Healing the sick – in a green way 
Open around the clock, using energy to power everything from lights to heart monitors and generating trash from one-time-use supplies, hospitals – while a critical component to society – can drain environmental resources.

A study from the University of Chicago published late last year, found the health care sector in the United States accounts for nearly a tenth of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the study, health care in America, including activities such as hospital care, scientific research and the production and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs, was found to produce 8 percent of the country’s total carbon dioxide output despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Researchers attributed hospitals’ high-energy demands to their constant need for temperature control, ventilation and lighting.

Certainly it takes some forethought and planning for hospitals and health care organizations to strike just the right balance between being environmentally responsible and providing life-saving medical care. But there are ways hospitals can do both and many are starting to take steps in that direction.

More than 1,000 health care providers and systems have joined Practice Greenhealth, a group for organizations in the health care community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.

Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition of hospitals, health care systems, medical professionals and environmental health organizations working to implement ecologically sounds and healthy alternatives to health care practices.

The U.S. Green Building Council now offers a LEED for Healthcare Green Building Rating System focused on inpatient and outpatient care facilities, long-term care facilities as well as medical offices, assisted living centers and medical education and research centers.

The USGBC collaborated closely with the Green Guide for Healthcare, a sustainable design toolkit specifically for health care facilities.

Some of the ways health care office and centers can go green can enhance employee satisfaction and patient care. One example is selecting more environmentally friendly cleaning products – there are products that will disinfect and sanitize but without the use of chemicals (which can be problematic for sensitive patients).

Also, hospitals can incorporate green design and energy savings into their construction or remodeling projects. Making use of natural light and adding plants or a small atrium not only saves energy but offers a soothing environment for patients and visitors.

And certainly simple steps like recycling paper and cafeteria food selection (think: organic and local) can make a big difference.

As we’ve addressed on this blog several times, many of these green practices translate into business savings and with the cost of health care services steadily rising that seems like something everyone can support.

We’d love to hear from you – do you work for a health care facility that is going green? What steps is your company taking and how is it working?


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