The environmentally focused Healthier Hospitals Initiative finished with a bang, receiving data from 970 hospitals in its third and final year, a 52 percent increase from the previous year, and close to triple its first year participation.

"It shows a large segment of the health care sector can adopt sustainability measures and together we can have a huge impact on transforming practices," said Jeff Brown, executive director of the supporting organization, Practice Greenhealth.

Some of the highlights of the initiative found in its 2014 Milestone Report concern areas that might not be obvious targets for sustainability, such as purchasing compound-free furnishings, an segment in which 21 of the reporting hospitals spent $12 million. That represented 58.7 percent of their total $21.3 million furnishing budget.

Successes also were reported in more well-known areas of sustainability. Participating hospitals reported they eliminated 73,600 metric tons of greenhouse gases through energy reduction, which is the same as taking 15,600 cars off the road annually. Since 2010, 457 hospitals diverted 446 thousand tons of materials from landfills, achieving a recycling rate of 24 percent.

The participating hospitals were asked to take on efforts in one or more of six challenge areas: Engaged Leadership, Healthier Food, Leaner Energy, Less Waste, Safer Chemicals and Smarter Purchasing.

Though the formal initiative is ending, the work encouraging hospitals to adopt environmentally sustainable strategies will go on as a program of Practice Greenhealth, seeking to build on its success.

"I think there's been great momentum," Brown said. "One of the things that has been a great contributor to HHI's success was its very practical and almost menu driven approach," he said. Sustainability can be as big as you want it to be, and sometimes it's daunting to get started, he said. The HHI methodology made it easier to implement changes.

That approach was taken in order to draw a wider segment of the field, one that might not be as advanced in sustainability practices as the members of Practice Greenhealth, said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm and Founder of HHI.