Bon Secours RGH Green Team reports achievements

Over the past year, Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital has implemented several strategies to increase efficiency, reduce costs and overall, be more conscientious regarding environmental impact.

This has been done through the work of the Green Team, a volunteer group of 13 staff members from various departments of the hospital who meet monthly with the mission of finding new ways to make the facility more environmentally friendly.

Last year RGH’s Green Team received a Partner Recognition Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading health care community dedicated to transforming health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint, becomes a community anchor for sustainability and a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice, reported director of materials management Kimberly Headley.

The award is one of the Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor environmental achievements in the health care sector, said Headley, who also is founder and chairman of the RGH Green Team.

The Partner Recognition Award is given to health care facilities that have begun to work on environmental improvements, have achieved some progress and have at least a 10% recycling rate for their total waste stream, she said.

Headley led the efforts behind this achievement by collecting and submitting data pertaining to RGH’s waste, energy and water usage, as well as information on sustainability projects. An application has been submitted for this current year and RGH is waiting for results, she added.

Thanks to these initiatives, last year RGH was able to recycle:

• 1.71 tons of batteries.

• 2.48 tons of electronic and computer waste.

• .94 ton of ink jet and toner cartridges.

• .90 ton of cooking oil.

• 9.5 tons of wood, including pallets.

• 84.85 tons of paper, due to electronic medical records and Connect Care, saving approximately 1,437 trees.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished so far. We are looking in all areas, to see where we can improve,” said Headley.

Under the direction of Headley, the Green Team kicked off RGH’s second annual Earth Week celebrations on April 24.

Employees had the opportunity to complete and display an Earth Pledge, where they committed to supporting a list of earth friendly initiatives such as replacing Styrofoam products, nurturing the growth of a plant and donating items to Seconds Unlimited Thrift Shop to keep waste out of the landfill. More than 70 pledges were collected.

Headley also visited the YMCA preschoolers, armed with activities and fun. Headley read books to the children about caring for the environment and then conducted activities including planting seeds and creating miniature greenhouses, coloring activities and games to teach children about recycling, including a sing-along. Each child received a coloring packet to take home with an “Earth” crayon made from upcycled broken crayons.

“I believe if we teach our children to recycle at a young age, as they are growing up, they will be in the habit of recycling and can bring that into their communities and work places,” said Headley.

The Green Team planted a vegetable garden on hospital grounds with tomatoes, herbs, watermelon and cantaloupe, with hopes that the RGH Cafeteria will be able to utilize these fresh ingredients.

The culmination of the week’s activities was an Earth Day education and resource fair, held in the hospital. Displays included Old Farm Truck produce shop with freshly picked strawberries, asparagus and local honey, as well as information on eating fresh and local and additional education on conscientious recycling was made available to staff.

Another activity was the office supply repurposing in which each department throughout the hospital was asked to take inventory of their office supplies and determine if they had unneeded items. These items were collected and made available during the resource fair for other departments to “shop” for needed items, thereby reducing waste and unnecessary expenses for items already within the facility.

Last year, employees were asked to donate denim for another Earth Day initiative called “Blue Jeans Go Green,” as the collected denim can be repurposed into insulation for housing. During the education fair, employees played a guessing game as to how many pairs of jeans or other denim items were collected.

The winning answer was 606 denim items. Other drawings and door prizes were conducted throughout the day, with staff winning items such as garden gloves, seed packets, reusable shopping bags and plants and enjoying “Earth” themed goodies. The Green Team recruited four new team members at the event.

“These events and efforts demonstrate our commitment to protecting the health of our patients, staff and community,” said Headley. “It’s truly a team effort from all hospital staff and together, we’ll continue navigating the path to sustainability for the future of health care.”