Today marks the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration, which is held annually on April 22nd to help demonstrate worldwide support for environmental sustainability.
Environmental sustainability plays an important role in the healthcare industry, from manufacturing facilities to hospitals to medical practices. In fact, a study published by the Commonwealth Fund found that sustainability efforts in hospitals could save the healthcare industry up to $5.4 billion over five years and $15 billion over 10 years.
We have been researching ways that the healthcare industry could become more sustainable. One initiative that we came across was The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). This is a national campaign that began in April 2012, and was designed to implement a new approach to improving environmental health and sustainability in the healthcare sector. Eleven of the largest, most influential U.S. health systems, comprised of approximately 500 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power, worked with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth to create HHI as a guide for hospitals to improve sustainability.
The HHI is a set of six challenge areas designed to help hospitals nationwide commit to sustainability goals and track their environmental efforts. Each challenge area targets one of six broad-based sustainability impact areas:
- Engaging leadership towards an organization-wide sustainability initiative
- Offering healthier food for staff, patients and visitors
- Reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
- Reducing waste and increasing recycling
- Transitioning to safer chemicals in materials and products
- Purchasing environmentally safe and friendly products
The HHI also provides a free framework to support the hospitals in taking on any of the six challenges, as well as how-to guides for each challenge area, with strategies for implementation. To read more about each of these challenge areas and support framework, visit the Healthier Hospitals Initiative website.
Over the course of the 3 years since the HHI began, several of the HHI challenge areas have been implemented in thousands of hospitals across the country. Today, a few of the results of these challenges has shown that they are indeed making a positive impact.
- 350% increase in spending on local-sustainable food for patient, staff and visitor meals
- 65% of participating hospitals purchasing healthier beverage alternatives
- 33% increase in single-use medical device reprocessing, saving over $45 million in medical device disposal
- Over 121,000 tons of hospital materials recycled, plus an additional of construction and demolition waste kept out of landfills through resuse and recycling.
As you can see, the healthcare industry continues to make great strides toward environmental sustainability. We will continue to keep you updated as we learn about more advancements in sustainability like the HHI. Subscribe to our blog to stay updated.