Going up? Take the stairs


Taking the elevator every day is easy and requires hardly any energy…at least not on your behalf. However, taking the elevator should not become part of your everyday routine, especially if you are capable of taking the stairs. Not someone who exercises regularly? That is perfectly fine! To start, try incorporating the stairs into your daily routine at least once a day, or possibly twice a week to start and then progressively start to use them more often. What are some of the benefits you will notice once you start taking the stairs?

  • Taking the stairs challenges your muscles. Over time you will begin to notice your legs becoming more toned and your leg muscles increasing in strength.
  • The small steps add up! Taking the stairs everyday will help to improve your overall health.
  • Taking the stairs is good for your heart! It will help lower bad Cholesterol and increase “good” cholesterol.
  • There is no cost and you can take the stairs as often as you like.
  • You could be a positive example for your coworkers, family members and even your friends.
  • Reduce stress and tension and build up your energy.

How can you make this happen? Start to slowly incorporate stairs into your daily routine—make it become a natural part of your day. If you want to inspire others to take the stairs with you, advocate getting signs put up between the stairs and the elevators (otherwise known as the decision point or the place where you decide which to take). Use the signs to encourage people to take the stairs or inform them of the health benefits. If you are trying to get the most out of your stair workout, remember to take the stairs one step at a time because it will burn more calories than if you were to skip steps. Not only will taking the stairs provide you with health benefits, but you will also be saving energy by not taking the elevator. Although the energy saved will be minimal, if everyone were to take the stairs it would make a huge impact on energy savings. So make a positive impact in your life and try the stairs!

Go to www.gundersenenvision.org to learn more about energy conservation and environmental leadership.

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Think “Reuse” and save money on back to school products!


Is your child heading back to school this year? If so, you may be bracing yourself for the high expense of school supplies. There are ways to save on school supplies though. Here are a few ideas.

Before making plans to purchase new notebooks and folders look at the ones your child used last semester. With technology becoming so prevalent, notebooks are not used as much, however teachers still ask that their students purchase them. The same applies to folders. You may be surprised to find that your child’s notebooks and folders are still in good shape with plenty of good paper still available to use. So at the end of the semester, don’t let your child throw out their notebooks and folders without looking them over.

Book covers are also becoming more prevalent. They come in many different designs and materials—but they cost money. Save and reuse paper bags, leftover wrapping paper or even a couple layers of newspapers. Pencils, pens, erasers, and markers can all most likely be reused. Most students like the idea of buying brand new items for the school year, however if they still work, save your money and ask that they reuse them. Going back to school can be less expensive if you pay attention to the products your children use, and be the judge as to whether or not they need new materials.

Reusing school products will also be beneficial toward the environment because you aren’t buying more products like paper or plastic. Why is this important? Plastic can be found in pens, folders or even calculators that students use. In order for plastic to be made, it requires oil, and oil can have negative effects on the environment including harming the atmosphere. Paper comes from trees, and trees are necessary for the environment to thrive and be healthy.

At a time when deforestation is a huge concern, it is not worth it to buy new school products when you could just reuse. Not only would this benefit your wallet but you would also be teaching your children what it means to be good stewards of their resources. So be smart and think “reuse” when it comes to school supplies.

Learn about some of the projects Gundersen Health System has implemented to save energy and money.

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Gundersen’s Envision program earns prestigious environmental award

For the eighth consecutive year, Gundersen Health System has been recognized by Practice Greenhealth for their environmental initiatives through Gundersen Envision. Gundersen was awarded with Practice Greenhealth’s most prestigious achievement award during this year’s CleanMed Conference.

During the national environmental conference for leaders in healthcare sustainability, Gundersen received the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award, a new award in 2014, given to healthcare facilities that exemplify environmental excellence and are setting the highest standards for environmental practices in healthcare.

“Gundersen has been a leader in the healthcare sector for many years, winning Practice Greenhealth’s highest honors year after year for innovative work in sustainability,” says Lin Hill, director of awards at Practice Greenhealth. “They are unique in their renewable energy generation and have also been included in three of the new Circles of Excellence (Energy, Climate, and Green Building) which are presented for exemplary work in one area of sustainability. Gundersen excels in many other areas, including employee engagement and blue wrap reduction and reuse.”

“Being recognized as one of the top 25 healthcare systems when it comes to sustainability and environmental stewardship is a testament to our staff’s commitment to developing and maintaining sustainable programs,” says Tom Thompson, sustainability coordinator at Gundersen. “Demonstrating leadership in our community and the healthcare sector is important to us, and improving the health of our patients in the communities we serve is part of our system mission.”

Some of Gundersen’s recent notable sustainability achievements include:

  • Solid waste recycling rate of 43 percent in 2013
  • Reduced cafeteria pre-consumer food waste by more than 70 percent
  • Installed biomass boiler – 38 percent of energy independence goal
  • Dairy manure digesters installed and operating

To learn more about Gundersen’s Envision program, go to gundersenenvision.org.




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Triple bottom line … one step further

Triple bottom line

The triple bottom line is one of the core aspects of sustainability. This diagram shows people, profit and planet all at an equal distribution. This is because all three aspects are highly important and one is no greater than the other. These three aspects also blend with one another because in order to create a balanced world, all three need to be in sync. At Gundersen Health System we use the triple bottom as a guide for incorporating sustainability into the organization. However we have taken the triple bottom line a step further. We believe that the triple bottom line should include spiritual/core values. Why? Spirituality and core values provide us with ongoing inspiration to aspire towards excellence.

What are our values at Gundersen Health System? Our values are integrity, excellence, respect, innovation and compassion. These values inspire us to achieve our mission and vision to be a health system of excellence. These values inspire us to use sustainability as a tool to keep the triple bottom line in sync and create a better community for everyone. Any organization has the ability and potential to incorporate their own values into the triple bottom line to successfully achieve their organization’s mission. All it takes is just a little push to go one step further!

Learn more about developing a sustainability program at www.gundersenenvision.org.


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Storm water runoff prevention system


The picture above is a storm water trench located outside the Onalaska Gundersen Campus. Hidden within the native plants and grass is a pipe that leads the storm water away. Why is this system helpful? Like rain gardens, these systems can help prevent flooding and water pollution from getting into the surrounding environment. The plants within this trench are native wetland plants that also absorb water.

How is storm water harmful? If nothing is in place to stop it, the water quickly flows through natural environments, uprooting plants and causing soil erosion. The flowing water can also carry pollutants (such as fertilizer, or harmful chemicals) into other environments where these chemicals are not meant to be, thus hurting those environments.

So what can you do as an individual or organization? Consider building storm water runoff systems such as the one pictured above; build a rain garden; plant less grass and more native plants that absorb more water; reduce your use of fertilizers and pesticides; and frequently check on oil leaks on your car. Any individual or organization can do their part, so take action today and prevent runoff from being harmful in your area.

Learn more about sustainability management at www.gundersenenvision.org.

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Incandescent vs. fluorescent


These photos were taken with a thermal imaging camera that utilizes infrared technology (thermography) to measure the temperatures of surfaces on subjects in the photograph. The colors in the image enhance the viewer’s ability to distinguish cool and warm areas of the surfaces in the image. The warmest areas are white or yellow and the coolest are deep blue or purple.

The photograph on the left is of an incandescent lamp in a recessed can fixture. These are often used for decorative lighting or spot lighting a particular location in a room. As you can see from the scale in the photo the outside surface of the lamp is measuring 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Much of the electricity used to power this style of lamp is wasted as heat. The heat given off by this lamp cannot help us illuminate the space that we are trying to illuminate and is an example of wasteful consumption of electricity…probably generated by the combustion of fossil fuels with harmful emissions. In addition, this wasted heat increases the temperature in the interior of the building which must then be cooled using the facility’s air conditioning systems which consumes even more electricity. The inefficiency of this form of lighting also has the negative effect of costing the building’s owner more money to operate the facility and is usually passed along to occupants and customers. In the case of healthcare, that means patients have higher bills.

The photo on the right is of a standard fluorescent lamp 2 lamp by 4 foot (2×4) fixture. You can see that the scale on the photo indicates the outside of these lamps are measuring approximately 87 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is much cooler than the incandescent lamp photo on the left. Fluorescent lamps provide a much more efficient transformation of electrical energy into light energy with less wasted energy in the form of heat. Advances in fluorescent lamps in recent years allow them to serve a wider color spectrum and greater light intensity than in the past. Combined with advances in lens and ballast technology, fluorescent fixtures can be used to very efficiently to illuminate interior spaces.

No perfect solution exists for all lighting applications and in specific cases, the lamp on the left may still make sense. Other technologies such as Light Emitting Diodes L.E.D. fixtures are also making advances that may make sense in certain situations. Energy efficient alternatives should be explored to meet the intended purpose, function, and aesthetics for a lighting application. Question should be asked as to why a lighting solution was specified for a particular space. Organization design standards can be adopted and applied on new construction or renovation projects to promote mass changes that save energy, save money, improve community health, and help the environment. One lamp does not make a big difference, but when these changes are multiplied hundreds or thousands of time, it can become substantial.

If you liked this blog you may also be interested in this. New lighting leads to many benefits.

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Turn cow waste into energy


Manure digester projects produce biogas methane that can be used to create clean, renewable electricity and heat. In addition, these facilities can also help with water table contamination issues and provide benefits for agricultural operations. After the digestion process, the solids and liquids are commonly separated. An additional benefit and revenue stream can be created by composting the solids into a fiber byproduct that can be sold as a soil amendment for a number of landscaping and fertilizing applications.

To achieve desired specifications for the compost customers requires turning windrows of the solid fiber on a regular basis until it is ready for sale. Microbes feeding on the material create heat within the mass. As the windows are turned, heat is released and the material is aerated for optimal efficiency in the process.

The photo on the left shows a self-propelled compost turner and the photo on the right shows the turner moving through a window. Agricultural and livestock operations may be good sources of biomass that can be utilized in a productive manner to create clean electricity with local, renewable resources, and create unique partnerships with multiple economic and environmental benefits.

Click here to read about Envision’s dairy biogas project.

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Learn how to integrate sustainable practices into your organzation

sustainability series seminars 1 renewablegirl with plant  

Interested in learning how to integrate sustainability into your organization? Check out our sustainability series seminars! We have three seminars coming up this Fall: Energy Conservation, Renewable Energy Project Development, and Sustainability Management. 

Energy Conservation – September 9-11

  • energy audits
  • measuring energy costs
  • energy conservation projects (including geothermal and cooling systems)
  • lighting solutions
  • building a business case, and much more

Download course brochure

Renewable Energy Project Development – October 23-25

  • renewable resource characteristics
  • enhancing with partnerships
  • contract strategy and legal considerations
  • building a business case
  • government partnerships, and much more 

Download course brochure

Sustainability Management – October 14-16

  • recycling
  • sustainable design practices
  • action planning
  • building a business case
  • control plans and scorecards, and much more

Download course brochure

These seminars also include tours of energy projects on the Gundersen Health System campuses.

Who should attend our seminars?

  • Sustainability directors/coordinators
  • Project managers
  • Plant and facility engineers


Why should you attend our seminars?

Our Envision program has set the standard for renewable energy projects in healthcare. We know exactly what large organizations need and we are ready and willing to get your organization started on the path toward sustainability. Now is the time to start making change, so wait no longer and sign up for our sustainability series seminars! http://www.gundersenenvision.org/educational-programs

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The Coulee Region


Gundersen Health System is located in the Coulee Region. The Coulee Region is also known as the driftless area (untouched by the glaciers). As a result, we are surrounded by beautiful bluffs. Bluffs form along a river (in our case it is the Mississippi River). Over time, the river wears away the lower part of the river bank, which lessens the support for the upper bank, eventually causing it to break off. This forms high walls on either side of the river that also shapes the bluffs.

Today there is a push to conserve the coulee region area. Why? In recent decades the Coulee region has expanded with many farms and communities along the river. As a result, the wetlands and prairies have been converted into land that supports our population. Before people urbanized the area, the river would inundate (flood) the wetlands, which helped to filter out the water and keep it clean. Because there are few wetlands left today, the river is not filtered out as much, resulting in it being dirty. Levees, although important for preventing flooding, also prevent rivers from reaching the wetlands. Because of the large amount of farmlands in the area, many farm chemicals get into the water. This not only affects the land but it also affects the marine species.

Due to the many threats facing the coulee region area, groups are working to conserve the bluffs and the native wild life. Refugee for fish is also continuously being built to protect the marine species. If the bluffs are not protected the wildlife will suffer along with the many plants and trees that keep the environment thriving.

At Gundersen Health System we recognize the importance of protecting the environment. A healthy environment results in healthy communities. Through our Envision program we invest our time and resources in sustainability projects that will not only benefit our organization but the area around. Interested in learning about our projects? Check out our website: www.gundersenenvision.org, or better yet attend one of our sustainability series seminars!

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Read used books and save!


Many people prefer purchasing brand new books at large bookstore chains because they like being the first one to open it, or they like the “new book” smell. But books come from paper, paper comes from trees, and trees are necessary for our environment to thrive. So it may be time to put aside the desire to buy brand new books. Instead, consider buying used books. Buying used books not only saves you money, but helps conserve valuable natural resources. Plus, many used book stores are local so you would be supporting a local business. Other alternatives include checking books out from your local library, borrowing books from friends and family members, and reading books online.

Curious as to how trees help our environment? Check out our blog on trees. You can access the link here: http://gundersenenvision.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/do-you-know-why-it-feels-cool-in-a-forest/

Learn about energy conservation, renewable energy, and sustainability management by attending one of our upcoming seminars. Go to http://www.gundersenenvision.org/educational-programs.


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