Atlantic Health System achieved a new level of recognition for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability, receiving the System for Change Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. Its Overlook Medical Center once again earned Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor, the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award, for the third consecutive year. Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center and Hackettstown Medical Center each received the Partner for Change Award for a second consecutive year.
The System for Change Award recognizes health systems with at least four acute-care hospitals that are working cohesively and across campuses and facilities to set and meet goals related to sustainability, from reducing energy use to increasing recycling to establishing green building practices.
The Partner for Change Award recognizes health care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon programs to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably, and more. Winning facilities must demonstrate that they are recycling at least 15% of their total waste, have reduced regulated medical waste, are on track to eliminate mercury, and have developed successful sustainability programs in many areas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new level of appreciation for the resources we have, and as health care professionals, spurred us to innovate the way we deliver care,” said Nikki Sumpter, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Atlantic Health System. “Our team members, who have already integrated sustainability into the culture of our organization, have a renewed focus on this goal, as we deliver exceptional, safe care and build healthier communities.”
“In a shifting health care landscape, a focus on sustainability can help build resilience while better protecting the health of patients and the community,” said Gary Cohen, Practice Greenhealth founder. “Atlantic Health System demonstrates the kind of leadership, innovation, and performance that can drive the entire health sector toward more environmentally responsible practices.”
The Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award is Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor for hospitals. These hospitals are leading the industry with innovation in sustainability, demonstrating superior programs, and illustrating how sustainability is a core part of their culture.
In addition to the top honor, Overlook also achieved Practice Greenhealth’s Circle of Excellence awards in two categories. The Circles of Excellence honor up to ten of the highest performing hospitals nationwide in each area of sustainability expertise:
- The Food category highlights leaders in sustainable food services, including meat and sugar-sweetened beverage reduction, healthier meat procurement, local sourcing, food waste prevention and management. Top contenders have written policies and an educational strategy that addresses the food system as a critical component in an overall sustainability plan—for human and planetary health.
- The Greening the OR category, which shows that the hospital is working in several areas on waste reduction and energy savings in the perioperative area
Since 2015, Overlook has been consistently recognized by Practice Greenhealth, previously earning its Emerald Award, Partner for ChangeAward, and the Making Medicine Mercury Free award.
“The continued recognition by Practice Greenhealth highlights that our commitment to environmental sustainability is deeply integrated with the nationally-recognized care delivered at Overlook” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center. “That commitment is stronger than ever, and will offer new ways to bring sustainability to our operations as we move forward from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
How Atlantic Health System’s hospitals attained environmental excellence:
At each campus, Atlantic Health System established “Green Teams,” whose team’s subgroups addressed specific areas and initiatives, such as working with food service departments to enhance healthy food offerings.
Other system-wide initiatives included:
- A project to collect waste medications from the hospitals’ pharmacies, and dispose of them in environmentally sustainable ways
- Replacing plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws throughout all hospital retail sites
- On-campus beehives have been implemented at Morristown, Overlook and Chilton medical centers
- Morristown created a community garden on-site
- In early 2020, Atlantic Health System recently partnered with Green Vision, Inc., based in Randolph, a local environmentally-friendly recycling company. The company picks up the health system’s electronic waste, or “e-waste,” such as used computer monitors, televisions, various pieces of medical equipment and other devices, and employs young adolescent students and adults with autism how to properly dismantle and recycle unwanted electronics, also known as e-waste. Green Vision operates 99% landfill-free, with all recycled materials going to federally licensed facilities. Atlantic Health last year recycled more than 7,000 lbs. of e-waste.
Moving forward, Atlantic Health System plans to continue to enhance its sustainability efforts – the organization has committed to reducing the use of Styrofoam, and plans are underway to make practices in the organization’s physician network, Atlantic Medical Group, mercury free.
Overlook Medical Center’s top recognition highlights increased recycling efforts throughout 2019, as well as other achievements.
The hospital’s efforts in food, which garnered the Food Award, reflect accomplishments such as actively engaging in the Healthy Food in Healthcare organization, diverting food waste from landfills through composting and donation, and offering locally-sourced produce, with a high percentage of food purchases being sustainable items.
In 2019, Overlook took a novel approach to repurposing surgical blue wrap – a material that accounts for a huge amount of hospital waste. The wrap, used to cover sterile surgical instruments and materials, is made of polypropylene, which is lightweight and durable – and also incredibly non-biodegradable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that polypropylene also accounts for 19 percent of all operating room waste – 255 million pounds annually throughout the nation.
Overlook Medical Center uses – and discards – about 15,000 lbs. of blue wrap each year. Using designs created by one of Overlook’s behavioral health nurses, and supported by the hospital’s ‘Green Team,’ Overlook has begun turning the blue wrap into reusable tote bags, as well as ponchos and sleeping bags, some of which have been donated to Summit’s homeless.
Overlook was an early installer of an electric refueling station in Overlook’s east parking garage, giving patients and visitors with electric/hybrid vehicles a place to re-energize their cars. Overlook implemented a tri-generation power plant, which harnesses the waste heat produced by its generators, reducing energy needs and allowing the hospital to operate independent of grid-supplied power.
The hospital’s rooftop beehives, which produce fresh, local honey and beeswax, and the hospital’s community gardens, located just down the road from the hospital, are used for educational programs for local schools and organizations each year. The “Bee Healthy” program educates local children about nutrition, with programs hosted at the gardens and at local schools. In addition, the community gardens include handicap garden beds and regular beds that are available to lower income families at a reduced cost.
More information about this year’s Practice Greenhealth winners, click here.