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Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Encore ZWZ Performance

The SC ZWZ Tour Group @ Greenco
In August the SC Hospitality Association came to Atlanta for an exploratory tour of Zero Waste Zones, an Elemental Impact program in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, to learn from the ZWZ Heroes on how organics & materials recycling are implemented into foodservice operations. SUCCESS - the SC operators were inspired by their Atlanta counterpart's consistent message: zero waste initiatives were easy AND employees were many times the drivers moving the program forward.

See the ZWZ Blog posts, ATL ZWZ Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour and  Sustainability = Sharing, for details of the August tour along with related NRA press coverage.

With the SC operators on-board, the SCHA came to Atlanta in November for a second tour focused on the destination of the food scraps source-separated for composting by foodservice establishments.  The November contingent consisted of trade association|non-profit executives, city & state officials along with two Columbia hotel associates. From Atlanta, EPA Region IV and GA Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division staff joined the tour and meetings to share their experiences in the ZWZ program development.

food processing scraps ready
for composting
Chris Moyer, NRA ConServe Program Director, and Elissa Elan, NRA Sr. Editor - Sustainability, joined the two-day tour showing the NRA's enthusiastic support of the ZWZ national expansion through the state restaurant association network.  The NRA plans to work closely with the SCHA as the ZWZ expansion path is built.  Sue Hensley, NRA Sr. VP Public Affairs Communications, attended the August tour. 

Day One of the tour started in Barnesville at Greenco Environmental's windrow composting operation.  Tim Lesko, Greenco co-owner, was most gracious with his time as he explained the permitting process and the challenges Greenco overcame to open their composting facility.  While Tim gave his overview two trucks filled with food residuals arrived to deposit the nitrogen-rich material.  It was educational to witness the vast difference between the pre-consumer and post-consumer loads.

Latex gloves, a common contaminant
While walking the windrows, the group was well-educated  on the contamination impact from foodservice operations.  The two main contaminants:  stainless steel and silver flatware and latex gloves used in kitchens.  For pre-consumer and grocery loads, a pesky contaminant is the small  identification sticker on produce.  The labels often get small enough to flow through the sifting screens into the finished compost.

After the compost site tour, the group traveled to La Tavola, a Fifth Group restaurant located in the heart of Virginia-Highlands.  GM Chris Dean greeted the group with a wonderful array of cured meats, cheeses and olives to enjoy as they listened to Steve Simon, Fifth Group partner, share his ZWZ experiences.  Working with landlords in mulit-tenant locations with limited space was a focus of Steve's talk.

Leonard @ the Sheraton's
water recycling system
Once again the Sheraton Downtown Atlanta served as the tour host hotel.  Thank you Niles Harris, Sheraton GM, for your generous spirit.

Day Two began with a thorough back-of-the-house tour of the Sheraton by Leonard McCoy, Director of Engineering, and Daniel Senden, Director of Sales & Marketing.  Taking their zero waste commitment seriously, the Sheraton completely eliminated polystyrene use at the hotel, even in the employee cafeteria.  Beyond zero waste, the SC group learned about the Sheraton's saline pool, electrical vehicle charging stations, impressive water recycling system for their laundry service, window glass replacement projects and the amazing number of trees on the hotel's property.

For additional details on the Sheraton's sustainability commitment read the IMPACT Blog post, Sheraton Atlanta POWERS New Energy & Identity, and the ZWZ Blog post, Charter ZWZ Participant Tours

Tim Trefzer sharing with the group
Later in the morning Tim Trefzer, Georgia World Congress Center Authority Sustainability Manager, educated the group on the recycling strides taken at the GWCC & the GA Dome over the past several years.  Tim was candid about challenges and the impact the respective convention customers have on the facility's ability to maximize landfill diversion.  The trend is towards active partnership between convention decision makers and the GWCC.  Read the ZWZ Blog post, GWCC Hits Recycling Stride, for impressive reuse and recycling stats when a convention works in unison with the GWCC.

The above referenced ZWZ Blog post on ZWZ Participant tours also includes an overview of a GWCC fall visit.  For pictorial recaps of the Sheraton & GWCC tours, see the Ei FB album, Fall, 2011 ZWZ Participant Tours.

A full-house during for the morning
Jay Bassett with the U.S. EPA Region IV, along with team members Mary Beth Van Pelt & Thornell Cheeks, led an enthusiastic session on the the next steps necessary to bring zero waste initiatives to SC.  Emphasizing the importance of collaborative effort, Jay noted the SCHA has most of the important players at the table.

Lunch at Cafe Jonah was the last stop before the group returned to Columbia.  Jessica Hanners and Eric Miller shared how they made zero waste practices work in older buildings with limited space.  Souper Jenny, an affiliated restaurant around the corner, is one of the ZWZ-Buckhead Charter Participants.

Eric & Jessica 
For the tour pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB albums, DAY 1 - SC Hospitality 2nd ATL ZWZ Tour and DAY 2 - SC Hospitality 2nd ATL ZWZ Tour.

Trip success was evident by Douglas OFlaherty's , SCHA Director of Operations, immediate follow-up e-mail scheduling the conference call to discuss an ACTION plan. Stay tuned for updates as the SCHA understands sustainable practices are important to solid business models.

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