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Green Purchasing in Health Care


The motivation to institute green initiatives in health care facilities comes in different forms for every organization. For Abington Memorial Hospital, fulfilling a sense of responsibility also fueled the organization’s ambition to become a more environmentally friendly facility.
Says Judith Kratka, director of facilities planning, “Some of us just feel pretty strongly that as a hospital, we have an obligation as a member of the community who consumes huge resources, we have an obligation to use them wisely.”
Abington is one of 20 Philadelphia-area hospitals participating in the Green Hospital Pilot Project to help reduce waste, increase recycling, establish green-purchasing programs, and develop strategies for energy-efficient, environmentally friendly initiatives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3 office awarded Abington and a handful of nearby hospitals with Trailblazer Awards for their leadership in greening the health care industry.
Abington began phasing out medical devices that contained mercury before 2000, and the hospital was virtually mercury-free three years later. Ridding the hospital of mercury and other materials was an important part of the hospital’s green efforts early on. That activity built the framework for the hospital’s present and future green initiatives.
Abington, a 570-bed facility, formed a Think Green team about 18 months ago to spearhead the hospital’s green projects. The team created a new policy called Environmental Purchasing Guidelines. This initiative encourages employees to purchase the safest, least toxic, and most environmentally friendly products and services. The goal of the policy is to reduce the use of valuable resources, reuse and recycle materials, and address the way the products are manufactured and delivered to the hospital.
“This environmental purchasing guideline, it’s to make sure less packaging is better, (and to make sure) that we ask questions about the manufacturer of the product in terms of, ‘Do they produce toxic waste as a result of manufacturing?,’” Kratka says. “What efforts do the vendors go to to make their product environmentally friendly?”
As with many of the green initiatives at Abington, the green-purchasing program met two important goals: It’s the right thing to do, and it’s designed to have a positive impact on the facility’s bottom line.
“It’s sort of a domino effect all the way down the line,” Kratka says. “It saves manpower, it saves resources on the front and back end, and it certainly saves the environment.”

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