A Community Impression

Beaumont Health System’s commitment to sustainability is making an impact both inside and outside its hospitals.

By Melanie Bracey on October 16, 2015

Beaumont Green Team

Beaumont Health System’s Green Team is vital to the success of spreading sustainable practices throughout the system and the community.

Just a little more than four years ago, hospital staff members in various departments throughout Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Michigan—which at the time included Royal Oak, Troy and Grosse Pointe hospitals—were independently working on sustainable initiatives, but they sought leadership and a formalized strategy. They approached Beaumont administration about the health system’s current sustainability goals and proposed expanding them into a systemwide program. Out of those conversations, the Beaumont Health System Green Team and supporting Green Officers were born. “Each of the departments was moving in their own direction that way, and the creation of the Green Team was a way to centralize it and give us all one focus to put all these pieces together into one plan,” Maureen Husek, head of nutrition services at Beaumont, said.

“Fortunately for our committee, we worked with Practice Greenhealth and Healthier Hospitals, and that gave us a road map and we moved forward along that path,” added Kay Winokur, vice president of quality and professional services at Beaumont Royal Oak and Green Team chair.

In 2011, Beaumont joined Practice Greenhealth and then in 2012 committed to HH. Many of the health system’s sustainable practices mirror the guidelines set forth in HH’s Key Green Solutions database. Since that time, Beaumont has grown to become an eight-hospital system, and each facility within the system has committed to HH.

The Beaumont Green Team is made up of about 20 key department leaders, directors and HH leads who work together to set objectives, plan and lead activities within their respective areas. To help achieve goals and orchestrate activities, the Green Team has the assistance of Green Officers. Throughout its eight-hospital system, Beaumont has more than 650 of these officers. Staff members who wish to become officers enroll in a two-hour on-site course focusing on sustainability and its importance in health care, as well as information about HH. Upon completion of the course, officers are “deputized” and go on to represent the health system as stewards of green practices. In addition, all staff members who commit to sustainability practices at Beaumont, from leaders to officers, serve as volunteers.

In its Sustainability Report released earlier this year, Beaumont shared its met objectives from 2014 along with the plan for the rest of this year into 2016. In keeping with the HH Key Green Solutions, Beaumont has focused on energy, waste and water usage reduction, sustainable and local food, and environmentally preferable purchasing. In 2014, Beaumont achieved:

  • recycling 29 percent of waste and reducing regulated medical waste to just 8 percent;
  • decreasing energy consumption by more than 14 percent, meeting HH’s highest energy reduction challenge;
  • reducing meat served per meal by 23 percent, meeting HH’s meat-reduction goal an entire year ahead of schedule; and
  • reducing chemical usage by sourcing DEHP/PVC-free products and purchasing flame retardant-free furniture.

Before the creation of the Green Team and commitment to HH, healthy and sustainable food was already part of the plan in Beaumont nutrition services, said Husek, who also acts as an HH lead. Since joining HH, the department has renewed its focus on meat reduction, healthy alternatives and locally sourced food. “If someone tells me they have a ‘Meatless Monday,’ then I say, ‘We have a meatless everyday,’ because we always have vegetarian alternatives to whatever we’re serving.” The department successfully met the HH meat-reduction goal in its first year.

The department has also partnered with Cultivate Michigan, a group that promotes using local produce. Beaumont labels the local options so eaters know their food has been locally sourced. In addition to those labels, Beaumont also uses My Healthy Choice logos, which direct people to healthier options. As a result of this program, the salad bar has replaced french fries as the top cafeteria seller.

Beaumont has also hosted a farmers market for the past eight years and participates in a Farm to Café program, in which food is purchased at the market and then served in the hospital cafeteria the next day. The facility also offers a teaching garden where occupational therapy patients have an opportunity to garden and learn about healthy food options.

Beaumont’s focus to reduce chemical usage, DEHP/PVC products and flame retardant furniture comes from the HH handbook. As a result of its efforts to reduce these products, the Beaumont NICU is 95 percent PVC-free, and the goal is to eventually transition these successes into the PICU and other departments. The health system is continuing its commitment to remove DEHP/PVC products from pediatrics, mother-baby care and the family birth center.

When it comes to hospital furnishings, Beaumont has established relationships with other regional health care facilities to promote environmentally preferable purchasing and establish a green supply chain with furniture manufacturers. Showing vendors that there is widespread demand for these products is the first step to attaining chemical-free furniture for a facility, explains Geraldine Drake, interior design program and standards manager and HH lead for Beaumont. “We’ve had really good success in identifying furniture we can purchase. We’ve been working on a national level to help elevate this concern and work with the manufacturers to make transitions.”

With all of the efforts Beaumont puts forth to create a sustainable, healthy facility, it’s no wonder the surrounding community appreciates the little things. It’s a rarity to hear from the community directly. But recently, a letter arrived from a patient addressed to the Beaumont Green Team, and it’s obvious from her comments that Beaumont’s efforts are making an impression: “Thank you so much for caring about our environment and for doing the right thing. And also by example, teaching the public stewardship.”