Genesis - Working to be a "Green" Health System
At Genesis, we provide compassionate, quality health care to our many patients. But we also feel an obligation to care for our environment. We're constantly exploring ways we can minimize pollution, conserve resources, increase operational efficiency and still be fiscally responsible.
We are still several shades away from "green," but the progress of the health system to reduce its environmental footprint is being noticed.
Stryker Sustainability Solutions, Cintas and Ag Medical Systems, Inc. all have recently recognized Genesis with separate awards for efforts to reduce environmental waste, and for reduction of the use of natural resources.
Here are just some of the steps we've taken:
Reducing energy consumption - In 2005, Genesis launched energy conservation measures that include turning off all lights when rooms are not in use for more than 15 minutes; turning off computers when they are not in use; turning off non-essential office equipment; lowering temperatures by 2-3 degrees in non-patient areas in the heating season and raising them by 2-3 degrees in the cooling season.
Paper, cans and bottles - Genesis Medical Center, Davenport uses color-coded bins in common areas and on the units to recycle paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles: blue bins for paper, gray bins for pop cans and green bins for plastic bottles. A display board near the public elevators on each floor shows where specific recycling containers can be found. For example, bottle-recycling containers are located near vending machines and in waiting rooms. In addition, hospital kitchens have machines that crush tin food cans for recycling.
An end to trash incineration - We burn no trash. Bio-hazardous waste is prepared, safely hauled away and disposed of by an outside vendor.
Getting more use - Anesthesia masks, sequential compression devices, blood pressure cuffs and pulse ox probes, once considered "single-use" items, now are vendor reprocessed - cleaned, sterilized, tested and repackaged - then returned to Genesis for reuse. Using reprocessed or remanufactured items not only reduces waste volume but also is less costly than buying new.
Changing bed pads - Instead of disposable bed pads, Genesis uses textile bed pads, which can be laundered repeatedly and used again. According to the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, reusables cost half as much when compared to the "true cost" of disposables.
Secure paper recycling - Genesis vendor Cintas, which handles secure document destruction for the health system, recycles all the shredded paper it collects, which is then used to make paper towels, tissue and other paper products. It 's estimated that recycling just the health system's shredded secure documents will save 7 million gallons of water, 1,700 trees, 300 cubic yards of landfill space and 200 barrels of oil annually.
Chemical-free I-V bags - Genesis uses B. Braun Medical I-V bags, free of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), chemicals that can impact the purity and strength of I-V solutions. The bags also have a longer shelf life and can be kept in a warmer twice as long as other bags, which reduces wasted bags and drugs. In addition to clinical advantages, the B. Braun I-V bags are lighter and will reduce the amount of material Genesis sends to the landfill by 2,400 pounds per year. Because they're made from biologically inert, non-toxic plastic, they won't leach harmful chemicals into the soil or ground water and when incinerated, the bags break down into carbon dioxide gas and water instead of releasing hydrochloric acid and dioxin (a known carcinogen).
Re-filler up! - To reduce the environmental impact of printer cartridges, which take a gallon of oil to make, are discarded at a rate of more than 350 million a year in North America alone and can take as long as 450 years to decompose in a landfill, Genesis refills its toner cartridges. Last year, the Cartridge World local franchise that contracts with Genesis donated a portion of its earnings to Living Lands & Waters, the Quad Cities not-for-profit environmental organization that promotes river cleanups, education and river bottom reforestation.
Fryer oil into biofuel - Fryer oil used for cooking by Food & Nutrition Services is recycled-nearly 1,300 gallons per year just from the GMC East Rusholme Street kitchen. The oil is turned into products like biofuel and used in rubber and ink.
Clean and green laundry - Genesis affiliate Crescent Laundry, which processes 12 million pounds of laundry a year from health care facilities around the region, saves 30-35 million gallons of water per year with energy-conserving technology. As much water as possible is reused and heat is recycled using a stainless steel heat exchanger. To avoid waste, washers and dryers are controlled by sophisticated computers that deliver the precise temperature, water and chemicals depending on the size of a load or the type of laundry. Three 1,600-gallon bulk chemical storage tanks are filled by tanker trucks, which keeps hundreds of 55-gallon plastic drums out of the landfill every year.
In 2006, Crescent Laundry became the fifth health care laundry in the nation to meet the stringent accreditation standards of the Health Care Laundry Accreditation Council. That means it meets, or exceeds, the highest standards in the industry for processing health care textiles.
In addition, plastic bags that contain the soiled laundry Crescent receives daily are sold to a recycler and turned into other plastic products. That's about 50 tons of plastic bags per year that aren't going into a landfill.
Finding "green" partners - St. Ambrose University, which built a new Health Sciences Education Center on the GMC West Central Park campus, incorporated a number of systems and designs to conserve energy, lower costs and reduce the building's carbon footprint. In fact, the building follows the internationally- recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system.
- Recycling electronic waste - e-waste - like computers, office equipment, etc.
- Replacing refrigerators and dishwashers with more energy-efficient models.
- Lowering water use by converting to low-flow toilets and water fixtures.
- Installing rain gardens and testing permeable concrete to reduce water and chemical runoff.
- Converting to more environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals.
- Removing existing Mercury products and equipment containing Mercury.
- Converting to the use of paints, carpeting and other products that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
Genesis is considering many more ideas, everything from buying local produce and changing our packaging in cafeterias to recycling water used in dialysis for irrigation and landscaping.
We will continue to evaluate, and adopt when appropriate, practices that help us be good stewards of the environment and promote the health of our patients, employees and communities in which we live.