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  • Writer's pictureTom Petersen

More Sustainable Healthcare Operations: Trends and Recommendations

Updated: Aug 28, 2023




In 2022, the expectation for professionals in healthcare to “do no harm” is expanding beyond the care of patients and into the care of the environment. Hospital systems are increasingly seeing the need and public demand to decrease their environmental footprint, and are making this a priority. From waste management, to energy usage, to green building improvements, this is playing out in a variety of ways across the U.S. and globally.


For example, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s Sustainability Programs Manager Brian Nelson says, “We have sustainability built into our core culture through our stewardship value — to be accountable to our community for the ‘responsible utilization of human, financial, and environmental resources.’” This shift in approach has resulted in PeaceHealth team members organizing better waste management practices — such as a recycling collection program initiated by a group of NICU nurses at the facility, and anesthesiologists reducing their usage of desflurane — a known greenhouse gas.


In support of building a purpose-driven culture that inspires continuous improvement, Nelson emphasizes the importance of identifying and elevating workplace champions — those who may not have the word “sustainable” in their job title. These passionate leaders and collaborators have the benefit of bringing specialized expertise to the table, for example, knowing and suggesting suitable alternatives for film-based radiological equipment, which require large water inputs for processing or contributing strategies to properly dispose of waste-making pharmaceuticals (such as California’s Safe Drug Disposal Program).


On a more macro level is the valuable work of organizations such as Health Care Without Harm — a global NGO that “works to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint.” Part of its scope is maintaining Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, a network of 60,000 health care centers worldwide committed to a ten-point environmental agenda that covers water usage, transportation, building standards, and more. GGHH is active in educational efforts, hosting a seminar series that has delved into topics such as “Green Health Challenges — Leadership Through Action” and “Saving Energy Through Behavior Change — Low-Cost Solutions.” GGHH also serves to align best practices by running a global collaboration platform, as well as co-hosting the annual CleanMed Conference with Practice Greenhealth.


While the list is seemingly endless, here are several additional examples of programs that healthcare systems are implementing in order to lessen their environmental footprints:

Educating patients and communities about the health impacts of climate change, Taking food policy action to support sustainable food systems, Eliminating hazardous chemicals or materials such as flame retardants, fragrance chemicals, mercury-containing medical devices, pesticides, phthalates, and PVC, and Purchasing environmentally-preferable products are generally less toxic, energy efficient, made from recycled content, or shipped in less packaging material.

We at EES are attuned to these sector-wide trends, both large and small. Is your healthcare facility looking to make its operations more sustainable? Here are a few initial questions you might ask yourself:


  • Does your work culture/mission statement directly address sustainability? Are there environmentally harmful substances that you can eliminate the usage of?

  • If you are building: are you aspiring to carbon neutrality, as well as using regional/local materials?

  • Are you implementing energy conservation/efficiency programs, supported by regular energy audits?

  • Are there water-intensive elements that you can update/change?

  • Environmental and Engineering Solutions, Inc. will help you dig deeper into these questions, and provide in-depth knowledge and support toward reducing your healthcare practice’s environmental footprint. For more information, reach out to EES President Tom Petersen at tom@eesolutions.net.

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