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Hospitals Are Going Carbon Neutral

By October 26, 2022HealthCare
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It makes sense that healthcare systems would be prime examples of well-being, including the environment. As our culture gears up to embrace carbon neutrality, healthcare facilities are stepping up with determination. Many have already embraced their role as leaders of clean environments and that includes energy efficiency and low carbon emissions.

Hospitals run 24/7, 365 days a year. Healthcare equipment is in every room. The lights may dim in patient rooms at night, but the buildings are always active. Hallways and nurses’ stations, not to mention emergency rooms are always “on”.

Consequently, healthcare facilities are responsible for 9% of carbon emissions in the United States. That’s substantial for a single source. By taking control of their carbon footprint, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can make an impact on our “carbon neutral by 2050” goal.

Government go-ahead

In June of 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services along with the White House launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge. This pledge included more than 650 hospitals committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% before 2030, then to net zero by 2050. This will include but not be limited to, inventory supply chain emissions and climate resilience plans for both healthcare facilities and their communities.

This goal is fueled, at least in part, by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (GGPI). Launched in 1998, the initiative’s mission is to develop internationally accepted greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and reporting standards for businesses and to promote their adoption. The GGPI is a multi-stakeholder partnership of businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, and others convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The WRI is a U.S.-based environmental NGO, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

As a result of their aim, the GGPI first introduced the Scope System for greenhouse gas emissions in the 2001 Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The scope system includes 3 levels of an emissions classification system. It includes both direct and indirect emitted greenhouse gases. This tiered system helps to measure, manage, and reduce business emissions.

Scope One

Identifying emissions sources, both within a facility and outside of it is an important first step in developing a decarbonization plan.

Scope 1 describes direct emissions or rather greenhouse gases owned or controlled by a particular company. In the healthcare sector, the focus on emissions reductions has mainly been on Scope 1. This includes carbon emissions from on-site power productions and includes all facilities and equipment on-site production of greenhouse gases.

Direct emissions included in scope 1 are GHG’s caused by an organization and its operations. To give you a visual for scope 1 emissions, think flame or burn (these are the emissions from fossil fuels burnt directly). This could be from the combustion of fuels for heating, such as gas boilers, or vehicles, such as on-site security automobiles. This also includes fugitive emissions from refrigerators and air conditioning units, or it could be GHGs released from industrial processes.

Scope Two

Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHGs released from the energy purchased from a utility provider. To remember scope 2 emissions, think “bought and paid for.” For most organizations, the majority of their scope 2 emissions come from electricity or steam purchased.

Just because energy can be provided doesn’t mean we should use or waste it. Conservation will be key moving forward. Ultimately, hospitals must have the appropriate clinical equipment and supplies – otherwise, they can’t do their job. Finding every way possible to offset that carbon footprint helps us move closer to carbon neutrality.

Reporting scopes 1 and 2 emissions is mandatory for many organizations across the globe. These emissions are easily accounted for, measured, and managed. As a result of that ease, organizations typically target scope 1 and 2 emissions when setting their GHG business emission reduction goals.

Scope Three

Scope 3 emissions include indirect emissions that result from both upstream and downstream activities in the supply chain. As a healthcare facility, managers begin to master their carbon emissions these sources can be addressed as well.

Buying locally when possible or from responsible manufacturers who control their carbon emissions helps fine-tune Scope 3 emissions. This is often the last scenario considered when trying to reduce a facility’s carbon footprint. However, as we become more accustomed to making these educated decisions, it will become second nature. We are learning to repurpose whenever possible. Moreover, when it is necessary to order new, we will order responsibly.

Scope 3 emissions cover all other indirect emissions associated with a business. Most importantly, these are emissions that occur within the value chain, both upstream and downstream. To remember scope 3 emissions, think beyond what you can see. Somewhat surprisingly, Scope 3 emissions often account for more than 70% of a business’s carbon footprint. Unfortunately, the majority of these emissions are beyond an entity’s control. Most scope 3 emissions are influenced by the supplier, who controls emissions through product design and purchasing decisions.

Hospitals are creating their own energy

Having learned about the Scope System, you are better able to understand how a business can control its carbon footprint. Hospitals across the country have already started to implement this GHG’s accountability format in order to reduce their carbon emissions.

Gunderson Health Systems (GHS), located in Western Wisconsin, Northeast Iowa, and Southeastern Minnesota, have proven to be a leader in this initiative. By implementing numerous clean energy options, GHS is well on its way to reaching its energy independence goal. Their advancements include but are not limited to geothermal energy systems, wind turbines, solar panels, and more.

Whereas GHS’s goal is more aggressive than most, it is already proving beneficial. Is this what we can expect moving forward from hospital systems in the United States? All signs seem to be saying, “Go.”

Carbon tax emissions for commercial buildings will ensure that hospital systems and campuses comply with carbon emissions standards. This means that any facility that is exceeding government-mandated (whether that be local, city, or state) carbon emissions will be required to pay some sort of tax or fee. As a result, because of their high relative energy consumption and carbon footprint when compared to other facility types, we can expect to see healthcare facilities leading the way.

Hospitals and solar film

Indoor air temperature in hospitals has always been known to be on the colder side. There is a reason for that. It helps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by eradicating humidity and keeping the temperature low. However, this business expenditure is costly – both in monthly utility bills and wear and tear on an HVAC system. This is a challenge in every healthcare facility.

Solar window film is considered a scope 2 solution for hospitals in their carbon-zero goals. By reducing solar transmission into a building, solar film reduces the need for energy consumption to cool the air as well as glare. This allows the HVAC system of the hospital to relax a little. As a result, the HVAC system doesn’t have to produce as much energy as it would otherwise. This lowers the carbon emissions of the healthcare facility overall, as well as their monthly electric expense.

Historically, hospitals that have implemented solar reflection window film have done so slowly. The reason for this is that the window film was placed on the interior of the windows and glass doors. That isn’t easy as most exterior rooms have patients in them. Thus, a single hospital project could take years to complete.

Consequently, it makes sense to choose an exterior solar reduction film that can be installed without interrupting patient care. This allows patients to be treated without being disturbed and can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases since installers don’t have to enter patient rooms.

If you would like to learn more about 3M™ sun control Exterior Prestige window film, review the details here. It will be a real game changer for hospitals as they move towards carbon neutrality. If you would like to learn more about a hospital that we have already installed, review our case study of Montgomery VA hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. Know that NGS is here to guide you through the process and can answer any questions you may have.

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Photo by Samuel Scalzo 

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