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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Food Waste Recovery: build it and they will come?? ...


In August 2012, the National Resources Defense Council released an Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, researched and written by Dana Gunders. The paper served as a wake-up call to reassess the nation's food waste practices from the following standpoints: redirection of edible food to a hungry population, purchasing practices causing waste and food waste destinations.

According to the EPA Reducing Wasted Food Basics page:
More than 96 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills. In 2011, we landfilled more than 36 million tons of food waste. 
Beyond the methane gas produced by food in landfills (20%+ more potent than carbon generated from car emissions and other sources), a high percentage of the 36 million tons of food waste is nutritious, edible food. Note the 36 million tons is food waste generated in commercial operations (food production, grocery stores, healthcare and the hospitality | entertainment industry including dining establishments) and personal consumer | residential food purchases.

Until recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Food Recovery Hierarchy was the standard for preferred food waste destination options.

As organizations like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) address how to redirect food waste from landfills to productive uses, the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy is reviewed for local application. In 2014, the ILSR published an updated Hierarchy for Reducing & Recycling Food Scraps and Other Organic Discards:

The ILSR hierarchy includes the following updates to the EPA version:
  1. Title is expanded as follows: reducing replaces recovery and recycling & scraps are added along with other organic discards.
  2. EPA second tier Feed Hungry People renamed Edible Food Rescue.
  3. EPA third tier Feed Animals is eliminated.
  4. ILSR third tier is Residential Backyard Composting.
  5. EPA fourth tier Industrial Uses is moved to one level above bottom tier Landfill & Incineration and renamed Mechanical Biological Mixed Waste Treatment; anaerobic digestion is included in ILSR fifth tier. 
  6. ILSR expanded Composting to a higher level into two categories: Small-scale Decentralized Composting and Centralized Composting or Anaerobic Digestion.
  7. Bottom tier Landfill & Incineration remained consistent.
Brenda presenting at the
F&B Pkging Mtg
In her presentation at the Fourth Annual Food & Beverage Sustainable Packaging Meeting hosted by Elemental Impact at Global Green's Washington D.C. offices, ILSR Co-Director Brenda Platt included the updated hierarchy in her presentation. Additionally, Brenda announced the publication of two important industry resources: 
Brenda emphasized the important role grass roots composting systems play in food waste recovery. Working with the Washington D.C. Department of Parks & Recreation, the ILSR and ECO City Farms offer the Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders training program, a community composter train-the-trainer program with a community service component. 

Over 1,000 New York City citizens completed the Master Composting Program. According to Brendathese Master Composters serve as community activists who encourage fellow residents to embark on neighborhood composting solutions for food waste and rebuilding the soilGrass roots efforts, grounded in neighborhood activism, create the culture where public policy, supported by community leaders and private enterprise, may segue to macro solutions for food waste.

The ZWA Blog article, Sustainable F&G Packaging: moving from an emerging to a maturing industry, is an overview of the meeting with a recap of the powerful presentations.

Bringing the focus local is critical to food waste recovery and food security for the nation's under-served populations. With capacity challenges for commercial food waste composting destinations, community garden and other local options may fill the gap while government officials and private enterprise wrestle with regulations, permits and at-times public resistance to state-permitted regional composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.

The ILSR updated food recovery hierarchy aligns with the necessary local participation to reduce the 40% of the food produced wasted and 96% of food waste destined for landfill.

Is a grass roots food waste revolution underway? What is the role of social enterprise in creating viable solutions for the entire population, including those currently under-served? 

Green Streets - a grass roots recycling social enterprise grounded in San Francisco - recently visited Atlanta for Citizen Film's Green Streets documentary screenings, community discussions and meetings. The ZWA Blog article, Green Streets, grass roots social enterprise, is a recap of the powerful Atlanta visit.

Green Streets empowers by creating jobs, cleaning-up housing projects and bringing dignity to an imprisoned population. Can the master composter training program teamed with community garden development augment the Green Streets template?

So many questions, so much potential, yet who is willing to step to the plate with necessary resources, community support and wisdom to guide the creation of an effective food waste recovery template? Do we have a "Field of Dreams?" the foundation is built ... build it and they will come ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Green Streets: grass roots social enterprise

Green Streets film cover
Green Streets - a Citizen Film documentary by Sophie Constantinou - follows 29 year old entrepreneur Tyrone Mullins and his friends as they turn trash into cash in the distressed San Francisco housing projects where they live. Through trial and error, they learn to haul 150,000 gallons of waste per month, creating desperately needed jobs, and establishing recycling where all previous efforts had failed.

With five years of success and a solid business in-place, Green Streets serves as a catalyst for similar programs in urban landscapes. Citizen Film holds work-in-progress Green Streets screenings in the Bay Area on a near-weekly basis, at events ranging from closed-door strategy meetings to public screenings | discussions attended by hundreds.

Green Streets employees
sorting @ apt. complex
The frequent screenings to influential public housing, conservation and workforce development stakeholders broadens awareness of Green Streets powerful impact within under served neighborhoods and the city as a whole. 

Post-screening discussions often result in improved waste management operations. Green Streets is a work-in-progress where setbacks become opportunities to aspire to greater achievements.

More than a business, more than a documentary, Green Streets is a social enterprise with a mission to provide a business service, a social service and an environmental service: a triple bottom line. Within the social service mission, Green Streets is an example of how grass roots enterprises are the catalyst for urban revitalization; under-served populations evolve into well-served, thriving communities.

Green Streets on
the streets
Beyond the screening recognition, Tyrone received the following awards and recognition for Green Streets: an Ashoka Emerging Innovator Award, a fellowship from Stanford University's Project Remade, and a "Champions of Change" Award from the White House. These mainstream high honors validate Green Streets as a prominent leader and recognize the societal implications.

What is social enterprise?  According to the Green Streets FAQ page: A social enterprise operates like a business, but manages its operations in pursuit of human and / or environmental wellbeing. Per Wikipedia
social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.
Green Streets presents social enterprise as the connecting path between the Vicious Cycle - Trauma, Unemployment & Waste - and the Virtuous Cycle - Ownership, Community Restoration & Recycling. The path is two-way or holographic, depending upon perspective.



ABFF president Penny McPhee
w/ Sophie @ screening
Thanks to the generosity and vision of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation (AMBFF) Green Streets came to Atlanta for a series of screenings, organized discussions, tours and meetings. 

The Wednesday January 14, 2015 Green Streets Atlanta screening was presented by the AMBFF Film Series and set the stage for a powerful week in Atlanta. The ZWA Blog article, Green Streets Comes to Atlanta!, announces the Atlanta screening and visit.

According to their site, the AMBFF Film Series uses the power of documentary film to address a wide range of societal issues. The Foundation recognizes the documentary medium can concurrently spark imagination, illuminate a subject, challenge conventional thinking, entertain and engage audiences, create awareness and inspire action. 


SUCCESS: The Wednesday Green Streets screening was a complete sell-out with standing room only for late arrivals. After introductions by John Bare, AMBFF vice-president for programs, the audience was enthralled with the 45-minute screening on Green Streets' history, creation, challenges and successes.

Following the screening, Sophie moderated a panel of urban innovators and entrepreneurs from Green Streets and Atlanta consisting of the following individuals:
Panel after screening
  • David Mauroff - director of social enterprise at Urban Strategies where he supports the growth and development of Green Streets. In addition, David provides public safety and resident support services assistance to the McCormack Baron portfolio (owner of housing project apartments.)
  • Rohit Malhotra - founder & executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta; Rohit's background includes social entrepreneurship, digital communications and community organizing.
  • Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic - vice-president & market leader for Enterprise Community Partner's Sourtheast. Meaghan's responsibilities include strategic planning and capacity building assistance for preservation, new production and transit-oriented development opportunities to affordable housing and community development.
  • Tyrone Mullins - co-founder of Green Streets. 
Randolph sharing his
experiences on the panel
Midway through the discussion, Tyrone called Randolph Lee, fellow Green Streets team member, from the audience to join the panel and provide his perspective and experience.

Elemental Impact (Ei) was honored to co-present the Atlanta January 14 screening along with Green StreetsUrban Strategies, Citizen Film and the Fledgling Fund.

The following day the Center for Civic Innovation hosted the Sustainable Thinking: How Green Leads to Good Jobs & Revitalized Neighborhoods roundtable discussion. Ei founder Holly Elmore was among the community leaders from the various Atlanta sectors to participate in the roundtable. Participants represented global corporations, local | national non-profits, local government, private enterprise, schools and clergy.  


After an eight-minute Green Streets film and participant introductions, David moderated and Sophie filmed the vibrant discussions.


Tyrone on-screen, Sophie
standing in reverence 
The conversation centered on unique challenges facing urban entrepreneurs; innovative partnerships and business practices are key to creating healthy, prosperous working environments. For instance, Tyrone mentioned the importance of mental health services to Green Streets success. Through therapy employees understand trigger points, heal wounds from emotional | physical trauma and grow as workers and individuals. 

Two staffing agencies - First Step Staffing and Next Step Staffing - who employ ex-convicts, veterans and severely under-employed individuals - shared valuable insights on how to segue challenges into successful long-term employment opportunities. In addition, Re-Entry Coalition executive director Bob Jackson was active in roundtable discussions and lunch afterwards.

Ei Partner Novelis, the world's largest aluminum recycler and manufacturer of rolled aluminum, was a strong roundtable participant. Parting conversation included a potential Green Streets screening at Novelis' Atlanta global headquarters. Synergies abound: 

Green Streets team with
the Novelis folks
Many new connections were made among the local roundtable participants with commitments to meet in the next weeks to continue the conversation.

Thursday evening the Atlanta University Center Consortium - the largest contiguous consortium of African American private institutions of higher education in the nation - hosted a Green Streets screening at Clark Atlanta University. The enthusiastic crowd was eager to present questions to David, Tyrone and Randolph in the post-screening panel discussion.

Friday morning began with the final Atlanta screening at the Fulton Leadership Academy (FLA) - where young men soar to greater heights. It was an inspirational visit for Tyrone, Randolph and the students; lifelong education was a key message in the post-screening discussions. 

Green Streets folks with
Scott Jenkins on field
With fortitude, leadership and achievement as core values, the FLA is committed to a rigorous academic environment that empowers young men in grades 6-12 to become productive civic leaders. Within the offered curriculum, there is a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and a thematic approach that integrates experiences with aviation and aeronautics.

After "soaring" with the young men, the Green Streets team met with Scott Jenkins for an overview of the New Falcons Stadium construction and operations.

WOW: the Georgia Dome marquees were lit up with the following two messages:
  • Welcome Green Streets!
  • Happy Birthday Tyrone!
Thank you to Scott and the Georgia Dome staff for going the extra yards with the marquee messages. The marquees expressed appreciation at a level not possible with words.

Tyrone with his birthday sign
What an honor for Tyrone to spend his 30th birthday in Atlanta sharing Green Streets with our grand city. The odds were against Tyrone making it to this life milestone; not only did he survive, Tyrone is THRIVING as a prominent contributor to necessary social consciousness shifts. 

The inaugural Atlanta Green Streets visit planted fertile seeds for future visits to build empowering social enterprise grass roots programs. Discussions segued into food waste composting at created community gardens in distressed neighborhoods. 


The Ei FB album, Green Streets Comes to Atlanta, gives a pictorial recap of the empowering visit.

Atlanta is ripe for social enterprise to build a stable path from a Vicious Cycle to a Virtuous Cycle in our diverse communities... and remember prosperous social sectors have their own Vicious Cycles to transform. 


Thank you Green Streets for your vision, fortitude, leadership and commitment to sharing. Thank you to The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for bringing Green Streets to Atlanta!