Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chef Gardens ~ a Tasty Way to Close the Loop

Wow ~ how exciting to enjoy phenomenal cuisine at a catered event, restaurant or hotel and learn the food was harvested from an on-site chef’s garden! ZWZ participants are discovering the thrill of creating chef’s gardens on roofs, in parking lots and in previous landscape areas.

By using compost from Greenco, the only metro Atlanta food composting permitted facility, in their Chef’s gardens, ZWZ participants are closing the loop. Food scraps and excess food collected from their operations for delivery to Greenco are later used as soil nutrients in the on-site gardens.

Our local heroes, Affairs to Remember, ecco (a Fifth Group Restaurant) and the Doubletree Hotel Atlanta~Buckhead, persevered through the challenges inherent in creating a garden within a commercial environment. Some of the common challenges were space, sunlight, irrigation and soil weight.

Affairs to Remember:
In 2009, Chef Ahmad Nourzad , Affairs to Remember Executive Chef, built an amazing garden in the back of the catering operation’s parking lot. Determined to expand on their gardening endeavor in 2010, ATR replaced their landscape bushes with an impressive herb garden.

When ecco began researching the feasibility of rooftop gardening, the reality of soil weight appeared to be a deal breaker. Not for Micah Willix, Fifth Group Restaurants Executive Chef, who perceives challenges as opportunities for creativity. Micah built six garden boxes for the roof from Georgia White Pine, which he sealed with used cooking oil, versus traditional chemical-based sealants. The weight of the boxes was dispersed by a series of support beams.

Realizing Ecco’s air conditioning units produced 30 gallons per day of condensate water, Micah utilized rain barrels to harness the condensation and pumped it to the roof for a drip irrigation system. Later in the season Micah intends to grow melons on a trellis system. 

Competitive Advantage: Micah is growing vegetables not available in the Atlanta market, which he will feature in seasonal specials for ecco. How cool to dine at ecco on unique creations with vegetable ingredients not available anywhere else in the city!

Doubletree Hotel Atlanta - Buckhead:
As documented in earlier posts, Dave Rossman, General Manager at the Doubletree Atlanta~Buckhead, is a true eco-pioneer. In 2009 Dave contacted Bobby Wilson, the UGA Department of Agriculture Extension Agent for Fulton & Dekalb Counties, for his advice on how to create a Chef’s Garden at the hotel. The first step was to replace the landscape plants in the outdoor patio area with a Chef’s Garden. 

In their first year, the hotel used the garden’s herbs and reduced purchases by $200 per month.With limited sun in the garden area, Dave is experimenting with tomato and eggplant varietals on the roof, which receives full-sun. 

Due to the soil weight, the plants may only be placed along the edge of the roof. For rooftop irrigation, the Doubletree uses condensate water from the hotel’s cooling system.

Our heroes are paving the way for urban agriculture to make a return debut in commercial settings. Not so long ago edible gardens, rather than non-food producing ornamental plants, were common place in urban settings. Congratulate the trailblazers and encourage others to join the urban agriculture movement ~ your dining dollars are a strong communication tool!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ATLANTA, A Shining Star in Sustainability

Atlanta ROCKS! With only a handful of major metropolitan areas across the nation composting their excess food and food residuals from commercial operations, Atlanta stepped up to the plate and blazed trails for other cities to follow.
Before we continue Atlanta’s accolades, it is important to understand Atlanta is a Pioneer City in organics management because a brave couple invested 18 months of their lives, not to mention personal capital, to obtaining the permits and zoning necessary to open a food composting facility in Barnesville, GA.
Please join me in honoring Tim & Melia Lesko of Greenco Environmental for their vision, dedication and perseverance to give Atlanta the opportunity to ignite the trails of sustainability. THANK YOU!
As of April 30, 2010, ZWZ~Atlanta participants diverted 2052 tons of food residuals to Greenco from landfills since the February 10, 2009 ZWZ launch. Here are some equivalents to understand the importance of Atlanta’s foodservice operators’ commitment to sustainability:
· 78 tons of methane gas NOT produced over ten years in a landfill
· 1,629 tons of carbon equivalent
· 310 cars off the road for one year
Let’s bring the numbers to a more personal level and focus on three of our ZWZ Champions’ commitment in action:
· Affairs to Remember Caterers ~ 33.8 tons (10 months)
· Fifth Group Restaurant Group ~ 151 tons (1 restaurant 13 months/3 restaurants & 1 catering company 6 months)
· Hyatt Regency Atlanta ~ 317 tons (13.5 months for 1260 room hotel)
Only those close to the ZWZ program understood organics collection began on February 09, the day before the press conference that launched over 60 million media impressions. There was not a city around the country to emulate; Atlanta paved the way to overcoming the many challenges inherent in creating new best operating practices ~ no easy feat for our pioneering heroes.
It is an honor live in a city enthusiastic to embark on the journey of sustainability. Then again, Atlanta knows how to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and is a shining star while her children travel unknown and challenging paths.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Quiet Hero Speaks

At the May, 2010 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, our Hero made his debut in a 90 minute session Compost: The Quiet Hero presented by Holly Elmore, Elemental Impact Founder & CEO and ZWZ Director. Via Holly, our Hero educated the well-attended session about:
· WHY it is important to divert organic matter from landfills (hint: the methane gas produced by organic material in landfills is 20 – 25 times more potent to Green House Gases than carbon dioxide) Note only 2.5% of the 31.8 million tons of food waste generated in the U.S. is composted; the remaining 30.1 million tons is sent to landfills. This is the equivalent of 5.2 million cars on the road.
· Compost 101: HOW compost rejuvenates and feeds the soil, a living, breathing eco-system.
· Benefits of Compost: filters storm water, restores soil ecology, enhances water retention, assists in soil erosion
· YIKES: Sediment is the #1 water pollutant ~ costs $44 billion per year
· Basic Human Survival: 1> breathing air 2> drinking water 3> eating nutritious food ~ the Quiet Hero, with his innate heroism, supports each survival criteria.
· Closing the Loop ~ with the Hero’s assistance, ZWZ participants grow food on-site, using compost, and overcome the challenges of urban agriculture

ZWZ ~ the foodservice industry produces a valuable asset: food residuals, which contributes nitrogen to the compost recipe. ZWZ mobilize the foodservice industry to collect their food residuals for compost, instead of sending the asset to landfills.
To learn more about the Quiet Hero’s debut, download the NRA Show PPT for detailed information.
Remember the work is just beginning, STAY TUNED as The Quiet Hero continues to educate on the importance of diversion of organics from landfills and the role compost plays in feeding the hungry nutrition.