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Exempla Good Samaritan Going Green

October 23, 2008
Exempla hospitals going green Contributed by: Kim Kobel on 10/7/2008 Trash haulers stopping at the three Exempla hospitals are likely scratching their heads wondering where all the trash is. And the many Exempla employees who are jumping on board renewed recycling efforts could tell them to expect even less trash in the future. Hospital sites are forming "green teams" and committees to explore new ways of reducing the amount of trash going to area landfills. "Our employees know it's the right thing to do," said Brad Haugan Director, Guest Services, Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center (EGSMC) in Lafayette, which recycled nearly a quarter million pounds last year. Haugan said more than 20 employees have recently volunteered to help train other employees in recycling as the hospital began expanding its commingled recycling program at the end of August. That's when employees placed 100 bins throughout the hospital that will remove up to 40 more tons from the trash stream. "I think the commingled program is our biggest opportunity to make a difference," Haugan said. "We've already exceeded our original anticipated capacity and we've requested a larger central collection bin outside. And it's very popular with our employees." Employees at Exempla SaintJoseph Hospital (ESJH) inDenverstarted a group through their Employee Council calling itself TEAM GREEN last fall to reduce trash. Marci Radin, a medical imaging employee who chairs the recycling committee at ESJH, said more than 30 employees on all three shifts expressed interest in recycling more. She said the team began with a desire to recycle just cardboard boxes and arranged for a cardboard compactor that, without realizing it at first, could be used for co-mingled or "single stream recycling" (it can handle aluminum, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard). "So, with no effort on our part, we leapfrogged to an even greater accomplishment and found out we are the first hospital in Denver County to start single stream recycling," Radin said. She said other Denver hospitals may have some particular areas of recycling, such as cardboard alone, and some may be recycling two items at a time, butExempla Saint Joseph Hospitalis the first to have this kind of capability. Radin said TEAM GREEN expects in the next year or so to reverse the current numbers of approximately 85 percent trash to landfill with 15 percent recycling to 85 percent recycling and 15 percent to landfill. In December, the group introduced battery buckets placed around the hospital to collect old alkaline batteries so they could be disposed of properly. Radin called it "a huge success." Radin called the support from employees "enthusiastic," but added that participation in recycling is completely voluntary. "We won't have recycle police looking over shoulders," she said. "Participation is based solely on any individual's willingness." Exempla Lutheran Medical Center (ELMC) in Wheat Ridge is working to reduce disposables and it's been researching compostable disposables, according to Kristin Ehrlich, director of nutrition services at ELMC. In the cafeteria, Ehrlich said the hospital is moving plastic ware to the end of the line so diners will only pick up the utensils they need for the meal they bought. "We found that people automatically grab a fork, knife and spoon when they start in line," Ehrlich said. ELMC is also transitioning its dishwashing chemicals to a greener brand that's less caustic. To reduce the use of paper and Styrofoam cups, all three hospitals now offer Exempla reusable mugs for $6.99. When the mugs, which hold 16 ounces, are used at any Exempla hospital, users only pay the price of a 12-ounce drink. The mugs, the idea for which came from an annual employee survey, are sold at EGSMC Sky Café and Sky Coffee, ELMC Café La Bella Vita and the ESJH cafeteria.