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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sustainability in ACTION garners a new life, at the speed of bike!

Elemental Impact (Ei) plays a valuable industry role by introducing organizations and/or individuals who share synergies for powerful relationships and action. During the Ei Recycling Refinement Era, the following prominent Ei Connections were strong contributions to ongoing industry events and working relationships:
The EPA Scaling Up Compost
in Charlotte, NC Team
The Ei Connects website page details the plethora of introductions over the years; the Ei Connects FB album is a pictorial recap of many notable introductions.

With a decade of living the original tagline, Sustainability in ACTION, followed by  the new tagline, Regeneration in ACTION, Ei developed long-term relationships that continue to segue into empowering introductions.

Sustainable Pattie
Pattie Baker
photo courtesy of Pattie Baker
In December 2008, eco-journalist Pattie Baker, alias "Sustainable Pattie," interviewed Ei Founder Holly Elmore, then the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) Executive Director, for a New Life article on restaurants embracing sustainable operating practices. The following February Pattie attended the popular GFA Carbon WHAT? seminar hosted at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and sponsored by the EPA R4 | Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Sustainability Division. Thereafter, Holly and Pattie developed a deep-rooted friendship that continues to grow stronger with the years.

An avid urban cyclist since 2013, Pattie authors the Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog and in March 2018 published a book by the same title. In her frequent blog posts, Pattie shares the wonderous world when life is lived at the speed of bike.

As a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, Pattie advocates for bicycle safety via education on road rules and etiquette, riding technique, equipment, and a sense of delight. With safety a top priority, Pattie embraces use of  BikeNoodles inspired by Warren Huska's ingenuity in the article Cyclist says his pool noodle makes Toronto streets safer for him. According to Pattie, "I’ve been using BikeNoodles in suburbia for the last 2.5 years, with 100% success at eliminating illegal passing and driver aggression."

Sustainability in Action Bicycle Tour
Long recruited by Bicycle Tours of Atlanta (BTA), Pattie joined the staff as a tour guide in 2018. BTA believes there is no better way to explore this beautiful city than by bicycle and the joy associated with feeling like a kid again. Beyond corporate and private tours, BTA offers the following tours on a regular basis:
  • Fall in Love with Atlanta, see Atlanta like you never have before.
  • Atlanta Street Art, discover a world of beautiful street art in Atlanta.
  • WonderRoot, a tour of Atlanta's newly curated collection of civil rights & social justice murals.
  • Sustainability in Action, explore the sustainable side of Atlanta.
GWCCA bee hives on the
Sustainability in Action Tour
The Sustainability in Action Tour was crafted by Pattie as an eleven-miles, 3.5-hours ride through Downtown, Midtown, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Piedmont Park, the Old Fourth Ward Park, the Atlanta Beltline, and other carefully-curated as well as spur-of-the-moment highlights on some of the most acclaimed bike infrastructure in the USA.

On the tour, riders get up-close and personal on a rubber-hits-the-road showcase of best practices and innovations relating to environmental, economic, and social sustainability in a city embracing the defining challenges of our times.

As the Sustainability in Action Tour rides by the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Pattie reached out to Holly for introductions via the extensive Ei network.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
On May 9 Pattie and Holly met at MBS for a sustainability tour of the "greenest professional sports stadium in the world." MBS Operations Manager – Tours Dawn Brown hosted the impressive tour with General Manager Scott Jenkins joining the first half. 

Dawn, Holly & Scott
photo courtesy of Pattie Baker
After an education on the state-of-the-art design and construction that earned MBS LEED-Platinum Certification, the tour focused on the waste-reduction practices in-place within back-of-the-house operations. The tour ended at the recently planted raised-bed gardens along the Northside Drive administration entrance.

Though built as the home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium plays an integral community role with many local athletic events and educational tours. With a staff of 41 tour guides. Dawn manages on average 700 visitors per week on various educational tours, including one dedicated to the MBS's impressive art collection.

The Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog post, a growing movement, gives a tour overview from Pattie's perspective.

Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA)
During the GWCCA campus tour, Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer shared the GWCCA’s long-term sustainability commitment. In February 2009 the GWCCA hosted the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones press conference. Thanks to Tim’s diligent efforts, the GWCCA is the world’s largest LEED-certified conference center. 

The GWCCA hosted the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four® as the "greenest games ever." More than a tagline, the 2013 Final Four sustainability success forever evolved sporting-event sustainability protocol. Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established! 

Pattie & Tim at the
GWCCA bee apiary
Additionally, Tim consults with the Super Bowl leadership on implementing sustainability standards at their prestigious sporting event. Tim co-chaired the 2019 Super Bowl Sustainability Committee when MBS hosted the prestigious event in Atlanta earlier this year.

As Pattie has seen it many times while riding at the speed of bike, the GWCCA bee apiary was the prime tour focus.

In August 2018, the GWCCA introduced their three-hive bee apiary located in a pocket park on the corner of Boone Boulevard and Northside Drive. Managed by Bee Downtown, a North Carolina-based company focused on revitalizing bee populations in urban environments, the GWCCA hives support the urban-bee population in downtown Atlanta.

Each hive is destined to produce 80 pounds of honey per year, with the first harvest this summer. Harvested honey will be used by Levy Restaurants in their foodservice operations as well as bottled for gifts.

The Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog post, bee downtown, gives a tour overview from Pattie's perspective.

An Ei Connects FB album section includes a pictorial recap of the Sustainability in Action Bicycle Tours.

Ei was honored to introduce Patti to long-term partners and colleagues. It was fun to witness synergies during the tour, especially when Patti learned Scott rides his bike to work at the stadium!

... and the original Ei tagline Sustainability in ACTION garners a new life while traveling at the speed of bike.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Straw integrity addresses usage, content, and disposition

In the March 2019 RiA article, Three Steps to Straw Integrity, Elemental Impact (Ei), in partnership with Ei Strategic Ally One More Generation (OMG), announced the Three-Step Straw Initiative (TSSI). The three steps are:

Step #1REDUCE straw usage.
Step #2SHIFT to paper straws.
Step #3COMPOST used straws.

For Ei, the TSSI is an easy, first step in addressing the prolific micro and nanoplastics infiltrating our soils, waterways, atmosphere, and human-food chain.

For OMG, the TSSI expands the OMG One Less Straw (OLS) Pledge Campaign beyond plastic-straw usage reduction to address straw content and disposition | end-of-life. As participants are required to take the OLS pledge in Step #1, the TSSI serves as a marketing vehicle for the stellar program.

One Less Straw
In November 2016, OMG founders Olivia Ries (then 14-years old) and her brother Carter (then 16-years old) launched their global OLS Pledge Campaign. OLS educates the public about the dangers of single-use plastic straws and its effects on our health, our environment, and our oceans.

The OLS site details the following disturbing facts:
  • Each year 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic.
  • Every day we use 500,000,000 plastic straws. That’s enough straws to fill 46,400 large school buses PER YEAR!
  • U.S. Consumption is equal to enough plastic straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times a day!
A HUGE success, OLS boasts almost 800 partners, restaurants, and schools around the globe. Prominent partners include Delta Air Lines, Hilton Hotels (650 properties), Red Lobster Restaurants (700+ restaurants), and TED's Montana Grill (43 restaurants).

OLS participants may order complimentary "We only serve straws upon request" buttons for servers to wear. To date, OLS has distributed over 47,000 buttons!

IMPRESSIVE: several seasoned OLS participants no longer require the buttons as their customers are well educated on "straws available upon request." Thus, they gifted their buttons to new nearby OLS participants for reuse!

OLS Partners support the program via discounts available to the commercial and individual-pledge participants.

Green Planet Straws
With perfect timing, Green Planet Straws (GPS) joined the Ei Partner program in March to support the TSSI Step #2: SHIFT from plastic to paper straws. OLS commercial-pledge participants proved that serving straws only upon request reduces overall straw consumption by 70 - 75%. Thus, the shift to paper straws is essentially cost-neutral as the usage reduction compensates for the higher paper-straw cost.

GPS has ample capacity supported by a strong distribution system to supply the hospitality industry with top-quality paper straws. In addition, GPS is pursuing BPI Certified Compostable status and is staged to serve as the industry's first certified-paper straw.

As an OLS Partner, GPS offers commercial-pledge participants 10% off pallet orders along with free shipping.

Healthy Human
For individual-pledge participants, OLS Partner Healthy Human offers a pack of three stainless-steel straws for $5.00, including shipping within the U.S. The limited-time discount is 50% off the regular price. Additionally, Healthy Human donates $1.00 for every three-pack sold to OLS.

Individuals may sign the OLS pledge at this link. Upon pledge submission, the individual will receive redemption instructions.

Healthy Human serves as a leading innovator in sustainability by creating products that eliminate or replace single-use plastic items.

TSSI meeting at The Carter Center
photo courtesy of OMG
The TSSI is in the pre-launch stage as Founding Participants are recruited. To date, the following prominent Ei Pioneers gave the big YES to TSSI participation: Affairs to Remember Caterers, Levy Restaurants - Georgia World Congress Center, Proof of the Pudding - The Carter Center, Piedmont Driving Club, Pacific Rim and Hsu's Gourmet.

In addition, Ei Founder Holly Elmore visited Orlando and Tampa, FL to introduce the TSSI to local government officials. Follow-up visits are scheduled for mid-July and September.

Though they are a relatively minor portion of the plastic-pollution crisis, plastic straw daily and annual usage represents significant pollution tonnage. Straws are high profile and an "easy-win" in the steps towards eliminating single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. The Three-Step Straw Initiative brings "straw integrity" to the hospitality industry by addressing usage, content and disposition | end of life.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Rio Piedras: revitalizing beyond their wildest dreams

On May 1, 2019 Lambda Alpha International (LAI) hosted the Rio Piedras Professional Advisory Delegation (PAD) in partnership with the Fideicomiso para el Desarrollo de Río Piedras (FDRP). The PAD was a precursor to the LAI Puerto Rico (PR) Land Economics Weekend (LEW) where the new PR Chapter was chartered and local members were initiated during the LEW Welcome Reception.

LAI is an honorary society for the advancement of land economics. LAI provides a forum for the study and advancement of land economics where the "winnowing and sifting" of ideas takes place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Operating through a network of twenty-eight global chapters, LAI provides a variety of programs and forums for its members to share information critical to understanding important land-use issues. The IMPACT Blog article, Lambda Alpha International Atlanta Chapter: growing membership, influence and impact, introduces LAI along with its designated purposes.

Twice per year chapters sponsor "Weekend Experiences" giving members an opportunity to meet and learn about land-economic issues in cities throughout the world. Open to LAI members and their guests, the LEWs address wider international, national and regional issues and include project tours within the host city.

Formal PAD presentations in process
With a wide range of expertise in ownership, management, regulation and conservation of land, as well as its development, redevelopment and preservation, LAI members are respected global industry leaders. The PAD was an opportunity for LAI members to share their expertise with the Rio Piedras Development Trust (FDRP for its Spanish acronym).

Around 50 LAI delegates traveled early to the PR LEW to participate in the Rio Piedras PAD. According to LAI International Vice-President and PAD Executive Team Lead Cassandra Francis, "We hope this initial LAI PAD will serve to strengthen our connections with the community of Rio Piedras and allow LAI to be part of the community's future renaissance."

Fideicomiso para el Desarrollo de Río Piedras (FDRP)
A May 2016 Amendment to the Special Law for the Rehabilitation of Río Piedras (Law 75-1995) extends the validity of the special incentives granted to the FDRP until December 31, 2020. The original law created the FDRP that serves as a fiduciary agent with the power to acquire disused or abandoned structures, lands and plots for the reconstruction and development of affordable housing, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in Río Piedras.

PAD attendees on walking tour
Managed by a local board, the FDRP is currently obtaining its IRS 501(c) 3 non-profit status. The Community Association of Río Piedras, a community leadership group representing eight of the twelve Rio Piedras barrios, oversees a series of organizations dedicated Rio Piedras' redevelopment. Next in the leadership hierarchy is the Advisory Board for the Development of Río Piedras, a technical group of professionals and lay barrio members; the FDRP follows the Advisory Board in the hierarchy.

The FDRP was created to have an entity solely dedicated to the following efforts / objectives:
  • Establish initiatives to recover structures and lands, disused or abandoned sites, for the development of affordable housing, commerce, and non-profit organizations, in Río Piedras.
  • Acquire property for the benefit of the community of Río Piedras.
  • Facilitate the reconstruction and assessment of urban spaces, in accordance with the public policy established by Law 75-1995, and development plans and land use adopted by the Planning Board for the community of Río Piedras.
  • Acquire land and vacant lots to build affordable housing or for any other use necessary, for the benefit of the community of Río Piedras.
Members of the FDRP were selected by the Community Association of Río Piedras and include representatives from the following sectors: residents, students, commerce, other community groups as well as 2 experts. The following FDRP mission and vision guide the FDRP efforts:
Rio Piedras street market
  • Vision: To be a model of sustainability, focused on the development of the community of Río Piedras, with citizen participation and equity as the philosophical basis for urban transformation.
  • Mission: To acquire, manage and preserve properties that contribute to the development of Río Piedras, to advance the principles and objectives laid down in Law 75-1995 and its Plan of Integral Development.
Over the past years, the FDRP worked diligently on the development of a strategic plan, the creation of alliances, the consecution of operational funds, and the acquisition of properties as part of an agreement with the Municipality of San Juan, among other things. As part of the dissemination strategies, the FDRP funded the community newspaper of El Roble, a bimonthly newspaper that is distributed within the Rio Piedras communities.

FDPR embraces the following Rio Piedras Quality of Life Vision:
A safe, clean, walkable, mixed income community that welcomes students, families and people of all ages to its thriving barrios that are strongly linked to an active commercial center. A Río Piedras well-connected to the larger San Juan community as a center of unique shopping, education and entertainment
Rio Piedras - history & current scenario
Originally its own municipality, Rio Piedras was a settlement along the Piedras River founded in 1714 with agricultural roots where sugar, cotton and coffee were the main crops. The University of Puerto was founded in 1903 within the Rio Piedras proper. Today the university's main campus as well as the botanical gardens remain an integral component to the Rio Piedras community.

Plaza del Mercado, the largest
market of its kind on the island
In 1951 Rio Piedras was consolidated within the municipality of San Juan. Currently Rio Piedras has twelve barrios. The following eight barrios that connect with the commercial center and/or are adjacent to the University of Puerto Rico campus are the focus of the FDRP: Blondet, Buen Consejo, Captetilo, Centro Urbano, Garcia Ubarri, Mora, Santa Rita, and Venezuela.

Once thriving, Rio Piedras was a central transportation hub with a vibrant commercial center. Yet, over the decades, PR's unstable economic status coupled with a population leaving the island contributed to the demise of Rio Piedras' commercial and residential vitality.

Rio Piedras remains a central commercial community yet is impacted by challenges in common with PR as well as unique circumstances.

Rio Piedras - challenges
A street scene along
Ponce de Leon
Common with many global urban environments, Rio Piedras is challenged with a homeless population, crime, safety issues, and deteriorated buildings due to lack of maintenance. Common with Puerto Rico as a whole, Rio Piedras experienced economic strife coupled with a significant population decline over the past decade plus.

According to the PR Report Population Continues to Decline in Puerto Rico post, the Census Report states the PR population declined by 69,343, a 3% drop, between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017. Though deaths exceed births on the island, the overriding factor contributing to the island's population decline is citizens relocating to the mainland United States, predominantly Florida.

Since Hurricane Maria, more than 239,000 people moved to Florida with the Florida Puerto Rican population topping one million. When Hurricane Maria struck, the best estimate of PR's population was 3.3 million.

An estimated population for the eight barrios included in the Rio Piedras Quality of Life Program is 7,000. Though not substantiated with statistics, the Rio Piedras population is aging.

Puerto Rico's overall precarious economic status is a significant challenge for Rio Piedras' redevelopment plans.

A long ago closed Singer store
Though accessible by the Tren Urbano (see below), Rio Piedras is not easily accessible via car. As San Juan grew and improved the city's infrastructure, historically strong Rio Piedras access roads were bypassed through the development of larger scale arterials and freeways.

Vacant buildings along with structures requiring rehabilitation are a challenge for revitalization. Of the 5,461 available housing units in the FDRP's eight barrios, 19% are owner-occupied, 55% are tenant-occupied, and 26% are vacant. Most vacant units are the result of foreclosure by the bank holding the mortgage or delinquent taxes. Due to Puerto Rico's traditional property-transfer system within family lineage, it is often difficult to obtain clear title to the property.

Rio Piedras - assets
Though the challenges may seem daunting on the surface, Rio Piedras is a community blessed with many solid assets. Numerous local assets are listed below.

University of Puerto Rico
Located on a 289-acre campus, the University of Puerto Rico's main campus in Rio Piedras hosts 18,000 students, 80% undergraduate and 20% graduate students, and bestows approximately 3,000 degrees per year. Though there are dormitories, the majority of students commute to the university.

There is excellent potential to partner with the university on a variety of projects for mutual benefit between the college and the community.

Plaza del Mercado
Fresh market produce
The largest market of its kind on the island, Plaza del Mercado is known for its farm-fresh produce, an excellent, reasonably priced food court, eclectic gift shops, and in the afternoons into the evening the live music. The market is an excellent venue to immerse into the local Puerto Rican culture.

La Milagrosa
Once a beautiful Catholic church accompanied by a private-school campus, La Milagrosa is now an abandoned large tract of land within the Rio Piedras Centro Urbano barrio. Located down the street from the Plaza del Mercado, La Milagrosa property represents an economic and energetic void within the local business district.

Yet La Milagrosa's abandoned status is filled with tremendous opportunity within the economic revitalization of Rio Piedras. The close proximity to the University of Puerto Rico's main campus offers potential for a university | La Milagrosa connection.

Iglesia de La Milagrosa
According to the October 2016 Primera Hora article, Art gives life to La Milagrosa, La Milagrosa campus closed in May 2009. Though the local community struggled to keep the school open, the Catholic Church permanently closed the school's doors. Subsequently, the campus served as a hospital for addicts of controlled substances and a shelter for homeless citizens.

Via Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto's and Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto González Nieves' negotiations, the municipality acquired the church and school campus for $2.6 million. The intention was for the closed church and school to resurface within the Rio Piedras community as an art museum, a fine-arts school, and a housing complex for veterans.

"We decided to make a permanent art exhibition area here. They are going to have different exhibitions that respect the historical character and maintain the mysticism that this is no longer a church, but for many it remains a temple," explained Cruz Soto.

Unfortunately, the art complex did not come to fruition and the La Milagrosa once again is abandoned awaiting its next contribution to the Rio Piedras community.

The church's name, the Iglesia de La Milagrosa (Church of Our Miraculous Lady), beholds the property's potential to anchor Rio Piedras' re-emergence to strong economic vitality.

Tren Urbano
Rio Piedras Tren Urbano station
Opened on December 17, 2004, the Tren Urbano is a 10.7 mile rapid rail-transit system with sixteen stations, some above ground and others underground. Rio Piedras boasts two underground stations, one at the University of Puerto and another across from the Rio Piedras Plaza.

Though transportation via car is a challenge, Rio Piedras residents may easily take the train to the financial district or thirteen other destinations for work or social occasions. San Juan residents may easily access Rio Piedras for shopping, dining, entertainment, cultural events, or other reasons.

Creative Spirit
Within the Rio Piedras community, an empowering creative spirit is evident by the plethora of amazing volunteer-street art. On one street corner, a lovely golden bird is the backdrop for an ATM machine. Less than a block away, a talented artist painted an eclectic purple flower in a rustic corner within a rundown building. Thus, local artists share their talent and spirit freely to brighten the community, literally and figuratively. The strong creative spirit is central for the community revitalization underway.

Volunteer street art
Eleven years ago FDRP President Cristina Miranda Palacios "walked her talk" as a social and urban planner and purchased her first home in Rio Piedras. Cristina knows that a stressed community is revived by local residents who live, work, play, shop, and build bonds with neighbors. At the time, Cristina's daughter was five years old; now at 16 years old, she loves her community along with a profound sense of belonging.

Cristina understood her home purchase was in a community that required significant work. Over the years, Cristina witnessed substantial neighborhood improvements yet knows many daunting challenges remain. In Cristina's words:
"The work that was completed with LAI during the PAD week will be instrumental for all of our efforts. We are excited about the work completed to date, and look forward to continue working on behalf of our community. While the road is steep we have the most important elements: will and commitment and a community that is active and engaged." 
Professional Advisory Delegation (PAD)
When LAI and the FDRP decided to partner on the first PAD in Rio Piedras, the two organizations developed and executed a three-step process:

Step One - LAI leadership met with FDRP executives in November 2018 to develop a PAD plan that utilized LAI member expertise and benefited the community in the short and long runs.

PAD Executive Team: Mel, Les & Jim
Step Two - LAI PAD Executive Team members, including Les Pollock, Mel Freeman and Jim Musbach, traveled to meet with the FDRP in February 2019 for a week-long intensive strategy session. In the meetings, the group identified strategic actions and projects to improve the community’s overall quality of life, and to respond to problems and challenges further complicated by Hurricanes Irma and María.

Per the prepared PAD document: the work session resulted in a draft Quality of Life Program aimed at identifying key strategies and projects to address economic development, housing, infrastructure, health, public safety and social services problems within the community.

Step Three - The PAD Workshop was held in conjunction with the PR LEW on Wednesday, May 1. Designed to engage interested LAI membership, PAD attendees were educated in formal presentations, along with bus and walking tours, on Rio Piedras' history, current scenario, work-in-progress, and the Quality of Life program. Split into five discussion groups, the LAI delegates recommended refinements and implementation action points. Intentions were to suggest how the identified projects may be used by the community to resolve the current challenges.

Volunteer art brightens the
Rio Piedra community
One of the overriding suggestions was Rio Piedras create a branding campaign that emphasized art/culture as well as integration with the nearby student population. As part of the branding, it was suggested to "clean-up" deteriorated buildings with inexpensive cosmetic treatments and emphasize the abundant art-deco design. The branding and clean-up will aid in building community pride as well as attracting investors for redevelopment.

While building the Rio Piedras brand and accomplishing the cosmetic clean-up, the delegates emphasized creating an inventory of available property, including location, square feet, structural integrity, and importantly the title status. With the property inventory, FDRP will be in a position to develop and take action on a strategic plan.

Once published, the formal LAI | FDRP Quality of Life PAD Report prepared by Les Pollack will be available for download.

The Elemental Impact FB album, Rio Piedras Professional Advisory Delegation, is a pictorial recap of the walking tours and the formal PAD session.

A tenacious spirit intertwined with an innate creative heart stages the Rio Piedras community for tremendous success beyond their wildest dreams. After all, the Church of Our Miraculous Lady calls Rio Piedras her home and is well prepared to bestow miracles upon her beloved community.

Monday, March 18, 2019

a farewell to recycling refinement | a welcome to regeneration | a website relaunch

As a welcome to the Elemental Impact (Ei) Era of Regeneration, the Ei site relaunched with a refreshed design featuring Ei Founder Holly Elmore's photography images. An updated navigation  reflects the current focus on the Soil Health | Regenerative AgricultureWater Use | Toxicity, and Product Stewardship platforms.

Ei endeavors considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished are thoroughly documented in the Mission Accomplished section. From the February 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch through June 2017, Ei lived the Ei tagline Sustainability in ACTION during the Ei Era of Recycling Refinement (RR).

Documentation of the important Ei Era of RR work is chronicled in the Mission Accomplished 46-page section within the following categories:
Ei Magazine articles related to each page's topic are listed on a sidebar. For meetings, tours, and conference presentations, the respective PPT presentations are available for download. Additionally, the Ei Milestones page is a monthly detail of prominent activities from the ZWZ launch to the current month, along with links to relevant website pages, magazine articles and other pertinent information.

With the Ei Era of RR "wrapped-up" in an organized, highly detailed website section, Ei is living the new tagline Regeneration in ACTION with full vigor. In early March, the RiA Magazine article, Three Steps to Straw Integrity, announces the Three-Step Straw Initiative (TSSI), the first Era of Regeneration initiative.

Building off of recycling-integrity principles, the TSSI is an "easy-win" inaugural step in the eradicatification of single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. Addressing microplastic pollution in the waterways, oceans and soils, the TSSI equally falls within the Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms.

Along with the new website, the Ei Newsletter receives a refreshed design and format.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Ei In-Kind Partners Jonathan Beacher of Atlanta Website Design and Lee Thompson of Thompson Creative for dedicating your amazing talent and time to Ei site relaunch. Jonathon tirelessly built the structure and functionality for the nearly 100-page site. Lee created a simple, clean, at times whimsical yet highly professional design that represents the magic within Ei's important work.

The site relaunch is a final farewell to the Era of Recycling Refinement and a cheerful welcome to the Ei Era of Regeneration. Yet the regenerative work intertwines in complete harmony with recycling-refinement accomplishments.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

WorldChefs' Feed the Planet: Making a Global Impact

On January 7, 2019 The World Association of Chefs’ Societies' (WorldChefs) Feed the Planet Committee launched the Food Waste Challenge (FWC) with participants from across the globe. For the launch, Feed the Planet Chair Chris Koetke led a webinar educating on the importance of food-waste reduction and the FWC parameters.

The RiA Magazine article, Elemental Impact / WorldChefs Collaborate on Global Food Waste Challenge, shares the WorldChefs | Elemental Impact (Ei) relationship history and introduces the FWC parameters. Founded in 2010 as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), Ei provides the food-waste expertise while WorldChefs customizes the information for the chef audience. It is a perfect collaboration!

In preparation for the FWC, Ei Founder Holly Elmore prepared the following supporting documentation:
  • Back-of-House (BOH) Food-Waste Reduction - the document addresses BOH food waste in relation to four overall kitchen operating sectors: 1> Purchasing, 2> Preparation, 3> Storage | Equipment, and 4> Menu Planning. 
  • Establishing a BOH Food-Waste Baseline - the document explains the importance of establishing a food-waste baseline and gives several suggestions for weighing the BOH food waste.
  • BOH Food-Waste-Baseline Calculation - a comprehensive spreadsheet for calculating the baseline over a three-month period, broken down by stations, and aggregated from daily, then weekly and into monthly food-waste metrics.
FWC First Step: Calculate the Food-Waste Baseline
One of the keys to the ZWZ success was the motto:

Take baby steps 
Lots and lots of baby steps!!!

In alignment with the ZWZ motto, the FWC is broken down into three primary stages : 1> BOH Food Waste, 2> Front-of-the-House (FOH) Food Waste, and 3> Destinations for Excess and Wasted Food. Within stage one, there are seven initial steps centered on calculating an operation's BOH food-waste baseline for two-consecutive three-month periods.

Image courtesy of WebstaurantStore
Determining the waste baseline is the initial step in developing zero-waste programs. Beyond establishing the current scenario for metrics tracking, the baseline calculation reveals the type of waste generated. Once waste is identified, the next step is creating a reduction plan.

In April Chris will host a second webinar with FWC participants where the BOH Food-Waste Toolkit is introduced. Additionally, ample time is planned for participants to share their challenges, lessons learned, and successes.

As the first FWC participant, Chef Winson Collarte and his crew at L'Apera Café & Restaurant in Saudi Arabia understand the chefs' responsibility for creating a waste-free food system. In Chef Winson's words,"We chefs are responsible for food-supply sustainability as practitioners of our passion and citizens of this planet." Enthusiastic about the food-waste reduction impact at his restaurant, Chef Winson filmed a two-minute plus video on the importance of the FWC.

Feed the Planet: Making a Global Impact
Feed the Planet is a WorldChefs initiative designed to inspire sustainable food consumption among communities and professionals. In addition, Feed the Planet supports people in need through emergency relief, food-poverty alleviation, and education. Founded in 2012, Feed the Planet is powered in partnership with Electrolux and AIESEC, an international, apolitical, independent and not-for-profit organization, run by students and recent graduates eager to build positive social change.

As Feed the Planet Chair, Chris shares the magnitude of the WorldChefs' initiative:
"The Feed the Planet Committee of WorldChefs focuses on sustainability from a planet, foodservice, and humanitarian level. It is really important work and I am very proud of what we are accomplishing. We teach chefs and culinary students around the world about sustainability and how to cook with the planet in mind. We give the disenfranchised an opportunity to enter the foodservice world as an economic means of improving lives through our better future initiatives in many countries. We challenge chefs with our Food Waste Challenge and ask them to make an impact by teaching school kids about food waste. We do not do this alone though. We have wonderful partners like Electrolux, AIESEC, and of course Elemental Impact and the great work that Holly is doing.  Together, we can craft a better future!"
In addition to the FWC, the below copy from its inaugural Feed the Planet newsletter showcases the following important programs:

Food Heroes Challenge
The Food Heroes Challenge is a chef-driven education project for kids. Using a toolkit developed through the UNICEF sustainability initiative World’s Largest Lesson and our friends at Electrolux Food Foundation and AIESEC, chefs teach a classroom in their local community sustainable eating habits.

Sustainability Education for Culinary Professionals
Sustainability Education for Culinary Professionals is a free curriculum for culinary schools, teaching chefs how to act sustainably for the planet and improved profitably in the kitchen. Since 2016, 15 schools and organizations in 12 countries have brought this curriculum to their students. Special thanks to Humber College in Canada, our longest running school, and a special shout out to the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Jordan, our fastest growing, with 154 students graduating from the curriculum since 2017

Education for Employment
Education for Employment, benefiting those in need of economic opportunity, provides a completely free, 2-month training module to give students the skills to they need enter the foodservice world. So far, 84 students have graduated in 2 cities in Brazil and Moscow. 12 of our students found jobs immediately after graduation. We are preparing to launch additional programs in Brazil, Egypt, Argentina, and Sweden in this year alone. Special congratulations to our most active learning centres: Curitiba, Brazil, now training its 5th class of students, and Sao Carlos, Brazil, whose 3rd wave will graduate at the end of this year.

In a mere seven years, Feed the Planet moved from a concept to a powerful WorldChefs' initiative with tremendous global impact. Feed the Planet makes the world a better place on many levels and dimensions.

About The World Association of Chefs’ Societies:

Founded in 1928 in Paris, The World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WorldChefs) is a dynamic global network of over 100 chefs associations representing the spectrum of chefs across the myriad of levels and specialties. The venerable August Escoffier served as first Honorary President.

In alignment with its mission, WorldChefs creates impact within four key areas: education, networking, competition, and humanitarian & sustainability. Within the humanitarian & sustainability focus area, Feed the Planet and World Chefs Without Borders programs relieve food poverty, deliver crisis support, and promote sustainability across the globe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Three Steps to Straw Integrity

In 2015, Elemental Impact (Ei) introduced the Micro Cost of Macro Contamination (MCMC) platform at the National Zero Waste Business Conference hosted in Austin, Texas in a prominent, well-attended Ei Hosted Panel by the same name. The conference panel focus was to educate on Microplastics: an unseen & deadly poison.

Microplastics enter the human-food system
At the time, the revelation of the prolific plastic invasion into the Earth's waterways and oceans was in its infancy. Scientists were beginning to understand how microplastics created a "plastic smog" within the oceans that infiltrates the sea-life and human-food systems. By definition, microplastics are particles smaller than five millimetres.

3-month fish with 17 pieces
of plastic in stomach
Image courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute
Aquatic life consumes fragmented plastic; larger pieces remain within the digestive tract while smaller ones integrate within the flesh. Thus, plastic enters the human-food system!

Plastic smog clean-up is challenging to impossible due to the microscopic size of the plastic.

Microplastics violate the Earth’s time-perfected regeneration system. Fragmentation, biodegradability and compostability are the foundation of the Earth’s regeneration system:
  • Fragmentation – first step in the bio-degradation process, in which organic matter is broken down into microscopic fragments.
  • Biodegradability – complete microbial assimilation of the fragmented product as a food source by the soil & water microorganisms.
  • Compostability – complete assimilation within 180 days in an industrial compost environment.
Note the difference between biodegradability and compostibility is TIME. By definition, material decomposes within 180 days while bio-degradation may take as long as millions of years.

Microplastics in the soils
Beyond the waterways and oceans, soils are also contaminated with microplastics. Per the EcoCycle | Wood’s End 2011 Study, Should Plastic Coated Materials be Allowed in Materials Collected for Composting?:
“This study showed conclusively that micro-plastic fragments were shred from all plastic-coated samples, whether single or double-coated. This means any plastic-coated paper product, even those that are partially screened out during the composting process, is contaminating the finished compost with plastics particles.”
Macro photo of microplastics
Image courtesy of Mark Browne
In his January 2019 ABC News article, Scientists say microplastics are all over farmlands, but we're ignoring the problem, author Jon Daly substantiates how plastics find their way into agricultural soils through recycled wastewater and rubbish. Within the rubbish is a significant amount of single-use food and beverage packaging; the vast majority of the packaging is either plastic-coated or 100% plastic. Plastic straws are a prevalent contributor to microplastics in the waterways, oceans, and soils.

The article key points are:
  • Between 107,000-730,000 tonnes of microplastic are added to European and North American farmlands each year.
  • In 2017, Australia produced 327,000 tonnes of dry biosolids containing microplastics and 75 percent of it was used in agriculture.
  • Researchers say there is a lack of public awareness and scientific understanding of the issue.
One Less Straw
Carter & Olivia Ries
In November 2016, Ei Strategic Ally One More Generation (OMG) founders Olivia Ries (then 14-years old) and her brother Carter (then 16-years old) launched their global OneLessStraw (OLS) Pledge Campaign. OLS educates the public about the dangers of single-use plastic straws and its effects on our health, our environment, and our oceans.

The OLS site details the following disturbing facts:
  • Each year 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic.
  • Every day we use 500,000,000 plastic straws. That’s enough straws to fill 46,400 large school buses PER YEAR!
  • U.S. Consumption is equal to enough plastic straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times a day!
A HUGE success, OLS boasts almost 800 partners, restaurants, and schools around the globe. Prominent partners include Delta Air Lines, Hilton Hotels (650 properties), Red Lobster Restaurants (700 restaurants), and TED's Montana Grill (47 restaurants).

OLS participants may order complimentary "We only serve straws upon request" buttons for servers to wear. To date, OLS has distributed over 47,000 buttons!

OLS button
OMG | OLS global recognition is astounding. In 2017 Carter presented to the United Nations congregation in New York City in a World Wildlife Day session on the importance of saving endangered species. Carter and Olivia were keynote speakers during the September 2018 G7 Environment, Energy and Ocean Ministers Ocean Summit session hosted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

In early 2019 OMG received the Energy Globe Award for the Youth category from over 6000-project entries from more than 178 countries. Televised globally, the award ceremony was hosted in Iran. The Energy Globe World Award Video was prepared by event organizers as an OLS overview.

Three-Step Straw Initiative
With the June 2019 end of the Ei Recycling Refinement Era, Ei's focus shifted to the Soil Health | Regenerative Agriculture and Water Use | Toxicity platforms within the Ei Era of Regeneration. The 2015 introduction of the MCMC served as a catalyst for the Soil Health | Regenerative Agriculture platform formation. 

As plastic-straw usage reduction gains high-profile media attention, Ei partnered with OMG | OLS for the Three Step Straw Initiative (TSSI) with a planned early summer launch. Beyond plastic-straw usage reduction, TSSI addresses the straw content and end of life and aligns with Ei Era of Regeneration platforms.

The TSSI includes the following steps:
Step 1- REDUCE straw usage 
Step 2SHIFT to paper straws 
Step 3COMPOST used straws 

OMG will encourage OLS participants to further decrease their straw-usage impact by joining the TSSI and shifting from plastic to paper straws. If there is food-waste collection for compost available, OLS participants are encouraged to engage in food-waste collection. Thus, the paper straws contribute to local, quality compost versus another material filling up the landfills or worse the waterways.

Ei-recruited participants are required to take the OLS pledge as their first TSSI step.

With perfect timing, Green Planet Straws joined the Ei Partner program to support the TSSL shift from plastic to paper straws. OLS participants proved that serving straws only upon request reduces overall straw consumption by 70 - 75%. Thus, the shift to paper straws is essentially cost-neutral as the usage reduction compensates for the higher paper-straw cost.

The TSSI is a perfect avenue for former Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) participants to take their sustainability commitment to the next level. For ZWZ participants, Step 3 - COMPOST is already in place. Thus, cost-neutral Steps 1 & 2 are an easy-to-implement endeavor.

Though they are a relatively minor portion of the plastic-pollution crisis, plastic straw daily and annual usage represents significant pollution tonnage. Straws are high profile and an "easy-win" in the steps towards eliminating single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. The Three-Step Straw Initiative brings "straw integrity" to the hospitality industry.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Zero Waste Zones Launch Ten-Year Anniversary

Ten years ago today the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launched at the acclaimed press conference hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and lead by Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4. The ZWZ propelled Atlanta into the global spotlight as THE forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost.

... in the beginning
The ZWZ adventure began in the summer of 2008 when Atlanta lost a convention to another city as the client perceived the other city “greener.” A convention-driven city, Atlanta was ready to embrace “green practices” in the downtown hospitality and entertainment district where businesses pledged to implement zero-waste initiatives.

Working in collaboration with Atlanta Recycles, the Georgia Recycling Coalition, the Sustainability Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the ZWZ Criteria was developed, participants recruited, and the ZWZ-Downtown Atlanta launched.

Laura speaking at the ZWZ
launch press conference
Officially launched as a Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) program in partnership with Atlanta Recycles, the ZWZ brought together diverse segments of Atlanta's business community as well as local, state and national government entities. Captain Planet Foundation Chair Laura Turner Seydel served as the ZWZ Chair.

The GFA operated under the auspices of the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA), the state affiliate of the National Restaurant Association. Holly Elmore served as the GFA Founder and Executive Director.

Founding ZWZ Participants - the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Olympic Centennial Park, Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca-Cola, Ted's Montana Grill, Hyatt Regency, Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, and the Marriott Marquis - pledged to implement and maintain the following criteria:
  • Spent grease collection for the production of bio-fuel.
  • Common recyclables (cardboard, paper, glass, plastic and metals) collection for recycling.
  • Excess food donation in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
  • Food residuals from preparation | service and excess food not compliant with the Food Donation Act collection for composting or other state-permitted destinations.
The formal ZWZ definition: a collective gathering of community working together on changing current disposal methods of consumed products. The ZWZ goal was to divert the maximum amount of recyclable items and organic matter from landfills and back into the production cycle.

The foodservice industry, the second largest private-sector industry, served as a catalyst for change in standard corporate operating practices. Government, non-profits, trade associations, and private enterprise stakeholders developed an ACTION plan that made good business sense for the entire value chain, including the community and the environment. A ZWZ motto exemplified the power of teamwork:
Collaboration is key for success.

The Zones
A zone was a defined geographic area or a foodservice category with unique characteristics impacting ZWZ Criteria. Territory zones partnered with a local business association and mirrored the association’s district; territory zones created route density for ZWZ suppliers. A category zone example was Off-Premises Caterers where food is transported to an off-site location.

ZWZ-Buckhead Launch Team
By the end of 2009, the Atlanta business community embraced the ZWZ with additional zones established in Midtown, Buckhead, and for Off-Premises Caterers. ZWZ participation made good business sense and improved bottom lines from cost-savings and revenue generation. 

Once a participant focused on food waste generated in operations, across the board, food cost was reduced due to waste reduction. The ZWZ educated on the legal protection provided by the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and was instrumental in significantly increasing food donations from Atlanta's hospitality community.

It was empowering to witness the collaboration among otherwise competitors as ZWZ Participants navigated the establishment of sustainable best industry practices. As an example, the Hyatt Regency Director of Engineering Randy Childers invited his fellow downtown hotel counterparts for a back-of-the-house tour and food-waste collection for compost demonstration. 
Later Randy sent the following unsolicited ZWZ endorsement: 
“Thank you for how easy you made it for us to accomplish some of the most challenging of our remaining sustainability goals.  I can’t express how beneficial this was in accelerating our ability to meet not just your challenge, but to address a serious need in the community and our internal goal of finding a productive, sustainable use for our food waste.  Your support for our recycling efforts and the recognition we have received through our mutual efforts, are very much appreciated.  Thanks for paving the way.”
Doubletree ribbon-cutting
In Buckhead, the Doubletree Atlanta-Buckhead General Manager Dave Rossman took a leadership role in launching and growing the ZWZ-Buckhead. With fewer trash compactor pulls due to less waste and no foul odors from decomposing food, the Doubletree found an easy-to-implement, cost-saving solution for their food waste dilemma. In addition, Dave held a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the former trash compactor was converted to a recycling compactor; a dumpster was now adequate to handle waste generated at the hotel.

Fifth Group Partner Steve Simon championed the ZWZ-Midtown launch at Ecco. Thanks to the Midtown Alliance's strong support, office building management attended the launch. A true trailblazer, Steve implemented food-waste collection for compost practices at all Fifth Group restaurants where leases permitted the practice. Subsequently, new restaurant-lease negotiations included provisions for property-management support of food-waste collection for compost.

... and as quoted by Steve, ECCO was Atlanta's first dumpster-free restaurant,
“Before the Zero Waste Zones we had an 8-yard dumpster that was pulled three times per week. Our trash is now viewed as a raw material and collected by either a recycling or composting company. By following the ZWZ Criteria, ECCO no longer requires a dumpster. We are excited to be Atlanta’s first dumpster-free restaurant!
Chef Ahmad at Affairs
demonstrating practices in place
For the ZWZ-Off-Premises Catering Champion Patrick Cuccaro, Affairs to Remember General Manager, ZWZ participation represented a branding opportunity as Atlanta's Greenest Caterer and proved a strong revenue generator. In Patrick's words:
“The ZWZ program is a financial winner for our company.  It differentiates us, and in the realm of luxury catering where exciting food is increasingly a commodity, differentiation is what it’s about. We have already experienced well over $100,000 in sales made almost exclusively because we are a responsible caterer who “walks the talk” of sustainable practices.
When you compare what we paid our waste hauler to come out and unload the huge bins six times a week, versus what we pay them to come out twice per week now and collect one half bin – plus what we pay to remove organics for composting – we’re saving 10%.  It’s very significant.
Affairs to Remember now composts, recycles and donates food to a local mission, diverting 83% of our assets away from the landfill. In just two years, we have diverted a total of 100 tons from the landfill and found we save money in the process.”
Awards and Accolades
Holly during CNN interview
The national media loved the ZWZ! Within months of the launch press conference the ZWZ were featured in a CNN Story, City Aims for Zero Waste. The story was featured on CNN's home page and aired during prime-time viewing in national and global markets. In the fall, the New York Times published the Nudging Recycling from Less Waste to None front-page article featuring the ZWZ.

At the 2009 GRACE - GRA Crystal of Excellence - Awards, Holly received the Innovator of the Year Award for the ZWZ formation and successes.

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 RiA Magazine article, ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill!, announces Affairs to Remember Day and showcases Affair's stellar sustainability commitment.

In February 2010, Elemental Impact (Ei) was formed as the new home for the ZWZ. The Ei Speaking Engagement page details the plethora of conferences and other speaking engagements featuring the ZWZ along with accompanying PPT presentations.

National Restaurant Association (NRA)
At the ZWZ Two-Year Anniversary Press Conference, the NRA announced a national collaboration between the Ei | ZWZ and the NRA Conserve Program. At the podium, Scott DeFife, NRA Executive Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, announced the collaboration with the following statement,
Atlanta’s Zero Waste Zones program has been incredibly successful, and we are now looking to expand that success to communities nationwide. Sustainability is imperative to our industry, other business communities, and the general public. Working with Elemental Impact, we are bringing industry stakeholders together to enable our members to establish - and succeed in reaching - waste diversion and resource recovery goals.
Two-Yr ZWZ Press Conferrence
In late September 2012, the NRA acquired the ZWZ program with intentions to expand the program nationally within the state-restaurant-association network. It was exciting news as the program could evolve and increase its impact within the depth of the NRA's educational, training and policy resources. The RiA Magazine article, National Restaurant Association Acquires the Zero Waste Zones, gives additional details on the monumental purchase.

Post-ZWZ purchase, Ei continued resource-recovery work within the powerful Sustainable Food Court Initiative with a focus on post-consumer food waste, plastic-film recycling, source-separated materials recycling and more. In June 2017, Ei announced the end of the Era of Recycling Refinement (RR) and embarked on the Era of Regeneration.

The 2009 ZWZ launch is at the foundation of Ei's formation and subsequent successes. Though Ei's current work is focused on Soil Health | Regenerative Agriculture and Water Use | Toxicity, the long-term industry connections made and the global respect earned remain strong, empowering. and impactful.