Penn Medicine Princeton Health Recognized for Sustainability Efforts

Health systems account for nearly a tenth of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, a main cause of climate change. Penn Medicine Princeton Health is dedicated to doing its part to reverse that trend.

In the restaurant at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC), staff members and visitors end their meal by placing trays stacked with plates, utensils, and uneaten food and drink bottles into a conveyor belt that slowly carries them out of sight.

The trays emerge on the other side of the wall where kitchen staff sort the waste into color coded bins. Depending on the bin colors, the waste will be designated for landfill, recyclables, and/or food remnants.

Food remnant waste and waste from the food prep area was originally taken to a biofuel company in Trenton, where it was converted into renewable energy. Now it is trucked instead to a nearby farm that uses it as feed for livestock or grinds it into mulch.

PMC collected 1.5 tons of food waste in the first three weeks of the program, said Greg Evans, Penn Medicine’s corporate director of sustainability. At that rate, PMC would collect 26 tons over a full year. That amounts to 52,000 pounds of food waste — a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — diverted from the landfill by a single hospital. Evans hopes to introduce food waste collection at other Penn Medicine locations.

Food waste collection is one of the newest sustainability efforts at Princeton Health, which was recently recognized by Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit membership organization promoting environmental stewardship and best practices in health care.

In May 2023, Princeton Health received Practice Greenhealth’s Partner for Change Award for the second year in a row. Evans said the award — presented to only 216 health care organizations nationwide — reflects Princeton Health’s progress related to ongoing sustainability initiatives.