OAKLAND, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland-based health care system, set new and aggressive environmental goals for the year 2025, including becoming carbon net positive and sending zero waste to landfills. There is not yet an estimate for the cost of the changes taking place, but operations, investments, grant making, public policy, research and community collaborations will need to create new strategies.
• Reduce water by 25 percent per square foot.
Already, at the Woodland Hills Medical Center in in Woodland Hills, Calif., Kaiser installed smart irrigation controllers in 2014 to reduce the amount of water used. These controllers accounted for weather patterns before watering the grounds. Alongside the smart irrigation, Kaiser eliminated turf and chose native and drought-resistant plants and has reduced water usage at Woodland Hills by 50 percent and at its Panorama City Medical Center by 60 percent.
• Recycle, reuse and compost 100 percent of non-hazardous waste.
As of the end of 2015, Kaiser diverted nearly 40 percent of its waste from landfills. Previously, the establishment of an electronic medical record system had decreased the use of paper forms and waste. Many of the Kaiser hospitals in California have already implemented blue wrap recycling programs. Blue wrap material is used to preserve the sterility of medical instruments. While it feels like soft paper, blue wrap is actually made from heavy-duty polypropylene plastic, incredibly bad at breaking down in a landfill.
• Become “carbon net positive” by buying enough clean energy and carbon offsets to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits.
In order to take more carbon dioxide out than it puts in and neutralize the emissions they cannot eliminate, Kaiser plans to buy carbon offsets, credits that fund projects that remove carbon from the air. Potential offsets will go through careful analysis to find to find projects that produce the most value in terms of mitigating against climate change and also being cost effective. Offset projects usually focus on protecting and restoring forests.
• Buy all of its food locally or from farms and producers that use sustainable practices, including using antibiotics responsibly.
Currently, 24 percent of Kaiser’s food-spend account goes toward sustainable or local food, about $7.4 million. In 2015, Kaiser spent $1.8 million on meat and poultry raised without antibiotics alone. Kaiser created the Sustainable Food Scorecard in 2012, allowing the organization to rate suppliers and vendors in order to select vendors who can best support sustainable food purchasing.
• Increase its purchase of products and materials that meet environmental standards to 50 percent.
Kaiser is looking to find safer chemical alternatives for 50 percent of the products purchased, medical and non-medical. They expect to spend some $56 billion-plus on these safer products by 2025, excluding pharmaceuticals because of the unique aspects of development and substitution. This will evolve their current standards and environmentally preferable products (EPP) policy already in place. Already, Kaiser won the 2015 EPEAT purchaser award for buying environmentally preferable electronics. Kaiser has also made strides in replacing products with non-toxic paint and fabrics, mercury-free devices, IV solution bags free of PVC and DEHP, and eco-friendly, health conscious purchases.
• Meet international standards for environmental management at all its hospitals.
The company is looking to meet the ISO 14001 environmental management system at its 38 hospitals. ISO 14001 includes policies, planning, controls and more guidelines in order to help organizations manage their environmental responsibilities.
• Pursue new collaborations to reduce environmental risks to the foodsheds, watersheds and air basins supplying its communities.
Current collaborators include Center for Environmental Health, Corporate Eco-Forum, Goodwill Industries, Health Care Without Harm, Healthier Hospitals Initiative, Practice Greenhealth, Smartway Transport and The Climate Registry.
In 2012, Kaiser’s initial goal was to cut its greenhouse missions by 30 percent by 2020. That goal will be achieved in 2017 — three years ahead of schedule.