Going green and implementing sustainable business practices makes good business sense for hospitals. Hospitals and health facilities require exorbitant amounts of energy to sustain their day to day operations considering the 24/7 model of its business. Implementing energy saving measures can free up funds that could otherwise go to research and improving patient care. Likewise, younger talent and even consumers are looking to work with and patronize brands who align with their way of thinking about sustainability efforts. Thinking green just makes sense.
When we first began researching this article, the intent was to give practical advice about how hospitals and health systems can work toward more sustainable and “green” operations. What we found, though, is that kind of advice is plentiful. In fact, through our research, we found that some of EverCheck’s very own partners are pioneers in environmental sustainability. They’re erecting some of the first LEED-certified buildings, dedicating entire research centers to limiting environmental toxin exposure in children, thinking very differently about the way they procure the food they serve patients, and offering free public transportation to all of their employees. So congratulations, partners. You are way ahead of the original article we intended to publish,10 Simple Ways To Make Your Hospital More Eco-Friendly.
Having said that, we decided to acknowledge and shine the light on some of our partners who are making waves with their environmental sustainability efforts.
Food | UCLA Health
For many, the sustainability aspect of eating less meat is convincing enough to cut back - producing just one hamburger requires as much fossil fuel energy as it takes to power a small car for 20 miles.
But there’s another factor that has many hospitals considering more forks and less knives: the increase in antibiotic-resistant super bugs. Some evidence suggests that the increase in resistance is related to the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, and it goes without saying that antibiotic resistance in patients can be a very dangerous situation.
UCLA Health in Los Angeles, California has taken a forward-thinking approach in the way it serves food. For instance, beef and poultry products it purchases are antibiotic free, and the cafeterias on site practice “Meat-Free Mondays.” All of its purchased foods use packaging made from compostable and recycled materials, and if you're using a reusable beverage container, you’ll receive a discount on coffee. Additionally, UCLA avoids hundreds of tons of waste from being sent to the landfill annually by composting its food waste.
Transportation | Boulder Community Health
Boulder Community Health is a shining star when it comes to sustainability in healthcare. Its FootHills Hospital was the very first LEED certified healthcare facility in the US and the first ever hospital to install a rooftop solar system.
So with its eye on sustainability, Boulder Community Health also understands the impact that public transportation has on reducing carbon footprints. According to the American Public Transportation System, driving personal vehicles is the biggest contributor to a household’s carbon footprint. By taking existing public transportation instead of driving a car, a single person saves 4,800 pounds of CO2 per year.
Boulder Community Health offers a free RTD Eco-Pass to every single one of its employees, making commute for staff essentially free and reducing the amount of CO2 emissions that would have been produced had their staff been required to use a personal vehicle for their commute.
Building Construction | UF Health Shands
Similarly to Foothills Hospital, the Shands Cancer Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville was the first hospital in the state to receive LEED Gold certification. Prior to construction of the new building, other buildings on site had to be demolished. Some demolition waste yields components that are hazardous once they enter the landfill, like plasterboard which releases toxic gases when exposed to landfill conditions. In this case, however, the demolition from the site’s previously occupied buildings recycled about 96% of the waste, and about 50% of the site was returned to its natural vegetative state.
But the real magic happens inside the facility. Specially-designed, high-efficiency windows and solar shading (things like blackout shades) help reduce energy costs. Additionally, the hospital has a dedicated on-site heat and power plant that provides all of the electric, cooling, heating, and medical-gas that the hospital requires. UF Shands is one of the few facilities throughout the Southeast that’s capable of providing 100% of the energy it needs directly from its on-site plant.
Waste | Johns Hopkins
Hospitals can produce up to 25 pounds of waste per patient, per day, according to sustainabilityroadmap.org. Basically, hospitals are waste-producing powerhouses.
In 2014, Johns Hopkins Hospital was part of a pilot program that handled waste a bit differently. Before the program, supplies from patient isolation rooms were thrown away after the patient was discharged. Instead, JHH decided to bio-decontaminate and reuse more than $90,000 worth of supplies using vaporized hydrogen peroxide, saving more than 4,000 pounds of waste from hitting landfills. Because of their efforts, Johns Hopkins Hospital was awarded the “Trailblazer” award for environmental leadership by Maryland Hospitals for a Healthier Environment.
Toxic Exposure | Hackensack UMC
From cleaning products and insecticides to contaminated foods, our population is exposed to toxic chemicals that cause cancer and otherwise wreak havoc on our bodies. Prevention of these environmental risks is exactly the mission behind the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. Through its research, education, and practical solutions, the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center is working to identify, control, and eradicate major environmental risks.
Visit their website and you’ll find an abundance of resources and information on environmental risks, especially as it relates to children’s health. You’ll also find practical solutions and advice, like switching to “green” cleaning products and which foods to leave off your plate to avoid harmful pesticides and contaminates.
We’re so proud to work with clients like this who are thinking differently about their environmental impact. Of course, many of our other partners are making huge strides in their own sustainability efforts, as well. We want to thank all for their commitment to helping keep Earth our forever home.