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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Greenville, #yeahthatgreenville, is a southern treasure

Over the past decade plus Greenville, SC, #yeahthatgreenville, experienced a tremendous resurgence as a coveted business and personal destination. National and global media took notice and consistently give Greenville prominent accolades related to quality and value-oriented travel, the excellent food scene, a sports and nature destination as well the city's livability.

Below and throughout the article are impressive accolades listed on the Visit Greenville, SC site.

Best Small Cities in the U.S. 2018 (Greenville, SC is #9)
Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards

9 Affordable U.S. Destinations for 2019

#3 Top New Foodie Cities in America

2018 Reader's Choice Awards - Favorite Destinations for Community Engagement
Sports Destination Management

49 of the Best Hiking Trails in the U.S. to Try Out This Fall
Business Insider

#22 Best Place to Live in the USA 2019
U.S News & World Report

BMW Manufacturing Plant 
BMW Plant
image courtesy of BMW
Until BMW opened their nearby manufacturing plant in 1994, Greenville and the entire Upstate SC remained economically traumatized by the textile industry demise in the 1970's. The BMW plant opening served as the catalyst for Greenville's economic revival and resurgence as a nationally and globally recognized great place to work, live and play.

Twenty-five years later, the BMW plant continues as a powerful regional-economic driver. Pursuant to the BMW Plant Spartanburg Stats and Information page:
BMW Manufacturing employs more than 11,000 people to produce the X3, X5 and X7 Sports Activity Vehicle and the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupe. The 1,150-acre, 7-million-square-foot campus generates its own power, offers an on-site Family Health Center and provides 24-hour security and firefighting personnel. To date, BMW has invested over $10 billion in its South Carolina operations.
Beyond the direct impact, BMW spurred business development in auxiliary companies and seemingly unrelated organizations. With a strong economic foundation Greenville is simply a good place for businesses to flourish.

#21 Best Small City to Start a Small Business

Greenville Amenities
Reedy River Falls
view from Liberty Bridge
Greenville is blessed with an array of natural and man-made amenities. Within downtown Greenville's Historic West End, the city-owned Falls at Reedy Park is an urban paradise enjoyed by residents as well as visitors. Completed in 2002, The Liberty Bridge overlooks the impressive Reedy River falls.

Funded by Greenville's hospitality tax, the $4.5 million Liberty Bridge honors Liberty Corporation founder W. Frank Hipp and his children for their commitment and contribution to the Greenville community. While bridges with similar structural concepts have been built in Europe, the Liberty Bridge is unique in its geometry and there is nothing like it in the United States.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is 22-mile path designed for cycling and walking that connects Travelers Rest to Greenville. Traversing along an old railroad corridor and the Reedy River, the trail crosses through the Falls park.

Liberty Bridge
Located within Greenville County, Caesars Head State Park and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains are excellent cycling, both bicycle and motorcycle, venues. Professional cyclist (bicycle) George Hincapie, a longtime teammate of Lance Armstrong, trained in the the Greenville area for the Tour de France and other global races.

When he retired George chose Greenville for his permanent home. Along with his brother, George launched two local businesses: Hincapie Sportswear, a high-end sportswear shop carrying technical apparel, gear & casual wear for cyclists & triathletes, and Hotel Domestique, part countryside auberge, part modern boutique hotel and culinary destination.

2018 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism: Innovations in Sports Tourism
Sports Destination Management

An acclaimed food, music and arts festival, Euphoria was founded in 2006 with a four-prong mission:
  • To promote tourism in Greenville, SC
  • To create a destination event for food, wine, and music lovers across the country
  • To highlight the  culinary and music arts community of Upstate South Carolina
  • To raise money to give back to the community
Euphoria showcases Greenville at its best and attracts locals as well as travelers to enjoy the festivities. Attendees enjoy exclusive tasting events, intimate musical experiences, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars, as well as multi-course dinners and live music concerts.

The Top Food Festivals & Foodie Events for Fall (Euphoria & Fall For Greenville)

Organic, local lettuces
destined for The Anchorage
Over the past decade, Greenville attracted talented chefs to the quaint city who opened a wide array of dining destinations. Passionate about food quality, the chefs are drivers in supporting local-organic agriculture and showcase the produce, dairy and protein on their menus. Additionally, many chefs embrace zero-waste practices and contract with Atlas Organics for commercial food-waste collection for compost.

Top 20 America's Favorite Cities for Food
Travel + Leisure

Furman University, a private liberal-arts school, calls Greenville home and Clemson University, the state's second largest university from a student-population perspective, is a mere thirty plus miles away.

Greener Greenville
In 2011, Greenville City Council established the Green Ribbon Advisory Committee to advise City Council and City staff on the development of programs and initiatives, including the development of a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, to reduce the City's environmental impact and distinguish Greenville as a leader in sustainability efforts.

Downtown dual-stream
recycling bin
The Committee issued a comprehensive report, Greener Greenville: Goals, Strategies & Tasks in June 2018. The report focuses of four sustainability categories: Energy & Buildings, Mobility, Natural Systems, and Recycling & Waste Management.

Electrical vehicle-charging stations were installed in city-owned parking garages to encourage citizens to drive low-emission vehicles. There is no fee for the chargers other than the standard parking garage stipend.

Greenville uses dual-stream recycling for their downtown collection bins. ... and the recycling bins come complete with fine art compliments of the Metropolitan Arts Council and the City of Greenville.

Reedy Farms compost sign
Within the Recycling & Waste Management section, a priority is an assessment of the food-waste collection for compost options, commercial and residential. Tasks detailed include finding a site to pilot food-waste composting, increasing awareness on home composting, and setting-up a commercial food-waste composting pilot for downtown restaurants. 

Local urban farmers embrace the use of compost to build and restore their soils for growing healthy, organic produce.

Top 10 America's Greenest Cities (Greenville is #5)

Urban Agriculture
In October 2018 Elemental Impact (Ei) along with Ei Strategic Ally Feed and Seed hosted the Ei Exploration of Fungi, Soil Health and World Hunger. During the final exploration session at the Clemson organic-student farm, Feed & Seed Chair Mary Hipp gave an overview of the amazing healthy food-school programs at the Greenville County Schools as well as up the road 20+ miles at the Spartanburg County Schools, District Six.

Inspired, Ei Founder Holly Elmore traveled to Greenville in May 2019 to meet the masterminds behind the healthy food-school programs and tour their respective operations. Mary was generous with her time, connections and spirit as she hosted Holly for two consecutive days of meetings and tours.

After the Greenville County School District meeting, tour, and lunch, Mary took Holly on tours of two prominent, impressive urban farms, Reedy River Farms and Horseshoe Farm.

Reedy River Farms
Reedy River Farms
In September 2015, George DuBose and Chris Miller started Reedy River Farms with the mission to provide the best vegetable produce to their community and the most talented chefs in Greenville.

Located on an acre plot less than a mile from downtown, Reedy River Farms makes efficient use of their land via a covered high tunnel along with open-air plots. Committed to organic practices, the farm is "cide-free" (pest, insect, herb, and fungi) and nurtures their soil with local Atlas Organics compost. With close proximity to downtown, Reedy River Farms minimizes transportation emissions.

Horseshoe Farm
Back in 2017, a prominent local chef asked Chris to help him start a chef's garden at his restaurant. Thus, Chris left Reedy River Farms and launched That Garden Guy (TGG) to educate in and facilitate the "grow-your-own" and "local-food" movement.

In his consulting practice, Chris partners with Feed & Seed to help farmers improve restaurant-specific varieties and practices to maximize those relationships.

Hand-harvested carrots at
Horseshoe Farm
Last year Greg McPhee, Chef Owner of The Anchorage, partnered with TGG on Horseshoe Farm, an urban farm that is chef-driven with what and when crops are planted. Beyond another source for organic, locally grown produce, their intent is to drive the next wave of chef | farmer relationships and expand the Upstate's regional food system.

Mother nature is always difficult, but (with this) I’ll know exactly, in theory, what we have coming in, in what months and how we can plan the menu accordingly,” Greg said in the October 2018 Greenville News article, Anchorage chef and a farmer start a farm in a new approach to local food in Greenville.

Recently Chris was recognized as 2019 Urban Conservationist of the Year by the Greenville County Soil & Water Conservation District for his sustainable-agriculture work in urban areas.

The Holly Elmore Images FB album, Greenville, SC, is a pictorial recount of Holly's May Greenville visit with sections on the farm tours, school system meetings | tours as well as downtown | neighborhood scenes.

Greenville, #yeahthatgreenville, is a southern treasure and lives up to its tremendous accolades. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Elemental Impact & One More Generation Partner to Build Straw Integrity

With the March announcement of the Three-Step Straw Initiative (TSSI) building straw integrity, long-term strategic allies Elemental Impact (Ei) and One More Generation (OMG) segued into a powerful partnership. Ei Founder Holly Elmore joined the OMG Advisory Board as their Soil & Water Advocate. OMG Co-Founders Carter Ries and Olivia Ries joined the Ei Advisory Council as Youth Advisors.

Olivia & Carter in the early years
In 2009 Carter and Olivia, then eight and seven years old respectively, founded their nonprofit in an effort to help educate children and adults about the plight of endangered species. Carter and Olivia’s intention is to preserve all species for at least One More Generation… and beyond.

Almost simultaneously, Holly launched the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) in her role as the Green Foodservice Alliance Founder and Executive Director, an organization within the Georgia Restaurant Association umbrella. The ZWZ were the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In 2010 Holly founded Ei as the home for the ZWZ.

Through the years OMG President Jim Ries, Carter and Olivia's father, and Holly kept in close communication and were always supportive of each other's missions and projects. Yet their respective dynamics did not align well enough for joint programs and projects. The TSSI presented an excellent opportunity for Ei to partner with OMG's One Less Straw (OLS) Pledge Campaign.

One Less Straw
In November 2016, OMG launched OLS to educate 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).

Carter addressing the U.N.
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!

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 2017 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 Macro Cost of Micro Contamination 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 TSSI with a planned early fall 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 2 – SHIFT to paper straws
• Step 3 – COMPOST 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 (GPS) 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.

GPS has ample capacity supported by a strong distribution system to supply the hospitality industry with top-quality paper straws. In addition, GPS is pursuing BPI Certified Compostable status and is staged to serve as the industry's first certified-paper straw.

As an OLS Partner, GPS offers commercial-pledge participants 10% off pallet orders along with free shipping.

The TSSI is an easy first step to addressing the impact of micro and nanoplastics on our soils, waterways, atmosphere and the human-food chain. TSSI Partner GPS is the financial catalyst for Ei's important work.

TSSI Founding Participants
Since the March TSSI announcement, Holly's prime focus is recruiting Founding TSSI Participants. The TSSI is a perfect avenue for former 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.

The TSSI is in the pre-launch stage as Founding Participants are recruited. To date, the following prominent Ei Pioneers gave the big YES to TSSI participation: Affairs to Remember Caterers, Levy Restaurants - Georgia World Congress Center, Proof of the Pudding - The Carter Center, Piedmont Driving Club, Pacific Rim and Hsu's Gourmet.

Thanks to OMG introductions Holly visited Orlando and Tampa, FL to introduce the TSSI to local government officials. Follow-up visits are scheduled for mid-July and September.

... and the TSSI, building straw integrity, is merely the beginning of empowering work within the Ei | OMG partnership.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Success is not static: evolution is required to create and sustain regeneration

With Elemental Impact's (Ei) ten-year history of living the original tagline, Sustainability in ACTION, and more recently the renewed tagline, Regeneration in ACTION, substantial relationships evolved into valuable industry assets. With intentions to broaden environmental, humanitarian, and societal impact, Ei often facilitates powerful introductions within its extensive network. The Ei Connects page documents prominent introductions.

On June 17, Ei orchestrated introductions for long-time comrade in sustainability Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) to Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm (HGF) and KSU Dining Services. Ga Tech Director of Waste & Recycling Cindy Jackson was joined by Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Neville and Senior Sustainability Manager Malte Weiland. KSU Sustainability Manager Jennifer Wilson joined the tour and meeting; KSU Dining Service Culinary Director Brian Jones hosted the introductory meeting at The Commons campus-dining hall.

As Ei segued from the Era of Recycling Refinement into the Era of Regeneration, a close relationship developed with HGF via the first farm tour in June 2017 for Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) and EPA, Region 4 associates.

Based on the inaugural tour, Ei Founder Holly Elmore wrote the Fall 2017 Southern Farm & Garden seven-page, multiple-article feature, An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems. The article 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 HGF. Holly's photography enhanced the article.

Ga Tech | Ei
The powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dates back to the Zero Waste Zones 2009 launch. Over the years, Cindy attended 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!

The Lorax recycling center
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.

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. Though it increases "diversion rates," single-stream recycling 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.

Clean, student-separated
plastic-recycling stream
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.

On October 24, 2017 Ga Tech hosted the first annual Facilities Sustainability Forum to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond. At Cindy's invitation, Holly was the featured speaker. The ZWA Blog article, Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success, is a forum overview featuring Holly’s presentation as well as the Building Services, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Landscape Service department sessions.

Hickory Grove Farm - History 
In 2013 the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) leased the 26-acre tract of land to KSU for farm use. Formally, the site was the GDOT cement-mixing site for nearby I-75 construction. Though not toxic, the soil was severely compacted and devoid of necessary minerals to sustain a healthy soil ecosystem. In addition, stormwater flowed off the property, rather than hydrate the "dead soil."

The Hydroponics Lab
Due to the deteriorated state of the soil, one of the first structures built at HGF was the Hydroponics Lab. In addition to not requiring soil for healthy crops, hydroponic agriculture systems save tremendous water. According to a University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science 2011 article:
A hydroponic lettuce system could use only 10 percent of the water needed compared to field-grown lettuce. Arizona uses about 70 percent of its water for agriculture.Theoretically, about 90 percent of all that water could be saved if every farm converted to hydroponics.
As the Hydroponics Lab is an enclosed structure, plant pests (insects, disease or other) are non-existent. Thus, creative pest control free of toxic chemicals is not necessary.

With patience, tenacity and a strategic plan, KSU restored the land through regenerative-agriculture practices. Simple, effective stormwater-management techniques retain water on the property, including a vibrant natural retention pond. A pair of mallard ducks, frogs, a variety of native plants, and abundant insects thrive within the pond and its shoreline.

HGF retention pond
Soil restoration is a partnership with the land; continued nurturing through compost use, crop rotation and other regenerative applications are necessary to maintain and improve soil health. HGF Manager Michael Blackwell ultized his extensive regenerative-agriculture wisdom to restore the soils into rich, dynamic ecosystems where crops thrived. 

Within a mere four years HGF supplied The Commons with nearly 25 percent of its produce, approximately 20,000 pounds of produce annually, and often 100 percent of its eggs. The Commons campus-dining hall serves 6,000-plus students, faculty, and guests per day during the active school year.

Back in 2017, HGF served as as a laboratory for The Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality (CSH) with an active class schedule. To prepare the students with the necessary skills to evolve into valuable culinary and hospitality-industry employees, the CSH required 400 hours of work experience and 200 volunteer hours for program graduation. Thus, HGF was the recipient of a significant number of student-volunteer hours for farm work.

CSH student  on the farm
The main farm structures in 2017 included the Propagation Lab, the Hydroponics Lab, one open-air high tunnel, a large chicken coop, a  tool shed, and the administration trailer.

The Hydroponics Lab housed a state-of-the-art vertical hydroponic system that watered each plant individually. The periodic dry time emulated nature and prevented root rot often prevalent in hydroponic systems. Within the lab, the tomato, cucumber, and various peppers-crop yields were impressive. Planting was timed to generate crops within the KSU-class rhythm.

HGF's fifteen honey-bee hive apiary served as a hands-on laboratory for the CSH Organic Agriculture and Beginning Apiary course. In addition to honey bees, the farm installed native-bee hives in the maturing apple orchard. Though they do not produce honey, native bees are far superior pollinators to honey bees, which are an introduced species.

In early 2017, the Honeybee Conservancy granted funds to The Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Character to support collaborative efforts with KSU for raising Georgia’s bee population. Designated for the construction of a new apiary, grant funds allowed HGF to add mason and leafcutter bees to their original bee population.

Germinated seeds in soil blocks
ready for planting
For plastic-free seed planting, Michael uses stamped soil blocks to germinate seeds for planting in the high-tunnel. As another plastic-free measure, Michael grows saplings for new orchards in repurposed #10 cans from KSU Dining Services.

In October 2017, KSU announced the CSH would be phased out by spring of 2021 and was no longer accepting new students. Thus, HGF lost their steady stream of student-volunteer hours and the budget for farm labor other than Michael. It was time to step back and evolve the farm's strategic-operations plan.

Hickory Grove Farm - Evolution
With limited farm labor, Michael immediately assessed how he could maintain crop production. As they require seven-days per week attendance, finding homes for the 100-farm chickens was one of the first action points. Michael confirmed the chickens literally went to homes and not for chicken-broth production. 

Hydroponic lettuce ready for harvest
A second top priority was replacing the the original vertical-hydroponics system with a table-top system to focus on lettuce and reduce required labor. With the Hydroponics Lab's new system, lettuce grows from seeds to ready-for-harvest in six weeks, broken down into three, two-week stages.

HGF can easily produce 400 pounds of lettuce per week, more than KSU Dining uses, even when at  full capacity feeding 6,000 students per day. Thus, Michael is experimenting with growing herbs and other produce in the hydroponics lab.

Built in the last year, a second high tunnel is in the midst of its first growing season. To prevent moths and other insects from laying eggs on the crops, the new high tunnel is completely enclosed. Additionally, pollinator insects are not present and the monecious squash crop must be hand pollinated.

Monoecious plants, such as corn, birches, and squashes, produce individual male and female flowers; pollen from the male stamen must touch the female stigma for fertilization to occur. Once fertilized, the female ovary swells as it grows into a fruit or vegetable. When insect pollination is not an option, hand-pollinating squash blossoms is a common gardening practice.

Hand pollinating squash flowers
HGF staff hand-pollinate squash blossoms each morning. According to Michael the hand-pollination process is simple and takes approximately 30 minutes. By the abundant yellow squash nearing harvest, the hand pollination is successful at the farm.

Over the dormant winter months, Michael built a produce washroom complete with a bubble washer and a walk-in cooler. With an "extension service for the small farmer" mentality, Michael built the room with grass-roots economics. 

The bubble washer is used to clean lettuce and other produce while an industrial spinner dries the lettuce prior to bagging for storage. Michael used a simple jacuzzi pump to craft the inexpensive bubble washer.

Hand-crafted walk-in cooler
Rather than purchase one for $12,000, Michael hand-built the walk-in cooler for $600. A CoolBot (walk-in cooler controller) was used to transform a standard-window air-conditioner unit into a refrigeration-cooling system.

It is incredibly impressive to witness Michael's ingenuity and commitment to supporting urban ag and small rural-farm systems.

Though HGF composted farm waste in the past, fall KSU campus leaves are now brought to the farm for composting versus their prior landfill destination. Michael completed the Master Composter Certification offered by the UGA Athens-Clarke County Extension Service. Per the county website:
Established in 2011 as a partnership between Athens-Clarke County Extension and the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department, the Georgia Master Composter Program is an adult education course and Extension Volunteer program.  Master Composters complete a nine-week training course that covers all aspects of the composting process.  Classes are taught by UGA faculty, Athens-Clarke County and US Forest Service staff, and small and commercial business owners. Topics include the chemistry and microbiology of composting, types of and reasons for composting, composting techniques and teaching tools.  As Extension volunteers, Master Composters then use this information to share composting basics with their family, friends and the community.  
The KSU Sustainability Department is ready to explore the possibility of transporting KSU Dining Services food waste to HGF for compost.

HGF will continue to evolve as various KSU departments realize the value of a nearby organic farm. With plenty of available land, the farm is ripe for an array of research and other projects.

American Chestnut
The HGF land is bound on the south and north sides with old-growth forest. While exploring the north forest, Michael discovered two healthy shoots from former magnificent American chestnuts killed by the chestnut blight. It is estimated 3 - 4 billion American chestnuts were killed by the blight in the first half of the 20th century. Though healthy in appearance, the shoots remain vulnerable to the blight.

Michael gazes at one of the
American chestnut trees
Based on submitted leaves and twigs, the American Chestnut Foundation confirmed the saplings are pure American chestnuts. If the elder sapling is free of the blight parasite, Michael is hopeful HGF may submit healthy seeds for the national efforts to revive the magnificent native trees.

Before humans developed North America, the American chestnut was the predominant tree from the Eastern seaboard to the Mississippi River. Legend says a squirrel could run through American chestnut tree branches from the East Coast to the Mississippi without touching the ground. Though urban development diminished the prominent population, the chestnut blight removed the magnificent trees from North American landscapes.

The only two verified pure American chestnut trees outside of the mountain region are on HGF. With the high honor comes a responsibility for species stewardship. 

KSU Dining Services
In alignment with its sustainability commitment, KSU opened The Commons Gold-LEED Certified dining facility in 2010. The Commons was awarded #2 Best College Dining Hall in 2016 by

The Commons entrance
KSU Dining Services Culinary Director Brian Jones oversees the in-house campus-foodservice operations. Brian uses his extensive fine-dining expertise to serve superior cuisine to the students, faculty and guests who dine at KSU facilities. An industry powerhouse, Brian recently won the National Association of College and University Food Service Southern Regional Culinary Challenge, earning a berth in the organization’s national competition in July.

In addition to an impressive healthy-dining commitment, including ample vegetarian and vegan-culinary options, KSU Dining Services adheres to best sustainable-operating practices. In 2018, 292 tons of source-separated food waste was collected for compost. At The Commons, back-of-the-house employees separate the food waste and trash from the reusable plates, flatware and cups. The employee-driven system aids in collecting a clean post-consumer food-waste stream for compost collection.

Committed to food-waste reduction, KSU Dining Services is trayless and uses moderate-sized plates and cups. At most of the stations, food is portioned by staff rather than permitting diners to overflow plates with student-sized appetite portions.

Pickled carrots
Prior to the one-month summer closing, Brian and his team scoured the kitchen for remaining perishable food and preserved the food in a variety of methods. Thus, pickled carrots provide lovely decor at the dining-hall stations.

Excess food is donated to Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Services. Founded in May 2013, CARE is a single point-of-access to services and resources, both on and off campus, for KSU students with issues surrounding homelessness, food insecurity, and foster care.

According to an April 2019 article Bills in California and Washington Address Homeless College Students:
Of university students, 36 percent said they had experienced some form of housing insecurity and 9 percent reported being homeless in the past year. Among community college students, 46 percent reported housing insecurity and 12 percent reported homelessness
With an innate community spirit, KSU Dining Services staff pre-packages excess food in single-service containers to aid in effective distribution to individuals.

As previously stated, KSU Dining Services uses reusable plates, flatware and cups to minimize waste generated in the dining halls. Beyond "straws available upon request," straws are not available at KSU dining halls. For to-go orders, KSU Dining Services provides reusable containers within a system designed for container return.

Synergies Abound
On June 17 the Ga Tech team arrived at HGF in the morning for a detailed farm tour hosted by Michael and joined by Jennifer. The Ga Tech folks were beyond impressed with the land's transformation from a cement-mixing site to a dynamic farm as well as Michael's ingenuity and innate passion for living by example.

Ga Tech | KSU sustainability meeting
After the farm tour, the group convened at The Commons dining hall for a KSU | Ga Tech sustainability introductory meeting. Cindy gave a thorough overview of Ga Tech's impressive recycling practices along with challenges addressed. In the midst of a shift to Aramark as their contracted foodservice operator, Sarah recapped the current Ga Tech-dining scenario.

Brian followed with the history of KSU Dining along with details of his extraordinary culinary operations. Wrapping up the meeting, Jennifer gave an overview of KSU's sustainability commitment. As Brian said farewell, the group enjoyed an amazing lunch.

Synergies abounded during the tour and meeting between Ga Tech and KSU. While Ga Tech excels in its waste & recycling program as well as grounds-maintenance practices, KSU is an industry hero in sustainable dining. An open-ended action point was scheduling a KSU visit to Ga Tech's campus. By working together the two state-owned universities may propel their respective operations into new sustainability realms.

An Ei FB album, Ei Connects, section is a pictorial recap of the meeting and tour from an Ei-Connects perspective; a Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Hickory Grove Farm, section includes images from Holly's pre-tour photo shoot as well as tour images.

Beyond Sustainability
Over the past decade, 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.

Is sustainability / resilience enough to stave off the building crisis of the diminishing food and oxygen supply?

The RiA Magazine article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, establishes sustainability | resilience is not enough to prevent the building crisis. Yet solutions abound in regenerating our soils by overhauling common agriculture, landscape and land-use practices.

Hickory Grove Farm is a stellar example of "farming done right" and how regenerative agriculture is a solution that produces abundant, healthy food and draws down significant carbon from the atmosphere into the soils. It takes commitment and tenacity of spirit to create and maintain a regenerative farm. Farm Manager Michael Blackwell knows success is not static and evolution is required to create and sustain regeneration.

Ei was honored to facilitate the empowering introduction of Kennesaw State University and Georgia Institute of Technology sustainability associates. May the magic flow within the respective universities so their strong sustainability commitments evolve into regenerative commitments.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sustainability in ACTION garners a new life, at the speed of bike!

Elemental Impact (Ei) plays a valuable industry role by introducing organizations and/or individuals who share synergies for powerful relationships and action. During the Ei Recycling Refinement Era, the following prominent Ei Connections were strong contributions to ongoing industry events and working relationships:
The EPA Scaling Up Compost
in Charlotte, NC Team
The Ei Connects website page details the plethora of introductions over the years; the Ei Connects FB album is a pictorial recap of many notable introductions.

With a decade of living the original tagline, Sustainability in ACTION, followed by  the new tagline, Regeneration in ACTION, Ei developed long-term relationships that continue to segue into empowering introductions.

Sustainable Pattie
Pattie Baker
photo courtesy of Pattie Baker
In December 2008, eco-journalist Pattie Baker, alias "Sustainable Pattie," interviewed Ei Founder Holly Elmore, then the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) Executive Director, for a New Life article on restaurants embracing sustainable operating practices. The following February Pattie attended the popular GFA Carbon WHAT? seminar hosted at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and sponsored by the EPA R4 | Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Sustainability Division. Thereafter, Holly and Pattie developed a deep-rooted friendship that continues to grow stronger with the years.

An avid urban cyclist since 2013, Pattie authors the Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog and in March 2018 published a book by the same title. In her frequent blog posts, Pattie shares the wonderous world when life is lived at the speed of bike.

As a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, Pattie advocates for bicycle safety via education on road rules and etiquette, riding technique, equipment, and a sense of delight. With safety a top priority, Pattie embraces use of  BikeNoodles inspired by Warren Huska's ingenuity in the article Cyclist says his pool noodle makes Toronto streets safer for him. According to Pattie, "I’ve been using BikeNoodles in suburbia for the last 2.5 years, with 100% success at eliminating illegal passing and driver aggression."

Sustainability in Action Bicycle Tour
Long recruited by Bicycle Tours of Atlanta (BTA), Pattie joined the staff as a tour guide in 2018. BTA believes there is no better way to explore this beautiful city than by bicycle and the joy associated with feeling like a kid again. Beyond corporate and private tours, BTA offers the following tours on a regular basis:
  • Fall in Love with Atlanta, see Atlanta like you never have before.
  • Atlanta Street Art, discover a world of beautiful street art in Atlanta.
  • WonderRoot, a tour of Atlanta's newly curated collection of civil rights & social justice murals.
  • Sustainability in Action, explore the sustainable side of Atlanta.
GWCCA bee hives on the
Sustainability in Action Tour
The Sustainability in Action Tour was crafted by Pattie as an eleven-miles, 3.5-hours ride through Downtown, Midtown, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Piedmont Park, the Old Fourth Ward Park, the Atlanta Beltline, and other carefully-curated as well as spur-of-the-moment highlights on some of the most acclaimed bike infrastructure in the USA.

On the tour, riders get up-close and personal on a rubber-hits-the-road showcase of best practices and innovations relating to environmental, economic, and social sustainability in a city embracing the defining challenges of our times.

As the Sustainability in Action Tour rides by the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Pattie reached out to Holly for introductions via the extensive Ei network.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
On May 9 Pattie and Holly met at MBS for a sustainability tour of the "greenest professional sports stadium in the world." MBS Operations Manager – Tours Dawn Brown hosted the impressive tour with General Manager Scott Jenkins joining the first half. 

Dawn, Holly & Scott
photo courtesy of Pattie Baker
After an education on the state-of-the-art design and construction that earned MBS LEED-Platinum Certification, the tour focused on the waste-reduction practices in-place within back-of-the-house operations. The tour ended at the recently planted raised-bed gardens along the Northside Drive administration entrance.

Though built as the home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium plays an integral community role with many local athletic events and educational tours. With a staff of 41 tour guides. Dawn manages on average 700 visitors per week on various educational tours, including one dedicated to the MBS's impressive art collection.

The Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog post, a growing movement, gives a tour overview from Pattie's perspective.

Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA)
During the GWCCA campus tour, Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer shared the GWCCA’s long-term sustainability commitment. In February 2009 the GWCCA hosted the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones press conference. Thanks to Tim’s diligent efforts, the GWCCA is the world’s largest LEED-certified conference center. 

The GWCCA hosted the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four® as the "greenest games ever." More than a tagline, the 2013 Final Four sustainability success forever evolved sporting-event sustainability protocol. Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established! 

Pattie & Tim at the
GWCCA bee apiary
Additionally, Tim consults with the Super Bowl leadership on implementing sustainability standards at their prestigious sporting event. Tim co-chaired the 2019 Super Bowl Sustainability Committee when MBS hosted the prestigious event in Atlanta earlier this year.

As Pattie has seen it many times while riding at the speed of bike, the GWCCA bee apiary was the prime tour focus.

In August 2018, the GWCCA introduced their three-hive bee apiary located in a pocket park on the corner of Boone Boulevard and Northside Drive. Managed by Bee Downtown, a North Carolina-based company focused on revitalizing bee populations in urban environments, the GWCCA hives support the urban-bee population in downtown Atlanta.

Each hive is destined to produce 80 pounds of honey per year, with the first harvest this summer. Harvested honey will be used by Levy Restaurants in their foodservice operations as well as bottled for gifts.

The Traveling at the Speed of Bike Blog post, bee downtown, gives a tour overview from Pattie's perspective.

An Ei Connects FB album section includes a pictorial recap of the Sustainability in Action Bicycle Tours.

Ei was honored to introduce Patti to long-term partners and colleagues. It was fun to witness synergies during the tour, especially when Patti learned Scott rides his bike to work at the stadium!

... and the original Ei tagline Sustainability in ACTION garners a new life while traveling at the speed of bike.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Straw integrity addresses usage, content, and disposition

In the March 2019 RiA article, Three Steps to Straw Integrity, Elemental Impact (Ei), in partnership with Ei Strategic Ally One More Generation (OMG), announced the Three-Step Straw Initiative (TSSI). The three steps are:

Step #1REDUCE straw usage.
Step #2SHIFT to paper straws.
Step #3COMPOST used straws.

For Ei, the TSSI is an easy, first step in addressing the prolific micro and nanoplastics infiltrating our soils, waterways, atmosphere, and human-food chain.

For OMG, the TSSI expands the OMG One Less Straw (OLS) Pledge Campaign beyond plastic-straw usage reduction to address straw content and disposition | end-of-life. As participants are required to take the OLS pledge in Step #1, the TSSI serves as a marketing vehicle for the stellar program.

One Less Straw
In November 2016, OMG founders Olivia Ries (then 14-years old) and her brother Carter (then 16-years old) launched their global 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 (43 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!

IMPRESSIVE: several seasoned OLS participants no longer require the buttons as their customers are well educated on "straws available upon request." Thus, they gifted their buttons to new nearby OLS participants for reuse!

OLS Partners support the program via discounts available to the commercial and individual-pledge participants.

Green Planet Straws
With perfect timing, Green Planet Straws (GPS) joined the Ei Partner program in March to support the TSSI Step #2: SHIFT from plastic to paper straws. OLS commercial-pledge 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.

GPS has ample capacity supported by a strong distribution system to supply the hospitality industry with top-quality paper straws. In addition, GPS is pursuing BPI Certified Compostable status and is staged to serve as the industry's first certified-paper straw.

As an OLS Partner, GPS offers commercial-pledge participants 10% off pallet orders along with free shipping.

Healthy Human
For individual-pledge participants, OLS Partner Healthy Human offers a pack of three stainless-steel straws for $5.00, including shipping within the U.S. The limited-time discount is 50% off the regular price. Additionally, Healthy Human donates $1.00 for every three-pack sold to OLS.

Individuals may sign the OLS pledge at this link. Upon pledge submission, the individual will receive redemption instructions.

Healthy Human serves as a leading innovator in sustainability by creating products that eliminate or replace single-use plastic items.

TSSI meeting at The Carter Center
photo courtesy of OMG
The TSSI is in the pre-launch stage as Founding Participants are recruited. To date, the following prominent Ei Pioneers gave the big YES to TSSI participation: Affairs to Remember Caterers, Levy Restaurants - Georgia World Congress Center, Levy Restaurants - State Farm Arena, Proof of the Pudding - The Carter Center, Piedmont Driving Club, Pacific Rim, Hsu's Gourmet, and Ted's Montana Grill.

In addition, Ei Founder Holly Elmore visited Orlando and Tampa, FL to introduce the TSSI to local government officials. Follow-up visits are scheduled for mid-July and September.

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 by addressing usage, content and disposition | end of life.