Hospitals are voluntarily taking the initiative to help the environment.

Environmental Impact

U.S. Hospitals Stretch to Achieve New Voluntary Sustainability Goals

“How do you have health equity without clean air, clean water and healthy soil? Those are pillars of health.”

Four New Jersey hospitals were the first in the country to trumpet their earning the Joint Commission's Sustainable Healthcare Certification, part of a slate of ambitious efforts throughout the industry to reduce carbon footprints and drive sustainability initiatives.

Such measures are considered a priority by many, given that the healthcare sector is responsible for 9 percent of the nation’s carbon emission — even more than the aviation industry,  Fierce Healthcare reported.

“The link between equity and environmental sustainability in healthcare is undeniable," said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, president and CEO of the Joint Commission, in a statement. “Not everyone is equally at risk from the effects of climate change. The individuals least able to compensate for the effects are those already burdened with adverse social determinants of health.”

The voluntary initiative went into effect at the start of the year to provide facilities with a framework to tackle decarbonization. Attaining the certification requires that hospitals meet rigorous standards to accelerate sustainability efforts.

Some medical device companies are also pushing ahead on this front, modifying their products with sustainability in mind. Single-use endoscopy leader Ambu A/S, for example, is the first company to launch an endoscope that uses bioplastics in its handles to help shrink its environmental footprint

A recent Becker's Healthcare webinar explored some of these path-to-sustainability efforts. 

The four Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) hospitals to achieve the certification set priorities and identified baselines to measure three sources of greenhouse gas emissions, along with crafting an action plan to reduce them. They focused on energy use in the form of fuel combustion, anesthetic gas and purchased electricity.

Those hospitals were anxious to take part when they heard about the initiative, its leaders said. Their hospital purchasing departments meet regularly to talk with suppliers and discuss contracts. Anything that the suppliers do to help with sustainability makes it easier for the hospitals to attain their goals.

“Our main focus has been making this a part of everything that we do,” HMH Vice President of Sustainability Kyle Tafuri told Fierce Healthcare. “How do you have health equity without clean air, clean water and healthy soil? Those are pillars of health.”

The use of bioplastic material in Ambu’s endoscope handles will reduce the carbon footprint of the ABS plastics by 70 percent. Bioplastics are made from second-generation bio-based feedstock mixed with fossil-based raw materials.

The bioplastics handle began with Ambu® aScopeTM Gastro Large, and by 2025, the goal is to use bioplastics in every endoscope handle the company produces.

Eventually, Ambu plans to build on this initiative by expanding the use of bioplastics into other parts of its endoscopes and has embarked on a host of other environmental initiatives targeting circular packaging and other focus areas.

Single-Use Endoscopy is an Ambu USA learning center.

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