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Going Green in the Cafeteria at San Dimas Community Hospital

Oct. 31, 2012, San Dimas – A healthy planet equals healthy people, and San Dimas Community Hospital wants to keep people healthy.

As part of that mission, on Oct. 1, new policies were put into place to encourage a waste-free space. The San Dimas Community Hospital dietary department embraced the plan and changed the materials they use.

"Air, water and food pollution can make people very sick," said Maryanna Stratte MPH, RD, the hospital's director of food and dietary. "San Dimas Community Hospital's Dietary Department is making positive changes to prevent pollution and keep people healthy."

Employees were provided re-usable cups and encouraged to remember them with financial incentives. For hospital employees who bring their own reusable cup, coffee and tea are provided free, soda is 25 cents, (an effort to discourage excess sugar consumption). For those who don't bring their own cup, a compostable cup can be purchased for 15 cents for coffee and tea and $1 for soda. The fee covers the cost of the cup and soda, and their free beverages are still – free.

Styrofoam has been banned entirely at San Dimas Community Hospital. According to EarthResource.org, toxic chemicals leach out of polystyrene products (especially when heated in the microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems. Many communities in California have banned Styrofoam containers, and though the city of San Dimas has not, hospital administrators believed in taking the lead when it comes to protecting the community's health.

Though the eco friendly cups and to-go containers are more expensive than Styrofoam, currently about three times as much, hospital officials said that as community leaders the hospital should lead by example and spend a little more on disposable biodegradable products.

The new products being used by the hospital include napkins made from 100 percent recycled paper, plates, bowls and cups that are 100 percent compostable and made from 100 percent renewable resources. They are also suggesting employees eat in the cafeteria, which will remove the need for a disposable container altogether.

Through these efforts, the hospital will reduce the number of cups going to the landfill by over 5,000 per month. There are now almost 12,000 Styrofoam cups and 5,000 to-go containers that are no longer being trashed. As an added bonus, the hospital has saved over $700 in the first month of the program, an example to everyone that going green can pay as well.

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