in savings from its 37% reduction in waste since launching a green campaign in 2004. "There's no waste in nature, and there shouldn't be any waste here," says Dr. Gus Kious, the hospital's president. "The people in our community need to know that we're not only high-performance and that we're leaders, but they need to know their hospital environment is safe in all respects."
A whole different dynamic
Ultimately, greening the health-care industry demands a changed mindset toward the consumption of everything from refrigerants to light bulbs to surgical gowns, as well as toward work process and relationships between employees. Those new attitudes can confer a host of benefits—staff democratization and satisfaction chief among them. "Before a hospital embarks on a broad commitment to waste minimization and waste management," says H2E's Brannen, "waste is just trash. It's out of sight, out of mind, and housekeepers just sling trash all day." When DHMC instituted a training program called "Let's Talk Trash," and made housekeeping staff the experts on how the institution handles waste, suddenly physicians developed a new level of appreciation for maintenance staff. Says Brannen: "It's a whole different dynamic created around a mutual sustainability mission."
Riley has seen that dynamic play out in staff meetings at Mt. Ascutney and APD. She recalls one especially gloomy meeting, dominated by discussion of declining reimbursement levels and rising on-call responsibilities. Now, she says, there's a sense of optimism. "Instead of physicians saying, 'Why am I practicing?' they were coming up with ideas about how to make the world a better place," she says. "I felt so much more uplifted."
And in an industry that is facing stiff hiring challenges—especially in nursing—the benefits of a healthier, more pleasant work environment can't be underestimated, according to Kaiser Permanente consultant Jan Stensland. "The number-one reason people miss work is respiratory illness," she says, explaining that 16% of the U.S. population is afflicted with asthma alone. "If you know that 16% of your staff has asthma, any time you can make sure you've done your utmost to eliminate asthma triggers in the work environment, you help patients and staff and you help the bottom line."
In addition to promoting passive health benefits such as improved indoor air
"We have a much more
vulnerable population—people here are immune-suppressed," says DHMC's Dahlstrom, who urges staff to seek out benign alternatives to conventional products, from carpet tiles to roofing materials. "We have a
. . . moral imperative to main-
tain a facility that [meets]
a higher standard."
quality and increased daylight, DHMC also urges employees to take an active role in boosting their well-being through exercise. This spring, waste and recycling manager John Leigh, who often bikes to work, coordinated DHMC's participation in national Bike-to-Work Day, and two-wheeling staff received a free breakfast upon their arrival at work. Even in inclement weather, the building's design and decor promote physical activity. The risers on the stairways used most often by employees are adorned with whimsical, Burma-shave-style exhortations, such as "Be a Frequent Flier, Frequent these Flights" and "Free Exercise Equipment."
Beyond promoting biking to work and climbing stairs, DHMC heavily supports public transportation to reduce demand for parking and offer alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. "That's driven from three aspects for us," says Dahlstrom. "We don't want to pave more of the world, we don't want to pay to pave more of the world, and we don't want more cars driving on the road." A free shuttle