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Think Green

By Chris Serb
H&HN Magazine

Traditionally, not much about hospitals has been considered “green,” unless you count the Jell-O. With incinerators belching noxious fumes from their smokestacks, HVAC plants humming 24/7, loads of harmful substances on-site, and mass quantities of plastics and disposable materials, hospitals have never practiced aggressive environmental stewardship. Many observers would even cite hospitals as a key source of harm.

Hospitals’ practices have changed drastically over the last few years, pushed largely by economic concerns. Rising energy costs and the need to replace older facilities are two obvious catalysts for change. “A lot of health care facilities were in very old buildings that rested on older energy systems, and we simply didn’t know as much then as we do now,” says Janet Brown, director of sustainable operations at Practice Greenhealth, an Arlington, Va., advocacy and educational group. “As facilities are going through a building boom, they have an opportunity to look at energy systems as well as other ways to become more efficient.”

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