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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Zero WATER Waste: more than a goal, a necessity

Water footprints matter too ..
image from Pitter Patter
Zero Water Waste - why is it not a mantra?  Water conservation gets heavy duty play yet calling attention to specific waste is an added dimension for zero waste advocates.  As in landfill-destined material, the many proverbial low-hanging fruit were addressed by astute business leaders in recent years.

Companies achieved water usage reduction by fixing leaky faucets and installing low-flush toilets, waterless urinals and no-touch sink faucets. Larger facilities experienced impressive savings, often with quick return-on-investment for the capital investment. 

self-service water station @ a
GA Tech Conference Center event
In the foodservice industry, where high water consumption is inherent in operations, offering customers water upon request, utilizing self-service water stations at events & conferences and thawing frozen food in refrigeration units - versus under cold running water - were easy, effective water-saving practices.  New commercial dishwashers are available with reduced water usage and low-flow pre-rinse spray valves are common in kitchens. It seemed most of the "easy" water-saving tasks were complete.

Yet, the proverbial tree matured with a new batch of water-saving ripe fruit!  Tying water-savings to kitchen grease generation is a frontier with a simple solution.

YUM - yet generates kitchen grease
For foodservice operations, building codes and | or health permits require hood systems over stoves, fryers and other kitchen equipment. Fans pull the grease generated during cooking through baffle filters and into a duct system destined for the roof. Fire codes require regular kitchen hood system cleaning, with many operations cleaning the grease build-up on a monthly basis. On average each hood cleaning uses 350 gallons of water, which is discharged to the local sewer system filled with grease and toxic cleaning solutions.

Ei Partner Ellis Fibre designed a patented lambs wool filter that is placed in front of the hood baffle filters. Note the baffle filter purpose is to "baffle" flames to prevent entrance into the duct system and contain a grease fire within the kitchen. The Ellis Fibre filters collect 90 - 95% of the grease BEFORE it enters the ducts. Thus, grease build-up is prevented throughout the hood system and on the roof. In addition to a fire hazard, rooftop grease build-up may cause structure damage resulting in costly repairs for the building owner.

recently installed Grease Lock
system with the EF filters
Nightly baffle filter washing, a labor and water intensive endeavor, is a common final kitchen closing task. With the EF filters, baffle filters are generally washed on a weekly basis; thus an 86% labor & water reduction for the task. With limited grease flowing into the ducts the roof remains in good repair around the exhaust area.

The BIG savings are in the reduced monthly hood cleanings to once or twice per year. Periodic inspections are required to determine if a hood cleaning is required pursuant the fire code. At 350 gallons per cleaning, one restaurant will on average save 3500 gallons water and related cleaning toxins per year. Note larger facilities - hotels, conference centers, event venues - have numerous kitchens with hood systems. Potential water & toxin savings are tremendous.

In addition to water, toxin & labor savings, the reduced hood cleaning keeps heavy industrial trucks off the road decreasing the area's carbon footprint.

grease build-up in the kitchen
hood system ducts
Elemental Impact is spearheading an Ellis Fibre | Grease Lock (EF filters are sold through Grease Lock distributors) Pilot to quantify the water, toxin and labor savings in an independent engineer's report. Renown engineer Jayendra Parikh of Compliance Solutions International will issue the paper that quantifies the environmental and business impact of the Grease Lock filter system. Along with a fried chicken quick service restaurant and a casual dining concept, HMSHost is participating in the pilot with one of their Atlanta Airport locations. The Ei FB album, 02-20-13 Grease Lock Pilot Tour, is a pictorial recap of the tour initiating the pilot.

Once published, a future ZWA Blog post will announce the report with anticipated impressive results.

Across industry boundaries, it is time to focus on high water consumption practices and determine how to reduce usage. Simple habit shifts may be the reduction answer for some while other areas may require advanced technology solutions.  Ei is studying a new system that significantly lowers cooling tower water consumption in large facilities. A tour is scheduled later this month at an installed system in Tampa, Florida. 

Together with Ei Partner EcoLogic Solutions, Ei is exploring an evolution in cleaning practices that addresses water usage & toxicity. The IMPACT Blog post, NYC Ei Partner Tours, gives an overview of ELS operations while the post, ELS Receives EPA Award, honors ELS for their impressive U.S. EPA award.

compliments of  KitchAnn Style
The water footprint is as or even more important than the carbon footprint. Global warming garners the headlines using the carbon footprint as the accepted sustainability measurement tool. The fact water is immediately essential to sustaining life seems ignored.  For human survival:  first, a human must breath; second, a human stay hydrated and third, a human must consume nutritious food. Water is at the foundation of #2 & #3. 

For Ei soil and water health is at the foundation of our important work. While stewards of the Zero Waste Zones, Ei was instrumental in bringing the collection of commercial food waste for compost to national prominence.  With the National Restaurant Association ZWZ purchase last fall (see the ZWA Blgo post, Ei: An Established Program Creator, for details), Ei's focus is on compost's imperative role in rejuvenating soil systems.  Note Ei founder Holly Elmore is the self-appointed spokesperson for Compost, The Quiet Hero via numerous national speaking engagements.

Water and soil are natural soul mates and must be addressed in unison. Stay tuned as Ei uses our powerful zero waste foundation to impact water waste and toxicity  The fun is escalating!!!.


  1. Thanks for sharing this information. Water conservation is everyone’s business. So take time to conserve water because it is us who will benefit from it.

    1. Thank you Julie for taking the time to read the post & commenting. Elemental Impact is embarking on a Water Usage & Toxicity focus - stay tuned as much more to come! Holly