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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions

Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon | water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue to melt, global temperatures are rising, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

A Pending Crisis
Abandoned farmstead in
American Dust Bowl, Oklahoma
photo courtesy of 
According to a senior United Nations official, there are only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues at current levels. In a Scientific American article, Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, states,"We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming."

A dangerous dilemma is brewing with an increasing global population and a diminishing ability to produce food.

In addition, plankton is perishing at alarming rates due to ocean acidification and warmer water temperatures. Marine plant life (phytoplankton, kelp, and algal plankton) photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars for energy - generates the vast majority of atmospheric oxygen.

The December 2015 Science Daily Failing phytoplankton, failing oxygen: Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth article states:
"About two-thirds of the planet's total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton -- and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans."
Is sustainability enough to stave off the building crisis of the diminishing food and oxygen supply?

In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program; the 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

Resilient Atlanta
Strategy Launch
photo courtesy of City of Atlanta
The City of Atlanta was named a 100RC member in 2016. Subsequently, the Office of Sustainability evolved into the Office of Resilience. As a cosmopolitan city with the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the nation, Atlanta is challenged with an overtaxed transportation network. 

A lack of affordable transportation options segues into challenges with food access for the city's underserved population. Understanding the imperative role food access plays in a resilient city, the Director of Urban Agriculture position supports urban food production, assists with brownfield redevelopment, and helps community members seeking to establish and sustain community gardens, farmers markets, and food hubs.

Is resilience enough to stave off the encroaching food and oxygen crisis?

Regenerative Solutions
To avoid a doom and gloom perspective, it is important to simplify the scenario and discover regenerative solutions. Beyond sustainability and resilience, regeneration focuses on rebuilding and restoring nature's perfect system.

Kiss the Ground's empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story, states the problem and the solution are a matter of balance. Simply: there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and ocean pools. To restore balance, excess carbon must transfer to the fossil, biosphere and/or soil pools. The ZWA Blog article, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance, explains the carbon cycles and the current out-of-balance scenario.

The Soil Story introduces regenerative agriculture | landscape practices as a solution for restoring the soil ecosystem. Healthy, alive soil nurtures plants with strong, deep root systems; the plants "pump" carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. In addition, healthy plants grown in alive soil produce abundant, nutritious food.

Once the atmospheric carbon reduces to a certain threshold, the oceans will release carbon into the atmosphere, reversing ocean acidification. Thus, marine plant life once again thrives, generating ample oxygen into the atmosphere.

Thus, soil regeneration addresses the food and oxygen components of the pending crisis.

In The Compost Story video, the sequel to The Soil Story, compost is introduced as a key ingredient in the soil regeneration recipe.

Kiss the Ground, the book
On the surface, the Industrial Revolution introduction of fossil fuel burning seems the main culprit in the out-of-balance carbon scenario. Yet a deeper dive, reveals a web of intertwined human activities set the foundation for the pending crisis.

In the recently released Kiss the Ground (KTG), how the food you eat can reverse climate change, heal your body and ultimately save the world book by Josh Tickell, the well-searched chapters dive deep into the destruction of the Earth's soils. 

Before industrial agriculture equipment was introduced to commercial farming, the soils were tilled with hand tools (shovels, hoes, picks, etc.) or with draft-animal-powered equipment. Simply, tilling is turning over and breaking up the soil. By its intent, tilling destroys the soil infrastructure built and maintained by mycorrhizal fungi network and results in degraded, unhealthy soil. 

Without the soil infrastructure designed to hold moisture and nurture roots, plants lack the necessary nutrients to produce abundant, healthy crop yields. Plant immune systems weaken often resulting in disease and insect infiltration. 

Thus, the introduction of synthetic fertilizers along with the "cides" - herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides. The KTG "Nazis and Nitrogen" chapter chronicles the development of common agrochemical practices from Nazi chemical warfare. It is chilling to realize the chemical compounds designed to kill humans are the foundation of the products routinely used in food production.
Buffalo (bison) herd grazing
photo courtesy of American Expedition

In an effort to separate native American Indians from their lifeblood, the U.S. government embarked on a massive buffalo massacre operation in the 1800's. Effective, the estimated 20 - 30 million buffalo population that once dominated North America was reduced to just over 1,000 by 1889.  Tragic on many levels, the buffalo massacre was the first step in the desertification of once lush American prairies. As discussed in the KTG "The Buffalo Bank Account" chapter, the buffalo grazing patterns were integral to prairie grassland health. Manure is nature's fertilizer and nutrition for the soil's prolific life forms. 

Another strong contributor to prairie desertification was the introduction of monocrop farms where the same crop is grown year after year on the same soil with no plant species rotation. Fallow fields left barren with no crop cover contribute to the deterioration of soil health. Vibrant soil ecosystems thrive on diversity and ensure the top soils are covered with a variety of plants.

Initiated in the 1930's, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) is a wholly own government corporation managed by the Risk Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As presented in KTG, the FCIC requires farmers to grow corn, soybeans, wheat and|or cotton from GMO seeds and employ agrochemical practices to qualify for the insurance program. Though they may not agree with the practices, many farmers are not willing to leave the FCIC safety net. Thus, the FCIC contributes to the death of the nation's soil. 

Soil Regeneration Success
The KTG "Bismark or Bust" chapter introduces Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch, regenerative landscaping for a sustainable future. At his 5,000-acre farm networked with owned and leased land, Gabe and his son Paul use regenerative agriculture practices with amazing results. Since 1993 Brown's Ranch is a no-till farm and uses a diverse crop strategy with cover and companion crops. An ever-evolving grazing strategy rests and rejuvenates the soil.

Gabe & Paul Brown
showcasing their healthy soil
photo courtesy of Brown's Ranch
No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or glyphosate are used on the farm. The Browns eliminated synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides use and only employ a minimum amount of herbicides.

Beyond restoring the soil, the farm produces abundant, healthy food, makes a solid profit, and provides a higher quality of life for the Browns. The "Bismark or Bust" chapter is an inspiring chapter filled with hope of what can be done.

Once a solution for the pending food | oxygen crisis is established, Josh shifts gears to creating a viable market for food produced with regenerative farming practices. Engaging the power of consumer demand, readers are encouraged to purchase healthy food that regenerates their health while restoring carbon cycle balance. Simple supply | demand economics will build strong markets for regenerative agriculture products.

In the final chapter, "The Regenerative Revolution," a wide array of examples for practical personal action is provided to participate in the Regenerative Revolution.

KTG is a must-read book for those concerned about the future of humanity and earthly life as we know it. The book is an easy, engaging read with personal anecdotes that build a connection with Josh. With its well-orchestrated media launch, KTG is a powerful catalyst to ignite the Regenerative Revolution.

Ei Soil Health Focus
In July Elemental Impact (Ei) announced Soil Health, regenerating life's foundation, is the primary ongoing focus. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are: 
With prominent corporate and government connections, Ei intends to promote the use of regenerative landscape practices on corporate complexes, college | university campuses, highway medians | shoulders, airport land surrounding runways, parks, and other available urban lands. Collectively, the regenerative landscaped areas are destined to serve as urban carbon sinks and aid in restoring the carbon cycle balance.

The GWCC Team with the
Hickory Grove Farm management
On July 31 Ei Founder Holly Elmore hosted the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC ) team on an empowering Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm tour to learn about regenerative agriculture practices. Since the tour, GWCC Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer worked with Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCC Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use food produced in the employee dining facility.

Hickory Grove Farm Manager Michael Blackwall & KSU Professor Jorge Perez educated on regenerative agriculture practices along with crop choice advice; Steve shared his extensive horticulture expertise, especially pertaining to plant | tree identification on the farm's old growth forest areas.

The ZWA Blog article, The Power of Tours, features the July Hickory Grove Farm tour; farm tour photos are included in the Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality.

A seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems, in the Southern Farm & Garden fall issue gives an overview of KSU's stellar sustainability commitment at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality, The Commons (KSU’s Gold LEED certified dining hall), and Hickory Grove Farm. Holly provided the photographs and copy for the publication feature.

In September Kiss the Ground joined the Ei Strategic Ally program. With abundant synergies, Kiss the Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace is the lead panelist on the Ei-Hosted panel Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils at the January 2018 U.S. Composting Council Conference. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Hosts U.S. Composting Council Conference, includes an overview of the prominent panel.

The time is NOW to move beyond sustainability | resilience and embrace regenerative solutions that return the carbon cycles to a healthy, balanced state. The food and oxygen crisis is real and grounded in solid scientific research. To survive, wildlife (including humans) must eat and breath oxygen - starvation and slow suffocation are painful deaths!

Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems. It is time for humans to stop attempts to "outsmart Mother Nature" and relax into a symbiotic relationship with the planet.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Atlanta Hosts U.S. Composting Council Conference

On January 22 - 25, 2018 Atlanta hosts the 26th Annual U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference & Tradeshow at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. As a pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for compost via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch, Atlanta is an ideal host for the empowering conference. 

The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, a Founding ZWZ Participant, boasts an embedded sustainability culture, including their food waste collection for compost program.

In a formal statement, the City of Atlanta, Mayor's Office of Resilience Senior Policy Advisor Boyd Leake welcomes the conference to Atlanta:
“The City of Atlanta and the Mayor’s Office of Resilience welcome the USCC Conference to Atlanta for the first time in January 2018. Composting is a critical part of the City’s strategy to address food residuals and yard trimmings, the need for soil amendments for local urban farms, and to combat climate change.”
Mercedes-Benz Stadium
With a special focus on sports/events organics recycling and green infrastructure, the 2018 conference theme is GAME ON! Building Sustainable Communities. In alignment with the theme, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chair, Scott Jenkins is the conference opening plenary speaker.

Three years prior to the MBS summer 2017 opening, Atlanta Falcons owner AMB Sports + Entertainment brought Scott to Atlanta to ensure the stadium was designed and built to impeccable sustainability standards. SUCCESS: MBS is on target to achieve LEED Platinum certification!!!

Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Scott brought Seattle's Safeco Field to zero waste in his role as Vice-President Ballpark Operations. A food waste collection for compost program, complete with compostable food & beverage packaging, was integral to the ballpark's success.

During the pre-conference activities, MBS tours are offered in the morning and afternoon.

In addition to the MBS tours, the Sustainability in Action: Atlanta's Green Infrastructure bus tour showcases Atlanta's diverse application of green infrastructure techniques. A sampling of tour stops include:
  • Atlanta City Hall Green Roof - built as a pilot program in 2003, the City of Atlanta green roof is the first municipal green roof in the Southeast. The intention was to raise awareness and demonstrate how green roofs may enhance Atlanta’s urban landscape.
  • Ponce City Market - opened in 2015, Ponce City Market is located in the historic Sears, Roebuck and Co. warehouse & store, which operated from 1927 - 1987. With local and national retail anchors, restaurants, a food hall, offices, and residential units, the 2.1 million-square-foot building on 16 acres is one of the largest by volume multi-use complexes in the Southeast U.S. 
  • Southface Energy Institute - the Southface headquarters building uses sustainable technologies to reduce energy, water, and waste, including its rooftop garden and an invessel composting system.
Atlanta-based Elemental Impact (Ei) is a conference media partner. In addition Ei Founder Holly Elmore moderates the Ei-hosted Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils panel discussion:
Soil is the foundation of life. Healthy, vibrant soil eco-systems are the building blocks for healthy communities with effective stormwater management programs, solid erosion control systems, and nutritious urban food production. … and compost feeds the soil eco-systems!
Learn from industry experts about compost’s empowering role in carbon sequestration | climate change, soil management systems grounded in solid economics, and green urban infrastructure.
The prominent panelists and their respective topics are:
  • The Compost Story – Finian Makepeace, Kiss the Ground Co-Founder
  • Soil Life: beyond dirt! – Kathy Kellogg Johnson, Kellogg Garden Products, Director of Sustainability & Chairman of the Board
  • Soils Strategies for the Urban Environment – Wayne King, Sr., ERTH Products CEO
  • Building Green: Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Approach – Cory Rayburn, City of Atlanta Watershed Manager
Joe Lamp'l of Growing a Greener
World with Kathy @ Laura's luncheon
Environmental activist Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation Chair, is the conference closing keynote speaker. In August, Laura hosted a powerful Sustainable Soils luncheon at the EcoManor, her Atlanta LEED-certified home. Though the program format was discussion-based, Kathy Kellogg Johnson gave an informal presentation. The important role compost plays in sustainable soils was intertwined throughout the luncheon discussion. Future plans include reconvening the powerful, diverse group on a regular basis within the auspice of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic.

Beyond Atlanta's strong influence, the stellar conference program has a wide range of presentation topics related to the compost manufacturing industry. A sampling of topics includes: Commerical Organics Diversion Program Development, Cultivating Community Composting, Composting Process Improvements, Collecting Organics at Events & Venues, Compost Quality Updates, Minimizing Contamination in Organics Collection, Improving the Bottomline, and much more.

In addition to the popular tours, pre-conference activities include a plethora of half and full-day workshops led by respected industry experts. The conference tradeshow exhibitors are ready for on-the-spot education. Post-conference, Dekalb County Landfill & Compost Facility hosts the annual Equipment Show and Demonstrations.

Plan to join the nation's largest gathering of compost industry professionals at the 2018 GAME ON! Building Sustainable Communities USCC Conference & Tradeshow.

Conference REGISTRATION in open! Westin Peachtree Hotel rooms are available, yet the conference block is limited. See you in Atlanta this January!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success

On October 24 Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) hosted the first annual Facilities Sustainability Forum to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond.

Within his welcoming remarks, Ga Tech Vice-President Facilities Management Chuck Rhodes educated on Ga Tech's strong sustainability commitment and impressive accomplishments. Most importantly, Chuck expressed his support for Ga Tech's continued sustainability leadership by building on existing programs and introducing new endeavors.

Elemental Impact
Following Chuck, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore presented as the forum featured speaker. Within her opening remarks, Holly shared the long-term, powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dating back to the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009. Ga Tech Associate Director, Office of Solid Waste Management & Recycling Cindy Jackson attends the Annual Ei Partner Meetings and joined the 2014 Atlanta Ei Partner Tours.

In industry circles, Holly refers to Cindy as the AMAZING Cindy Jackson!

There are many layers to the AMAZING aspect of Cindy Jackson, each indicative of Ga Tech's profound sustainability commitment and award-winning accomplishments. Thus, in essence, the reference is to the AMAZING Ga Tech facilities department management.

Clean, student-separated
As a recycling industry pioneer, Ga Tech received early national awards: American Forest & Paper Association 2008 University Recycling Award and the National Recycling Coalition 2008 Best Overall Recycling, Outstanding College or University Program Award.

Most importantly from a recycling perspective, the Ga Tech Solid Waste & Recycling Department never succumbed to single-stream recycling. During her presentation, Holly explained single-stream recycling increases "diversion rates" yet decreases actual recycling due to contaminated material streams. Diversion rates most often refer to the first stop after collection versus the material's final destination.

Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling generally results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

Under Cindy's oversight, Ga Tech boasts incredibly clean, source-separated streams; clean material equates to valuable material sold in local markets as manufacturing raw material. Ga Tech students take their recycling seriously and source-separate items in accordance with the clear bin signage.

In addition to Ga Tech's program, Holly shared other sustainability successes within the Southeast:
Throughout her presentation, Holly emphasized two keys to successful sustainability programs: 1> collaboration within the organization, the community and with purveyors and 2> a sustainability culture driven by top management. The themes were reinforced throughout the forum program.

In her closing remarks, Holly shared Ei's new primary focus is Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life. Recycling Refinement expertise gained over the years is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

Ga Tech Building Services
GA Tech renewblel cleaning in action
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
Following Holly, Ga Tech Associate Director, Building Services Tommy Little educated on their impressive, award-winning renewable cleaning practices. Renewable cleaning is beyond green cleaning and the safest, healthiest way to maintain indoor environments.

Over the years, Ga Tech was recognized by The National Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, Green Cleaning Award for American Schools & Universities, Princeton Review, and The National Wildlife Federation for their renewable green cleaning. In addition, Ga Tech achieved independent certification under the Green Seal GS-42 Green Cleaning Standard.

At the foundation of Ga Tech's renewable cleaning program is the GenEon cleaning system supported by SouthEast Link, a local custodial supply company dedicated to renewable cleaning programs and systems. 

Tommy during a cleaning demo
for President Peterson & Cabinet
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
After a two-year evaluation, Ga Tech transitioned cleaning and disinfecting | sanitizing solutions to GenEon Technologies ECA products. ECA (electrical chemical activation) combines salted water with an electrical charge. By varying the mineral catalysts, the GenEon system produces three distinct products: sanitizer | disinfectant | deodorizer, glass & general purpose cleaner, and heavy-duty cleaner | degreaser.

ECA cleaning products are generated on-site, Thus, transportation carbon footprints and cleaning supply packaging associated with mainstream janitorial systems are reduced. Supply inventory is drastically reduced and chemical-related injuries are eliminated.

Tommy and his team performed extensive, detailed testing on the ECA system effectiveness, at visual and microbial levels. The results were impressive!
Over nine years, Ga Tech reduced their on-campus cleaning chemicals by 90.7%! 
Beyond the tremendous cost-savings experienced with the ECA cleaning program, according to Tommy, "Best of all ...MY STAFF LOVES IT!!" Why does the Ga Tech building services staff love the program? Here a few reasons:
  • The cleaners work as well or better than prior cleaners.
  • Solutions do not dry out hands or cause respiratory problems.
  • Sanitizers | disinfectants actually eliminate odors.
  • The system portability - solutions may be made anywhere on campus.
Kudos to Tommy for taking the time and energy to implement a cleaning system that makes Ga Tech a healthier campus and improves the bottom line!

Solid Waste Management & Recycling
Ga Tech Recycling Logo
The AMAZING Cindy Jackson presented on Turning Trash into a Resource. To set the stage for her empowering presentation, Cindy shared the department's mission:
  • Encourage and expand recycling opportunities.
  • Develop waste diversion and reuse programs.
  • Promote efforts to decrease the amount of waste produced on campus. 
  • Encourage an environmentally conscious campus community. 
As established in Holly's session, a culture committed to sustainability driven by top management is key to program success. GA Tech President G.P. Bud Peterson endorses the recycling program with the following statement:
“We in the Carnegie building joined the AWARE program in 2009. It is a simple and effective waste minimization initiative that enables Georgia Tech to use our resources more efficiently. I support the campus-wide implementation of this program and encourage your active participation.”
The AWARE Program (Actively Working to Achieve Resource Efficiency) is an innovative waste minimization program implemented in ten campus buildings.

Tom, Tim & Tiny
In the AWARE buildings, each workstation is equipped with three interconnected waste | recycling receptacles. Custodians do not service these containers. It is each employee's responsibility to empty his or her containers into larger bins located within the building. To maintain a sense of humor, the bins are named Tom (big blue bin for paper only), Toni (side blue bin for aluminum & plastic), and Teeny (small side black bin for trash).

With top management support, Cindy uses clever, consistent communication to the students, administration and campus guests. The public relations | marketing plan consists of an active Ga Tech Recycling website page, program promotional tables at campus events, the Recycling Buzz, because we care monthly newsletter, and clear, consistent recycling signage.

Ga Tech Game Day Recycling celebrates ten years of success! Below are some 10-year program highlights:
  • 3 million football fans attended Ga Tech games.
  • 1,300+ volunteers supported the Game Day Recycling program.
  • 198+ tons of collected material.
  • 30% game day trash diversion achieved.
Student move-in and out are biannual events with tremendous opportunity for material recovery, including cardboard, clothing, non-perishable food, household items, and clothing. The Ga Tech recycling team harnesses the opportunity with an organized system including designated areas for the various materials.

A second theme established in Holly's session is collaboration is key for success. In 1998 Cindy founded the first annual Earth Day as a vehicle to educate students, faculty, and administration staff on recycling and other sustainability endeavors. Earth Day serves as a vehicle to develop community participation, especially among the students and alumni. Recently, the Student Alumni Association presented Campus Recycling with more than $20,000 through its Gift to Tech program. 

Recycling alcove in the
Klaus Building
As a class project, students designed and painted cool decor in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building recycling alcoves. The designs ranged from educational (Ecosystems - Ecodangers) to whimsical, clever (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss) to communicate the importance of recycling valuable materials.

Always striving to improve Ga Tech recycling, Cindy ended her presentation with an announcement of a composting pilot underway for building restroom paper towels.

Landscape Services
Klaus Building
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
In his How Tree Campus USA Program Accelerated Environmental Stewardship at Georgia Tech presentation, Ga Tech Associate Director, Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide continued with another forum theme: Ga Tech award-winning programs! 

In addition to the prestigious Tree Campus USA designation, Ga Tech Landscape Services received awards | recognition from the following organizations: GIS Tree Inventory, Professional Grounds Management Society, Georgia Urban Forest Council, Campus Arboretum, and Bee Campus USA.

The Landscape Services Department is charged with the maintenance of both the landscape and hardscape, including the 12,000 trees on campus. Department Mission: 
Enable Georgia Tech to achieve its goal of environmental sustainability by maintaining an integrated, ecologically-based landscape and open space system that serves as a beautiful, attractive and safe campus environment where students, faculty, staff, and visitors can enjoy, live, work and study in comfort.
Located on 426 acres, Ga Tech consists of  312.5 landscaped acres, 110 building acres, and 3.5 naturalized acres. 

In 2004, Ga Tech established The Campus Landscape Master Plan. Updated in 2006 and 2010, the Landscape Master Plan Objectives are:
  • To increase campus tree canopy to a minimum of 55%.
  • To increase campus woodland coverage to 22%.
  • To use predominately native plants or ecologically appropriate to this region for planting.
  • To increase biodiversity in the plant population.
  • To reduce stormwater discharge into the Atlanta sewer system.
In recognition of their excellent plan, Ga Tech’s 2009 Tree Care Plan is used as a sample within the Tree Campus USA application procedures. Within the Tree Campus USA criteria, an annual budget of $3 per student must be dedicated to campus trees. With 27,000 students, Ga Tech's requirement is $81,000; Ga Tech's current expenditure is $642,320.

2014 Ga Tech Campus
Tree Care Plan
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
On December 15, 2015, Ga Tech was recognized as the second university in the nation certified by the Bee Campus USA program. Supporting the certification, the GIS Tree Inventory identified campus pollinator species and issued a guide for future plantings.

In alignment with the Ga Tech recycling culture, the landscape department reuses cut trees where practical, grinds unusable debris into wood chips and composts campus leaves for maintenance and planting programs.

The Tree Campus Advisory Committee, required within the Tree Campus USA criteria, continues the forum themes of collaboration is key for success and the importance of campus culture. Bringing together university faculty from various departments, engaged students, and campus staff together, the committee fosters collaboration and instills a campus tree-oriented culture.

Panel Discussion
The forum concluded with an interactive panel discussion moderated by Ga Tech Campus Recycling Coordinator Maria Linderoth. Panelists included Associate Director, GA Tech Facilities Management Gary Jelin, Co-Chair, Facilities Sustainability Committee | Ga Tech Facilities Management Registered Architect II Maria Del Mar Celallos, Ga Tech Energy Manager Ben Mason and Holly. 

Gary is the lead on the Ga Tech Living Building design with strong support by Maria and his internal and external teams; the Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. With the launch around the corner, the Living Building design was the predominant panel topic. 

Ga Tech Living Building
design rendering
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
According to the International Future Living Institute site, living buildings give more than they take, creating a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them. The Living Building Challenge includes seven performance areas called petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Certification is based on actual performance over twelve consecutive months.

On November 2, the Ga Tech Living Building was launched in a ceremony where attendees spread seed packets on the ground. With the delicate design balance between living building criteria and functionality | practicality complete, the Miller Hull Partnership and Lord Aeck Sargent passed the baton to Skanska for the construction phase.

Within the panel discussion, the two common themes throughout the presentations were intertwined into dialogue: 1> collaboration is key to success and 2> culture is imperative for long-term, sustainable impact. 

Forum presenters were given a treasured gift: a slice of a Ga Tech branch with Buzz drawn on the wood. Ga Tech landscape associate Jean-Sebastian Camiul donated his exceptional talent for the gifts.

Congratulations to the Facilities Sustainability Committee for hosting a stellar forum!

The Forum PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

Ga Tech has the ingredients for incredible sustainability leadership: top management support, program diversity across university department boundaries, established award-winning programs, a commitment to student & community health, an unwavering enthusiasm by department management, and most importantly: a culture steeped with collaborative spirit!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy

Third-party certifications play a valuable role in evaluating products, services, and industry practices. Independent review | testing ensures the product manufacturer | facility proclamations are valid and follow industry standards. In addition, third-party certification is instrumental in setting standards and protocol within evolving industries.

In response to industry requests for zero waste standardization and third-party validation, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) launched the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) in March 2013. As the first zero waste certification program in the nation, the ZWFC established protocol and defined parameters for zero waste claims.

The USZWBC Board signing
USGBC documents
photo compliments UZWBC
In October 2016 the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) acquired the USZWBC to integrate the ZWFC into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors.

Established in 2008, the GBCI exclusively administers project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.

The ZWFC joined a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

A true integration, USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger joined the USGBC executive team as Director, Market Transformation & Development. The USZWBC staff are GBIC team members who facilitate zero waste certification. The majority of the USZWBC Board members serve on the GBIC Zero Waste Advisory Council.

TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency)
On September 7, 2017, the GBCI unveiled TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency), the new brand identity for its zero waste rating system. TRUE helps businesses and facilities define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals through project certification and professional credentialing.

With the TRUE announcement, the USZWBC is completely integrated within the GBCI family of certifications.

Consistent with GBCI certifications, TRUE is built on a point system within a variety of categories. Baseline qualifications are established before a facility may apply for zero waste certification. Of the 81 available points across 15 categories, the applicant must meet a minimum of 31 points for the first level, Certified (followed by Silver, Gold & Platinum levels).

According to Stephanie, “Our goal is to help develop a zero waste economy for all that delivers financial, environmental and social benefits. The TRUE team is working with organizations across industries to help set benchmarks, track performance, educate employees and deliver innovative solutions that move them closer to zero waste.

Currently, there are 88 TRUE-certified facilities around the world. Microsoft, Tesla, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Nature’s Path, Earth Friendly Products, Raytheon, Cintas and Northrop Grumman, among others, have facilities certified under the program.

Beyond Landfill Diversion
A TRUE certification applicant must achieve 12 consecutive months of an average of  90% or greater diversion from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy) and the environment. Diverted materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.

TRUE Advisory Council
Member Scott Lutocka on a
source-separated plastic film bale.
For the TRUE certification, 90% or greater diversion is merely a baseline for the program with a maximum of 5 available points for facilities with 100% diversion; only one point is earned for an applicant with 90 - 94.9% diversion.

Though it does not specifically prohibit single-stream recycling, the TRUE certification program inherently requires source-separated materials recycling. Facilities are required to track the collected materials’ final destination, rather than use the hauler’s first drop-off. Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling in general results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

Within the Redesign, Reduce, Recycle and Zero Waste Reporting categories, a minimum of 7 points relate to a solid, well-documented source-separated materials program that promotes highest good material use and local end markets.

Culture is Key
Intertwined within the TRUE certification points is creating a zero waste culture established by top management and communicated to employees on a regular basis. The Leadership category offers six points including a formal zero waste goals announcement, upper management monthly review of diversion reports, rewarding those who make outstanding contributions to waste reduction, and more.

Earth Friendly Product
Zero Waste Employee Bulletin Board
Consistent communication to employees on zero waste policies, activities, and successes earns a point. Another point is available for at least one employee job description that includes zero waste-specific responsibilities. 

Human resources departments are integral to a rich zero waste culture. Points are earned by including zero waste within the employee hiring process as well as established training programs.

The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success, discusses the imperative role culture plays in developing sustainable zero waste practices.

A Zero Waste Value Chain
The TRUE certification requires rethinking the resource lifecycle. According to the website:
TRUE is a whole systems approach aimed at changing how materials flow through society, resulting in no waste. TRUE encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.
TRUE promotes processes that consider the entire lifecycle of products used within a facility. With TRUE, your facility can demonstrate to the world what you’re doing to minimize your waste output.
Reusable stacked packaging boxes
photo courtesy of Subaru
Within the Zero Waste Purchasing category, a total of 9 points are available that impact the facilities' relationship with their supply chain. In addition to an in-place Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) guideline or policy, points are available for using the power of consumer demand to work with suppliers on eliminating, reducing and/or reusing transport packaging. Supplier zero waste practices impact the intangible waste inherent within delivered products.

Use of durable, reusable products, such as beverage cups, plates, and flatware, instead of single-use products earn a point.

Additionally, manufacturers receive points for selling and shipping products in a waste-free manner, where the packaging is recyclable or even better, reusable.

A Holographic Viewpoint
By using a systems approach to materials flow, the TRUE zero waste certification is holographic in nature. The program is not bound by the facility's physical structure; it addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment.

Holly receives zero award; with
then USZWBC Founder & President
Pursuing the TRUE certification may seem overwhelming with the multitude of point categories impacting the organization’s entire spectrum of administration, management & operations. Holly Elmore Consulting (HEC) simplifies the certification process into a manageable, time-lined roadmap supported by specific action points via a series of available consulting packages.

The HEC Zero Waste Consulting packages begin with a Zero Waste Certification Review: 
A simple package for facilities choosing to pursue TRUE Zero Waste Certification. The package includes a facility review via a pre-visit conference call and an on-site visit. A certification checklist summary is provided of completed points with recommended steps for achieving certification.
As Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO, Holly is a respected zero waste industry expert with a long list of accolades, including the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) 2009 launch. The ZWZ were the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for composting and were sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012.

In July 2017, Ei announced the primary organization focus shifted to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, and the Ei Recycling Refinement platform was moved to the Mission Accomplished website section. Thus, Ei zero waste | food waste | source-separated materials recycling expertise is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

Companies initiate zero programs for a variety of reasons: economic benefits, customer demand, product differentiation, it is “the right thing to do,” to name a few. The U.S. Green Building Council’s TRUE zero waste rating system ensures integrity is established and maintained via written corporate policies, material management practices, procurement procedures, and effective communication tools. TRUE sets industry standards and establishes integrity within the pathway to a zero waste economy.