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Facilities that demonstrate outstanding leadership in health care sustainability and decarbonization deserve to be recognized for their efforts, which is why the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) bestows its Energy to Care® Program’s Sustainability Champion Award every year to worthy applicants. 

This year, 10 different hospitals earned the Sustainability Champion distinction after tailoring exceptional programs and exhibiting strong leadership, dedicated staff and an overall commitment to sustainability that is deeply ingrained in each facility’s culture. The 2023 awardees are Ascension NE Wisconsin – Mercy Campus, Oshkosh, Wis.; Ascension Seton Medical Center Williamson Hospital, Round Rock, Texas; Ascension St. Vincent Fishers Hospital, Fishers, Ind.; Ascension St. Vincent Warrick, Boonville, Ind.; Ascension St. Vincent’s Medical Center Clay County Hospital, Middleburg, Fla.; Atrium Health Lincoln, Lincolnton, N.C.; Atrium Health Mercy, Charlotte, N.C.; Atrium Health Union, Monroe, N.C.; Aurora Medical Center — Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wis.; and Parkland Health – Main Campus, Dallas.

By meeting and exceeding key goals and metrics, demonstrating forward-thinking and accountability, and following best practices like conducting audits, monitoring progress and comparing their performance against key benchmarks, these 10 organizations stood out among a crowded field of candidates, according to Kara Brooks, LEED AP BD+C, senior associate director of sustainability for ASHE.

“This is only our second year after launching the award. In 2022, there were three winners, and this year 10. The increase shows that health care organizations are taking serious actions to be more sustainable,” she says.

Sustainability objectives pose significant challenges for every hospital as they strive to reduce their environmental impact. Large health care facilities must navigate a constant demand for power due to increasing lighting, heating and water needs, making their energy consumption substantial. The health care sector contributes approximately 8.5% of all annual greenhouse gas emissions, which underscores the importance of its involvement in global decarbonization efforts.

Sustainability Champion Award recipients have actively addressed these challenges by implementing various energy-efficiency initiatives, including rebalancing HVAC airflows and water flows, recalibrating occupancy sensors and thermostats, installing greener materials and LED lighting, modifying operating schedules for top efficiency and, in some cases, adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power. These measures can substantially lower expenses while decreasing carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and carbon footprints.

“All of the 2023 award winners are leaders in the field, and I am impressed by the work they have done,” Brooks says. “For instance, the five Ascension hospital winners have committed to counteract the effects of climate change and enhance green thinking across their organizations by setting key goals for energy, greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste reduction; Parkland Health established a team dedicated to greening the operating room through waste reduction, single-use device reduction, sterilization and other initiatives; Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh utilized on-site operations staff to install a solar array that can provide enough electricity annually to power seven homes; and Atrium Health’s sustainability pledge focuses on energy reduction, air quality, waste reduction and team engagement across its three award-winning hospitals.”

Initially named the ASHE Energy to Care Champion Award in 2016, the accolade was re-christened the Energy to Care Sustainability Champion Award in 2022 to broaden its focus on sustainability. ASHE has also introduced more rigorous criteria for this honor, which now include the need for quantifiable data to support sustainability metrics. 

To qualify for the honor, hospitals now must achieve an Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR® score of 75 or higher, possess ENERGY STAR certification and diligently track energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions using the ASHE Energy to Care Dashboard. Furthermore, hospitals must establish a green team, assign a sustainability leader, and publish a sustainability statement. Any facility that meets these conditions is granted the Energy to Care Sustainability Champion Award.

“I’m hopeful that the work these winners have done to deserve this recognition will inspire others to strive to engage in sustainability initiatives, set goals, empower staff and ultimately earn the award in the future. I am also optimistic that more organizations will be inspired to apply for the award in the coming years, as the 10 recipients likely represent only a fraction of the number of eligible organizations,” Brooks says.

The Energy to Care Sustainability Champions are profiled on the following pages, and winners of other 2023 Energy to Care Awards are here.