Kermit the Frog said it best. “It’s not easy being green.”
Maybe not, Kermie. But it sure is worth it.
That’s why some visionary leaders in healthcare are working to pioneer the industry into a more sustainable green machine. There’s a global imperative for the healthcare industry to find solutions to some of the negative effects it has on the environment, especially when one considers the bioethical imperative of both beneficence and nonmaleficence.
According to Practice Greenhealth, U.S. hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste each year. Not only that, the energy required to run the nation’s industrial buildings accounts for 19% of the U.S.’s carbon dioxide emissions, as well as a significant percentage of other noxious gases.
A growing movement
Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) is a collaborative organization with the aim to transform the healthcare industry into a more sustainable and healthier business model, reducing environmental impact and improving the health of the community.
HHI describes itself as “a shared leadership around healthier communities,” and is comprised of 12 of the largest health systems in the U.S. (with 490 hospitals under that umbrella). The HHI effort is coordinated by three organizations, Health Care Without Harm, The Center for Health Design, and Practice Greenhealth, and serves to help pioneer the healthcare sustainability movement.
So who’s taking on the green challenge?
Encouraging examples of greener healthcare practices:
- Hospitals that participated in HHI’s Leaner Energy Challenge reduced gas emissions by 73,000 metric tons of CO2e. They equate this to the removal of more than 15,000 cars from U.S. roads per year. Healthier Hospitals, 2014 Milestone Report
- Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., saved 30% of its annual $3.4 million cost on surgical kits by reformulating the kits by removing unnecessary supplies. Healthier Hospitals, 2014 Milestone Report
- Virginia Mason, based in Seattle reported a $3 million savings over three years by reprocessing single use devices (SUDs). Healthier Hospitals, 2014 Milestone Report
- Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., saved $2.1 million in 2012 with 55 individual energy projects. Beaumont has invested in a team of 225 to create cost-effective, sustainable solutions, and employee groups that meet monthly to discuss energy and water reduction ideas. Beckers Hospital Review, 50 Greenest Hospitals in America
- Dell Children’s Medical Center, in Austin, Texas, designed its building to incorporate as much exposure to natural sunlight as possible (80% of the space in the hospital sees natural sunlight). That, coupled with the use of a natural gas-based turbine that produces all of its electricity, heating, and cooling, Dell’s energy savings would fuel approximately 1,800 homes per year. Beckers Hospital Review, 50 Greenest Hospitals in America
- Partners HealthCare in Cambridge, Mass., is on its way to reducing energy consumption by 25% through a variety of methods, including facility and electronic efficiency measures, and the use of renewable energy sources. Partners HealthCare Web site
Sustainable energy for improved global healthcare access
A sustainable healthcare model can have global implications, too. Take this solar-powered teaching hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti that, with the help of Partners in Health, installed 1,800 solar panels. They provide services to 185,000 people in primary care services alone. Partners in Health Web site
Does your organization participate in sustainable initiatives? Do you think there will be continued interest in this movement?