Wednesday, April 22, 2009

LifeBridge Health celebrates Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone! To commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd share a recent Bridge employee newsletter story about LifeBridge Health's efforts to go green:

“It's not easy being green,” sang Kermit the Frog. But then again, the popular Muppet never met Lewis Poe, director of Maintenance at LifeBridge Health.

With some help from his colleagues, Lewis is turning LifeBridge Health centers green by making them more environmentally friendly.

In an effort to support our community and reduce our environmental footprint, LifeBridge has adopted a comprehensive set of policies to promote green initiatives in the following areas: community consciousness, emissions reduction, employee education, energy consumption, environmentally friendly products, recycling and waste management.

For our “green teams” to succeed, employees must also educate our patients, residents and their family members. “Every little bit and big bit counts,” says Lewis.

Sinai’s program is in its fifth year, and Levindale kicked off its major push in 2007. Last year, Northwest Hospital completely shut down its medical waste incinerator. Jewish Convalescent is already separating non-infectious and infectious waste.

LifeBridge Health continues making changes for two main reasons, says Lewis. “First, it's the right thing to do for our planet and for the future of our children. Second, it will save the company money.”

All waste at Sinai and Northwest hospitals used to be burned in incinerators, which contributed to air pollution. But according to Lewis, LifeBridge Health is now taking advantage of opportunities to get rid of waste in ways that benefit the environment.

One such method is separating infectious and the non-infectious waste. To help put new programs into place, LifeBridge Health is working with Reduction in Motion, a company with waste management expertise.

“Infectious waste is now sterilized and turned into steam, using equipment called an autoclave,” says Bill Griffin from Reduction In Motion. “The steam generated is harvested and sold as energy to heat and cool buildings in Baltimore.”

Non-infectious waste is recycled.

To help people with their choices, garbage bags are color-coded. Red bags are for infectious waste, and clear bags are for everything else.

“Non-infectious personal hygiene products compromise the majority of waste at Levindale. However before the program began, 84 percent of the waste was being thrown away in infectious bags. Now that employees know the difference, we think that just 10 percent of Levindale’s garbage will end up classified as infectious,” Lewis explains.

Behind the scenes, Levindale's food and nutrition workers are now composting. Leftover items, such as fruits, vegetables and bones, are picked up nightly and taken for organic decomposition, which, in turn, fertilizes soil. Sinai is also about to start composting.

Sinai was the first institution to partner with Baltimore city for the Tree Baltimore program. Thirty trees were planted to beautify the campus and help reduce greenhouse gases. And the new, four-story glass atrium at Sinai will feature a green roof.

By reducing energy consumption through employee education programs, the use of compact fluorescent lighting and automated shut-off processes, LifeBridge Health is saving $393,266.40 each year, Lewis says.

“Our challenge going forward is to continue educating employees on the benefits of recycling, energy reduction and other green initiatives in an attempt to continue to modify behaviors,” Lewis says.

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