Hospitals are significant contributors to pollution. That’s why it’s crucial for facilities to be more sustainable and look for ways to go green. And it’s not just to save the Earth: The health of patients depends on it.
According to an article in GreenBiz, the nation’s hospitals create 2 million tons of waste each year.
So it’s important for facilities to try and reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can to improve both the environment’s condition and patient outcomes.
Pollution from chemicals and other contaminants can exacerbate patients’ illnesses, making them harder (and more costly) to treat and control.
While many think green initiatives are expensive, there are ways to be more environmentally friendly that don’t break the bank. And hospitals can actually save money in some cases.
Here are five ideas for improving your facility’s environmental sustainability, straight from leading health system Kaiser Permanente:
- Reprocess single-use devices. In a reprocessing program, single-use devices are securely stored and shipped off to vendors to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and repackaged so they can be used multiple times. Not only does this help the environment, but hospitals can save big bucks when reusing these devices. Over the past decade, Kaiser Permanente has saved over $55 million dollars with its reprocessing program.
- Purchase green cleaning products. Many commonly used cleaning products can be harmful for patients – especially developing fetuses and young children. Plus, many of them may not be as effective as once thought. That’s why hospitals need to consider more sustainable alternatives for cleaning materials, including those certified by Green Seal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping businesses use more sustainable products.
- Change hospital meal options. An easy way to go green: Serve less meat to patients and staff. Offering more plant-based options is healthier – and it cuts down on people’s exposure to the antibiotics fed to livestock. Constantly eating meat treated with antibiotics could be a factor in the rise of healthcare-acquired “superbugs,” according to the article. With that in mind, hospitals may want to look at purchasing antibiotic-free meat, or using less meat in favor of locally grown, in-season produce.
- Stop buying products with flame retardants. Chemicals acting as flame retardants can be harmful to the body and the environment – and they actually do little to prevent fires. Kaiser Permanente has made a commitment not to purchase any furniture made with flame retardants. While it’s been historically difficult to tell which products contained flame retardants, new labeling standards have made this clearer.
- Look at climate change as a healthcare issue. Climate change isn’t an abstract concept. It’s a public health issue. Everything from a longer pollen season to increased air pollution negatively affect the health of those with weaker immune systems, along with the very old and the very young. So it’s crucial for hospital leaders to take a stand on this issue, and have regular discussions about what their facilities can do to make a positive impact.