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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Atlanta: the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world

On October 28, 2014, the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) announced the 3.9 million square feet conference center was awarded LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The announcement thrust Atlanta into the national | global sustainability spotlight as home to the world's largest LEED-certified convention center AND the 14th largest LEED-certified building.

GWCCA Executive Team
with the LEED Silver  plaque
Recertifying two years early, on November 28, 2017, the GWCC was awarded LEED Gold certification, the second highest level in the rating system. In the recertification, the GWCC was thirteen points higher than the 2014 application and five points higher than the minimum requirement. The majority of the additional points related to the energy-saving performance contract referenced below.

Improving our performance from LEED Silver to Gold reflects our commitment to having better buildings, being better neighbors, and hosting better events,” said Tim Trefzer, LEED Accredited Professional and the GWCCA’s Director of Sustainability. “It’s a testament to our leadership’s vision to anchor the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world.” 

LEED - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices within the USGBC umbrella.To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different certification levels. For a pre-existing building, LEED certification is often a multi-year endeavor.

As an industry leader in sustainability, the GWCCA 220-acre downtown campus boasts an impressive list of accomplishments:
  • GWCCA diverted more than 14 million pounds of material from landfills since 2010. 
  • GWCC reduced water consumption by 41% since 2009 through the installation of new irrigation, restroom fixtures, and chillers. 
  • GWCC is approximately 28% more energy efficient than similar buildings. 
  • GWCCA uses janitorial paper and cleaning products that meet sustainability criteria, including recycled content materials and|or reduced harmful chemicals. (86% of the products meet the criteria) 
    New equipment in the
    energy-saving performance contract
  • GWCC’s 1,900-solar panel canopy located in the marshaling yard produces enough energy to power 89 Georgia homes annually. 
  • GWCCA employees donated 1730 lbs. of clothing, recycled 152 lbs. of batteries and electronics, and donated nearly 500 meals worth of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the 2016 holiday season.
  • GWCCA finished construction in April 2017 of a $28 million energy-saving performance contract that is expected to save at least 39% on utilities. The contract earned the majority of the additional thirteen LEED certification points in the 2017 recertification.
  • GWCCA-managed Savannah International Trade and Convention Center earned LEED Gold in July 2017, making it the first convention center in the State of Georgia to achieve Gold LEED status. 
Atlanta is home to one of the densest (if not the densest) district of LEED-certified event space in the world and is the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world. 

The list of downtown Atlanta LEED-certified facilities is impressive: GWCC (world’s largest LEED-certified convention center), Mercedes-Benz Stadium (first professional sports stadium in the world to achieve LEED-Platinum certification), Philips Arena (world’s first National Basketball Association/National Hockey League arena to get LEED certified), as well as the College Football Hall of Fame (LEED Silver), the World of Coca-Cola (LEED Gold), and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (LEED Silver).

Atlanta was a driving force in sustainability rising to a key component for large event site selection. As host to the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe, Atlanta set a high standard for sporting event sustainability practices. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee (ALOC) stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Tim took the helm for achieving the lofty goal.

SUCCESS: the comprehensive ALOC plan culminated in impressive green footprints before, during and after the games. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, gives an overview of event sustainability stats; the May 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is the official in-depth report.

Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established!

GWCCA Senior Director of Client Services Erik Waldman, validates the role LEED certification plays in event location decision making:
“The meeting planners of today are much more conscious of the effects that their events have on communities than in the past. LEED certifications allow venues to highlight their performance and even benchmark it against competitors. With these two factors alone, Atlanta is easily recognized as one of the most sustainability-friendly sites for events, led by the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”
Environmental and community stewardship are strong drivers within the GWCCA culture. Management understands sustainability is a journey without a specified destination; continued improvement in facility practices are always available. As the anchor to Atlanta's convention, entertainment, and sports downtown sports district, the GWCCA takes their role as a major economic driver seriously.

Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Atlanta Stephanie Stuckey, confirms the GWCCA's leadership role:
The Georgia World Congress Center achieving LEED Gold certification is more than simply the culmination of implementing sustainable practices. It represents a commitment by the GWCCA towards making Atlanta a more resilient place to live, work and play. Given the extraordinary importance of climate protection and the major impact of the building industry in that effort, GWCCA is leading our city by example.” 
In 2019, the GWCCA hosts GreenBuild, the USGBC annual conference attracting an estimated 20,000 attendees from a wide spectrum of the sustainability community. It is a perfect occasion to celebrate Atlanta's status as the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Happy 8th Birthday, Ei!

On February 5, 2010, Elemental Impact (Ei) incorporated as a Georgia non-profit corporation and embarked on an incredible journey. Whew, the first eight years were action-packed while the Ei Team lived the tagline: Sustainability in ACTION!

Ei was formed as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launched in 2009 by the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA) within the Georgia Restaurant Association. Over the years, Ei's work evolved well beyond zero waste initiatives.

The following is a recap of Ei's evolution:
2012: Year of Accomplishments | Completions - in late 2012 the 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 - in 2013 the three-platforms approach for Ei initiatives | pilots emerged from a metamorphosis stage. The IMPACT Blog, Ei Emerges Strong from Metamorphosis, introduces three Ei platforms: Product Stewardship, Recycling Refinement (RR) and Water Use | Toxicity
2014: Year of Foundations | Evolutions - in 2014 the platforms were grounded with initiative launches and supporting taglines. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2014: A Year of Evolution, provides a summary of the platform foundations. 
2015: Year of ACTION - in 2015 Ei lived up to its tagline: Sustainability in ACTION! The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2015: A Year of ACTION, summarizes the empowering year.
2016: Year of Recognition - in 2016 Ei's important work was recognized in published industry case studies and Ei-hosted national conference panels. In addition, the Ei Blogs' readership significantly increased and Holly was recognized as a respected environmental journalist. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2016: A Year of RECOGNITION, gives an in-depth overview of accomplishments, completions, and recognition. 
2017: Year of Shifting Gears - in 2017 Ei announced Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, was a prime focus, replacing the prominent RR work. In addition, Ei Leadership experienced a changing of the guard and Ei welcomed new Strategic Allies.
The Ei Team is comprised of Industry Experts and Industry Pioneers. Experts educate, advise and support the Pioneers; the Pioneers craft new standard operating practices within their operations that make good business and environmental sense. Once tested and proven effective, the Pioneers share the evolved practices with their industry colleagues. Ei’s work is complete and the Team moves into a new industry frontier.

Since 2010 the Ei Team served as a leader in pioneering frontiers with a myriad of completed projects | programs. The Mission Accomplished page lists Ei endeavors considered complete via a sale, term expiration or simply mission accomplished!

Soil Health
In 2017 Ei shifted gears within the spiral of humanity's environmental impact. Ei evolved from a focus on RR and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life.

GWCCA Team on
Hickory Grove Farm Tour
Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils' direct relationship with out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, stormwater management, and production of nutritious food. In addition, Ei addresses the microplastic pollution within the soils, similar to the plastic smog prolific in the oceans. The inaugural Soil Health focus areas are:

Ei served on The Compost Story Launch Team for the impressive May 2017 release in conjunction with the International Compost Awareness Week. As The Soil Story sequel, The Compost Story explains compost's role in soil regeneration and balancing the carbon cycles.

Ei-hosted panel during
Q&A session
In the November 2017 released Kiss the Ground (KTG), how the food you eat can reverse climate change, heal your body and ultimately save the world book by Josh Tickell, the well-searched chapters dive deep into the destruction of the Earth's soils. The ZWA Blog article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, was inspired by KTG; the article explains trigger points for the mass desertification and ocean acidification underway across the globe, culminating in a pending oxygen deficiency and food crisis.

At the January 2018 U.S. Composting Council (USCC) Conference in Atlanta, Ei Founder Holly Elmore moderated the popular Ei-hosted panel, Compost's Empowering Role in Sustainable Soils, to a near room capacity audience. Per the program, the following is 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 ZWA Blog article, GAME WON: 2018 compost conference a record-breaking success, features the Ei-hosted panel. PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei-Hosted Conference Panels page.

Simultaneous with the Soil Health platform announcement, the RR platform was moved to Mission Accomplished. RR, zero waste, and other related expertise are available via Holly's private consulting practice at

Changing of the Guard
SFCI Chair
In August 2017, Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the new Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Chair.
Past SFCI Chair Doug Kunnemann
& current Chair Tim Trefzer

Founding SFCI Co-Chairs Scott Seydel and Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks lead the SFCI through grand successes within the RR and Post-Consumer Food Waste focus areas. With Ei's shift to a Soil Health focus, Scott and Doug pass the SFCI leadership baton to Tim with strong accolades.

The ZWA Blog article, Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team!, gives a brief SFCI history, chronicles Tim's impressive achievements, and includes Scott and Doug's accolades.

The SFCI evolved into the Sustainable Facilities Initiative (SFI) with a soon-to-be-announced leadership team. A formal SFI launch is slated for late spring 2018.

Strategic Allies
To support new directions in Soil Health endeavors, Ei welcomed Kiss the Ground, One More Generation and Park Pride to the Ei Strategic Ally Program. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei Welcomes New Strategic Allies, provides a brief synopsis of each non-profit and their strategic role related to Ei work.

Michel Halicki & Tim Trefzer
With impeccable timing, Park Pride Executive Director Michael Halicki and Tim were recognized for their outstanding environmental leadership at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce's E3 Awards. The IMPACT Blog article, Ei Leadership Recognized for Contributions to Atlanta's Economy & Environment, gives details on the impressive awards.

Respected Industry Resource
Urban Biocycles scoping paper
On March 28, 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) issued the groundbreaking Urban Biocycles scoping paper as an introduction to a Circular Economy approach for urban nutrient cycles. The paper addresses the valuable nutrients within current organic waste streams and how urban environments disrupt nature's perfected nutrient cycles.

A combination of global, long-term, research-oriented planning coupled with immediate, action-oriented, grassroots efforts is a recipe for a Circular Economy to emerge. Ei is honored to support the global planning and grassroots efforts.

The Urban Biocycles paper credits Ei Advisory Council Member Brenda Platt with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Holly as Expert Input and Case Study Contributors.

The ZWA Blog article, A Circular Economy Approach to Urban Nutrient Cycles, introduces the important EMF scoping paper.

Southern Farm & Garden feature article
Holly provided the copy and photographs for a seven-page, multiple-article feature in the Southern Farm & Garden fall issue. An Icon in Sustainability and Hickory Grove Farm: Regenerative Agriculture Revives Soils & Local Ecosystems, gives an overview of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) stellar sustainability commitment at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality, The Commons (KSU’s Gold LEED certified dining hall), and Hickory Grove Farm. 

The Ei-hosted Hickory Grove Farm tour for the GWCCA team, including Tim, GWCCA Grounds Maintenance Manager Steve Ware, and Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Matt Roach, is featured in an article sidenote along with a photo of Tim.

Ei Blogs
The Ei Blogs, The Impact Blog and Zero Waste in ACTION Blog, detail project status and tales from Ei's empowering journey. In July 2017, the ZWA Blog pageviews surpassed the coveted 350,000 views milestone – the article, Ei: Respected Journalism, chronicles the blogs’ evolution from a powerful industry voice and resource to respected journalism.

As of this article's publication, The IMPACT Blog's views were at 142,450 while the ZWA Blog boasted 371.250 views.

GaTech Facilities Sustainability Forum
On October 24, 2017, Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) hosted the first annual Facilities Sustainability Forum to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond.

At the invitation of Ga Tech Associate Director, Office of Solid Waste Management & Recycling Cindy Jackson, Holly was the forum featured speaker. Within her opening remarks, Holly shared the long-term, powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dating back to the ZWZ's 2009 launch.

The ZWA Blog article, Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success, is a forum overview featuring the impressive Building Services, Office of Solid Waste & Recycling, and Landscape Services presentations. A comprehensive forum PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

The Power of Connection
Ei plays a valuable industry role by introducing organizations and individuals who share synergies for powerful relationships and action. The year began with a series of Ei Farm Tours for SFI Chair Tim Trefzer, culminating in the Southern Farm & Garden article referred to above.

Lambda Alpha International (LAI)
At Holly's invitation, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) General Manager Scott Jenkins gave an empowering Sustainability: an economic driver presentation at the February 15, 2017, LAI Atlanta Chapter luncheon meeting.

Ei entourage @LAI meeting
A strong Ei entourage attended the LAI meeting to show their support for their close Ei friend: LAI member Wayne King (U.S. Composting Council | ERTHProducts), Boyd Leake (City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability), Jim Harrell (Renaissance Technology) and Tim Trefzer (GWCCA).

The IMPACT Blog article, Sustainability: an economic driver, gives an overview of Scott's presentation. Scott's PPT presentation is available on the LAI page for download. 

LAI is a prominent, global land economics honorary. In December 2013, Holly was inducted into LAI and in early 2017 joined the Atlanta Chapter Board. SFI Chair Tim Trefzer and Ei Strategic Ally Michael Halicki accepted their 2017 LAI membership nominations on December 1, 2017.

U.S. Green Building Council Atlanta Visit
In late July 2017, Ei hosted U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Global Zero Waste Director Stephanie Barger on a whirlwind Atlanta zero waste-focused visit. For three days, Stephanie met with Atlanta's sustainability leadership to educate on the USGBC Zero Waste Certification and their commitment to building a Zero Waste Economy. 

The ZWA Blog article, Building a Zero Waste Economy, one city, one step at a time, gives the history of the strong relationship dating back to the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council timeframe along with details on the whirlwind visit.

Laura Turner Seydel | Kathy Kellogg Johnson 
On August 22, 2017, Laura Turner Seydel hosted a Sustainable Soils luncheon at the EcoManor, her LEED Certified home. An impressive cross-section of industry professionals representing the USDA Forest Service, The Conservation Fund, U.S. Composting Council, Turner Foundation, Captain Planet Foundation, Park Pride, Emory University, Ei, Growing a GreenerWorld, and Kellogg Garden Organics attended the empowering luncheon.

Kathy & Laura embrace before
the USCC plenary conversation
The luncheon was in honor of industry icon Kathy Kellogg Johnson's Atlanta visit. When Ei introduced Kathy and Laura in the spring, a lovely friendship blossomed.

At the 2018 USCC Conference closing plenary session, Kathy introduced her dear friend and joined Laura on stage for a conversation on an array of topics. In her opening remarks, Kathy graciously thanked Ei for the introduction to Laura. The profound conversation is one of three main features in the ZWA Blog article, GAME WON: 2018 compost conference a record-breaking success, chronicling the conference. 

Kiss the Ground
During pre-USCC conference activities, Ei hosted Kiss The Ground Co-Founder Finian Makepeace on a series of introductory meetings focussed on regenerative landscape & grounds maintenance. The busy day included meetings with Ga Tech, GWCCA, Southern Farm & Garden and the Atlanta Airport.

The Ei Connects page details an array of Ei introductions over the years. Photos from important meetings are included in the Ei FB album, Ei Connects.

2018: Year of Regeneration
With gears shifted and new leadership in-place, Ei soars into a Year of Regeneration!