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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ei 2015: A Year of ACTION

Scott Jenkins presenting to
a full room
On Thursday, November 19 Elemental Impact Partners, Friends, Strategic Allies and Advisory Council Members traveled from across the nation to attend the Annual Ei Partner Meeting. It was a powerful day filled with education, updates, camaraderie along with great food and wine. Thank you HLB Gross Collins for providing the perfect venue for the meeting and reception.

Meeting moderator Suzanne Burnes with Collective Wisdom Group opened the meeting with a logistics overview. From travels in India, Ei Chair Scott Seydel welcomed the Ei Family via video including a reminder the meeting follows the Chatham House Rule. After introductions, Ei founder Holly Elmore gave the Annual Ei Year in Review presentation. In her opening slide, Holly summarized the past and current years as follows:

2012: Year of Accomplishments | Completions - in late 2012 the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) were sold to the National Restaurant Association catapulting Ei into a major metamorphosis.The ZWA Blog article, The NRA Acquires ZWZ, announces the monumental acquisition.
2013: Year of Transitions | Introductions - until fall 2013 Ei flowed within the metamorphosis stage. As the year drew to a close, the three-platforms approach for Ei initiatives emerged. The IMPACT Blog, Ei Emerges Strong from Metamorphosis, introduced the three platforms: Product StewardshipRecycling Refinement and Water Use | Toxicity.
2014: Year of Foundations | Evolutions - in 2014 the platforms were grounded with initiative launches and supporting taglines.
2015: Year of ACTION - in 2015 Ei lived up to its tagline: Sustainability in ACTION!
Within her presentation, Holly gave an overview of each platform, action within the platform and future plans. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2014: A Year of Evolution, gives an in-depth history of each platform foundation and serves as the 2014 Annual Ei Partner Meeting overview.

In addition, Holly's presentation gave a road map of the action-packed meeting agenda. 

Arthur during his presentation
First on the program was Green Seal (GS) CEO & President Arthur Weissman who gave a GS overview, with a focus on the hospitality programs launched in Chicago & Los Angeles. In Chicago, the GS program is restaurant-oriented while the Los Angeles program is hotel-oriented. The final slide was Holly's favorite: Green Hospitality in Atlanta

The audience was enthusiastic with many questions about the GS Hospitality Standards and how the GS program could augment Atlanta's strong zero waste history. There are several GS Certified Hotels in Atlanta to serve as leaders. 

In addition, Ted's Montana Grill, the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) Georgia Tech (GT) and Affairs to Remember Caterers - all ZWZ Pioneers - associates at the meeting were enthusiastic to once again enter the sustainability frontier, as they did with the 2009 ZWZ Launch. City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Sustainability Zero Waste Manager Boyd Leake was impressed and eager to explore the City's role in a potential Atlanta GS Hospitality Program.

Throughout the day, Arthur was an active meeting participant sharing his vast wisdom and expertise to vibrant dialogue on many subjects. As an Ei Strategic Ally, GS brings in-depth expertise from their 26 years certifying green products | services to the recent Ei Water Use | Toxicity Initiative announcements.

Cooling tower
Next on the agenda Ei Supporter Jim Harrell, Renaissance Technology president, announced the Ei Cooling Tower Blowdown Initiative, grounded in Water Conservation Technology International (WCTI) systems. In his presentation, Jim explained the cooling tower blowdown process and its tremendous water usage along with toxic chemical agents.

Cooling towers water must be treated to prevent corrosion, scale and bio-fouling. Standard industry practices use toxic chemicals to treat the cooling tower water. Due to evaporation, the chemical balance becomes too concentrated and the remaining water is released into the sewer system via the blowdown process. 

The Water Conservation Technology International system uses "nature's way" by removing all of the hardness in source water. Eliminating hardness prevents scale. As the water cycles up, sodium silicate naturally forms and the high pH creates a biostatic condition in the tower water. 

RESULTS: no scale build-up along with effective control of corrosion and biological growth.Thus, the use of chemical additives and "blowdown" are eliminated, tremendous water is saved and water laden with toxic chemical additives is no longer released into the sewer system.

Introduced in 2004, WCTI has a proven track record with prominent clients including Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, Boeing and Universal Studios.The ROI (return on investment) generally runs between six months to two years.

Via an Ei introduction, ATL is in the WCTI assessment process for the 2017 FY Budget, beginning July 1, 2016. If installed, ATL is staged to save an estimated 7 - 10 million gallons of water annually. The intent is for ATL to serve as a Lead Pioneer in the Ei Cooling Tower Blowdown Initiative along with formal City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability support.

AKG accumulation in kitchen
exhaust system ducts
Keeping within the Water | Use Toxicity Platform, Ei Sustainer Jordan Salpietra with Grease Lock Filters (GLF), announced the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG) Initiative with a formal action plan. At prior Annual Ei Partner Meetings, the GLF system was introduced along with the campus-wide ATL installation approval. Ei Partner HMSHost approved a national GLF contract for their prominent airport and turnpike service center network.

With foodservice operator cost-savings well established, Jordan's presentation focused on how the current reactive kitchen exhaust system cleaning practices cause the accumulated grease to flow into the sewer system. A typical cleaning uses 350 - 500 gallons of water along with toxic cleaning agents to remove the grease. The greasy, toxic water is flushed down a kitchen drain, exceeding the grease interceptor | grease trap velocity flow by 12 times. Thus, the water flows directly into the sewer system where it congeals causing expensive maintenance.

In his presentation closing, Jordan outlines the Ei AKG Initiative action plan's four stages:

Stage 1 is complete; the current focus is on building a city-wide AKG template. With Atlanta slated to serve as the Ei AKG Initiative Pilot City, the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability issued the following Statement of Support:
The City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is pleased to support the Elemental Impact Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative. Grease that is flushed into Atlanta’s sewer system creates significant harm to the City’s sewer pipes, wastewater system and treatment facilities, potentially leading to millions of dollars in equipment damage. In addition, airborne kitchen grease contributes significantly to the number of calls that the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department responds to each year.
The Zero Waste in ACTION (ZWA) Blog article, Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative, announces the initiative along with an overview of the four-stage plan.

Closing the morning session, ATL Facilities Director John Means presented on the sustainability initiatives at the busiest airport in the world. To give the Ei Partners a perspective on the magnitude of ATL's impact, John shared the following facts:
John during his presentation
  • Buildings - 8,500,000 sq. ft. valued at over $4.6 billion
  • Land - Over 4,700 acres
  • 2,500 flights per day
  • 9 miles of runways
  • 37 miles of sewer pipes
  • 30,000 parking spaces
  • 96 Million passengers/year
  • 63,000 employees
  • 650,000 tons of cargo
  • $32.5 Million impact on City of Atlanta
In 2014, ATL replaced all runway lights with LED Light resulting in $15,750 per month savings or 45.6% (177,670 kwh/mth vs. 389,400 kwh/mth) and less maintenance. Within a couple months of the LED implementation, Georgia Power visited ATL to research the dramatic electricity usage drop.

John included the Ei AKG Initiative within the ATL Sustainability Successes. Once the GLF installations are complete, ATL will save an estimated 1.1 million gallons of water and prevent 45,000 pounds of grease from flowing into their sewer system. In addition, the Ei AKG Initiative prevents expensive roof damage and significantly increases fire safety.

Chef Donald 
As Chef Donald Stone of Chef D Cuisine set the amazing lunch buffet, Holly explained the contents of the homemade sweet 'n savory gift bags: dessert box with Holly's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie, cranberry port oatmeal bar & triple ginger sparkler cookie, mini pumpkin bread loaf, small bag of spiced pecans, and mint pesto. An added bonus was a sampling of Holly's first printed photo note cards from her nature photography. ... and the note card paper is GS certified!

After lunch the program resumed with a series of industry updates as call outs and presentations. Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager and Green Sports Alliance (GSA) Chair Scott Jenkins gave a dual presentation. Starting with an update on the stadium's journey to Platinum LEED certification, Scott finished with the GSA's impressive growth and impact. The GSA boasts 300 professional | collegiate teams & venues members from 20 leagues in 14 countries.

In her presentation, U.S. Zero Business Council (USZWBC) Executive Director Stephanie Barger updated on their Zero Waste Business Facility Certification (ZWBFC) success since its March 2013 launch. The ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, introduces the certification program along with detailed parameters; the Zero Waste: breaking down myths & establishing standards article features the ZWBFCs imperative industry role.

Stephanie during her
Stephanie emphasized the powerful USZWBC | Ei partnership; Ei is the National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) Official Media Sponsor and serves as the USZWBC Media Partner.The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense, is an overview of Ei's prominent role at the 2015 NZWBC hosted in downtown Los Angeles.

As the USZWBC Media Partner, Ei published 17 ZWA Blog articles to date. A true partner, the USZWBC actively promotes article readership within their network. With two exceptions, each article exceeds the blog average 680 pageviews; 7 articles exceed 1,000 pageviews!

The 5th Annual NZWBC - Tuning Into Zero Waste - is June 1 - 4 hosted in Austin, Texas.

Ei Partner Rick Lombardo with NaturBag gave the SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - update. At the request of GWCC Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer, SMAT members crafted a two-hour Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session for Levy Restaurants. Note Levy Restaurants has the foodservice contracts for the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, Philips Arena and the under-construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, recaps the well-attended session.

In late summer, the World Chefs Association invited Ei to prepare the Waste | Recycling curriculum for their new Sustainability Course designed for international culinary schools. SMAT members researched and prepared the 50+ slide PPT presentation along with talking points, instructor notes and a glossary. The Sustainability Course pilot is set for first quarter 2016 with an international roll-out in the second or third quarter.

SMAT provided support for the zero food waste journeys at RayDay and Afternoon in the Country annual events. A late afternoon session covers the journeys in detail. Rick represented SMAT at the 2015 NZWBC in May on the Source-Separation Maximizes Material Value panel moderated by Holly. Tim also presented on the panel.

Kim & Tim @ reception
As a sub-grantee under the EPA Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC Grant to Ei Strategic Ally GreenBlue | Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Ei traveled to Charlotte three times in 2015 for grant-related work. SMAT members were the support arm for Ei's grant work.

Kim Charick with EPA Region 4 gave an excellent synopsis of the SPC EPA Grant with an emphasis on Ei's contributions. Within her presentation, Kim included many photos from the five 2014 | 2015 Charlotte visits. The following ZWA Blog articles chronicle the grant work | successes:

Next Tim presented on Positioning for Zero Waste: Source-Separated Materials & Sustainable Packaging featuring the GWCC | Ei close, long-term relationship. In his presentation, Tim reviewed work with Ei over the past several years leading up to their post-consumer food waste pilot at the Georgia Dome Club Level. For various reasons, the Source-Separate Materials Recycling Template Pilot is in a holding pattern with intentions to reignite work in mid-to-late 2016.

Tim emphasized the importance of the Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session to creating a clean post-consumer food waste stream. Southern Roots, the new GWCC zero waste restaurant, is doing well and uses a three-bin waste station: recycling, food waste & landfill. Key to GWCC success is viewing waste as a resource.

Paula Owens
As an informal callout, Paula Owens, TMG purchasing and sustainability manager, gave an overview of the TMG Sustainability Commitment, with an emphasis on water conservation. Water-efficient toilets and waterless urinals in TMG restaurants save more than 40,000 gallons of water each year. Dining tables are covered with recycled brown butcher paper, which reduces detergent water waste in commercial laundry operations.

To complement the in-house water-saving practices, TMG partnered with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) via  investment in Water Restoration Certificates® (WRC). Through the WRC purchases, TMG helped restore 5+ million gallons of water to critically dewatered Colorado Basin tributaries. Additionally, the water restoration directly supported the local recreation-based economy and the needs of fish and wildlife during severe drought.

Travis with his camera @ AITC
ATR Director of Communications Travis Taylor shared the stellar ATR sustainability success story. As the first ZWZ Off-Premise Caterer, ATR surpassed the million pounds of material diverted from the landfill milestone in 2014. The ZWA Blog article, ... and the journey began with a delicious divorce from the landfill!, announces the City of Atlanta's proclamation of November 11, 2014 as "Affairs to Remember Day" in recognition of the material diversion milestone and gives an overview of ATR's sustainability platform.

Sustainable best operating practices make good business sense for ATR. In addition to cost-savings, over $400,000 of revenue is a direct result of the ATR sustainability platform, formally named Legacy Green.

Cindy Jackson, GT Waste | Recycling Director, is an industry powerhouse who never succumbed to single-stream recycling on the prominent university campus. WHY? According to Cindy, her award-winning recycling program improves the GT bottom line and maintains a culture of respecting valuable material. As always, Cindy asked pertinent questions during presentations and added valuable insight to discussions. Holly refers to Cindy as " The AMAZING Cindy Jackson!" - a truthful statement!

With state permits in-place, First Generation is ready to break ground on an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Conyers, just over 20 miles from downtown Atlanta. By late summer 2016, the AD plant will serve as a food waste destination for metro Atlanta. Approximately 50% of the capacity is pre-committed by commercial food plants. Ei Partner M-PASS Environmental will fill the remaining capacity with foodservice industry food waste collection. M-PASS Technical Services Manager Chris Cummings, along with Holly, gave the First Generation update.

Andrew Lantz
Keter Environmental Services Regional Manager Andrew Lantz gave a quick overview of Keter's impressive expansion of mall recycling | waste management contracts. With plastic film recycling and food waste diversion Keter's two top priorities, Keter uses their sustainability commitment as a competitive advantage when pursuing new clients. Keter manages two Atlanta malls with TMG restaurants; Andrew and Paula were happy to connect!  

In the afternoon, Holly presented on the Ei PetroWax-Free Box Initiative on behalf of Chemol President Fred Wellons. PetroWax boxes are TRASH and expensive - an estimated $63 mil annually is spent on landfill tipping fees, instead of earning an estimated $180 mil in cardboard recycling revenue. It is cost-neutral for box manufacturers to switch to a petrowax alternative coating; no equipment changes are necessary either!

Simple economics support the shift to alternative coatings.

Holly pointing out the PetroWax-Free
Box economics
The ZWA Blog's second most popular article with 4800 pageviews, Waxed Cardboard = Landfill = $$ Lost, gives a synopsis of the industry dilemma along with an overview of a 2012 NRA Show educational session. In August of 2013, Ei led a trip to Indianapolis to observe petrowaxed box utilization at Piazza Produce, a strong regional produce distributor who boasts TMG as a loyal customer. Paula joined the Ei Team in Indy for the powerful visit.

With the Ei Pioneers ready for action, the Ei PetroWax-Free Box Initiative will launch in early to mid 2016.

Following the afternoon break, Sustainable Food Court Initiative Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks led the 45 minute session on Zero Food Waste Journeys with Ken Fraser of Eco-Products and Holly playing supporting roles. 

In June 2015, Ei and the Les Dames d'Escoffier International (LDEI) Atlanta Chapter agreed to partner on a zero waste food journey for their prestigious November 8, Afternoon in the Country (AITC) fundraising event hosted within the Serenbe community. Event Producer Sue Anne Morgan, ideaLand owner, was excited to learn how to orchestrate zero food waste events along with keys to successes. The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on a zero food waste journey, announces the Ei | LDEI partnership for zero food waste at AITC.

A zero food waste plan breaks down into three main categories, each equally important for an effective plan:
  • Food & Beverage (F&B) Serviceware - ensure 100% BPI-certified compostable products are used for all F&B served at the event and prepackaged beverages are in recyclable containers. 
  • Food Waste Collection - a three-bin waste | recycling supported by clear signage & Waste Ambassadors assisting guests separate their material.
  • Food Waste Destination - a food donation program and composting site are key to close the zero food waste loop.
Serenbe site visit
Ei Partner Eco-Products stepped forward as a key in-kind event sponsor and played a vital role in education support. Compostable bags were provided by Ei Partner NaturBag. In August, SMAT members provided a two-hour Compostable F&B Packaging Education, modified for the AITC, to the LDEI Sustainability Task Force.

In the meantime, Sue Anne confirmed Serenbe was open to adding post-consumer food waste & compostable packaging to their farm waste compost pile. Holly & Boyd Leake, with his Community Environmental Management hat on, secured a Letter of Interpretation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division stating the AITC food waste falls into Category I of the permit regulations; thus, a formal composting permit is not required within the regulations.

Ei contracted with Ei Supporter Let Us Compost to orchestrate the on-site food waste compost operations at AITC along with post-event follow-up. A Serenbe site inspection was essential to understand the circumstances and develop a rapport with the farm personnel.

The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues ..., details the extensive planning implemented in the months leading up to the AITC event day.

Kristen educating Scott
at compost pile
As the Event Producer for October 11 RayDay hosted at Serenbe, Sue Anne secured the zero food waste commitment from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. With the team in-place, Ei quickly pulled together an effective plan for the third annual RayDay.

Ken presented on the RayDay zero food waste success with 1200 pounds of food waste composted on-site. The Food Movement brought their prep waste to the event, resulting in a literal zero food waste event. Added Bonus: Ei Chair Scott Seydel attended the event as a guest! The ZWA Blog article, Simple, easy, proven steps culminate in zero food waste success, recaps the RayDay zero food waste success.

While a perfect scenario came together for RayDay: great, dry weather, paid Waste Ambassadors and one caterer, AITC was riddled with extraordinary challenges on event day. A rainy event day, coupled with prior ten days straight of rain, greeted event organizers, participants and guests with tremendous mud during set-up and throughout the event. 

AITC mud-drenched seating area
photo courtesy Doug
Of the 20 committed volunteers, only four showed up ready-to-work in the extreme conditions. And work they did! Cardboard waste | recycling bins disintegrated into the mud. The promised farm tractor at 11:00 a.m. was finally delivered at 4:00 p.m. as the event closed. Note the tractor was necessary for the compost pile construction. ... and there were 90+ chefs | restaurants participating at AITC!

The Ei Team - Doug, his lovely wife Rebecca, Kim, Ken, Holly, Boyd and Sarah Martell with Innovia Films - rolled up their sleeves to pinch hit within the challenges and created success amidst abundant lessons learned. 

Thanks to SuperHero Kristen Baskin, Let Us Compost owner, along with her associate Corey Helms, 1800 pounds of clean food waste was included in the on-farm compost pile. Throughout the day, Kristen kept the volunteers efficient weighing food waste bags as they arrived at the compost area, cleansing the food waste of contaminants and sorting flatware for grinding before added to the pile. Boyd was instrumental to building the compost pile, using his extensive composting experience.

Suzanne closing meeting
The Ei FB album, Afternoon in the Country, a zero food waste journey, is pictorial recap of the pre-event planning and the event day challenges and successes.

Suzanne closed the 2015 Annual Ei Partner Meeting with a quick recap of Ei's major accomplishments since inception. During the ZWZ launch and program building, Suzanne was the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division deputy director and a strong ally in the early Ei days. Thank you Suzanne for volunteering your time to moderate the 2015 Annual Ei Partner Meeting!

The wine reception following the formal meeting was an excellent time for Partners to chat in a relaxed atmosphere and continue discussions started during the meeting. Partners were treated to Holly's homemade gravlax with mustard dill sauce and her goat cheese cheesecake with grape compote. Chef Donald completed the reception with his excellent cheese & light hors d'oeuvres platters.

Following tradition, the meeting festivities ended with a lovely dinner at Portofino. Superb food and wine brought forth the magic intertwined within the powerful presentations and dialogue throughout the day.

Partners enjoying pre-dinner
A big THANK YOU to recent University of Georgia grads (& newlyweds!) Tiffany Eberhard & Ridwan Bhuiyan for helping out with the meeting administration. 

The Ei FB album, 2015 Ei Annual Meeting, is a pictorial recap of the monumental day. PPT presentations are soon available for download on the Annual Ei Partner Meetings page.

With the Year of ACTION coming to a close, the Ei Team is excited to enter the Year of Accomplishments! Stay tuned ...


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