei Partner Tours for several local tours and dinner where he connected with industry colleagues. At the GWCC tour, Scott educated the Ei Partners on the MBS and explored avenues for collaboration.

Lambda Alpha International:
Scott with the Ei entourage
At Holly's invitation Scott gave an empowering Sustainability: an economic driver presentation at the February 15, 2017 Lambda Alpha International (LAI) Atlanta Chapter luncheon meeting. LAI is a land economic honorary; Holly was inducted in 2013 and serves on the local chapter Board.

It was inspiring to learn the intricacies of how "MBS will be the Heart of Atlanta and home to the biggest championships in the United States." Throughout his presentation, Scott emphasized the economics grounding the MBS sustainability commitment.

The IMPACT Blog article, Sustainability: an economic driver, is an overview of Scott's presentation, which is available for download on the Ei LAI page.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)
In 2012 EMF CEO Andrew Morlet connected with Ei within weeks of joining the powerful organization. During the Circular Economy 100 (CE100) formation, Ei was instrumental in industry education and introductions. With robust synergies, the Ei | EMF connection remains strong.

First Annual CE100 Summit:
Ei Chair Scott Seydel represented Ei at the June 2013 First Annual CE100 Summit hosted in London. Prior to the summit, Scott met with Andrew and Dame Ellen MacArthur and formed a longstanding bond. The IMPACT Blog, A Revolutionary Evolution - going from a linear to circular economy, introduces the Circular Economy along with a CE100 Summit overview.

In November 2015 Scott joined the the EMF USA Board in preparation for the U.S. Circular Economy Program February 2016 launch.

Atlanta Visit:
During a 2015 eight-hour Atlanta Airport layover, Andrew and Holly connected for their first in-person encounter. Ensuring a productive visit, Holly scheduled a meeting with then Delta Director, Safety, Health, Environment Helen Howes. 

A lovely dinner followed with the Georgia Tech Center for Sustainable Business Founding Managing Director Howard Connell and one his colleagues. Timing was perfect for the Andrew | Howard introduction as Georgia Tech was interested in the EMF Pioneer Universities Program.

Urban Biocycles:
In the early research phase for the scoping paper, Andrew requested Holly to assist Doug Walker, lead author and program manager, with education on the U.S. state of urban organic recycling. In addition to the education, Holly introduced Doug to Ei Strategic Ally Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) co-director, as an excellent resource via her Neighborhood Soils Rebuilding and community composting programs in-place.

Prior to publication, Holly reviewed the document draft and submitted content comments. 

On March 28, 2017 EMF issued the Urban Biocycles scoping paper. It is a well-researched paper on the current state of global organic recycling with a focus on the economic opportunities using a Circular Economy approach for urban organics. The Urban Biocycles scoping paper sets a solid foundation for further research and development of urban organic recycling | manufacturing systems within a Circular Economy.

Ei | Holly and ILSR | Brenda are listed in the paper credits as Expert Input and Case Study Contributors.

Connectivity and collaboration are keys for success, especially when forging industry frontiers. In 2012, Ei introduced the power of the WE Consciousness in the ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport:
The "I" focus is replaced with the "WE" focus. The impact of our actions extends to the entire community and beyond; collective action accomplishes more profound results than singular effort. By working together, synergies are unlocked, unnecessary boundaries, including competitive barriers, disintegrate, and creative energies catapult possibilities into grounded realities.
The Power of Connection is a valuable asset. Ei is honored to serve as the conduit between prominent industry friends and facilitate powerful introductions. When we work together, the possibilities are endless and solutions dissolve monumental barriers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance

From the onset, the "carbon issue" caused confusion and often misinterpretation. How can carbon be bad when it is the Earth's building block? What is a carbon footprint? What are the differences between the varying carbon compounds and how are they generated? Is carbon the culprit for climate change?

It is time to simplify the carbon scenario and bring clarity to the confusion. By aligning with the perfect systems inherent within Nature, simple solutions emerge that bring the Earth's carbon cycles back into balance.

Carbon Footprint Background:
Introduced in 2007 by Anindita Mitra, CREA Affiliates founding principal, the term carbon footprint was first used as a measure of the carbon emission in the City of Longwood, Washington energy plan. A derivative of the ecological footprint, developed by Rees and Wackernagel in the 1990s, the carbon footprint measures the use of carbon and serves as an indicator of unsustainable energy use. (1)

In June 2009 Elemental Impact's (Ei) predecessor, the Green Foodservice Alliance, hosted a Carbon WHAT? seminar in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4. The seminar clarified the recently introduced carbon footprint and carbon credit via the following topics:

How carbon impacts the environment.
How carbon is generated.
What is a carbon footprint?
How to calculate a carbon footprint.
What are carbon credits?
How to generate carbon credits.
How to purchase carbon credits (if needed).

A seminar transcript provided by the EPA is available on the Ei References & Materials page under the Other Sustainability Topics category.

The 2012 Simple Show two-minute Carbon Footprint video gives an excellent overview of the comprehensive nature of the carbon footprint calculation.

The Earth's Carbon Cycle
Although the carbon footprint is explained in many diverse sources, confusion remains about how carbon can be "bad;" it is the essence of Earth lifeforms. In simplistic terms, the Earth's carbon cycle is out of balance.

Earth Carbon Pools
image courtesy of The Soil Story
The Earth's carbon cycle maintains balance between five carbon pools:
1. Atmosphere
2. Oceans
3. Soils
4. Biosphere
5. Fossil

Removal and burning of stored carbon from the fossil pool in the form of coal, natural gas and petroleum is the catalyst for the out-of-balance state. When burned as an energy source, fossil carbon is transferred into the atmosphere and ocean carbon pools. In addition, common commercial agriculture practices remove carbon from the soil as well as prevent carbon sequestering in amounts necessary to maintain balance.

To date, an estimated 800,000,000,000 tons of carbon is released from the soil and fossil pools into the atmosphere. A portion of the atmosphere carbon is absorbed by the oceans; the carbon dioxide reacts with sea water to produce acid, causing Ocean Acidification with severe implications.

A Simple Solution
An empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story states the problem and the solution are a matter of balance. 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 video explains the Earth's carbon cycle in an easy-to-understand format where soil is the hero for regaining balance. 

Plants serve as atmosphere carbon pumps via photosynthesis. The soil stores the "pumped carbon" as food for its incredible ecosystem, including a wide array of invertebrates and microorganisms.

Cattle grazing
photo courtesy of the
Marin Carbon Project
Healthy, well-structured soil produces nutritious food and gains more carbon from plant decay. In addition, healthy soil filters and retains water - up to 40% more water than out-of-balance soil. A positive feedback loop within the carbon cycle restores balance.

Regenerative agriculture is essential to restore the carbon cycle balance. Current soil tilling practices break the carbon cycle and harm the soil ecosystem. Thus, petroleum-based fertilizers are used to grow crops. Yet these crops are devoid of many nutrients provided by the soil ecosystem. 

Rotating livestock grazing fields augments soil rebuilding. Manure worked into the soil by hooves plays a similar role to field-applied compost. Post-grazing period, the field replenishes itself with native plants. The cycle continues by the plants pumping carbon into the soil via strong root systems.

Ryland Englehart, Cafe Gratitude owner and Kiss the Ground co-founder, completes his video narration with the following powerful statement:

Regeneration of soil is the task of our generation.

The video emphasizes the importance of reducing | stopping burning fossil fuels. 

Soil Restoration | Carbon Sequestering
The U.C. Berkeley Cal Alumni Association California Magazine November 2014 article New Global Warming Remedy: Turning Rangelands into Carbon-Sucking Vacuums documents a carbon sequestering study at a prominent 540-acre west Marin County ranch in the San Francisco Bay area. Owned by John Wick and his wife Peggy Rathmann, Nicasio Native Grass Ranch was a perfect site to document grassland restoration coupled with carbon sequestering.

Wick and Rathmann contracted with rangeland ecologist and Carbon Cycle Director Jeff Creque, to embark on a grassland restoration project. With Creque at the helm, the project evolved into a well-researched soil restoration | carbon sequestering study at the ranch.

For the study, cattle were re-introduced to the ranch with rotating grazing patterns similar to the feeding patterns of the long-vanished elk herds. In addition, a single half-inch layer of compost was applied on numerous test plots.

In Wick's words, "The changes were dramatic.We had native grasses and wildflowers coming back, and native birds were returning. You could just see our grasslands functioning at a higher state.”

Creque confirms the success in more technical terms:
By increasing soil carbon, you’re increasing soil fertility and water retention capacity. That results in more robust vegetation, which captures more and more carbon from the atmosphere. This carbon is stored underground in the roots, in residual dry matter (on the surface) and in enhanced populations of microorganisms in the soil.
Wildflowers return
photo courtesy of the Marin Carbon Project
Testing confirmed the composted plots sequestered from one-half to three tons of carbon per hectare per year as a result of the single application. In Creque's words, "The revitalized rangelands essentially turn into landscape-scale vacuum cleaners, sucking prodigious quantities of carbon from the atmosphere."

Carbon dating tests confirmed most of the carbon was sequestered from the atmosphere; the compost served as a catalyst to re-ignite the soil carbon cycle.

The Nicasio Native Grass Ranch study further evolved into The Marin Carbon Project (MCP), co-founded by Wick & Creque. After a vigorous vetting process, the MCP Protocols were approved by the American Carbon Registry for voluntary carbon credits. 

... and the article ends with an important caveat: Yes, it’s apparently a very good thing to turn all our kitchen slop into dark, rich compost and spread it on our rangelands. But we also have to stop incinerating the residues of dead dinosaurs.

Carbon Sinks
Vast rangelands may serve as carbon sinks - a forest, ocean, or other natural environment viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - and contribute to restoring balance within the carbon cycle. The Nicasio Native Grass Ranch study substantiates compost as a catalyst for carbon sink creation.

Is there an adequate quantity of compost for a half-inch application on the rangelands? 

NO! Yet compost recipe ingredients are readily available. Food waste, a nitrogen ingredient in the compost manufacturing process, is an abundant, continually replenished resource generated in urban areas as well as at food processing facilities. Unfortunately, food waste is most often treated as trash, versus a valuable resource.

According to the EPA, 95% of discarded food waste is landfill destined. In landfills food waste produces methane gas, a Greenhouse Gas 20 - 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. Americans disposed of an estimated 38 million tons of food waste in 2014.

Food waste compost manufacturing faces two significant challenges: 1> limited state-permitted facilities and 2> contamination within the food waste streams collected. The U.S. Composting Council is committed to resolving industry challenges and building strong compost manufacturing infrastructure.

Commercial food waste
from a restaurant
As the forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost, Ei was home to the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), launched in 2009 and sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012. One of the ZWZ participation criteria was the collection of food waste for compost. 

In 2015, Ei proclaimed post-consumer food waste collection for compost was the primary focus of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots (the Atlanta Airport, Georgia World Congress Center and Concord Mills).

To address food waste contamination, Ei announced the Macro Cost of Micro Contamination focus area at the 2016 National Zero Waste Business Conference. Single-use plastic packaging is a major culprit in food waste contamination, especially when fragmented into microplastics. In foodservice operations, Ei promotes the use of BPI-Certified Compostable products for single-use packaging.

Ei Partner Rick Lombardo
introducing the Macro Cost
of Micro Contamination
In addition to rangelands, Ei is eager to explore creating urban carbon sinks. Common area lands along with corporate, government and university grounds are potential carbon sink sites. Other promising carbon sink sites are roadway system medians, shoulders and buffer zones. Several prominent Atlanta-based entities expressed enthusiasm to participate in carbon sequestering pilots using compost manufactured from their campus food waste.

At the 2017 Word Economics Forum Annual Meeting, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) introduced an Urban Biocycle Economy concept paper that addresses nutrient cycles within urban areas. The EMF paper has potential to propel research and pilots related to urban carbon cycles. Formal release is slated for March 2017. 

Carbon sequestering via carbon sink creation may serve as the catalyst to shift food waste from landfill destination to compost manufacturing. With strong emphasis on community and corporate carbon footprints, carbon sequestration is a powerful incentive to drive compost demand, which in turn drives supply creation. 

Carbon crisis solutions are grounded in simple tactics: 1> align systems within Nature's proven cycles and 2> rely on basic supply | demand economics. Remember the carbon crisis is simply a matter of returning to balance!

Notes:
(1) Wikipedia Carbon Footprint page.