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Monday, February 19, 2018

Regeneration in ACTION!

Since inception Elemental Impact (Ei) lived the tagline Sustainability in ACTION! Working with a powerful team of Ei Pioneers and Ei Industry Experts, Ei evolved into a respected national non-profit known for introducing sustainable best practices within a range of industries.

Beginning with the Zero Waste Zones, Ei initiatives epitomized the following mantra:
Ei is a creator, an incubator. 
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. 
Ei brings the possible out of impossible. 
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.
As documented in The IMPACT Blog, Happy 8th Birthday, Ei!,  2017 was the Year of Shifting Gears. In 2017 Ei announced Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, was a prime focus, replacing the prominent Recycling Refinement (RR) work. In addition, Ei Leadership experienced a changing of the guard and Ei welcomed new Strategic Allies.

The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, recounts how Ei RR work was complete within the above mantra parameters, yet serves as the foundation for Soil Health initiatives.

For documentation of Ei's RR era, visit the Milestone's page for a monthly listing of profound action within the Ei journey dating back to pre-inception; the Mission Accomplished page lists Ei endeavors with achieved goals and considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished!

With gears shifted, the time arrived to assess the use of "sustainability" in the Ei tagline.

Beyond Circles: the Spiral
Ei Founder Holly Elmore never aligned with the terms: closing the loop, circular economy and any other nomenclature referring to a circle. The concept of a circle implies a process always returns to its starting point in the same structure as it began.

Grass naturally
curls in spirals
Innately, Holly understood natural cycles align with Fibonacci Sequence geometries. The Fibonacci Sequence is derived by adding a number with its predecessor to arrive at the successor number: 0,1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ... in perpetuity. According to
Fibonacci numbers and Phi are related to spiral growth in nature.  If you sum the squares of any series of Fibonacci numbers, they will equal the last Fibonacci number used in the series times the next Fibonacci number.  This property results in the Fibonacci spiral, based on the following progression and properties of the Fibonacci series:
12 + 12 + 22 + 32 + 52 = 5 x 8 
A Golden spiral is very similar to the Fibonacci spiral but is based on a series of identically proportioned golden rectangles, each having a golden ratio of 1.618 of the length of the long side to that of the short side of the rectangle:
The Fibonacci spiral gets closer and closer to a Golden Spiral as it increases in size because of the ratio of each number in the Fibonacci series to the one before it converges on Phi, 1.618, as the series progresses (e.g., 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13 produce ratios of 1, 2, 1.5, 1.67, 1.6 and 1.625, respectively.)
As stated by the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies Chairman of the Board George Dvorsky: The famous Fibonacci sequence has captivated mathematicians, artists, designers, and scientists for centuries. Also known as the Golden Ratio, its ubiquity and astounding functionality in nature suggest its importance as a fundamental characteristic of the Universe.

Flowers blooming within a spiral
In his 15 Uncanny Examples of the Golden Ratio in Nature article, George lists a range of the Golden Ratio in Nature examples along with supporting details: 1> flower petals, 2> seed heads, 3> pine cones, 4> fruits & vegetables, 5> tree branches, 6> shells, 7> spiral galaxies, 8> hurricanes, 9> faces, 10> fingers, 11> animal bodies, 12> reproductive dynamics, 13> animal fight patterns, 14> uterus, and 15> DNA molecules.

In 2012 the ZWA Blog articles, Perpetual Life Cycle System - simplicity is key and The Perpetual Spiral, the evolution from a zero waste focus to nature's no waste systems is introduced as an Ei platform. Here are several quotes from the articles:
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. 
Remember death is always followed by birth - we are in the process of birthing a civilization where technology-based solutions mirror nature's perfect regeneration processes. 
Beyond Sustainability, Beyond Resilience: Regeneration 
Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon | water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue to melt, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

Beginning with the above paragraph, the ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, articulates the pending oxygen deficiency and food crisis substantiated with prominent scientific research. The article questions whether the established sustainability movement and the new resilience focus are enough to reverse the out-of-balance carbon cycles causing the pending crisis.

To avoid a doom and gloom perspective, it is important to simplify the scenario and discover regenerative solutions. Beyond sustainability and resilience, regeneration focuses on rebuilding and restoring nature's perfect system.

Finian with the Ga Tech team
During his recent Atlanta visit, Ei Strategic Ally Kiss the Ground (KTG) Co-Founder Finian Makepeace joined the Ei Team for a whirlwind day of empowering meetings focused on regenerative solutions. In the first meeting with Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) Director of Solid Waste & Recycling Cindy Jackson and Ga Tech Director of Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide, Finian was impressed with the amazing regenerative grounds maintenance practices in place.

As the meeting closed, the theme for the day emerged: water infiltration rates. The Ei Team pledged to work with Ga Tech on increasing water infiltration rates at their urban campus. In urban settings, impervious surfaces coupled with compacted soils result in common stormwater runoff vs. rainwater replenishing the soils and underground aquifers. Most often stormwater runoff collects significant pollutants from roadways and gutters before flowing into the sewer system.

The next meeting was at the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI) Convention Center Pilot, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. SFI Chair Tim Trefzer, GWCCA director of sustainability, and GWCCA  Landscape Manager Steve Ware met with the Ei Team. It was empowering to learn specifics on the redesign of Olympic Centennial Park, a 20-acre park located in Atlanta's downtown convention & entertainment district.

Steve educated on the challenges inherent within employing regenerative landscape practices at the nation's fourth-largest convention center (and world's largest LEED-certified convention center!) Much of the landscaped common areas are built on top of the nine-floor main parking deck. Thus, well-structured soil infiltrated with ample water exceeds safe weight limits for the areas.

Closing meeting conversation centered around increasing water filtration rates at Olympic Centennial Park and landscaped areas located on solid ground.

Nancy & Finian with SF&G copies
Next Holly and Finian met with Southern Farm & Garden (SF&G) Publisher Nancy Suttles. The fall SF&G issue featured a seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems; the articles give an overview of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) stellar sustainability commitment at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality, The Commons (KSU’s Gold LEED-certified dining hall), and Hickory Grove Farm. Holly provided the copy and photographs for the publication feature.

As a result of the meeting, KTG and SF&G are co-promotional partners with KTG providing SF&G content on regenerative agriculture along with examples of successful farms. In return, KTG promotes SF&G in their powerful social media networks.

The final meeting was at the SFI - Atlanta Airport to learn about work-in-progress on Finding the Flint, an underdevelopment multi-faceted project to restore the Flint River headwaters.  At the meeting, ATL Senior Sustainability Planner Polly Sattler educated the Ei Team on the Flint River scenario and the Finding the Flint status.

Polly educating the Ei Team
on the Flint River
The Flint River headwaters are a series of springs and tributaries meeting to form the Flint River near
the Atlanta Airport; the river then flows underneath the airport runways. A significant portion of the headwaters is covered with building structure | pavement or flows through drainage ditches.

With 220 miles of unimpeded flow through Georgia, the Flint River is one of only 40 rivers in the U.S. that flows more than 200 river miles unimpeded. In 2009 and 2013, American Rivers listed the Flint River as one of the most endangered rivers in America.

Through the SFI-ATL, the Ei Team will find a perfect niche within Finding the Flint projects that supports the Atlanta Airport and the Ei Soil Health platform.

Regeneration in ACTION
The following day, Finian was the lead panelist on the Ei-Hosted panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, at the U.S. Composting Council Conference hosted in Atlanta. In his excellent A New View presentation, Finian introduced the Degenerative → Sustainable → Regenerative model.

When early humans moved from their hunter | gatherer lifestyle to communal living with domesticated plants and animals, humanity entered the degenerative era. The ground was cleared of trees and other plants and then tilled for gardens and small farms with no regard for the destroyed soil ecosystems.

The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, explains how traditional agriculture methods are a root cause of the current carbon crisis and mass desertification underway around the globe. Thus, the symbol for the degenerative era is a downward facing arrow.

Within the sustainability movement, used materials are returned back to their original state or a renewed purpose. Though admirable, sustainability goals are to stop the destruction yet do not focus on restoring soils and resources lost within the degenerative era. In addition, sustainability is merely a movement without broad acceptance across cultures; the majority of humans remain within the degenerative era, further diminishing the Earth's limited resources. Thus, the sustainable symbol for is the recycling circle of connecting arrows.

Aligning with perfected natural cycles and systems, regeneration heals damaged soils by supporting the underground ecosystems. KTG's The Soil Story introduces regenerative agriculture | landscape practices as a solution for restoring soil ecosystems. Healthy, alive soil nurtures plants with strong, deep root systems; the plants "pump" carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. In addition, healthy plants grown in alive soil produce abundant, nutritious food.

Once the atmospheric carbon reduces to a certain threshold, the oceans will release carbon into the atmosphere, reversing ocean acidification. Thus, marine plant life once again thrives, generating ample oxygen into the atmosphere. Soil regeneration addresses the food | desertification and oxygen components of the pending crisis. The symbol for regeneration is a spiral with an upward facing arrow at the top.

Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils panel PPT presentations are available on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels website page.

The time is NOW to move beyond sustainability | resilience and embrace regenerative solutions that return the carbon cycles to a healthy, balanced state. The food and oxygen crisis is real and grounded in solid scientific research. Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems.

... and Ei's new tagline is Regeneration in ACTION!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ei Announces the Sustainable Facilities Initiative

In 2009 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) were launched as the nation's pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for composting. Under the ZWZ program participants perfected the best practices for back-of-the-house prep waste collection and shared their lessons learned, challenges and successes with their industry colleagues.

The Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) was launched in 2011 to address the zero waste challenges associated food courts and post-consumer food waste. When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in late 2012, the SFCI emerged as Elemental Impact's central Recycling Refinement focus through 2016.

Industry Milestones
Compostable Packaging
In general, a successful front-of-the-house post-consumer food waste collection program requires the use of BPI Certified compostable food & beverage packaging or reusable service ware.

With impeccable timing, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport Pilot was in the midst of the concessionaire RFP for the entire airport when the SFI launched in 2011. The City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability and Department of Aviation team, led by Michael Cheyne, Director of Asset Management & Sustainability for the Airport, made the bold, courageous and successful move to include the following provision in the RFP and subsequent concessionaire contract:
“Concessionaire shall use compostable service ware along with consumer-facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off-airport composting facilities.”
The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold  Sustainable Statement, announces the compostable packaging contract provision. With Ei Strategic Ally Institute for Local Self-Reliance Co-Director Brenda Platt taking the lead, the SFCI Team crafted the Compostable Packaging Info Packet to educate concessionaires on the contract provision; the ZWA Blog article, Exemptions | Exclusions Added to Atlanta Airport Info Packetis an overview of updates for exempted | excluded items to the Info Packet. The document is available for download on the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet website page.

In October 2011, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport received the Going Green Airport Award at the fourth Annual Going Green Airports Conference hosted in Chicago. The prestigious award recognized the value of the project, as well as outstanding leadership in pursuit of sustainability within the aviation industry.

Plastic Film Recycling
Around 2011 the garment industry shifted from bulk packaging for retail shipments to individual plastic film-wrapped garments; the packaging shift was a response to the explosion of internet sales. Shopping malls witnessed a dramatic increase in tenant plastic film waste, increasing their waste-hauling charges.

SFCI Team with first
plastic film bales at Concord Mills
Yet plastic film is a valuable commodity with recycling rebates often matching or exceeding OCC (old corrugated cardboard). Large commercial generators source-separate plastic film and sell the standard-sized bales weighing 700 - 1000 pounds in the commodities market. Thus, plastic film is a strong contributor to their recycling profit centers.

In 2012 SFCI - Concord Mills (CM), a Simon mall in Charlotte, NC, crafted the nation's first shopping mall plastic film recycling program. The SFCI Team, including Mecklenburg County Government, worked closely with CM General Manager Roy Soporowski on developing the successful program. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announces the mall's plastic film recycling program.

Shortly thereafter, SouthPark Mall, a sister Simon mall in Charlotte, replicated the CM plastic film recycling template, modified for their mall logistics.

The Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls prepared by Ei on behalf of the Wrap Recycling Action Program, an American Chemistry Council Plastic Film Recycling Group program, was officially released at the 2016 Annual Ei Partner Meeting. The ZWA Blog article, Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls, announces the case study release along with an overview of the plastic film recycling program development.

For additional SFCI history and accomplishments, visit the SFCI - Accomplished website page.

Shifting Gears
In 2017 Ei shifted gears within humanity's environmental impact spiral. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life.

KSU Hickory Grove Farm
regenerative ag in action
Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils' direct relationship with the carbon crisis, out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, stormwater management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the microplastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are:

In addition, the Water Use | Toxicity platform plays a strong supporting role.

Simultaneous with the Soil Health platform announcement, Ei work related to Recycling Refinement, including zero waste, food waste, plastic film recycling and other materials-oriented areas, was moved to the Ei Mission Accomplished! website section. Recycling Refinement expertise is available via Ei Founder Holly Elmore's private consulting practice at

Sustainable Facilities Initiative 
In alignment with the new Ei focus, the SFCI evolved into the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI). Georgia World Center Authority Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the SFI Chair. The ZWA Blog article, Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team, announces Past SFCI Chairs Doug Kunnemann and Scott Seydel passing the leadership baton to Tim.

SFI Chair Tim Trefzer @
KSU Hickory Grove Farm
Meetings are in process with the SFCI Pilot executives to discuss the segue to a SFI Pilot. In addition, Tim & Holly are meeting with new potential pilots

The SFI Pilots represent facilities within various industry segments. SFI Pilots agree to the following parameters:
  • Pioneer - pilots serve as industry pioneers and assess each SFI platform for implementation within their operations. 
  • Industry Leader - once best practices are established within a platform, the pilot managers share with their industry colleagues.
  • Strategist - pilot managers work closely with the SFI Team to strategize on expanding platform impact and/or developing new platforms.
The SFI Pilot focus areas align with the overall Ei Platforms:

Soil Health:
Within Soil Health, pilots address the following focus areas:
  • Regenerative landscape practices
  • Water infiltration rates
  • Native vegetation
  • Pollinator habitat gardens or other support for pollinators
  • Food waste compost from foodservice operations used within grounds maintenance
  • On-site urban agriculture or partner with a hyper-local farm for food used in campus foodservice operations

Water Use | Toxicity:
Within Water Use | Toxicity, pilots address the following focus areas:
Utilizing the strong SFCI foundation, the Sustainable Facilities Initiative is staged for tremendous impact within the Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms and beyond. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Redefining WASTE: impact of common landscape & grounds maintenance practices on urban wildlife

Over the past decade, zero waste grew from a grassroots movement to a buzz word to a common term for reducing waste across the spectrum of commercial, government and private facilities. Traditionally, zero waste referred to materials used within daily operations and lifestyles.

The U.S Green Building Council Total Resource Use & Efficiency (TRUE) Certification takes a strong step in redefining waste within the point-based program. Point achievement goes beyond the facility's physical structure and materials used on-site; TRUE addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment. 

Within its holistic protocol, TRUE takes impressive steps to redefine the zero waste industry with points related to grounds maintenance, cleaning practices, and supply chain management. The ZWA Blog article, TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy, is an overview of the zero waste certification program.

Tidy gardens = wasteful gardens
Pupal cases within two
fallen leaves
It is time to further redefine zero waste by addressing the impact on urban wildlife, especially pollinators, songbirds and other small creatures. From an urban wildlife and flora perspective, common landscape and grounds maintenance practices are filled with unnecessary waste. The concept of neat, well-groomed lawns and greenways is detrimental to urban lifecycles.

Raking (or blowing) leaves for transport to compost, landfills or incineration is wasteful on many levels. Beyond nutrition for its parent tree or bush, leaves provide winter homes for larval insects and shelter for organisms who nestle into the soil for the dormant months. By removing the leaves, humans disrupt Nature's perfected, intertwined lifecycles between invertebrates, insects, birds and larger prey species. Removing leaves wastes food & shelter designed for winter survival and spring's rebirth.

... and labor is required to aggregate the leaves and haul them off the property. Thus, the property owner (or manager) wastes costly labor via a disruptive task. When gas-powered blowers are used in the removal of leaves, energy is wasted coupled with contributions to Green House Gases (GHG).

Nesting material from a seed pod
A common landscape practice is to remove plants once they enter the dormant stage. Yet dormant plants generally are filled with winter food for non-migratory birds, insects, and other small creatures. When opened, remaining plant pods reveal abundant seeds and often fluffy material perfect for nest building.

Nature loves diversity
According to the Times Magazine April 2015 article, You Asked: Are the Honeybees Still Disappearing?, crops, manicured lawns and fields barren of pollen sources now replace the once abundant meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers. Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College explains, “Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers. A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly.”

Most manicured lawns are comprised of a single grass species, often not native to the area, and mowed prior to seeding. Volunteer grass and flowering plant species are considered weeds and eradicated via hand pulling or other weed | pest control methods.

Suburban manicured lawn
photo credit:
Moscarino Outdoor Creations
Many communities, whether at-large or a subdivision, establish by-laws stipulating lawn care including a single-grass species cut to a specified height. Though considered beautiful by common cultural perception, most "well-kept" neighborhood lawns are poisonous green deserts for urban wildlife. 

As reported in the Huff Post August 2015 post, The American Lawn Is Now The Largest Single ‘Crop’ In The U.S., a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there are an estimated 63,000 square miles of lawn in America — about the size of Texas. Maintaining a well-manicured lawn uses up to 900 liters of water per person per day and reduces carbon sequestration effectiveness by up to 35 percent; emissions from fertilization and the gas or electric-powered mowing equipment reduce the carbon sequestration effectiveness.

Manicured lawns are an expense for the property owner and contribute to GHG, as most lawns are cut with gas-powered mowers. From an urban wildlife perspective, modern lawns are wasteful. By their nature, lawns preclude food production in the form of flowers, fruits and seeds, shelter for nest building, and the necessary ingredients for healthy soils.

A healthy garden is a diverse garden
Robust soils require diverse root systems, invertebrates, microbial communities and fungi that feed optimum nutrients to the plants. Through the photosynthetic process, plants sequester carbon into their roots, stems & leaves and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Well-nourished plants and their subsequent decomposition are integral to the soil regeneration process and restoring balance to the carbon cycles. 

The ZWA Blog articles, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance and Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, introduce the out-of-balance carbon cycles along with soil regeneration as a viable, immediate solution.

Weeds, or NOT
Enacted in 1975, the Federal Noxious Weed Act established a Federal program to control the spread of noxious weeds. Per the Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
"The Secretary of Agriculture was given the authority to designate plants as noxious weeds by regulation, and the movement of all such weeds in interstate or foreign commerce was prohibited except under permit. The Secretary was also given authority to inspect, seize and destroy products, and to quarantine areas, if necessary to prevent the spread of such weeds. He was also authorized to cooperate with other Federal, State and local agencies, farmers associations and private individuals in measures to control, eradicate, or prevent or retard the spread of such weeds."
Honeybee working milkweed
By 2001, the common milkweed was classified as a noxious weed in 35 states. As described in My Altona Forest's April 2014 post, Monarchs and Milkweed – The Precarious Cycle: "There is a symbiotic relationship between the native milkweed plants and the monarch. The monarch butterflies enjoy the nectar from the flowers and help pollinate the plants. The successful pollination allows the milkweed to thrive and thus provide more nurseries for the crucial ‘fourth generation’ of monarchs. Unfortunately, there are no substitutes for where monarchs can lay their eggs."

Pursuant to The New York Times November 2014 article, For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back
"Less than 20 years ago, a billion butterflies from east of the Rocky Mountains reached the oyamel firs, and more than a million western monarchs migrated to the California coast to winter among its firs and eucalypts. Since then, the numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent, hitting a record low in Mexico last year after a three-year tailspin."
Through research and action plans, a multitude of national and local organizations work diligently to reverse the impact of wasteful practices, such as eradicating native plants like the milkweed. Pollinator habitat gardens, often accompanying community gardens, are an example of effective programs in the implementation phase.

Pollinator Habitat Gardens
The fleabane "weed" was filled
with happy pollinators
In her November 2016 Wild Habitats article, More than Just a Pollinator Garden, Tara Mitchell compares the Pollinator Garden effort with the Victory Gardens promoted by the government during World War I and II. While the Victory Gardens were intended to address human food shortages, Pollinator Garden goals are to provide sufficient food (nectar and pollen) to reverse the decline of pollinators, bees in particular, and to provide habitat (milkweed) for monarch butterflies.

Diversity is essential to an effective pollinator garden. Many pollinators are attracted to a single plant species (monarch butterflies) or are limited by their mouth structure to a certain size/shape of a flower. Clusters (or drifts) of flower type within the garden make it easier for insects to pollinate the plants.

On his popular The Pollinator Garden site, Marc Colton gives the following advice:
"Flowers evolved with pollinators, not for people, so I approach garden planning from the pollinators' perspective. Insects feed on pollen, nectar or both, and it isn’t just bees, but butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and hoverflies too.
My second principle is to concentrate on flower forms which are close to nature, so no double flowers, complex hybrids or horticultural novelties.
There is evidence that insects have to learn to use each different flower type and shape, and that they prefer large stands of the same species. The honey bee “waggle dance” evolved to pass on information about large stands of suitable flowers."
Grove Park Community Garden,
home to a Pollinators in Parks garden
Pollinator habitat gardens are essentially a garden of any size containing flowering plants designed to attract and feed pollinators as well as provide homes for the next generation. Often pollinator habitat gardens accompany community gardens and contribute to robust crops for local consumption. The gardens are an excellent vehicle for the community to come together and provide benefits beyond food, whether for the pollinators or the gardener.

It is common for local governments, non-profits, foundations and citizen groups to partner for formal programs. Elemental Impact (Ei)'s Strategic Ally Park Pride's Pollinators in Parks program is a prime example of the community coming together to create pollinator gardens in City of Atlanta Parks. 

In February 2017, Park Pride received a $60,000 Home Depot Foundation grant in partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) for a pollinator garden pilot initiative; the pilot purpose was to increase the presence and impact of pollinator gardens in five City of Atlanta Parks.

Grove Park Pollinator Garden as
it enters the dormant stage
The five Pollinators in Parks pilot locations, in neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta proper, are Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Four Corners Park, Gilliam Park, Grove Park, and Welch Street Park.

Requirements for pilot participation included an adjacent community garden along with an established park group designated to plan, develop, and maintain the pollinator habitat garden. For the first year, Park Pride landscape architects and ABG pollinator experts worked closely with the park group on the garden design, building, and planting.

According to Park Pride Visioning Coordinator Teri Nye, “Starting with a planting plan and a ‘menu’ of host and nectar plants ensures that each garden has a seasonal succession of food for our native pollinators during all stages of their lifecycles.” Teri's comment emphasizes the important role gardens play throughout the four seasons. In fact, Park Pride interns designed creative, informative signs for the gardens that illustrate each season's contributions to a healthy ecosystem.

Park Pride winter pollinator sign
In December 2017, Teri hosted Ei Founder Holly Elmore on an educational tour of the Grove Park Pollinator Habitat Garden. It was enlightening to witness first-hand the value within a dormant garden. Holly revisited Grove Park for a photo shoot of the impressive pollinator habitat garden along with the adjacent community garden. In addition, Holly visited the Blue Heron Nature Preserve pollinator habitat garden for several photo shoots. 

The Holly Elmore Images FB album, The Power of Pollinators, is a collection of the garden photo shoots along with commentary.

Captain Planet Foundation (CPF)'s Project Learning Garden (PLG) provides schools with outdoor learning laboratories and is another example of how gardens empower communities. Gardens in the schoolyard are effective outdoor learning spaces for students to engage in inquiry-driven, project-based learning across all disciplines. Pollinator gardens accompany each PLG.

Children planting @ a PLG
photo courtesy of CPF
Supported by an array of corporate sponsors, the CPF PLG provide the following resources to participating schools: gardens & tools, curriculum & kits, mobile cooking cart, professional learning, program support, and a PLG library. K-8 public schools in the following school districts are eligible for PLG: Atlanta metro area districts, Los Angeles districts, and Santa Barbara | Ventura county districts. Schools in other districts and private schools may purchase the PLG for their students.

When a school accepts the PLG grant, the school agrees to: 1) have teachers complete online or in person training; 2) support teachers using the garden as a regular instructional space; 3) file any necessary paperwork through their facilities team for their garden; 4) arrange for a few volunteers to help install the garden; and 5) respond to surveys sent out by CPF from time to time.

CPF developed four ecoSTEM Resource Kits, a perfect tool for educators getting started with project-based learning. The Pollination ecoSTEM Kit includes a classroom set of milkweed seeds for students to take home. When students plant milkweed seeds at home, they create a monarch butterfly corridor or “way station.”

A common thread between Pollinators in Parks and PLG is the support and education provided during garden planning, building and planting. Yet the programs require the school or park group to eventually accept full-garden responsibility. Thus, the programs empower for long-term success.

Redefining WASTE
No matter its flavor, waste is expensive for the generator, the community, and the environment. The Earth's natural resources are limited yet Nature's perfected plan is regenerative with no waste. Thus, unlimited abundance is evident within Nature's cycles.

Healthy scenario: fall leaves left on
the diverse field of grass at Grove Park
It is time for humanity to redefine waste beyond materials and energy expended to include the destructive waste inherent within current systems; common agriculture, landscape, and grounds maintenance practices are examples of systems with destructive waste. It is time for humanity to understand disruptive behavior to natural systems circles back around into a wasteful, costly scenario to the community as well as to local and global ecosystems.

Eventually, the tremendous cost of waste will invoke simple economic laws and demand corrective action. Yet, will the timing be too late to regenerate the Earth's resources and restore balance?

Though the current scenario is daunting and overwhelming, the regeneration movement momentum is strong and filled with hope for an abundant, healthy future. Pioneering organizations like the USGBC, Park Pride and Captain Planet Foundation are at the forefront of redefining waste, social responsibility, and acceptable human behavior.

Author's note: this article serves as the foundation for a series of articles related to redefining waste along with available regenerative solutions. Future articles will expand beyond pollinators, gardens, landscape and grounds maintenance, as well as dive deeper into these topics. The use of the Cides - herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides, and water infiltration rates were specifically not mentioned; each topic warrants its own article series. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

GAME WON: 2018 composting conference breaks records

On January 22 - 25, 2018 Atlanta hosted the 26th Annual U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference & Tradeshow at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. As a pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for compost via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch, Atlanta was an ideal host for the empowering conference. 

The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, a Founding ZWZ Participant, boasts an embedded sustainability culture, including their food waste collection for compost program. 

SUCCESS: the 2018 USCC Conference was record-breaking on many levels! Conference attendees topped 1100 registrants and the post-conference equipment manufacturing demonstration boasted 550 attendees; 2018 stats are an impressive 10% increase over the 2017 conference hosted in Los Angeles!

Attendees traveled to Atlanta from 43 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.  From an international perspective, every continent except Antartica was represented at the conference. 

The Composting Council Research and Education Foundation raised $63,000 at the conference for compost research. 

Conference success was the result of a growing compost manufacturing industry and team effort. According to USCC Executive Director Frank Franciosi:
“Atlanta is our most successful conference to date. We could not have done this without the help from our staff, exhibitors, sponsors, volunteers, media partners and the boots on the ground in Atlanta. A special thanks to Scott Jenkins, Doug Kunnemann, Gloria Hardegree, Boyd Leake, Wayne King, Laura Turner Seydel, Liza Milagro and Holly Elmore.”
Opening Plenary
Joe Lamp'l @ podium
After Frank's opening remarks, Atlanta's own Joe Lamp'l of Growing a Growing a Greener World welcomed the international audience to the conference. Following Joe, Kiss the Ground's The Compost Story video, launched in May 2017, was shared with the audience. 

The Compost Story funding was secured during the 2017 USCC Conference; thus, the 2018 screening validates the powerful USCC network. Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace thanked those who supported the video launch with funds and in-kind donations. Within his closing comments, Finian announced the fall 2018 Kiss the Ground, the book publication along with a documentary under development.

During the plenary session, the first four Certified Compost Operation Managers (CCOM) were honored: Anthony Teachey (McGill), Nick Kranz (McGill), Erik Martig (LA Compost), and Denise Philips Winter (Synagro). In October 2016, the Certification Commission of the USCC formally launched the CCOM. 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chair Scott Jenkins gave an excellent plenary keynote presentation, What do Sports Have to do with Composting?

Within his remarks, Scott expressed the potential to educate millions of fans at sporting events on sustainability and shared impressive stats:
  • 81% of sports fans express concern about the environment.
  • Environmentally concerned fans spend 20% more on tickets; less concerned fans spend $340 annually while fans more concerned about the environment spend $403 annually.
  • Scott Jenkins @ podium
  • 58% of the fans expect teams to use environmentally-friendly practices while 50% expect teams to operate LEED-certified facilities
Additionally, Scott shared alarming waste-related facts: 
  • 500 million - the number of plastic straws consumed daily in the U.S., enough to circle the Earth 2.5 times.
  • 100 billion - the number of plastic shopping bags used per year in the U.S.
  • 2.5 million - the number of plastic bottles discarded per hour in the U.S.
  • $165 billion - the value of food thrown out annually in the U.S.
  • 14% - the volume of plastic recycled in the U.S. 
  • $11 billion - the value of recyclable materials landfilled annually in the U.S. 
  • $306 billion - the 2017 record-breaking cost of climate and weather disasters in the U.S.
From a sports team | facility viewpoint, sustainability practices are excellent opportunities for bottom-line savings, partnership revenue, and increased brand value. In addition, a sustainability commitment fulfills social responsibilities and improves environmental performance. Scott emphasized owners may leverage brands to raise consumer awareness and drive change.

Throughout his presentation, Scott used examples from his tenure at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, and the MBS, home of the Atlanta Falcons, to showcase successful implementation of zero waste and other sustainability practices.

Certified Compost Operation Mgrs
Scott ended his presentation by answering the presentation's title, What do Sports Have to do with Composting? According to Scott: 1> composting is key within the path to zero waste and 2> we can leverage the cultural and market influence of sports and entertainment to promote healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play.

Pre-conference, MBS hosted morning and afternoon tours at the only LEED Platinum Certified professional sports stadium in the world.

Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils
Atlanta-based Elemental Impact (Ei), a conference media partner, hosted the popular panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, to a near room capacity audience. Per the program, the following is the panel description:
Soil is the foundation of life. Healthy, vibrant soil eco-systems are the building blocks for healthy communities with effective stormwater management programs, solid erosion control systems, and nutritious urban food production. … and compost feeds the soil eco-systems!
Industry experts shared about compost’s empowering role in carbon sequestration / climate change, soil management systems grounded in solid economics, and green urban infrastructure.
In her panel introduction, Ei Founder Holly Elmore educated on the oxygen deficiency and desertification pending crisis. Though the situation is tragic, Holly explained the panel topics abounded in optimism with regenerative solutions for restoring the out-of-balance carbon cycles. The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, mirrors the panel intention.

Frank Franciosi & Finian
Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace began the panel presentations with New View, a perspective of the past environmental destruction, the current "sustainable" focus, and a regenerative future filled with the promise of ecosystem restoration. 

On his The Great Exchange slide, Finian gave a high-level synopsis of how soil is built from the air and the integrated roles photosynthesis, plant roots, soil microbes & enzymes, and mycorrhizal fungi play in a balanced, healthy environment. Introduced by Finian, increasing water infiltration rates in soils was a common topic thread within each presentation.

Next, Kellogg Garden Products (KGP) Director of Sustainability & Chairperson of the Board Kathy Kellogg Johnson grounded Finian's "big picture" with her Soil Life, beyond dirt! presentation. Kathy described compost as the Swiss army knife for environmental solutions, ranging from air pollution, ocean acidification, desertification, drought, floods, food shortages and many more.

Kathy Kellogg Johnson
As an almost century old, family-owned company, KGP is a pioneer in organic gardening, farming, landscape practices and grounds maintenance. Taking a holistic approach, KGP ensures their zero waste facilities operate with a minimum carbon footprint; in fact, KGP facilities operate at a negative Carbon Equivalent, taking into consideration energy savings (including solar power installations), buying RECYCLED, water conservation, waste recovery, displacement of chemical fertilizers, and water-savings with the use of organics in soil.

Kathy concluded her presentation with the four main organisms who provide nutrients and protection for maximum, healthy plant growth: bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa.

Industry icon and Ei Advisor Wayne King of ERTH Products followed Kathy with his Soil Strategies for the Urban Environment presentation. Highlights from Wayne's presentation were 1> Importance of an urban soil strategy, 2> the soil and water connection, 3> managing soil organic matter, 4>  engineered soils and landscape systems, and 5> examples of sustainable soil projects.

Further enforcing prominent points in Finian and Kathy's presentations, Wayne shared a quote from the National Resources Conservation Services, Managing Soil Organic Matter, The Key to Air & Water Quality, Technical Note 5:
“Managing for soil carbon can reduce the severity and costs of natural phenomena, such as drought, flood, and disease. 
In addition, increasing soil organic matter levels can reduce atmospheric CO2 levels  that contribute to climate change.”
Cory Rayburn & Holly Elmore
City of Atlanta, Watershed Manager II Cory Rayburn completed the panel with his impressive Building Green: Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Approach presentation. In his opening topic, Cory educated on how urbanization causes flooding. Prevalent impervious surfaces result in low shallow stormwater infiltration and minimal deep infiltration. Thus, flooding may occur in stormy weather.

In 2017, the Watershed Management Green Infrastructure Task Force released the City of Atlanta Green Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan with a goal to reduce annual runoff by 225 million gallons. Beyond working with various City of Atlanta departments, the task force partners with an array of local non-profits and organizations including the Atlanta Beltline, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Invest Atlanta, Park Pride and others.

Throughout his impressive presentation, Cory gave visual examples of green infrastructure replacing gray infrastructure, which consists of pipes and relies on stormwater runoff versus infiltration. Cory showcased the Historic Fourth Ward green infrastructure project with stunning before | after images; photos from an April 2017 flooding event demonstrated the project's success. In addition, the project spurred $500 million in neighborhood redevelopment including apartments, condos and Ponce City Market.

Panel Q&A
Almost half of the audience remained post-panel for a question & answer session. 

Ei Supporter NaturTec sponsored the important panel - THANK YOU, Rick Lombardo, Vineet Dalal, and Miran Saric!

The panel PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels page.

Awards Ceremony
The Annual Awards Ceremony was integrated within the closing plenary session and included USCC awards as well as other industry-related honors. The U.S. EPA Region 4 honored their Food Recovery Challenge award recipients during the session: Clemson University, Food Lion, and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

Emerging Composter Challenge
The University of Florida (UF) was the recipient of two prominent awards. Dr. Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF associate professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, received the 2017 Rufus Chaney Award for excellence in compost research and outstanding contribution to furthering the science of compost. The 2017 Composter of the Year award recipient was the UF Gainesville Student Compost Cooperative; Dr. Ann Wilkie, Professor, Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology at UF accepted the award on behalf of the cooperative.

Organized by the USCC Young Professionals, the Emerging Composter Challenge award winners were announced as the conference closed. The Younge Professionals is a group formed in 2013 to support composters under 40 years old and/or with less than five years of industry experience, 

Nine emerging composters competed in the challenge; the three finalists "pitched" their business at the beginning of the closing plenary session. As the conference closed, the winners were announced:
  • First Place ($5000) - Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli (Common Ground Compost)
  • Second Place ($1,500) - Kristen Baskin (Let Us Compost)
  • Third Place ($750) - Joel & Roo White (White's Environmental Services)
Wayne King with his family
Wayne King of ERTH Products received the Hi Kellogg Award for Outstanding Service to the Composting Industry. Over the decades, Wayne's unwavering commitment to compost manufacturing was a strong force in building a  substantial industry and establishing the USCC as a global leader. In the past, Wayne served as USCC President, USCC Board Member and in many other industry-related positions. Hi Kellogg's daughter Kathy Kellogg Johnson was in the audience to congratulate her close friend and award recipient. 

Closing Plenary Keynotes
Kathy Kellogg Johnson introduced her dear friend Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation Chair and Ted Turner's dynamic daughter, and joined Laura on stage for a conversation on an array of topics. 

Importance of school gardens:
Captain Planet Foundation's Project Learning Garden provides schools with outdoor learning laboratories. Gardens in the schoolyard are effective outdoor learning spaces for students to engage in inquiry-driven, project-based learning across all disciplines. Pollinator gardens accompany each of Project Learning Gardens.

Atlanta's commitment to urban agriculture
Kathy Kellogg Johnson &
Laura Turner Seydel
In 2016, the City of Atlanta was named a 100 Resilient Cities member, a program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. Subsequently, the Office of Sustainability evolved into the Office of Resilience. Understanding the imperative role food access plays in a resilient city, the Director of Urban Agriculture position was created to support urban food production, assist with brownfield redevelopment, and help community members seeking to establish and sustain community gardens, farmers markets, and food hubs.

Impact of Turner Ranches on ecosystem regeneration
With approximately two million acres of personal and ranch land, Ted Turner is the second largest individual landholder in North America. Turner Enterprises manages over 51,000 bison across the various Turner ranches. By restoring bison to their native lands, Turner ranches actively regenerate the soils and related ecosystems.

The soil regeneration movement
In her closing remarks, Laura endorsed two books driving the regeneration movement including Kiss the Ground, the book mentioned in the opening plenary section. Additionally, Laura showcased Paul Hawkin's Draw Down,  a comprehensive plan proposed to reverse global warming. ... and Paul Hawkins sits on Kiss the Ground's Board of Directors.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Senior Sustainability Planner Liza Milagro closed the conference with a comprehensive overview of the busiest airport in the world's sustainability commitment, programs in-place and future plans.

For a pictorial conference recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2018 USCC Conference.

The record-breaking 2018 U.S. Composting Council Conference set the stage for an encore performance in Phoenix, AZ January 27 - 30, 2019 with the perfect theme: Renew & Regenerate!