The time has arrived where issues of climate change globally can be pushed into the future no further. In 2022, staggering statistics were published that highlighted the healthcare system in the United States as being responsible for approximately 8.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are the result of any combustive process, such as the burning of natural gas to produce energy for the hospital. As greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, they keep heat from escaping, causing global warming.
The Effects of Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reported that if global warming increases the average temperature 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit), “many human and natural systems will face additional severe risks” and “some will be irreversible.”
The entire IPCC report is a call-to-action for leaders around the globe. Whether it be leaders of a country, or in our case, a healthcare system, everyone must act, and must act quickly, to ensure that we do not deprive our future generations of the same resources and livelihood that many have access to today.
Addressing climate change may at times look like one step forward and two steps back. As a global community, and specifically as a healthcare community, we all must do our part to ensure that progress is made for the benefit of all.
Baystate Health’s Sustainability Efforts
In response to climate change, Baystate Health has taken charge as a local sustainability leader in healthcare and recognized our responsibility to address not only direct patient care through our day-to-day operations, but also indirect human health through our efforts in the community relating to environmental justice.
As part of addressing climate change and standing up as an organization to combat it, Baystate Health has set a goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2050 per the Healthcare Climate Pledge signed by David Brown, VP of Facilities Operations and Mark Keroack, President and CEO of Baystate Health.
“Baystate Health recognizes our impact on the environment and our need to support the community by ensuring hospital operations are not impacted by increasingly adverse weather events. We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and continue to harden our infrastructure to better serve our community into the future,” says David Brown, vice president of Facilities, Planning and Engineering for Baystate Health.
Per the pledge, and through internal advocacy by Brown and others, a full-time dedicated employee was hired in December of 2022 and began her official journey at Baystate Health in January of 2023. Ariana Walker, Baystate Health’s new sustainability and energy coordinator, is here to help lead the organization towards a more sustainable future. Her team is housed and primarily focused in Facilities and Engineering, where she works closely with professionals throughout the healthcare system to develop opportunities for energy efficiency at our hospitals and health centers. Our vision is that this becomes a part of everyone’s lives and that employees and patients at Baystate Health take pride in the work that we are all doing to better our environment.
Baystate Health has created a roadmap to reaching our targets, which will evolve as we all adjust to a changing economy and social system in the area of sustainability.
Here are just a few of the initiatives that are in process at Baystate Health or have already occurred based on this push for progress:
- Analyzing feasibility of solar canopy on 280 Chestnut Street garage
- Electrification of thermal loads for heating and cooling
- Developed baseline greenhouse gas data for Baystate Health to serve as a comparison and measure impacts of projects going forward
- Tracking and education around our waste stream and proper use of receptacles throughout the hospital
- Incorporating green design into construction projects
- Increasing sustainable purchasing of products, food, furniture, and services
- Push for reductions in water usage through data tracking
- Transitioning/purchasing of more hybrid vehicles
- Spreading awareness and educating community members about this issue
We’ve also developed key partnerships with others in the sustainability space, including Practice Greenhealth , Health Care Without Harm, Energy Star, and Mass Save. As we’ve made progress, Baystate Health has already received awards for our work in sustainability: Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Excellence and Partner for Change Awards and the 2022 Mass Save Climate Leader Award.
If you want to know the impact that your current lifestyle is having on the environment, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Carbon Footprint Calculator to calculate your personal carbon footprint.
Finally, Baystate Health encourages you to be a steward of the environment in whatever capacity you can. We all have it in us to make change.