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Sustainable Healthcare

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How Healthcare Impacts the Environment

Hospitals make significant contributions to their communities by providing a wide variety of services.  They are also major employers, with healthcare comprising approximately 16% of the national and regional economy. Hospitals operate all day everyday, making their environmental footprint large in many communities.

Hospitals impact the environment by:

Healthcare finds that reducing waste and energy use are often first steps in reducing its environmental footprint.  Steps include:

However, to really reduce healthcare's environmental impacts, the following changes can be implemented:

  1. Materials management:  Reduce use of toxic materials such as mercury, PVC, DEHP, cleaning materials, flame retardants, pesticides, and other similar products.
  2. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing:  Work with group purchasing organizations and other suppliers to ensure that supply chains are sustainable.  Purchase products with as much recycled content as possible.
  3. Electronics:  Purchase only EPEAT Exit EPA Click for disclaimer products for electronics.
  4. Use LEED Exit EPA Click for disclaimer or other rating systems for new construction, renovations, and operations.
  5. Use green landscaping methods on your property to reduce water use and manage storm water more sustainably.

Green Hospitals Pilot Project

In 2006, EPA Region 3 gave a grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for a Green Hospitals Pilot Project, intended to reduce use of toxic chemicals and increase sustainable practices in hospitals in southeastern Pennsylvania. PA DEP partnered with the Women's Health & Environmental Network (WHEN) and the Health Care Improvement Foundation, producing a number of case studiesExit EPA Click for disclaimer) and a compendium of best practices Exit EPA Click for disclaimer that are available to all hospitals. The case studies feature waste reduction, environmentally preferable purchasing, and a pharmaceuticals management program. The compendium of best practices covers green teams, environmental purchasing guidelines, food service sustainability, waste minimization, pursuing LEED Gold certification, reduction of regulated medical waste, effective waste management, green construction for renovation, and pharmaceutical waste management. Twenty hospitals participated in the pilot project.

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