Committed to promoting health and well-being, Bridget Higgins, RN, BSN, has been practicing environmentally sound practices daily, and her hard work and ecofriendly ways have turned heads.
To recognize her earth-friendly lifestyle, Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers in Evergreen Park, Ill., named Higgins their Greenest employee last May.
If you are trying to help the environment, you will make the community healthier and be healthier yourself, says Higgins, a staff nurse in the postanesthesia care unit.
Higgins bikes to work, brings her lunch and own utensils in a reusable lunch bag, and uses a coffee mug and water bottle that she cleans and reuses. She even entered a hospital contest to share her efforts.
Its not always easy to be green, Higgins says. It takes a little effort, but if you think of little things to do on a daily basis it adds up.
In 2004, Higgins began her green activities as a means of promoting health and saving money. Bicycling is great exercise, and healthy foods nourish the body. At home, she does not run air conditioning during the summer.
To create a healthier, healing environment for physicians, staff, and patients, Higgins serves on the facilitys Green Team committee to assist employees with carpooling and to add flowers to the campus. The committee, formed last summer, found employees are interested in participating in green strategies. In honor of Earth Day in April, the committee conducted a large-scale recycling event.
We want to make a positive impact [on the environment], says John Schroll, director of environmental services and chair of the Green Team committee. It creates a much healthier environment, mentally and physically.
The committee seeks suggestions for improving energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. It also is investigating ways to recycle computer hardware, and other items.
Were trying to implement a policy in which all paper at Little Company will be recycled, Higgins says.
Some ways the hospital has become more green is by painting with low volatile organic-compound products, using Energy Star-compliant office equipment and energy-efficient lighting, and promoting recycling. The pharmacy also participates in an expired-medication recycling program, and shredded patient-sensitive documents and cardboard are repurposed.
More examples of ecofriendly practices are recycling cooking grease, using compact fluorescent, mercury-free light bulbs, and installing additional bike racks to promote cycling to work.
In addition, a nonprofit organization Cartridges for Kids purchases empty ink cartridges and gives proceeds to St. Bedes Elementary, a neighboring school.
Little Company of Mary also plans to incorporate sustainable design features in a three-phase building project to upgrade its facilities. The new campus will feature windows to bring in lots of natural light and generous outdoor views from patient rooms. The 90 private rooms in the West Pavilion also will be large enough to allow family members to stay overnight. Construction should begin this year and wrap up in 2013. Mary Freyer, chief operating officer at Little Company of Mary, praises employee participation and ideas for more green initiative efforts.
Clean Air Counts, a northeastern Illinois regional initiative to reduce ozone-causing emissions, recognized Little Company of Marys efforts in a campaign to raise awareness about air pollution and highlight businesses that contribute to reducing air pollution by more than 2.7 million pounds in the six-county Chicago region. The organization featured Higgins and the hospital last summer on two billboards, one on Interstate 57 near 124th Street, and another on Kedzie Avenue near the I-294 Tollway.
Its weird, Higgins says. Ive never seen myself that big before.
Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer.Julie Berggren, RN
Meet Four ‘Green’ Nurses in Greater Chicago
For many nurses, the health of the environment and the health of their patients go hand in hand. From recycling plastic in the OR to eliminating Styrofoam in the cafeteria, more nurses are starting to add going green to their daily duties. Meet four nurses who work each day to promote healthier healing atmospheres at their facilities.
Pharmaceuticals that end up in the water supply and other places has always alarmed Julie Berggren, RN, BSN, clinical coordinator for Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Berggrens department is piloting a program to ensure all medications and packaging are disposed of properly.
People think that when theyre throwing things out they just go away magically, Berggren says. When youre talking about pharmaceutical waste, its much scarier than even landfill waste.Mary Jo Tesmer, RN
Mary Jo Tesmer, RN, staff nurse in the cardiac rehab department at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., wanted to reduce her facilitys trash output.
A member of the green team, Tesmer helps recycle the many batteries the hospital uses, as well as other items.
I was seeing a lot of things that I didnt feel should be dumped into the landfills, Tesmer says. In healthcare theres a lot of waste, and we need to recycle it.
At her old job, Mary Pedersen, RN, BSN, charge nurse at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, took plastics home, knowing theyd go into landfills otherwise.Mary Pedersen, RN
In 2008, she started a plastics recycling initiative in Swedish Covenants OR, recycling everything from saline bottles to IV fluid bags. I want to be able to turn over an environment other people can enjoy, Pedersen says.
Michelle Gerhardt, RNC, formed a green team in 2007 at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.Michelle Gerhardt, RN
Last year, the group helped increase recycling at the hospital by 26%. In addition to recycling everything from paper to computer equipment, the facility strives to refurbish furniture and even use recycled squares in carpeting.
Weve done quite a few initiatives, says Gerhardt, a staff nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. It has just boomed.
Profiles by Geneva Slupski, freelance writer