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.

 

 

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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.

Start the New Year out right with a reusable water bottle

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Do you drink bottled water on a daily weekly basis? If so, is it because you have to, or is it your personal choice? If it is a personal choice, perhaps it is time for you to rethink and choose an alternative. Bottled water is convenient however bottled water has many negative effects on the environment. Did you know

  • Although most bottled water claims to be from fresh spring waters, about 25-40% of it comes from municipal sources (tap water)?
  • Bottled water produces around 1.5 million tons of plastic each year, which equates to almost 50 million gallons of oil needed to produce the plastic?
  • Although plastic bottles can be recycled, over 80% are thrown away? This is bad for the environment because plastic takes a long time to decompose in the landfill.

What is a good alternative to bottled water? Buying reusable water bottles made of either glass, metal or plastic. The plastic for reusable water bottles is different than the one time use bottled water plastic because it is durable (lasts longer), dishwasher safe, and in many cases BPA free. Reusable water bottles are also easier on your pocket book; the cost is recovered quickly when you stop purchasing bottled water.

If you don’t like the taste of the tap water at your house or at work consider getting a water filter that can be attached to your sink or one that can be stored in your fridge. This will clean the water of any impurities and in most cases improve the taste. Or try adding natural flavors to your water such as basil, lemon, lime, or various other fruits, which will not only excite your taste buds but provide you with important nutrients for a healthy body. Bottled water may be convenient but if we want to make a positive difference on the environment it is time to kick the bottled water habit and turn to something that is reusable!

Do you purchase bottled water? Buy a water bottle instead

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Do you drink bottled water on a daily/weekly basis? If so, is it because you have to, or is it your personal choice? If it is a personal choice, perhaps it is time for you to choose a different alternative. Bottled water is convenient and for the most part it is easy to find. However bottled water has many negative effects on the environment. Did you know that although most bottled water claims to be from fresh spring waters, about 25-40% of it comes from municipal sources (tap water)? Bottled water also produces around 1.5 million tons plastic each year which is close to 50 million gallons of oil needed to produce the plastic. Although plastic bottles can be recycled, over 80% are thrown away. This is bad for the environment because plastic takes a long time to decompose in the landfill.

What is a good alternative to bottled water? Buying reusable water bottles made of either glass, metal or even plastic. The plastic for reusable water bottles is different than the one time use bottled water because it is durable (lasts longer), dishwasher safe, and in many cases it is BPA free. Reusable water bottles are also a one-time payment, whereas bottled water has a price for every bottle purchased. But what if you don’t like the taste of the tap water at your house, or even at work? Consider getting a water filter that can be attached to your sink or one that can be stored in your fridge. This will clean the water of any impurities and in most cases improve the taste. Or try adding in natural flavors to your water such as basil, lemon, lime, or various other fruits, which will not only add a new flavor to your water but will also provide you with important nutrients for a healthy body. Bottled water may be convenient, but if we want to make a positive difference on health, costs, and the environment, it is time to discard bottled water, and turn to something that is reusable!

Tips on Food Waste Reduction

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Food is the number 1 material sent to the landfill. Because of this, education on food waste reduction is essential. What can you as an individual do in order to reduce food? Here are some tips on food waste reduction:

  • Learn to properly cut fruits and vegetables to reduce scrap waste.
  • Plan meals for the week and write a grocery list of things you will need (this will help to avoid buying food on impulse).
  • Check expiration dates and use food before it expires.
  • Check your fridge temperature to ensure your food will stay fresh. The preferred temperature is between 35 and 38 degrees F (1.7 to 3.3 degrees C).
  • Clean your fridge regularly.
  • Use fruits that are going soft by making them into smoothies or pies, likewise with vegetables (make soup).
  • Use leftovers for a different meal the next day—don’t throw them away.
  • Rotate food in your cupboard (new to the back and old to the front) to properly ensure that everything is used in a timely manner.
  • Buy individual/loose fruits and vegetables instead of packaged to ensure that you are not buying more than you will eat.
  • Properly freeze food like bread to use it at a later date.
  • Start a compost pile in your backyard made up of food scraps, or try starting a neighborhood composting pile that is accessible to everyone.
  • Set goals for yourself and your family/friends—challenge yourself to reduce food waste.
  • Donate food that is still good but you know you will not use.

Not only can individuals make a difference, large organizations like hospitals can also reduce food waste. This could include conducting a food waste audit or finding the most cost efficient route for transporting and collecting food.

According to the EPA, 13% of greenhouse gases in the US are associated with growing, manufacturing, and transporting food. Even fat, oil, and grease can be turned into raw material such as soap and bio diesel. Make the landfill a last resort as pictured in the diagram above.

At Gundersen Health System, we aimed to reduce the amount of food sent in the waste stream in 2010. By measuring the amount of leftover food, we decreased food waste by 550 pounds in 7 weeks, which averaged about a 50% improvement! We also donate leftover food to the Salvation Army.

If you would like to reduce food waste, follow these tips and check out our video on properly trimming fruits and vegetables featuring Gundersen Health System Chef, Thomas Sacksteder, Certified Executive Chef (C.E.C), to learn how!

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.