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CleanMed Preconference Session: Transportation and Climate Change

Author: Julie Moyle, MSN, RN, Outreach and Engagement Specialist

Why should you care about transportation?

If your hospital environmental goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), you are missing a BIG opportunity if your sustainability strategies don’t include a transportation program. A case study by Practice Greenhealth member Ministry Health Care, part of Ascension Health, found that employee commuting practices alone comprised 17 percent of the hospitals’ GHG emission footprint. Indeed, on a national scale, according to the EPA, transportation as a sector is the fastest growing source of world-wide carbon pollution, and contributes 27 percent of annual US GHGs, exceeded only by energy production/consumption, which comprises 31 percent of annual US GHGs. The bulk of the opportunities around transportation lie in reducing the number of cars and light-duty trucks sitting in hospital parking lots as a result of employees driving alone to their workplaces.

What’s in it for hospitals? Just ask Seattle Children’s Hospital, whose #1 admission is pediatric asthma. In addition to aligning with their organizational mission, the hospital avoided the construction of a $25 million parking structure, strengthened community relationships, and engaged their workforce by incentivizing alternative commute practices. The hospital was able to reduce its single occupancy vehicle rate to 38 percent of employees in 2015, earning credibility as a good neighbor and reinforcing its image as a responsible environmental steward.

And why not leverage the $200 billion (17.6 percent of GDP) health care facilities spend on medical supplies and products to encourage our business partners to do the same? Understanding how distributors and freight haulers move hospital materials can lead to cost-savings opportunities with a transition to efficient transportation practices. The EPA SmartWay program helps suppliers adopt advanced fuel efficient technologies and operational practices in the freight supply chain, which saves fuel, lowers costs and reduces adverse environmental impacts.

Because of the role that transportation plays in reducing GHG emissions, we will be featuring a Transportation Preconference Workshop at CleanMed 2016 from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm CT on Tuesday, May 17 during which we will take a closer look at the sources and strategies to reduce the impact of hospital transportation practices. To get up to speed on the issue and how hospitals are responding to the challenge, check out our recent sharing call, Let’s Talk About Transportation (Play recording (1 hr)). Practice Greenhealth is also in the process of developing a new Transportation Toolkit, full of resources to help members set and further their transportation goals. Scheduled for release in August, 2016, we are working to provide members with the resources necessary to begin the work of managing hospital transportation practices. Please look for additional information in the coming months. 

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