Robinson: U.S. hospitals create more than 29 pounds of waste per staffed bed per day. Health care delivery often puts the U.S. healthcare system in a juxtaposition of caring for the patient while harming the environment. Many health systems have recognized this paradigm and are expanding their missions to improving and maintaining the health of the surrounding communities they operate within.
For example, Kaiser Permanente has committed to recycling, reusing, or composting 100 percent of its non-hazardous waste by 2025. By linking their missions to be accountable to the communities in which they operate, health systems signal to the patients they serve that healthcare extends beyond the hospital.
Q: What key actions can health systems take to be more environmentally sustainable?
Robinson: Hospitals deploy a number of sustainability strategies including composting food waste, sourcing healthier food from local vendors, single stream recycling for solid waste, building energy efficient infrastructure, using renewable forms of energy, and reducing use of chemicals of concern. Key to these efforts is having a vision for how a health system wants to deploy a sustainability strategy.
Hospital systems that have a comprehensive strategy often have leaders within the organization who are focused solely on managing a sustainability mission and strategy. These leaders ensure front line staff can carry out these efforts —generating the most impact.