Hospital’s ‘Go Green Team’ celebrates many accomplishments

The team at Ross Memorial Hospital (RMH) works hard to be a responsible neighbour, a good corporate citizen and a community leader in environmental awareness. The hospital and its “Go Green Team” are proud of their accomplishments over the past three years.

In September 2011, RMH launched a “save a little … save a watt” campaign, which encourages all staff members to do their part to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This energy awareness campaign is designed to make staff aware of how doing something as simple as turning off a light when it is not needed can add up to substantial savings in both costs and the impact to the environment.

The campaign encourages staff to turn off lights, computers and printers, and take the stairs whenever possible. By doing so, RMH has the potential to further reduce its carbon footprint by 28 tonnes by this coming Earth Day.

This internal campaign complements a variety of green projects that have recently taken place at the hospital.

Energy conservation initiatives within the Maintenance Department include a boiler retrofit that has reduced the usage of natural gas, and re-engineering to reduce water consumption. High efficiency energy-savers have replaced almost all hallway lights and motion detectors lights and touchless faucets have been installed.

In 2010, the hospital engaged Honeywell engineers and auditors to assess water, heating and air conditioning, lighting, ventilation and air quality systems. In 2011, Honeywell began an energy retrofit, involving work on air handler zone controls and scheduling, water saving measures, and a new air handler for the kitchen area, with an estimated energy and operational savings of $170,000 per year.

Other initiatives include a vermiculture program, which earned the hospital the Ontario Hospital Association’s Green Healthcare Award and commendation from Accreditation Canada. The program involves tens of thousands of red-wiggler worms which help to speed up the composting of food waste. The soil created from the compost enriches the Continuing Care therapy garden, in which patients help cultivate herbs and vegetables. These are then used by the cooks in the Nutrition Services department as they create healthy meals to sell in the cafeteria.

The recycling program has been enhanced; packaging has been reduced in the kitchen and styrofoam containers have been replaced with reusable cups and environmentally sensitive alternatives. “Recycle centres” make it easy for all staff to sort their garbage and recyclables. And the Just-in-Time stockless inventory process significantly reduces the amount of packaging that arrives at the hospital. Suppliers also take back all cardboard packaging used in shipping thereby reducing the overall amount that RMH sends to landfill.

Together, RMH and Greentec Recycling Solutions are making it easier for staff to dispose of unwanted electronics safely and responsibly. Greentec picks-up unwanted electronics from the hospital as well as personal items from staff for recycling.

Housekeeping staff use new environmentally-friendly cleaning products and water-reducing cleaning techniques. Chemical-free lawn maintenance is practised, and through the implementation of the “Shred-it” program, the hospital is saving trees from destruction.

RMH has partnered with Daniels International to implement a unique Sharpsmart sharps containment system that improves the safety of healthcare workers when disposing of sharps and lessens the environmental impact at the same time. By reusing containers instead of throwing them out, significant reduction to overall waste volumes can be achieved. In fact, it’s projected that over 3.2 tonnes of plastic 0.1 tonne of cardboard will be diverted from landfill each year.

Hospital volunteers have been recruited to sew reusable grocery bags from the blankets that wrap sterile surgical instruments. To date, more than 500 of these bags have been sold by the Nutrition Services Team.

One green initiative captured the enthusiasm of the entire hospital team. On Earth Day, 2011, the Go Green team encouraged all departments in the hospital to “adopt” a garden. There are 16 gardens at RMH, varying in size. The project is an effort to ensure the grounds remain beautiful yet cost-effective to maintain. It’s also a great way for staff to show some pride in their hospital.

The hospital’s next green challenge involves a Local Food Pilot Project, which is investigating the viability of local food purchases by the hospital. RMH is leading the project, working with partners, Sysco, the City of Kawartha Lakes, and the Coalition for Green Health Care.

RMH is committed to supporting its community, and believes that this project could be mutually beneficial. The hospital is proud of its Nutrition Services team and its reputation for providing meals that are “not typical hospital fare”. Despite mounting pressure, the Nutrition Services department has remained committed to scratch cooking, even for patient meals.

The Ross Memorial is eager to complete the pilot project, and – hopefully – set a positive example for the community, other central Ontario municipalities, and the health sector at large.