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With increased focus on sustainability and sustainable practices in the world today, everything from office buildings to hand soaps are making notable advancements. This positive trend towards sustainability also has also made its way into the healthcare industry, where hospitals and healthcare facilities are encountering unique challenges when implementing steps toward sustainable operations and practices.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities present unique challenges because medical practices require specific sanitary measures, equipment and regulations, which makes implementing usable sustainable practices more difficult than in other environments.
Currently, the four leading advancements in hospital and healthcare facility sustainability are:
Practice Greenhealth estimates that between 20-30% of the total waste generated by hospitals comes from the operating room. In addition, a study published by the AORN Journal found that ORs could decrease medical waste by an average of 65% by using reusable products.
By utilizing reusable supplies rather than single use items, hospitals reduce their environmental footprint and also lower their waste management costs. Possible reusable items include, but are not limited to: washable surgical and isolation gowns that can be sterilized and reused, medical instruments, recyclable blue wrap, digital x-ray equipment (rather than film), washable and re-sterilized linens, mattress pads, gowns, and basins for bodily fluids.
Hospitals and healthcare campuses are large and use many resources. Enrolling in EPA programs to mitigate energy and water waste not only lowers costs but also creates a healthier environment for all. Installing newer energy efficient lighting systems pay for themselves in savings by drastically reducing electricity use. Many are saving through water conservation by fixing leaks and installing low-flow plumbing fixtures. For example in a healthcare design case study, Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington was able to save 31 million gallons of water and $1.5 million by implementing a water conservation plan over a nine year period.
Many hospitals are modulating their food service because food and environment directly affect health. Including local, organic, sustainable foods and less meat are just some of the ways food service in hospitals is changing. These changes aim to influence larger communities and thereby lower overall healthcare costs.
Sanitation is a priority in the medical setting, however many of the chemicals used pose health problems not only for those exposed to the chemicals but also to the environment. The Center for Health Design found that many hospitals are now using green cleansers, cleaning tools and equipment that uses less water and chemicals, and limiting the number of different types of chemicals in facilities.
These are several ways hospitals and healthcare facilities are modulating their practices towards a sustainable future. Contact us should have any questions or would like more information about sustainable practices.
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