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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sustainability's Reality Check

Sustainability at W&M LogoThe College of William & Mary took their 2008 D- grade by the Sustainable Endowments Institute as a reality check and catalyst for action.  Understanding student involvement was critical to effective and innovative success, the college developed a paid sustainability internship program with five positions.  Initially, the focus was on water|energy conservation and product purchases made of recycled content.

As they began exploring sustainable opportunities on campus, the interns realized the campus dining service operations were a perfect starting point.  The first step was eliminating plastic trays in the dining halls. Reduction from decreased use of the commercial dish washing units saved 135,000 gallons of water along with time & energy.

organics collection in action @
William & Mary
While researching recycled paper content products, the interns learned compostable product use would change the entire disposal paradigm in the three campus cafeterias.  The college contracted with a local composting operation for collection and trained kitchen staff to source-separate the compostable products and organics into designated bins, .  On average, the dining operations divert 3 tons per week of organic material from prior landfill destination to McGill Environmental Systems for organics manufacturing into valuable compost.  

Compost: the valuable end product
Among the many benefits of participating in an organics collection program, W&M found two immediate added-values:
  1. Cost-savings - with approximately 40% of the campus dining service "waste" collected for compost or recycling, W&M realized a reduction in their waste hauling expenses.
  2. On-campus garden - the campus purchases compost made from their food residuals and compostable foodservice packaging for their student maintained garden.  The campus has the ultimate in locally grown food with their garden right on campus.
W&M hit an amazing sustainable stride in their dining operations and increased their SEI grade to a B+ in three years.  MeadWestvacoa manufacturer of compostable and recyclable food service packaging, honored W&M's accomplishments with an excellent video, College Aces Composting 101, and an article, How the College of William & Mary made its Dining Services GreenToGo.

Industry suppliers like MWV are valuable partners for campuses, whether college or corporate, as they explore incorporating zero waste practices into their daily operations.  Along with product expertise, MWV shares their broad range of experience working with operators on implementing organics collection programs.  MWV's GreenToGo site content serves as a resource for WHY sending organics to composting operations is important along with examples of successful programs.

With strong educational tools and industry support, zero waste practices are easy and many times result in cost-savings.  See the ZWZ Blog post, A Common ZWZ Refrain:  It's Easy, for Zero Waste Zones Participant testimonials on the ease of including organics collection in their operations.

It is inspiring to learn of tales from the zero waste journey - the College of William & Mary is a prominent example of how sustainable practices benefit the environment and the college's profit|loss statement bottom line.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pilots Focus on National Recycling Solutions

Global Green's Coalition for Resource Recovery announced a foodservice packaging pilot project in New York City to develop a cost-effective, national recycling solution for the Quick Service Restaurant industry.  For the pilot, CoRR seeks 150 QSR stores with five brands represented.  The packaging volume generated will be sufficient for mill, collection and sorting tests necessary to create solutions based on integrity within the entire supply chain.

4.1 mil tons of food packaging goes landfill
Every year, 4.1 million tons of paper, prepared food packaging is landfilled in the United States. The collection and recycling of this material would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 15 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing 3 million passenger vehicles from the road.  CoRR's pilot goal is to create effective options to return the packaging to the manufacturing cycle, rather the current landfill destination.

Pret A Manger, a British QSR expanding in the U.S., committed 25 locations to Corr's pilot.  The Restaurant Participant Guide gives the pilot parameters and benefits along with contact information for interested parties. CoRR produced an excellent video with an overview of the pilot and accomplishments in prior Pret A Mange projects.

Easy to use recycling bins with clear signage for consumer use are essential to a successful program.  CleanRiver, a Canadian recycling bin manufacturer, agreed to donate 150 recycling containers for the project.
CleanRiver indoor
recycling center
We’re delighted to be a part of this project and to learn through the pilot process how we can optimize messaging and multi-stream container design by assisting a diversity of quick service retail environments,” said Tom Lembo, CleanRiver’s™ Recycling Program Manager.  “Each participating brand will be offered up to 30 containers as a means of facilitating Global Green reaching a diversity of retail environments for participation in the pilot”.
CleanRiver is committed to working with QSR and food court operations on effective systems that incorporate recycling as an industry standard practice.  An Elemental Impact sponsor, CleanRiver serves on the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team where Tom is the Recycling Container Committee Chair.  The SFCI is an Ei Task Force in partnership with the National Restaurant Association dedicated to bringing zero waste practices to food courts.
See the ZWZ Blog post, SFCI in ACTION Mode, for a powerful update on recent accomplishments and awards.

With CoRR and SFCI working in tandem on pilots with similar goals there is certain to be effective solutions found to a challenging scenario.  Stay tuned to the ZWZ Blog as we track tales from the journey.

Inner City Gets Recycling Drop-Off Center

On 11-11-11 Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farm (TLW) expanded their sustainability commitment by opening Atlanta's first permanent household recycling drop-off center. Located in the Fourth Ward, inner city Atlanta, the new drop-off center gives a recycling option to those without curbside or mult-unit collection available.

Open seven days a week, the center accepts fiber (newsprint, cardboard, paper, magazines), plastics (#1 & 2) and glass.  SP Recycling and ReMIX Recycling partnered with TLW to gift Atlanta with the inner city recycling center.

Rashid working @ the farm
Rashid Nuri, TLW founder, is an urban pioneer dedicated to bringing agriculture to cities. Atlanta is fortunate Rashid calls this fine city home.  TLW urban farms make a tremendous impact by providing fresh, nutritious food and education to a population under-served in the inner city neighborhoods.  The recycling center is a natural expansion to the Wheat Street farm.

Recycling is an important step to creating sustainable life and support for our local economy,” says Rashid, “What we return to the earth, the earth returns us.” Recycling has been a fundamental part TLW’s operations. The organization works with local restaurants, tree services and landscapers to recycle natural products into compost.

The EPA, Region IV  provided a grant to TLW Natural Urban Farm, Atlanta, Georgia, to support three areas:
spring @ Wheat Street urban farm
 1) educating interns using hands-on experience at the farm 2) educating the community about composting food waste (the compost is used on farm in the vegetable beds) and 3) water conservation using collected water from rain barrels.
Supporting sustainable or organic community food systems is good for the environment for many reasons. The use of petroleum based fertilizer is reduced or eliminated, transportation costs to get the food to consumers are reduced, pesticide use is minimized and the level of environmentalism is increased among the producers and consumers.

Since opening metro Atlanta operations in 2006, TLW produces 10,000 pounds annually of fresh, organic fruits & vegetables grown in an urban environment.  The organic crops are available to restaurants and residents through CSA  (community supported agriculture) and farmers markets.

Rashid accepting Arthur
Blank Youth Foundation grant
The Arthur Blank Youth Foundation granted funds for TLW to support their imperative mission necessary for cities to regain health and vitality.  A short video, Truly Living Well Wheat Street Garden, created by the foundation provides a snapshot of TLW's farm. The CNN story, A Look at Truly Living Well Urban Garden, communicates the impact of the Wheat Street farm by showing the surrounding inner city area, along with its historical significance.

Today is THANKSgiving Day - how appropriate to honor Rashid Nuri, a man dedicated to educating his fellow humans that urban agriculture and recycling are possible and a MUST.  THANK YOU Rashid!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The Sustainable Food Court Initiative, an Elemental Impact Task Force in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, is in ACTION mode! 

In June the first SFCI Pilot at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was announced.  On October 31 Michael Cheyne, Atlanta Airport Director of Asset Management and Sustainability, accepted a 2011 Going Green Airport Award for the SFCI Pilot.  See the June ZWZ Blog post, Atlanta Airport - First SFCI Pilot, for the pilot announcement and the October post, Atlanta Airport SFCI Pilot Wins National Award, for details on the award.

Ei Chair Scott Seydel, Holly & Chris
with the Going Green Airport Award
A Pilot ACTION Committee is formed with three subcommittees:  Baseline & Metrics Reporting, Sustainable Packaging and Front-of-the-House Recycling Bins.  The baseline is determined for Concourse T, the first airport food court to participate in the pilot.  An informational packet on compostable packaging is in process to give to airport concessionaires.  Once complete the package will be available on-line for download on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Ei websites.

In addition CleanRiver is spearheading an overall SFCI Communication committee with initial focus on building Ei website content for segue into a separate SFCI site. The  urls, .com & .net are secured.  Communicating SFCI progress and success through blog posts, social media networks and other mediums are on the committee agenda.

Additional pilots|projects are under exploration in Charlotte, Atlanta and the D.C. area with announcements anticipated in first quarter 2012.  SFCI efforts go beyond pilots with projects planned for the Tampa and Charlotte Airports where HMSHost has the concessionaire contracts.

Hilex Poly Tour End
SFCI impact extends to the entire pilot facility.  Simon Property Group, Hilex Poly and Ei are exploring a plastic film recycling pilot at Concord Mills in Charlotte. See the ZWZ Blog post, Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives, where malls are experiencing a tremendous increase in plastic film generated due to retail clothing packaged individually in clean, virgin plastic film.  The ZWZ Blog post, Getting a Handle on Plastic Film Recycling, gives an overview of Simon's tour of the Hilex Poly recycling plant in N. Vernon, IN.  The basic education is in place for movement into a pilot project.

A powerful SFCI Team is working together on the hows of bringing zero waste initiatives to food court operations.  The Team includes:

o   Chris Moyer, NRA ConSERVE Program Director
o   Doug Kunnemann, NatureWorks Business Segment Director

o   Susan Montgomery, Elemental Impact

Trade Associations/Non-Profits:
Industry Suppliers:
Foodservice Operators:
  • HMSHost
Property Owners|Managers:
  • Simon Property Group
Those interested in joining may contact Holly Elmore, Ei Founder.  Note minimum Ei Gold Sponsor status is required to join the SFCI Team.  Quarterly SFCI update calls are open to any interested parties.  Please contact Holly to be included on the distribution list.

A common phrase during SFCI working sessions is "if it was easy, it would already be done".  It  takes optimism, innovation and perseverance to break through the boundaries of what at times seems impossible.  Kudos to the phenomenal SFCI Team for taking on an extraordinary challenge. 

Innovation Key to Zero Waste Packaging

BPI Certified = Compostable
With zero waste initiatives becoming common place across the nation, the foodservice packaging industry is striving to develop packaging options that fit three requirements: 1> 100% recyclable or compostable 2> effective for their intended use 3> cost neutral.  In the last five years the first two requirements are met by a wide array of products.  Increased demand will bring prices in alignment with traditional packaging choices due to savings inherent within quantity of scale manufacturing.

The major strides in packaging choices are the result of industry leaders embracing product innovation and staying ahead of the demand curve.  Along with the largest packaging companies, a new leadership is emerging from smaller companies filling the compostable packaging niche.  Asean, the holding company for StalkMarket, Planet+ and Jaya products, is one of the smaller companies leading the innovation charge as a recognized industry leader.

Buzz accepting his award
In November, Buzz Chandler, Asean President, accepted a Sustainable Business Oregon  Innovation Award as a finalist in the Product Category. Twice a year, SBO honors organizations that are innovating new ways to implement sustainable practices as part of a successful business strategy. These recipients are worthy of attention for their contributions to Oregon's sustainable economy, as well as their work to better integrate economic, environmental and social benefits.  The SBO article, StalkMarket rising fast on sugar cane, has more details on the award.

In addition to product innovation, Buzz shares his expertise as a Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team Member and an active POWER - Perishable Organics Waste to Energy Recycling - participant.  As a Biodegrable Products Institute Board Member, Buzz is a wealth of information on industry standards and certification.

marquee @ green game
The Portland Rose Garden stadium called on Buzz's expertise when ready to shift to compostable packaging for their foodservice operations throughout the facility.  Along with Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks, Buzz worked closely with stadium management to develop an effective program for their 2010 Green Game launch.  

Prior to initiating zero waste efforts, the Portland stadium filled two 40 yard compactors every 1 to 1.5 event days for landfill destination.  With strong recycling and organics collection systems in place, the stadium now fills ONE 40 yard compactor every 4.5 to 5 game days.  The zero waste practices saved the stadium significant dollars by eliminating a good portion of their landfill hauling and tipping charges.

Industry leaders working closely with communities and operators is essential to develop the emerging sustainable paradigm. It is an honor to include Buzz as an active Ei Sponsor and SFCI Team Member.