A natural outgrowth of the hospital's interest in "greening" the healthcare environment was the creation of a Green Team. This multidisciplinary group was formed in 2006 and has met on a monthly basis since that time. The team consists of members who represent a wide variety of hospital departments/functions, including:
- Bio-medical engineering
- Environmental Services
- Facilities/Plant Operations
- Infection Control
- Information Technology
- Nutrition Services
- Public Relations and Marketing
- Individuals from other departments whose personal passion makes them an asset to the team
Additionally, "Green Champions" are being identified in many hospital departments to act as informal liaisons to the Green Team. These individuals will be responsible for encouraging their colleagues to do the right thing; will educate and communicate information to staff regarding hospital green initiatives, etc.
The Green Team Focus
The Green Team takes the leadership role on new initiatives that positively impact both the environment within the health system and contribute to the well being of the planet. The main focus of the team has been to increase the amount and type of recycling practiced by hospital personnel; to appropriately sort waste streams to minimize landfill waste; and to increase awareness of the ways in which all employees can positively impact the environment.
Abington Memorial Hospital began thinking about reducing the presence of toxic materials in 2000 with the initiation of a program to eliminate mercury from the main hospital and all satellite facilities. This program was extremely successful, and the hospital is virtually mercury-free. In 2005, the hospital, determined to eliminate the use of DEHP in areas such as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, worked closely with Hospira — a specialty pharmaceutical and medication delivery service that helps improve the productivity, safety and effectiveness of patient care — to achieve that goal.
Some of the other initiatives that were implemented under the leadership of the Green Team include:
- recycling of plastic bottles and aluminum cans
- recycling of paper and cardboard
- reduction in the volume of red bag waste (regulated medical waste) generated and processed by the hospital
- recycling of demolition debris generated during construction projects
- destruction of computer and other electronic equipment with no residual material destined for landfills
- recycling of batteries and other medical equipment
- composting of food waste and conversion of cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel
- utilization of more sustainable food products (e.g., bovine growth hormone-free milks and meats, local organically-grown produce and other products)
- use of "greener chemicals" by environmental services staff
- availability of bike racks to encourage the alternative mode of transport
- re-programming printers and copy machines to print double-sided and eliminate unnecessary printing
- a variety of energy saving efforts associated with both mechanical systems and electrical consumption (energy-efficient LED lamps, occupancy sensors, etc.)
- recycling of fluorescent tubes
The Green Team has also implemented a policy of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP). This policy allows for the inclusion of environmental impact information in the decision-making process of product acquisition and requires manufacturers to re-examine packaging practices, the use of harmful chemicals during production and the ability of the end product to be recycled and/or reprocessed. For more information see Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.
A brand-new initiative, Green Rounds is a two-pronged teaching tool for the Green Team. As a way to build green awareness and see where the hospital stands in "green" terms, members of the Green Team are assigned to a floor or unit in the hospital. On a monthly basis, the Green Team member will inspect the patient rooms and common areas with a green checklist, to ensure that the correct waste receptacles are in the appropriate places and to discuss issues of waste and recycling with the floor staff.
This has been a very effective tool for reducing red bag waste and increasing recycling.
Green Team Members
The Green Team is comprised of passionate and dedicated individuals, committed to the green movement both at work and at home, and the team is always welcoming new members. Beginning with just six members at its inception, the team has now grown to over twenty members.
But great leadership and support from administration is not always enough — the Green Team needs a champion in each department to help lead staff on green initiatives.