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The Miriam Hospital Honored wins National Health Care Environmental “Partnership” Award


Award recognizes Miriam’s Greenways team of environmental champions  

The Miriam Hospital recently received the “Partner Recognition” Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading health care membership community that empowers its members to increase their efficiencies and environmental stewardship while improving patient safety and care. 

From left to right: Monica Anderson, community liaison at The Miriam Hospital and Greenways team leader; Gary Cohen, founder of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative; and Elaine Muto, RN, operating room nurse at The Miriam Hospital
From left to right: Monica Anderson, community liaison at The Miriam Hospital and Greenways team leader; Gary Cohen, founder of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative; and Elaine Muto, RN, operating room nurse at The Miriam Hospital  

The award – one of the Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor environmental achievements in the health care sector – recognizes health care facilities that have begun to work on environmental improvements, have achieved some progress and have at least a 10 percent recycling rate for their total waste stream.

Leading The Miriam Hospital’s sustainability efforts is its “Greenways” team of environmental champions, which includes both hospital employees and community members. This multidisciplinary team is able to examine and understand where the waste is being generated, what the top priorities are for reducing waste and how to implement programs that work for health care workers.

One of the team’s most successful programs is the Blue Wrap Recycling Program, which was piloted in 2012 in the hospital’s operating room, in an effort to recycle “blue wrap”– the plastic-coated material that keeps surgical instruments sterile prior to surgery. Because it is a No. 5 plastic, blue wrap is not widely accepted at many recycling centers in the United States, including Rhode Island, even though it is often recycled in other states. Blue wrap is opened just before the patient is brought into the operating room and is immediately thrown away in the regular trash.

The Greenways team worked to identify a community partner who would agree to pick up the wrap for baling and recycling, and also educated and encouraged OR staff to recycle the material by placing it in a designated container, rather than the trash. Since launching this pilot program, The Miriam Hospital was able to successfully divert 2,500 pounds of blue wrap from entering the state landfill from April to December 2012.

“This award applauds organizations that are just beginning their journey in environmental stewardship,” said Laura Wenger, RN, executive director of Practice Greenhealth. “The Miriam Hospital’s commitment to sustainability firmly places them on the path of sustainability for the future of health care.”

As evidenced in a recent Health Care Research Collaborative study, “Can Sustainable Hospitals Help Bend the Health Care Cost Curve?” introducing environmental sustainability measures in hospitals not only results in significant savings, it won’t increase operating costs. The implications are clear: given the return on investment, all hospitals should adopt and expand their sustainability programs.

“Protecting the health of our patients, staff and community is our priority, and Practice Greenhealth’s recognition with this award is confirmation that we are doing all we can to accomplish that and secure the future of the environment,” said Arthur J. Sampson, president of The Miriam Hospital. “This award is also a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our entire Greenways team, and I congratulate them on this important honor.”

The success of the blue wrap pilot program has led to increased awareness across the hospital about other waste streams as well, according to Monica Anderson, The Miriam Hospital’s community liaison and Greenways team leader.

“In addition to partnering with Clean Harbors to safely collect and dispose pharmaceutical waste, we have a robust Universal Waste recycling room, which collects batteries, light bulbs and other materials,” she said. “We have also introduced a paper reduction campaign to limit the amount of paper used in meetings, so rather than printing our copies of an agenda, we’re encouraging employees to display the agenda on a projector, for example. These may seem like little actions, but across the board they make a big difference.”

This is the second time The Miriam Hospital has been recognized this year for its environmentally friendly practices. In late March, the Greenways team received an honorable mention during the first Rhode Island Environmental Sustainability Awards, presented by the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment. The hospital was cited for its sustainability initiatives in paper and waste reduction, blue wrap recycling, pharmaceutical waste collection program and good community relations.

The Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards were presented in Boston on April 25.