As a rafting guide on the Colorado River in the 1980s, John Drigot got a first-hand view of the finite water resources in the West.
So when Drigot, the new sustainability coordinator at Poudre Valley Hospital, helped save 1.3 million gallons of irrigation water at PVH despite hotter and drier conditions than last year, he knew the value of that conservation.
Now that water flow’s down at PVH, Drigot’s fired up to champion more green measures that will reduce the hospital’s environmental footprint while saving patients money.
“It’s all about lowering the cost of health care today, so it’s good that we’re forced to become more efficient,” said Drigot, who joined University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado this year as a contractor after working previously for Neenan Company as a sustainability coordinator and LEED specialist.
His next projects: Replacing the hospitals’ T12 fluorescent bulbs with more-efficient bulbs, and crafting the system’s first Environmental Mission Statement and Sustainability Management Plan.
Sustainability, achieved through environmental greenness, is an important goal for University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado. Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland was built with a green focus, and 2009 the hospital was the largest in the country and the first in Colorado to receive LEED Gold Certification, the building industry’s highest honor green projects.
In addition to financial savings—MCR uses about 35 percent less energy than a hospital of the same size, for instance—there is a patient-care upside to greening up. National studies have been investigating what seems to be a link between the quality of green health-care facilities and therapeutic outcomes.
“We’re extremely proud of our accomplishments in constructing an environmentally sound hospital,” said George Hayes, MCR’s president and CEO. “We’ve continued to make green a priority and it’s paid off in terms of dollars, enhancing patient and employee attitudes, and heightening our reputation as a high-quality provider of medical services.”
Another upside to going greener is employee engagement. PVH employees, for instance, started a Green Team in April 2007 to help develop and maintain recycling and other environmentally friendly programs at the hospital. The Green Team concept spread to Family Medicine Center, Harmony Campus and other off-campus sites, and now there’s a 100-member team with a 10-member steering committee, all passionate about environmental stewardship.
Recycling was an early focus of the Green Team. Now there are recycling bins in PVH’s Café 1024 and, among other advances, a successful office paper and newspaper recycling effort underway. MCR has had similar endeavors in place since its 2007 opening.
“We’re trying to get employees involved in understanding how they can help the hospital be more green,” said Bea Bryant, an early member of the Green Team and an administrative assistant in PVH’s environmental health department. “Making them better stewards of our environment will help us contain rising health-care costs.”
Added Drigot: “Having eco-friendly values shows the community what an organization stands for.”
Susan Skog is a freelance writer in northern Colorado.