Greenhealth visits with Craig Moody, owner of the Verdis Group, a company that integrates sustainable strategies for the health care community.
Greenhealth: What are some of the greatest challenges health care systems face in terms of energy?
Craig Moody: The most noteworthy challenge is steadily increasing energy costs, primarily for electricity. As domestic and world energy demand continue to increase, it’s important for health care decision-makers to be prepared for continued rises in energy prices and to be proactive in reducing consumption. Leaders must take ownership of this challenge and view it as an opportunity to improve their bottom line while also demonstrating good environmental stewardship.
GH: Where do hospitals make mistakes In energy conservation?
CM: Many hospitals can do a much better job of engaging all employees in their efforts to conserve energy. Hospital employees understand there is a strong connection between sustainability efforts like energy conservation and improving public health; leaders must leverage the awareness of this connection to build an organization-wide effort that engages employees at every level.
While energy typically represents the biggest opportunity, another common mistake is the lack of a holistic, long-term plan that considers more than energy. Many hospitals are knocking out the simple energy efficiency measures, but few have a strategic plan for addressing recycling, purchasing, water use, alternative transportation, and so on.
GH: What are some energy challenges older hospitals face?
CM: They must overcome the misconception that older facilities are always inefficient. ENERGY STAR-recognized buildings fall across the age spectrum. Old facilities can be very efficient with the right approach and commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability.
GH: What is your approach to sustainable strategies for hospitals?
CM: There are three key components. First, sustainable strategies must be data-driven—the numbers don’t lie. Every strategy must be based on data that sets a baseline and provides a platform for measurement and verification.
Second, strategies should be both technological and behavioral. The approach cannot be too heavily weighted toward one or the other. Rather, this twofold approach should integrate seamlessly so the two approaches build on each other.
Finally, every strategy’s connection to health must be clearly articulated. Sustainability is best viewed as a means by which hospitals will more easily achieve their mission. When such a connection is made and widely understood, behavioral strategies have a much higher success rate.
GH: What is a sustainability master plan?
CM: A well-done sustainability master plan does three things: 1) it articulates a clear connection between sustainability and the hospital’s mission and values, 2) it sets a vision that all employees can understand and see how they fit in, and 3) it provides a road map with specific goals and strategies for achieving that vision.
Additionally, a sustainability master plan addresses several facets of sustainability, including but not limited to emissions, energy, water, waste and recycling, sustainable sites, purchasing, transportation, buildings, planning, and engagement. Such a holistic approach considers all the ways that a hospital impacts the natural environment, and it ensures great opportunities are not left on the table.
GH: Can you offer some success stories of hospitals you’ve worked with?
CM: Through a variety of technology upgrades and behavioral strategies, the Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus has seen a significant decrease in both total energy consumption and peak electricity demand in just a few short years. Both organizations have a strong commitment to energy efficiency that is spelled out in their sustainability master plans. Furthermore, campus engagement levels have hit extremely high levels, with the vast majority of the combined 10,000 employees being extremely familiar with campus-wide efforts.
GH: Do you see more hospitals turning toward renewable energy?
CM: Adoption has been slow in the Midwest over the past several years, but we have seen a peak in interest as the economics of renewables are changing and new financing mechanisms are being explored.
GH: What are some of the goals hospitals have achieved by working with your company?
CM: First and foremost, hospitals are helping to improve community health through reductions in the release of greenhouse gas emissions and other toxins that negatively impact human health. Secondly, employees are more engaged and loyal to the organization when they see their personal ethical commitment to sustainability connect to the organization’s commitment. Staff awareness of sustainability efforts on the Nebraska Medical Center’s campus has already zoomed past 75 percent.
Third, The Nebraska Medical Center just rolled out the first steps of its Greening the OR initiative and has already diverted 1.2 tons of blue wrap and 1,000 medical devices from the landfill in only three months. Finally, as previously mentioned, energy consumption across the Medical Center’s campus has dropped considerably, saving some substantial money for both entities.
As domestic and world energy demand continue to increase, it’s important for health care decision-makers to be prepared for continued rises in energy prices and to be proactive in reducing consumption.
—Craig Moody of the Verdis Group
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