6 ways hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint

U.S. hospitals, which emit 8 percent of the nation's greenhouse gases each year, need to do more to address climate change, according to a Health Affairs blog post. Reducing hospitals' collective environmental footprint could save an estimated $15 billion over the next 10 years.

Hospitals are making strides by using more green products, conserving water and reducing toxic and hazardous waste, but it's not enough to solve the massive public-health issue of climate change, writes Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Dignity Health.

Dean says hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint by:

  1. Making environmentally preferred purchases
  2. Using safer chemicals
  3. Launching green building and resiliency initiatives
  4. Consuming less energy, water and raw materials
  5. Recycling
  6. Transitioning to renewable energy sources

For its part, Dignity has pledged to increase its use of renewable energy by 35 percent by 2020 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in the same timeframe, Dean writes.

Hospitals are falling short by failing to involve senior executives in hospital sustainability teams and by citing cost as the biggest barrier to green initiatives, he says.

"We must lead by example, and advocate for the aggressive strategies we know will directly reduce the risk to our populations' health," he writes. "But to make this happen, hospital leaders must provide sufficient resources and empower their teams to make the necessary decisions."

Dean's post echoes in part contentions from a Lancet/UCL Commission on Health and Climate Change report that climate change threatens decades of progress in healthcare. Droughts, flooding and heat waves brought on by climate change directly threaten public health, the report said.

Other negative effects of climate change include worsening health conditions including asthma, allergies and cardiovascular disease, along with greater risks from disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitos spreading the Zika virus, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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- here's the post