UHS complies with applicable legal and regulatory environmental standards to protect our patients, visitors, staff and environment. We continue to follow best practices regarding managing our energy usage and consumption and disposing of waste for our existing facilities and buildings, including new construction and major reconstruction projects.
Optimizing Energy Efficiencies
- UHS launched its Corporate Energy Efficiency Initiative in 2017 with the goals of reducing U.S. facilities’ lighting energy consumption by 50%, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) energy consumption in select Acute Care hospitals by 20%. With a $36 million investment in upgrades to our light-emitting diode (LED) lighting and optimization of our large HVAC systems in U.S. facilities, we achieved these goals in late 2021.
- Also, by the end of 2021, all UHS Acute Care facilities and approximately 50% of Behavioral Health facilities were equipped with Building Automation System software and hardware.
- The projects implemented to-date through this Corporate Energy Efficiency Initiative resulted in total measured and verified annual savings of 80.4 million kWh of electricity and 950,000 therms of natural gas, resulting in annual CO2 emission reduction of more than 62,000 metric tons.
Environmental Opportunities for Green Building
Construction and design of new builds and/or major renovations are completed with high environmental standards (each project’s ENERGY STAR® Score Rating must be 90 or higher), and in compliance with federal, state and local energy efficiency standards and energy codes.
UHS works to utilize processes and services that are designed to make its work environments more eco-friendly and sustainable, while safe for employees, staff and visitors.
- Use of environmentally friendly chemicals and processes to clean our hospitals and maintain a clean and safe environment.
- Investment in machines that electrically convert water into a detergent-free cleaning agent allows many facilities to significantly reduce the amount of chemicals used to clean flooring.
- Use of an environmentally preferable, low-odor and zinc-free floor protector to seal and protect our floors. This has allowed us to decrease chemical usage by reducing the frequency of stripping operations.
Responsible Pollution and Waste Management
Facilities participate in annual waste training to support our initiative for disposing waste responsibly.
- Data on waste streams are collected monthly and reported through the individual hospitals’ Environment of Care Committee (EOC). The EOC identifies opportunities to reduce non-recycled material and increase recycled material. In 2021, this initiative recycled more than 14 million pounds of material.
- Acute Care facilities participate in a waste-to-energy initiative through our waste stream providers, contributing 3.8 million pounds to this process in 2021. The waste-to-energy process creates energy from the primary treatment of waste, creating electricity and/or heat.
- Contracts are in place for responsible disposal of regulated and hazardous waste, including both hazardous and non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste. Specialized containers are used to render controlled substances ‘non-retrievable.’
Reprocessing and Waste Diversion
Reprocessing and Waste Diversion efforts are in place at our Corporate buildings as well as at the healthcare facility level. Supported by the dedication and commitment of our staff, these initiatives help reduce our carbon footprint and increase the recycle stream.
- Our Acute Care facilities use vendors such as Stryker® Sustainability, Sterilmed® and Innovative Health to assist with reprocessing and/or remanufacturing of single use devices. These FDA-approved, third-party programs allow for:
- Collection of single-use devices
- The buy-back of remanufactured devices at a 50% discount
- The vendors’ purchase of our used devices at predetermined fees, for resale of remanufactured product to another facility or breakdown of product, and recycling of components (depending on composition)
- After proper security measures are taken, UHS’ end-of-life computer equipment is recycled through a vendor managed program.
Conservation of Natural Resources
- In 2021 we continued to leverage technology, digitizing historical paper documents and shifting to collecting and sharing data through electronic means, when possible, in an effort to reduce our paper consumption.
- Use of paper faxes has been substantially reduced as we have adopted online, digital fax solutions in our Behavioral Health hospitals for patient referrals.
- As part of CMS’ Promoting Interoperability standards, our Acute Care facilities comply with secure email-based continuity of care standards in their communications with other health providers eliminating large, paper-based records transfers.
- When multiple devices are appropriate, multifunction printers are used to reduce duplicative hardware and energy usage.
Culinary and Nutrition Standards
Despite the continuing pandemic and disruptions for food supplies and staffing, the Culinary and Nutrition Department has stayed true to its Food as Healing Fuel approach, being mindful of the importance of food in a patient’s healing, while continually seeking ways to reduce waste and improve efficiencies.
- When designing new or refurbished kitchens, the team utilizes energy-efficient equipment, products and processes to minimize energy usage and waste. Culinary teams are also being educated on the best way to utilize equipment and the importance of reducing power draws to only those times the piece of equipment is needed.
- We continued efforts toward replacing disposable plates, utensils and trays with more sustainable permanent alternatives, such as melamine-based goods, where appropriate, for our patients.
- While gluten-free menu options had been available, in 2021 our Acute Care Support Services team worked with select hospitals to earn Gluten Free certifications. By year end, seven UHS Acute Care hospitals were validated as ‘Gluten Free Safe Spots’ by the Gluten Intolerance Group – only two other hospitals in the U.S. earned this distinction.
- UHS also has begun to identify and include more plant-based menu items on patient and cafe menus at our Acute Care and Behavioral Health facilities. Through the shift to include plant-based options, we are reducing carbon emissions and environmental contamination.
Environmentally Friendly Awards/Certifications
- ENERGY STAR Certification — In 2021, two of our Acute Care facilities, Aiken Regional Medical Centers and Manatee Memorial Hospital, earned ENERGY STAR Certification for their existing buildings. By the end of 2022, we expect approximately 10 of our Acute Care facilities to hold this prestigious distinction.
- AORN GO CLEAR Award — Of the five UHS facilities who pursued this award, all received Gold for 2020-2023 for smoke-free environment in their operating rooms.
- The Association of Energy Engineers’ Distinguished Energy Professional Award — Vaibhav Gagrani, PE, CEM, LEED AP, UHS Assistant Director of Energy Management, received this award in Fall 2021 for his work in designing and implementing UHS’ Corporate Energy Initiative.