DAYTONA BEACH (June 2) – An organization that recycles hotel soap for the poor, a hospital that offers its employees free health screenings and an architect-turned-urban farmer were all winners at the Sustainable Florida’s annual Best Practice Awards ceremony.
The 2011 Best Practice Awards were announced in conjunction with the Florida Green Building Coalition’s annual Green Trends conference at the Plaza Resort & Spa.
More than 80 applicants from all corners of the state vied for the top award in seven categories by touting innovative ways they preserve Florida’s natural environment.
The winners were:
City of Tallahassee – Get There Green (Tallahassee)
In an 18-square-mile area of Tallahassee, pedestrians, bicyclists and mass transit riders rule the road. That’s because of Tallahassee’s “Get There Green” initiative, a holistic transportation program that addresses multi-modal transportation and efficient/convenient transit services while reducing greenhouse gases. The Multi-modal Transportation District planning process began in 2008 by allocating millions of dollars to create roads friendlier to walkers, bikers and mass transit riders. In addition, bus routes were retooled to make them more effective, and five all-electric buses were added to the fleet. Complementing the program are school buses fueled by compressed natural gas, city programs that generate biodiesel fuel and convert vehicles to electric, and electric air-conditioning units in police vehicles.
“The city of Tallahassee is trying to make a difference in every aspect of our operation,” said Cynthia Barber, director of the city’s environmental policy and energy resources department. “To be recognized by our peers is such an honor.”
Steve Sadler and Michaela Miller (Jacksonville)
In August 2008, Tropical Storm Fay ripped through Jacksonville and destroyed the home of Steve Sadler and Michaela Miller. The couple rebuilt – but not in an ordinary way. Their home is now one of the most energy-efficient in Florida and is a popular stop for environmental tour groups and building professionals. The house features a 3,000-gallon rainwater capture system that is used for drip irrigation; the landscape has no sod and is covered in more than 1,000 native plants, fruits and vegetables; after the home’s construction the excess drywall was returned to the manufacturer to be recycled; all paints and adhesives used in the construction is free of volatile organic compounds; and all appliances are Energy Star. Ms. Miller, an award-winning video producer, filmed a documentary of the project that provides energy-saving tips that can save an average home more than $400 a year.
“In less than three years we had the opportunity to live in the most wonderful home,” Miller said, “and I am so grateful.”
Universal Orlando (Orlando)
Universal Orlando is dedicated to creating a more sustainable company, community and state. Its “Green is Universal” campaign focuses on water, energy, waste, horticulture and fuels. The theme park saves about 35 million gallons of water annually by using low-flow urinals; saves energy by reducing wattage in parking garage lamps; uses a wood chipper to chip landscape waste to reuse as mulch; has 2,000 recycling bins throughout the resort; reuses coffee grounds in its planting soil; uses natural pesticides like peanut, wintergreen, thyme and fish oils; and landscaping teams drive electric carts. The theme park celebrates an annual Green Week and Earth Day where guests can learn more. Each building is assigned a “land lord” who is given training, tools and authority to reduce their building’s power consumption. These efforts, which began as an awareness campaign, have transformed into a year-round commitment.
“We are committed to sustainability on a daily basis, to make a difference and to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Candace Barnes, Universal ‘s director of government relations and sustainability. “This is a huge honor.”
Clean the World, Inc. (Orlando)
Clean the World recycles soap and saves lives. The Orlando-based non-profit collects gently used bar soap and bottled amenity products that are routinely thrown away by hotels and resorts. These products are sanitized and packaged for distribution to those in need. Each day in America, more than 1.5 million soap bars are discarded from hotels. Another 500,000 are thrown away in Canada. In two years, Clean the World has diverted 550 tons of hotel trash from landfills and groundwater systems. Through an environmentally and hygienically safe recycling process, these toiletries are distributed to children and families in more than 40 countries. Each year, more than 5 million people across the world die as a result of acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease. Clean the World is committed to the prevention of illness and death caused by these diseases.
“When we found out how many people were dying, we felt almost obligated to mankind to find a solution,” said Shawn Seipler, co-founder and executive director. “This (award) is a testament to our 160 hotel partners in Florida and 1,000 partners in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.”
Baptist Health South Florida (Miami)
Baptist Health South Florida, the largest not-for-profit health care system and the largest private employer in South Florida, opened its first LEED-certified acute-care hospital in South Florida this past April. West Kendall Baptist Hospital embraces six environmentally friendly initiatives: waste management and recycling, energy, communications and education, information technology, procurement and construction. The hospital uses high-efficiency chillers, occupancy sensors, natural daylight and green cleaning products. It offers its 900-plus employees environmentally friendly transportation options, including subsidized mass-transit passes, a website for sharing van/carpool information, bike racks, showers and a charging station for electric vehicles. In addition, employees have access to discounted healthy meal options and free health screenings. The Baptist Health Green Team promotes eco-friendly practices by conserving resources, reducing environmental pollution and contributing to community health.
“We recognize that healthy people depend on a healthy environment,” said Eric Wenke, assistant vice president for Baptist Health South Florida.
Miami Corporation, Volusia County and Brevard County (South Florida)
In southeast Volusia and northern Brevard counties sits a 59,000-acre tract called Farmton Tree Farm. It includes a critical regional wildlife corridor with environmentally significant habitat. The Miami Corporation, which has owned the parcel for more than 80 years, partnered with Volusia and Brevard counties to create a vision for this area. With nearly 80 percent of the land permanently preserved as conservation, a 50-year plan for the Farmton Tree Farm includes a sustainable, low-impact, mixed-use, green community. In Volusia County, the plan establishes two innovative land-use designations called “GreenKey” and “Sustainable Development Areas.” Plans for the land emerged after two years of public meetings with groups that included the conservation community. The result is the first large-scale private planning effort that puts protection of environmentally sensitive lands first, followed by a green development.
“Miami Corporation has always been committed to sustainability,” said Vice President Barbra Goering. “It took our partners to come up with this excellent vision for this land.”
Michael Madfis (South Florida)
Michael Madfis, an architect for 30 years and now an urban farmer, is slowing losing his eyesight to a retinal degenerative disease. But his work to help the community continues. Mr. Madfis helps establish organic community gardens that cultivate fresh, local food sources, create jobs and educate others about the benefits of urban farming. Mr. Madfis started his first community garden in the city of Miramar in May 2009. The 5,200-square -foot garden is maintained by the city and local businesses and community volunteers. Mr. Madfis’ current project is a 7,000-square-foot garden opened with financial assistance from the Fort Lauderdale Housing Authority, the Pantry of Broward, the Urban League and the Carlyle Group. The garden produces $1,000 worth of produce a week, which pays for a farmer, assistants and maintenance. The city runs a website featuring weekly recipes based on the garden’s plantings.
“One of the most important things we can all do is cultivate the soil where we all stand,” Madfis said.
This marks the 13th year the non-profit Sustainable Florida, a program run by the Collins Center for Public Policy, handed out Best Practice Awards.
Click here to download a pdf of the Awards Presentation Program