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Sustainability Science goes to the hospital



Parkland Memorial Hospital. For some, the name conjures images of a Presidential motorcade, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Texas School Book Depository, and the shock surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Parkland Memorial is the place Kennedy was pronounced dead.

While the public will never forget the events of that fateful day, Miranda (Jolliff) Skaaning ’13 is working to make a name for Parkland in other ways.

As Furman’s first Sustainability Science graduate, the southern Illinois native was tagged by Parkland Health & Hospital System to serve as waste stream coordinator for the health care giant, a position which expanded to her current post as sustainability coordinator. In a role seldom seen in the hospital setting, Skaaning oversees recycling, energy, and water conservation among other programs. Her duties touch all aspects of sustainability including purchasing decisions.

Sustainability Science major, Miranda Joliff Skaaning ’13
Sustainability Science major, Miranda Joliff Skaaning ’13

Back in 2013, Skaaning headed up efforts to implement single-stream recycling so that all plastic, paper, aluminum, and cardboard was funneled to one place—no small feat considering the hospital employs 10 thousand. She also led the charge for pallet, battery, and print cartridge recycling to lessen the hospital’s contribution to landfills.

Now, Skaaning and another staffer make up the “small but mighty” team that tracks 29 recycling and nine waste streams, while charting the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. The two are looking to increase the recycling participation with Parkland’s new 2.1 million-square-foot LEED Gold acute care facility slated to open in summer 2015.

When Skaaning signed on with Parkland, the task ahead of her wasn’t entirely new. For her senior thesis she worked with Earth and Environmental Sciences professor Dr. Brannon Andersen to prepare “The Ecological Footprint of Furman University.” “The data we collected was very similar to the type I’m collecting now. The project rolled over very well into what I do here,” she says.

Skaaning also credits her liberal arts exposure at Furman for her success at Parkland. “It has helped me to see the big picture, because a lot of times, people only think about money when it comes to sustainability. The ability to sell our programs in a way that not only speaks to the environment, but also the social and economic aspects, really brings in a larger audience.”

Skaaning, who is earning her master’s through the University of Texas at Dallas, sees herself elevating sustainability to whole new levels at Parkland. Overseeing an entire staff dedicated to environmental concerns is her goal. She’d also like to become an advocate for local and organic food options at the hospital—something she learned about through working in the Furman garden.

While many hospitals dabble in environmental issues, Skaaning and company are dedicated to steering an entire organization to think and act along environmental lines. “I think it’s really good that Parkland has embraced the idea of having a sustainability team because we can address recycling, energy conservation, and other concerns. That’s our focus,” she says.

Learn more about the Sustainability Science major and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


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