April 22, 2008
Earth Day: Kaiser Permanente Works to Build Greener, Healthier Communities
Kaiser Permanente has a long history of focusing on environmental stewardship, both as an element of good corporate citizenship and a component of preventive medicine. Here are just a few examples of Kaiser Permanente's commitment to the spirit of Earth Day:
Kaiser Permanente will spend close to $24 billion in hospital construction over the coming seven years. Green hospital construction techniques — including the use of non-toxic materials and water- and energy-saving methods — are helping the organization build green and stay on budget. Green building efforts have resulted in Kaiser Permanente:
- Choosing ecologically sustainable materials for 7.5 million square feet in new construction
- Eliminating the purchase and disposal of 40 tons of hazardous chemicals
- Saving more than $10 million per year through energy conservation strategies
- Saving more that 10 acres from development, by reducing building footprints (that's equal to roughly eight football fields).
- Working to phase out Polyvinyl Chloride, a plastic that is widely used in health care and countless industries. For example, Kaiser Permanente has worked closely with manufacturers to create non-toxic building materials, including a PVC alternative for carpeting.
As one of the largest health care organizations in the United States, Kaiser Permanente's environmental purchasing policy has become a model for other organizations. Kaiser Permanente has:
- Eliminated millions of vinyl gloves — and driven down the price of alternatives — by switching to latex-free, PVC-free, nitrile gloves in all facilities.
- Purged more than 1,400 pounds of mercury from within its facilities – today Kaiser Permanente is 95 percent mercury free.
- Powered 46 trucks in our Northern California courier fleet with biodiesel fuels, reducing greenhouse emissions by decreasing Kaiser Permanente's diesel usage from 115,000 gallons per year to less than 100,000.
- Implemented linens and patient gowns that can be washed and reused with an average lifespan of 60 uses rather than single-use, disposable paper products. This drastically reduced the amount of waste produced by Kaiser Permanente and translated into a 24 percent cost savings for the organization.
- Prevented thousands of bone stimulators from being disposed of in a landfill by negotiating a return process with the manufacturer. Annually, Kaiser Permanente orders more than 1,900 of these devices, none of which will end up in a landfill.
Kaiser Permanente has taken the lead in reducing electronic and other forms of waste by:
- Partnering with a vendor, Redemtech, to redeploy or recycle electronic equipment at all facilities
- Refurbishing or selling approximately 44 percent of larger pieces of equipment. The rest are disassembled so that their components can be 100 percent recycled.
- In 2007, Redemtech sold 25,331 pieces (about 854,533 pounds) of KP's technology merchandise for reuse, and recycled 45,882 units (about 1,073,631 pounds) of KP's technology assets (the standard desktop PC weighs approximately 20 pounds).
- Even though Kaiser Permanente spent more than $600,000 to recycle these assets, the overall program still resulted in a net gain of more than $500,000 after accounting for income from resold assets and avoidance of disposal costs. Importantly, this showed that responsible management of electronic waste not only promotes environmental health but positively contributes to an organization's bottom line.
- In 2007, KP's largest recycling vendor recycled more than 6,000 tons of KP's paper, plastic, glass and aluminum waste. This avoided more than $300,000 of landfill disposal costs, diverted more than 18,000 cubic yards from landfills, and saved more than 66,000 trees.
- Kaiser Permanente saves $750,000 annually and reduces packaging waste by using reusable totes to ship medical-surgical products throughout its system.
- Through use of its electronic health record system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect™, Kaiser Permanente has decreased the use of pre-printed forms by an estimated 33 percent.
Kaiser Permanente sponsors farmers' markets at 30 facilities in six states, bringing locally grown fresh produce to members, employees and the community at large. This commitment seems to be taking root. Sixty-one percent of the 1,100 respondents in a survey of members at Kaiser Permanente farmers' markets said they were eating more fruits and vegetables because of the markets.
Other food facts:
- Kaiser Permanente has been working to source locally grown produce for hospital meals. The organization now is serving local produce in patient meals at 19 Northern California Kaiser Permanente Hospitals.
- The locally sourced, pesticide-free produce project started in 2006. In 2007, KP purchased 60 tons of the 250 tons of produce it served from local farms.
- The local sourcing project is now starting up in Kaiser Permanente facilities in Southern California as well.
- Kaiser Permanente serves hormone-free milk in hospitals as well as cafeteria and vending services in California, Hawaii and its Northwest region.
- The organization's "Healthy Picks" cafeteria program has been implemented in 32 medical centers in California, Hawaii and the Northwest. Offerings include focus on whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables as well as trans fat-free oils.
- Kaiser Permanente recently introduced a new patient menu in Northern California that focuses on fresh, healthy options.
This page was updated on 05/28/2008.