Chicago (Vocus) June 25, 2010
America’s hospitals increasingly are going green, but these days it’s about more than just being good environmental stewards. In fact, nearly four out of five (79 percent) hospitals surveyed cited cost savings as the top reason their facilities are committed to environmentally sustainable operations. Meanwhile, more than three out of four health care facilities say they’re going green to improve the quality of the indoor environment for staff, patients and families, while 71 percent say environmentally sustainable operations fit with their hospital’s mission.
These are among the key findings of the 2010 Health Care Sustainable Operations Survey. Conducted in March and April by Health Facilities Management magazine, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and the American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES), the online survey assessed core areas of hospital operations, including energy, water, waste and cleaning. All three organizations are affiliated with the American Hospital Association.
Hospitals have made maintenance of the indoor environment a priority and efforts to improve indoor air quality reflect that. Building materials and the products used to clean and maintain them can all be significant sources of volatile organic compounds and other indoor air pollutants. Some of the greatest progress, the survey data showed, has come in energy cost savings. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents say they measure their energy savings and half conduct energy audits.
“Hospitals are seeing that energy efficiency is a good place to start,” says Clark Reed, director of the health care facilities division for the ENERGY STAR program. “The savings are tangible and they can then be used to increase further energy efficiency upgrades or fund other green initiatives going on at their hospital.”
Elsewhere, hospitals are making significant progress in reducing their waste streams diverted to landfills. The survey found that more than nine in 10 facilities are recycling cardboard, while 84 percent are recycling paper. More than two out of three respondents recycle beverage containers (67 percent) and more than half recycle plastic (58 percent) and metal (54 percent).
In terms of efforts that they plan to undertake within two years to reduce waste streams, the leading activities include implementing an ongoing process for tracking waste volume and cost for all waste streams—cited by 58 percent of the respondents—and conducting a waste management assessment for all materials and waste streams—cited by 56 percent of the respondents.
Water conservation strategies are moving at a more measured pace with 41 percent of the survey participants saying their facilities measure water savings. The most common water conservation initiatives used by respondents were flow control fixtures on faucets, such as motion sensors, and low-flow fixtures for toilets and urinals, both implemented by 55 percent in the last two years.
Hospitals are also working to measure the savings from environmental cleaning practices and efforts in this area seem to be accelerating. For instance, only 31 percent of the respondents measure savings from their cleaning practices. However, all 10 of the green cleaning initiatives listed on the survey were implemented by 49 percent or more of the respondents.
The 2010 Health Care Sustainable Operations Survey was sponsored by Practice Greenhealth, an Arlington, Va., dedicated to providing environmental solutions for the health care sector, and Georgia-Pacific, which manufactures a diverse range of products for health care. A complete report on the survey findings will be published in the July issue of Health Facilities Management (http://www.hfmmagazine.com).
About Health Facilities Management
Health Facilities Management, a publication of the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum group, is the nation’s leading magazine for those passionate about designing, building and maintaining safe, efficient and sustainable health care environments.
About Health Forum
Health Forum is a center for the exchange of credible information, insights and data to help hospital management and suppliers improve performance. We embrace innovation and knowledge where the leaders of hospitals, health systems and their suppliers are committed to improvement and trusted by their communities.
Bob Kehoe, executive editor, Health Facilities Management,