The ‘How To Guide’ on becoming green at your facility

When I began the journey to becoming “green”, I realized, first and foremost it is important to choose your cheerleaders and champions. These are the people in the organization that believe being environmentally accountable is as important as being financially accountable and every organization has them. Seek them out and harness their enthusiasm and ideas. They will become important in disseminating your message. They’re easy to find as they will be the ones responding to your first correspondence regarding the “green” topic with excellent ideas and success stories from previous work experiences.

The next step is to get the “buy in” from the top down. You can do this several ways: One is to present your environmental plan to the senior leadership team, expressing the importance of being environmentally friendly. While the focus may be on patient care and there is not always a cost benefit to being environmentally accountable, you must convince others it is the right thing to do. Where better to start then at the top? Your message will carry more importance when supported by the CEO and Senior Administration.

Getting the “buy in” from staff and the general public is the next logical step. You can do this by making your message and its impact personal. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so make use of them. Let’s say you wanted to get the message out about diverting thousands of pounds of waste generated per year from landfill. Show a picture of a child’s playground or backyard today in the year 2005 and then beside it show a picture of what that same location might look like in 2020 if we don’t take a more proactive approach to reduce, recycle and reuse. Show a picture of a garbage dump with a caption stating: ” If we don’t do our part, our child’s backyard will soon look like this.” The message hits home and everyone can relate to it.

Next, choose some attainable goals. Take small steps rather than tackle huge initiatives. This way you will create a win/win and generate momentum and enthusiasm and a sense of success to step into your next project.

One way in which you can motivate success is to reward through incentives. Most people love a challenge and even more love rewards. One easy way to get the ball rolling is to put out a challenge to one or more units in your hospital/facility and have these areas go head to head for improvement in a certain area of “greening”. It could be energy reduction, pollution reduction, recycling improvement – you name it the sky’s the limit. Publicize the challenge in your internal hospital newsletter and even take it a step further and publicize it in your local newspaper. If you were to take something as simple as recycling improvements, you could monitor what percentage of recycle they currently generate in comparison to their general waste that is destined for landfill. Monitor this for a period of four weeks and record your findings. Announce the contest has begun and monitor for another four weeks. Post your findings announcing the winner and reward with a prize such as a gift basket, certificate, etc. Soon other areas will be stepping up to the plate to participate and make a difference. Awareness is everything and you have just educated the masses while involving the few.

Building partnerships is important also. Build partnerships with those that can get the message out there i.e. the media. As well, ensure you are building partnerships with suppliers that can assist you in your greening cause. Many suppliers have their own initiatives which will benefit your cause such as selling you paper products that have been 100 per cent recycled or using 50 per cent less packaging materials than most other manufacturers. Don’t be afraid to explore uncharted territories. Just because you may be the first to pilot a green initiative in your province doesn’t necessarily equate to risk or failure. In fact, you may become a trend setter. RVH was one of the first hospitals to pilot Blue Zone’s innovative technology of recapturing anesthetic gases thus reducing harmful emissions back into the environment. This project has been very successful and has gained us notoriety in our profession.

Network with other facilities to see what they are doing. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel if it has already been done elsewhere and been successful. By the same token, know what is happening in the industry and learn from others’ mistakes/failures. Ensure you get to know your facility in depth and what each individual department is doing in terms of processes when it comes to waste management, energy efficiency, etc.

These are only a few of the many steps you can take to promote being environmentally friendly and accountable, but it’s a start. We all need to do our part to sustain our environment. Changing a culture can be challenging, but the benefits you will reap from good environmental stewardship are so rewarding and necessary to the long term health of us all.

Below is a short list of some of the initiatives Royal Victoria Hospital has successfully taken over a relatively short period of time by following the above suggestions:

  • Implemented reusable sharps containers saving 3.8 tonnes of waste to landfill annually
  • Installed new integrated food waste grinder /extractor compacting was down to 25 per cent of its original volume
  • Implemented patient room recycling reducing waste to landfill
  • Implemented recycling wash water in laundry back into the production system
  • Implemented the use of environmentally friendly landscaping products
  • Use recycling system for fluorescent and miscellaneous lamps
  • Implemented technology to capture anesthetic agents thus reducing emissions back into the air
  • Developed a plan to extend our smoke free facility to smoke free premises which will take place on June 01/06
  • Developed a wellness trail around the property to promote ecosystems and educate the community on saving and restoring our existing environment
  • Partnered with chemical supplier to use recycled paper products
  • Revamped education and orientation program for staff to highlight importance of environmental responsibility dedicating an entire week a year to the message