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WebBrief_Aug2010_Green.pngThings recently got a lot greener at Mercy Hospital. That’s because the hospital committed to purchasing 10 percent of its electricity over the next three years in the form of clean power. The transition to clean power will significantly reduce the hospital’s carbon footprint by lowering indirect greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5,500 metric tons of CO2. That’s the equivalent of taking 1,000 automobiles off the road.

The decision to purchase clean power is part of a hospital-wide initiative to decrease waste and increase green practices, says Sr. Sheila Lyne, RSM, president and CEO of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center. “In everything we do, we strive to contribute to the health and well being of our community,” she says. “Purchasing clean energy is an important step toward improving our facility’s environmental footprint and reducing the impact our operations have on our environment.”

Wind power

Mercy’s clean power will come from a wind farm in Pennsylvania. The hospital contracted with the wind farm via an online energy auction administered by Practice Greenhealth, (link to: http://www.practicegreenhealth.org) a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the healthcare industry’s environmental impact.

In the so-called “reverse auction,” energy suppliers could view other bids and then re-submit lower bids. That led to savings on the hospital’s traditional energy costs. And that freed funds for the purchase of clean energy, which is often slightly higher in cost, explains Richard Cerceo, Mercy’s executive vice president and COO.

“The auction process allowed us to secure competitive pricing without sacrificing our goal to lower our dependence on fossil fuel-generated electricity,” he explains. In fact, the new energy contract will result in savings of $570,000 over three years. Those savings, Cerceo says, will go to enhancing patient care and hospital facilities. “This process and the resulting savings allow the hospital to be a responsible global citizen, while still putting our community and our patients first,” he says.

Hospital-wide efforts

Buying clean energy is just one that way Mercy is working to ‘green’ its operations and practices. Some other environmentally friendly changes and proposed changes include:

•    The purchase of two hybrid cars for hospital public safety department.
•    Conversion to electronic medical records, which lowers paper usage.
•    Reducing trash pickup from twice a week to once a week through increased recycling.
•    Rooftop solar panels and thermal covers for its heating plant.
•    Created a Community Garden on-site, which will grow a variety of vegetables.
•    Cups and plates in the All Spice Café are biodegradable.
•    Conversion to LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting throughout the hospital corridors, which lasts longer and are more efficient then incandescent lighting.

Mercy is also a member of the Chicago Green Healthcare Initiative, a coalition of area hospitals, the City’s Department of Environment and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council that is dedicated to embracing sustainable practices and reducing hospitals’ carbon footprints.

 “Because hospitals—up to now—have been among the greatest consumers of energy, it’s up to us to take the lead on reducing emissions,” Cerceo says, “and Mercy is proud to be at the forefront of this movement.”