Hospitals already go to amazing lengths to help people in their community, but can they do more? “According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 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.” This leads one to ask, should the health care industry be concerned about applying their corporate social responsibilities to the environment?
Protecting our environment may present a cost savings benefit for hospitals, “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.” These recommendations are all based around the simple idea of recycling, which is rarely seen in the healthcare industry. By adapting to the current trend of recycling, hospitals could not only help protect the environment, but they can help improve their bottom line as well.
This article on healthcare.dmagazine.com outlines three steps that hospitals can take to reduce their environmental impact:
“1. Establish a team: One of the first things a hospital should do when considering a sustainability program is to create a task force to lead the overall initiative. The team should be both empowered and supported by leadership to execute initiatives but also be held to specific goals like increasing recycling, minimizing contributions to landfills, or increasing awareness of how employees can positively impact the environment.
2. Create a plan: The AHA Sustainability Roadmap includes a variety of target-setting tools to help organizations identify ways to tackle energy, waste, water, chemicals, and building design. It also includes detailed performance improvement measurements that offer practical, step-by-step guidance on specific categories like surgical lighting and sustainable flooring.
3. Perpetuate a culture of responsibility: Reducing a hospital’s environmental footprint can have a direct, positive effect on patient care, patient safety and health care workers, but it takes a village. In implementing such a program, an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Program can provide the necessary framework to help generate broad organizational support, employee participation, and buy-in but that must be sustained through ongoing encouragement and leadership.
This article calls to attention the healthcare industry’s impact on the environment, and how easy it is to remedy. I think that it is only a matter of time before all hospitals in the United States are adopting environmental protection efforts.
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