Zero Food Waste Journeys

On June 15, 2015, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter (LDEI) agreed to partner with Ei on a zero-food-waste journey at their prominent fundraiser Afternoon in the Country (AITC) hosted by the Inn at Serenbe within the Serenbe community. The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces the AITC zero-food-waste journey.

In addition, AITC Event Producer ideaLand secured a zero-food-waste commitment for 2015 RayDay hosted at Serenbe.

Afternoon in the Country (AITC):

Known as one of Atlanta’s most unforgettable food and wine-tasting events, AITC is a fundraiser for local non-profits and scholarships for woman in the culinary profession. The November 8, 2015 AITC was the event’s 15th Anniversary, perfect timing to embark on formal zero-waste practices.

With approximately 1800 event guests served delicious food samples by 90 plus prominent restaurants, hotels, and caterers, there was a significant amount of food waste generated at the event. In the past, food waste was landfill-destined.


The Ray C. Anderson Foundation (RCAF) welcomes 1400 guests to RayDay where they celebrate Ray’s legacy, learn at the plethora of educational booths, and enjoy excellent cuisine served by The Food Movement (TFM) food trucks. The October 11 RayDay was the third annual event.

The SMAT – Sustainable Material ACTION Team – was joined by the following local government and companies for support with the AITC | RayDay zero-food-waste journeys:

  • City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
  • ideaLand, AITC | RayDay Event Producer
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Division, Region 4
  • Inn at Serenbe | Serenbe Community, Event Host

Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks took a leadership role in the zero-food-waste journeys.

In addition to the overall food-court challenges listed on the  SFCI Overview page, annual events experience the following unique challenges:

  • Annual event – by their very nature, it is difficult to shift event practices on a once-a-year basis.
  • Fundraising-oriented – many annual events are fundraisers for a non-profit and | or a cause with a primary focus on raising money versus sustainable practices.
  • Volunteers – many annual events are produced by a committee of volunteers who change each year.

An outdoor annual zero-food-waste plan breaks down into three-main categories, each equally important for an effective plan:

Food & Beverage (F&B) Serviceware:

  • Compostable packaging – single-use F&B serviceware must be BPI-Certified compostable; an exception is pre-packaged beverages in recyclable containers, such as bottled water.
  • Education – event F&B providers must be educated on the WHY, WHAT & HOW to serve in compostable packaging; includes support with purchasing unique serving items.
  • On-site Monitoring – volunteers | event staff visit foodservice operators upon arrival at the event to observe any F&B serviceware or other items provided by the establishment that may contaminate the food-waste stream.

Food-Waste Collection:

  • Waste | recycling bins – in the beginning, a three-tier bin is used: 1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling, 3> Landfill; at future events the system evolves into a two-tier system: 1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling.
  • Clear signage – the bins must be supported by clear signage designating proper disposal; visuals are most helpful.
  • Monitor attendee disposal – volunteers | event staff assist attendees with disposal of items into proper bins to prevent contamination.

Food Waste Destination:

  • Donation – ensure a plan is in-place for donation of leftover food in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
  • Compost – deliver remaining food waste, back & front-of-the-house, to a composting site operating within state food-waste permit regulations.
  • Animal feed – when compostable packaging is mixed with food waste it is not fit for animal consumption; food waste generated under the same roof as meat is often not permitted for animal feed pursuant to respective State Department of Agriculture regulations due to past disease outbreaks.

Ei Partner Eco-Products stepped forward as a key in-kind event sponsor for BPI-Certified compostable plates, flatware and beverage cups. In addition, Eco-Products played a vital role in education support and created clear signage for event food-waste bins. Compostable bags were provided by Ei Partner NaturBag.

ideaLand confirmed Serenbe was open to adding post-consumer food waste & compostable packaging to their farm-waste compost pile. Ei and Ei Supporter Community Environmental Management secured a Letter of Interpretation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division stating the event food waste falls into Category I of the permit regulations; thus, a formal composting permit is not required within the regulations.

With on-site composting, the carbon footprint associated with food-waste composting was reduced from over 100 miles to the nearest state-permitted facility down to zero!

Ei contracted with Let Us Compost to orchestrate the on-site food waste compost operations at AITC | RayDay along with post-event follow-up.

On August 20, the SMAT hosted a two-hour  Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session  for the AITC | RayDay Team; the session was a modification of the April Georgia World Congress Center-requested education seminar for Levy Restaurants. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding , gives an in-depth overview of the session.

The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues, updates on the extensive pre-event planning accomplished to set the stage for event day success.

In November 2016 Ei Partner NatureWorks published the RayDay Embraces Path to Waste Reduction and Proven Steps Culminate Into Waste Reduction Success case studies to showcase the 2015 Ei Zero-Food-Waste-Journeys. The ZWA Blog article, NatureWorks publishes zero-food-waste case studies, announces the case studies’ publication. The case studies are available for download on the respective AITC and RayDay pages.

The respective AITC and RayDay pages detail the event-specific successes, challenges, and lessons learned.

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