"First, do no harm," has been the mantra of healthcare professionals for centuries. It's a perfectly good one, that serves as a reminder that bad things can happen even with the best of intentions.
Ironically, while hospitals are dedicated to healing, they can also have a negative impact on the patients and communities they serve. Healthcare is a highly energy-intensive business – hospitals are third only to food service and food sales in terms of consumption of energy per square foot in the U.S. [source: Energy Information Administration]. Hospitals and medical centers also consume massive quantities of water and generate extraordinary quantities of waste. The environmental implications are staggering.
One response to these challenges is for hospitals to commit to "going green." There's already momentum toward more sustainable use of resources in homes and buildings around the globe, and medical facilities are an important part of that trend. There are so many ways a hospital can go green, ranging from the elimination of Styrofoam in their food service operations to the construction of new buildings with the latest sustainable features. Each hospital will likely be a bit different in their approach due to their specific priorities and challenges.
In the next section, we'll look at some of the hospital-specific strategies for going green, as well as what certain hospitals are doing.