Healthy Metro Environment

May 5, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Metro Health’s new “village” development is well under way in southern Wyoming. The hospital and surrounding buildings will all be built with environmental impact and energy efficiency in mind. Metro hopes that it will be able to attain a high-level certification for the hospital as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facility.

Anyone who is familiar with LEED certification knows that energy-efficient building supplies like low-E glass and recycled composite materials are important, but so are an organization’s policies. Reducing waste, increasing recycling and dialing back the thermostat are all worth points in LEED certification. As Metro awaits the completion of its new home, it has already been recognized for some of these policies.

The health system recently won two awards from Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, a national nonprofit coalition that encourages environmental responsibility in health care. Metro was one of 98 winners of the Making Medicine Mercury Free award, eliminating the harmful element from its medical equipment. It was also one of 38 winners of the Partners for Change award, recognizing overall efforts to reduce the amount of harmful waste the system generates.

“By focusing on environmental sustainability, Metro Health is playing an active role in the health care sector’s fundamental shift toward protecting public health instead of simply treating disease,” said Laura Brannen, executive director of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment. “Metro Health is to be commended for its visionary efforts to create a healthier environment for their patients, staff and community, and for setting the example for other hospitals to follow.”

Metro’s efforts to increase efficiency and environmental friendliness include the introduction of an employee car-pool system, and changes in the disposal of solid waste. Since 1999, the system has reduced its solid waste output by 3 percent — or 23 tons. Metro’s recycling has also saved thousands of pounds of reusable materials from the landfill. The system has recycled over 20 tons of paper, 57 tons of cardboard, five tons of X-ray film and one ton each of batteries and lightbulbs.

Although Metro’s waste-reduction plans have saved the system tens of thousands of dollars, that’s not the point, according to Jamie Crouch, Metro’s safety officer.

“Our initiatives to eliminate waste are not required,” he said. “We chose to make these changes because the monetary savings the hospital has seen due to these programs can’t even be quantified with the savings to the environment.”

John Ebers, Metro’s sustainable practices coordinator, said that the hospital’s commitment to build a LEED-certified facility impressed the judges, although that was only part of the equation.

“This is not just about a building, it is about the changes we make operationally,” he said.

Metro Health Village will be developed over the course of several years, with office buildings, restaurants and retail facilities filling in around the hospital, which is scheduled to open next year.

Although Saint Mary’s Health Care and Spectrum Health were not recognized by Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, both systems have previously been recognized for their efforts to eliminate mercury and reduce waste.

Metro was the only Michigan health system to win awards in the Making Medicine Mercury Free and Partners in Change categories. However, the state’s health care facilities performed well overall. Of the 14 winners of the top prize — the Environmental Leadership Award — five are from Michigan. Borgess Medical Center and Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Sparrow Health in Lansing, University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers in Ann Arbor, and W.A. Foote Health in Jackson all took the top environmental award.    

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