Cleveland Clinic

By Jen Sperry on March 19, 2012

Christina Vernon, director of sustainability and environmental strategy, shares green achievements.

The Office for a Healthy Environment at Cleveland Clinic does not tackle sustainability in small, isolated circumstances. “Everything we do, we do in a big way,” says Christina Vernon, director of sustainability and environmental strategy. Having been part of the office’s evolution since it began in 2007, Vernon links its success to Cleveland Clinic’s overall dedication to innovation. “It was founded with a commitment to finding better ways of doing things, of providing more value,” she explains.

Overseeing a variety of complex sustainability programs across Cleveland Clinic’s network of nine regional hospitals and 16 family health centers requires a dynamic approach to communication. Green teams at outlying facilities are supported by the regional program coordinator and report to a system green team, chaired by Vernon, which also supports Cleveland’s 1,200-bed main campus.

To date, the Office for a Healthy Environment has logged an impressive list of achievements but also works towards an equally impressive list of future goals. Their daily work impacts ten sustainability categories: waste, energy, water, food, toxicity, transportation, green building, environmental purchasing, employee engagement, and metric reporting and transparency. By functioning at both the clinic and enterprise levels and engaging other departments, Vernon’s office always attends to its primary objective: making Cleveland Clinic a safe and healthy place in which to work and heal. Here are just a few recent achievements:

Waste Management

When Vernon started in 2007, Cleveland Clinic’s landfill diversion rate was four percent. As a result of aggressive recycling, food waste composting, and medical supply donation programs, the diversion rate climbed to an impressive 30 percent in 2011 and is holding steady into 2012.


Energy consumption is a core sustainability issue, asserts Vernon: “All aspects of our program touch on energy. The bottom line is that every dollar we save on energy can be reinvested into patient care.” Over the past three years, Cleveland Clinic has reduced its energy usage per square foot by 20 percent (a $20 million cost reduction), gaining it an Energy Star Partner of the Year honor in 2011.

Healthy Buildings

In 2007, Cleveland Clinic adopted the LEED Green Building Rating System for all new major construction projects. Seven buildings have been certified and ten more will seek certification upon completion. These buildings do and will excel in construction debris recycling; waste, water, and toxicity reduction; natural light utilization; and indoor air quality.


“When it comes to nutrition, we’re out in front, walking the talk,” says Vernon. Food services follows a robust guide that dictates portion control, whole grain inclusion, and the exclusion of trans fats. Also, an aggressive local procurement program instituted in 2008 assures locally sourced foods are utilized in all cafeterias.

The Community Farmers Market is just entering its fifth season and is a joint project between the Office for a Healthy Environment, the Wellness Institute, and Community Outreach. These seasonal markets encourage community members to buy fresh, locally grown food from over 35 participating producers and farmers.


Sustainable Cleveland 2019 (SC2019) is a commitment by Northeast Ohio to work towards a sustainable future and a healthy community. Vernon serves on the mayoral committee and notes that Cleveland Clinic’s involvement is key: “We are the largest employer in northeast Ohio,” she says. “There is no way we can achieve our goals without engaging the community.” Cleveland is already helping to promote the 2012 theme of Local Foods.

Working for Cleveland Clinic’s 43,000 employees and its patients as well as area communities, Vernon and her Office for a Healthy Environment continue to succeed through continual engagement. “Getting the word out is really important to our programs,” said Vernon. “When we inspire others, they in turn take ownership and shape their own paths and we get to help celebrate their achievements.”

New Facility Members

  • Bridgeport Hospital Bridgeport, CT
  • Calvert Memorial Hospital Prince Frederick, MD
  • CHRISTUS Health–St. Frances Cabrini Hospital Irving, TX
  • Tenet Healthcare Houston, TX
  • Geisinger Medical Center Danville, PA
  • Greenwich Hospital Greenwich, CT
  • Intermountain Healthcare Salt Lake City, UT
  • Jewish General Hospital Montreal, QU
  • Lexington Medical Center West Columbia, SC
  • Provena Mercy Medical Center Aurora, IL
  • Ohio Hospital Association Columbus, OH

Renewing Facility Members

  • Affinity Health Systems Menasha, WI
  • Arkansas Children’s Hospital Little Rock, AR
  • Ascension Health St. Louis, MO
  • Aurora BayCare Medical Center Green Bay, WI
  • Baptist Health South Florida Miami, FL
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston, MA
  • Borgess Health Kalamazoo, MI
  • Carroll Hospital Center Westminster, MD
  • Catholic Health Association Washington, DC
  • Catholic Health Initiatives Denver, CO
  • Catholic Health System­–Buffalo Buffalo, NY
  • Charles Cole Memorial Hospital Coudersport, PA
  • Chowan Hospital & Bertie Memorial Hospital Edenton, NC
  • Christiana Care Health System Newark, DE
  • Columbia University EMPH New York, NY
  • CTCA- Eastern Regional Medical Center Philadelphia, PA
  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Lebanon, NH
  • Fairview Health Services Minneapolis, MN
  • Greater Baltimore Medical Center Baltimore, MD
  • Gundersen Lutheran Health System La Crosse, WI
  • Hospital Sisters Health Systems Springfield, IL
  • John Muir Medical Center Concord, CA
  • Kaiser Permanente Oakland, CA
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA
  • Lifebridge Health Baltimore, MD
  • Littleton Regional Hospital Littleton, NH
  • Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Pittsburgh, PA
  • MEDCOM- US Army Hospitals San Antonia, TX
  • New York Presbyterian Hospital New York, NY
  • North Shore University Hospital Manhasset, NY
  • Northern Michigan Regional Hospital Petosky, MI
  • Palomar Pomerado Hospital Poway, CA
  • Pardee Memorial Hospital Hendersonville, NC
  • Providence Health & Services Renton, WA
  • Ridgeview Medical Center Waconia, MN
  • Schneck Medical Center Seymour, IN
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital Seattle, WA
  • Seton Family of Hospitals Austin, TX
  • Spectrum Health Grand Rapids, MI
  • Tampa General Hospital Tampa, FL
  • UCLA Health System Los Angeles, CA
  • Union Hospital Terre Haute, IN
  • University Hospitals Shaker Heights, OH
  • Vanguard Health Systems Nashville, TN
  • Washington Hospital Fremont, CA
  • Western Maryland Health System Cumberland, MD
  • Yale-New Haven Hospital New Haven, CT