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Thursday, June 28, 2012

U.S. Zero Waste Business Council hosts first-rate conference

The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council hosted their first annual conference in Costa Mesa, CA on June 26 & 27 with an enthusiastic crowd from across North America, including attendees from Hawaii, Toronto and each quadrant of the continental U.S.  Impressive, especially for an inaugural conference!

Stephanie Barger of Earth Resource and Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates were the drivers of the successful conference along with strong support from the USZWBC Board Members.  As industry leaders, Stephanie and Gary secured a stellar speaker line-up for their three keynotes along with the many panel discussions.

Eiko & Stephanie 
Setting the conference tone, keynote speaker Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an amazing overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. Once top management buy-in was secured, Eiko developed programs requiring 100% employee participation, including training, fun contests and monetary incentives.  

Eiko expanded the common three R's to Ricoh's Five R's: Refuse, Return, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Refuse = Avoid buying anything that becomes waste. Return = Return packaging materials to supplier for their Reuse. Ricoh works in partnership with their suppliers on evolving packaging that eliminates waste and creates reusable materials.  Eliminating waste streams and incorporating sustainable practices into operations, Ricoh achieved improved bottom-line results, a common theme among speakers.

Gary & Jo
With a focus on national and global industry leaders, the Leading the Way: Businesses and Zero Waste - Diverting over 90% from landfill, incineration and the environment panel discussion completed the morning sessions.  Panelists Jo Licata - Hilton Hotel and National Reuse Collaborative, Rick Crandell - Albertsons | Supervalu and Kelly Harris - MillerCoors continued the theme that zero waste practices require collaborative effort within the organization, community and suppliers. Innovative zero waste accomplishments across the board result in impressive cost-savings and improved corporate profits.

After International Zero Waste Expert Dr. Paul Connett's passionate luncheon keynote presentation, attendees were well educated on the role incineration plays in zero waste claims and its negative community and environment impact.

Scott @ podium
In the afternoon, the focus shifted to strong regional companies and how zero waste goals are achieved without the economies of scales enjoyed by the global leaders. Innovative approaches are key to their successes. Panelists included Mandi McKay of Sierra Nevada BreweryScott Lutocka of Piazza Produce, and Ellen Nowa of St. Joseph Heritage Health CareScott installed security cameras in the loading dock area - it only took a few facility-wide intercom call-outs "that cardboard goes in recycling" to instill the new procedures as standard.

The first day ended with a relaxed reception in the hotel's garden terrace with perfect California weather.  New friends bonded over delicious food and drinks before heading out for dinner.

Hospitality Panel
Interactive breakout sessions filled the second day morning agenda.  Gary Liss moderated the Hospitality panel including Leslie Lukacs of L2 Environmental, Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jack DeBell of University of Colorado Recycling and Holly Elmore of Elemental Impact | Zero Waste Zones.  With an interactive audience, the panel discussion served as an excellent resource for those ready to embark on zero waste programs within the hospitality arena.

Marc @ podium
A perfect final keynote speaker, Marc Gunther, writer for Fortune and, gave an informative and inspirational luncheon commentary on the origins of zero waste (hint: not a new concept!), where we are and the importance of current directions.  Well-informed, Marc included pertinent quotes, video ads and product examples to ground his points on strides in evolving social and corporate culture.

Infiltrating within discussions and in specific afternoon sessions, the conference served as a strategy platform for the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification.  As zero waste becomes mainstream, third party validation is important to maintain integrity and give corporate and personal consumer clarity through the myriad of landfill-free claims.  

First on the agenda is defining what is zero waste and landfill-free.  The big question woven throughout the presentations was:  Does incinerated material qualify as recycled or re-purposed material for zero waste claims?

Ei Team @ conference
Ei had a strong USZWBC conference presence:  Ei Partner CleanRiver was a key sponsor with Bruce Buchan & Ron Clark attending, Ei Partners Chris Bradlee of BASF and Kurt Wirgau of Heritage Interactive Services were active attendees, and ZWZ Participant Scott Lutocka & Ei founder Holly Elmore spoke on conference panels.  

Conference PPT presentations may be downloaded on the USZWBC 2012 Conference Presentations page.  For a pictorial conference recap, visit the Ei FB, 06-12 US Zero Waste Business Council Conference.

National industry events are the foundation for education, motivation and inspiration necessary to create an environment where zero waste practices are standard practices. Congrats to Stephanie, Gary and USZWBC Board Members for orchestrating a successful national conference!  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

NRA | ZWZ | Ei Partnership - Powerful!

In June the National Restaurant Association deepened its Zero Waste Zones' partnership with an Atlanta visit to meet civic | business leaders and ZWZ Participants.  At the February, 2011 ZWZ Three-Year Anniversary Press Conference, NRA senior executive vice-president policy & public affairs Scott DeFife announced the national collaboration between the NRA and Elemental Impact | ZWZ.  The ZWA Blog post, ZWZ Garners National Support, gives an overview of the press conference.

Susan Montgomery 
Chris Moyer, NRA ConSERVE program director, and Jeff Clark, NRA ConSERVE consultant, traveled to Atlanta prepared to share the NRA's ZWZ value-adds and learn how the NRA may assist the program move to the next impact level. The two-day trip was a whirlwind marathon with Ei program director Susan Montgomery orchestrating the meeting series with community leaders.  

Beginning with Atlanta Recycles, Michael Cheyne - Atlanta Airport director of sustainability and asset management - hosted fellow executive committee members in his capacity as Atlanta Recycles co-chair.  There is strong ZWZ history with Atlanta Recycles. When launched under the Green Foodservice Alliance, the ZWZ-Downtown Atlanta was in partnership with Atlanta Recycles.  Another common ground is the Turner Foundation:  Laura Turner Seydel serves as the ZWZ Chair and the Turner Foundation is one of Atlanta Recycles founding organizations.

Chris & Jeff during lunch meeting
with Sustainable Atlanta
Next on the agenda was a lunch meeting with Sustainable Atlanta including executive director Suzanne Burnes and communications director Scott Briskey.  In her prior professional position, Suzanne served as assistant director of the Sustainability Division of the GA Department of Natural Resources.  While under now deceased Marlin Gottschalk's direction, the Sustainability Division was a strong ally and partner from the absolute beginning and provided guidance moving ZWZ from a vision to a reality.  Suzanne continues her ZWZ commitment in her Sustainable Atlanta tenure.

The Greenprints Midtown Team
plus Chris, Jeff & Susan
After lunch the Greenprint Midtown Team, consisting of Midtown Alliance, Southface and Sustainable Atlanta, met with the Chris & Jeff to assess how the ZWZ may interface within the Greenprint Waste Task Force.  Dan Hourigan, Midtown Alliance director transportation and sustainability, is a long-term ZWZ supporter.  

In 2009, the ZWZ-Midtown launched in partnership with the Midtown Alliance.  The ZWZ Ambassador Program was developed in partnership with the Midtown Alliance, who provided resources and valuable insight while creating the recruiting and training material.

Another strong program supporter, Jean Pullen represented the City of Atlanta and their vested interest in program success.  As a ZWZ-Participant, the City works in tandem with the ZWZ in their city-wide zero waste initiatives. Jean facilitated introductions to Michael Cheyne at the Atlanta Airport, a ZWZ Participant and the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Airport Pilot.

Meeting with GWCCA & CAP
The final formal meeting of the day was with Central Atlanta Progress director of sustainability Lauren Dufort and Georgia World Congress Center Authority director of sustainability Tim Trefzer.  CAP, the downtown business organization, gave their formal ZWZ support in a meeting prior to the 2009 program launch.  The acclaimed 2009 ZWZ Launch Press Conference was hosted by the GWCCA, who was the first Founding Participant to say YES to joining the program.

Jeff & Chris all smiles after a
successful day of meetings
A special thank you to Sustainable Atlanta for the use of your conference room for the meeting series - it was perfect!

With the formal meetings complete, Chris, Jeff, Susan and Ei founder Holly Elmore regrouped at Empire State South for a delicious ending to a fabulous yet exhausting day.  The following day Chris & Jeff met with ZWZ Participants Affairs to Remember, Fifth Group Restaurants and Parsley's Catering.

Stay tuned for new ZWZ developments over the next months as the NRA determines how they may assist propelling the program into the next dimensions of impact - Exciting times!

Chuck Klass Joins Ei Advisory Council - WELCOME!

With great honor, Elemental Impact welcomes Charles (Chuck) Klass to the Ei Advisory Board. A well-respected paper pulp expert, Chuck is an invaluable resource as Ei addresses the integrity inherent within paper foodservice ware recycling processes. 

To date the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots chose to embrace compostable foodservice ware products. Future pilots will directly address whether it is best to use compostable and|or recyclable products. Lively discussion is certain to ensue - Ei will look to Chuck to assist with untangling discussion points with grounded facts, many at the molecular level.

Chuck @ Holly's
Paper Pulp 101 Course
In addition to providing consulting services to the paper, pulp and allied industries through his company Klass Associations, Chuck serves as an adjunct professor at his Alma Mater Western Michigan University.  A prolific writer, Chuck has extensive credentials to his name for published articles, course creation and facilitation as well as numerous industry awards.

Several of the more prestigious industry awards bestowed upon Chuck include the TAPPI Distinguished Service Award and The Western Michigan University Paper Technology Foundation Paper Technology Hall of Fame - IMPRESSIVE!

With over 50 years of membership in the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, Inc., Chuck was honored as a TAPPI  Life Time Member for his extensive contributions to the organization and industry. Using his MBA in Marketing Management (with Distinction) from Pace University in New York, Chuck couples his technical expertise with strong business skills in consulting and education endeavors.

Adviser @ a May, 2012 Paper
Pulp meeting
Ei founder Holly Elmore, who calls Sarasota her hometown, is fortunate to spend educational time with Chuck waterside near his Madiera Beach, FL home. The ZWA Blog post, Paper Pulp + Water = Rod 'N Reel, Anna Maria, FL, is a recap of Holly's first Paper Pulp 101 session in May, 2011.

Chuck is one of those unique individuals who brings a great sense of humor along with wisdom to challenges and opportunities. With the evolution of the foodservice ware packaging, as well as transport packaging, Ei looks to Chuck to ensure integrity is infiltrated in systems developed within programs and initiatives.

Thank you Chuck for accepting the Ei Advisory Council invitation - WELCOME!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Atlanta Retail Biodiesel Station Opens

Atlanta residents, along with motorists traveling on the U.S. Department of Energy's I-75 Green Corridor,  may now fuel vehicles with B20 and B100 biodiesel.  The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, in partnership with Clean Energy Biofuels, christened their retail biodiesel station at a well-attended Grand Opening Ceremony on Thursday, June 21.

CEB Biofuel Station
LOCAL is at the core of the CEB biodiesel produced in Monroe, GA and sold at the 250 Arizona Avenue fueling station.  CEB collects spent grease from Metro Atlanta commercial kitchen fryers for biodiesel production and delivers the finished product to the retail station.  Local residents purchase the fuel for metro Atlanta driving. The CEB facility is the only Georgia biodiesel station selling locally produced fuel.

PARTNERSHIP is the weaving thread for station success.  In addition to the SACE | CEB partnership, the East Tennesse Clean Fuels Coalition partnership adds the I-75 Green Corridor participation component.  ETCFC is manager for the corridor program and responsible for promoting the station to those traveling the I-75 Corridor from Florida to Michigan.  The goal is to create the longest alternative fuels corridor in the nation as it traverses six states and just under 1800 miles.
McKay fueling the first car along
with the program speakers

SUSTAINABILITY is the foundation for the CEB biofuel station.  In addition to its local core, the CEB production facility is powered 100% by solar polar with no assistance from the grid.  The biodiesel is made completely from spent grease with no virgin oil included in the production process.

With strong City of Atlanta support, Denise Quarles - COA Director of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability - was the first in a series of impressive grand opening program speakers.  In addition to Denise, Dale Aspy of the U.S. EPA, Region IV, SACE Board President John Noel, Jonathan Overly of ETCFC and McKay Johnson of CEB presented in the ceremony's program.  SACE executive director Dr. Stephen Smith served as the Master of Ceremonies.

Denise at the podium
photo courtesy of Susan Montgomery
The biodiesel station opening is integral to the Atlanta-based  Zero Waste Zones program as many of the participants contract with CEB for their spent grease collection.  During the ZWZ formation, ZWZ director Holly Elmore worked closely with SACE on assisting participants meet the ZWZ Criteria requiring spent grease be collected for biofuel production.  When practical, ZWZ strives to keep contracted services local and close the loop in recycling systems - both are achieved with the CEB station opening.

McKay & Anne happy with
the ceremony success
For a pictorial recap of the grand opening ceremony, see the Ei FB album, 06-21-12 Biodiesel Fueling Station Grand Opening.  Anne Blair, SACE Clean Diesel & Bioenergy Program Manager, was the Atlanta action person who made the fueling station a reality and is featured in many pictures.

Join Elemental Impact for a strong round of applause to SACE and CEB for success in an industry where most closed their operations.  It took perseverance, tenacity and ingenuity to create a model program for spent grease collection | biofuel production that makes solid business.  The vast majority, if not all, of the Georgia biofuel production facilities in business at the 2009 ZWZ launch are closed.  

CEB | SACE exemplify the pioneering spirit that propels Atlanta into the national sustainability spotlight - Thank You!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction

With the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, Atlanta stepped to the helm as a national leader in food waste reduction initiatives.  The early emphasis was diversion of food residuals from the landfill to composting operations.  

Elizabeth Royte
As they focused on the volume of food diverted from the landfill, the ZWZ Participants found unique ways to REDUCE food waste, thus reducing food costs. With a strong focus on the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, Participants discovered additional food generated in their operations for donation to local organizations feeding the hungry population.

Renowned nature | science writer Elizabeth Royte is passionate about respectful treatment of food including waste reduction, delivering unsalable yet delicious food to the hungry population, and composting of the no longer edible residuals.  As part of her research on food waste reduction, Elizabeth visited Atlanta to learn about the diverse and innovative systems in place.

Home of the ZWZ, Elemental Impact hosted Elizabeth's Atlanta visit and orchestrated a series of interviews with a wide range of individuals who spearhead the City's leadership role.  It was thrilling to hear tales of how these individuals | organizations commit themselves to a cause that benefits ALL concerned, including the corporate bottom line.

Patrick Cuccaro, Affairs to Remember general manager and ZWZ champion, articulated the underlying commitment with perfection:  Food waste reduction and donation programs are a unique opportunity where one's spiritual convictions align with corporate responsibility.  Note the preceding is a paraphrase of Patrick's comment.

Robby Astrove
Beginning with grass roots impact, Elizabeth met with local maverick Robby Astrove of Concrete Jungle, one his many important endeavors.  Under Concrete Jungle's direction volunteers harvest fruit from previously untended trees around the Atlanta metro area.    

Once cleaned and inspected, the fruit is donated to local shelters as a treat to those who usually only eat second-hand food.  Besides the nutritional value, the fruit hand-picked for these individuals is a step towards restoring dignity, the basis for rebuilding stolen lives.  The ZWA Blog post, The Many Faces of Zero Waste, gives an overview of Concrete Jungle's impressive urban foraging mission.

Ecco Chefs Craig Richards &
Casey Wise, Ecco's garden stewards
Fifth Group partner Steve Simon was next on the interview itinerary.  Ecco's rooftop garden was the perfect spot to learn the details of how Steve's actions are shifting the nation's second-largest private sector industry's standard practices. In recent restaurant lease negotiations, Steve insisted food waste collection for composting was included in the flagship office building lease provisions.

Farmer D & Elizabeth in
garden area behind his store
The following day the interview marathon continued with Farmer D (aka Daron Joffe). Using his extensive composting expertise, Farmer D partners with Whole Foods on a composting program that closes the loop for food waste generated at metro Atlanta stores.  In addition to his Farmer D Organic Compost brand, Farmer D owns a cool organic gardening center, a haven for the home gardener.

As a volunteer, Myron Smith coordinates Second Helping's food donation and collection program.  A quiet, astute business man, Myron determined where quality food was slipping through current systems and ending up in landfills or compost windrows, rather than hungry bellies. Local farmers markets were a ripe venue.  At market close, farmers generally have a portion of their bounty unsold that they are happy to donate to Second Helpings.

Myron & Elizabeth by Second
Helpings Truck 
Myron developed a system where a Second Helpings volunteer arrives at market close to collect the produce in plastic bins and delivers the fresh, seasonal food to a nearby shelter, usually no more than 20 minutes from the market location. Many farmers now bring produce not meeting their specifications, yet delicious, to markets for donation.  In the past this food stayed on the farm for hog feed or the compost pile.

It takes ingenuity and tenacity to find the hidden food within current programs and determine how to collect and deliver the food in an effective, safe manner.  By finding shelters located close to markets, Myron's system mirrors a trip to the grocery store where the store is the market and the home is a shelter.  Food quality and safety is maintained without coolers or refrigeration.

Chef Ahmad, Patrick, Elizabeth &
Ei founder Holly Elmore
photo courtesy of ATR
Next in the interview series was an amazing lunch at Affairs to Remember locally sourced and prepared by Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad. Beyond composting their food waste, ATR made impressive strides in reducing food waste.  Under Patrick's direction, the sales department shifted contract provisions to include chef's selection of fresh, seasonal items.  The chef's selection provision gives the flexibility to serve produce at its peak and reduces waste by purchasing for combined events.

Chef Ahmad keeps an eagle eye on hidden waste in the ATR kitchen.  A prime example is the discovery that a pint of cream remains in a case of poured, cold quart containers.  If the poured case sets out for a few minutes, the remaining cream loosens from the container side and easily pours.  Over the past year, the equivalent cream savings is approximately five gallons. It is amazing to realize the waste reduction possible by simple, acute observation.  

GWCC food residuals
awaiting transport for composting
The final interview was with the Georgia World Congress Center Team including facility foodservice operator Levy Restaurants.  As the host to the 2009 ZWZ Launch Press Conference, the GWCC is a veteran zero waste advocate committed to continual refinement in their recycling and food waste practices.  The ZWA Blog post, GWWC Hits Recycling Stride, gives an overview of impressive stats from several large conventions.

Completely polystyrene-free, the GWCC first replaced  polystyrene foodservice ware in the employee cafeteria with compostable products.  Next the GWCC upgraded the cafeteria to reusable plates and flatware eliminating a significant amount of product leaving the campus for composting.  To understand the integrity of a facility's sustainability commitment, learn their practices at behind-the-scene operations such as the employee cafeteria.  Kudos to GWCC | Levy Restaurants for your sustainability integrity!

Elizabeth's whirlwind two-day Atlanta visit was an excellent opportunity to highlight the many dimensions of the City's food waste reduction efforts.  For pictorial details on the interview marathon, see the Ei FB album, 06-12 Elizabeth Royte ATL Visit.

Remember there is not a food shortage dilemma; the reason so many go hungry is due to waste and distribution | infrastructure challenges. Atlanta's pioneers are making tremendous strides to creating a reality where abundant, healthy food is available to the population spectrum.