Healthcare News & Insights

Going green in your hospital is cost-effective

Going green is an admirable goal for a hospital. But did you know it can also save money?

According to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, if every hospital in the country implemented a few key sustainability measures, the move would save over $5.4 billion in five years. By 10 years, savings would hit over $15 billion.

Researchers came to this conclusion by examining several hospitals that have already gone green and extrapolating their results to the healthcare system as a whole.

Hospitals in the study achieved the best results through an approach combining waste reduction and energy-use reduction.

Waste reduction

Just cutting back on waste alone would produce substantial savings in hospitals. The report says that healthcare facilities create 6,660 tons of waste each day. Much of it is placed in the ubiquitous “red bag” medical waste containers — yet 85% of a hospital’s waste is non-hazardous.

And not separating waste properly can be costly: Processing hazardous waste can be up to 20 times more expensive than normal waste processing, not to mention the harmful impact on the environment.

Operating rooms are particularly wasteful, especially with all of their “one-use-only” packaging for equipment and disposable products.

To minimize this waste in your hospital, make sure recycling containers are easily accessible in every area, and encourage staff and patients to use them for non-hazardous waste and trash.

Regarding supplies: Consider purchasing devices that can be sterilized and used multiple times instead of single-use medical devices. And look into greener packaging options, such as reusable hard storage cases for surgical equipment, instead of the blue sterile wrap that’s thrown away after one use.

Energy-use reduction

Hospitals are some of the most energy-intensive entities in the country. In fact, energy usage can suck up between 1% and 3% of a hospital’s operating budget, and it’s a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide emissions.

There’s simple things your hospital can do to reduce its use of energy, such as adjusting the heating and cooling in unoccupied spaces and checking for air and water leaks. Hospitals can also look into purchasing more energy-efficient equipment or better maintaining the equipment they have.

Energy-efficient upgrades that hospitals could consider include:

  • lighting upgrades
  • occupancy sensors for public areas
  • solar film on windows, and
  • thermostatic valves on radiators/heaters.

What’s the cost?

If you think going greener at your hospital will prove costly, think again: Many of the changes implemented by hospitals in the study ended up saving the hospitals more money in the long run, even in cases where the hospital paid for upgrades.

There’s options for cash-strapped hospitals, too. Some of the changes, such as more closely monitoring indoor temperature levels, don’t cost the hospitals a thing.

So if you haven’t been working to create a culture of sustainability in your hospital, now’s the time.

Start by assembling a “green team” made up of staffers from various departments, and have members come together regularly to discuss the feasibility of making your hospital greener.

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