June 28, 2024

UW Health gets high honors for sustainability efforts

The solar panels atop UW Health Eastpark Medical Center
The solar canopy atop the new UW Health Eastpark Medical Center, the largest of its kind in Wisconsin.

MADISON, Wis. – UW Health recently earned seven national awards from Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit organization focused on making the health care industry more sustainable.

Three UW Health hospitals in Madison were recognized for excellence in sustainability strategies and environmental achievements in several categories, according to Mary Statz, program director, Energy Management and Sustainability, UW Health. University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital receive one award per category, as the two hospitals share a campus.

University Hospital, American Family Children’s Hospital and East Madison Hospital received the Greening the Operating Room Award, which honors facilities that have made substantial progress in reducing the impact of the surgical environment.

UW Health has a multidisciplinary Green Operating Room Council to address the fact that approximately 30% of a health system’s environmental footprint is generated in the OR. This team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and support staff works collaboratively to reduce the waste generated by OR operations, reducing its impact on the environment.

The hospitals also received two of only 10 total Circle of Excellence awards in the Food category, which celebrates hospitals that have not only earned an award for all-around achievement in sustainability but have also been identified as the top-scoring programs for culinary sustainability.

“For more than 10 years, our culinary services and clinical nutrition professionals have been focused on a commitment to offering nutritious, delicious climate-smart cuisine to support good health and healing for our patients, families and guests,” Statz said.

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

East Madison Hospital received the Partner for Change Award, which recognizes superior performance in environmental sustainability, covering a range of different sustainability programs and activities. Winners have also made substantive progress on mercury elimination.

University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital also received the highly competitive Emerald Award, which recognizes the top 20% of hospitals from within the Partner for Change applicants for advanced sustainability programs and exemplary scores in several categories.

“Environmental health is connected to human health. Climate change impacts human health so we look for opportunities to reduce our footprint without impacting the great care we provide to our patients,” Statz said.

Finally, this year, Practice Greenhealth gave Partner Recognition to UW Health in northern Illinois.

“Our sustainability strategies include recycling and minimizing waste, addressing chemicals of concern, lowering energy and water consumption, sourcing food and products locally and sustainably and establishing environmentally preferable purchasing criteria systemwide,” Statz said.

UW Health was one of the first health systems in the country to join the U.S. Department of Energy Better Climate Challenge, committing in 2017 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% over 10 years. The health system recently unveiled the new rooftop solar panel canopy at Eastpark Medical Center, which is the largest of its kind in Wisconsin.

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

Practice Greenhealth recognizes health systems with these awards annually.