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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life!

In 2017 Elemental Impact (Ei) shifted gears within the spiral of humanity's environmental impact. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Healthregenerating the foundation of life. 

Founding ZWZ Participant
Chef Ahmad Nourzad
of Affairs to Remember
Early steps within the Soil Health journey began with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch; the ZWZ were the nation's forerunner in the collection of commercial food waste for compost. Inaugural ZWZ years were dedicated to raising awareness of food waste compost within the foodservice industry and establishing new sustainable standard operating practices. Founding ZWZ Participants perfected back-of-the-house food waste collection practices and shared their successes with industry colleagues.

The National Resources Defense Council's 2012 Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill issue paper publication alerted mainstream media to the food waste crisis. Numerous powerful organizations formed within the foodservice and retail industries to directly address the crisis and affect change. 

Thus, the established operating practices combined with national food waste awareness earmarked successful completion of Ei's role. In late 2012 the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ; the ZWA Blog article, National Restaurant Association Acquires Zero Waste Zones, announces the monumental milestone in Ei history.

SMAT members collecting food
waste after a Falcon's game.
In 2014 the Sustainable Food Court Initiative announced its stated prime focus was post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a state-permitted destination other than landfill. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) supported the SFCI - Georgia Dome Pilot post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection, and a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility.

By 2016 numerous sporting event facilities, venues, outdoor festivals and other food-related businesses achieved zero waste, including post-consumer food waste. Thus, Ei's post-consumer food waste-related work was complete.

Steam rising from windrows at a
permitted food waste composting site.
Limited state-permitted food waste composting facilities (or other technologies) are a significant obstacle to mainstream source-separated food waste collection, at the consumer and commercial levels. Using simple economic principles, a stronger demand for food waste compost will drive an increase in capacity, from the opening of new sites to an expansion of existing facilities. By shifting focus to increasing compost demand, Ei embarks on new industry frontiers within the Soil Health platform.

Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils' direct relationship with the carbon crisis, out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, storm water management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the micro plastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are: 
As validated in Kiss the Ground's empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story, the carbon problem and the solution are a matter of balance.

Earth Carbon Pools
image courtesy of The Soil Story
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 Carbon Crisis article referenced above features The Soil Story along with an explanation of the carbon pools and the out-of-balance scenario.

In May 2017 Kiss the Ground released The Compost Story, a sequel to The Soil Story, to an enthusiastic national audience. Ei joined the prominent video launch team and participates in an executive committee focused on developing educational tools. Kiss the Ground intends to develop soil | compost educational materials targeted at three prime sectors: 1> municipalities, 2> schools and 3> businesses. 

U.S. Green Building Council Global Zero Waste Director Stephanie Barger and Ei Founder Holly Elmore took leadership roles in the business sector.

Plastic mulch used on a small
farm's blackberry field
Integral to Kiss the Ground's mission is how regenerative agriculture rebuilds our soils and sequesters atmospheric carbon into the soils. Compost use is integral to regenerative agriculture. Within the Macro Cost of Micro Contamination platform, the Ei Team will initially focus on two main areas:
  1. Contaminant-free food waste stream delivered to commercial, farm and community garden compost operations. BPI Certified Compostable food and beverage serviceware is a must for single-use packaging to prevent fragmented plastic contamination within the finished compost.
  2. Widespread use of plastic mulch and other plastics in conventional farming and agriculture. Plastics fragment into tiny pieces yet does not decompose, causing micro plastic contamination in the soils used to grow food.
Ei Farm Tours are focused on farms following regenerative agricultural practices, with a strong focus on rebuilding health soils. Kennesaw State University's Hickory Grove Farm is an excellent example of a bountiful farm whose regenerative practices brought "dead" soil back to life.

Hickory Grove Farm pond formed
 naturally via simple a simple
storm water management system
By employing simple storm water management practices, a farm pond naturally formed complete with a pair of mallard ducks, ample frogs, and abundant foliage and insects. Pond water is used in the Hydroponic Lab to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers for The Commons, the KSU Gold LEED Certified dining hall.

The Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, is a pictorial recap of a recent Hickory Grove Farm tour.

Soil Health brings Ei back to core roots on many levels, including alignment with the Ei mantra:
Ei is a creator, an incubator. 

Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. 
Ei brings the possible out of impossible. 
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.
American Culinary Federation - ATL
President Michael Diehl with then
GA Dept of AG Commissioner Tommy
Irvin at a 2008 GFA event.
In her years as the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) Founder & Executive Director, Holly was a leader in the local, sustainable | farm to table movement. Holly worked closely with the Georgia Department of Agriculture team on launching the first Georgia Grown food show in 2008. Introductions to Atlanta's culinary community were integral to the Georgia Grown food show success. The GFA Advisory Council consisted of prominent Atlanta leadership, including Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in his prior Georgia Agribusiness Council President role.

Ei was formed in 2010 as the new home for the ZWZ, which was launched as a GFA program. Within the Soil Health platform, Holly may build off her strong sustainable agriculture foundation cultivated within the powerful GFA Producers Task Force.

Soil Health brings a vibrancy to Ei's important work along with renewed and new industry relationships. The spiral of humanity's environmental impact is perpetual; Ei is honored to bring past expertise to new light within Soil Health programs under development.