Green in action: Markham Stouffville Hospital

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Despite the promising trend of increased environmental awareness in health care, hospitals still produce waste at a rate unparalleled by most industries and remain as some of the most energy intensive facilities in many Canadian communities. Distancing itself from the norm, Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) leaves behind the familiarity of old practices to establish new procedures and encourage practices that positively affect behaviors and values.

While it is widely recognized by health care facilities that sustainability is crucial to their future success, the hurdle of skepticism, that of believing that one’s organization is actually able to make a difference, is one that can be challenging for many organizational leaders to help their staff overcome. “As an organization, we believe that we can make a difference and it’s our responsibility to do so.  The belief starts with our board and is built into all parts of our organization,” says Janet Beed, President and CEO, Markham Stouffville Hospital.  “Greening is a hospital-wide responsibility and is one that our staff has embraced.”

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The sustainability vision of MSH’s leadership team rests on two basic premises. First, caring for the community extends well beyond the walls of the organization and second, championing sustainability and utilizing innovative environmental practices complements as well as promotes the patient experience. As such, the multi-disciplinary greening committee promotes the sustainability values of the leadership team through both formal and informal methods in order to infuse the core principles of environmental responsibility into the hospital’s culture and safeguard the trust of their community.

“We have made the commitment to become the greenest MSH possible,” says Maria Pavone, director of facilities and support services and chair of the MSH greening committee. “Being mindful of this makes us accountable in seeking ethically sound, safe and environmentally responsible practices in our everyday roles.”

During the past few years of the organization’s growth, several strategic measures were used to make certain that the organization would not lose its environmental vision. Apart from expanding the recycling and green purchasing programs, the newly expanded and renovated MSH features a state-of-the-art building automation system, high efficiency light fixtures and a green roof.  Additionally, the Mondo Harmoni rubber flooring that is found throughout the buildings is entirely free of PVC, chlorine, plasticizers and heavy metals. These and a host of other green features have contributed to MSH’s pursuit of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.

Though the organization took such tactical steps, still it went further in order to embed sustainability into the culture. “Our corporate belief statements as well as our strategic plan underscore our commitment to environmental sustainability,” explains Pavone. “Environmental conservation is leveraged and recognized not only as a core competency but also as the right thing to do. It’s our way of contributing to the long-term sustainability of the health-care system and ensuring that we continue to expand and enhance our greening programs well into the future. “

Highlights of MSH’s greening initiatives and programs include its partnership with Markham District Energy (MDE) which supplies all of the hospital’s steam, hot water, chilled water, emergency and primary power. MSH also pioneered a dedicated high occupancy vehicle (HOV) parking lot to encourage staff carpooling.  Another highlight was the recent organization-wide call to action by MSH’s leaders for each department to reduce paper usage by at least 10%, creating an appreciation for the need to be green as well as emphasizing the ecological consequences of unnecessary printing.

Within this environmentally friendly facility, the MSH green team fosters commitment by creating sustainability milestones and stretch goals, engaging staff and the community and celebrating achievements. Employees that distinguish themselves as environmentally conscientious in their roles become eligible to be nominated and recognized by their peers as “MSH Green Champions”, an award endorsed by senior management.

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The hospital community is further engaged by the annual Greening and Sustainability Expo held each year on or around Earth Day. Staff, physicians and volunteers are educated about the resources available to them to incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day activities and patients and visitors are helped to appreciate how MSH partners with industry leaders to keep the hospital green.

As MSH works to lead by example, its greening efforts continue to be recognized and awarded. Last November, MSH was the proud recipient of the Ontario Hospital Association’s (OHA) Green Hospital of the Year award.

The OHA’s director of innovation and adoption, Anthony Jonker, explains that the Green Hospital of the Year award recognizes a hospital that has “demonstrated a significant organizational commitment to environmental sustainability.” The win was an especially great achievement for MSH as the hospital was cognizant that each vote that contributed to their success was inextricably linked to awareness of and confidence in their greening programs.

“Ontario hospitals play an important role in being leaders in greening,” says Beed.  “This isn’t an additional part of our work, this is our daily work. By working together and sharing ideas, we make hospitals greener and our communities greener and in the end, we all benefit.”

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