Friday, March 2, 2007

Green Reg's and Ham

Chris Edmundson and Jim Holden will share this space. Chris and Jim are both members of "Green Teams" at their respective workplaces, committees that are specifically designated to lessen the environmental footprint of the workplace. Here, Chris tells us about his experience starting a Green Team at his hospital.

The Making of a Green Hospital

In 2007 it is hard to imagine a hospital or other large business that doesn’t recycle or take measures to protect their environment. Unfortunately, these organizations do exist and they are more prevalent than one might expect. In 2004 I accepted a position as a physical therapist at a major Boston hospital and I was immediately struck by their blatant disregard for environmental issues. From my first day, I resolved to promote environmental awareness and seek changes throughout the entire organization.

I began writing a series of letters to department directors and managers expecting to gain support for this initiative. Months passed and no one responded to any of my many emails. At the time, I assumed that I was being ignored because of my insignificant status in the hospital hierarchy. Looking back, I suspect that my inexperience with effective communication may have contributed to my lack of success. At any rate, I was infuriated and I began to do my homework.

My next move was to target one popular issue and learn more about the local and state laws. I chose to push recycling since it has already been popularized and is generally accepted within most organizations. To my delight, I found that Massachusetts already had banned the disposal of paper, glass, single polymer plastics, metal and a number of other recyclable materials. This gave me the firepower I needed to bring to the hospital administrators. At this point, I researched the chain of command at the hospital and targeted a number of the most influential people in the organization. In my letter I presented an effective argument for the creation of a recycling program citing the Massachusetts waste bans. Again no response!!

At this point I was becoming restless. I consulted a client of mine who works as a lawyer for a number of health care organizations. He suggested that I resend my letter with a carbon copy to the legal and public relations departments. Additionally, he suggested I add a statement of how I would like to take this story to a local newspaper. I incorporated these suggestions and sure enough, obtained a response the following morning!

The first contact from hospital executives was directed to my manager. One of the hospital Vice Presidents inquired about my general personality and my ability to approach such issues in a practical manner. She was afraid that I was a bit of a radical and feared I might create negative press for the hospital. After my manager assured her of my professionalism I received an email from the VP announcing the formation of a “Green Committee.” To my surprise I was asked to serve on this committee along with a number of department managers and supervisors.

Two years after establishing my mission I had finally helped to guide the hospital in the right direction. I could hardly contain my excitement and I began researching all of the areas that we might improve. I had some big plans for our first meeting!

Stay tuned Fridays for the upcoming installments on the making of a green hospital.

Chris Edmundson

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