Regenerating the foundation of life
As the nation’s pioneer in the collection of commercial food waste for compost, Ei embarked on the Soil Health journey with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch. The early years were dedicated to raising awareness of food waste compost within the restaurant and hospitality industry and establishing new sustainable standard operating practices. ZWZ Founding Participants perfected back-of-the-house food waste-collection practices and shared their successes within the foodservice industry.
With the National Resources Defense Council’s 2012 Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill issue paper publication, the food waste crisis reached mainstream media. Numerous powerful organizations formed within the food service and retail industries to directly address the crisis and affect change. Thus, the established commercial practices and national food waste awareness earmarked successful completion of Ei’s role.
In 2014 the Sustainable Food Court Initiative announced its stated prime focus was post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a permitted destination other than landfill. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team supported the SFCI – Georgia Dome Pilot post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection, and a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility.
By 2016 numerous sporting event facilities, venues, outdoor festivals and other food-related businesses achieved zero waste, including post-consumer food waste. Thus, Ei’s post-consumer food waste-related work was complete.
Limited state-permitted food waste composting facilities (or other technologies) are a significant obstacle to mainstream source-separated food waste collection, at the consumer and commercial levels. Using simple economic principles, a stronger demand for food waste compost will drive an increase in capacity, from the opening of new sites and the expansion of existing facilities. By shifting focus to increasing compost demand, Ei embarks on new industry frontiers within the Soil Health platform.
Initial work relates to the education of depleted soils’ direct relationship with the carbon crisis, out-of-balance carbon cycles, contaminated waterways, excessive water usage, erosion control, stormwater management, and production of nutritious food.
Viable, proven solutions for restoring carbon balance are inherent within regenerative agriculture practices. By restoring soil health via no-till farming with crop rotations and livestock grazing that mimic natural herd movement patterns, healthy plants “suck” carbon from the atmosphere into the soil via photosynthesis. Ei chooses to explore how regenerative agriculture practices may be applied to urban landscapes at public parks, roadway medians, and shoulders, and corporate, university, and government campuses.
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:
- Regenerative Agriculture | Landscapes – The RiA Magazine article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, introduces regenerative-agriculture carbon-balance solutions along with examples of successful regenerative farms.
- Carbon Sequestration – the RiA Magazine article, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance, introduces the carbon cycles and the soil’s role in restoring carbon balance.
- The Three-Step Straw Initiative – an “easy-win” first step in eradicating single-use plastic food & beverage packaging.
- Ei Farm Tours – from a Soil Health perspective, farms may be harmful or extraordinarily beneficial to restoring carbon cycle balance. Ei Farm Tours focus on the many success stories where farms restore broken soil systems through regenerative agriculture
- Macro Cost of Micro Contamination – the RiA Magazine article, Macro Cost of Micro Contamination, introduces the focus area via a National Zero Waste Business Conference Ei-hosted panel of the same name.