The history of Practice Greenhealth began in June of 1998, when the American Hospital Association and the US Environmental Protection Agency signed a landmark agreement to advance pollution prevention efforts in our nation’s healthcare facilities. The resulting Memorandum of Understanding became the cornerstone of the Hospital for a Healthy Environment (H2E) program, and called for: virtual elimination of mercury waste, reduction of the healthcare sector’s total waste volume, chemical waste minimization, and a variety of educational and information sharing activities focused on pollution prevention and toxics minimization.
In September 2001, H2E became a partnership of the AHA, EPA, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), and the American Nurses Association (ANA). With funding from the EPA with assistance from HCWH, H2E hired core staff and began outreach efforts to the healthcare sector. A primary focus was getting hospitals to commit to the goals of the MOU by becoming “Partners for Change”. The program also targeted healthcare companies and the supply chain, encouraging participation in its “Champion for Change” program. A subsequent focus involved setting up state-level support networks for hospitals trying to achieve the goals of the MOU. These state H2E chapters—some of which are still in existence in various forms—established a mechanism for hospitals to exchange ideas and learn from each other locally. The H2E Environmental Excellence Awards program began in 2002.
By 2006, the H2E program had 1,342 Partners representing 7,148 health care facilities including 1,604 hospitals, 3,674 clinics, 912 nursing homes and 958 other types of facilities. Despite H2E’s substantive success in engaging the sector, EPA funding for the initiative dwindled in 2006, and HCWH took a leadership role in helping H2E become an independent not-for-profit organization. H2E expanded upon the original goals to include:
- Virtual elimination of mercury
- Reduction of the quantity and toxicity of health care waste – from manufacturing, purchase and use of products and materials, to improved end-of-life management
- Minimization of use and exposure to hazardous chemicals, including persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) substances
- Reducing health care’s environmental footprint through resource conservation and other measurable environmental improvements
- Integrating sustainable design and building techniques with environmentally sound operational practices to create true healing environments
In January of 2008, H2E was reorganized and renamed Practice Greenhealth, in order to more accurately reflect its new role as a membership organization representing healthcare organizations committed to the integration of sustainability principles and practices as a means to better protect the health of patients, staff, the communities served, and the environment.
Today, Practice Greenhealth is the nation's leading membership and networking organization for organizations in the healthcare community that have made a commitment to sustainable, environmentally preferable practices. Practice Greenhealth members include hospitals and healthcare systems, healthcare providers, manufacturers and service providers, architectural, engineering and design firms, group purchasing organizations, and affiliated non-profit organizations. Practice Greenhealth has become the healthcare sector’s go-to source for information, tools, resources and expert technical support on sustainability. Practice Greenhealth offers practical and cost-effective programs to its members and continues to educate, motivate and engage the sector to move toward a higher standard of care.