Going green has been a trend recently, partly due to its popularity as a concept and to a genuine concern for the way human behavior is affecting the planet. Many businesses and facilities are advertising greener products, services, and building codes, and the demand for the coveted LEED certification has gone through the roof as companies scramble to look more altruistic and forward thinking.
However, is this environmentally friendly trend only available to some types of businesses or buildings, or can all buildings go green? One example that might strain the discussion is hospital buildings, for which going green might be a secondary priority to saving lives.
Hospitals are Wasteful
Although hospitals do need to use resources when they are helping patients and may not be able to substitute all of their traditional methods for greener options, hospitals can, and should, easily make some changes. Hospitals are one of the biggest culprits of waste due to various factors:
• According to the site Sustainability Roadmap hospitals can produce up to 25 pounds of waste, per patient, per day. When you consider how many patients fill a hospital at any given time, and add to this number the percentage of waste that is radioactive or toxic, the results are astonishing
• Hospitals also have a large amount of what Sustainability Roadmap terms “regulated waste.” This includes special materials and biohazard waste that must be dealt with by special authorities and is regulated by various protection and health agencies
• In general, because the buildings are so large and have so many occupants using their resources, hospitals can use far more energy just running lights, machines, offices, and cafeterias than most other buildings and organizations
• Most of the supplies that hospitals use, such as plastic cups and bedpans, gloves, and medical supplies are all disposed of and put into landfills. While it is good to have sterile needles, catheter tubes, and other supplies, the products themselves as well as their packaging create an unruly amount of waste
What to Do?
Going green can be simple for all facilities, including hospitals. While they obviously should put healthcare on the top of the priority list, there are some steps building managers and practitioners can take to reduce hospital waste and become more green. Hospitals are “going green” all over the world, and many non profits outline their methodology in documents available to the public, such as Sustainability Solutions in Canada. Building managers can follow the steps outlined in these documents, or can also implement their own unique programs.
If building managers turn off unnecessary extra energy sources and encourage employees to do the same, the hospital could deter much of its waste. For examples, large medical machines such as x ray machines and CT scanners should be shut off when not in use. Soda machines have optional light functions that when turned off during both the day can really save precious energy.
Even without programs of support, hospital employees, from cafeteria workers to physicians, can think more before they throw out supplies. Many electronics and recyclable materials get put in the dump as part of hospital waste, and even supplies that could be reused. Taking the extra second to move the recycle bin closer and put waste in its proper receptacle can make a difference In addition, turning off lights in patient rooms and unused stations when they are not needed, such as in broad daylight or while patients are sleeping can make a huge impact over time in decreasing energy consumption.
Hospitals Can Go Green
Even though hospitals need to prioritize healthcare initiatives, there is no excuse for producing unnecessary waste on a large scale. By becoming green, hospitals will not only save costs for themselves, and subsequently have a larger budget to buy life saving medical equipment and hire practitioners, but they will also be setting an important example in their community. When hospitals go green, everyone benefits.
Article by Rachel Oda, a medical biller who recycles when she can, trying to get her office as green as possible. She writes for www.medicalcodingandbillingcertification.net where you can find a certification program to learn how to talk to both hospitals and insurance companies.