Friday, March 16, 2007


The Making of a Green Hospital (cont.)

After winning my first battle with the hospital (see posting from 3/2/07), I was ecstatic about our upcoming “Green Committee” meeting. I had done my homework and was prepared with a massive list of green initiatives for the committee to consider. The list considered such possibilities as recycling, waste and power reduction, alternative energy, green purchasing, non-toxic cleaners, etc. Next, I had gathered information on an organization called Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E). H2E’s mission is “To educate, motivate, and engage health care professionals to adopt best environmental practices that increase operational efficiency, and support an environmentally sustainable system that improves the health of patients, staff and the community.” H2E recommended that I contact the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a first step in going green. I learned of a new program offered by the DEP designed specifically to assist hospitals become more environmentally sound. I was encouraged by my contact at the DEP who stated that he was not part of the enforcement division and would not look for or report violations at the hospital. Rather, my contact suggested that if our hospital was proactive with environmental improvements, he would help advocate for us in case of future violations. Seems like a win-win situation right?

So the first meeting arrived and my general outlook on the hospital’s future changed dramatically. As I was introduced to the other committee members (all hospital executives), I immediately felt out of place. As the only non-executive on the committee, I wondered about my role. Then, after my recommendations were quickly dismissed, I understood why I was there. By having me on the committee, they could ensure that I did not jeopardize the hospital’s reputation by speaking with the media.

As the meeting wore on, the members concluded that the only initiative to be addressed at this time was paper recycling. This was the most effective way to reduce the mass of our waste for which we are charged by the ton for removal. Since paper is a valuable commodity, recycling would be of little to no cost to the institution and it would concurrently reduce the cost of waste removal. All other green initiatives were to be on hold until the paper recycling was shown to be cost effective. The committee outright refused to have any involvement with the DEP for fear of violations and would not partner with H2E because the hospital could not commit to change at this time.

I realized that the progress would be slow, but positive at the very least. For the time being I would hold my tongue and try to learn the motivations and concerns of the committee. Eventually I would be heard…

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