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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Food Waste, the business perspective

Food waste, the stupendous quantity and its landfill destination, is a hot media topic. In 2010 Jonathan Bloom hit a trigger point with his groundbreaking book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and what we can do about it), and opened the gateways to exposing the tremendous waste inherent in the nation's food production and consumption.

Months later Dana Gunders with the National Resource Defense Council issued a concise, well-written two-page document,Your scraps add up, reducing food waste can save money and resourcesthat details facts in easy to understand graphs, lists simple behavioral changes, and includes ample live links to resources for those who choose to dig deeper. The document inspired the ZWA Blog's most popular post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third.

In August, 2012 the NRDC released an Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, researched and written by Dana. The paper serves as a well-organized, easy to access and quotable document for the plethora of recent wasted food stories in national media outlets.

food waste image from the
SmartPlanet article post
A common theme emerges: the food waste scenario is more than an environmental concern; it  threatens our nation's economic security.  On January 15 CBS SmartPlanet published For business, food waste a ripe opportunity for savings by Kevin Gray that approaches food waste from the business perspective.

Using the NRDC issue paper along with examples from Dana and other sources, Kevin grounds the article with facts of the current situation.  According to the Dutch journal Food Policy, an estimated $47 billion annually year is lost at the retail and consumer levels each each year.  Many corporate and personal consumers do not hear the environmental call to action.  Yet when rephrased into the dollar impact on the pocketbook or bottom line, a voice comes forth that evokes action.

GA World Congress Center
In his article, Kevin uses Atlanta food waste heroes the Georgia World Congress Center and Affairs to Remember as pioneers whose top and bottom lines benefit from their food waste reduction practices. Consumer demand for zero waste initiatives results in increased revenue and waste reduction equates to cost-savings.

In February, 2009 the GWCC hosted the Zero Waste Zones launch at a prominent press conference led by the acting regional director of the U.S. EPA, Region IV.  The ZWZ launch put Atlanta in the national sustainability spotlight with tremendous media response, including the CNN ZWZ Story featured on's home page during Earth Week 2009. As a founding ZWZ Participant, the GWCC was one of the first, if not THE first, Atlanta foodservice operator to source-separate food waste for compost collection.

GWCC food waste awaiting
collection for composting
Tim Trefzer, GWCC director of sustainability, joined the team in late 2010 and took the campus sustainability practices to new dimensions.  For examples of creative reuse and recycling in action at several major conventions, visit the ZWA Blog post, GWCC Hits Recycling Stride.

In 2012 the Georgia Dome, one of three venues on the GWCC campus, accepted the Sustainable Food Court Initiative invitation to serve as the Event Venue Pilot.  The ZWA Blog post, Georgia Dome - SFCI Event Venue Pilot!, announces the pilot and the GA Dome SFCI Team Tour post is an overview of the Dome's established zero waste practices - impressive!

In the SmartPlant article, Tim validates the economics supporting the GWCC's sustainability commitment, “It’s a competitive advantage and it sets us apart because we’ve made it a priority,”

Affairs to Remember general manager Patrick Cuccaro attributes $250,000 in revenues directly to the prestigious off-premises catering company's zero waste practices. The astute consumer includes zero waste practices in their decision making criteria.  Result: increased revenue!

Food waste reduction is in direct proportion to cost-savings and bottom line improvement. Beyond Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad's eagle watch in the kitchen, Patrick reduced food waste by evolving menu selections in the proposal process. With more consumers requesting local, seasonal cuisine, ATR found it was an easy sell to include "chef's choice" for produce items. Thus, menu synergy is created and Chef Ahmad may maximize produce use, minimizing waste.

Chef Ahmad in action
Photo courtesy of ATR
Early zero waste adopters like ATR and the GWCC received excellent media accolades over the years for their pioneering spirit.  With food waste prominent in mainstream media, the accolade doorway is closing and soon the critical doorway will open for those who choose to retain the landfill habit.  Kevin closes his important article with Patrick's quote:
“If you are not in this conversation in the next two or three years, you are going to be increasingly less relevant to the buying public. Because it’s a mega-movement, not a trend, that is moving up the food chain and the age chain. The younger you are and the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to understand it. All types of corporations are going to figure it out or be left in the dust.”
Atlanta's food waste heroes keep the City in the national sustainability spotlight. While the SmartPlanet article focuses on the business perspective, the story has many flavors. In November Martha Stewart's Whole Living  published Spoil Alerta feature article by Elizabeth Royt that emphasized the vast range of food waste reduction programs in place throughout Atlanta's corporate and private communities.  The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight, is a Spoil Alert overview with anecdotes not included in print. 

Whole Living issue
with Spoil Alert article
A common ground between the Whole Living and SmartPlanet articles is the connecting role Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore plays among the heroes. Elizabeth and Kevin each portray Holly as a character:  Elizabeth refers to Holly as the "Kevin Bacon of wasted food" while Kevin compares her tErin Brockovich.

Food waste is prevalent throughout the entire food system: from the farms, the food processors, the distribution centers, the retail operators - grocery stores, markets and foodservice outlets, and to the consumer. Ei is in the initial stages of developing a template to close waste leakages in the foodservice produce distribution systems. The ZWA Blog post, Food Waste Reduction in Foodservice Distribution Channels, gives a program overview detailing the challenges and industry collaboration necessary for success.

As important as the food waste scenario is to the environment, action will germinate from the business perspective, bottom line improvement and customer demands. Thank you Kevin Gray for taking the time to pen an excellent, well-researched food waste article written in a voice corporate America hears.  


  1. This is really a great idea.. Thanks for share.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment - it is important to take action, especially since it makes good business sense! Holly

  3. Holly, thank you for your advocacy on these issues. You are a true thought leader.

    1. ... and thank you for your commitment to action with integrity. It is an honor to work with you and call you my dear friend. Holly

  4. Thank you for sharing such a great ideas to prevent food wastage. It is pretty cool stuff. I am really a big fan of such kind of information. Summer Sausage

    1. Thank YOU for caring, taking the time to read the AND commenting. It is responses like yours that keeps me motivated to dedicate time to writing posts. Have a lovely weekend! Holly