The harmful effects of climate change hit hardest for the vulnerable populations that essential hospitals serve. For example, people living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to extreme heat and air pollution, which result in poorer health outcomes for these populations. These groups are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, respiratory diseases such as asthma, and other health consequences.
In response, hospitals have developed creative and successful programs to target the links between the environment and human health. America’s Essential Hospitals is proud to recognize four member hospitals recognized with 2019 Environmental Excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth.
Practice Greenhealth recognizes industry-leading hospitals with the highest standards for environmental sustainability practices in health care with the annual Top 25 Environmental Excellence Awards. These hospitals demonstrate their commitment to this cause by implementing a robust sustainability program supported by engaged staff, making formal commitments to mitigate climate change, avoiding chemicals of concern in their facilities, and reducing meat served.
Boston Medical Center (BMC), in Boston, demonstrates its commitment to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing solar power and using other renewable energy sources. BMC also commits to increasing green space and building healthier communities by maintaining a 7,000-square foot rooftop farm that provides 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to employees, patients, and community members.
Harborview Medical Center, part of UW Medicine, in Seattle, has made energy efficiency upgrades and created a 100-kilowatt solar array on the roof of its West Hospital building. These initiatives have reduced the hospital’s carbon footprint while improving the facility’s resilience to a changing climate.
Both Harborview and another UW Medicine hospital, the University of Washington Medical Center, received a Greening the Operating Room Recognition Award, which honors facilities that have made substantial progress in reducing the environmental effects of surgical procedures. Operating rooms are responsible for a significant share of hospital greenhouse gas emissions, energy, and waste. UW has reduced the use of anesthetic gases that contribute to climate change and chosen reusable options for back table covers, Mayo stand covers, surgical gowns and towels, grounding pads, patient positioning devices, and other items. UW reduced its annual volatile anesthetic agent emissions by more than 5,000 metric tons since 2012, leading to a cost savings of $400,000 annually.
University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM), in Burlington, Vt., was recognized for its comprehensive recycling program, waste reduction initiatives, and a green cleaning program that reduces the use of hazardous chemicals. Committed to educating staff on sustainability issues, UVM increases access to nutritious, fresh produce for hospital staff and the community through weekly farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, and culinary teaching kitchens packed with locally sourced foods.
These essential hospitals are leading the way in health care sustainability and stepping up to the challenge of curbing climate change while improving the health of their communities.