The Impact of the Health Care Sector on our Environment

It is understood that health care activities as a whole contribute 8 percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions — known contributors to climate change and the rise of pollution and disease. In its ongoing commitment to improve the health of the communities it serves, Kaiser Permanente recently announced a commitment to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and trimming overall energy consumption.

Kaiser Permanente registered approximately 819,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions during its baseline year of measuring (2008), and total emissions increased to 837,000 metric tons in 2010, the most recently reported year. The organization is now rolling out an aggressive strategy to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020, compared to its 2008 levels. The strategy includes plans to invest in clean and renewable energy sources while also targeting energy conservation measures, as well as green-building techniques in the construction of new buildings.

More info on this news is in this video from Kaiser Permanente.

Making our Health Care Environments Healthier

We talk a lot about healthy environments on this blog, and one important aspect of that is the greening of the health care sector.  Looking at the connection between environmental health and public health can lead hospitals and health care organizations to move toward green purchasing practices and more sustainable energy solutions.  In 2010, Kaiser Permanente launched its Sustainability Scorecard – the first of its kind in health care and a model for green purchasing in the sector.  The scorecard evaluates the health and environmental impacts of each medical item the organization purchases; it also encourages vendors and suppliers across the United States to provide greener products, and it requires them to provide information on their own company’s environmental commitment – including package recycling and the use of potentially harmful chemicals in their products (or the making and disposal of them).

This week, Kaiser Permanente took another step in its green efforts by converting its intravenous (IV) medical equipment, including IV solution bags and IV tubing, to more eco-friendly alternatives that are free of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), two chemicals used in plastics that have been shown to harm human and environmental health. Kaiser Permanente purchases 4.9 million IV tubing sets and 9.2 million solution bags per year. This single step affects nearly 100 tons of medical products.  The move also saves the organization close to $5 million a year, proving that going green can have a positive effect on health care costs.

Learn more in the video below.

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