Going green reduces energy costs, improves overall population health

Because of the carbon footprint hospitals' high energy consumption and volume of waste generates, healthcare organizations around the country must not only work to care for their patients, but the planet, according to an article in Triple Pundit.

Fighting climate change will not only save hospitals money and energy and make the healthcare delivery system greener, it can improve general population health as well, writes author Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health and wellness and environmental stewardship office at Kaiser Permanente.

To do this hospitals must embrace environmental stewardship as part of their commitment to improve overall health, according to the article. Systems like Dignity Health used energy efficient upgrades and installed renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic, solar hot water, cogeneration and fuel cell technology across 35 percent of their enterprise, to reduce its energy consumption.

The Cleveland Clinic saved $4 million in energy costs annually by replacing incandescent lights across its campuses with more than 60,000 LED bulbs and dimming the lights at night in hospitals, Gerwig writes. Seattle Children's Hospital started a transportation management plan that focused on the benefits of biking, walking and using public transit, which helped prevent 630,000 car trips, reduced vehicle miles traveled by 6.5 million miles and saved 235,000 gallons of gas.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest user of solar power among U.S. healthcare providers, uses energy-efficient heating and ventilation systems, photoelectric and motion sensors to turn off or dim unused lights, substituted LED bulbs in for older ones, and systems to recycle waste anesthetic gases that have a high global warming potential, Gerwig writes. Reducing particulate matter, mercury, carbon and other pollutants reduces respiratory illness, heart attacks and early deaths, according to the article.

To implement climate strategies, hospitals need staff and leadership support, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Executive-level commitment can secure resources for sustainability activities, remove institutional barriers and oversee the activities.

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- here's the article