Practice Greenhealth has published its third annual Sustainability Benchmark Report – an analysis of activities and programs  at a number of hospitals that are highly-engaged in their commitments to sustainable, eco-friendly practices. This report is based on data supplied in applications by the 118 Partner for Change (PFC) and 23 Environmental Leadership Circle (ELC) 2011 Award winners and is designed to assist hospitals by measuring their performance and defining steps in their efforts toward sustainability in healthcare. In addition to reporting out on metrics, the report shares sustainability trends and emerging areas of focus.

Hospitals and health systems are increasing recycling, use of greener cleaners, toxicity reduction, healthier food options, and making progress in almost every area of the report. Some activities are in place virtually across the board, such as the creation of green teams to manage program implementation, energy efficient lighting upgrades, and pharmaceutical waste management. Other emerging growth areas include the sourcing local food, polystyrene (Styrofoam) elimination, water bottle elimination, and solvent distillation in laboratories.

Some trends noted in the report include:
• Waste and recycling — Recycling and diversion programs helped the 141 reporting hospitals save $19 million in avoided solid and hazardous waste disposal fees.

• Green cleaning - More hospitals are increasing their use of green cleaning products, equipment, and techniques, and are formalizing their cleaning procedures and contracts. Hospitals continue to recognize the value of reducing toxicity in the cleaning process. In 2011, 68 percent of PFC and 83 percent of ELC winners reported having green cleaning plans for their hospitals.

Lin Hill, Director of Awards at Practice Greenhealth notes that "Formalizing green cleaning shows an increase in awareness of environmental issues around cleaning by Environmental Service teams as well as an increase in commitment from hospital management. In addition to improving the indoor environment for patients and staff, green cleaning programs drive the market toward offering more environmentally friendly products."

• Water - Implementation of new water conservation activities has decreased since last year, with 41 percent of PFCs and 52 percent of ELCs reporting implementation of "recent" water conservation activities. Those facilities that are conserving water are reducing their total water use and their water bills by an average of 10 to 14 percent.

• Energy - The 141 Award winners reduced their electricity costs by a combined 4.6 percent from implementing energy efficiency projects. These savings are equivalent to 0.77 kilowatt hours per square foot of their facility or 12 cents per square foot.

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