Environmental Stewardship at Providence: WE ACT 2022 Year in Review
[3 MIN READ]
In this article:
Providence is a leader on the national stage when it comes to environmental stewardship in the health care sector.
With our WE ACT framework, Providence is focused on five key areas of environmental stewardship: Waste, energy and water, agriculture and food, chemicals, and transportation.
By reducing greenhouse gas emissions in these areas, we aim to be carbon negative by 2030.
Providence and our ministries are leaders on the national stage, modeling environmental stewardship across the health care sector with a goal of being carbon negative by 2030. Providence was one of the first health systems to sign the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge. Elizabeth “Beth” Schenk, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, testified in front of Congress’s Ways and Means Committee on preparing the country’s health care infrastructure for the climate crisis. Further, Providence was invited to speak on a panel with the Department of Health and Human Services at the annual climate meeting COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The system has also had an active voice with the National Academy of Medicine movement to decarbonize health care.
These goals require a measurable framework for the entire system – which led to the WE ACT Framework and Scorecard, a way to address emissions in five categories:
- Energy & water
- Agriculture & food
This scorecard enables Providence to collect data systemwide. Already, acute care facilities have completed 80% of their data collection for 2022. This scorecard led to awards for Providence, including:
- The NASSCOM Business Process Innovation Showcase Award 2022 in the ‘Sustainability and Ethical Practices embedded in business’ category
- The Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Digital Health Award 2022 in ‘the Digital Healthcare Project’ category
Learn more about specific efforts in each of these five areas.
Cutting down waste is an important part of achieving Providence’s goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030. Now, Providence is working to cut down our waste sent to landfills and hazardous streams by 50%. Each Providence acute care facility completed a waste assessment and built its waste optimization action plan, including recycling programs. The WE ACT Scorecard addresses 30 waste streams to avoid and divert waste from landfills and hazardous streams.
Providence is collaborating with local and regional partners to aid in waste optimization, including through recycling programs with social benefits for the community. The system also worked to identify areas where more partnership is needed heading into 2023.
Energy & Water
Given the threat of drought for many of our ministries’ regions, responsible energy and water use is critical for the Mission. As of 2022, 26 Providence facilities use 100% renewable electricity. Providence also completed multiple energy audits to improve efficiency by understanding how their energy is spent, leading to multiple energy efficiency projects.
Agriculture & Food
In 2022, Providence launched food and nutrition goals aimed at decreasing the carbon intensity of meals served, reducing waste, and ensuring low-chemical, fresh and healthy food and beverages are served in all our ministries. Achieving this goal means sourcing more food locally and from sustainable suppliers.
At least a dozen Providence hospitals are also participating in the Cool Food Pledge, a collaboration of the World Resource Institute, United Nations Environment Programme, Healthcare Without Harm, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Practice Greenhealth, EAT, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This pledge challenges food providers, including hospitals, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, including by incorporating more plant-rich foods.
Avoiding exposure to harmful or hazardous chemicals is an important part of patient safety. Adding to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from anesthetic agents, in 2022 Providence developed and implemented solutions to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas) is a chemical used in anesthesia but has a negative environmental impact when it comes to emissions.
We’ve shared these learnings with more than 25 health systems to date because environmental stewardship is a shared responsibility.
Providence has made strides in reducing emissions from transportation. In 2022, the system established best practices for electric vehicle charging as it works toward a goal of moving 50% of new fleet vehicles to be electric or hybrid by 2025.
Since 2019, the system has also cut down business travel by 70% and, with improved telehealth delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to contribute to reduced carbon emissions from air and car travel.
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