Responsible Procurement | Energy | Water | Waste Management | Building Design & Refurbishing | Air Quality
Our Environment of Care
At Texas Health Resources, our “environment of care” includes activities that directly support the operation of our health system. We believe responsible, sustainable procurement and operations can meet current resource needs without compromising the needs of future generations.
Texas Health strives to create a healthy healing environment by minimizing operational impacts, consuming fewer natural resources, and generating and responsibly disposing of less waste.
Texas Health designs its management strategies to offer the strongest return on investments, reduce costs and address the system’s unique needs. These efforts primarily include:
- Reducing or eliminating exposure to medical, toxic, pharmaceutical and hazardous wastes and chemicals.
- Reducing energy and water consumption, as well as monitoring air emission.
- Improving efficiencies when building or renovating spaces, or when procuring new materials or equipment.
- Limiting impacts on surrounding ecosystems through sound disposal and management practices.
- Training key personnel how to safely handle waste and other hazards.
The following programs explain Texas Health’s investments in critical areas:
We purchase products and services that are better for the environment when financially feasible. For example, through our office products supplier, we purchase recycled products at the same or cheaper cost than non-recycled supplies. Many of our facilities use Greenseal™ or EcoLogo™ benign cleaning products as well.
Texas Health participates in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, which provides tools to help us measure and compare our energy use with others. More efficient buildings earn a score between 75 and 100, which qualifies them to be an ENERGY STAR partner. Our hospitals are working to achieve this status.
About 20 percent of our system’s infrastructure capital improvement budget is invested annually in efficiency projects that offer the most value. Some of these include:
- Procuring more efficient building materials and equipment when replaced.
- Retrofitting and optimizing existing building and electrical systems, lighting, chiller and boiler operations.
- Putting all new buildings through a rigorous commissioning process to ensure systems perform to our high specifications for efficient energy use.
- Purchasing renewable energy credits when feasible and cost-effective.
- Participating in demand response technologies and programs that reduce our power use during peak demand periods. This frees up energy for use elsewhere on the Texas power grid.
North Texas experienced unprecedented high temperatures in 2011 – 43 consecutive days at or above 100 degrees – which greatly increased energy used in our air conditioning and cooling controls. Fortunately, we saw a drop in heat and energy consumption in 2012.
During this timeframe, Texas Health Resources:
- Began benchmarking facility energy consumption and developing improvement plans.
- Launched more than 40 energy efficiency projects and began measuring our carbon footprint. These efforts will become more robust in the future.
- Installed more than $500,000 worth of energy management systems at most medical office buildings to maximize energy savings. We also retrofit lighting in buildings and garages to reduce energy consumption.
In the coming year, we plan to invest more than $2.5 million in building systems upgrades in an effort to reduce energy consumption system wide. We also hope to reduce energy used systemwide by another 4 percent.
As the state of Texas faces ongoing risk of drought and low water supply, all businesses must use water wisely to preserve this natural resource and control water expenses. Texas Health has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce water use, including:
- Installing water-efficient irrigation and sprinkler systems.
- Incorporating Xeriscape practices into landscape design.
- Installing low-flow toilets, waterless urinals and proximity sensors for hand-washing sinks.
- Identifying and repairing leaks.
- Using microfiber mops that reduce water and chemical use.
Additionally, we are part owners of the North Texas Healthcare Laundry Cooperative. Our systems reuse wastewater, reclaim heat and reduce chemicals needed to clean hospital linens.
Water consumption across our system increased in 2011 due to extreme heat. We plan to assess the feasibility of digging water wells at our larger hospitals to provide backup non-potable water supplies in case of utility outages or extreme drought.
Texas Health Resources manages its waste stream to prevent unnecessary exposures, communicable diseases and other harmful agents–as well as comply with related regulations. Our waste programs are designed to reduce what we send to the landfill and to control costs.
Medical and Hazardous Waste
The management of medical waste (e.g., used needles and pharmaceuticals) and hazardous waste (e.g., chemicals and disinfectants) is expensive, highly regulated, and requires specialized training and disposal mechanisms.
To reduce costs and clinician exposure risks, in 2012 we contracted with a full-service, nationally recognized waste disposal company. This company coordinates staff training, and removes hazardous chemicals, pharmaceuticals and waste directly from our facilities.
For its mercury elimination, waste reduction and pollution prevention programs, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital received Practice Greenhealth’s 2011 Partner for Change Award. Facilities must recycle 10 percent of their total waste to qualify. Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne earned a Clean Zone certification award in 2012 for its eco-friendly practices.
Most every Texas Health facility has some kind of office waste recycling program depending on the volume, storage and staff needed to make recycling practical and cost-effective. We encourage employees to recycle paper, boxes, brochures, cans and bottles.
Additionally, we have kept considerable amounts of cardboard out of the waste stream thanks to having medical supplies delivered in reusable totes directly from our distributor to our patient care areas instead. In 2011, we shredded and recycled more than 3.5 million pounds of paper–enough to save almost 16,000 trees. For Earth Day in 2011 and 2012, we held a free community shredding event.
Texas Health recycles computer parts after they are no longer needed, and also encourages employees to recycle old cell phones and printer-ink cartridges. We offer a similar service to the community each year to encourage their disposal of unwanted electronic products.
Our hospitals also collect unwanted phones for “Cell Phones for Soldiers,” a nonprofit program that recycles phones and provides calling cards to soldiers serving overseas so that they may call their families.
When feasible, Texas Health sends our unused food and food waste to be converted into compost. Rich in nutrients, the compost improves soil texture, saves water and reduces the need to use pesticides and fertilizers on crops.
Rather than dispose of used scrub tops, pants and jackets, our health system periodically collects and donates this clothing to community centers that provide services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence. Since 1999, we have donated thousands of pairs of gently used athletic shoes to local nonprofits.
Building Design & Refurbishing
Texas Health Resources designs, builds and retrofits our hospitals and facilities to improve efficiency, while reducing negative environmental impact, as required by local building codes. Part of this effort includes:
- Installing low-flow devices in toilets, urinals and sinks in all new construction and many existing locations.
- Landscaping with drought-tolerant plants.
- Eliminating pests at their source by prohibiting entrance into the building. This reduces the amount of chemicals needed to control them.
- Retrofitting plumbing and implementing conservation measures.
Our newest hospital, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance, achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in 2012. LEED is a voluntary program that provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
We are striving to meet ENERGY STAR partner status in each of our facilities and will pursue additional LEED certifications where practical.
We take measures to improve the air quality not only within our health system, but in the communities where we operate. We achieve this by implementing controls required by regulators and by shipping medical waste offsite for incineration.