Health Care Without Harm's Research Collaborative

    • March 25, 2013

Dates of Project: February 2008–March 2012

Field of Work: Increasing environmentally sound practices in hospitals

Problem Synopsis: Hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste each year—or about 33 pounds per bed. With a $200 billion hospital construction boom anticipated by 2020 in the United States, there is an unprecedented opportunity for hospitals to become part of the growing green movement and reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2008 to 2011, Health Care Without Harm worked through its Health Care Research Collaborative to conduct research and promote environmentally sound practices and policies that also protect the health and safety of patients and health care workers. The collaborative is an informal group of 20-30 partners, including hospital systems, government organizations, and academic research institutions.

In 2012, Health Care Without Harm created a business plan for Practice Greenhealth, its nonprofit membership arm, to promote sustainability in the health care sector. Practice Greenhealth has 1,100 hospital members and 80 business members (chiefly suppliers of environmentally friendly products and services).

Key Results

Working through the Health Care Research Collaborative, the project team wrote nine white papers summarizing existing studies on the impact of health care products and process on the environment and human health. The team also launched collaborative research on safer health care products and process, including green cleaners and rubber flooring.

The business plan for Practice Greenhealth described how an investment of $5 million would allow the organization to grow its revenues from a projected $2.5 million in 2012 to more than $9.7 million by 2017, and to increase membership from 1,200 hospitals to 3,000 and from 75 businesses to 350.

Hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste each year—or about 33 pounds per bed. And this is a conservative estimate.