Earth Day Underscores Continued Need for Green in Our Health Care System
| May 2, 2013 1:00 PM
Since 1970, Earth Day has been a driving force for environmental protection and awareness in our country, and across the globe. This year, Earth Day was celebrated in more than 192 countries and the invaluable lessons gleaned from this event can, and should be applied during a time of "less resources and more need" in the health care world.
Take, for example, the latest certification bestowed on the South Jordan Health Center: LEED Gold.
How does LEED Gold certification impact delivery of exceptional health care? The answer is three fold. First, as Utah’s only academic medical facility, we recognize it’s important to set an example of how to work, live, and operate our facilities in a sustainable way. It’s a value we foster in our faculty, staff, students and the patients we serve. Second, it’s just good medicine. Clean air and clean water are critical to good health, and our facilities should reflect the value we place on contributing to a healthy environment. Lastly, it comes down to dollars and sense. By building a facility that relies less on taxing the environment around us, we are able to run a tighter fiscal ship, allowing us to invest in new treatments, innovations and the means to deliver them.
As many of you know, we often host national visitors from other health care systems who want to visit this building and learn about our Care By DesignTM model of patient care. Setting a new standard for top-tier health care facilities adds another dimension to the innovative approach we are pioneering for future of health care.
Earning this level of certification, especially for a health care facility of our size, requires going above and beyond the normal call of duty. It was a commitment that we all made early in the project and I want to thank everyone who made this possible.
Some of the building decisions that helped earn the South Jordan Health Center this designation include:
- Locating the facility next to alternative transportation solutions (light rail & bus lines)
- Promoting the use of fuel-efficient vehicles by designating the closest parking stalls for their use
- Using drought-tolerant indigenous landscaping to reduce water needs by 87%
- Installing water-efficient plumbing fixtures to reduce water usage by 20%
- Using low VOC-emitting materials for cleaner air
- Using exterior building materials and construction methods designed to reduce heat gain and loss
- Designing for maximum natural light and using highly efficient glass to provide views without extra energy use
- Diverting 75% of the building construction waste to recycling centers instead of landfills
- Using more than 20% of building materials from recycled sources
- Using regional sources for materials whenever possible to support local business and reduce negative environmental impacts due to shipping.
The process of implementing and achieving LEED Gold at South Jordan was so beneficial we decided to look at our operations system-wide and made some interesting discoveries:
- Some OR’s are able to recycle 90% of their products
- Recycling is NOT charged for BY THE TON -
- Medical waste costs $118/ton
- Standard waste costs $28/ton
- Recycling costs $0/ton
Actions at the University facilities that resulted because of these discoveries include:
- Environmental Services developing a plan with Waste Management to allow recycling to be picked up from the OR and taken outside to the UOC Recycling Container
- We joined forces with Hospital ES to expand the efforts to the Main University Hospital OR
- 7.80 tons of recycled materials were diverted from the land fill
- 52 tons of cardboard recycled into paper
- Instituted steel can recycling from Nutrition Care
- Instituted Blue OR wrap recycle program
Throughout this process there were many times it would have been easier – and probably less expensive – to back out of our environment commitments and settle for less. I’m glad we didn’t settle; our community is glad we didn’t settle; and I hope you share the pride we feel every time a patient or visitor comes into our institution.
With that sentiment in mind, I want to issue a challenge across our system: think about what we waste on a daily basis and what can we do to improve. I promise if we each take an honest look at how we can become more environmentally conscious, and make a lasting change in the right direction, we’ll see improvements at work, in our health, and in our finances.
See below for more details on this project and our other sustainable activities.
UOC Recycling (Powerpoint)
Bottled vs. Filtered Water (Powerpoint)
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus