Hospitals' Environmental Sustainability Depends on HR

Lena Weiner
Health Leaders Media
April 20, 2015
Hospitals and health systems can mitigate the effects of their copious energy consumption and waste generation by engaging with staff. Here's how one Michigan health system's sustainability efforts are boosted by its HR department.
The Hippocratic Oath is "first do no harm," but hospitals are among the greatest generators of waste and consumers of energy. Ironically, it's no secret that inefficient use of resources have a negative impact on everyone's health. 
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average hospital contributes approximately 7,000 tons of waste daily—an amount which includes hazardous, infectious, and solid waste. Hospitals consume large amounts of electricity and water for domestic use, heating, cooling, and landscaping purposes.
But as healthcare systems look for ways to reduce consumption and shrink waste, the HR department is often front and center of these efforts.
"We have quite a few staff who are engaged in our sustainability program, and a lot of them are human resources staff," says Sarah Chartier, sustainability program manager at Spectrum Health, a not-for-profit health system based in Grand Rapids, MI. "They are ambassadors for our sustainability program, and have worked to include our environment-friendly activities in the employee orientation that occurs with all of our new employees."