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Kaiser Permanente Turns Green

Eighteen Kaiser Permanente facilities have been recognized for their environmental performance, particularly in the areas of green building and eco-friendly purchasing policies.

Eighteen Kaiser Permanente facilities have been singled out for exemplary accomplishments from Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, a partnership of the American Hospital Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Nurses Association, and Health Care Without Harm. Kaiser Permanente also received an award from the Healthy Building Network for accelerating the transformation to healthier building materials through purchasing policies and actions.

"Our mission is and always has been to improve the health of the communities in which we serve, and that includes an emphasis on environmental stewardship," said George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. "We continually work to improve the environmental friendliness of our existing medical facilities, and the designs for new facilities reflect our commitment to environmentally state-of-the-art construction and materials. What's good for our environment is going to be good for our members, our staff, and the community as a whole."

"As physicians, we think the Hippocratic Oath says it all: Above all, do no harm," added Jay Crosson, M.D., executive director of The Permanente Federation. "That credo applies to the environment as well as to our patients."

Kaiser Permanente's environmental initiatives are grouped into three main areas: green buildings, environmentally responsible purchasing, and environmentally sustainable operations.

Green Buildings

Incorporating sustainable design and construction practices through environmentally sound facility templates used in all new construction and rebuilds. These practices incorporate:
  • Implementing efficient water and energy systems
  • Using the least toxi building materials
  • Recycling demolition debris, diverting thousands of tons of materials from landfills
  • Making use of daylight whenever possible
  • Managing storm water to enhance surrounding habitats
  • Reducing site development area (e.g., total gross square footage) to concentrate and limit total paving and other site disturbances
  • Installing over 50 acres of reflective roofing
  • Publishing an Eco Toolkit reference book, providing it to KP capital project team members and more than 50 architects and design alliance partners
Environmentally Responsible Purchasing

KP incorporates environmental considerations into targeted national contracts. These considerations include:
  • Reducing the toxicity and volume of waste
  • Increasing post-consumer recycled content
  • Selecting reusable and durable products
  • Eliminating mercury content
  • Selecting products free from polyvinyl chloride and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate
Recent successes include replacing three DEHP-containing medical products in the neonatal intensive care units with alternatives, ensuring the continued elimination of mercury containing medical equipment from standards, and negotiating a national recycling contract. KP purchasing standards include 30% post-consumer content office paper and mercury-free and latex-free products.

Sustainable Operations

The impact of energy conservation measures at Kaiser Permanente has prevented more than 70 million pounds of air pollutants annually. In addition, the aggregate impact of pollution prevention activities eliminated the purchase and disposal of 40 tons of hazardous chemicals. Other activities include:
  • Waste minimization resulting in the recycling of 9 million pounds of solid waste
  • Electronic equipment disposition resulting in the recycling of 36,000 electronic devices containing 10,500 lbs. of lead
  • Optimal reuse of products which led to reprocessing 53,851 pounds of medical devices and supplies
  • Capital equipment redistribution
  • Greening janitorial cleaning products
  • Recycling and reuse of 8,300 gallons of solvents
  • Energy conservation resulting in the recycling of 30,000 spent fluorescent lamps
Kaiser Permanente facilities often partner with local community organizations to implement community initiatives. For example, through a mercury thermometer exchange at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center, a total of 540 pounds of material was collected from 3,000 mercury thermometers. Over 1,200 digital thermometers were distributed.

"We believe Kaiser Permanente's accomplishments in environmental performance are impressive and unique," said Kathy Gerwig, director of environmental stewardship. "We hope that by changing our practices, we can drive change throughout the health care industry."

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