Successes included in the first-ever Environmental Stewardship Report.
Since its pledge on Earth Day 2020 to be carbon-negative in 10 years, Providence, one of the largest health systems in the nation, have taken several actions to reduce hospital emissions by 11.7%.
Additionally, Health Care Without Harm named Providence a Climate Champion for the second year in a row, and 23 Providence hospitals have been nationally recognized for their work to reduce emissions and waste.
All this work is detailed in Providence’s inaugural Environmental Stewardship Report, which chronicles the system’s goals and progress toward the carbon negative goal.
“At Providence, our vision is health for a better world,” said Rod Hochman, M.D. president and CEO of Providence. “With U.S. health sector contributing about 8.5% of all greenhouse gases, we simply cannot create health for a better world and reduce health inequities if we ignore our own contributions to the climate crisis.”
To achieve the carbon negative goal, Providence created the WE ACT (Waste, Energy/water, Agriculture/food, Chemicals and Transportation) framework with specific goals in each area. “Our executive leadership is one hundred percent behind our goal to become carbon negative by 2030, because we know how the world is changing. As we see our environmental risks increasing, environmental determinants of health are going to become more prominent in what our evaluation of what a healthy community looks like. Environmental stewardship is a key component to improving the health and well-being of our communities,” states Ali Santore, Chief Advocacy and Social Responsibility Officer. The 11.7% emission reduction can be traced to activities in several categories of the WE ACT framework:
Waste reduction: Providence’s overall waste goal is to divert more than 50% of waste from landfill and hazardous streams by 2030. Two hospitals – Providence Hood River Hospital in Hood River, Ore. and Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont. – have met this goal already, diverting more than 50% of waste today. In addition, Providence. St. Patrick reduced its food waste by 37%, through composting, tracking food waste and offering plant-based proteins and education. This has led to $100,000 in annual cost savings for that hospital.
Energy/water reduction in use: By 2030, the goal is a 100% reduction in emissions from electricity, 20% reduction in water use and 15% reduction in natural gas emissions. Providence reduced their electrical usage by more than 10 million kilowatt-hours and 90,000 therms of natural gas. Several hospitals harness solar power for a portion of their electricity, with Providence Centralia Hospital in Centralia, Wash. having the largest solar array of any hospital throughout the state. Twenty-six of our facilities are run on 100% renewable electricity today through partnerships with our utility providers.”
Chemical management: Providence set goals to phase out certain plastics from medical devices by 2025, and to reduce anesthesia emissions by 90% by 2030. Thus far, Providence’s eight hospitals in Oregon have reduced their anesthetic emissions by 94%.
Transportation savings: Providence reduced business travel by 70% since 2020, saving $10 million. In addition, more than 13,000 administrative caregivers have transitioned to working fully remotely or a hybrid model, cutting down on emissions from commuting.
Providence also developed a robust telehealth program spanning across primary care, COVID-19 and oncology services. The system has seen 2.9 million patients across its telehealth platforms since 2020, keeping more than 23,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and eliminating approximately 58 million miles that would have been driven to in-person appointments and back home.
In addition, Providence partnered with Medical Teams International and The Green Seed to assist vulnerable populations internationally. In Guatemala, Providence helped 490 families transition from wood-burning stoves to clean stoves, which reduces emissions and protects the health of those families from the wood-burning emissions.
All this work has led to these accolades:
- The Health Care Without Harm Global Network to name Providence a Climate Champion for 2020 and 2021. This network is comprised of health care organizations internationally, with a goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.
- Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leader in helping health care systems decrease their impact on the environment, awarded the Environmental Excellence Award to 23 Providence hospitals in four states. Practice Greenhealth also awarded the System for Change award to the Providence family of organizations.
“Providence is making a bold commitment to address this urgent problem. We are responding to this enormous challenge with broad, focused and relentless action,” said Beth Schenk, Ph.D., executive director, Providence Environmental Stewardship. “We are transforming the ways in which we operate our buildings, purchase and use supplies, deliver clinical care, educate and advocate, and support the communities we serve. We are actively pushing to help the world change direction. As our daily reflections remind us, if we are to live our mission with integrity, we must be steadfast in our commitments and actions.”
Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 52 hospitals, over 900 clinics, senior services, supportive housing, and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ nearly 120,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. Learn about our vision of health for a better world at Providence.org.
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