4 Ways Hospitals Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

The United State healthcare system accounts for 8.5% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Lowering that number and reducing the industry’s carbon footprint will require out-of-the-box thinking and creative solutions to difficult problems.

This post explores how hospitals and other healthcare facilities can begin adopting sustainable practices and get their decarbonization efforts off on the right foot.

Reduce Energy Use

Many hospitals are attempting to reduce their carbon footprint by using less energy.

UW Health, the integrated health system of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has reduced energy use intensity (EUI), by 24% since 2016. A major facet of achieving this goal was a 31% reduction in the amount of energy used per square foot, made possible by a variety of tactics. UW Health increased the use of natural light, made HVAC scheduling changes and installed HVAC occupancy sensors so major systems wouldn’t run in empty rooms, and upgraded to LED lighting.

Hospital facilities leaders looking for quick wins that can show executives the social and financial impacts of reducing energy use should consider these tactics. They may also consider shifting to renewable energy. Hospitals are installing their own solar panels to power their facilities, while others are making it a point to buy electricity from renewable energy sources.

Any of these strategies, individually or in combination, will help hospitals alter their energy use.

Incentivize Staff to Change Travel Habits

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that there are 6.6 million hospital employees in the United States. Between doctors, nurses, maintenance teams and other support staff, that’s a staggering amount of people traveling to and from hospitals every day.

An article in the National Library of Medicine recommends that hospitals encourage sustainable travel practices. This encouragement can take many different shapes, from embracing videoconferencing and remote collaboration where possible, to providing financial reimbursements or free parking for employees who commute in hybrid or electric vehicles.

It is unrealistic to expect that all 6.6 million American hospital employees can or will adopt sustainable travel habits. However, offering them incentives may inspire change that makes a significant impact on the environment.

Find Opportunities for Reuse

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has diverted 50 tons of plastic every year, representing a major advancement in the hospital’s sustainability practices. They’re doing so by switching to reusing “sharps” containers – thinks needles, syringes and the like, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Rather than tossing full containers, the hospital is now disposing of the containers’ contents safely, cleaning the containers and putting them back to use in the hospital. To date, this practice has prevented more than 150,000 sharps dispensers from entering landfills.

These are the sorts of creative solutions for the reuse of hospital facilities leaders must consider as they seek to reduce their carbon footprint. They can also consider using devices that can be cleaned, tested, sterilized and reused to avoid creating needless waste and cutting down on supply chain emissions.

Leverage GPOs

Nealy all of America’s 7,000+ hospitals belong to at least one Group Purchasing Organization, or GPO, according to the Healthcare Supply Chain Association. A GPO enables hospitals and other healthcare providers to negotiate discounts for supplies and services from vendors they all use. GPOs, given the size of their membership, can wield a lot of power. A GPO’s members, for example, can insist that its vendors engage in environmentally-sustainable practices. This pressure could force the businesses that market to hospitals to make eco-friendly changes.

Gathering Data: The First Step Toward Reducing Carbon Footprint

Before implementing any single decarbonization initiative, or any combination of initiatives, they will need to gather a wealth of facilities data. After all, how can hospital leaders set goals for emissions reduction if they don’t know their current emissions status?

One way to gather the data necessary to make informed decisions is to conduct a facility condition assessment, or FCA. A thorough FCA provides objective data about building and asset conditions, including sources of high energy use and potential waste. Gordian offers a range of cost-effective and accurate facility condition data collection solutions that can help leaders plan a path towards achieving carbon reduction goals, by understanding the capital investment that such goal attainment, will require. From statistical models that offer high-level insights into facilities without a single person stepping foot in a building, to self-assessment solutions and comprehensive condition evaluations conducted by engineers with specific areas of expertise, we have assessment options tailored to the needs of your organization. Selecting and completing the right facility condition assessment is a good first step to understanding the capital investment needed to prioritize carbon footprint reduction goals.

About Gordian

Gordian is the leader in facility and construction cost data, software and services for all phases of the building lifecycle. A pioneer of Job Order Contracting, Gordian’s solutions also include proprietary RSMeans data construction costs and Facility Intelligence Solutions. From planning to design, to procurement, construction and operations, Gordian’s solutions help clients maximize efficiency, optimize cost savings and increase building quality.