Environmental Stewardship: WE ACT to Reduce Waste

December 15, 2020 Beth Schenk

Recently,  we introduced the WE ACT framework, which outlines our five focus areas for environmental stewardship:  Waste, Energy/water, Agriculture/food, Chemicals, and Transportation (WE ACT). This article will focus on waste reduction efforts.

The waste case

Hospitals can generate a staggering 42 pounds of waste per patient, per day. Even worse, this waste is often hazardous and a source of significant pollution. As part of our goal to become carbon negative by 2030, Providence is committing to sending less than 50 percent of our total organizational waste to landfill or incineration, and reducing our waste-related emissions by 20 percent within that same timeframe. To achieve these goals, “waste optimization” plans are being developed for each of our hospitals across our seven-state system and will focus on recycling and composting, proper waste segregation, and reprocessing products where safe and feasible.

Local successes

Some of our care facilities have already made tremendous progress reducing waste. For instance, St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana has achieved a major waste reduction milestone for two years in a row – more than 50 percent of their waste is now being recycled or safely diverted away from landfill or incineration. They are the only hospital in our family of organizations to achieve this goal so far. Read more about their inspiring efforts here.

In addition, Providence Alaska Medical Center has made impressive strides in waste reduction, despite the limited number of recycling programs in Alaska. They have pursued several creative options for donating or reusing items such as sewing masks out of clean lab coats and repurposing blue wrap that’s used for surgical instruments. They also achieved a major waste reduction milestone by transitioning from Styrofoam to reusable plates in the cafeteria. Read more about PAMC’s stewardship efforts here.

Get educated

Protecting our environment is a team sport, and it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge so you can play a part. Below are some resources that will help you understand the problem we’re seeking to solve together.

Five ways to go green – Conservation International

Leading communities to a healthier future: Less waste – Healthier Hospitals Program


About the Author

Beth Schenk is the executive director of environmental stewardship for Providence, leading a cross-functional commitment to reduce operational pollution while addressing environmental justice and climate resilience in the communities we serve. Beth has been a Providence caregiver for over 30 years. From serving as an ICU nurse at St. Patrick in Missoula to leading nursing research across the Providence organization, Beth has nurtured her passion for environmental care. Her first successful recycling project was over 25 years ago. Since then she has led Montana’s award-winning Green 4 Good program. She co-founded Providence’s first regional environmental stewardship council. She has co-led a system-wide monthly meeting on environmental stewardship since 2008.

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