Excerpted from”Green Health Care,” published in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Organic Gardening:
In 2005, Sattler founded Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (MD H2E). Today, the organization boasts a membership comprising three-quarters of the hospitals in the state. Their efforts include recycling and composting, reduced reliance on toxic chemicals, and environmentally preferable purchasing policies. “We’re seeing the hospitals begin to adopt an environmental ethic,” Sattler says, “so it’s part of the fabric of the decisions they’re making.”
That doesn’t make it easy. “An institution with 7,000 employees and 800 patients on any given day, it’s a huge operation,” says Denise Choiniere, the sustainability manager at the University of Maryland Medical Center. In 2006, as a cardiac-care nurse in intensive care, Choiniere launched a recycling program that now diverts nearly 100,000 batteries annually from incineration. Other initiatives include a 50 percent reduction in regulated medical waste, high-efficiency vacuum pumps to reduce water consumption by 5 million gallons annually, and a program to divert discarded drugs from municipal wastewater treatment facilities that often can’t remove them.
Louise Mitchell, MD H2E’s sustainable foods program manager, promotes the Healthy Foods in Health Care Pledge by connecting hospital food-service directors and chefs with local farmers to increase their purchase of local, sustainable foods. She also provides technical support for other healthy food initiatives. One outcome of this support is that 17 health-care facilities statewide now host farmers’ markets or farm stands on their campuses. This fall, she hosted a training program for kitchen staff interested in purchasing and preparing sustainably produced meat and poultry from small, local farms. “Hospitals have shifted toward having more food delivered that’s already prechopped or precooked,” says Mitchell. “They have the kitchens and the knives to prepare fresh foods, but they don’t necessarily have the labor or the ovens.”
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