Greening healthcare: Sustainability top priority

1041

Health and the environment are closely connected: you cannot have healthy people without a healthy environment. There are hundreds of hospitals in Ontario, all of which consume significant amounts of energy, create waste and emit various pollutants. To protect the environment and the health of the province’s citizens, the health care sector needs to incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into the delivery of care.

One organization that has demonstrated its commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen is Runnymede Healthcare Centre. In April 2012, the hospital became a  member of Greening Health Care. This innovative, federal program supports health care facilities working together to lower energy costs and raise environmental performance, while improving patient care. Since joining the program, Runnymede has made numerous operational changes to its 180,000 square foot, 200-bed facility. In particular, the hospital has come up with inventive and cost-effective solutions to better manage waste, reduce energy use and conserve water.

MORE: GREENING HEALTH CARE

Waste management

In November 2012, the hospital launched Runnymede Recycles to better manage waste and divert recyclables from landfills. To encourage on-site participation, recycling stations comprised of 3-stream receptacles that separate general waste from paper, cans and bottles were placed on every floor of the hospital and in the cafeteria. But since you can recycle more than just paper and plastic, Runnymede went on to collaborate with its vendors and began recycling batteries through Stericycle, wooden skids through Pallet Canada and grease through Rothsay, all of which contributes to environmental preservation by providing a safe disposal alternative to landfills and incineration.

Further, the hospital purchases ecofriendly products, such as refillable wipes, recycled paper, and reusable microfiber cloths and mops that have reduced chemical use by 92 per cent. To date, Runnymede has achieved a 72 per cent capture rate of recyclables and diverted over 11 metric tonnes of waste from landfills. This is equal to saving 210 trees and 39 cubic metres of landfill space.

Energy reduction

To maximize energy use at the facility, a number of feasible no-cost and low-cost solutions were implemented. From something as simple as replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LED lights equipped with motion sensor technology, the hospital has seen significant energy and cost savings. Fan system schedules were adjusted to align with occupancy times in offices and patient rooms, which resulted in a savings of nearly 60,000 kWh of energy. Pressures on the steam system were also adjusted, leading to a savings of approximately $3,000/year in gas, and space temperatures were increased from 13 to 18-degrees Celsius, lowering the hospital’s gas use by 18.2 per cent in 2012 from the previous year.

MORE: CANADA’S GREENEST HOSPITAL

To remain fiscally responsible, when it comes to higher cost projects, the hospital continues to focus on those that yield a return on investment in less than three years. For instance, Runnymede spent $25,000 on an air conditioning optimization initiative that provided a $20,000 incentive cheque from Toronto Hydro for making the improvement. This enables the hospital to not only conserve energy, but also save money that can be reinvested in patient care. An ongoing partnership with a Toronto Hydro Roving Energy Manager ensures Runnymede will continue to manage energy use and cut costs in years to come.

Through big changes, small tweaks, education and leadership, Runnymede has lessened its environmental impact, cut operating costs and improved the health of the community. The hospital’s green efforts were recently celebrated with a number of awards. In May 2013, Runnymede received the Greening Health Care 5% Club Award from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for lowering total energy use by more than 5 per cent. In September 2013, the hospital became one of only 29 organizations in North America to receive the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) Clean Air Award for demonstrating air filtration and maintenance best practices. Additionally, the hospital received incentive cheques from Enbridge for gas savings and from Toronto Hydro for saving over 34,000 kWh of electricity during the last fiscal year as part of the Ontario Power Authority’s saveONenergy program. Runnymede was also named one of five finalists for the Ontario Hospital Association’s (OHA) Green Hospital of the Year Award that recognizes hospitals that demonstrate excellence in reducing the impact the health care industry has on the environment.