I was recently asked what percentage of hospitals in the United States has started work on environmental stewardship activities. My answer is 100%. Every hospital has an action-oriented staffer who’s taken it upon themselves to do the right thing: a nurse collecting no-longer-needed medical supplies, an administrative staffer collecting toner cartridges for recycling, or an architect looking for low-flow water fixtures. 

NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) takes a top-down and bottom-up approach to its environmental stewardship initiatives. An Energy Star Partner of the Year for more than six years, it has five major sites—four in Manhattan and one in White Plains, N.Y. There are 7 million square feet and 15,000 employees. In 2010, NYP developed its Green Champion program, after Harvard University’s Green Office Resource, as a way to engage and make progress at the departmental level.

With firm leadership engagement and a designated sustainability officer, the hospital set up teams and programs, mission language, and an oversight committee for strategic direction and structure. In addition, its Green Champion program is a way to formalize and harness the passionate departmental staffers, capture their individual and collective commitment, and use it as a vehicle for education, communication, and programmatic feedback.

Jessica M. Prata, MPA, NewYork-Presbyterian’s corporate director, sustainability office, recognizes the value of the departmental champions to help extend the program and help drive initiatives across the campus. The designated Green Champion is a good communicator and leader in his or her department. Initially, about 200 staffers stepped up to volunteer for the post. The program was formally launched by the chief operating officer through each of the five locations.  

Let’s meet a few of NYP’s Green Champions and find out why the work is important to them.

 

Danielle George, RN, operating room nurse, NYP/WC
“I’ve always been involved in environmental conservation in my personal life and saw an opportunity to share these efforts in the workplace. Going green is not something the general public often associates with hospitals, and I realized there was a gap in knowledge about conservation methods that could be applied. Our biggest projects in the OR, which we’re continuing to monitor and improve, have been to initiate a recycling program and revamp our waste management by educating staff on safe disposal of waste while conserving resources. This was a huge change that really helped our staff see where we were being wasteful. Now we have a learning module for all new staff on how to safely and most effectively dispose of all waste and recyclables. A big win for me would be to see every floor in our hospital take this initiative to go green. I hope we can spread our efforts to other hospitals and work together to conserve resources.”

 

Adam Bartlett, MS, LEED Green Associate, project manager and Green Captain, NYP/Westchester
“To me, being a steward to the environment is a part of being a proper citizen of the planet, and a prerequisite for membership in the human family. If you take away all the technological marvels of the modern world, all you have left is what we all started with—the air, the dirt, the water, the plants, and the creatures. If we don’t work to protect those base elements, then we’re being disrespectful to everything that got us here and to future generations. In my capacity as a construction project manager, I’m currently working on a LEED-registered project that’s repurposing a 90-year-old building.  I would love to see alternative energy production explored at this campus. We have so much land, and I think solar arrays would be a fantastic addition.”

 

Esperanza Z. Zozobrado, MBA, RN, CRCST, CHL, patient care director, NYP/WC; central sterile processing/perioperative services
“I feel that I’m responsible for what I add to the environment. Right now I work to maintain the Perioperative Green Program that we rolled out, which is functioning very well. My goal is to find other ways of recycling the items we use in our department (for example, blue wrappers for supply trays, if we can find a waste management company that recycles them). My dream project would be to containerize all our instrument trays and eliminate the need to use disposable blue wrap.”  

 

Rebecca Belen Wellman, operations analyst, administration, NYP/Allen
“It’s an inherent responsibility that we have to respect the environment we live in and share with others. I’ve been involved in LEED retrofit feasibility analyses, bridging clinical and financial goals for improved supply utilization and waste reduction.  My goal is to continue to build relationships that support fiscal and environmental sustainability at NYP.”

 

Aprille Adoremos, RN, clinical manager, G3 recovery room and Green Captain, NYP/WC
“As a new Green Captain at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, I’m joining a large group of enthusiastic Green Champions. This is an amazing opportunity for me not only to continue paving a ‘greener path,’ but also to collaborate and support members in educating and sharing the green mission. Aside from learning more about my role as a Green Captain, I’m also looking into starting a green page on the hospital’s intranet that will offer green tips, FAQs, and general green information. My goal is to increase Leaf certifications throughout the hospital to grow and expand upon our current successes and to promote more awareness.”

 

Darby Santamour, living donor specialist/program coordinator, Department of Surgery–Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, NYP/CUMC & MSCHONY
“Going green can be an overwhelming task, especially in large institutions such as NewYork- Presbyterian Hospital, but with individuals working hard—in their own way, using their own ideas—to improve recycling and reduce wasted energy in their individual work spaces, this huge task can become more feasible. Currently, we’re working on moving to an electronic faxing system. My department sends and receives reams of paper via fax every day. This is an ongoing challenge to get everyone on board, but we’re slowly making progress. We’ve also ordered company coffee mugs for every employee so we can stop disposing of hundreds of paper coffee cups a week.

“I think the biggest win we could have as an institution would be to have a Green Champion for all of our departments. Having a person who can remind and assist colleagues of ways to recycle properly and reduce waste makes a big difference. More often than not, it doesn’t stop at work. People have told me they took our ideas to their local church, PTA group, or simply to their homes to try to make a difference there. It’s really a ‘pay-it-forward’ movement.”

 

Marsha Sinanan-Vasishta, MSN, MBA, RN, patient care director-McKeen services and Green Captain, NYP/CU
“We’re working on increasing awareness and hardwiring green practices in the hospital setting. We’re focused on increasing the number of green clinical workspaces. A big win would be to steadily and consistently increase our recycling compliance, to hardwire green behaviors in the clinical environment (many who work in this environment do not perceive that recycling can be done as effec
tively as it can at home), and to be able to approach anyone at any time within our environment and have them be able to articulate our recycling programs and practices.

“My most important role is to carry out our hospital’s needs as identified and prioritized by the sustainability council. There’s so much work to do, and I’m here to support our efforts!”

 

Bernard McKnight, Green Team Leader, environmental services, NYP/CU
“I educate staff about the waste management and recycling programs at my campus, and it’s shown me what a big problem it is and how everyone has to do their part for a healthier environment. A lot of people don’t understand that America is one of the largest generators of waste and that we have to do better. Lately, I’ve been working with departments to show them that recycling isn’t only successful in office areas, but clinical spaces, too. I’m working to expand recycling into every area—every single floor, every single department. I help people understand the financial cost of waste removal versus the recycling program, and that by participating, they’re helping to reduce costs so that we can use those funds for more important things. 

“My dream project is to dedicate one month as a recycling month, and we could all wear t-shirts to show our commitment. I want the patients to see that we’re not only caring for their health, but for their environment, too. Whether a supervisor, manager, or department head, we need everyone’s participation to be the best we can be.”

 

Jonathan L. Kayser, psychosocial rehab specialist, 4 North, The Horizon, NYP/Westchester
“The best decisions are ones that benefit the organization, its employees, and our patients. I take pride in being a Green Champion because the green initiatives help to improve those three areas. For me, educating the staff on how to improve environmental practices in a way that benefits them is important. I’ve changed my own practices at work to help reduce waste and conserve resources. My conscious effort surrounding conservation has helped to save the organization money and allocate money to be spent on other useful supplies.

“Knowing I work for an organization that cares about the environment and makes a difference by implementing green techniques provides me with a greater sense of fulfillment. Both of my departments are working on earning their Green Leaf Two status while continuing to education about Leaf One concepts. As for the future, a greater utilization of technology to bolster green efforts would be a great project.”  

Learn more about sustainability at NYP at www.nyp.org/nypgreen.  Learn more about Harvard University’s Green Office program at http://green.harvard.edu/green-office.