UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, April 2013

UCSF Medical Center Publishes First Sustainability Report

GlobeThe UCSF Medical Center recently published their first sustainability report.  Balancing saving lives and doing no harm with protecting the environment is a top priority at UCSF and the sustainability report details UCSF’s journey to greener operations at the medical center—cutting waste, saving energy and saving money.

Sustainability and Health Care

UCSF recognizes that healthcare’s ethical responsibility is “first, do no harm.”  However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one percent of all solid waste in the U.S. originates at healthcare facilities;  the medical industry generates over two million tons of waste annually and consumes more than eight percent of the total energy used in U.S.  Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are on average among the most energy-intensive buildings in the country. 

UCSF is a leader in identifying and implementing sustainability measures at the medical center.  Over the past four years, the medical center has earned Practice GreenHealth’s (PGH)‘s Partner for Change with Distinction Award, recognizing efforts to cut waste, reduce toxins and cut energy; UCSF was just awarded the award again for 2013 (stay tuned for details on the award next month).

The medical center is also a signatory of the Healthier Hospital Initiative, committing to three of the six planks:  engaged leadership, healthier food and less waste. This initiative was founded by 11 of the largest, most influential U.S. health systems, comprising over 490 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power. It serves as a guide to help hospitals reduce energy and waste, purchase safer and less toxic materials and serve healthier foods.

The medical center’s sustainability efforts save money, reduce waste, reduce emissions, improve quality and increase efficiency, as well as shift the culture, reducing UCSF’s impact on the environment and community. 

Highlights of Savings:

LivingGreen is good for the environment and helps UCSF save money.  Savings from sustainability programs include:

• $846,000 in rebates for installing energy-saving upgrades for the cooling and lighting systems at the Parnassus hospital
• $751,000 saved by approving reprocessed medical devices
• $250,000 saved by reducing medical waste
• $240,000 saved through the purchase of reusable pillows
• $105,000 saved by reusing sharps containers

Highlights of Waste Reduction and Other Sustainability Initiatives

• Completed construction of two LEED-certified facilities that will save energy throughout their lifetime
• Replaced toxic cleaners with certified Green Seal cleaning products
• Purchased low-flow toilets, rechargeable batteries and conversion to paperless record-keeping
• Composed food waste from cafeterias, staff lounges and patient rooms.
• Certified four “LivingGreen Offices”
• Organized “Bike to Work Day” and added 256 bike parking spaces and 40 carpool parking spaces
• Donated over 13,000 lbs of medical equipment and supplies to international hospitals/clinics
• Serving organic baby food at the medical center