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Healthy People, Healthy Planet: The Surprising Impact Healthcare Has On Our Environment

Chip Goyette is the sustainability director for Inova’s Office of Sustainability. In this role, he provides overall direction and oversight of all sustainability initiatives to ensure that Inova is incorporating these practices into everything we do. 

 There is no doubt that advancements in modern healthcare have had a profound impact on our quality of life. These advancements have contributed to the eradication of diseases, illness prevention and in many cases, saving lives. Modern healthcare has even come so far as to enable us to treat and heal that which we cannot prevent.

This ground-breaking progress also produces an unintended side-effect in the form of significant environmental impacts. In the process of healing patients, hospitals use a vast amount of natural resources, generate tons of waste every single day and consume huge amounts of electricity. This translates to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and air quality issues that have the potential to result in more patient admissions.

The healthcare sector in the United States emits eight percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gasses while at the same time, commanding eighteen percent of the nation’s GDP. This is important because although we are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impacts, we have substantial leverage to push the market toward a more sustainable future.

At Inova, we understand that ensuring our planet is healthy is tantamount to keeping our patients and communities healthy. In 2016 alone, we honored this commitment by:

  • Recycling over one million pounds of waste
  • Reducing our system-wide energy footprint by over 13% since our 2012 baseline year
  • Building our Women’s and Children’s Hospital to achieve LEED Silver Certification
  • Diverting 15 hippos’ worth or medical waste from landfills through medical device reprocessing
  • Serving sustainable, nutritious meals in our cafeterias.

Consuming less energy, increasing renewable energy use, reducing waste, serving healthier foods, and purchasing environmentally-preferable products, are practical solutions and examples of the future of health. These activities will not only reduce the impact of our operations, they will save money, and improve the well-being of our patients and employees.

We have a moral obligation to First, Do No Harm and the future of health relies on our leadership. The three-minute film “Do No Harm” calls climate change a medical emergency and explores what it calls “the health care sector’s moral mandate to respond” along with its “power to be a tipping point towards a better future.”

 

 

Learn more about how the healthcare sector can mobilize for a better future, and how Inova is leading in this effort.

 

 

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