From the vinyl in their flooring to the contents of their cleaning bottles, health care facilities have a disproportionately large impact on the environment. Collectively, they consume $6.5 billion in energy—the country's second–most intensive building sector—and generate at least 2 million tons of waste every year. This not only harms the overall environment; it may also negatively affect the health of patients and health care workers. To truly fulfill their healing mission, health care facilities need to minimize their environmental impact while adopting policies, procedures and innovations that promote well–being rather than expose workers and patients to potentially harmful toxins.
Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition working to transform the health care sector so that it is ecologically sustainable and reduces harm to public health and the environment. A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports a network of 25 hospitals and health care systems established to research and adopt environmentally sound practices that promote the health and safety of patients and workers. The collaborative will build a base of evidence for facilities throughout the health care sector that will include best practices and practical applications, implementation case studies and broader policy or code changes needed to make improvements.