Health & Wellness

Environmental Group Awards Overlook Medical Center for Practice Excellence, Achievements

From left, Iris Verdi, manager of environmental services; Gerry Durney, director of operations; George Liothake, manager, human resources; Jillian DellaVecchia manager of preoperative services.
One of the recycling stations set up in Overlook Medical Center
A worker helps harvest the product from Overlook’s on-site apiary.
A jar of the honey made from Overlook’s beehives.

SUMMIT, NJ - Overlook Medical Center in Summit, part of Atlantic Health System, has been recognized for environmental excellence with two awards from Practice Greenhealth, a national organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care.

Practice Greenhealth is a Reston, VA-based non-profit founded on the principles of positive environmental stewardship and best practices by organizations in the health care community.

In recognition for leading the health care industry in sustainability and environmental stewardship, Overlook received the Greenhealth Emerald Award, one of the Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor environmental achievements in the health care sector.

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The hospital had previously received the Greenhealth Partner for Change Award for two consecutive years. The Emerald Award reflects a higher level of distinction.

Overlook also received the Greening the OR Award for the second consecutive year, which recognizes the facility demonstrating the most success in reducing the environmental impact of its surgical suites.

“As health care providers, our commitment to improving the health of our patients and community means taking action both within our walls and outside our doors,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center. “Just as we are making thoughtful decisions at Overlook Medical Center to be more environmentally sustainable in our ORs and throughout our campus, we are also reaching out directly to teach people in our community how to live more sustainably and healthy.”

The Greenhealth Emerald Award recognizes health care facilities that are setting the standard in eliminating mercury, reducing and recycling waste, sustainable sourcing, and other areas. Winning hospitals have demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability and shown leadership in the local community and in the health care sector.

Operating rooms are large contributors to a health care facility’s environmental footprint, creating opportunity for significant cost savings and sustainability improvements. The Greening the OR Award builds on Practice Greenhealth’s Greening the OR Initiative which, in 2015 alone, helped participating facilities save $41.7 million while avoiding 2,150 tons of waste and more than 9 million kWhs of energy.

Initiatives that contributed to Overlook Medical Center’s dual awards included increased recycling efforts throughout 2016, as well as the installation of a fluid management system. The hospital has also been implementing H2O2 (ionized water) technology in lieu of chemicals for general purpose cleaning and the purchase of environmentally-friendly green-seal chemicals whenever possible.

The medical center’s tri-generation power plant has had the most significant impact on reducing the facility’s carbon footprint. The power plant produces 4 Megawatts of electricity on site by harnessing the waste heat produced by the generators and substitutes steam formerly created by boilers. The use of an absorption chiller creates chilled water for air conditioning and dehumidification; lower grade domestic hot water produced by the system is used by the hospital, as well. This tri-generation process reduces the cost of replaced energy by more than 60 percent, while also providing a redundant electrical generating capability which, in emergency situations, allows the hospital to operate independent of grid-supplied power.

Operating room-specific initiatives included:    

  • Implementation of a recycling program in the OR

  • Installation of more energy-efficient LED lighting systems in the overhead surgical lights and the ceiling lights of most of the OR suites

  • Ongoing partnership with medical device manufacturer Stryker for the reprocessing of single-use devices

  • Staff education specific to disposing of medical waste

  • 85 percent reduction in the use of DEHP, a plastic material, in medical devices in the OR

In all, Overlook’s efforts in 2016 saved an estimated:

  • 5,752 trees

  • 22,334 gallons of oil

  • 1,120,005 kilowatt-hours (a unit of electrical energy equivalent to consumption of 1,000 watts per one hour)

  • 528,413 gallons of water

In addition, Overlook’s efforts to be environmentally friendly have extended outside of the hospital, directly into the community, both right outside its doors and around the world. For example, Overlook Medical Center:

  • Established its own private beehives on-campus in 2013, and expanded the number of beehives to a total of 10 in 2016

  • Expanded its Bee Healthy program with local schools, in which hospital staff teaches local children about Overlook’s beehives as well as healthy eating. The children visit the Overlook Community Garden, located down the street from the hospital, where they plant vegetables. At the end of the season, the students return to harvest the vegetables and the hospital’s executive chef Todd Daigneault cooks a meal for the students using the produce they planted and harvested

  • Owns chickens at Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills; the hospital partners with the Gardens for community events, educating the public on natural resources

  • Donates beds, linens and scrubs that are no longer in use to Focos Hospital in Ghana, Africa

“These awards reflect the firm commitment we set into place in recent years to become truly environmentally sustainable,” said Iris Verdi, manager of Environmental Services, who helped lead the hospital’s environmental initiatives. “These accomplishments were only possible through the strong support from leadership and throughout the staff – not only through resources, but through a culture dedicated to providing care more sustainably.”

Verdi noted that the hospital plans to expand its efforts in 2017 and 2018, with the installation of more LED and automated lights to reduce energy output, an expansion of the Bee Healthy program and a continued reduction in the use of DEHP

The awards will be presented at the Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards Gala, set for May 18 in Minneapolis, MN, at the conclusion of the CleanMed Conference & Exhibition.

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