SUMMIT, NJ  - Atlantic Health System's Overlook Medical Center in Summit has received the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. The award is one of the Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor environmental achievements in the health care sector.

The 25 hospitals presented with Practice Greenhealth's highest honors exemplify environmental excellence and are setting the highest standards for environmental practices in health care. Award winners are leading the industry with innovation in sustainability -- and have the data and documentation to prove their success.

Each year, the competition for these top spots increases as hospitals across the country continue to innovate. The Top 25 winners represent the top five to 10 percent of the best performing hospitals participating in Practice Greenhealth.

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In addition to the Top 25 honor, Overlook also once again received the "Greening the OR Award," which recognizes the facilities demonstrating the most success in reducing the environmental impact of its surgical suites.

The Top 25 award marks a new high on a steady climb in recognition for Overlook for its achievements in sustainability in recent years. Since 2015, Overlook has been consistently recognized by Practice Greenhealth, last year receiving the prominent Greenhealth Emerald Award. The hospital had previously received the “Greenhealth Partner for Change” Award for two consecutive years, as well as the Greening the OR award. The hospital earned the Making Medicine Mercury Free award in 2015.

“Environmental sustainability works hand-in-hand with our mission to provide quality health care and build healthier communities,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center. “From using healthier products in our care environments, to reducing our energy consumption, to promoting healthier eating and other activities in our communities, Overlook is making a positive impact within and far beyond the walls of our hospital.”

Initiatives that contributed to Overlook Medical Center’s dual awards included increased recycling efforts throughout 2017, 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 increasing the purchase of environmentally-friendly green-seal chemicals.

The multidisciplinary sustainability team at Overlook, known as the “Green Team,” made several achievements in 2017, including:

  • Recycled a total of 670 tons of waste

  • Actively engaged in the Healthy Food in Healthcare organization

  • Diverted 192 tons of food waste from landfills through composting and donation

  • Twenty-one percent (21%) of food served comes from locally-sourced produce, and 18 percent of food purchases are on sustainable items

  • Decreased a total of 126 tons of waste from its surgical departments

“Through the efforts of our Green Team, Overlook has moved beyond traditional recycling efforts, and developed a culture of environmental consciousness throughout the organization,” said Michael Atanasio, manager of food & nutrition for Overlook, who oversees the hospital’s environmental efforts.

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. 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.

Overlook is pushing for even further energy reduction, following the Energy Star guidelines to achieve a 5% energy reduction in 2018. Overlook has been recognized by The Associates of Camfil with a 5-star Energy Rating achievement in recognition of meeting all ECI (Energy Cost Index) air filtration standards for continued energy conservation.

In 2017 alone, Overlook’s efforts 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)

  • 655,822 gallons of water

Operating rooms are large contributors to a health care facility’s environmental footprint, creating opportunity for significant cost savings and sustainability improvements. 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

  • Staff education specific to disposing of medical waste

  • Eighty-five percent (85%) reduction in the use of DEHP, a plastic material, in medical devices in the OR

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. This program educates local children about nutrition through the use of props and terms, such as “go” foods and “woe” foods. They learn about honey bee culture, get the opportunity to see the on-campus hives, and taste fresh honey off the frames. Then, they take a tour of the medical center’s kitchen and walk down to the community garden. In the spring time, the kids have an opportunity to plant vegetables and fruits. In the fall, they pick fresh produce and help prepare an entrée at the cooking station in the garden.

  • Funded the renovation of a multi-unit chicken coop and purchased 32 chickens. Farm fresh eggs are now available to staff and the community. Much of the proceeds are from the garden and the chickens are donated to families in need of food

  • Hosts a Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which hospital employees are able to pick up their weekly produce at work instead of driving to a farm.

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

Overlook also participates in initiatives hosted by organizations such as Healthier Hospitals Initiative and has been recognized as a mercury free organization.

Overlook has been recognized recently for its environmental sustainability achievements by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the “60 of the Greenest Hospitals in America 2017.” In March 2018, Overlook was recognized by the Commerce and Industry Association of NJ (CIANJ) for its achievements in environmental sustainability at CIANJ’s inaugural “Companies that Care” awards ceremony. The hospital received the award in the “Protect the Environment” category.