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Hope Springs Eternal – An Earth Day Wish For Health Care Sustainability Teams

By Janet Howard, Director of Content & Outreach, HHI
Director, Facility Engagement, Practice Greenhealth

On April 22, Earth Day, health care green teams organize educational events, fun competitions and give back to their communities. But for green teams, it also becomes another thing to do – another thing to plan for. I have an Earth Day Wish for health care sustainability leads, or more often, the multiple-hat-wearing green team member. Their passion is challenged by fatigue, the complex 24/7 environment, not enough hours and an endless to-do list.

On this Earth Day – A Salute to Health Care Green Teams and individuals working to make hospitals healthier.

On this Earth Day – I wish for you:

A CEO or President that gets it – like Jeff Thompson of Gundersen Health in Lacrosse, Wisconsin who says, “… we believe healthcare organizations need to be honest with themselves and ‘look in the mirror’ when it comes to environmental factors that affect human disease.” And creates a culture of possibilities and the Envision program with a goal to be energy independent by 2014.

Data that flows – from meters, departments, vendors and other sources. Cells calculate as you intend. Graph lines and bar graphs move in the direction you wish.

Your baler has wire, vendors show up in that slim, oh-so-specific time-slot you need to keep things flowing. Lifters lift, scales weigh, compactors compact and bays ebb and flow like a perfect tide.

Order out of chaos - Red bags free of regular trash, paper recyclables free of gloves, and no boxes thrown in the trash compactor, compost free of sporks – and so on.

Wisdom to know when to push and when to pull back and the patience in between.

A clinical champion making the connection between sustainability and public health and verbally and actively supporting sustainability efforts.

The placenta freezer keeps freezing (I know from whilst I speak) and all freezers for that matter.

Sustainability as a quality imperative – a partnership, combining data skills with content expertise for a powerful punch.

Connection – Every worker brings life challenges with them – illness, family stress, language barriers and cultural differences and some of the most important insight comes from that rich diversity.

A fragrance-free policy – where bathrooms don’t spray that weird pink stuff.

A green revolving fund – For getting your site where it needs to go, with game-changing projects – and an initial funder with seed money – from a person who understands what a powerful and continuous gift that would be.

No calls – from the landfill, transfer station or incinerator. And how about no calls in the last hour of your shift while we’re at it?

Title – with the word ecology, sustainability, health or healing in it and a job description. And maybe even a budget and an ear on the leadership team.

An internship program – Where students take on and measure sustainability project outcomes, demonstrating value of in-house staffing – and their future employment.

An office above ground (I started with no office and sat next to the fax machine).

The persistent resistor has a new opportunity. That one person, who always has a reason for why things can’t happen, decides to work somewhere else.

Healing the healer – To witness health care workers receiving reiki, massage, taking yoga, on a walk or otherwise being nourished and cared for — and to know that every worker plays a role in a healing environment.

Inspiration – by the power and compassion of any person. Like Earth as Our Home, developed by the Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth.

A work-friend –who you can complain to and laugh with.

An Earth week free of Joint Commission, the state or other unexpected visitors.

Closed doors open, ever so slowly, light comes through and it smells like lilacs.

To reflect – on the accomplishments, see change and know that you aren’t alone. Every step forward is added to the collective movement towards healthier environments for everyone.

This April, daffodils are pushing through the soil and hope springs eternal. Happy Earth Day – This April 22 and every day. This is my Earth Day wish for you.



Anonymous Photo
Hope Springs Eternal
Submitted by on April 3, 2014 - 1:41 pm

Beautiful and oh so true. Thank you, Janet, for putting our days into words.

Anonymous Photo
Happy Earth Day to you too!
Submitted by on April 4, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Great list! This brought a smile to my face.

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