KentuckyOne Health hospitals improving health and reducing costs by accelerating sustainability practices

Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital pilot builds on Louisville mayor’s sustainability goals in a new sector

Few sectors of the economy consume as many resources – electricity, water, cleaning products, chemicals and food – as health care. As research linking environmental impact with chronic disease continues to emerge, it poses a unique question to hospitals. If their mission is to heal and promote health, shouldn’t reducing their environmental impact be part of their work?

Yes, says KentuckyOne Health and more than 500 hospitals across the country that have joined the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a partnership coordinated by Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), and the Center for Health Design.

According to HHI, the average hospital generates 26 pounds of waste per bed every day. With this in mind, Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, has initiated an ambitious recycling initiative that will serve as a model for KentuckyOne facilities across the state.  It encompasses three parts: composting, single-stream recycling, and specialty-waste recycling.

Composting began at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth in May, with 1.5 tons of food waste diverted from the landfill in just the first four weeks.  Single-stream recycling begins this month, with specialty-waste recycling not far behind. Specialty waste recycles many items—like disposable surgical drapes and IV bags—that have never before been recovered.

KentuckyOne’s “Working Green Living Green” initiative supports Mayor Greg Fischer’s city sustainability plan which set a goal of increasing recycling citywide by 25 percent by 2015 and diverting half of solid waste from the landfill by 2025.

“We are delighted to see KentuckyOne Health’s leadership around recycling and food composting across their healthcare system,” Fischer said. “This type of effort supports our city recycling goals and will help improve our environment for the long term.”

Preliminary estimates indicate that nearly a $500,000 in savings could be realized if KentuckyOne Health’s Louisville facilities divert 35 percent of landfill waste. “Not only does it make good business sense, this work aligns with our mission of building a healthier community,” said Alice Bridges, Vice President of Healthy Communities for KentuckyOne Health. “Approximately 75 percent of all health care costs are for the treatment of chronic diseases so by addressing the root causes, we can play a crucial role in reducing the burden of chronic disease.”


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