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Nurse Leaders Key to Hospital Sustainability Efforts

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, April 10, 2012

A few years ago, when I would hand my reusable shopping bags to a clerk in the store check-out line, I felt a little self-conscious about it. Now, I feel self-conscious when I forget them at home.

These days, environmentally aware lifestyle choices are extending beyond the grocery store. Whether it's recycling, opting to use earth-friendly household cleaners, or forgoing plastic water bottles, people are consuming more consciously and acting with the planet in mind.

But there's often a disconnect between what happens at home and what happens at work, and that includes hospitals. Employees want their organizations to be more environmentally conscious, but get overwhelmed thinking about the task of making a hospital "green."

This can be especially true for nurses who see firsthand the waste and use of environmentally unfriendly chemicals in their hospitals.

"I do feel there are a lot of interested nurses, but they don't know what to do about it," says Janet Brown, director of facility engagement for Practice Green Health and director of content and outreach for the new Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). "Sometimes nurses think: ‘How can I be involved with sustainability? I'm on the unit.'"

The HHI is a three-year initiative developed by 11 sponsoring health systems and three non-profits that sets specific, measurable, environmental interventions for hospitals to implement. Hospitals gather and submit data to the program so they'll be able to see the business case for going green. 

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