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Friday, May 29, 2020

Urban Carbon Sinks: a regenerative solution to the diminishing oxygen-supply crisis

In partnership with the Global Regenerative Land Economics Initiative (GRLEI), Elemental Impact (Ei) seeks funding for an Urban Carbon Sink Pilot Project currently under development. Grant proposals and other potential funding sources are underway. By partnering with the GRLEI, the potential global impact is significantly magnified.

Carbon Sinks
Simply, a carbon sink is an area of land where plants drawdown more carbon via photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars for energy -  from the atmosphere than is released from the soil into the atmosphere. 

Vibrant forests are natural
carbon sinks.
Big Cypress Preserve in the Everglades
The oceans are technically carbon sinks as they currently absorb more atmospheric carbon than is released. Current excess carbon in the oceans causes ocean acidification that kills plankton at alarming rates. As marine plant life (phytoplankton, kelp, and algal plankton) photosynthesis generates the vast majority of atmospheric oxygen, the Earth is heading towards an oxygen-deficiency crisis.

By re-establishing abundant land-based carbon sinks, the carbon cycles may return to balance via atmospheric carbon returning to the soils. Once a threshold of lowered atmospheric carbon is reached, the oceans will release their stored excess carbon into the atmosphere. Thus, ocean acidification will reverse and marine plant life may revive back into healthy oxygen-producing states.

Regenerative Agriculture | Grounds Maintenance
As well documented in the 2017 RiA Magazine article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, regenerative agriculture is a viable solution for restoring weakened soil ecosystems and drawing significant carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil. Thus, regenerative agriculture creates carbon sinks.

Within the article, Ei announces intentions to create urban carbon sinks via integrating regenerative landscape and grounds maintenance practices on corporate complexes, college | university campuses, highway medians | shoulders, airport land surrounding runways, parks, and other available urban lands. Collectively, the regenerative landscaped areas are destined to serve as urban carbon sinks and aid in restoring the carbon-cycle balance.

Urban Carbon Sink Pilot
Public parks are perfect
venues for urban carbon sinks
Utilizing Ei’s extensive corporate network and prominent Advisory Council, the Urban Carbon Sink Pilot (UCSP) will recruit corporate, local government, and university participants enthusiastic to reduce their carbon footprint by overhauling their landscape and grounds maintenance practices. Ei Advisors will educate on regenerative practices and support in the implementation. With strong documentation of challenges, successes, and lessons learned, Ei will craft an Urban Carbon Sink template for replication.

The carbon drawdown will be tracked via measuring the organic matter (carbon) in the soil. Prior to UCSP implementation, soil tests will establish the pilot’s baseline; future soil tests at specified intervals will document carbon-drawdown success.

Integral to Ei’s model is in-depth documentation of a pilot’s purpose, environmental and economic benefits, implementation stages, along with testimony from participants. Documentation includes RiA articles, detailed photo albums, and case studies. Additionally, the UCSP will prepare educational webinars to share with industry associations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, American Society of Landscape Architects, International Facility Management Association, and more.

Benefits Beyond Carbon Drawdown
Regenerative landscape and grounds maintenance practices are “cide-free” with no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides used. By mimicking natural systems, healthy foliage grows without the use of toxic chemicals commonly used in grounds maintenance; these toxins run-off into local streams and water systems. Thus, local water systems benefit. 

Honey bee in "cide-free"
community garden 
As “cides” are fatal to many pollinators, the local insect population benefits as well as their predators. Thus, the local urban-wildlife system benefits.

Inherent within regenerative landscape practices is the use of native foliage that evolved to thrive within the local climate and soil conditions. With healthy soil retaining more rainwater and native plants are often able to sustain on rainwater, there is potential for a significant reduction in irrigation water used. Thus, a reduction in the facility’s landscape costs and a benefit to the community as a hole.

The local population benefits from available public parks and other greenways free from toxic chemicals.

When asked about the motivations to dedicate her life to environmental and societal dilemmas, over the past decade Ei Founder Holly Elmore's answer is consistent:
In order for life as we know it to survive and once again thrive on Planet Earth, we MUST return the water and soil microbial communities back to a healthy, balanced states.
Urban Carbon Sinks are one avenue to let the Earth heal herself from human intervention within her natural cycles.
The photo images in the article are courtesy of Holly Elmore Images.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Global Thought Leaders Embrace Regenerative Land Economics

On April 6, 2020 Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore hosted the inaugural Global Regenerative Land Economics Initiative (GRLEI) call to announce the initiative formation. With approximately thirty prominent land-economics professionals on the call, it was a milestone day!

GRLEI Executive Team
A first task within the formation stage was designating an Executive Team. Focused on guiding the GRLEI segue from a vision into a viable initiative, the team commits to making a difference in global arenas. The GRLEI Executive Team consists of the following individuals:

Holly Elmore, GRLEI Chair

Holly's eclectic career path includes multiple faucets ranging from the corporate arena (Arthur Andersen Auditor & Trammell Crow Controller) to the foodservice industry (owner of a corporate catering business & restaurants) to sustainability-industry leader (Zero Waste Zones & Ei Founder). In addition, Holly is an avid nature & documentary photographer and respected journalist with prominent articles and photographs featured in national publications.

Bernadette Austin, GRLEI Focus Area Lead: Ei Advisor

As Acting Director of the Center for Regional Change at the University of California at Davis, Bernadette brings extensive experience in community development praxis and public-private partnerships. She works to build bridges across disciplines and support research that is community-engaged, policy-oriented, and equity-focused.

Brad Bass, PhD, GRLEI Industry Expert & Ei Adviser,

Brad is a 30-year veteran at Environment and Climate Change Canada as well as a Status Professor at the University of Toronto. Brad led the development of COBWEB (Complexity and Organized Behaviour Within Environmental Bounds) in 1999. COBWEB, is now used by students to simulate the performance of vertical flow constructed wetlands, urban segregation, and retail locations.

Brad served on a team that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for Climate Change.

In 2012, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities awarded Brad the Lifetime Achievement Award for Green Infrastructure Research. Brad's most recent work on the cost of algal blooms was published in July 2019.

Ronald Thomas, FAICP, Industry Expert & Ei Adviser

For two decades Ron directed his planning firm located in Washington DC; and then became an associated principal with the landscape architecture and planning firm, Jones and Jones in Seattle. From 2000 to 2010 Ron served as the executive director of the Chicago regional planning agency, Northeast Illinois Planning Commission and then semi-retired to Athens, GA to serve on the University of Georgia faculty at the College of Environment and was chair of the Oconee Rivers Planning Commission from 2011- 2016.

Ron continues as a practicing consultant urban planner with the Community Design Exchange and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners receiving over 40 awards for distinguished work in the broad field of planning. He has edited the APA Regional Planning Journal and has published frequently. He is working on a book on Arts & Crafts era planning, a subject of personal interest for over 40 years.

GRLEI Formation
With the Executive Team in place, the next task was to craft the GRLEI Vision and define the Focus Areas and Commitment as follows:

Vision: to engage the global thought leaders and explore challenges related to stated focus areas from a holistic approach where the community, environment, and local economies benefit from commentary, discussions, and proposed projects.

The GRLEI seeks to be a thought leader in supporting complete and equitable communities.

Focus Areas:
Focus Area slide on GRLEI PPT
  • Infrastructure – explores the built environment including a city’s water & sewer systems, water treatment plants, public utilities, as well as corporate, government, and educational districts | campuses. Additionally, focus is on the availability of and access to affordable housing within a community.
  • Environmental Resources – explores the impact of existing and proposed projects and infrastructure within urban and rural communities on energy sources, soil health, local greenways, open spaces, waterways, and resident access.
  • Social Equity – explores ways to promote complete communities that include equitable access to housing, transportation and transit, education, employment, human services such as healthcare and safety, and other amenities such as parks. These complete communities balance land uses focused on people, (such as commercial and residential land uses), with natural and working land uses such as open space, waterways, farms, and ranches.
Commitment: the GRLEI is committed to action, whether in the form of drafting educational documentation (articles, white papers, website copy), global webinars, and/or projects designed for community impact. GRLEC members must actively participate.

Thanks to her brilliant editorial wand, Bernadette further defined the Focus Areas via respective Visions, Scopes as well as Challenges and Impacts.

Infrastructure Focus Area
Vision: The GRLEI Infrastructure Focus Area seeks to explore the development, improvement, and preservation of facilities that support an environmentally and financially sustainable built environment.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge
across Tampa Bay
Scope: This group explores the facilities that comprise the built environment occupied by people environmentally and financially sustainable. The infrastructure of these complete communities include municipal water and sewer systems, water treatment plants, public utilities (such as gas and electricity), as well as government, corporate or industrial parks, and educational districts and campuses.

Challenges & Impact: One of the greatest challenges facing this field is addressing environmentally and economically sustainable and resilient land-use practices. The Infrastructure Focus Area seeks to support this goal by focusing on the facilities that support the built environment. These facilities include the utilities and common areas required for land uses such as residential, retail, commercial, and industrial.

Utilities include wet and dry utilities, (such as water, sewer, and energy needs). In particular, this group seeks to understand the challenges and barriers to creating and maintaining such resources in environmentally and financially sustainable ways. As a necessary public benefit, challenges and barriers will be viewed through the lens of both institutions and public agencies responsible for this infrastructure, as well as the customers and stakeholders who depend on these services.

Environmental Resources Focus Area
Vision: The GRLEI Environmental Resource Focus Area seeks to explore the interaction of humans with environmental resources in urban and rural areas through the lens of land use.

Cover crops at the
Farm @ Cragmoor in South Carolina
Scope: This group explores the impact of existing and proposed projects and infrastructure within urban and rural communities. Topics include open space and natural resources. Open space topic areas include greenways, parks, waterways, coastlines, urban greening spaces, and agricultural and natural lands. Natural resource focus areas include soil health, water resources, air quality, and energy sources and generation.

Challenges & Impact: One of the greatest challenges facing this field is balancing growing population and economic demands with limited natural resources and open space. The Environmental Resource Focus Area seeks to support this goal by focusing on human interaction with and impact on natural resources, (such as water, air, and soil), and open spaces, (in both urban and rural areas).

Social Equity Focus Area
Vision: The GRLEI Social Equity Focus Area seeks to support the development of complete communities with equitable access to opportunity and amenities for all people.

Sleeping man on stream walkway
in Austin, Texas
Scope: This group explores ways to promote complete communities that include equitable access to housing, transportation and transit, education, employment, human services such as healthcare and safety, and other amenities such as parks. These complete communities balance land uses focused on people, (such as commercial and residential land uses), with natural and working land uses such as open space, waterways, farms, and ranches.

Challenges & Impact: Arguably, addressing sustainable and equitable land economics is the greatest challenge of our time. The Social Equity Focus Area seeks to support this goal by focusing on stakeholders who may lack the access or resources necessary to be involved in land economics decision-making. These often involve barriers stemming from community investment practices and socio-economic issues.

At the formation of this group, top focus areas are housing affordability, economic development, workforce development, urban agriculture and food systems, sustainable resource and waste practices, and environmental justice.

Focus Area Topics
Within the three focus areas, the Executive Team identified topics for further exploration. Most topics fall within the scope of two or more focus areas.

Below are the topics with designated GRLEI Industry Experts, who agreed to provide topic copy including: WHAT, WHY, Connection to Land Economics, Project Explorations, and On the Horizon.

Soil slingers at CompostNow's
food-waste composing facility
in the metro Atlanta area.
Infrastructure Focus Area
  • Affordable Housing
  • Biosolid Management Systems
  • Broadband Network Communication: Fiber-to-the-door for all
  • Circular Economy
    • Waste | Recycling Management Systems
    • Food-Waste Collection
    • Food-Waste Composting
  • Erosion Control
  • Green Infrastructure  
Environmental Resources Focus Area
Carrots harvested on a regenerative
urban farm in Greenville, South Carolina
  • Erosion Control
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Soil Health | Soil Restoration
  • Regenerative Agriculture | Landscape
    • Urban Carbon Sinks
    • The Commons
  • Parks & Public Accessible Greenspace
Social Equity Focus Area
  • Affordable Housing
  • Broadband Network Communication: Fiber-to-the-door for all
  • Racial Equity
Additional topics will be added as new GRLEI Industry Experts commit to sharing their wisdom.

Ei Advisors 
Below are the Ei Advisors along with their respective along with their GRLEI Focus Area Topic leadership.

Brad Bass, PhD, Green Infrastructure

Brad's head shot and bio are provided in the GRLEI Executive Team article section.

Britt Faucette, PhD, Erosion Control, Food-Waste Composting, Soil Health, Regenerative Agriculture, Urban Carbon Sinks 

Britt is an Ecosystem Scientist, Certified Professional of Erosion & Sediment Control, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). Britt currently directs research, technical services, and regulatory approval programs for Filtrexx International and the organics recycling and storm water management industries.

Britt earned his PhD from the Odom School of Ecology at the University of Georgia where he researched soil-water-plant performances of various BMPs used in soil erosion and storm water management applications; served as a state specialist in storm water management, organics recycling, and pollution prevention programs in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; and is an adjunct professor in the School of Environmental Design.

Over the years, Britt authored 20+ peer-reviewed scientific publications, over 100 popular press articles, developed federal (7) and state (nearly 50) specifications on organic materials used in erosion and sediment control and storm water management, worked with foreign governments, taught graduate students, consulted on organic materials management and storm water related projects in 15 countries, has been awarded approximately $500,000 in state and federal research grants, has conducted seminars and training sessions at over 100 national and regional conferences, and has published three books on research and design elements of organic materials used in erosion control and storm water management.

Holly Elmore, Food-Waste Collection, Food-Waste Composting, Urban Carbon Sinks

Holly's head shot and bio are provided in the GRLEI Executive Team article section.

Ronald Thomas, Broadband Communications Network

Ron's head shot and bio are provided in the GRLEI Executive Team article section.

Stephanie Barger, Circular Economy, Food-Waste Collection, Waste & Recycling Systems, Urban Carbon Sinks

Stephanie during a tour of
Georgia Tech's award-winning
waste & recycling program
As global director of market transformation & development for the TRUE Zero Waste Certification, Stephanie is responsible for the growth and development of the TRUE program. In 2017 Stephanie helped launch TRUE, which is owned and administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). TRUE was acquired by GBCI in 2016 and was previously known as the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, which Barger formed in January 2012. The GBCI is the certification entity within the U.S. Green Building Council.

Prior to forming the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, Barger spent 15 years leading Earth Resource Foundation (ERF), a dynamic high school environmental leadership program. In 2009, ERF was awarded a Federal Stimulus Grant (the California Green Jobs Program in Orange County) to provide training for at-risk youth in zero-waste and career development.

Previously, as a certified trainer with California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA), one of the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit recycling organizations, Stephanie helped write and administer a $5 million Department of Labor grant. Under the grant, the CRRA training program expanded to over 500 unemployed and under-employed individuals. The grant also developed a recycling, resource management and zero-waste certificate and an associates degree program at three community colleges in Southern California.

Wayne KingBiosolid Management Systems, Food-Waste Collection, Food-Waste Composting, Soil Health, Urban Carbon Sinks
Wayne with Kathy Kellogg Johnson
at the 2018 USCC Conference

Along with his son, Wayne is a principal owner of ERTH (Environmental Resource and Technology for Humanity) Products, one of the largest compost manufacturing facilities in the Southeastern United States. Over the past decades, Wayne served in numerous industry leadership capacities: U.S. Composting Council President and Board Member, founding President of the Georgia Composting Association, Georgia Recycling Coalition Board Member, Past Chairman of the Georgia Green Industry Association, and was a founding Board member of the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. 

Over the decades, Wayne and ERTH Products were the recipient of numerous prestigious state and national awards. Recently,  Wayne received the prestigious 2018 USCC’s Hi Kellogg Award for Outstanding Service to the Composting Industry. 

Upon graduation from Midwestern University, Wichita Falls, Texas, Wayne was commissioned as an army officer and served his country for 20 years as a Military Intelligence officer with a specialty in aviation. Wayne is an instrumented rated commercial pilot in both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

GRLEI Communication
As the Formation Stage segued to completion, the Executive Team shifted focus to the GRLEI Communication Stage. With utmost generosity, Brad offered eight hours of student time from his University of Toronto (UT) research platform to assist with developing the GRLEI communication vehicles. 

Beginning the week of May 25, Jahin Kahn, a UT research student within Brad's COBWEB platform, worked closely with Holly on crafting a GRLEI  PPT presentation to support an introductory blog article.

The below GRLEI tagline was established:

Global thought leaders supporting complete and equitable communities.

Next on the communications agenda is the GRLEI website launch, complete with blog and newsletter functions. Holly will curate the website content; Bernadette will serve as the website editor to ensure the copy has a consistent, clear voice.

The GRLEI will host quarterly Zoom meetings filled with updates and tales from the action-packed initiative agenda. Quarterly newsletters are open to the public and may be used to court professionals interested in GRLEI participation.

Urban Carbon Sink Pilot Project
In partnership with the GRLEI, Ei seeks funding for an Urban Carbon Sink Pilot Project currently under development. Grant proposals and other potential funding sources are underway. The RiA Magazine article, Urban Carbon Sinks, provides details on the important Ei endeavor. By partnering with the GRLEI, the potential global impact is significantly magnified.

The Global Regenerative Land Economics Initiative provides an avenue for global thought leaders to embrace regenerative land economics topics via dialogue, research, and projects. Ei is honored to take a leadership role in the initiative's formation and activation.

 Except for the head shots and PPT screenshots, the photo images in the article are courtesy of Holly Elmore Images.