3 best practices for green hospitals

Environmental sustainability is increasingly important in healthcare, and should be a key consideration in preventive and population health strategies. Kaiser Permanente has developed several best practices for greener healthcare, according to GreenBiz.com.

Hospitals make up 8 percent of the nation's total carbon footprint and produce 2 million tons of waste a year, Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser's vice president of employee safety, health and wellness, said in a keynote address at the University of California, San Francisco, which GreenBiz covers in the article. Kaiser's environmental initiative emphasizes five key areas: chemical safety; waste reduction; climate and energy; water conservation; and food sustainability.

Several speakers at the conference recommended best practices for hospitals new to green initiatives, according to the story, including:

  1. Discuss climate change in the context of healthcare: Experts have called on the healthcare industry to lead on climate change and help the public understand it as a health crisis. These experts should talk to the public as well as friends and colleagues about the health problems associated with climate change, such as longer pollen seasons, heat waves in urban areas and hazards from increased dust levels, Linda Rudolph, co-director of the Public Health Institute's Climate Change and Public Health Project, said at the event, according to the article.
  2. Purchase safer cleaning supplies: Common sanitizers, cleaners and disinfectants often contain toxins and can be hazardous to pregnant women, registered nurse Vicki Leonard said at the event, as well as triggering adult-onset asthma in nurses or janitorial staff. To safeguard against these problems, Leonard recommended hospitals buy products with the "Green Seal" certification, as well as avoiding the use of triclosan for hand-washing, according to the article.   
  3. Cut back on meat products: Hospitals should think about the social and environmental ramifications of food purchasing, said Tom Newman, a professor of epidemiology & biostatistics and pediatrics at UCSF, as part of the same event, the article notes. They should also consider purchasing antibiotic-free meat; UCSF's efforts have increased sustainable food purchasing from 9 percent to 26 percent. Sourcing food options locally has also proven effective for sustainability, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

To learn more:
- here's the article
- check out Leonard's talk (.pdf)
- read Newman's talk (.pdf)