UCSF Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Honored for Environmental Stewardship

The steps UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals have taken to be more "green" have resulted in significant benefit to the environment as well as significant cost savings. Photo by Noah Berger

UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals have been awarded an environmental achievement award from Practice Greenhealth, a leading health care nonprofit organization focused on positive environmental stewardship.

The Top 25 Environmental Excellence Awards recognize health care facilities that exemplify environmental excellence and set the highest standards for environmental practices in health care. Award winners are chosen from hospitals that have the highest scores for the Greenhealth Emerald Award using Practice Greenhealth's thorough scoring and evaluation system.

The UCSF team accepts its Greenhealth Emerald Award from Practice Greenhealth. From left, Diego Castellani, Dan Henroid, Sarah Janssen, and Dick Chan.

UCSF’s achievements – the result of collaborative efforts among staff, nurses, physicians and administrators – exemplify its efforts to continuously improve systems and practices to achieve guidelines put into place by the University of California’s Office of the President for all ten campuses located in California. UCSF Medical Center is the first among these campuses and the first medical center in California to be recognized with this award.

“The UCSF Medical Center Sustainability Leadership Group led by Tim Mahaney has sought this top award for several years and are proud to have achieved this goal,” said Gail Lee, sustainability manager, Campus and Medical Center. “Now our job is to continuously improve our programs to maintain this level of achievement each year.”

The achievements that earned the Greenhealth Emerald Award brought significant benefit to the environment and resulted in significant cost savings to the University. UCSF upgraded lighting, temperature control systems, and ventilation systems that translated to $1.4 million in energy cost savings per year. The University also removed the equivalent of 3,694 metric tons of carbon dioxide from its greenhouse gas emissions.

UCSF is also exploring technologies that are fairly new to health care. Its use of chilled beam technology in the ambulatory care clinic is the first of the energy-saving heat and cooling technology to be added to a medical center renovation.

Small changes in purchasing added up to big savings. Buying reusable medical devices and reusable pillows mean a cost savings of $1.5 million per year and resulted in less medical waste. Overall, UCSF diverted 41 percent of all its solid waste from landfills in the 2013-2014 period. 

In February, a new medical campus on Mission Bay welcomed patients to buildings that have received LEED Gold certification, an audit process that follows U.S. green building standards.

One of UCSF’s most successful ventures to date was the upgrade of their menus to 26 percent sustainably grown items. Sustainable items must meet qualified criteria by being locally grown, organic, pesticide-free, or antibiotic-free. UCSF physicians resolved that purchases of poultry and meat should include livestock raised without routine feeding of antibiotics. Overall, the food purchased exceeded the University of California target of 20 percent sustainable food purchases by 2020.

UCSF’s commitment to living green encourages its employees to use clean transportation. Commuters gained 60 more bicycle parking spaces and 16 charging stations for electric vehicles, with a single occupancy rate of 34%, earning the campus a Gold rating among the Best Workplaces for Commuters in 2014.

The 25 hospitals presented with Practice Greenhealth's highest honors vary greatly in size, but are all leading the country in health care sustainability and have the data and documentation to prove their success. These facilities have innovative programs and also show leadership in their local communities and in the health care sector.

The Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards were presented in Portland, Oregon, on May 14 at the CleanMed Conference & Exhibition, a national environmental conference for leaders in health care sustainability.

For more internal-facing stories from the UCSF community, please visit Pulse of UCSF.