The U.S. healthcare system is responsible for 10% of the nation’s carbon emissions and 9% of harmful non-greenhouse air pollutants
& Supply Costs
Health care organizations have foundational goals of improving their patients’ health, recruiting and retaining skilled staff, and managing costs, all while generating a broader benefit to their communities. Pursuing energy and material efficiency, shifting to renewable energy, and becoming resilient to natural disasters, otherwise known as Climate-Smart Healthcare, is an under-recognized opportunity for organizations to simultaneously make progress on all those foundational goals.
Wisconsin is fortunate to have some of the worldwide individual and institutional leaders in this innovative work.
Over the last decade, Gundersen’s Envision program has made it a leader in healthcare innovation and sustainability. Envision included clean energy projects, energy efficiency solutions such as HVAC retrofitting, and waste reduction initiatives have lowered the system’s carbon and particulate matter emissions by 95% and diverted 64% of waste. Gundersen’s cost savings from Envision surpassed $24 million in 2021 and the program and their creative waste diversion practices have made them widely popular with patients and the La Crosse community. For instance, Gundersen donates over 500 meals a month as part of their food waste reduction program. The social and financial benefits of this program illustrate the astounding benefits climate-smart healthcare can provide.
A Success Story: Gundersen Health Systems
Resources For Building Climate-Smart Initiatives in Your Health System
How to organize a team, who should be on it, and steps to take
The technical how-tos for senior leadership
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How are climate and healthcare connected?
What is climate-
What are the health
harms for Wisconsin?
Harms for Wisconsinites include heat-related illness, worsening chronic illnesses, injuries and deaths from dangerous weather events, infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, illnesses from contaminated food and water, and mental health problems.
The health of anyone can be harmed by climate change, but some of us face greater risk than others. Children, athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, some communities of color, people with chronic illnesses and allergies, and the poor are more likely to be harmed.
Climate action, such as clean energy can also provide immediate health benefits for Wisconsin communities. 100% in-state clean energy production would prevent the following incidents of illness in Wisconsin each year: 1,910 premature deaths 650 respiratory ER visits 1,580 cases of acute bronchitis 49,400 respiratory symptom cases 873,000 minor restricted activity days 148,000 work loss days 34,400 cases of asthma exacerbation 670 hospital admissions 650 heart attacks. These avoided health damages cost us an estimated $21 billion annually.
Join WHPCA's Climate-Smart Healthcare Team
Our group meets virtually once a month to push forward climate-smart efforts. We help Wisconsin’s health systems become world-leaders in providing carbon-free care, improve the climate-resiliency of their operations, and help their communities adapt to climate change. Additionally, we engage health system leaders to support critical climate policies.
The resources below are behind an account wall. They can be accessed for free by signing up for Nurses Climate Challenge.
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These groups can provide you with further resources, advising, and information to help you reach your system's climate-smart goals.
1. Cummings, Mike. August 2, 2019. Yale News. Health care industry is a major source of harmful emissions
2. Medical Students for a Sustainable Future. Climate-Smart Monthly, February 2021: A Declaration of Independence-Lessons from Gunderson