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Monday, February 26, 2024

Life Spirals: long-time friends, new professional horizons!

During the Ei Era of Recycling Refinement, Elemental Impact (Ei) was a leader in the emerging food waste-composting industry. Founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ,) the nation's forerunner with commercial collection of food waste for compost, Ei made national- and global-news headlines.

While the ZWZ focus was on back-of-the-house operations, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) addressed challenging front-of-the-house-food waste collection. 

Kathy Kellogg Johnson presenting on
the 2018 USCC Ei-Hosted Panel
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images

Throughout the Era of Recycling Refinement (2010 inception through June 2017,) Ei was a strong presence at the annual U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference, often orchestrating Ei-hosted-panel sessions. At the 2018 USCC Conference hosted in Atlanta, Ei Founder Holly Elmore moderated the Ei-hosted panel, Compost’s Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, the conference’s most popular break-out session. Per the program, the following was the panel description:

Soil is the foundation of life. Healthy, vibrant soil eco-systems are the building blocks for healthy communities with effective stormwater-management programs, solid erosion-control systems, and nutritious urban-food production. … and compost feeds the soil eco-systems!

Industry experts shared about compost’s empowering role in carbon sequestration/climate change, soil-management systems grounded in solid economics, and green-urban infrastructure.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine (RiA) article, GAME WON: 2018 compost conference a record-breaking success, features the Ei-hosted panel.. 

Once fully entrenched in the Era of Regeneration, Ei platforms no longer directly aligned with the USCC, and Holly ceased attending the annual conferences. Then, in late 2022 Holly reconnected with long-time friend and colleague Bridgett Luther, Founder and Visionary of Table2Farms (T2F.)

In 2015, Bridgett and Holly originally met at the National Zero Waste Business Council Conference (NZWBC) hosted in Los Angeles; at the time, Bridgett was the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Founder & President. Prior to her Cradle to Cradle tenure, Bridgett served as the California Department of Conservation Director from 2005 - 2010 under Governor Schwarzenegger; during her reign, the department managed a $1.2 billion budget and nearly 800 employees.

Per Bridgett:

During my time with Governor Schwarzenegger as California’s Director of Conservation, we boosted California's bottle and cans recycling rate by 20%. Now, my focus is on keeping food waste out of landfills. If we can increase composting by 20% we can have a major impact on climate change, avoiding 0.9 tons of CO2e for every ton of food waste diverted from landfills. Did you know that we waste 300 lbs. of food per person each year?

Holly & Bridgett
@ the2024 USCC Conference
In her pursuit to decrease methane gas emissions from landfills and to improve soil health, Bridgett founded T2F; the T2F focus is on scaling-up food waste-collection-for-composting programs in small-to-medium-sized markets. Though the individual program impact may be small, the collective impact is tremendous. By working closely with community composters, the intent is to create a top-quality compost that sells for a premium price.

Upon discovering they lived a mere hour apart on the central Florida Gulf coast, Bridgett and Holly reconnected with open hearts in late 2022. At their initial meeting, Holly joined the T2F Team as a Principal and Industry Expert, and Bridgett joined the Ei Advisory Council.

With perfect timing, the T2F website officially launched days prior to the 2024 USCC Conference hosted in Daytona Beach. Bridgett, Holly, and Tom Wright, another T2F Principal, attended the conference to network with industry experts, learn about new technologies and composting-success stories, and share the T2F launch and intentions. It was an empowering inaugural conference for T2F.

2024 USCC Conference
Though she officially represented T2F at the USCC Conference, Holly retained her Ei hat and enjoyed reconnecting with her plethora of industry friends and meeting new colleagues. 

Kathy & Holly @ 2024 USCC
A special reconnection was with Ei Advisor and dear friend Kathy Kellogg Johnson, Kellogg Garden Products Co-Owner. Kathy was a panelist in the previously mentioned 2018 USCC Conference Ei-Hosted panel, Compost’s Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils. In 2022. Kathy donated a pallet of organic garden soil to the Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots.

Much to their amazement, Holly and close friend Kim Charick, EPA R4 Team Lead, Food Waste Prevention, discovered each other at a conference-food station. The encounter lead to three days together enjoying the conference, dinners, and a long walk on the Daytona Beach. 

In 2014 Kim was introduced to Holly while she was the EPA lead on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition Scaling-Up Composting in Charlotte EPA Grant; Ei was a sub grantee, and Holly and Kim worked closely together for the duration of the grant.

Additionally, Ei was instrumental in the EPA Food Recovery Challenge successes in Atlanta. Holly enjoyed introducing Kim to her plethora of restaurant- and hospitality-industry friends. With their close connection, Kim attended the Annual Ei Partner Meetings and supported Ei's various projects, especially during the Era of Recycling Refinement. 

The Charlotte EPA Grant Team
@ the 2014 NZWBC in Atlanta

from left to right: Kim, Anne Bedarf, Laurette Hall, Holly
Another much-appreciated reconnection was with long-time colleague Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Co-Director and Director of Composting for Community. Brenda and Holly initially connected at the 2010 USCC Conference where Holly presented on the ZWZ; it was Holly's first national speaking engagement and prior to Ei's founding in February 2010.

Brenda was instrumental to the successes within the SFCI Pilot - Atlanta Airport (ATL) launched in May 2011. It was an honor for the busiest airport in the world to serve as the SFCI’s first pilot!

With impeccable timing, the ATL was in the midst of Request for Proposals for the entire-airport-concessionaire operations. Working closely with the ATL Department of Aviation, the SFCI Team provided the necessary support for the groundbreaking compostable packaging provision in the ten-year airport-concessionaire contracts. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the contract provision.

The new concessionaire contracts effective in 2012 included the following provision:

Concessionaire shall use compostable serviceware along with consumer-facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off-airport composting facilities.

Working together under a contract with the ATL, Ei and the ILSR created and published the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet for the airport concessionaires. The compostable packaging-contract provision was groundbreaking; the ATL received tremendous industry accolades and awards, including a prestigious 2011 Going Green Airport Award.

Final F&B Pkging Meeting, Dec 2014 
Holly is on the left in the front row:
Brenda is on the far right, second row
Throughout the Era of Recycling Refinement, Brenda and Holly continued to work together on a plethora of initiatives in the composting and sustainable packaging arena. Brenda attended the annual Sustainable Food & Beverage Packaging-Value-Chain Meetings orchestrated by Ei and hosted at Global Green's Washington D.C.'s offices.

In 2023, Ei facilitated an introduction for T2F to Brenda's Composting for Community Team; there are excellent synergies with the T2F mission and the Composting for Community program.

Post-conference, via Kim's invitation, Brenda and Holly were treated to a three-hour meeting and tour of the 4Roots Farm Campus in Orlando .

4Roots Farm

Unearthing the Power of Food to Build Healthy Communities

4Roots is an alliance of community stakeholders investing in a healthy, thriving, sustainable, food system.

 4Roots tour group photo 
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
4Roots Executive Director Tommy Ward, along with his associates Community Program Manager Brianna Rodarmel, Community Engagement Manager Carmen Gibson, Development Manager Tamara Dempster, and Head Farmer Josh Taylor, greeted Kim, Brenda, and Holly with a warm welcome. After thorough introductions, Tommy educated the group on 4Roots' history, current endeavors, and future plans.

Located on a donated 40-acre tract of urban land, the 4Roots Farm Campus is a well-planned community-based endeavor that is a work-in-progress. The campus is strategically located in the southern Packing District less than two miles from Downtown Orlando. 

A refurbished orange-packing warehouse serves as the 4Roots offices along with workspace for several of their collaborative partners. The HUGE walk-in cooler is perfect for storing farm harvests and food donations as well as prepping food for the community.

According to the 4Roots Program Impact Statement:

4Roots is dedicated to unearthing the power of food to build healthy communities. By engaging the community to think more deeply about where and how food is grown, and why it matters, 4Roots aims to restore and maintain the delicate balance between people and planet.

4Roots Programs include:

  • Fresh by 4Roots - sells local, seasonal, and responsibly grown produce, meats, dairy products, eggs, and other pantry essentials – thus strengthening the connections between local farmers and consumers.
  • Meet the Need - sources fresh produce for distribution to various donation outlets, including churches, schools, and neighborhood centers. This program expands access to healthy food and helps to alleviate food waste.
  • K - 12 Education - works with educational partners to develop and deliver hands-on learning experiences that inspire K-12 students to explore food and farming, and to consider careers in related industries.
  • Culinary Health Institute - will develop and implement programming related to the use of food as medicine. It will focus on improving health and wellness through nutrition research, education, and clinical application.
  • Reverse Demand Model - strengthens our local food economy by encouraging food service partners to commit their buying power for produce to local farms.
  • O-Town Compost - seeks to become a key component of Orange County’s waste diversion infrastructure to help the City of Orlando meet its zero waste goal and extend the life of Orange County’s landfill.

Sam with Solar Soil
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
After the education session, the group was treated to a tour of the warehouse; the first stop was the Wrigglebrew Plant Growth & Rescue laboratory. Wrigglebrew Founder & CEO Samuel Baker shared his unique business model and impressive products formulated from worm castings, Kim, Brenda, and Holly each purchased the Wrigglebrew Plant Growth & Rescue liquid fertilizer and Solar Soil, Vermicompost Soil Amendment for use in their home gardens.

O-Town Compost General Manager Erin Schornagle educated on their food waste-collection-for-compost systems in place. As the ILSR Director of Composting for Community, Brenda was thrilled to visit O-Town Compost's home base and film an interview with Erin to showcase their stellar operating practices.

Three hours of education and tours only barely introduced the magnitude of 4Roots endeavors. The 4Roots Farm Campus is in the midst of a major evolution broken down into three phrases:

  1. Phase I - Education
  2. Phase II - Community
  3. Phase III - Innovation & Discovery
The multiple-award-winning Education Center is the first building in Florida to attain the energy petal certification of the Living Building Challenge, a monumental achievement! At the upcoming "ribbon-cutting" ceremony, event participants will cut carrot fronds, instead of the typical landfill-bound ribbons. With the Education Center opening in the upcoming months, the 4Roots Farm Campus will complete Phase I of the campus plan.

In late March, Holly returns to 4Roots with Ei Advisors Stephen Suau and Tim Rumage to further explore the campus endeavors as well as synergies with Ei's import work within the What We Eat Matters platform. 

The Holly Elmore Images-photo album, 4Roots Campus Tour, gives a pictorial recount of the amazing three hours spent at the campus.

Life Spirals
Life magically evolves within spirals where each turn builds upon the prior paths for progressed experiences. The USCC Conference encapsulated Ei's past successes, expertise, and relationships into new professional horizons. 

With Bridget and Holly's inaugural encounter at the 2015 NZWBC, the Bridget connection brings forth Ei's strong relationship with the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council as their media partner during the organization's five-year tenure.

Kim checking our plastic-film bales
in Charlotte
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images

As Holly initially met Brenda at the 2010 USCC Conference, the  Brenda connection brings forth Ei's empowering relationship with the USCC during the Era of Recycling Refinement. Additionally, the SFCI-Atlanta Airport-concessionaire-contract work together signifies Ei's exceptional relationships within the hospitality industry. With Brenda attending the annual Sustainable Food & Beverage Packaging Value Chain Meetings, Ei's profound accomplishments in the post-consumer food waste and sustainable-food & beverage-packaging realms are brought forward.

Holly's connection with Kim flows within the myriad of Ei's experiences and expertise, including the foodservice industry, food waste composting, soil ecology, and overall industry relationships. Since meeting in 2014, Holly and Kim developed a deep personal and professional bond, which extended into the Ei Era of Regeneration. Thus, their continued connection is a stable consistency within the life-spiral turns.

As documented within the 2023 The IMPACT Magazine article, Ei Moves!, Ei recently completed a series of turns within the life spiral. Thus, the timing is impeccable for Holly to reconnect with long-time friends and embark on new professional horizons.


Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area. What We Eat Matters is an emerging platform that intertwines within the three focus areas.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

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.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 | 

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