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Monday, March 18, 2019

a farewell to recycling refinement | a welcome to regeneration | a website relaunch

As a welcome to the Elemental Impact (Ei) Era of Regeneration, the Ei site relaunched with a refreshed design featuring Ei Founder Holly Elmore's photography images. An updated navigation  reflects the current focus on the Soil Health | Regenerative AgricultureWater Use | Toxicity, and Product Stewardship platforms.

Ei endeavors considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished are thoroughly documented in the Mission Accomplished section. From the February 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch through June 2017, Ei lived the Ei tagline Sustainability in ACTION during the Ei Era of Recycling Refinement (RR).

Documentation of the important Ei Era of RR work is chronicled in the Mission Accomplished 46-page section within the following categories:
Ei Magazine articles related to each page's topic are listed on a sidebar. For meetings, tours, and conference presentations, the respective PPT presentations are available for download. Additionally, the Ei Milestones page is a monthly detail of prominent activities from the ZWZ launch to the current month, along with links to relevant website pages, magazine articles and other pertinent information.

With the Ei Era of RR "wrapped-up" in an organized, highly detailed website section, Ei is living the new tagline Regeneration in ACTION with full vigor. In early March, the RiA Magazine article, Three Steps to Straw Integrity, announces the Three-Step Straw Initiative (TSSI), the first Era of Regeneration initiative.

Building off of recycling-integrity principles, the TSSI is an "easy-win" inaugural step in the eradicatification of single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. Addressing microplastic pollution in the waterways, oceans and soils, the TSSI equally falls within the Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms.

Along with the new website, the Ei Newsletter receives a refreshed design and format.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Ei In-Kind Partners Jonathan Beacher of Atlanta Website Design and Lee Thompson of Thompson Creative for dedicating your amazing talent and time to Ei site relaunch. Jonathon tirelessly built the structure and functionality for the nearly 100-page site. Lee created a simple, clean, at times whimsical yet highly professional design that represents the magic within Ei's important work.

The site relaunch is a final farewell to the Era of Recycling Refinement and a cheerful welcome to the Ei Era of Regeneration. Yet the regenerative work intertwines in complete harmony with recycling-refinement accomplishments.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

WorldChefs' Feed the Planet: Making a Global Impact

On January 7, 2019 The World Association of Chefs’ Societies' (WorldChefs) Feed the Planet Committee launched the Food Waste Challenge (FWC) with participants from across the globe. For the launch, Feed the Planet Chair Chris Koetke led a webinar educating on the importance of food-waste reduction and the FWC parameters.

The RiA Magazine article, Elemental Impact / WorldChefs Collaborate on Global Food Waste Challenge, shares the WorldChefs | Elemental Impact (Ei) relationship history and introduces the FWC parameters. Founded in 2010 as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), Ei provides the food-waste expertise while WorldChefs customizes the information for the chef audience. It is a perfect collaboration!

In preparation for the FWC, Ei Founder Holly Elmore prepared the following supporting documentation:
  • Back-of-House (BOH) Food-Waste Reduction - the document addresses BOH food waste in relation to four overall kitchen operating sectors: 1> Purchasing, 2> Preparation, 3> Storage | Equipment, and 4> Menu Planning. 
  • Establishing a BOH Food-Waste Baseline - the document explains the importance of establishing a food-waste baseline and gives several suggestions for weighing the BOH food waste.
  • BOH Food-Waste-Baseline Calculation - a comprehensive spreadsheet for calculating the baseline over a three-month period, broken down by stations, and aggregated from daily, then weekly and into monthly food-waste metrics.
FWC First Step: Calculate the Food-Waste Baseline
One of the keys to the ZWZ success was the motto:

Take baby steps 
Lots and lots of baby steps!!!

In alignment with the ZWZ motto, the FWC is broken down into three primary stages : 1> BOH Food Waste, 2> Front-of-the-House (FOH) Food Waste, and 3> Destinations for Excess and Wasted Food. Within stage one, there are seven initial steps centered on calculating an operation's BOH food-waste baseline for two-consecutive three-month periods.

Image courtesy of WebstaurantStore
Determining the waste baseline is the initial step in developing zero-waste programs. Beyond establishing the current scenario for metrics tracking, the baseline calculation reveals the type of waste generated. Once waste is identified, the next step is creating a reduction plan.

In April Chris will host a second webinar with FWC participants where the BOH Food-Waste Toolkit is introduced. Additionally, ample time is planned for participants to share their challenges, lessons learned, and successes.

As the first FWC participant, Chef Winson Collarte and his crew at L'Apera Café & Restaurant in Saudi Arabia understand the chefs' responsibility for creating a waste-free food system. In Chef Winson's words,"We chefs are responsible for food-supply sustainability as practitioners of our passion and citizens of this planet." Enthusiastic about the food-waste reduction impact at his restaurant, Chef Winson filmed a two-minute plus video on the importance of the FWC.

Feed the Planet: Making a Global Impact
Feed the Planet is a WorldChefs initiative designed to inspire sustainable food consumption among communities and professionals. In addition, Feed the Planet supports people in need through emergency relief, food-poverty alleviation, and education. Founded in 2012, Feed the Planet is powered in partnership with Electrolux and AIESEC, an international, apolitical, independent and not-for-profit organization, run by students and recent graduates eager to build positive social change.

As Feed the Planet Chair, Chris shares the magnitude of the WorldChefs' initiative:
"The Feed the Planet Committee of WorldChefs focuses on sustainability from a planet, foodservice, and humanitarian level. It is really important work and I am very proud of what we are accomplishing. We teach chefs and culinary students around the world about sustainability and how to cook with the planet in mind. We give the disenfranchised an opportunity to enter the foodservice world as an economic means of improving lives through our better future initiatives in many countries. We challenge chefs with our Food Waste Challenge and ask them to make an impact by teaching school kids about food waste. We do not do this alone though. We have wonderful partners like Electrolux, AIESEC, and of course Elemental Impact and the great work that Holly is doing.  Together, we can craft a better future!"
In addition to the FWC, the below copy from its inaugural Feed the Planet newsletter showcases the following important programs:

Food Heroes Challenge
The Food Heroes Challenge is a chef-driven education project for kids. Using a toolkit developed through the UNICEF sustainability initiative World’s Largest Lesson and our friends at Electrolux Food Foundation and AIESEC, chefs teach a classroom in their local community sustainable eating habits.

Sustainability Education for Culinary Professionals
Sustainability Education for Culinary Professionals is a free curriculum for culinary schools, teaching chefs how to act sustainably for the planet and improved profitably in the kitchen. Since 2016, 15 schools and organizations in 12 countries have brought this curriculum to their students. Special thanks to Humber College in Canada, our longest running school, and a special shout out to the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Jordan, our fastest growing, with 154 students graduating from the curriculum since 2017

Education for Employment
Education for Employment, benefiting those in need of economic opportunity, provides a completely free, 2-month training module to give students the skills to they need enter the foodservice world. So far, 84 students have graduated in 2 cities in Brazil and Moscow. 12 of our students found jobs immediately after graduation. We are preparing to launch additional programs in Brazil, Egypt, Argentina, and Sweden in this year alone. Special congratulations to our most active learning centres: Curitiba, Brazil, now training its 5th class of students, and Sao Carlos, Brazil, whose 3rd wave will graduate at the end of this year.

In a mere seven years, Feed the Planet moved from a concept to a powerful WorldChefs' initiative with tremendous global impact. Feed the Planet makes the world a better place on many levels and dimensions.

About The World Association of Chefs’ Societies:

Founded in 1928 in Paris, The World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WorldChefs) is a dynamic global network of over 100 chefs associations representing the spectrum of chefs across the myriad of levels and specialties. The venerable August Escoffier served as first Honorary President.

In alignment with its mission, WorldChefs creates impact within four key areas: education, networking, competition, and humanitarian & sustainability. Within the humanitarian & sustainability focus area, Feed the Planet and World Chefs Without Borders programs relieve food poverty, deliver crisis support, and promote sustainability across the globe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Three Steps to Straw Integrity

In 2015, Elemental Impact (Ei) introduced the Micro Cost of Macro Contamination (MCMC) platform at the National Zero Waste Business Conference hosted in Austin, Texas in a prominent, well-attended Ei Hosted Panel by the same name. The conference panel focus was to educate on Microplastics: an unseen & deadly poison.

Microplastics enter the human-food system
At the time, the revelation of the prolific plastic invasion into the Earth's waterways and oceans was in its infancy. Scientists were beginning to understand how microplastics created a "plastic smog" within the oceans that infiltrates the sea-life and human-food systems. By definition, microplastics are particles smaller than five millimetres.

3-month fish with 17 pieces
of plastic in stomach
Image courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute
Aquatic life consumes fragmented plastic; larger pieces remain within the digestive tract while smaller ones integrate within the flesh. Thus, plastic enters the human-food system!

Plastic smog clean-up is challenging to impossible due to the microscopic size of the plastic.

Microplastics violate the Earth’s time-perfected regeneration system. Fragmentation, biodegradability and compostability are the foundation of the Earth’s regeneration system:
  • Fragmentation – first step in the bio-degradation process, in which organic matter is broken down into microscopic fragments.
  • Biodegradability – complete microbial assimilation of the fragmented product as a food source by the soil & water microorganisms.
  • Compostability – complete assimilation within 180 days in an industrial compost environment.
Note the difference between biodegradability and compostibility is TIME. By definition, material decomposes within 180 days while bio-degradation may take as long as millions of years.

Microplastics in the soils
Beyond the waterways and oceans, soils are also contaminated with microplastics. Per the EcoCycle | Wood’s End 2011 Study, Should Plastic Coated Materials be Allowed in Materials Collected for Composting?:
“This study showed conclusively that micro-plastic fragments were shred from all plastic-coated samples, whether single or double-coated. This means any plastic-coated paper product, even those that are partially screened out during the composting process, is contaminating the finished compost with plastics particles.”
Macro photo of microplastics
Image courtesy of Mark Browne
In his January 2019 ABC News article, Scientists say microplastics are all over farmlands, but we're ignoring the problem, author Jon Daly substantiates how plastics find their way into agricultural soils through recycled wastewater and rubbish. Within the rubbish is a significant amount of single-use food and beverage packaging; the vast majority of the packaging is either plastic-coated or 100% plastic. Plastic straws are a prevalent contributor to microplastics in the waterways, oceans, and soils.

The article key points are:
  • Between 107,000-730,000 tonnes of microplastic are added to European and North American farmlands each year.
  • In 2017, Australia produced 327,000 tonnes of dry biosolids containing microplastics and 75 percent of it was used in agriculture.
  • Researchers say there is a lack of public awareness and scientific understanding of the issue.
One Less Straw
Carter & Olivia Ries
In November 2016, Ei Strategic Ally One More Generation (OMG) founders Olivia Ries (then 14-years old) and her brother Carter (then 16-years old) launched their global OneLessStraw (OLS) Pledge Campaign. OLS educates the public about the dangers of single-use plastic straws and its effects on our health, our environment, and our oceans.

The OLS site details the following disturbing facts:
  • Each year 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic.
  • Every day we use 500,000,000 plastic straws. That’s enough straws to fill 46,400 large school buses PER YEAR!
  • U.S. Consumption is equal to enough plastic straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times a day!
A HUGE success, OLS boasts almost 800 partners, restaurants, and schools around the globe. Prominent partners include Delta Air Lines, Hilton Hotels (650 properties), Red Lobster Restaurants (700 restaurants), and TED's Montana Grill (47 restaurants).

OLS participants may order complimentary "We only serve straws upon request" buttons for servers to wear. To date, OLS has distributed over 47,000 buttons!

OLS button
OMG | OLS global recognition is astounding. In 2017 Carter presented to the United Nations congregation in New York City in a World Wildlife Day session on the importance of saving endangered species. Carter and Olivia were keynote speakers during the September 2018 G7 Environment, Energy and Ocean Ministers Ocean Summit session hosted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

In early 2019 OMG received the Energy Globe Award for the Youth category from over 6000-project entries from more than 178 countries. Televised globally, the award ceremony was hosted in Iran. The Energy Globe World Award Video was prepared by event organizers as an OLS overview.

Three-Step Straw Initiative
With the June 2019 end of the Ei Recycling Refinement Era, Ei's focus shifted to the Soil Health | Regenerative Agriculture and Water Use | Toxicity platforms within the Ei Era of Regeneration. The 2015 introduction of the MCMC served as a catalyst for the Soil Health | Regenerative Agriculture platform formation. 

As plastic-straw usage reduction gains high-profile media attention, Ei partnered with OMG | OLS for the Three Step Straw Initiative (TSSI) with a planned early summer launch. Beyond plastic-straw usage reduction, TSSI addresses the straw content and end of life and aligns with Ei Era of Regeneration platforms.

The TSSI includes the following steps:
Step 1- REDUCE straw usage 
Step 2SHIFT to paper straws 
Step 3COMPOST used straws 

OMG will encourage OLS participants to further decrease their straw-usage impact by joining the TSSI and shifting from plastic to paper straws. If there is food-waste collection for compost available, OLS participants are encouraged to engage in food-waste collection. Thus, the paper straws contribute to local, quality compost versus another material filling up the landfills or worse the waterways.

Ei-recruited participants are required to take the OLS pledge as their first TSSI step.

With perfect timing, Green Planet Straws joined the Ei Partner program to support the TSSL shift from plastic to paper straws. OLS participants proved that serving straws only upon request reduces overall straw consumption by 70 - 75%. Thus, the shift to paper straws is essentially cost-neutral as the usage reduction compensates for the higher paper-straw cost.

The TSSI is a perfect avenue for former Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) participants to take their sustainability commitment to the next level. For ZWZ participants, Step 3 - COMPOST is already in place. Thus, cost-neutral Steps 1 & 2 are an easy-to-implement endeavor.

Though they are a relatively minor portion of the plastic-pollution crisis, plastic straw daily and annual usage represents significant pollution tonnage. Straws are high profile and an "easy-win" in the steps towards eliminating single-use plastic food and beverage packaging. The Three-Step Straw Initiative brings "straw integrity" to the hospitality industry.