A Revisit of Sorts

Just recently I wrote about the healing environment of a hospital (you can read it here). I think I got the point across that I'm not a huge fan of doing this just to make it "bigger, better and more luxurious." Lately, due to the expanding coverage of environmental issues, thanks in part to "An Inconvenient Truth" and recent Earth Day, environmental issues have been on my mind. I took stock of my own personal carbon footprint and realized what I was doing and how I was contributing to making the problem of global warming worse. Then I got thinking further.

According to Health Care Without Harm, an organization that is trying to bring "greener" measures into health care, hospitals generate over 2 million tons of waste a year, not to mention the environmental footprint large institutions create. That is more than quite a bit. As I began looking around for more info, I realized that while people are starting to care, it isn't enough. So I began looking locally. Two local hospitals have either been built in the last 2 years or had major additions. One is actually LEED certified, meaning it has been certified as a high performance green building. The other does not seem to be. That hospital, Southwest Washington Medical Center, which was the genesis of the previous blog post, appears to have gone to the bare minimums to create in addition to a healing environment, one that heals its environment. It was far more important to create a "resort" style experience than one that also makes less of an impact on the local environment. As for waste, there doesn't seem to be an accurate accounting, but from working, I know we create a great deal of waste. We use products made of PVC, laced with phalates, coated with BFRs, relying on single-use non-sustainable products. I know many things must be single-use only, but some do not have to be. Not to mention the chemicals we use to clean and the bio-hazardous waste our patients create. I figure there has to be a better way.

Many talk without practicing what they preach. While I know that it will take time and effort to change where I work, I can do thing sin my life to help. I figured that the things my wife and I have done already will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by over 4 metric tons a year if we continue on the road we have started down. I wonder how much of an impact could be made by large health systems trying to do the same?

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