Hospitals have a mission to help the elderly and the weak, but don’t always walk the walk. Cancer is treated, but hazardous chemicals are found in cleaning products and furniture. Heart conditions are taken care of, but French fries and burgers are served in the cafeteria. There’s a global climate-change crisis, yet hospitals are the second-highest energy consumer of any sector and generate more than 30 pounds of waste per bed per day. Health care is in conflict with itself — in some ways, it’s its own worst enemy. A sound treatment protocol has to be balanced with resource conservation and management. Here are 10 reasons to practice a better approach.
1. Human health and the environment
Climate change impacts public health, yet most facilities aren’t ready to say it out loud. Hospitals cannot get in balance without a top-down stewardship strategy that aligns with the organization’s goals, as a handful of hospitals have started to prove. Wisconsin-based hospital system ThedaCare, for example, created a “sustainability leader” position and is hosting the Climate and Health Symposium to educate staff about environmental action and education. A member of Practice Greenhealth, it has signed onto all six challenges in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a national campaign to improve sustainability in the health-care sector.
3. Cost savings
Extending the life of equipment, improving efficiency, preventing toxins and waste, using less energy and water — these activities reduce costs. South Carolina’s Bon Secours St. Francis Health System was the first hospital in the state to receive Energy Star designation when it reduced energy use by 20 percent through the development of the Ecological Stewardship Plan, resulting in annual energy-cost savings of $850,000. As a sponsor of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, it shares winning solutions to help others do the same.
See all 10 sustainability reasons here