Environmental Stewardship: A Year-Round Commitment for Sutter Health
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—In just the last few years, Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship committees have made major strides toward minimizing waste, increasing energy efficiency, and creating healthier communities for patients and their families.
Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer Stephen Lockhart, M.D., leads Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship program. He says protecting the environment is integral to the not-for-profit integrated network of healthcare organization’s mission.
“Our mission is to care for the communities that we are privileged to serve,” Dr. Lockhart says. “But caring comes in many forms. It’s what I refer to as caring for creation, caring for the environment in which we all live, work and raise our families.”
One of many big Environmental Stewardship initiatives underway for 2019 is the Food Committee’s plan to increase the amount of plant-based food offered in Sutter’s hospital cafeterias.
While the production, transportation and disposing of food—most significantly of meat—accounts for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, plant-based diets and diets low in red meat are associated with significantly less environmental harm.
Kim Buss, M.D., Sutter Health Telephonic Disease Management Program medical director and a member of the Food Committee, says plant-based diets have the added bonus of helping prevent and manage multiple conditions, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
“Improving blood pressure saves lives, and one of the most powerful ways we can improve blood pressure is by changing the food we eat,” Dr. Buss says.
Other big Sutter Environmental Stewardship projects underway for 2019 include:
- measuring the energy performance of Sutter’s existing buildings, setting targets and working to make existing and new facilities more energy efficient
- increasing the use of reprocessed surgical supplies, and a sterilization wrap recycling program in hospital operating rooms
- donating thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment to local charities and international NGOs
- replacing plastic straws and coffee stirrers with compostable alternatives
- implementing a new purchasing policy that requires consideration of human health and environmental impact in purchasing decisions