March/April 2008

Catholic Health Initiatives Partners with Practice Greenhealth

Catholic Health Initiatives is partnering with Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit organization, to identify, implement, track and recognize improved environmental performance within its facilities. “A commitment to the environment demonstrates Catholic Health Initiatives’ commitment to healthy communities,” said Dennis Smith, assistant director of facility services and chair of Catholic Health Initiatives’ Environmental and Energy Task Force. “Our partnership with Practice Greenhealth will support our facilities in their work toward environmental sustainability.” Environmental improvement initiatives are already underway throughout Catholic Health Initiatives. For example, Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, Wash., has been recognized with Environmental Excellence Awards from Practice Greenhealth. The system’s environmental improvement initiatives include mercury elimination, recycling and reduction of regulated medical waste. St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma, saved $10,000 on solid waste disposal during 2007 as a result of recycling, transitioning to reusable sharps containers and implementing a system for fluid management in operating rooms. Some of the materials the hospital recycles are cardboard, fluorescent light bulbs, used cooking oil, batteries, paper and construction debris. The transition to reusable sharps containers reduced plastic waste by 50,000 pounds per year. The installation of the fluid management system means that fluids previously collected in suction canisters and removed as regulated medical waste now go directly to the sewer, eliminating the need for more than 38,000 suction canisters per year. Reprocessing of single use devices diverted eight tons of materials from landfills, for annual savings of $191,501. In addition, St. Joseph switched to more environmentally friendly general purpose cleaners, resulting in improved air quality. The laboratory eliminated the use of xylene for tissue processing, and now recycles formalin for reuse. St. Joseph’s current environmental goals are to further increase its recycling rate and implement food waste composting. The medical center also plans to host a community farmers market and establish a roof garden for growing herbs and tomatoes to use in the cafeteria. “It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we work together,” said Rozi Arends, value analysis manager for Franciscan Health System. “It’s our ethical obligation to improve the environmental impact of providing quality care.” Arends said that three of Franciscan’s hospitals have received positive local press through their environmental achievements. St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; St. Clare Hospital, Lakewood; and St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way, have all received the Partner for Change Award by reducing waste at least 10 percent and implementing programs for the elimination of mercury. The partnership with Practice Greenhealth is designed to help more Catholic Health Initiatives facilities achieve their environmental improvement goals and receive recognition for those achievements. Practice Greenhealth holds monthly educational Webinars on a variety of green building and greener operations topics. Each Catholic Health Initiatives facility has an identification number to participate in these calls: for more information, contact Julie Taylor at or 603-795-9966. Catholic Health Initiatives’ employees can also join an interactive list serve on health care environmental issues at Practice Greenhealth and Catholic Health Initiatives will also be working together to develop a plan for data collection, goal setting, program administration, tracking and recognition. To learn more about the partnership, contact Dennis Smith at or 785-320-7457.