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  • Paul Rivers

Hospital Sustainability, Part 1

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

This post is the first in a several part series that will focus on sustainability (green) efforts at a large hospital in the Philadelphia area, which we’ll call Green Medical Center. In this series, I’ll discuss the economic, environmental, health and public relations benefits gained from committing to a sustainability program. Many hospitals have been quietly, but actively, engaged in sustainability initiatives for years. Hospitals operate around the clock caring for patients and they consume energy and material resources at high rates. The Green Medical Center and others have realized that it makes good financial sense to protect the environment and our health through sustainability initiatives.

Green Medical Center formed a Green Team in 2006 and the team has met monthly ever since. The Green Team grew out of the safety committee. The Team was created and chaired by the Hospital Safety Officer. Members on The Team represent the following disciplines:

  • Safety Management

  • Administration (Chief Operating Officer)

  • Biomedical Engineering

  • Environmental Services

  • Facilities / Plant Operations

  • Infection Control

  • Information Technology

  • Laboratory

  • Nursing

  • Nutrition Services

  • Public Relation / Marketing / Grant Writing

There are opportunities to be “green” everywhere. Hospitals must identify the initiatives that are easiest to implement, that cost little or nothing, and that have substantial payback, before tackling the more complicated issues. When first launching a sustainability initiative, it is critical to pick the low-hanging fruit. One purpose for the Green Team, is to identify and prioritize these green opportunities.

During the first several Hospital Green Team meetings, some members were skeptical about whether they could make a difference. Many thought that the program would be costly to implement or that it would take too much time or effort. It was important for The Team to get an early win and build upon the program from there, so they reviewed their recent history……

The EPA and the AHA (American Hospital Association) had set a goal for hospital medical devices to be mercury-free by 2005. Green Medical Center had eliminated mercury in medical devices several years prior to 2005. The phase out started in the late 1990’s and took approximately five years to achieve. Since Green Medical Center had already phased out mercury, this effort was incorporated into the sustainability program and counted as a Green Team success story.

What sustainability successes have you (kind reader) had in your organizations that you’d like to share below in our comments section? Do you have any specific knowledge related to the elimination of mercury in medical or other devices? Do you have questions you’d like to pose about sustainability initiatives in healthcare or other sectors of the economy? We’d love your input.

The next area of focus for sustainability initiatives at Green Medical Center was the elimination of Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a toxic vinyl plasticizer used in making many intravenous (IV) bags and IV tubes. We’ll discuss this initiative in the next blog post in a few days, so check back with us!



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