[GRRN] Fight pollution--Practice EPP

From: Stephanie C. Davis (ScD18@WasteReductionRemedies.com)
Date: Thu Sep 28 2000 - 00:01:30 EDT

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    Environmental Services
    Shop smart
    Fight pollution--Practice EPP

    by Lara Sutherland

    Forging a battle plan to fight pollution at your facility? Start with
    environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP). An EPP program starts with
    environmentally preferable products or services--those that have a lesser or
    reduced negative effect on health and the environment when compared with
    products or services. Environmentally preferable purchases include energy-
    efficient and water-conserving equipment, less-toxic chemicals, and recycled
    content products. In a hospital, the practice may consist of reducing the
    purchase of mercury-containing products or arranging for a solvent-recycling
    service to furnish laboratory solvents instead of buying virgin solvents
    from a supplier.

    Smart shopping pays off

    Selecting products that reduce hazardous or solid waste saves money and
    reduces environmental impact. Products with lower volatile chemical content
    can improve indoor air quality, and energy efficient products reduce
    pollution and cut utility bills.
    The concept has attracted the attention of some of health care's biggest
    players, which are posting real results. Kaiser Permanente has a
    company-wide resource conservation policy that resulted in the development
    of a system to evaluate products and distributors on environmental issues.
    Kaiser includes information on its environmental policy in its requests for
    proposals and requests information from bidders on the environmental impact
    of their products. The hospital also requests the sustainable practices of
    the bidders themselves.
    Now Kaiser no longer buys mercury thermometers or mercury blood pressure
    equipment, the facility recycles all its fluorescent lights and has switched
    most routine glove purchases from latex to nitrile gloves, avoiding both
    latex and PVC.
    Similarly, Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) in Massachusetts has dramatically
    lowered mercury use and that of other toxic chemicals. The hospital called
    on all departments to cease use of mercury-containing products unless no
    reasonable alternative was available. A form was developed for tracking
    mercury-containing compounds, and the department supervisor must report on
    the time line for elimination for each mercury product or provide a
    rationale for continuing use if elimination is not planned.
    Departments using the mercury products were given the responsibility of
    finding alternatives and as a result NWH has nearly eliminated its use of
    mercury products.

    Some other examples:

    * Los Angeles Medical Center reduced solvent purchases and waste disposal
    by 500 lbs. by installing an automatic paint gun washer/recycler.
    * King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles County saved $10,000 per year
    by installing an automatic slide stainer.
    * City of Hope National Medical Center saves over $43,000 per year by
    using microanalytical techniques.

    Start-up tips

    Begin with the "how-to guide" from the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment
    (H2E) project, which was the result of the 1998 Memorandum of Understanding
    between the American Hospital Association and the EPA. The guide offers
    information on EPP to help hospitals implement pollution prevention through
    procurement practices.
    According to the guide, an interdepartmental EPP team can be the best
    mechanism to start an EPP program. How a hospital structures such a team
    depends on which kind of committee or teams are already functioning. A
    hospital-wide environmental improvement committee can dedicate some of its
    time to an EPP project, eliminating the need for a separate EPP team. Or a
    product standardization committee could choose and implement the project. In
    any case, the team should be composed of personnel from all affected areas
    and include people willing to work together.
    The leader of the team should be someone whose administrative
    responsibilities include ensuring that the EPP project is fully executed.
    Each affected department or group must be included in the decision stage so
    that everyone feels invested in its outcome.

    Setting goals

    Before choosing a pilot project, consider its pressing environmental
    concerns or review major environmental goals and determine if a purchasing
    project could help resolve any existing problems.
    For instance, a hospital with a high frequency of mercury spills may wish to
    instigate a project to purchase mercury-free blood pressure equipment or
    thermometers. A hospital with high overhead costs due to large quantities of
    hazardous waste may wish to investigate solvent recycling or low-volume
    microchemistry kits in the lab.
    Plan a project with specific, measurable goals that can be met in a
    reasonable time frame. Examples of such goals:

    * Buying mercury blood pressure equipment within the next 12 months
    * Identifying and purchasing low-VOC maintenance products within six
    * Replacing fluorescent lights with low-mercury fluorescent lamps and
    ballasts, changing over 30 percent of lights by the next fiscal year

    Choose your first pilot project because it is possible and measurable and
    because support exists for its implementation. But be careful: Many
    well-meaning goals are impossible to achieve. It may not be possible for the
    hospital to reduce solid waste by 80 percent in one year or to eliminate
    formalin use in three months.
    Check with those involved before deciding on specific numbers. The success
    of the first pilot project can bolster support for an EPP program as much as
    a failure can make people give up on the project.

    Taking action

    After deciding which project to undertake, request support from top
    management and from all the personnel who will be directly affected. A
    policy statement issued by the procurement department, CEO, or other
    authority will help the project gain legitimacy and encourage staff support.
    If implementing the project will affect how work is being done, unions
    should be brought in and their concerns taken into consideration. Ensure
    that the person designated to research and identify a new product is allowed
    time on the job to do the work. It is essential that everyone be on board.
    With all affected parties present, determine a time line for implementation
    and develop specific action steps. The time line should be realistic and
    must account for time that must be spent researching the availability of
    alternative products and training personnel in the use of the new products.
    Determine who is responsible for the implementation of the project and put
    it in writing. Also, create dates for responsible parties to report back to
    the committee.
    When everything is in order, go out and do it. Make sure you come together
    at specific times throughout the pilot program to evaluate any problems and
    change course if needed. Create a climate where it is all right for staff to
    give the team input about the new products and then weigh their reactions.
    Designate someone to collect staff feedback and arrange for that person to
    bring a report to the committee.
    Don't be surprised if things get behind schedule--sometimes it may take
    longer than expected to find a new product or arrange for training. Collect
    the feedback and keep everyone informed of the project's progress.

    Were goals met?

    After the pilot has been implemented, the whole team should meet and go over
    the results to determine if the goal was met. Review the process and note
    what worked and what didn't. Formally thank all the people who made this
    possible--the purchasing department, your GPO, the nurses on the floor, the
    maintenance workers, or the CFO.
    This is a good time to start tracking your progress by calculating the
    project's benefit to the hospital and environment. If you switched to
    energy-efficient equipment, for instance, you can calculate how much money
    you saved and even find out how much you reduced the mercury emissions from
    your power plant. Switching to recycled paper can save gallons of water and
    acres of forest.
    Use the information from this project to choose a new project or expand the
    first one. If you switched one building over to mercury-free thermostats,
    decide which department could be switched over next. If you specified
    energy-efficient equipment in your last purchase request, investigate the
    possibility of specifying energy-efficiency in every request.

    Keep on trucking

    If your goal was not met, don't despair. Learn from this. Perhaps the new
    product didn't work out, or progress is slower than you had expected.
    Consider whether it is a training problem or if you simply need to allow for
    more time to reach your goal.
    When Hartford Hospital decided to switch over to mercury-free, latex-free
    blood pressure equipment, many latex-free cuffs failed during use shortly
    after the new equipment was installed. Instead of switching back to latex or
    mercury equipment, the hospital went to its vendor for a solution. The
    vendor replaced all the cuffs with sturdier, better-made nonlatex cuffs as
    soon as possible.
    The new cuffs are durable and have caused no problems. Although success was
    delayed, sticking with it has reduced mercury spills and gained significant
    savings on cleanup costs.

    Custom-tailored EPP

    You can start with a few pilot projects, but you'll achieve long-term gains
    by making EPP the standard way of doing business. Environmental purchasing
    policies can make finding, buying and using EPPs a part of everyone's job.
    This type of institutionalization can take the form of job description
    changes, hospital-wide policies, RFP language, or regular training.
    Encourage suggestions from employees by offering recognition and awards for
    new EPP ideas that are implemented. Designate someone to collect the
    suggestions and present them to the EPP team for consideration.
    Tracking should also become a permanent part of any EPP program. Make sure
    someone's job description permanently includes tracking the purchase of EPPs
    and reporting on the program. Tracking should include total expenditures for
    EP products, money saved by switching to EP products, reduction in mercury
    spills or other relevant events, and statistics that can help determine the
    reduction in your solid waste volume or how many trees you saved.

    Toot your own horn

    Now that you've accomplished your goal, celebrate your achievement! Find a
    way to communicate your success and future plans with the whole hospital
    through a regular newsletter, e-mails, or posters.
    Make sure the public relations department gets information it can tout to
    the community. Place information about your EPP program prominently on your
    Web site and make sure patients know what the hospital is doing to improve
    their environment.
    Also consider sharing your accomplishments with other hospitals or clinics
    in your system. Toot your horn!
    Lara Sutherland is senior research associate at INFORM, a not-for-profit
    environmental research and advocacy group, and a member of the Hospitals for
    a Healthy Environment purchasing work group. She can be reached at (617)
    This article first appeared in the September 2000 issue of Health Facilities


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    Stephanie C. Davis - BFA, MPA Experienced Professional of Healthcare & Non-Residential Waste Programs

    Waste Reduction Remedies sm A Multi-Waste Stream, Multi-Material Waste Management Company

    1497 Hopkins Street #2D Berkeley CA 94702-1201 Telephone: 510/527-8864 Pacific Time Fax: call first E-mail: ScD18@WasteReductionRemedies.com

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