Employees step up to reduce cost of hazardous waste disposal

It is no secret that Gundersen Health System has a nationally recognized in-house pharmaceutical waste program. However, the program wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for the hard work of employees who directly handle the pharmaceutical waste. Thanks to them, the program has undergone significant improvements since its creation in 2009.

For example, at the beginning of the program, Gundersen was spending $151,000 per year disposing of pharmaceutical waste. Through comprehensive measures and teamwork, Gundersen spent less than $10,000 on hazardous waste disposal in 2015.

The ongoing efforts of employees allows the program to improve each year. The success is a collaboration of many departments including Pharmacy, Nursing, Environmental Services, Security, Environmental Compliance, Sustainability and Facilities.

The following images showcase a few Gundersen employees who directly participate in the pharmaceutical waste program on a daily basis. Pictured below is Theresa Seebruck, lead pharmacy technician in the Pharmacy department, disposing of pharmaceutical waste in the hazardous waste bins.

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Gundersen’s controlled substance witness waste program prevents controlled substances from being dumped down the sewage drains. Since the creation of the pharmaceutical waste program, 345 pounds of controlled pharmaceutical waste was diverted from going down the sewers in the first six months.

Gundersen no longer flushes any pharmaceutical waste and instead ensures that all pharmaceuticals are incinerated according to best environmental practices. Shown below is Jennifer Lee, also a pharmacy technician, showing how to use the witness waste container.

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Chad Olstad, environmental specialist in Environmental Services, is shown removing a hazardous waste container from a department.

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The waste is taken to Facilities employees  who sort and separate the waste for shipment. These efforts have eliminated the need for a third party vendor to package the waste.

These are just a few examples of employees who participate in the pharmaceutical waste program. Many others are involved in making the program successful and their hard work is commended.

Please share your waste management or other sustainable practices by emailing envision@gundersenhealth.org.

 

 

Happy Earth Day from Envision

Mug shots

Earth Day was first celebrated more than 45 years ago, and is still celebrated on April 22nd of each year.  Rallies, conferences, outdoor activities and service projects are occurring worldwide today in observance of our planet and its protection.  Perhaps you have plans to participate!

At Gundersen, however, Earth Day is more than just a single day.

Being environmental stewards is a system-wide mission for Gundersen.  Gundersen has been nationally recognized for their innovative environmental initiatives, and is considered a leader in healthcare sustainability.  Improving the health of the communities Gundersen serves is a role taken very seriously, and is a shared responsibility of all employees at Gundersen.

One example of this is Gundersen’s current “Cut the Cup” employee challenge.  The goal of the challenge is to bring awareness to the number of disposable cups used at Gundersen, and to encourage employees to reduce their use of throw-away cups.  To participate in the challenge, employees must use reusable cups for the beverages they consume at work.  Employees are having fun with the challenge by taking creative photos of themselves using their reusable cups, and submitting them to a “show your mug” contest.  Every quarter, a prize is awarded to the employee with the most creative “mug shot”!  Check out some of the pictures below!

Are you doing anything at your workplace and/or home to support a healthy environment?  We want to hear about it!  Tell us by using the comment feature below this post.

Happy Earth Day!

www.gundersenenvision.org

Waste not, want not

Earth day

Earth Day is April 22. Now is a good time to think about our commitment to the environment. Reducing waste is critical to environmental sustainability.

The most effective way to reduce waste is not to create it in the first place. Reducing and reusing are effective ways to save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.

Ideas on how to reduce and reuse:

  • Buy used. You can find everything from clothing to building materials at reuse centers and consignment shops. Used items are often less expensive and just as good as new.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the store.
  • Look for products that use less packaging. Buying in bulk, for example, can reduce packaging and save money.
  • Buy reusable items instead of disposable items. Bring your silverware and cup to work.
  • Maintain and repairs things such as clothing, tires, and appliances so they won’t end up in the landfill.
  • Find creative ways to reuse old stuff.
  • Borrow, rent, or share things infrequently used like party decorations, tools, or furniture.
  • Trim the bare minimum from vegetables to help reduce food waste.

Find out other ways to reduce waste at www.gundersenenvision.org.

 

Healthcare sustainability: Reducing food waste

Watch our “Lean” approach to reducing food waste video.

One of the key components of any environmental program is reducing the amount of waste that is generated. As with any dietary program, there will always be some amount of food leftover from the service line and scraps from food prep.

At Gundersen Health System, the Nutrition and Hospitality Services department uses a tracking program called LeanPath® to determine exactly how much and what food is thrown away every week. The data is fed into a software program that gives staff valuable information, such as the time of day or day of the week that the most food waste is generated or the type of food that is thrown away most often.

Based on the data, changes are made to reduce the waste. Many of the changes are fairly simple to accomplish, like adjusting the amount of soup that is warmed up at certain times of day or educating staff on how to prepare vegetables so there is less scrap waste. These simple changes can add up to huge cost savings.

A byproduct of the food waste reduction program is a food donation program to the local Salvation Army. Each day, food is left over that is still safe to eat but cannot be served in the hospital due to food service regulations. Instead of throwing away the food, Nutrition and Hospitality Services staff package it up, label it and set it aside in the cooler or freezer. A Salvation Army member picks up the food to be served in their soup kitchen. Gundersen donates more than 500 meals a month.

By rethinking how food is prepared and finding ways to use leftovers, you can reduce the amount of food that is being put into the waste stream.

Learn more about reducing food waste at gundersenenvision.org.

Cut the Cup

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How often do you use a disposable cup at work when you purchase coffee, soda or even water? It’s alarming to think that over 500 billion disposable cups are sent to the landfill every year.1

To bring awareness to the amount of disposable cups used at Gundersen Health System, and to encourage employees to reduce their use of throw away cups, Gundersen Envision is launching the “Cut the Cup” initiative.

To participate in Cut the Cup, employees must use reusable cups for the beverages they consume at work. Employees are encouraged to show off to their co-workers by taking a creative photo of themselves using their reusable cup. Photos are displayed on the Cut the Cup website for all employees to see. Every quarter, the Envision committee will determine who submitted the most creative “mug shot” and will award a grand prize. Other participants will also be eligible for prizes.

“We as employees can make a difference with the choices we make each day,” says Jeff Rich, executive director of Envision. Whether it is printing less paper, turning off lights in an empty room or reducing disposable cup usage, the decisions we make have an impact on health, finances and the environment.  Wasting less is a healthy and cost conscious choice that we can make at work and at home.”

Why not get creative and launch a sustainability initiative at your organization? By rethinking, reusing and recycling, each one of  us can make a difference!

1International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 2014

For more information on sustainability initiatives, visit www.gundersenenvision.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin leaders discuss impact of Paris sustainability agreement

Two months after 200 nations ratified a global agreement on sustainability and the environment, Wisconsin leaders are reconvening to continue the discussion on how to build upon the agreement for better health.

Jeff Thompson, MD, executive advisor and chief executive officer emeritus, who represented Gundersen Health System last December at the United Nations’ Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, will be on a panel Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for The Promise of Paris, session two in the Connecting Wisconsin and the UN Climate Talks series.

The Promise of Paris, hosted by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the University of Wisconsin Global Health Institute, features experts and innovators in environmental and sustainable change. A live stream of the session will be available.

Gundersen Envison, is helping organizations turn theory into action and results. For more information and to schedule a speaker, envision@gundersenhealth.org, call toll-free (855) 669-1653 or log on to gundersenenvision.org.