MORRIS COUNTY — Atlantic Health System continues to be an environmental leader, with each of its hospitals recognized for their accomplishments in environmental sustainability. Overlook Medical Center once again earned Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor, the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award, for the second consecutive year.
Morristown, Newton, Chilton and Hackettstown Medical Centers, each received Practice Greenhealth’s Partner for Change Award, recognizing health care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon programs to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably and more. The four hospitals also received the Making Medicine Mercury Free Award.
In all, Atlantic Health System earned 13 awards from Practice Greenhealth, underscoring the health care provider’s commitment to making healthy, environmentally sustainable changes in order to build healthier communities.
“Atlantic Health System is proud of our innovative team members who have changed the narrative on eco-friendly health care and have developed environmentally-friendly initiatives to help us improve the communities we serve,” said Nikki Sumpter, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Atlantic Health System.
“As more and more hospitals embed sustainability into their operations, the bar for environmental excellence increases every year,” said Gary Cohen, president of Practice Greenhealth. “Atlantic Health System’s hospitals demonstrate the kind of leadership, innovation, and performance that can drive the entire health sector toward more environmentally responsible practices.”
The Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award is Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor for hospitals. These hospitals are leading the industry with innovation in sustainability, demonstrating superior programs, and illustrating how sustainability is a core part of their culture.
In addition to the Top 25 honor, Overlook also once again received the Greening the OR Award, which shows that the hospital is working in several areas on waste reduction and energy savings in the perioperative area.
Overlook added to its environmental achievements this year with Practice Greenhealth’s Circle of Excellence awards in three categories:
- The Leadership category honors hospitals demonstrating excellence in supporting a long-term commitment to healthier environments through committee structure, reporting, data tracking, communication, and education.
- The Less Waste category honors hospitals that have excelled in waste prevention and material handling, as demonstrated through high recycling rates, low regulated medical waste generation and low rates of total waste generated per patient day. These programs address all facets of the complex health care waste stream.
- The Healthy Food category highlights leaders in sustainable food services, including meat and sugar-sweetened beverage reduction, healthier meat procurement, local sourcing, food waste prevention and management. Top contenders have written policies and an educational strategy that addresses the food system as a critical component in an overall sustainability plan—for human and planetary health.
Since 2015, Overlook has been consistently recognized by Practice Greenhealth, previously earning its Emerald Award, Partner for Change Award, and the Making Medicine Mercury Free award.
“At Overlook, we are once again honored that our ‘green’ efforts have made us among the most environmentally sustainable hospitals in the nation, and are excited to this year be joined by our colleagues across Atlantic Health System,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center and vice president of Atlantic Health System. “Sustainability has been adopted at all levels of the Overlook culture, and is a key part of our commitment to building healthier communities.”
How Atlantic Health System’s hospitals attained environmental excellence
The Making Medicine Mercury Free Award, given to health care facilities that have virtually eliminated mercury and have policies in place to prevent it from re-entering the facility, was given to the four Atlantic Health System hospitals in recognition of longstanding mercury elimination practices at those sites, in place as early as 2005.
Morristown, Newton, Chilton and Hackettstown’s Partner for Change Awards reflect a number of initiatives by Atlantic Health System’s “Green Team,” throughout those sites. The team’s subgroups addressed specific areas and initiatives, such as working with food service departments to enhance healthy food offerings.
Other system-wide initiatives included:
- A project to collect waste medications from the hospitals’ pharmacies, and dispose of them in environmentally sustainable ways
- Replacing plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws throughout all hospital retail sites
As part of the system-wide implementation of the Epic electronic health record, the elimination of paper records contributed to a 27 percent reduction in paper use, equaling more than $100,000 in savings
- On-campus beehives have been implemented at Morristown and Chilton medical centers
Morristown created a community garden on-site
Last year, all five of Atlantic Health System’s hospitals recycled:
689.99 tons of cardboard
72.15 tons of bottles and cans
547.97 tons of shredded paper
Moving forward, Atlantic Health System plans to continue to enhance its sustainability efforts – the organization has committed to reducing the use of Styrofoam, and plans are underway to make practices in the organization’s physician network, Atlantic Medical Group, mercury free.