Yesterday I attended an evening seminar on the topic of sustainability in the healthcare sector. The speakers included the Dr. Barbara Sattler (Director of the Environmental Health Education Center at the University of Maryland School of Nursing), Leonard Taylor, Jr. (VP of Facilities at the University of Maryland Medical Center) and Robert Mulrooney, PE (VP of Facilities & Services at Christiana Care Health System).
The purpose of the seminar was to increase awareness of what it takes to be “green” in the healthcare arena and to strengthen the network of folks in the Delaware Valley and beyond working in this area. One strong emphasis in all the presentations was that hospitals can implement numerous sustainability initiatives at low or no cost and that many of these initiatives can save money in the long run.
Dr. Sattler’s presentation began with a detailed rundown of the numerous hazardous chemicals healthcare workers are exposed to on a daily basis. She gave the example of one of her colleagues whose blood tests revealed that she has a body burden of over 80 toxic chemicals. She pointed out that many everyday items used in hospitals contain chemicals that we should avoid. Her Center does extensive outreach within the healthcare sector and has educated people ranging from facility managers to nurses to infection control managers in making the hospital environment less hazardous and more sustainable.
Mr. Taylor’s talk was refreshingly old school, in the sense that he didn’t use Powerpoint and spoke directly and honestly about the development of their sustainability program. The University of Maryland Medical Center has made great strides in this area and has the full support of upper management, especially since the return on investment is there. He stressed the importance of having “Environmental Champions” who are committed to the “green” agenda and who can inspire others.
Mr. Mulrooney spoke about Christiana Care’s sustainability initiatives, including achieving a 50% reduction in air emissions, due to their switch from No. 6 oil to natural gas. They are in the process of starting a vegetable garden on the campus. Christiana Care keeps detailed statistics on their improvements so they can track their progress from year to year.
The seminar was held in a beautiful setting in the showroom of a design firm (Knoll, Inc.), was accompanied by a classical guitarist and was attended by about 100 folks interested in making environmental improvements to hospitals.
EES offers sustainability services to our hospital clients. Contact me for further information.