In response to the “I don’t have time for sustainability” and “Sustainability efforts cost me money” naysayers, please take note of the following:

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) 2012 Milestone Report shows amazing results both in improved patient health and lowering hospital costs through sustainability efforts.   As the report states, “As the health care sector considers its impact on the environment, it is also time to consider the inverse perspective: what impact does the environment have on human health? And more importantly, what can health care leaders do to minimize harm?”

The initiative involved thirteen of the largest, most influential U.S. health systems, comprising approximately 500 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power. A guide was created for hospitals to reduce energy and waste, choose safer and less toxic products, and purchase and serve healthier foods. HHI has a triple aim – better health, better care and lower costs.

[Of these hospitals] Over 50 million pounds of materials recycled, plus an additional 61.5 million pounds of construction and demolition waste kept out of landfills through reuse and recycling.  $32 million was saved due to single-use medical device reprocessing.

While this type of initiative is just beginning and is really the tip of the iceberg for healthcare sustainability, it shows promise for expanding sustainability efforts to areas where programs have been haphazard or non-existent. The potential for hospitals to perform activities across all challenge areas and track metrics over many years will be a key indicator for the long-term success not only of the HHI, but whether hospitals and medical facilities can consistently work within a sustainability framework to better human and environmental health.

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