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Monday, June 18, 2018

New Era, New Name: Regeneration in ACTION!

On June 13, 2018, the Zero Waste in ACTION (ZWA) Blog surpassed the 385,000 pageviews milestone! Launched in 2009 as the Zero Waste Zones Blog, the original premise was to document the Zero Waste Zones successes and later the Recycling Refinement and Sustainable Food Court Initiative accomplishments. When the Zero Waste Zones were sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012, the Zero Waste Zones Blog evolved into the Zero Waste in ACTION Blog.

Respected Journalism
Along with sister Elemental Impact (Ei) blog, The IMPACT, the ZWA Blog grew into a valuable industry media resource. In 2016 Ei catapulted into respected environmental journalism when the prominent invitation arrived in early November:
The U.S. State Department invited Ei to join the invitation-only COP22 preview press conference call. Journalists from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were among the respected, mainstream media on the call.
The IMPACT Blog article, Ei: Respected Journalism, chronicles Ei's segue from a valuable industry media resource to respected environmental journalism. In addition to the blogs' contribution, Ei Founder Holly Elmore authored a plethora of industry trade journal articles and documents, which are detailed on the HollyEmore.com Fingertip Press page.

In honor of the ZWA Blog's March 2016 250,000 views milestone, the ZWA Ei Blogs: respected media & valuable industry resources article published to celebrate strong readership and acknowledge the teamwork necessary to build the solid foundation. In addition, the article details interesting reader analytics.

Below are a quick blog stats overview:

The IMPACT Blog:
  • 148,000 pageviews
  • 130 published articles
  • Average 1,140 pageviews per article
  • Most popular article: Ei New Mission Statement (12/12) 2,965 views
Zero Waste in ACTION Blog:
Beyond Sustainability, Beyond Resilience: Regeneration 
Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzzword 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, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

Abandoned farmstead in
American Dust Bowl, Oklahoma
photo courtesy of Britannica.com

Beginning with the above paragraph, the ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, articulates the pending oxygen deficiency and food crisis substantiated with prominent scientific research. The article questions whether the established sustainability movement and the new resilience focus are enough to reverse the out-of-balance carbon cycles causing the pending crisis.

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. Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems.

New Era, New Tagline
Since inception, Ei lived the tagline Sustainability in ACTION! Working with a powerful team of Ei Pioneers and Ei Industry Experts, Ei evolved into a respected national non-profit known for introducing sustainable best practices within a range of industries.

Beginning with the Zero Waste Zones, Ei initiatives epitomized the following 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.

As documented in The IMPACT Blog, Happy 8th Birthday, Ei!,  2017 was the Year of Shifting Gears. In 2017 Ei announced Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, was a prime focus, replacing the prominent Recycling Refinement (RR) work. In addition, Ei Leadership experienced a changing of the guard and Ei welcomed new Strategic Allies.

The Golden Hoof,
a regenerative farm in Boulder, CO
The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, recounts how Ei RR work was complete within the above mantra parameters, yet serves as the foundation for Soil Health initiatives.

For documentation of Ei's RR era, visit the Milestone's page for a monthly listing of profound action within the Ei journey dating back to pre-inception; the Mission Accomplished page lists Ei endeavors with achieved goals and considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished!

With gears shifted, the time arrived to assess the use of "sustainability" in the Ei tagline. The ZWA article, Regeneration in ACTION, announces Ei's new tagline of the same name:

Regeneration in ACTION

New Era, New Name
With the evolution of Ei's focus areas and tagline, it is time to give the Zero Waste in ACTION Blog a new name. Though there will be a continued emphasis on minimizing and reducing waste, the article focal points will expand to new horizons. Complementing the Soil Health platform, the Water Use | Toxicity platform is a prime focus.

Jay Brady
In March 2018, Jay Brady officially joined the Ei Leadership Team as the Water Use | Toxicity Program Director. With an initial priority on the Ei Cooling Tower Blowdown Initiative in the Florida market, Jay works closely with Ei Industry Experts Steve Myers of Filters Plus and Jim Harrell with Renaissance Technology. Stay tuned as big announcements are expected in the coming months.

In addition, the Ei Conscious Cleaning Initiative (Ei CCI) is in the pre-launch stage. Over the past months, the Ei CCI Team of industry experts scheduled a plethora of introductory and demonstration meetings with potential Ei Industry Pioneers. Ei Industry Experts Jack Adelman of SouthEast Link along with Larry Smith and Chris Kessler of GenEon work closely with Holly on developing the Ei CCI protocol and parameters.

Ei CCI potential impact is bigger, much BIGGER, than the prominent Zero Waste Zones 2009 launch.

The ZWA Blog article, The Evolution of Standard Cleaning Practices, gives a high-level history of cleaning and introduces conscious cleaning.

... and in alignment with the Ei tagline, the Zero Waste in ACTION Blog new name is:

The Regeneration in ACTION Blog

Elemental Impact embraces a new era, a new name, and renewed impact!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Evolution of Standard Cleaning Practices

From personal hygiene to food-related activities to facility maintenance, cleaning is important to a community's and individual's health status. Thorough cleaning practices kill harmful bacteria and viruses and prevent the infestation of rodents and other pests who may carry a variety of diseases.

Over the past century cleaning practices evolved from simple soap and water to synthetic disinfectants and sanitizers to Electrochemical Activation (ECA).

From an excavation of ancient Babylon, evidence of soap-like material dates back to 2800 B.C. Though it was used throughout various civilizations, soap was generally only available to the elite; the common population was relegated to cleaning with water and other clever alternatives. By the mid-1800's, a series of soap-related inventions enabled the widespread availability of inexpensive soap. Until the development of synthetic detergent in the early 1900's, basic soap remained the primary cleaning product.

Cleaning Basics
According to many recognized sites, including the National Food Service Management Institute Keep Food Safe: Clean, Sanitize, and Disinfect document, three main cleaning practices are necessary for healthy environments:
Typical commercial cleaning set-up
photo courtesy of Rubbermaid
  • Cleaning - removes dirt & debris from the targeted area; sanitizing and disinfecting require clean surfaces.
  • Sanitizing - reduces harmful bacteria with high heat or chemical solutions.
  • Disinfecting - stronger than a sanitizer, a disinfectant solution kills bacteria and viruses on targeted surfaces.
Beyond quality solutions, consistent tools and practices are important for effective custodial programs. It is important to read product labels and follow the designated dwell or contact times required to disinfect surfaces. According to numerous sources, disinfectant dwell times may be as long as ten minutes.

Future articles will further address cleaning tools and practices.

Toxic-Cleaning Development
The 1916 development of synthetic detergent in Germany was a response to a World War I-related shortage of fats for making soap. Subsequently, chemical companies introduced a plethora of cleaning solutions designed to sanitize, disinfect, and sterilize. Though generally effective, many of the solutions were toxic when inhaled or ingested by humans or other living beings.

Published in September 1962, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is credited as the catalyst for the environmental movement. Though it addressed the devastating ramifications of DDT pesticide use, Silent Spring showcased the far-reaching impact of toxic-chemical use whether for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, or cleaning.

The August 2015 Natural Resources Defense Council The Story of Silent Spring: How a courageous woman took on the chemical industry and raised important questions about humankind's impact on nature  explains Silent Spring's legacy:
Photo courtesy of Peter Scales 
“What if the birds all die? Rachel Carson 
and “Silent Spring””
"The most important legacy of Silent Spring, though, was a new public awareness that nature was vulnerable to human intervention. Carson had made a radical proposal: that, at times, technological progress is so fundamentally at odds with natural processes that it must be curtailed. Conservation had never raised much broad public interest, for few people really worried about the disappearance of wilderness. But the threats Carson had outlined—the contamination of the food chain, cancer, genetic damage, the deaths of entire species—were too frightening to ignore. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order to protect the environment became widely accepted, and environmentalism was born."
As the environmental movement grew, awareness of toxic cleaning solutions' impact on the indoor and outdoor environments fueled the development of green cleaning alternatives.

Founded in 1989, Green Seal (GS) is a national non-profit dedicated to promoting a sustainable economy through their Environmental Leadership Standards. GS Standards address performance, health, and sustainability criteria. Cleaning products are one of many categories reviewed and certified within the rigorous Standards. In addition to the long-standing GS cleaning product certification standards, in July 2013 GS issued the GS Standard for Commercial & Institutional Services.

Similar to DDT applications, toxic cleaning solutions have long-term implications for cleaning staff and residents of the facility, whether a home or commercial building. According to the February 18, 2018, Newsweek Impact of Cleaning Products on Women's Lungs as Damaging as 20-a-Day Cigarette Habit: Study article, women who used the cleaning products regularly had a markedly decreased lung capacity along with increased rates of asthma. Decreased lung capacity is attributed to the damage that cleaning agents cause to the mucous membranes lining the airways.

Conscious Cleaning
Though they are an improvement over toxic-cleaning solutions, many green cleaning products are synthetic in nature and may pose harm to individuals and the environment. Conscious cleaning solutions cause no harm whether ingested via breath or swallowing or flushed into sewer systems. Vinegar and baking soda are two common household products that are excellent conscious cleaning solutions.

Door to GenEon's
onsite ECA system
As stated in the Cleaning Basics section, beyond cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting are important to maintain a healthy, safe environment for children, employees, and community residents. Thus, Elemental Impact (Ei) embraces ECA as the commercial cleaning system of choice in the soon-to-be-announced Ei Conscious Cleaning Initiative within the Water Use | Toxicity platform.

ECA systems combine salted water with an electrical charge. By varying the mineral catalysts, the ECA 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.

After a two-year evaluation, Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) transitioned cleaning and disinfecting | sanitizing solutions to GenEon Technologies ECA products. Ga Tech Building Services Director Tommy Little and his team performed extensive, detailed testing of 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.
Tommy Little & Wendy Welker
by their GS Certification banner
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.

Ei Partner SouthEast Link, a local custodial supply company dedicated to renewable cleaning programs and systems, worked closely with Ga Tech throughout the ECA system evaluation and implementation stages.

... and Ga Tech saves an estimated $300,000 per year by producing ECA solutions on-site versus purchasing cleaning solutions for the campus custodial program.

On March 6 Tommy and his team hosted the Ei Conscious Cleaning Demo & Tour. Facility & housekeeping managers from Atlanta's venues and businesses committed to pioneering the movement from sustainable to regenerative best operating practices attended the impressive two-hour demo and tour. The Ei FB album, Ei Conscious Cleaning Initiative, includes an event pictorial recap.

With industry pioneers like Ga Tech at the helm, standard commercial cleaning is staged to evolve from current toxic or green-cleaning practices to conscious-cleaning programs. After all, conscious cleaning benefits the environment, the community, and the facility's bottom line!

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Flint River: a river ready to regenerate

As the second longest river in Georgia, the Flint River is critical to the state's ecological, environmental, economic, and water-supply foundations. Flowing unimpeded for nearly 220 miles, the Flint River is one of forty rivers in the nation that flows unimpeded for more than 200 miles.

Scenic Flint River
photo courtesy of  Sherpa Guides |GA
From its headwaters south of Atlanta, the Flint River flows nearly 350 miles through southwest Georgia where it joins the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which flows on to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire basin is often referred to as the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin.

In the 1970's, the Georgia Natural Areas Council named the Upper Flint River Georgia’s “Most Scenic River.” Beyond recreational purposes, the Flint River is known for its vast biodiversity. In 2009 the Halloween Darter found only in the Flint, Chattahoochee, and Apalachicola Rivers was recognized as a newly discovered species. Four federally protected mussel species live in the upper Flint waters. The lower Flint River basin, along with the upper part of the Apalachicola basin, boast the highest species density of amphibians and reptiles on the continent, north of Mexico. (1)

A River in Crisis
Yet the Flint River is running dry. Twice named one of America's Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers, the Flint River is a river in crisis.

Contaminated stormwater flows
through the drain directly into the river
According to American Rivers, a contributing factor to the Flint River's increasing low-flow challenges is the headwaters ultra-urban environment. A significant portion of the headwaters is covered with building structure | pavement or flows within drainage ditches. In addition, contaminated stormwater from impervious surfaces flows directly into the headwater streams, without municipal water treatment. The headwaters are harnessed and flow under Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the busiest airport in the world.

In April 2013 American Rivers and the Flint Riverkeeper published the Running Dry: Challenges and Opportunities in Restoring Healthy Flows in Georgia’s Upper Flint River Basin report. Within the Green Stormwater Infrastructure to Restore Natural Hydrology section, the report recognizes that current stormwater infrastructure upgrades with "green infrastructure" are one of many potential contributors to restoring baseflow in the basin's upper reaches. As stated in the report:
 “Green infrastructure” for stormwater management can include both retrofits to stormwater infrastructure and new construction, and it seeks to restore or replicate natural hydrology as much as possible. Infrastructure elements specifically tailored to infiltrating water into soils in order to restore groundwater and baseflow could help remedy the upper Flint’s water quantity problems in addition to improving water quality. Green stormwater infrastructure can be as small-scale as a residential rain garden or as large-scale as systems of bio-swales or bio-retention ponds, and can even extend to broader “natural infrastructure” strategies such as targeted land conservation to preserve wetlands and stream corridors, or in some cases restoring natural floodplains, wetlands, and degraded streams.
There are many opportunities for improvements to stormwater management in the upper Flint’s most urbanized areas—at and near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—and also in suburban areas of Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Fulton, Henry, and Spalding counties.
Green infrastructure may include bio-swales, wetlands, retention ponds, and other bodies of still water, which are perfect bird nesting and feeding areas. With ATL a close neighbor, it is important to avoid still water in the stormwater improvement plans within a specified distance from the airport. Flying birds are hazardous to airplane take-offs and landings.

Finding the Flint
Finding the Flint is a vision for connecting Atlanta’s Flint River Headwaters and the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance (AAA), a driving force for revitalizing the area surrounding the Atlanta Airport.

Park Pride Executive Director Michael
Halicki next to the urban headwaters
Funded by American Rivers and the Conservation Fund in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Finding the Flint brings together the impacted local government and civic organizations: Clayton County Water Authority, Upper Flint River Working Group, Flint Riverkeeper, ATL, Cities of College Park, East Point, and Hapeville, AAA, AAA Community Improvement Districts, Development Authority of Clayton County, and Fulton County Citizen's Commission on the Environment.

In fall 2017 the ARC awarded the Upper Flint Green Infrastructure Preliminary Design Services contract to Pond & Co. Additionally, writer and urban designer Hannah Palmer was named Finding the Flint Coordinator.

Flint River Headwaters Tour

On March 17 Atlanta-based non-profit Park Pride hosted the Finding the Flint tour as part of their 17th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, Parks & the Resilient City, pre-event activities. American Rivers - Georgia Director Clean Water Supply Ben Emanuel and Hannah led the tour and educated the diverse, enthusiastic group. 

The tour consisted of five opportunities to witness the current state of the Flint River headwaters at the following locations: 


Georgia Power substation with
Flint River headwaters in the culvert
1>
Willingham Drive - the river headwaters flow in a culvert alongside a Georgia Power substation along Willingham Drive; there is a vision to create a pocket park along the headwaters stream. Across the street, there is available land for a potential larger park. 


2> Virginia Crossings - the river headwaters flow underneath the parking lot and are seen through the stormwater drain; there are approved plans for a hotel on the parking lot site. With construction slated to start soon, the March 17 tour may be the final tour to visit the stormwater drain pictured earlier.


South of the Virginia Crossings parking lot, the headwaters return to the light of day for a brief stretch before its journey under the ATL campus. There is a vision for connected trails and greenways as the stream flows through office and industrial complexes.


3> Airport Loop Road - the Delta Flight Museum is located on the banks of the Flint River headwaters as the stream emerges from underneath ATL. There is a vision for green amenities on the grass areas near the museum.


Cargo plane landing on runway #5
at the Forest Parkway bridge.
4> Forest Parkway Bridge - once south of ATL the river headwaters return to the light of day for the remainder of the river's flow to the Florida state line. At the Forest Parkway bridge, there is a vision to create a plane-watching site by the river.

5> Atlanta South Parkway -  the Flint River regains a natural shoreline as it flows south within continued urban impact. From the Atlanta South Parkway bridge, it was disheartening to witness how local residents use the river shore as a dumping site.

Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore and Ei Advisor Boyd Leake of Community Environmental joined the Park Pride Finding the Flint tour. Ei is committed to Flint River headwaters projects from two aspects: 1> support of the ATL's Flint River initiatives via the Sustainable Facilities Initiative - ATL Pilot, and 2> development of a Lambda Alpha International (LAI) Atlanta Chapter project. LAI is a global land economics honorary; Holly serves on the Atlanta Chapter Board and spearheads the LAI Atlanta Flint River project under development.

The Ei FB album, Flint River Headwaters, includes a section with a pictorial recap of the empowering tour.


Finding the Flint brings together the community across local jurisdictions, businesses across industry boundaries, and citizens who call the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance area their home. With the spectrum of committed support, the Flint River is staged to flow from a "river in crisis" to a "river in regeneration." 



___________________________

Notes:
1> referenced from American Rivers, Flint River: a Natural Gem with Urban Beginnings.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Regeneration in ACTION!

Since inception Elemental Impact (Ei) lived the tagline Sustainability in ACTION! Working with a powerful team of Ei Pioneers and Ei Industry Experts, Ei evolved into a respected national non-profit known for introducing sustainable best practices within a range of industries.

Beginning with the Zero Waste Zones, Ei initiatives epitomized the following 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.
As documented in The IMPACT Blog, Happy 8th Birthday, Ei!,  2017 was the Year of Shifting Gears. In 2017 Ei announced Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, was a prime focus, replacing the prominent Recycling Refinement (RR) work. In addition, Ei Leadership experienced a changing of the guard and Ei welcomed new Strategic Allies.

The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, recounts how Ei RR work was complete within the above mantra parameters, yet serves as the foundation for Soil Health initiatives.

For documentation of Ei's RR era, visit the Milestone's page for a monthly listing of profound action within the Ei journey dating back to pre-inception; the Mission Accomplished page lists Ei endeavors with achieved goals and considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished!

With gears shifted, the time arrived to assess the use of "sustainability" in the Ei tagline.

Beyond Circles: the Spiral
Ei Founder Holly Elmore never aligned with the terms: closing the loop, circular economy and any other nomenclature referring to a circle. The concept of a circle implies a process always returns to its starting point in the same structure as it began.

Grass naturally
curls in spirals
Innately, Holly understood natural cycles align with Fibonacci Sequence geometries. The Fibonacci Sequence is derived by adding a number with its predecessor to arrive at the successor number: 0,1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ... in perpetuity. According to TheGoldenNumber.net:
Fibonacci numbers and Phi are related to spiral growth in nature.  If you sum the squares of any series of Fibonacci numbers, they will equal the last Fibonacci number used in the series times the next Fibonacci number.  This property results in the Fibonacci spiral, based on the following progression and properties of the Fibonacci series:
12 + 12 + 22 + 32 + 52 = 5 x 8 
A Golden spiral is very similar to the Fibonacci spiral but is based on a series of identically proportioned golden rectangles, each having a golden ratio of 1.618 of the length of the long side to that of the short side of the rectangle:
The Fibonacci spiral gets closer and closer to a Golden Spiral as it increases in size because of the ratio of each number in the Fibonacci series to the one before it converges on Phi, 1.618, as the series progresses (e.g., 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13 produce ratios of 1, 2, 1.5, 1.67, 1.6 and 1.625, respectively.)
As stated by the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies Chairman of the Board George Dvorsky: The famous Fibonacci sequence has captivated mathematicians, artists, designers, and scientists for centuries. Also known as the Golden Ratio, its ubiquity and astounding functionality in nature suggest its importance as a fundamental characteristic of the Universe.

Flowers blooming within a spiral
In his 15 Uncanny Examples of the Golden Ratio in Nature article, George lists a range of the Golden Ratio in Nature examples along with supporting details: 1> flower petals, 2> seed heads, 3> pine cones, 4> fruits & vegetables, 5> tree branches, 6> shells, 7> spiral galaxies, 8> hurricanes, 9> faces, 10> fingers, 11> animal bodies, 12> reproductive dynamics, 13> animal fight patterns, 14> uterus, and 15> DNA molecules.

In 2012 the ZWA Blog articles, Perpetual Life Cycle System - simplicity is key and The Perpetual Spiral, the evolution from a zero waste focus to nature's no waste systems is introduced as an Ei platform. Here are several quotes from the articles:
In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. 
Remember death is always followed by birth - we are in the process of birthing a civilization where technology-based solutions mirror nature's perfect regeneration processes. 
Beyond Sustainability, Beyond Resilience: Regeneration 
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, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

Beginning with the above paragraph, the ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, articulates the pending oxygen deficiency and food crisis substantiated with prominent scientific research. The article questions whether the established sustainability movement and the new resilience focus are enough to reverse the out-of-balance carbon cycles causing the pending crisis.

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.

Finian with the Ga Tech team
During his recent Atlanta visit, Ei Strategic Ally Kiss the Ground (KTG) Co-Founder Finian Makepeace joined the Ei Team for a whirlwind day of empowering meetings focused on regenerative solutions. In the first meeting with Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) Director of Solid Waste & Recycling Cindy Jackson and Ga Tech Director of Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide, Finian was impressed with the amazing regenerative grounds maintenance practices in place.

As the meeting closed, the theme for the day emerged: water infiltration rates. The Ei Team pledged to work with Ga Tech on increasing water infiltration rates at their urban campus. In urban settings, impervious surfaces coupled with compacted soils result in common stormwater runoff vs. rainwater replenishing the soils and underground aquifers. Most often stormwater runoff collects significant pollutants from roadways and gutters before flowing into the sewer system.

The next meeting was at the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI) Convention Center Pilot, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. SFI Chair Tim Trefzer, GWCCA director of sustainability, and GWCCA  Landscape Manager Steve Ware met with the Ei Team. It was empowering to learn specifics on the redesign of Olympic Centennial Park, a 20-acre park located in Atlanta's downtown convention & entertainment district.

Steve educated on the challenges inherent within employing regenerative landscape practices at the nation's fourth-largest convention center (and world's largest LEED-certified convention center!) Much of the landscaped common areas are built on top of the nine-floor main parking deck. Thus, well-structured soil infiltrated with ample water exceeds safe weight limits for the areas.

Closing meeting conversation centered around increasing water filtration rates at Olympic Centennial Park and landscaped areas located on solid ground.

Nancy & Finian with SF&G copies
Next Holly and Finian met with Southern Farm & Garden (SF&G) Publisher Nancy Suttles. The fall SF&G issue featured a seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems; the articles give an overview of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) 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 copy and photographs for the publication feature.

As a result of the meeting, KTG and SF&G are co-promotional partners with KTG providing SF&G content on regenerative agriculture along with examples of successful farms. In return, KTG promotes SF&G in their powerful social media networks.

The final meeting was at the SFI - Atlanta Airport to learn about work-in-progress on Finding the Flint, an underdevelopment multi-faceted project to restore the Flint River headwaters.  At the meeting, ATL Senior Sustainability Planner Polly Sattler educated the Ei Team on the Flint River scenario and the Finding the Flint status.

Polly educating the Ei Team
on the Flint River
The Flint River headwaters are a series of springs and tributaries meeting to form the Flint River near
the Atlanta Airport; the river then flows underneath the airport runways. A significant portion of the headwaters is covered with building structure | pavement or flows through drainage ditches.

With 220 miles of unimpeded flow through Georgia, the Flint River is one of only 40 rivers in the U.S. that flows more than 200 river miles unimpeded. In 2009 and 2013, American Rivers listed the Flint River as one of the most endangered rivers in America.

Through the SFI-ATL, the Ei Team will find a perfect niche within Finding the Flint projects that supports the Atlanta Airport and the Ei Soil Health platform.

Regeneration in ACTION
The following day, Finian was the lead panelist on the Ei-Hosted panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, at the U.S. Composting Council Conference hosted in Atlanta. In his excellent A New View presentation, Finian introduced the Degenerative → Sustainable → Regenerative model.


When early humans moved from their hunter | gatherer lifestyle to communal living with domesticated plants and animals, humanity entered the degenerative era. The ground was cleared of trees and other plants and then tilled for gardens and small farms with no regard for the destroyed soil ecosystems.

The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, explains how traditional agriculture methods are a root cause of the current carbon crisis and mass desertification underway around the globe. Thus, the symbol for the degenerative era is a downward facing arrow.

Within the sustainability movement, used materials are returned back to their original state or a renewed purpose. Though admirable, sustainability goals are to stop the destruction yet do not focus on restoring soils and resources lost within the degenerative era. In addition, sustainability is merely a movement without broad acceptance across cultures; the majority of humans remain within the degenerative era, further diminishing the Earth's limited resources. Thus, the sustainable symbol for is the recycling circle of connecting arrows.

Aligning with perfected natural cycles and systems, regeneration heals damaged soils by supporting the underground ecosystems. KTG's The Soil Story introduces regenerative agriculture | landscape practices as a solution for restoring soil ecosystems. 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. Soil regeneration addresses the food | desertification and oxygen components of the pending crisis. The symbol for regeneration is a spiral with an upward facing arrow at the top.

Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils panel PPT presentations are available on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels website page.

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. Regenerative solutions are simple and align with nature's perfect systems.

... and Ei's new tagline is Regeneration in ACTION!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ei Announces the Sustainable Facilities Initiative

In 2009 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) were launched as the nation's pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for composting. Under the ZWZ program participants perfected the best practices for back-of-the-house prep waste collection and shared their lessons learned, challenges and successes with their industry colleagues.

The Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) was launched in 2011 to address the zero waste challenges associated food courts and post-consumer food waste. When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in late 2012, the SFCI emerged as Elemental Impact's central Recycling Refinement focus through 2016.

Industry Milestones
Compostable Packaging
In general, a successful front-of-the-house post-consumer food waste collection program requires the use of BPI Certified compostable food & beverage packaging or reusable service ware.

With impeccable timing, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport Pilot was in the midst of the concessionaire RFP for the entire airport when the SFI launched in 2011. The City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability and Department of Aviation team, led by Michael Cheyne, Director of Asset Management & Sustainability for the Airport, made the bold, courageous and successful move to include the following provision in the RFP and subsequent concessionaire contract:
“Concessionaire shall use compostable service ware along with consumer-facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off-airport composting facilities.”
The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold  Sustainable Statement, announces the compostable packaging contract provision. With Ei Strategic Ally Institute for Local Self-Reliance Co-Director Brenda Platt taking the lead, the SFCI Team crafted the Compostable Packaging Info Packet to educate concessionaires on the contract provision; the ZWA Blog article, Exemptions | Exclusions Added to Atlanta Airport Info Packetis an overview of updates for exempted | excluded items to the Info Packet. The document is available for download on the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet website page.

In October 2011, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport received the Going Green Airport Award at the fourth Annual Going Green Airports Conference hosted in Chicago. The prestigious award recognized the value of the project, as well as outstanding leadership in pursuit of sustainability within the aviation industry.

Plastic Film Recycling
Around 2011 the garment industry shifted from bulk packaging for retail shipments to individual plastic film-wrapped garments; the packaging shift was a response to the explosion of internet sales. Shopping malls witnessed a dramatic increase in tenant plastic film waste, increasing their waste-hauling charges.

SFCI Team with first
plastic film bales at Concord Mills
Yet plastic film is a valuable commodity with recycling rebates often matching or exceeding OCC (old corrugated cardboard). Large commercial generators source-separate plastic film and sell the standard-sized bales weighing 700 - 1000 pounds in the commodities market. Thus, plastic film is a strong contributor to their recycling profit centers.

In 2012 SFCI - Concord Mills (CM), a Simon mall in Charlotte, NC, crafted the nation's first shopping mall plastic film recycling program. The SFCI Team, including Mecklenburg County Government, worked closely with CM General Manager Roy Soporowski on developing the successful program. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announces the mall's plastic film recycling program.

Shortly thereafter, SouthPark Mall, a sister Simon mall in Charlotte, replicated the CM plastic film recycling template, modified for their mall logistics.

The Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls prepared by Ei on behalf of the Wrap Recycling Action Program, an American Chemistry Council Plastic Film Recycling Group program, was officially released at the 2016 Annual Ei Partner Meeting. The ZWA Blog article, Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls, announces the case study release along with an overview of the plastic film recycling program development.

For additional SFCI history and accomplishments, visit the SFCI - Accomplished website page.

Shifting Gears
In 2017 Ei shifted gears within humanity's environmental impact spiral. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life.

KSU Hickory Grove Farm
regenerative ag in action
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, stormwater management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the microplastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are:


In addition, the Water Use | Toxicity platform plays a strong supporting role.

Simultaneous with the Soil Health platform announcement, Ei work related to Recycling Refinement, including zero waste, food waste, plastic film recycling and other materials-oriented areas, was moved to the Ei Mission Accomplished! website section. Recycling Refinement expertise is available via Ei Founder Holly Elmore's private consulting practice at www.hollyelmore.com.

Sustainable Facilities Initiative 
In alignment with the new Ei focus, the SFCI evolved into the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI). Georgia World Center Authority Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the SFI Chair. The ZWA Blog article, Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team, announces Past SFCI Chairs Doug Kunnemann and Scott Seydel passing the leadership baton to Tim.

SFI Chair Tim Trefzer @
KSU Hickory Grove Farm
Meetings are in process with the SFCI Pilot executives to discuss the segue to a SFI Pilot. In addition, Tim & Holly are meeting with new potential pilots

The SFI Pilots represent facilities within various industry segments. SFI Pilots agree to the following parameters:
  • Pioneer - pilots serve as industry pioneers and assess each SFI platform for implementation within their operations. 
  • Industry Leader - once best practices are established within a platform, the pilot managers share with their industry colleagues.
  • Strategist - pilot managers work closely with the SFI Team to strategize on expanding platform impact and/or developing new platforms.
The SFI Pilot focus areas align with the overall Ei Platforms:

Soil Health:
Within Soil Health, pilots address the following focus areas:
  • Regenerative landscape practices
  • Water infiltration rates
  • Native vegetation
  • Pollinator habitat gardens or other support for pollinators
  • Food waste compost from foodservice operations used within grounds maintenance
  • On-site urban agriculture or partner with a hyper-local farm for food used in campus foodservice operations

Water Use | Toxicity:
Within Water Use | Toxicity, pilots address the following focus areas:
Utilizing the strong SFCI foundation, the Sustainable Facilities Initiative is staged for tremendous impact within the Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms and beyond. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Redefining WASTE: impact of common landscape & grounds maintenance practices on urban wildlife

Over the past decade, zero waste grew from a grassroots movement to a buzz word to a common term for reducing waste across the spectrum of commercial, government and private facilities. Traditionally, zero waste referred to materials used within daily operations and lifestyles.

The U.S Green Building Council Total Resource Use & Efficiency (TRUE) Certification takes a strong step in redefining waste within the point-based program. Point achievement goes beyond the facility's physical structure and materials used on-site; TRUE addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment. 

Within its holistic protocol, TRUE takes impressive steps to redefine the zero waste industry with points related to grounds maintenance, cleaning practices, and supply chain management. The ZWA Blog article, TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy, is an overview of the zero waste certification program.

Tidy gardens = wasteful gardens
Pupal cases within two
fallen leaves
It is time to further redefine zero waste by addressing the impact on urban wildlife, especially pollinators, songbirds and other small creatures. From an urban wildlife and flora perspective, common landscape and grounds maintenance practices are filled with unnecessary waste. The concept of neat, well-groomed lawns and greenways is detrimental to urban lifecycles.

Raking (or blowing) leaves for transport to compost, landfills or incineration is wasteful on many levels. Beyond nutrition for its parent tree or bush, leaves provide winter homes for larval insects and shelter for organisms who nestle into the soil for the dormant months. By removing the leaves, humans disrupt Nature's perfected, intertwined lifecycles between invertebrates, insects, birds and larger prey species. Removing leaves wastes food & shelter designed for winter survival and spring's rebirth.

... and labor is required to aggregate the leaves and haul them off the property. Thus, the property owner (or manager) wastes costly labor via a disruptive task. When gas-powered blowers are used in the removal of leaves, energy is wasted coupled with contributions to Green House Gases (GHG).

Nesting material from a seed pod
A common landscape practice is to remove plants once they enter the dormant stage. Yet dormant plants generally are filled with winter food for non-migratory birds, insects, and other small creatures. When opened, remaining plant pods reveal abundant seeds and often fluffy material perfect for nest building.

Nature loves diversity
According to the Times Magazine April 2015 article, You Asked: Are the Honeybees Still Disappearing?, crops, manicured lawns and fields barren of pollen sources now replace the once abundant meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers. Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College explains, “Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers. A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly.”

Most manicured lawns are comprised of a single grass species, often not native to the area, and mowed prior to seeding. Volunteer grass and flowering plant species are considered weeds and eradicated via hand pulling or other weed | pest control methods.

Suburban manicured lawn
photo credit:
Moscarino Outdoor Creations
Many communities, whether at-large or a subdivision, establish by-laws stipulating lawn care including a single-grass species cut to a specified height. Though considered beautiful by common cultural perception, most "well-kept" neighborhood lawns are poisonous green deserts for urban wildlife. 

As reported in the Huff Post August 2015 post, The American Lawn Is Now The Largest Single ‘Crop’ In The U.S., a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there are an estimated 63,000 square miles of lawn in America — about the size of Texas. Maintaining a well-manicured lawn uses up to 900 liters of water per person per day and reduces carbon sequestration effectiveness by up to 35 percent; emissions from fertilization and the gas or electric-powered mowing equipment reduce the carbon sequestration effectiveness.

Manicured lawns are an expense for the property owner and contribute to GHG, as most lawns are cut with gas-powered mowers. From an urban wildlife perspective, modern lawns are wasteful. By their nature, lawns preclude food production in the form of flowers, fruits and seeds, shelter for nest building, and the necessary ingredients for healthy soils.

A healthy garden is a diverse garden
Robust soils require diverse root systems, invertebrates, microbial communities and fungi that feed optimum nutrients to the plants. Through the photosynthetic process, plants sequester carbon into their roots, stems & leaves and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Well-nourished plants and their subsequent decomposition are integral to the soil regeneration process and restoring balance to the carbon cycles. 

The ZWA Blog articles, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance and Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, introduce the out-of-balance carbon cycles along with soil regeneration as a viable, immediate solution.

Weeds, or NOT
Enacted in 1975, the Federal Noxious Weed Act established a Federal program to control the spread of noxious weeds. Per the Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
"The Secretary of Agriculture was given the authority to designate plants as noxious weeds by regulation, and the movement of all such weeds in interstate or foreign commerce was prohibited except under permit. The Secretary was also given authority to inspect, seize and destroy products, and to quarantine areas, if necessary to prevent the spread of such weeds. He was also authorized to cooperate with other Federal, State and local agencies, farmers associations and private individuals in measures to control, eradicate, or prevent or retard the spread of such weeds."
Honeybee working milkweed
blossoms
By 2001, the common milkweed was classified as a noxious weed in 35 states. As described in My Altona Forest's April 2014 post, Monarchs and Milkweed – The Precarious Cycle: "There is a symbiotic relationship between the native milkweed plants and the monarch. The monarch butterflies enjoy the nectar from the flowers and help pollinate the plants. The successful pollination allows the milkweed to thrive and thus provide more nurseries for the crucial ‘fourth generation’ of monarchs. Unfortunately, there are no substitutes for where monarchs can lay their eggs."

Pursuant to The New York Times November 2014 article, For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back
"Less than 20 years ago, a billion butterflies from east of the Rocky Mountains reached the oyamel firs, and more than a million western monarchs migrated to the California coast to winter among its firs and eucalypts. Since then, the numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent, hitting a record low in Mexico last year after a three-year tailspin."
Through research and action plans, a multitude of national and local organizations work diligently to reverse the impact of wasteful practices, such as eradicating native plants like the milkweed. Pollinator habitat gardens, often accompanying community gardens, are an example of effective programs in the implementation phase.

Pollinator Habitat Gardens
The fleabane "weed" was filled
with happy pollinators
In her November 2016 Wild Habitats article, More than Just a Pollinator Garden, Tara Mitchell compares the Pollinator Garden effort with the Victory Gardens promoted by the government during World War I and II. While the Victory Gardens were intended to address human food shortages, Pollinator Garden goals are to provide sufficient food (nectar and pollen) to reverse the decline of pollinators, bees in particular, and to provide habitat (milkweed) for monarch butterflies.

Diversity is essential to an effective pollinator garden. Many pollinators are attracted to a single plant species (monarch butterflies) or are limited by their mouth structure to a certain size/shape of a flower. Clusters (or drifts) of flower type within the garden make it easier for insects to pollinate the plants.

On his popular The Pollinator Garden site, Marc Colton gives the following advice:
"Flowers evolved with pollinators, not for people, so I approach garden planning from the pollinators' perspective. Insects feed on pollen, nectar or both, and it isn’t just bees, but butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and hoverflies too.
My second principle is to concentrate on flower forms which are close to nature, so no double flowers, complex hybrids or horticultural novelties.
There is evidence that insects have to learn to use each different flower type and shape, and that they prefer large stands of the same species. The honey bee “waggle dance” evolved to pass on information about large stands of suitable flowers."
Grove Park Community Garden,
home to a Pollinators in Parks garden
Pollinator habitat gardens are essentially a garden of any size containing flowering plants designed to attract and feed pollinators as well as provide homes for the next generation. Often pollinator habitat gardens accompany community gardens and contribute to robust crops for local consumption. The gardens are an excellent vehicle for the community to come together and provide benefits beyond food, whether for the pollinators or the gardener.

It is common for local governments, non-profits, foundations and citizen groups to partner for formal programs. Elemental Impact (Ei)'s Strategic Ally Park Pride's Pollinators in Parks program is a prime example of the community coming together to create pollinator gardens in City of Atlanta Parks. 

In February 2017, Park Pride received a $60,000 Home Depot Foundation grant in partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) for a pollinator garden pilot initiative; the pilot purpose was to increase the presence and impact of pollinator gardens in five City of Atlanta Parks.

Grove Park Pollinator Garden as
it enters the dormant stage
The five Pollinators in Parks pilot locations, in neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta proper, are Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Four Corners Park, Gilliam Park, Grove Park, and Welch Street Park.

Requirements for pilot participation included an adjacent community garden along with an established park group designated to plan, develop, and maintain the pollinator habitat garden. For the first year, Park Pride landscape architects and ABG pollinator experts worked closely with the park group on the garden design, building, and planting.

According to Park Pride Visioning Coordinator Teri Nye, “Starting with a planting plan and a ‘menu’ of host and nectar plants ensures that each garden has a seasonal succession of food for our native pollinators during all stages of their lifecycles.” Teri's comment emphasizes the important role gardens play throughout the four seasons. In fact, Park Pride interns designed creative, informative signs for the gardens that illustrate each season's contributions to a healthy ecosystem.

Park Pride winter pollinator sign
In December 2017, Teri hosted Ei Founder Holly Elmore on an educational tour of the Grove Park Pollinator Habitat Garden. It was enlightening to witness first-hand the value within a dormant garden. Holly revisited Grove Park for a photo shoot of the impressive pollinator habitat garden along with the adjacent community garden. In addition, Holly visited the Blue Heron Nature Preserve pollinator habitat garden for several photo shoots. 

The Holly Elmore Images FB album, The Power of Pollinators, is a collection of the garden photo shoots along with commentary.

Captain Planet Foundation (CPF)'s Project Learning Garden (PLG) provides schools with outdoor learning laboratories and is another example of how gardens empower communities. Gardens in the schoolyard are effective outdoor learning spaces for students to engage in inquiry-driven, project-based learning across all disciplines. Pollinator gardens accompany each PLG.

Children planting @ a PLG
photo courtesy of CPF
Supported by an array of corporate sponsors, the CPF PLG provide the following resources to participating schools: gardens & tools, curriculum & kits, mobile cooking cart, professional learning, program support, and a PLG library. K-8 public schools in the following school districts are eligible for PLG: Atlanta metro area districts, Los Angeles districts, and Santa Barbara | Ventura county districts. Schools in other districts and private schools may purchase the PLG for their students.

When a school accepts the PLG grant, the school agrees to: 1) have teachers complete online or in person training; 2) support teachers using the garden as a regular instructional space; 3) file any necessary paperwork through their facilities team for their garden; 4) arrange for a few volunteers to help install the garden; and 5) respond to surveys sent out by CPF from time to time.

CPF developed four ecoSTEM Resource Kits, a perfect tool for educators getting started with project-based learning. The Pollination ecoSTEM Kit includes a classroom set of milkweed seeds for students to take home. When students plant milkweed seeds at home, they create a monarch butterfly corridor or “way station.”

A common thread between Pollinators in Parks and PLG is the support and education provided during garden planning, building and planting. Yet the programs require the school or park group to eventually accept full-garden responsibility. Thus, the programs empower for long-term success.

Redefining WASTE
No matter its flavor, waste is expensive for the generator, the community, and the environment. The Earth's natural resources are limited yet Nature's perfected plan is regenerative with no waste. Thus, unlimited abundance is evident within Nature's cycles.

Healthy scenario: fall leaves left on
the diverse field of grass at Grove Park
It is time for humanity to redefine waste beyond materials and energy expended to include the destructive waste inherent within current systems; common agriculture, landscape, and grounds maintenance practices are examples of systems with destructive waste. It is time for humanity to understand disruptive behavior to natural systems circles back around into a wasteful, costly scenario to the community as well as to local and global ecosystems.

Eventually, the tremendous cost of waste will invoke simple economic laws and demand corrective action. Yet, will the timing be too late to regenerate the Earth's resources and restore balance?

Though the current scenario is daunting and overwhelming, the regeneration movement momentum is strong and filled with hope for an abundant, healthy future. Pioneering organizations like the USGBC, Park Pride and Captain Planet Foundation are at the forefront of redefining waste, social responsibility, and acceptable human behavior.


_____________________
Author's note: this article serves as the foundation for a series of articles related to redefining waste along with available regenerative solutions. Future articles will expand beyond pollinators, gardens, landscape and grounds maintenance, as well as dive deeper into these topics. The use of the Cides - herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides, and water infiltration rates were specifically not mentioned; each topic warrants its own article series.