Environmental stewardship a priority at Virginia Mason
“We use the same Virginia Mason Production System management method and tools to look at our energy practices and processes, and that has helped us reduce waste significantly and increase efficiency – just as it has done on the clinical and administrative side of our business.”
- Katerie Chapman, Vice President of Perioperative and Support Services
Health care in America has a nearly insatiable appetite for energy. Hospitals and other clinical buildings – running at a fever pitch 24 hours a day, seven days a week – consume massive quantities of energy while generating enormous amounts of waste.
“At Virginia Mason we recognized long ago that we have an obligation to our patients, employees and the communities we serve to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable environment in a really powerful way,” says Katerie Chapman, vice president at Virginia Mason.
The work done by Chapman and many others at VM has resulted in profound energy savings – as well as recognition for the work. VM was recently awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star certification for performing at a high level in energy efficiency and meeting strict EPA performance standards. (Significantly, Virginia Mason was the only health care provider in the Seattle area to earn such a certification.)
Buildings with the Energy Star certification use approximately 35 percent less energy and release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. VM’s achievements in this area did not happen overnight. VM committed to energy efficiency in 1999 and followed through by retrofitting and upgrading energy systems throughout many of the VM buildings.
“We stepped up our effort significantly several years ago when we created EnviroMason – our overall sustainability initiative,” says Chapman. “This is so much larger than any individual project or series of projects – it goes to the heart of our environmental stewardship. It includes everything from leadership alignment around environmental issues to an air-tight compliance component.”
Environmental challenges for medical centers are particularly significant given the amount of pharmaceutical and bio-waste generated – things that if not disposed of properly could be quite harmful.
Says Chapman, “We use the same Virginia Mason Production System management method and tools to look at our energy practices and processes, and that has helped us reduce waste significantly and increase efficiency – just as it has done on the clinical and administrative side of our business.”
One example of progress, says Chapman, involved upgrading Virginia Mason to a new high-efficiency LED system where bulbs last for five to 10 years. Not only does this save significant energy versus replacing bulbs annually, it frees up engineering staff members who were replacing bulbs annually to do other, value-added work.
One possible offshoot to VM’s environmental work is to demonstrate to other health care providers that significant progress in reducing waste and conserving resources is certainly possible with a thoughtful, determined effort.
What measures are you taking around sustainability?
Among VM’s EnviroMason achievements: