The Healthier Hospitals Initiative reports that sustainability continues to make gains among its members.
Photo courtesy of Yale-New Haven Hospital

The number of hospitals engaged in sustainability continues to increase along with participation in actions that can help them to save money, benefit patient and staff health, and improve the environment, according to the 2013 Milestone Report released by the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI).

HHI launched in April 2012 with the backing of 12 of the largest U.S. health systems comprising nearly 500 hospitals to create a guide to reduce energy use and waste, purchase safer and less toxic products, and purchase and serve more healthful food.

About two and a half years later, HHI now counts an estimated 1,100 hospitals among its membership with 630 submitting data documenting their sustainability efforts, according to HHI.

Based on 160 hospitals that reported at least two years of data ending in 2013, there was an aggregate 2 percent decrease in energy use. Of those, 56 hospitals showed at least a 3 percent energy reduction.

Seema Wadhwa, director of HHI, a program of Practice Greenhealth, Reston, Va., and director of sustainability for Inova Health System, Falls Church, Va., calls the modest reduction in energy use significant because it reflects progress in the face of increased use of devices and technology dependent on the power grid. The energy reduction equates to a 51,000-metric ton decrease in greenhouse gas emissions,

"We're trending in the right direction, but we know we still have a lot of work to do," Wadhwa says about reduced energy-use efforts.
HHI-member hospitals continue to make strides in other areas:

• In 2013, 274 hospitals recycled waste at rates greater than HHI's target level of 15 percent with an aggregate recycling rate of nearly 23 percent, representing 124,000 tons of waste. The report states that opportunities exist for increased rates, especially through the use of integrated recycling.

• The number of hospitals that are purchasing GreenSeal- or EcoLogo-certified cleaning products because they are safer and more sustainable increased to 102 in 2013 from 21 in the prior year. The percentage of sustainable cleaning supplies purchased rose to 48 percent in 2013 from 38 percent in 2012.

• The number of hospitals that purchased furniture, medical devices and other products free of polyvinyl chloride and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate increased to 192 in 2013 from 122 in the prior year, the report shows.

• The trend toward purchasing reprocessed single-use medical devices also continues to increase: By purchasing reprocessed devices, 192 hospitals reported a total savings of $45 million in 2013 compared with 122 hospitals that reported $34 million saved in 2012.

Wadhwa is encouraged by the report as it shows that more HHI-member hospitals are tracking and reporting data across the sustainability spectrum. "Our ultimate goal is to make sustainability ubiquitous across the industry. We have work to do, but we are making a measurable impact," she says.

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