UW Health: Sustainability effort makes progress on Earth Day

4/20/2015 
 
CONTACT: Emily Kumlien,(608) 265-8199, (608) 516-9154, ekumlien@uwhealth.org 
 
As Earth Day 2015 approaches, UW Health is stepping up efforts to reduce its environmental footprint and follow more sustainable practices. 
 
In the process of taking care of patients, hospitals generate a large and diverse waste stream. In 2014, environmental sustainability became a part of UW Health’s mission statement and prompted several changes. 
 
•Replacement of plastic water bottles with boxed water in the cafeteria, vending machines and catering because boxed water has a smaller environmental footprint with better packaging materials and shipping methods. 
 
•Implementation of recycling rounds where availability, convenience, colors and sizes of the recycle bins are evaluated and improvements are made. Research shows successful recycling programs have appropriate infrastructure. 
 
•Reprocessing of single-use devices by working with a company to see what medical equipment can be sterilized, reused or recycled to divert hospital waste from the landfill. 
 
•Development of a blue sterile-wrap recycling program: UW Health is working with a recycler who can take this material (used to keep medical supplies sterile) and convert it into non-cosmetic automobile parts, another huge landfill diversion which does not require any additional transportation footprint (no extra trucks on the road). 
 
•The installation of LED tube lamps throughout hospital campus. 
 
•Implementation of energy conservation measures in heating, ventilating, air conditioning and lighting that will save the hospital more than $500,000 per year in energy costs. 
 
•Having a recycling and sustainability overview a part of new employee orientation. 
 
•Implementation of UW Health’s first administrative policy and computer-based training on sustainability and recycling. 
 
•Implementation of paper and printing standards: all network printers are set to print double-sided automatically, and all paper purchased must have recycled content. 
 
Over the last seven years the commitment to sustainability has grown from three staffers working on recycling to a 40-member Environmental Sustainability Committee with a full-time sustainability-program coordinator. There are also 20 “green teams,” groups of employees who work together to improve sustainability at the unit, department, clinic and facility level through the organization. The committee encourages the green teams’ efforts to make sure all UW Health staff knows the latest developments. 
 
“Environmental sustainability is in our mission statement; thus, it is a part of our decision-making process at UW Health. We are also very excited that an overview of our program is now a part of new-employee orientation,” said Shannon Bunsen, UW Health sustainability-program coordinator. 
 
“We realized there was this great energy around sustainability in different levels of the organization. Employees want to help and make an environmental impact,” said Bunsen. “In January 2015, our committee held its first strategic planning retreat, where we developed subcommittees with goals and action plans to really increase our efforts moving forward. Some may think sustainability is just about recycling, but our efforts go beyond that.”