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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bring the Possible out of Impossible

A common phrase in Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore's speaking engagements summarizes the overall driving force in Ei initiatives:
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
While nurturing the Zero Waste Zones from their 2009 launch until the September, 2012 National Restaurant Association purchase, the Ei Team worked closely with industry pioneers to create zero practices grounded in sound business principles and easy to implement.  Quotes, like the below from Dave Rossman, then general manager at the Doubletree Atlanta-Buckhead, were common by late 2009:
"By joining the Zero Waste Zones we were given an easy and cost-saving solution for food waste composting.  We have fewer and lighter compactor pulls since there is no smell from decomposing food in the compactor.  The process was easy and our employees feel good about helping the environment."
With the ZWZ success, the possible was brought out of what seemed impossible in 2008. It was not easy getting to consistent ZWZ Participant quotes on how easy it was to implement food waste collection practices in commercial kitchens. Ei specializes in creating pathways within frontiers by working closely with pioneers willing to make the effort so others may easily follow.

As documented in the ZWA Blog post, Ei: An Established Program Creator, the NRA ZWZ acquisition moved the Sustainable Food Court Initiative center stage for Ei's zero waste focus. True to the Ei tagline: Sustainability in ACTION, the SFCI is in full action mode. In early March, the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot - Concord Mills in Charlotte, NC - hosted the third Ei Partner Tours. For an overview of the tours, see The IMPACT Blog post, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours.and the Ei FB album, 03-04-13 Ei Ptr Tours - Day 1, for a pictorial recap.

Concord Mills - a Simon Property Group mall with the food court operated by HMSHost - was a natural pilot choice. With Ei Partner HMSHost at the backbone of the Atlanta Airport SFCI Airport Pilot, the foodservice tenant buy-in challenge was not applicable. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, is an overview of how the Concord Mills Team embarked upon food waste collection for composting, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling pilots.

The Ei Partner Tours were an excellent opportunity to showcase how the WE Conciousness results in programs where all benefit. The ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, introduces the WE Consciousness as integral to zero waste success.

The Charlotte "Can Do" Team
Ray, Brian & Larry Jenkins
For an overview of Ray Soporowski's - CM SPG general manager- and Brian Shetron's - CM HMSHost food & beverage director, "can do" attitude that results in action, see the ZWA Blog post, Concord Mills: The Power of "WE" in Action.

Working with the Concord Mills team. Susan Stanton with Tomra | Orwak was instrumental in launching the plastic film recycling pilot. Beyond providing the baling equipment, Susan's industry expertise was invaluable, especially during the chaotic energy present in the creation process.To make it easy for tenants, Ray implemented a porter service for weekly plastic film collection. Tenants are enthusiastic to participate and doing their best to shift internal practices so a clean stream is generated. From the August program launch through the end of February, 18,000 pounds of clean, clear plastic film was baled and sold for recycling at Concord Mills

Jim, Brian & Ray by the new
food waste container
For food waste collection, Jim Lanier of Earth Farms worked closely with Ray and Brian to develop a system that worked well for all. With Earth Farms located 45 minutes from Concord Mills, Jim developed a weekly collection system that kept odors under control. When the original 95 gallon totes proved less than ideal, Jim replaced totes with a 2.3 yard container. Working as a team, Ray's staff moves the container from the interior hallway site to the loading area for Earth Farm's collection. Note: a layer of spent coffee grinds on top of the food waste is an excellent odor control option.

Concord Mills is an exception to most mall designs with their "race track" internal hall system. The halls are wide (equipment placement is relatively easy without infringing on fire codes) and built for vehicle traffic. The mall has forklifts making it practical to move the food waste container to the loading area.  

Brian explains BOH practices to
Laurette & Susan during tours
On the DAY 2 of the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours the entourage traveled to Stanley, NC for an excellent tour of Earth Farms' composting facility.The Ei FB album, 03-05-13 Charlotte Ei Ptr Tours - Day 2, includes a pictorial recap of the Earth Farms tour.

HMSHost works closely with The Food Donation Connection on wasted food donation programs at their airport, turnpike service center and mall operations. At airports the grab 'n go items were the first step to creating a national donation template.The ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, gives an overview of the Tampa Airport donation program.

Brian took the next big step in wasted food donation: prepared, unserved food from Quick Service Restaurants. In accordance with Popeye's quality control chicken must be sold within 20 minutes of frying. Standards like Popeye's generate a significant amount of wasted food that is perfect for donation.

Rev White & Brian
Working with the Food Donation Connection, Brian identified the wasted food generated in the food court operations that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Next  the local Second Harvest office identified a shelter set-up for food requiring further processing before serving. Reverend White of Urban Street Ministries was a perfect match and collects 300 - 400 pounds of food weekly to feed those living in the streets. 

It is an honor to witness the team work and heartfelt caring required to create and launch the Concord Mills wasted food donation program. Future blog posts will dive deeper into the program along with advice on how to create similar programs where donatable, wasted food goes to composting or the landfill.

As of the tours, 38 tons of food waste was diverted from landfills to composting and 6800 pounds of consumable food was distributed to hungry folks at Concord Mills. By working with Simon & HMSHost, the impact of templates developed at Concord Mills has potential to impact nearly 400 Simon malls and around 80 plus North American airports with HMSHost foodservice operations.

Concord Mills is the perfect pilot: 1> mall & food court managers who operate within the WE Consciousness 2> food court is operated by one tenant, Ei Partner HMSHost 3> mall back-of-the-house design accommodates equipment placement and material transport. With plastic film recycling, food waste collection for composting and wasted food donation programs in-place, it is time to explore zero waste practices in malls with more typical scenarios.

Clean plastic film ready for baling
@ Concord Mills
On DAY 2 the partners started the busy day with a tour of SouthPark Mall, a high-end Simon mall in Charlotte. Plastic film recycling is underway at SouthPark with their baler arriving days earlier. Ray, Brian and Jim joined the Ei Partners to educate Randy Thomas - Southpark general manager- and operations manager Ron Rentschler on the support the Ei Team provides while implementing new practices. First action steps are for SouthPark to explore back-of-the-house food waste collection with staged-in implementation. 

SouthPark has three strong national restaurant tenants - The Cheesecake FactoryMaggiano's Little Italy and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks  - who contract for their own waste & recycling services. Ei plans to work on a talking points template for SouthPark to educate the restaurant management that food waste collection for composting makes good business sense. Besides the zero waste impact, the food waste volume from these restaurants creates route density to keep Earth Farm's costs in-line.

Bruce & Ray with
SCFI FOH recycling center
For Concord Mills, the next frontier is front-of-the-house food waste collection in the food court. Challenges abound, making the scenario perfect for the SFCI Team to lend valuable industry expertise. CleanRiver Recycling Solutions Tom Lembo chairs the FOH Recycling Center SFCI committee and is excited to move into action mode. Bruce Buchan - CleanRiver founder & CEO - attended the tours as a featured partner and gave an excellent presentation on DAY 1. The first rendition of the SFCI recycling center is in-place and ready for its next evolution - thank you CleanRiver for your generosity with both expertise and equipment.

Transport and consumer-facing packaging is foundational  to moving the zero waste needle closer to no waste. In the ZWA Blog post, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, transport packaging is addressed along with approaching suppliers as partners.  Examples are given where suppliers shifted from "landfill packaging" to reuseable | recyclable options where all win, including the supplier's bottom line.

Jim showing Lynn the final
product @ composting site
Representing single-use consumer foodservice packaging, Ei Advisory Council member Lynn Dyer - Foodservice Packaging Institute president, joined the Ei Partner Tours. FPI is active in industry sustainable options with their Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group. On her quest to learn industry best practices and potentials, the Earth Farms' tour was a top priority in Lynn's busy schedule. It was Lynn's first visit to a food waste composting site, the final destination for many single-use compostable consumer foodservice packaging. The entire tour group learned from Lynn's inquisitive conversation and questions. 

With impeccable timing, Ei founder Holly Elmore served on a SWANA Road to Zero Waste conference panel with Laurette Hall - Mecklenburg County director of sustainability - the week prior to the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours. For an overview of the conference session, see the ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste, Southern Style. Laurette accepted Holly's invitation and joined the Ei Partners for the DAY 1 tours & presentations at Concord Mills.

Laurette Hall with Linda Dunn
of HMSHost
Jake Wilson - Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful executive director & works with Laurette - is instrumental to Ei's Charlotte presence. Holly connected with Jake long before the first Charlotte adventure and relies on Jake as a local anchor. For the tours, Jake made the majority a priority in his hectic schedule. Local government support is critical to success and Ei is most appreciative of the strong Mecklenburg County bond.

The SFCI Team is staged for action bringing the possible out of what is perceived as impossible.  Exciting times!!!

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