We celebrated, educated each other, and shared our goals for greening healthcare at CleanMed 2008 in Pittsburgh. More than 500 healthcare providers, physicians, researchers, architects, and other decision makers from around the world came together to talk about real solutions being utilized right now by real hospitals to lessen the impact of our industry.

“By its very nature, healthcare can be unwittingly harming the environment,” says Anna Gilmore Hall, RN, executive director of Health Care Without Harm. “But attitudes are changing across the healthcare system. What we are seeing now would have been unimaginable a decade ago. We can envision the hospital of the 21st century being carbon-neutral, toxic-free, water-balanced, with minimal waste production.”

Conference attendees learned about environmental purchasing, energy procurement, healthy food, safer materials, green buildings, and so much more. The two keynote speakers—David Orr, PhD, chair of the Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College, and Jeremy Lazarus, PhD, speaker, American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates (speaking on behalf of AMA President Ron Davis, PhD)—spoke of the unique leadership position healthcare is in, as an economic powerhouse of $2.3 trillion, or 16% of the U.S. GDP, to set a great example by creating a medical system that delivers health without harm.
Representatives from the six new facilities inducted into practice greenhealth's environmental leadership circle

Courtesy of the Photographer Bill Ravanesi © 2008

Representatives from the six new facilities inducted into Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Leadership Circle

Artist michelle boos-stone visually records concepts presented during a keynote speech by jeremy lazarus, phd, speaker, american medical association house of delegates

Courtesy of the Photographer Bill Ravanesi © 2008

Artist Michelle Boos-Stone visually records concepts presented during a keynote speech by Jeremy Lazarus, PhD, speaker, American Medical Association House of Delegates

On the eve of CleanMed, Practice Greenhealth (joining together Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), and the Health Care Clean Energy Exchange) hosted the annual Environmental Excellence Awards Banquet for more than 200 attendees, presenting 157 awards to 141 facilities. This year’s award-winning facilities are finding safer substitutes for some of the eco-unfriendly materials that have been a staple in the healthcare industry for decades. Mercury, lead, and PVCs are all on the casualty list. They are increasing recycling and reducing waste, constructing green buildings, and removing mercury from their facilities.

Six new facilities were inducted into the prestigious Environmental Leadership Circle, Practice Greenhealth’s premier award reserved for facilities and systems exemplifying environmental excellence in healthcare. The new inductees are: Providence Portland Medical Center, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, and Providence Milwaukie Hospital, Oregon; Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, Michigan; Sacred Heart Hospital, Wisconsin; and Sequoia Hospital, California.

“The Environmental Excellence Awards are tangible proof that eco healthcare is good for the planet and good for patients and staff,” says Bob Jarboe, executive director of Practice Greenhealth. “The Awards are an opportunity to showcase ourselves as a green and sustainable industry, and even though we are far from done, we believe that good work deserves to be recognized every step of the way.”

To support, honor, and encourage the continuous efforts of the award winners, Practice Greenhealth teamed up with Trees for the Future (http://www.plant-trees.org) to plant 100 trees per award in two areas of India. For a full list of award winners and information on how your facility can apply for a 2009 award, visit http://www.practicegreenhealth.org.

Other highlights of the 2008 CleanMed conference included:

  • The introduction of the Health Care Clean Energy Exchange, which will allow healthcare facilities to buy clean energy at extremely competitive prices.

  • A number of new products designed to reduce the environmental footprint of healthcare including PVC-free tubing and IV bags, organic cotton scrubs, reusable sharps containers, and new methods of processing, recycling and reducing waste.

  • Discussions on the importance of sourcing local, healthy and sustainable food to feed patients and staff.

  • Presentations highlighting the importance of integrating green design features, including LEED and the GGHC, into the renovation and new building process.

  • The power and influence of healthcare procurement on environmentally preferable purchasing.

  • The presentation of the first annual Courage in Science award to Herb Needleman, PhD, the University of Pittsburgh pediatrician, child psychiatrist, and researcher whose work on the impacts of low levels of lead on children’s development was pivotal in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove lead from gasoline in the late 1970s.

Ideas from the keynotes and a number of the breakout sessions were captured visually by a graphic artist—see slides of her drawings at http://cleanmed.org/2008/artwork.html. And visit the CleanMed blog (http://cleanmed.wordpress.com) to learn more about the conference.

Julie taylor of health care without harm speaking at the environmental excellence awards, which presented 157 awards to 141 facilities

Courtesy of the Photographer Bill Ravanesi © 2008

Julie Taylor of Health Care Without Harm speaking at the Environmental Excellence Awards, which presented 157 awards to 141 facilities

Keynote speaker david orr, phd, chair of the environmental studies program, oberlin college

Courtesy of the Photographer Bill Ravanesi © 2008

Keynote speaker David Orr, PhD, chair of the Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College

CleanMed 2008 sponsors were Catholic Health Initiatives, Consorta, Health Care Without Harm, The Heinz Endowments, Hospira, Kaiser Permanente, Perkins+Will, Practice Greenhealth, Premier, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Preparations are already underway for the next conference, May 18-20, 2009, Chicago. For more information, visit



As President of Healthwise Communications, Aura Rose helps clients understand and leverage the power of communications and staff engagement to move their sustainability projects forward. For more information, visit http://www.healthwisecommunications.com.