June 2009

CHI Hospitals Leading the Way as Environmental Champions

In 2007, CHI facilities earned a single national award from Practice Greenhealth, a national membership organization that promotes and recognizes environmental responsibility in health care. This year, CHI facilities won 11 Environmental Excellence Awards in three different categories, underscoring how the organization is "going green" by improving energy efficiency, recycling waste and reducing carbon footprints.

At MBOs across the system, environmental "champions" are leading an array of initiatives with a new awareness of and sensitivity to practices such as recycling, mercury elimination and use of high-tech bulbs, among many others. 

St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, MD, earned recognition for a comprehensive recycling plan. "We've definitely raised consciousness in terms of waste and recycling," said Heather Keller, a clinical practice specialist for maternal health at St. Joseph and a member of the hospital's Green Leadership Council. "I think that was the first step toward creating real change - getting people to realize that we really can make a difference." The team has created an internal Web site that highlights the hospital's environmental efforts and links to green-oriented resources.

St. Joseph Regional Health Network, Reading, PA, was recognized for improving environmental performance by expanding mercury elimination, waste reduction and pollution prevention programs. "When you review facts and data related to sustainability, it doesn't make sense not to develop programs that focus on energy efficiency and environmental responsibility," said Joyce Graham, corporate responsibility officer and risk manager for St. Joseph. "It reduces the cost of doing business. It helps recruit and retain employees who are concerned about things like global warming. It also demonstrates compliance with health care regulations, decreases employees' risk of exposure to hazardous substances and reduces exposure to Superfund clean-up actions. Besides that, you benefit the health of your community and the world." 

After a successful effort to reduce mercury at St. Joseph, environmental leaders focused on recycling. St. Joseph has been baling cardboard, recycling cooking oil (a vendor uses it for bio-diesel fuel) and significantly cutting waste. The hospital has also saved more than 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity by using energy-efficient light bulbs. St. Joseph's environmental steering committee also devised a novel environmental initiative: a farmer's market focused on organic food.

Graham is optimistic that "green" projects like those at St. Joseph will lead to greater involvement in environmental efforts across CHI. "We hope that everyone will make a commitment to environmental sustainability," she said. "Our goal should be to receive not just individual awards - but a system award."