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Monday, June 27, 2011

Atlanta Airport - First SFCI Pilot Project!

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Concourse T serves as the first Sustainable Food Court Initiative pilot project!  It is thrilling news as the SFCI Team moves into ACTION mode.

SFCI missionTo bring zero waste initiatives to food courts and develop industry sustainable best practices for back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations.  Visit the SFCI page for challenges inherent in food court operations for zero waste practices and additional SFCI details.

SFCI Pilot ACTION Team meeting
With a powerful pilot project team, including the Foodservice Packaging Institute, National Restaurant Association, Institute for Local Self Reliance Elemental Impact|Zero Waste Zones, MeadWestvaco, Solo Cup, Natureworks, CleanRiver, Asean|StalkMarket, Tomra. NA  and HMS Host, the first action points are fact-finding in nature with establishing packaging and waste baselines a top priority.  In addition to the national team members, the City of Atlanta, Sustainability Division, Department of Aviation and WastePro serve on the Atlanta Airport pilot ACTION Team.

Thanks to Michael Cheyne's, Atlanta Airport Director, Asset Management and Sustainability, strong enthusiasm back-of-the-house organics collection is set for a several month pilot beginning in November.

Stay tuned for updates from the food court zero waste journey and announcements of additional pilots.  These are phenomenal times!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Recycling Survey Article on

In early June, published Alison Lara's article Why Aren't Restaurants Recycling? in response to the NRA|Georgia Pacific restaurant recycling survey (see ZWZ Blog post, Recycling for all the Right Returns, for details on the survey).  Eco-Warrior Chris Moyer, National Restaurant Association Conserve Program Director, gives the positive side to why restaurants may not participate in recycling programs.  

In his quotes, Chris emphasizes restaurants in general do choose to recycle yet there may be infrastructure challenges in their area.  Education is key to strong recycling programs - the NRA Conserve program is working closely with Elemental Impact | Zero Waste Zones on recycling education tools that may be communicated through the state restaurant association network.

ZWZ Director Holly Elmore is also quoted in the article on the potential cost-savings inherent in recycling the heavier materials, organics and glass.

Focusing on the positive and accomplishments to date is imperative to mobilizing an industry to change their basic operating practices, including disposal methods.  The NRA|Ei|ZWZ Team is committed to creating an encouraging environment where new sustainable operating practices are easy to implement and cost-neutral to cost-savings.

ZWZ Blog: A Powerful Communication Tool

The ZWZ Blog is a powerful communication tool for the important work accomplished by the Zero Waste Zones and auxiliary initiatives.  Over the past months the ZWZ Blog page views began increasing at an accelerated  rate,  In mid June the cumulative page views surpassed 14,000 views from a global audience!  Comments are beginning to come along with the page views - YEA, lively dialogue is just around the corner!

Elemental ImpactIn an effort to maximize the ZWZ Blog's value, Elemental Impact entered the cyberspace social network world by creating an Ei Facebook page that has around 150 "likes", without any promotion.  Each ZWZ Blog post is published on the Ei FB page and Ei Founder Holly Elmore's wall.  Chris Moyer, National Restaurant Association Conserve Program Director, is a co-administer of the Ei FB page and publishes interesting antidotes from the sustainability journey.

To strengthen the strong following Ei now Tweets!  Chris serves as Holly's official "tweet coach" while she learns to navigate a foreign realm.  

The ZWZ Team invites you to "like" the Ei FB Page, follow Ei on Twitter (@ElementalImpact) and become active supporters by sharing blog posts on your networks and including the ZWZ Blog link where appropriate.  Thank you for your contribution to communicating the important messages inherent in ZWZ|Ei initiatives.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Glass Recycling Kiln Ignited

Whew - in the knick of time Owens-Illinois (O-I), the world's largest glass manufacturer, comes to the rescue.  With an aggressive goal of using 60% post-consumer cullet (i.e. broken glass returned for recycling) in their manufacturing by 2017, O-I contacted the Zero Waste Zones to explore a partnership for development of glass recycling systems that make good business sense.

O-I provides the main missing link in ZWZ's prior glass recycling research:  economics.  Other necessary parameters are in-place for the Atlanta market:  1> Glass processing facility -  Strategic Materials, who prepares collected glass for manufacturing, has an Atlanta facility  2> End Markets - O-I has a metro Atlanta manufacturing plant and 3>ZWZ Participants - bar|restaurants operators, the largest producers of used glass, ready, willing and eager to separate glass for recycling collection.  

Without the economics in place, it seemed impossible to create a glass recycling program based on sound business principles.  In fact, ZWZ Director Holly Elmore announced the ZWZ were ready to pursue end-use options in lieu of recycling.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Recycling Integrity @ IFSS, for the session where the announcement was made and a link for the PPT presentation with several slides detailing the glass dilemma.

The day following the end-use announcement O-I contacted Holly after finding the 05-10  ZWZ  Blog post, Single-Sream Recycling Controversy, where a ZWZ glass recycling commitment was declared.  What timing!

The National Restaurant Association and the Glass Packaging Institution immediately joined the glass recycling team.  In the fact-finding phase, the team has embarked on action items to develop an Atlanta pilot, serving as the foundation for a national template.

With the glass recycling kiln ignited by O-I,  stay tuned for more tales from the trail to successful programs.  These are thrilling times!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NRA Speaks @ GRA Sustainability Luncheon

GRA Chair Anthony Joseph &
GRA EC Karen Bremer
The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) hosted their Annual Meeting on the longest day of the year to an impressive crowd who attended the sessions throughout the day culminating in a PAC Reception.  For the first annual Chairperson's Luncheon sustainability was the chosen topic.

Gary Black
Covering the local and seasonal aspects of sustainability, GA Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black spoke of the department's commitment to supporting the smaller, local farmer and to working with the GRA on meeting the industry's demand for locally grown produce.  As a Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) Advisory Council Member, Gary Black was active in his role and attended early Producer Task Force meetings.

Chris Moyer & ZWZ Panel
Chris Moyer, National Restaurant Association Conserve Program Director, traveled to Atlanta and moderated an impressive panel of Zero Waste Zones heroes who paved the way for future participants to meet the ZWZ Criteria with ease and grace.  After giving an overview of the NRA|Ei|ZWZ collaboration, Chris asked the panelists to share their ZWZ experiences based on prepared questions and those from the audience.  The ZWZ heroes were Steve Simon (Fifth Group Restaurants),  Paul Baldasaro (Buckhead Life Group) and Patrick Cuccaro (Affairs to Remember).

Alan LeBlanc, GA Rep Ralph Long
& GRA Vice Chair Patrick Cuccaro
On hand to fill in the gaps and answer detailed questions, Holly Elmore, ZWZ Director & Ei Founder, gave an update on emerging initiatives, including the Sustainable Food Court Initiative and a glass recycling project in the infancy stages. 

As Holly founded the ZWZ while serving as the GFA Executive Director, the PAC reception was a fun time to reconnect with those involved in the development stages.

GRA Staff
Congratulations to the GRA staff on an excellent day filled with pertinent educational sessions.  Thank you for the opportunity to share the ZWZ success with the GRA membership.


The Zero Waste Zones Team compiled a list of frequently asked questions encountered during meetings with prospective participants.  Visit the ZWZ FAQ Page (link to come) where questions and answers are broken down into Business, Logistical and Environmental categories.  Thank you to Susan Montgomery, ZWZ Program Director, for the excellent job on summarizing the questions & answers in an easy to understand format.

On a more specific note, Brenda Platt with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, authored an excellent Compostable Products FAQ document with simple answers to complex questions.  Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team Members from the Foodservice Packaging Institute, NatureWorks and MeadWestvaco contributed with invaluable input and comments.  Note the document is evolutionary with frequent revisions anticipated to reflect industry growth and technical advances.

It is fun to witness the collaborative effort at work in supporting the foodservice industry pioneers embrace sustainable best practices, especially in the zero waste arena. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives

Simon Property Group, the nation's largest real estate company in the U.S., is exploring how to bring zero waste initiatives to their 392 malls composing 263 million square feet of gross leasable area in North America, Europe and Asia.  Matt Hupp, Simon Director of Waste & Recycling, traveled to Atlanta for a day of phenomenal meetings dedicated to materials recycling, ranging from organics to film plastic to common recyclables (cardboard/paper, plastic (# 1 & 2), glass and metals).

Scott Seydel (Global Green Chair & Elemental Impact Advisory Council Chair) and Chris Moyer (National Restaurant Association Conserve Program Director) joined the meetings and underground loading dock tours.

Matt Hupp, John Mulcahy &
Chris Moyer @ lunch
The day began with Georgia Pacific and Harmon Recycling discussing overall recycling programs.  John Mulcahy (GA Pacific) and Tom Trudeau (Harmon Recycling) provided valuable insight on how recycling markets work and emphasized the role volume plays in direct sale to recycling companies.  Currently, most collected materials visit a MRF (materials recovery facility) for single-stream separation and aggregation of common material for bulk sale.  Significant volume is required to circumvent the MRF and transport material directly to its recycling destination.

Leif Lundaas, Matt Hupp &
Scott Seydel
After a fantastic lunch (thank you John!), the group segued into a meeting with Leif Lundaas (Global Enviro) to discuss an on-site organics solution system.  As the Global Enviro folks previously met with Simon and toured a NJ mall, the Atlanta encounter was a deal-making meeting.  Matt agreed to move forward with at least one pilot project using the Global Enviro system.

Scott in a "trashy
The final meeting of the hectic day included Louis Herrera (Hilex Poly) and Georgia State Senator Doug Stoner who accompanying Louis.  Hilex Poly,the world's largest plastic bag manufacturer, is committed to replacing virgin plastic with recycled product.  Mall operations by their nature produce an amazing amount of clean, single-use clean film plastic from back-of-the-house operations.

According to Matt, many Simon tenants significantly increased their plastic use over the past year.  In many instances, the clothing manufacturer does not know the garment destination, store or on-line shipment. Therefore, many manufacturers now package ALL garments individually in film plastic.  When received by the retail store, a clerk removes the garments from the plastic to display for sale; the tremendous volume of plastic film is currently landfill destined.

For Hilex Poly the packaging film plastic is valuable, clean material ready for bag production with minimal preparation.  The dilemma is aggregating enough of the plastic film to make economic sense for transport to a Hilex manufacturing facility.

Dewayne Hebert, Scott Seydel, Suan Stanton, Chris Moyer,
Doug Stoner, Louis Herrera & Matt Hupp
Susan Stanton (Tomra NA) stopped by to meet Matt and was present to educate on Tomra's easy-to-use and safe compactor that compacts plastic film into transportable bales.

Yet another action item from the day of meetings:  Hilex Poly and Tomra are teaming together to create a pilot project at one (or more!) of Simon's Atlanta malls to develop a plastic film recycling program that makes good business sense for all parties.

Wow - what a day full of education and action!  Thank you Matt for your vision and commitment to bring zero waste initiatives to the nation's largest mall owner & operator.  We also appreciate your sense of humor!

Organics Collection Headed Towards Mainstream

It is a thrilling time in the Zero Waste Zones world!  Organics collection is one of the hottest topics in foodservice industry sustainability discussions and project developement.  Operators, ranging from convention centers, arenas and shopping centers to single-standing full-service and quick-service restaurants, are exploring how organics collection best fits into their standard operating practices.

Steve Simon & Jim Hansen
HAVI Global Solutions, the supply chain management company for McDonald's, Darden Restaurants, and Pret A Manger, to name a few of their major clients, took the inauguaral steps in organics collection/composting eduction.  In preparation for an anticipated organics collections pilot program at Metro Atlanta McDonald's,  Jim Hansen, HAVI Global Director of Sustainability, and Jessica Farrar, Project Manager, met with Fifth Group Restaurants and Greenco Environmental during their recent Atlanta visit.

Steve Simon, ZWZ Champion and Fifth Group Restaurants Partner, explained how organics collection works in a full-service, single-standing restaurant, using Ecco as the visual example .  With organics collection a standard operating practice at Fifth Group, Steve discussed how to educate and work with landlords for stores located in multi-use buildings and centers.  It was inspiring to hear Steve mention organics collection capability was a "deal breaker" in a recent lease negotiation with a major real estate developer.

Tim Lesko, Jessica Farrar
 & Jim Hansen
The following day Jim and Jessica traveled south to visit Greenco Environmental, the only active food composting-permitted site in Georgia.  Tim Lesko, Greenco co-owner, was phenomenal as he educated on the composting process, from organics delivery to sale of the end product.

Tim educating on the
compost process
Dedicated to creating effective systems from the start, Jim & Jessica are investing their time and resources to learn from the early pioneers on how to best create back and front-of-the-house organics collection systems.  The ZWZ and Sustainable Food Court Initiative Teams are serving as solid resource tools for HAVI in the research stage and will continue to provide support through implementation and beyond.

With McDonald's, the second most recognized brand in the world, exploring organics collection through HAVI, organics diversion from landfill is well on the path to mainstream adoption in the foodservice industry.  Stay tuned for more tales from the journey!

Visit the Elemental Impact FB Page, for the 06-11 HAVI visits ATL re: explore organics collection photo album for more pictures from the Greenco tour.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

George McKerrow Shares Green Wisdom

Southeast Green's Speaking of Green June live interview was with Atlanta Green Icon George McKerrow, co-founder & CEO of Ted's Montana Grill (TMG)  It is fun to hear George's complete bio and remember his amazing accomplishments prior to his partnership with Ted Turner.

George & Ted 
George tells the tales of creating one of the first, if not the first, national restaurant concept with its foundation built on sustainability from the ground up.  Starting with respect for the buffalo herd, TMG maintains a sustainable focus from the construction process to operational practices.  Some of the early feats were relatively easy with strong ROI (return on investment), especially the lighting project that lead to a $450,000 cost-savings over the two-year new light bulb life.

The paper straw story is phenomenal on so many dimensions.  For TMG, the paper straws met one of the final steps in a commitment to a plastic-free restaurant.  From a global perspective, George's childhood memory of paper straws re-ignited an industry long-forgotten back into production with world-wide distribution.  Back to TMG, the straw story exemplifies the importance of perseverance while working through the practical challenges of product effectiveness and  consumer demand.  

Solar Panels at Turner Bldg
Photo Credit:  Beth Bond
Wow - how exciting to learn the Turner Building located in Downtown Atlanta, with a TMG on the street level, is off the Grid!!!  Recently, solar panels were installed in the Turner Building parking lot that fuel the entire building's electricity demands.  An added benefit is the panels shelter cars from Atlanta's sweltering summer sun. 

In his humorous and simplistic style, George gives examples of how the foodservice industry may embrace sustainability by taking baby steps on the trail to HUGE accomplishments.  One of George's practical tips for water conservation is to carry a wrench in the back pocket to immediately fix leaky faucets - practical, effective and EASY!

As a Zero Waste Zones Founding Participant George gives credit to the program and Scott Seydel, Elemental Impact Advisory Council Chair, for development of systems to divert reusable materials from landfills and research of innovative waste-to-energy technology.  See the ZWZ Blog post, ZWZ Garners National Support, where George announced the Turner Building is the first Atlanta multi-use building with organics collection for composting throughout the residential, office and retail building components.

Thank you Beth Bond for your vision:  George was perfect for your June Speaking of Green live interview.  Click here to listen to the June 01 interview.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

USCC Issues Herbicide Warning

In late May, the U.S. Composting Council issued a warning to composters who receive yard trimmings as part of their carbon source.  Here is a portion of the formal warning:

The USCC is informing the composting industry and consumers that grass from treated lawns could end up in a compost pile, and unlike most herbicides, Imprelis will survive the composting process and still be active in the finished compost. Preliminary research has shown that Imprelis does not break down significantly faster than the leaves and grass in the compost, so the concentration stays about the same.  An unsuspecting gardener using contaminated compost could end up damaging their flowers and vegetables, most of which are also broad-leafed
DuPont™ Imprelis™ herbicide packageAccording to the Dupont Imprelis site,  DuPont™ Imprelis™ herbicide contains a single active ingredient and exhibits favorable environmental and toxicological characteristics.  It seems favorable environmental characteristics has varied interpretations.

As commercial composting operations become common place, understanding the impact of residential and commercial landscape practices on the end compost is imperative.  With Zero Waste Zones motivating the foodservice industry to embrace organics collection for composting, integrity of the developing systems are a top priority.  It is a comfort to know  the USCC is at the forefront of addressing such issues.