July 13, 2023

Sustainability is at the heart of our healing mission

UW Health culinary employee Shekeba Samadzada

UW Health sustainability strategies nationally honored

MADISON, Wis. — Sustainability is at the heart of our healing mission, and we’re proud to share that our sustainability strategies have won several national awards from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. 

UW Health’s University Hospital, American Family Children’s Hospital and East Madison Hospital were all recognized recently for their environmental achievements.

This includes Partner for Change, Greening the OR, Circles of Excellence-Food and the highly competitive Emerald Award, which recognizes the top 20 percent of applicants and is focused on advanced sustainability programs and exemplary scores in a range of categories.

Sustainability in health care

In health care, sustainability means looking at how our operations affect the health and safety of our environment as well as the health of our patients, staff, visitors and local community.

Strategies to address sustainability at our organization include minimizing and recycling waste, addressing chemicals of concern, lowering energy and water consumption, sourcing food and products locally and sustainably and establishing environmentally preferable purchasing criteria.

At UW Health, we know sustainability is essential to better care for our patients, communities and planet.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

In recent years, we have made great strides toward reducing our impact on the environment, and we are committed to doing even more. UW Health was one of the first health systems in the country to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% over 10 years.

In addition, UW Health was the first health system in the Midwest to sign on to the Cool Food Pledge from the World Resources Institute, pledging to reduce food related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030.

Lower OR impact on the environment

We understand about 30% of our environmental footprint is generated in our operating rooms, so UW Health created a multidisciplinary Green OR Council.

The purpose of the Green OR (GOR) Council is to reduce the impact of operating room operations on the environment and human health. The council has representation from anesthesia, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, nursing, safety, infection control, environmental services, central processing, clinical engineering, procurement, pharmacy and sustainability.

This diverse team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and support staff works collaboratively with surgery and organizational leadership to reduce waste, energy and operational costs as we lower our overall impact on the environment and human health.

Many projects including anesthetic gas reductions, HVAC setbacks, linen reduction, kit reformulation, surgeon scorecards and quarterly in-depth waste assessments have already been implemented in our first year.

Top honors for culinary services

The Circles of Excellence Award-Food celebrates hospitals who have not only earned an award for all-around sustainability achievement but have also been identified as the top-scoring program in this category.

At UW Health, our culinary services and clinical nutrition professionals are passionate about offering nutritious, delicious cuisine to support good health and healing for our patients, families and guests. Our highly qualified and diverse workforce is committed to exemplary care through food and nutrition.

We maintain an exciting and complex myriad of partnerships to honor our UW Health Nutrition and Sustainability Guidelines.

We innovate, aspire and succeed through collaborations that leverage resources devoted to building sustainable and equitable food systems. Since 2013, we’ve been focused on an intentional plan demonstrated by our commitment to food as medicine.

We’re grateful to the many caregivers, frontline workers and administrators who are committed to this work and bring innovation, ingenuity and adaptability to help us dramatically improve our footprint.