Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest Column: It's Getting Easier to Be Green

There are a few (dozen) things that I am passionate about in this life. The list ranges from acoustic music and good reads to cage-free eggs and great tasting fair-trade coffee. Somewhere along the road I also developed a keen interest in the importance and implications of living in a sustainable manner. Now, I’m not as “environmentally-friendly” as I aspire to be – this morning I drove my boyfriend’s truck to work which averages 15 miles per gallon and yesterday I ran my dryer with only a few articles of clothing in it. However, I know that I am doing my part to contribute to a healthier planet and I genuinely believe that I can make a difference. With this in mind, you can understand why I was delighted to find out that Grinnell Regional Medical Center has a Green Team established to pursue green initiatives. I could not wait to sign up!

Now, before I digress about the importance of recycling and reducing our overall consumption, let me talk a little about the Green Team here at GRMC and what they have accomplished thus far. The Green Team consists of representatives from many departments including nutrition services, facilities, environmental services, public relations, health improvement, corporate health, and other interested individuals. A number of steps have been taken in recent months to further environmentally-friendly practices at GRMC, although you may not have noticed! The sharps containers have been exchanged for reusable containers, which reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Mercury has been nearly eliminated, and the housekeeping department has switched to microfiber mops. These new mops reduce water and chemical usage, a double win for the environment. All cleaning products have been switched to GreenSeal-certified, EcoLogo-certified or environmentally-preferred products. The engineering services department has implemented systematic lighting upgrades, which consists of new fixtures and light bulbs that require 25 percent fewer bulbs. Another exciting change is the addition of Velcro boiler jackets to the heating system which contain the heat and help to reduce energy use. This project is going to be featured in the Alliant Energy Green Calendar for 2010. The garage sale that was held earlier in the Spring also served the purpose of the Green Team by allowing GRMC to free itself of unwanted furniture and other equipment without sending objects to the landfill.

The Green Team has high ambitions for the next phase. Currently, steps are being taken to expand the recycling efforts at the medical center. There are hopes of sometime soon placing recycling receptacles around the hospital for plastic, glass, aluminum and paper recycling. The medical center is in the middle of recycling its e-waste that was stored off-campus (computers, printers, fax machines, etc.)—last Thursday members of the Green Team and the IS department spent the afternoon getting a little sweaty (and dirty) loading electronic equipment into a trailer headed for a recycling company. We had a lot of laughs, and a lot of near-misses with the lurking spiders! There will be a second round of e-waste recycling in the near future. E-waste recycling is a great way to keep electronics out of the landfills where harmful chemicals would eventually leach into the soil. Below is a picture of the group that lent some muscles to the e-cause.

The Green Team is also looking into opportunities to reduce the amount of Styrofoam used in the hospital, which is suspected of causing several health concerns and is a substantial portion of the hospital’s waste. In the future, the Green Team would like to embark upon projects such as the elimination of PVC/DEHP, blue wrap recycling in the OR, and an increase in the purchase of local foods.

I have had a fantastic time working with the members of the Green Team at GRMC and I know that they will continue furthering the environmental stewardship of the organization. The healthcare environment as a whole is beginning to embrace green initiatives in an effort to promote overall healthy and healing environments. Green practices show a commitment to the health of patients, employees, the community and the planet – the same four things that this institution is highly devoted to serving.

Rachel Cain, GRMC administrative intern

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

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