Scripps Green Hospital is taking steps to make health care less harmful to the environment. In October 2007, it launched Living Green, a campaign designed to scale-down consumer appetites, reduce waste and save energy. Since then, the hospital has instituted more than a dozen earth-friendly projects, and green ideas have a permanent place in the organization’s operations plan.
“We are constantly examining our surroundings and trying to reduce the waste stream,” said Rebecca Cofinas, Green Hospital’s vice president of operations. She hatched the campaign and paved the way for process improvement measures that are easier on the earth. For her, Living Green is common sense. “The health of our community is tied to the health of our environment. We can’t care for one and ignore the other.”
The Living Green campaign has a committee. From clinicians to cafeteria crew members, it includes participants from diverse departments within the hospital. They gather once a month to brainstorm ideas and get a progress report on projects implemented thus far.
With California enduring severe drought conditions, water conservation is the committee’s primary concern in 2009. The hospital is moving forward with plans to use reclaimed water for outdoor plant irrigation and non-potable purposes. Maintenance crews are installing flow control valves in high usage sinks such as those in the operating room, where clinicians scrub for several minutes at a time in preparation for surgeries. The new spigots produce less water with more pressure. The hand washers won’t notice a big difference, but the financial team will. Combined, the water wise valves and the reclamation project are estimated to cut the hospital’s water expenses in half.
“These conservation projects are our biggest to date and the timing of their implementation is impeccable,” asserts Karen Trapane, safety manager and chair of the Living Green committee. “With the nation in the midst of an economic crisis and the state stuck in a drought, there has never been a greater need for frugality when it comes to our resources and our finances.”
Living Green has other water conservation efforts on tap. Gardeners are replacing thirsty plants with indigenous plants that drink less. In the bathrooms, the maintenance team is planning to install waterless urinals and exchange old toilets for low flow porcelain bowls.
“Green Hospital is living up to its name,” said Trapane. “There’s more work to do, but the commitment to doing it is there.”
Living Green began as a grassroots effort. With Cofinas’ support, employees with a passion for environmental issues took steps to reduce the footprint the facility leaves behind – like Britta Ortlieb, the hospital’s manager of food services. As the first chair of the Living Green committee, she had to have foresight and a little courage.
“Sometimes these environmentally-friendly projects cost more in the short run, but in the long run they offer savings,” said Ortlieb. “In the big picture, they pay off in ways we don’t initially see on the balance sheet. You have to take a leap of faith in order to reap the benefits.”
Going green inside a hospital poses many challenges. With patient safety the number one priority at all times, there are always special considerations. Projects designed to better preserve the earth can’t interfere with infection control measures or pose a supply problem.
“It takes careful thought and teamwork, but the end results make our efforts worthwhile,” said Ortlieb. “Everyone involved is not just doing their job. They are going above and beyond to make a difference. That’s good for Scripps – and it is good for the environment.”
Learn more about the Living Green projects designed to reduce waste and conserve resources at Scripps Green Hospital.