Green and Healthy: Hospitals Embrace Sustainability

  February 12, 2018

By Dan Hounsell

Sustainability is no longer just a feel-good effort within institutional and commercial facilities. In the decade or so since serious efforts began to minimize the impact of facilities on the environment, the movement has become a top priority for organizations looking to operate more energy-efficiently and cost-effectively. Consider the case of the Cleveland Clinic.

The clinic started thinking green more than a decade ago, as sustainability and energy efficiency were just starting to gain traction in serious conversations about climate change. Since then, the Ohio medical center’s environmentally conscious practices have become part of its culture, with everyone getting involved, according to an article on ThinkProgress.com.

Employees are recycling, turning off lights and computers, planting trees in the community, and buying Energy Star-certified equipment, from MRI and ultrasound machines to kitchen appliances. They are reducing water use through low-flow plumbing fixtures, cutting waste, and controlling operating room air to ensure it is clean and fresh during surgery, but not squandered when the operating room is empty.

Equally impressive: the facility aims to become carbon neutral within the next 10 years. It hopes to accomplish this by increasing its renewable energy sources, and expanding all of its existing efficiency and emission-reducing programs.

Read: Sustainability strategies for urban hospitals.

“There is a linkage between environmental health and human health,” says Jon Utech, director of the clinic’s office for a healthy environment. “Cleaner air and cleaner water makes our patients healthier. The thinking was we could find solutions where everybody wins — the environment, the economic bottom line and human health.”

Thus far, the Cleveland Clinic hospital and health care system have saved an estimated $50 million in energy costs, $30 million in purchases, saved more than 600,000 trees, and shifted more than 100,000 tons of material from landfills, Utech says, adding, “We have 30 million square feet of buildings and 51,000 people who work in every corner of them, and they are all very engaged in this.”

Learn about one health care system’s sustainability efforts

The Cleveland Clinic was one of the early adopters of the sustainability movement, but it is no longer alone. An increasing number of hospitals are getting on board, recognizing the health industry’s contribution to emitting greenhouse gases that drive global warming. The health care sector, in fact, accounts for 10 percent of carbon pollution in the United States, according to one study.

“In 2017, global climate change came home to Americans, moving from an issue that impacted polar bears on melting ice caps to an issue that affects the health and security of us all,” says Gary Cohen, president and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth. “Hospitals are committing to clean and renewable energy because their leaders recognize our continued reliance on fossil fuels is already creating an air pollution crisis at the community level, and creating a climate crisis at a global level.”

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.


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