♦ Earlier this year, Sustainable Long Island and North Shore-LIJ Health System (NSLIJ) partnered on the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute funded Carbon Footprint Challenge, an initiative designed to increase awareness of pollution prevention, and educate health system employees about strategies for minimizing pollution and improving sustainability in order to build healthier homes, work places, and communities.
Sustainability in health care uses a forward-thinking, holistic approach to operations, maintenance, and future growth, while redefining patient care, engaging staff, and being a good neighbor. Not only do sustainable practices and policies have a positive impact on the environment, they can also improve the bottom line – enhancing productivity, recruiting and retaining employees, and building partnerships that can further advance these efforts within the community.
Many health systems share common goals with the decision to move toward sustainability. These include preventing and minimizing waste, reducing energy and water usage, and being more conscious of how resources are used. Often the reasons for such a transition could be to more clearly demonstrate the mission through respectful work environments or to assume a leadership role in responsible buildings and operations. Implementing sustainability practices and policies also offers health systems the opportunity to engage the surrounding community in environmental design and construction, while demonstrating an alternative way to operate its facilities.
Making a commitment to sustainability requires leadership from within – leadership that can implement procedures and policies and engage employees in the effort to ensure their success. It also demands a clearly defined, yet flexible process that is open to continuous improvement. It is recommended that businesses seeking to become more sustainable “assess and set goals, plan and prioritize actions, implement change and measure results, and monitor and improve performance (New York State Pollution Prevention Institute).”
The Carbon Footprint Challenge had three primary project components:
- Education and Information Sharing
- Raising Awareness, Measuring, and Training
- Encouraging Replication
Best Practices Research: were conducted to better understand how diverse aspects of sustainability can be implemented at an individual and system-wide scale, while providing a range of techniques that can be tailored to match one’s needs.
Train-the-Trainer Sessions: were designed to enlist select NSLIJ staff as champions of the Carbon Footprint Challenge who would communicate the goals of the initiative to their colleagues and encourage widespread participation across the health system in reducing pollution and improving sustainability.
Carbon Footprint Calculator & Survey: the calculator was utilized in order to establish a baseline measure of carbon footprint across NSLIJ to which future improvements could be compared; the online survey was utilized in order to understand how employees use resources and where changes can be made to improve upon their individual and collective environmental impact.
Lunch & Learns: were designed as educational workshops, which included a presentation, informational material, and the opportunity to complete the Carbon Footprint Calculator and Survey on-site. Small, eco-friendly incentives were raffled off to generate excitement and drive participation.
CLICK HERE for a comprehensive look at the Carbon Footprint Challenge, including expanded methodology, data analysis, and lessons learned.