Each year, Earth Day serves as a reminder for families and businesses to be mindful of how their actions influence the environment. Entire movements and projects are devoted to climate change and ways to protect our Earth, and these aren’t contained just to the United States’ borders. The Paris Climate Agreement is fittingly scheduled to be signed on Earth Day 2016 (April 22) by both the U.S. and China. Additionally, the Earth Day Network is pledging to plant 7.8 billion trees – one for each person on the planet – before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which will occur four years from now in 2020. More than ever, global action is ramping up to keep Earth healthy.
UnityPoint Health recognizes the importance of stepping up to help the environment. We’re constantly looking for ways we can become more environmentally efficient.
UnityPoint Health Goes Green
“There’s a clear consensus that going forward, climate change is the number one threat to human health; and the health care industry, being as large as it is, plays a major role in contributing to the problem,” said Clifton White, environmental coordinator, UnityPoint Health. “Studies have shown that hospitals and other health facilities are responsible for over 8 percent of the carbon emissions in the U.S., largely due to all the unique regulations, temperature control requirements, lighting, processing of hazardous wastes, etc. that only affect hospitals and health care facilities. Since hospitals/health care facilities are a large part of the problem, it’s even more important that we become part of the solution, and that means investing in energy efficient designs, renewable energies and simply just recycling.”
Several UnityPoint Health facilities are doing just that. UnityPoint Health – Waterloo – Allen Hospital recycles more than you might think possible for a hospital. Materials, such as scrap metal, batteries, cardboard, scrap wood, pallets, oil, imaging lead aprons, lead sheeting, light bulbs and electronic equipment, are all recycled. Recently, Allen Hospital also participated in a system-wide energy initiative for facility lighting upgrades – converting to LED lighting fixtures in high-traffic areas, in an effort to reduce energy consumption as well as promote energy cost savings.
In 2009, UnityPoint Health – Des Moines built Methodist West Hospital with the environment in mind. Everything from the structure, to the roof and the utilities reduces the facility’s carbon footprint. In addition, since 2011, Des Moines’ recycling efforts have increased 105 percent. Its programs, such as single-stream recycling, composting and partnerships with local and national environmental organizations, have led to the following results for 2015:
- 299,990 pounds of food waste
- 76,320 pounds recycled through the single-stream program
- 382,501 pounds of cardboard recycled
- 392,793 pounds of paper was shredded and recycled
In 2010, UnityPoint Health – Meriter installed several "Green Machines" to reduce the amount of water used for heating and cooling the hospital. These machines eliminate the need for softener salt by using electricity to remove water hardness. As a results 140 tons of softener salt (which is a pollutant in high concentration) has been spared from entering the waste water stream. Water consumption has reduced by an estimated 5,000,000 gallons per year. Meriter also slashed its lighting consumption, saved roughly 3,870 trees through recycling efforts and constructed new buildings based on LEED standards.
“Being in the health care industry, our goal is, and should be, to help people. Since climate change is a real human health threat, it’s counterintuitive to not be the best environmental stewards we can be as an organization and industry as a whole,” said White.
Doing Your Part
We encourage all our patients and families to be good stewards not only of their health, but also of the Earth. Take time this Earth Day to review what your family is doing to help keep our world a healthy, beautiful place to live.