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Saturday, August 20, 2011

ATL Zero Waste Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour

The South Carolina Hospitality Association (SCHA) brought a contingent of Board members, business association executives and City of Columbia staff and councilman to Atlanta on August 16 & 17 for a Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) tour.  With W2E Organic Power ready to break ground on an anaerobic digestion facility in Columbia, the city will have an organics destination site by mid 2012. 

Tom Sponseller & Douglas
OFlaherty @ the Hyatt's glass recycling
Tom Sponseller and Douglas OFlaherty of the SCHA worked with Daniel Rickenmann, City of Columbia Councilman and W2E Organic Power COO, on bringing together the powerful SC group:  Rick Patel (Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel Owner & SCHA Hotel Division President), Scott Fister (Kiawah Island Golf Resort Resort Sustainability Coordinator), Mary Pat Baldauf (City of Columbia Sustainability Facilitator), and Merritt McHaffie (Five Points Columbia Association Executive Director).

From Atlanta, Roy Edwards with the Sustainability Division of the GA DNR joined the ZWZ Team - Holly Elmore (Director) and Susan Montgomery (Program Director - and Kelly Hornbuckle (GRA Marketing & Communications Director) to augment the presentations and tours. Sue Hensley, National Restaurant Association Sr VP Public Affairs, came from Washington D.C. to educate on the NRA Conserve program and support the ZWZ expansion to South Carolina.

Thank you to the Sheraton Downtown Atlanta, ZWZ-Downtown Atlanta Charter Participant, for serving as the tour host hotel.

Beginning at the Georgia Restaurant Association offices, Karen Bremer (GRA Executive Director) welcomed the group and Holly gave a ZWZ history|overview including the necessary community assessments to create a ZWZ.  To download the PPT presentation, go to the Elemental Impact Speaking Engagements page.  With lively discussion, the overview set the stage for intriguing dialogue during the tours.

Jimmy Chancellor explaining
how the organics bin works
Jimmy Chancellor and Wes Shirley of the Hyatt Regency gave an impressive tour demonstrating the Hyatt's core sustainability commitment.  Recently the Hyatt issued an internal corporate call for all properties to include organics collection for composting or other permitted use in the next several years.  Stay tuned for blog posts about the Hyatt Regency's creative, effective and cost-saving projects further reducing landfill destined material and energy consumption.

The first day ended with a tour and dinner at Ecco with Steve Simon (fifth group restaurants partner) and Executive Chef Micah Willix sharing their experiences.  In addition to zero waste practices, Steve and Micah discussed their water-saving practices, the roof top chef's garden and varying logistical challenges faced at their different restaurants.

Dinner was an excellent time to relax, enjoy the phenomenal food  and bond with ample wine.  Nancy & Mark Oswald, 2010 GRACE Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients, joined the Ecco tour and dining festivities.  Hmmm .... we hear a Charleston Ruth's Chris may be in the works!

The group @ The Buckhead Diner
On Wednesday Paul Baldasaro (Buckhead Life Group COO)  was joined by Maureen Baker (Buckhead Diner GM) and Executive Chef Charlie Schwab for an impressive Buckhead Diner tour and educational session.  Chef Schwab emphasized the common theme:  employees LOVE embracing zero waste practices and at times ask to move faster than management.  Paul gave advice on contract negotiations and spoke about how meeting ZWZ Criteria makes solid business sense.

Jon Johnston and Mary Beth Van Pelt with U.S. EPA, Region IV joined the group for the Wednesday tours and finale lunch. It was inspiring to hear Jon's commitment to assist the SC folks with bringing ZWZ to their state.

The tour ended at Affairs to Remember where Patrick Cuccaro (ATR GM & GRA Vice-Chair) and Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad expressed the importance of signage and employee education for success as part of their tour. Chef Ahmad explained how ATR incorporated organics collection in their off-premise events.

ATR Compostable Boxed Lunch
As the first ZWZ-Caterers Participant, ATR enjoys significant revenue generation due to their sustainability commitment. Patrick gave the details of how their completely compostable boxed lunch won a catering bid with a price tag much higher than a competitor's price. Next the group was treated to one of these boxed lunches where EVERYTHING is compostable AND delicious!

Lunch discussion was full of action points for the next several weeks. With excellent timing, Holly travels to Columbia September 13 to speak at the City of Columbia's Green is Good for Business conference. The following day is filled with meetings and presentations to further set the stage for the first ZWZ expansion city. Stay tuned as the exciting tale is in its infancy.

For a pictorial recap of the SCHA ATL ZWZ tour, see the Ei FB album, 08-11 SCHA ATL ZWZ Tour.

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