Hospitals across the country continue to chart new green territory by embracing tried-and-true sustainability methods and launching new initiatives that often are tailored to suit their individual budgets and staffing requirements.
Following is a sampling of health system initiatives underway, based on responses to the Health Facilities Management/American Society for Healthcare Engineering/Association for the Healthcare Environment 2015 Sustainable Operations Survey.
Energy was the largest category in which respondents reported that they track and report savings from sustainable efforts.
Example: One facility is realizing energy savings by installing variable-frequency drive chillers, changing to light-emitting diode lighting, reducing kitchen hood runtime, changing out older air handling units over the past five to seven years, and capitalizing a water side economizer for fiscal 2016. The result: The hospital’s Energy Star score of 10 in 2008 jumped to 41 in 2015.
Implementing a regulated medical waste program is the top waste management initiative being taken at health facilities.
Example: With the help of nursing leadership, one facility trained nursing staff about proper waste stream disposal, and removed all biohazardous waste containers from patient rooms. The forecasted cost reduction is 20-to-24 percent the first year, possibly increasing to 35 percent.
Reducing water usage is a big focus at health facilities as costs continue to rise.
Example: At one facility, water from three water-cooled compressors is captured and pumped into the cooling towers, reducing the amount of water at the towers, for an approximate savings of 36,000 gallons of water a year.
Cleaning materials to reduce water usage and eliminate chemicals also are being adopted by hospitals.
Example: One facility is stripping floors using only water via a machine that “sands” the surface rather than using harsh chemicals to remove old wax and finish. All new flooring that is installed has a no-wax finish.