Photo by Jules Clifford, EPNAC photography
Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, of Perkins+Will, New York City, delivers a keynote speech at CleanMed 2015 in Portland, Ore.


The recent CleanMed 2015 conference in Portland, Ore., served as further proof that the health care industry continues to make progress in its sustainability mission.

That’s good, because the sustainability stakes appear to be higher with each year as concerns grow over issues related to climate change and their potential impact on our health. Health care needs to walk the talk when it comes to keeping the environment safe for all by starting with sustainable operation of its own facilities.

Gary Cohen, president and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm, Reston, Va., and Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, sustainable health care design leader, Perkins+Will, New York City, drove that point home during their respective keynote speeches. Yes, sustainability means potential financial savings, but also critical health benefits, too.

Achieving those goals are where CleanMed comes in. The 2015 conference provided ample opportunity to build anyone’s sustainability acumen with its 68 educational sessions, workshops, tours and trade show.

Photo credit: Jules Clifford, EPNAC photography
The crowd at the CleanMed 2015 trade show in May checks out new products and services for sustainable health care.

The estimated 1,000 attendees heard experts share their experiences and knowledge on how to deal with health care’s most pressing sustainability challenges. Speakers covered issues from reducing energy and water use to purchasing environmentally friendly products, services and food to reducing toxins, chemicals and waste.

Many of the educational sessions focused on how sustainability can help to drive hospital and health care company efforts to meet the triple aim of improving the patient experience of care, improving population health and reducing health care costs.

“There are strong and definitive connections between human health, environmental health and financial health, but managing those connections to drive improvement in all three is not always apparent,” says Jeffrey Brown, executive director of Practice Greenhealth, Reston, Va.

“Those institutions leading the transformation of health care toward a more sustainable model were here at CleanMed and inspired and equipped us all with knowledge and practical approaches to get measurable results in all three of these priority areas,” he says.

The beauty of sustainability is that progress is measurable. The 2014 Sustainability Benchmark Report shows that Practice Greenhealth’s top achieving hospitals and health care systems saved more than $110 million through their sustainability activities. They were recognized at a special award ceremony and dinner at CleanMed.

It’s also worth noting that Jeffrey Thompson, M.D. and CEO of Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, Wis., received the first-ever Visionary Leader Award for helping Gundersen to achieve broad sustainability excellence, including becoming the first net-zero energy health system in the United States.

Now that’s walking the talk.

Next year’s conference will be held May 17-19 next year at the Omni Dallas Hotel in Dallas. For more information on health care sustainability, visit