Healthcare Daily reports “First, do no harm” has long been the mantra of healthcare professionals who focus on the safety and well-being of their patients. But what about the environmental impact hospitals have? Improving this is a significant opportunity for providers, a move that some estimate would save the industry billions of dollars.

The U.S. healthcare sector is responsible for producing 8 percent of the country’s total carbon dioxide emissions. They also generate an average of 26 pounds of waste per patient each day, or nearly 7,000 tons.

According to a 2012 study from the  University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Public Health, the hospital industry could save $5.4 billion in five years and up to $15 billion in 10 years if it adopts sustainable practices. Among the areas for potential savings, according to that study were reducing medical waste costs through better sorting; recycling to reduce landfill waste; more efficient purchasing of OR supplies; and switching to reprocessed from single-use devices.

Hospitals and medical facilities looking to strengthen their sustainability programs are not alone. They can look to the American Hospital Association’s Sustainability Roadmap for practical resources to create a strategic plan addressing energy, waste, water, chemicals and building design sustainability, as well as tips on how to make the business case to organization leaders for “going green.”

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