Contradictions are common practice in most industries but seem more disturbing when they strike us as glaringly obvious. That's how some health professionals feel when they hear that hospitals in America contribute to 8 percent of the country's total carbon footprint, as GreenBiz reports below. "What?!" So the very industry that is addressing our rising rates of climate-related disease such as asthma, vector-borne illness and heat-related deaths is also causing 8 percent of the problem? Climate for Health leaders recognize the incongruousness here, and are working actively to improve the industry. As environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser Permanente, Kathy Gerwig has become widely recognized as an environmental leader in the health care sector and is addressing this large concern of hers. President and Founder of Health Care Without Harm, Gary Cohen, has helped the health sector lead the effort to reduce their contributions to climate change and prepare communities for the threats to health related to climate change. Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dean of the University of Washington's School of Public Health, is an expert in climate change and public health, and engages with students and professionals about how can we mitigate and adapt to these changes. Our climate solutions community is growing and leaders from various corners of the health sector are coming forward to participate in this movement torward positive change. Join us on the path to greener healthcare.
Deborah Fleischer I August 6, 2015
What percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions are related to the healthcare industry? The answer highlights why the greening of healthcare is a serious business: U.S. hospitals contribute 8 percent of our total carbon footprint, creating 2 million tons of waste annually.
“Sustainability is preventative medicine on a grand scale,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.
The environmental stewardship officer was speaking in a keynote recently to over 100 environmental health specialists, nurses, medical students and sustainability practitioners at the University of California, San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus. To explore the link between sustainability and healthcare, each speaker also provided actionable steps healthcare institutions can take.
A key message: Sustainability is not only good for the planet and the pocketbook, but it also supports total health.
Kaiser Permanente’s sustainability strategy focuses on five key areas: climate and energy; safer chemicals; water conservation; sustainable food; and waste reduction.
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