Earth Day 2016: Less Waste; More Eco-Friendly Programs

(Image: At South Miami Hospital, food waste is now turned into water, thanks to a new machine called the ORCA. Dietary employee Monica Vidales Pascual feeds food waste into the machine, which works like a mechanical stomach.)

Today is the 36th anniversary of Earth Day, and green initiatives that permanently transform how we live and work are gaining more attention.

Earth Day — a day for eco-friendly ideas and programs — is considered the largest secular observance. More than one billion people from more than 190 countries mark the day with activities.

Baptist Health South Florida understands that companies have to think about tomorrow’s environment — from environmentally safe floor scrubbers to West Kendall Baptist Hospital’s LEED Gold Certification as a building that minimizes energy consumption to an organic farm at Homestead Hospital to programs that recycle computers.

Reducing Food Waste, Carbon Footprint

At South Miami Hospital, being environmentally conscious — or going green — means feeding the ORCA — a 5-foot-wide by 4-foot-tall machine that converts food waste into earth-friendly water. The machine can handle about 50 pounds of food waste an hour.

The ORCA, which arrived at the hospital in January, sits on an outside loading dock. It works like a mechanical stomach. Dining employees deposit discarded food into the machine, and through a process called aerobic digestion, the ORCA swallows the material and churns and transforms it, breaking down the organic waste. The earth-friendly water then travels straight to the sewage system, where, like other wastewater, it ends up at treatment plants. There, it is cleaned and returned to the environment by being discharged into rivers, lakes and other sources as clean water.

In addition to keeping garbage out of landfills and lowering carbon dioxide emissions (which play a role in global warming), ORCA keeps trucks off the road, reducing the use of diesel fuel.

“This is exciting,” said Eric Arbogast, the hospital’s director of Dining and Nutrition Services. “Before the ORCA, we put food straight in the dumpster, and then the waste went to the landfill by truck. By eliminating these steps, we are reducing our carbon footprint.” And because the ORCA is a closed system, food waste is not stored outside. This removes odors, leakage, fruit flies and other pests.

Many states are looking at laws that will eventually require certain businesses to divert their food waste from landfills. In a 2012 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, it was found that 164 million tons of solid waste still went to landfills even after going through a recycling or composting program.

Other Green Programs at Baptist Health

At Baptist Health, the ORCA is just one of the countless ways the organization is green. Other green initiatives throughout Baptist Health. include:

New drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations. Baptist Hospital installed two drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations . To date, employees and guests have refilled more than 4,000 bottles. Similar technology is also in place at South Miami Hospital.
Eco-friendly floor scrubbers. Baptist Hospital is using environmentally safe floor scrubbers to clean floors. The technology converts water into an innovative cleaning solution without harsh chemicals.
Green cleaning products. Doctors Hospital’s Dining and Nutrition Services is using enzyme treatment for drains instead of caustic chemical products and using non-ammoniated and environmentally sensitive cleaners.

“Baptist Health has put resources into being green,” Mr. Arbogast said. “We are constantly thinking if what we do is good for the environment.”

Earth Day History

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment began in 1970 when 20 million Americans, at the urging of then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin), participated in demonstrations for a clean environment. Organizers chose the date because they wanted warm weather and college students back on campuses after spring break. Twenty years after the first rallies, Earth Day went global as citizens across the globe united to recognize the importance of a sustainable world.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

I want to see the site in English

Continue In English

Quiero ver el sitio en Español

Continuar en español