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UNMC

A HEALTHY FUTURE FOR ALL

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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INTERVIEW: UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER

A HEALTHY

FUTURE FOR ALL Sustainable Business Magazine speaks to Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Nebraska Medicine, about net zero goals, new technologies, and the intersection of sustainability and healthcare. UNMC is Nebraska’s only public academic health sciences center. Part of the overall University of Nebraska system, UNMC’s main campus is based in midtown Omaha, and with their clinical partner Nebraska Medicine have a mission statement of: ‘To lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research, and extraordinary patient care.’ “For us, being sustainable is part of healthcare,” says Melanie Stewart, Sustainability Manager for UNMC/Nebraska Medicine. “It is preventive care. For example, if we pollute less, air and water quality can improve, which means there will be more clean air and water available to breathe and drink. We have been working on recycling and some other projects since the mid80s, but we really ramped up sustainability in a formal setting in 2010.” Healthcare facilities are some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the United States. “It was difficult to know where 2 | SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE

to start at first,” says Ms. Stewart. “Do you start with lighting? Do you start with your chiller? Do you work on recycling bins? That’s when we began working with Verdis Group on a sustainability master plan that not only helped outline those goals, but also the different strategies needed to reach those goals. And in doing so we created our triple bottom line: All of our strategies have to be positive for people, the planet, and be economically sound as well.” AMBITIOUS GOALS That initial Sustainability Master Plan set ambitious targets, including carbon neutrality across UNMC and Nebraska Medicine by 2050. “But with recent scientific findings, we decided these goals weren’t enough,” says Ms. Stewart. “In 2017 we revamped our Sustainability Master Plan to have even more ambitious goals. In the new plan, there are six core goals, and everything is factored into them. We have pledged to be net zero building emissions


“IT IS PREVENTATIVE CARE. FOR EXAMPLE, IF WE POLLUTE LESS, AIR AND WATER QUALITY CAN IMPROVE, WHICH MEANS THERE WILL BE MORE CLEAN AIR AND WATER AVAILABLE WHEN PEOPLE NEED IT. “

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INTERVIEW: UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER

(carbon neutral) by 2030. I believe we are one of only six hospitals or medical centers in the United States with a net zero emissions goal. We also have pledged to achieve net zero water, which means we are pledging to not use more water in a given year than would fall on our property in that year. This will be a 54% reduction from the baseline for our campus.” The Sustainability Master Plan also sets a net zero waste goal. “This means at least 90% of our waste needs to be diverted away from landfill, incineration, and the ocean,” explains Ms. Stewart. “Burning plastics and trash means putting a lot of things up into the atmosphere that negatively affect human health. So we’re looking at diverting this by recycling, using less, and composting.” Another component of the new Sustainability Master Plan concerns campus planning. “We want to maintain or improve our current campus density,” says Ms. Stewart. “We are fairly landlocked in the middle of a city, and we want to build up, not out. That will really help our campus to become more easily accessible, not only for the students and employees who come here every day but also 4 | SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE

for our patients and visitors. We also have a new active transportation goal, as we met our previous goal early. We have revamped it to pledge that 35% of all employee commutes use active transportation, like walking, biking, carpooling, and riding the bus.” REDUCING CONSUMPTION UNMC already has made major reductions to their energy consumption and waste. “From 2010 to 2015 we reduced energy consumption by 25%,” explains Ms. Stewart. “From 2015 to present, we have opened more than 1 million square feet of new space on campus, which has inevitably affected our overall usage, but our use per square foot continues to decline. This past winter,

we completed the largest rooftop solar panel installation in the state of Nebraska, and we are now getting half a megawatt of solar power from that. We’re working on our efficiency in several different ways: Consuming less, consuming more efficiently, and replacing what we do consume in fossil fuels with renewables.” “We’ve also been working hard at our materials goal of zero waste, which is very tangible and something that a lot of people see,” says Ms. Stewart. “We received a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust through the Nebraska Recycling Council last year that helped us to get recycling bins in more places and thereby make recycling more convenient for people. Our Travel-


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INTERVIEW: UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER

“I BELIEVE WE ARE ONE OF ONLY SIX HOSPITALS OR MEDICAL CENTERS IN THE UNITED STATES WITH A NET ZERO EMISSIONS GOAL.”

Smart program is something that continues to grow here on campus and with other people in our community who are replicating it, which has a broad community impact in the way of traffic, congestion, and road repairs. All of this positively impacts tax dollars, and all of this reduces emissions and improves health.” SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY One way UNMC/Nebraska Medicine intend to achieve the goals set out in the Sustainability Master Plan is by embracing the potential of new technologies. “The solar panels are a key part of our investment in sustainability 6 | SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE

infrastructure,” says Ms. Stewart. “We are also doing LED retrofits all across campus. They are the standard for any new or remodeled space, but we are also going back into our buildings and parking garages to install the new lighting. We are replacing booms in operating rooms with LED lights as well, which is a significant saving as the lighting traditionally used in ORs is very bright, using a lot of energy. That lighting also traditionally gives off a lot of heat, which in turn requires operating rooms to be held at a cooler temperature than is normally necessary, so as not to cause nurses and surgeons to sweat. By swapping out those

lights, not only do we get the direct energy savings, but we can also warm up the operating rooms, saving additional energy – and also improving patient outcomes, as, for most procedures, having the room a couple of degrees warmer is beneficial.” “We also have a standard building automation system that allows us to control things remotely,” says Ms. Stewart. “We can set parameters and timeframes, and we are working on building occupancy and daylight harvesting. Our central utility plant produces steam and chilled water to help with heating and cooling. We put in a new chiller around 18 months ago that uses a new, more envi-


ronmentally friendly refrigerant. While most refrigerants have a global warming potential (GWP) of 1300, the GWP of the refrigerant in this new chiller is 1. When it was first installed in February 2018, we were one of only 12 in the world to have that.” “We installed a flue gas economizer, which helps to pull heat out of what is normally being exhausted,” exhausted,” says Ms. Stewart. “That, along with heat recovery chillers in a few buildings, re-uses heat that would normally be wasted. For example, in our research towers we use water-cooled ultra-low freezers, for which we’re pulling the heat out of the compressor with a water system. Then when it comes back to our main utility floor, we can repurpose that heat. So we’re saving energy in the freezer rooms by reducing the amount of heat released into the conditioned workspace, but then we are also repurposing that heat which would otherwise have been wasted.” COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS To ensure the Sustainability Master Plan translates to reality, UNMC/Nebraska Medicine have invested heavily in engagement. “Through Verdis, we have created a sustainability engagement survey that provides us with a score to reflect where engagement is across campus,” says Ms. Stewart. “We want that level of engagement to be at 85 out of a possible 100, which is very high for an engagement score. But we know with such ambitious goals, we are going to need the students, faculty, and other colleagues on campus engaged in order to meet them. We can’t meet these goals just by writing policies; we need people to be active participants.” “A lot of our initiatives on campus have our ‘LiveGreen’ branding, and we have created LiveGreen Ambassadors,” says Ms. Stewart. “This is a voluntary position, where

anybody on campus who is interested can sign up. We provide them with information and they can then speak to their direct department or group of colleagues, model behavior, answer questions, or serve as a conduit between other people and the Office of Sustainability. They are boots-onthe-ground, decentralized, and hierarchy-free. We have found the ambassadors to be very helpful moving things forward and appreciate having that personal connection in a department, whether it’s an administrative assistant, a nurse, a faculty member, or a physician. We recently did a campaign about finding ways for people to save water and our LiveGreen Ambassadors helped us collect ideas from all over campus.” LOCAL INVESTMENTS, GLOBAL GOALS As UNMC moves into a new decade, the Sustainability Master Plan will remain the main blueprint for the campus’s strategic direction. “Right now, from a waste perspective, we’re looking into avenues for soft plastic,” says Ms. Stewart. “We’re never going to do anything to jeopardize patient care, which

means using a handful of single-use devices that are individually wrapped in sterile plastic packaging. So we’re working to find things to do with that unavoidable soft plastic. We’re also working on setting up composting, partnering with food service vendor Sodexo who already has switched to compostable clamshells for takeout meals and hard plates for dine-in customers. We are still working hard on energy efficiency, incorporating renewables and working with our public utilities. We’ve done some native planting/ landscaping in order to irrigate less, and we’re also working on some infrastructure upgrades related to water so we can have more efficient fixtures and consume less. We just got a new dishwasher in our largest café that reuses steam and is considerably more efficient than the old one.” “We’re working hard to continue our TravelSmart goals with active transportation and are doing different things to market it to people,” says Ms. Stewart. “We’ve been working with people at Metro, the Transit Authority that runs the city bus line. They have made some route adjustments which we believe will help some people coming to our campus. They also are getting ready to launch the Omaha Bus Rapid Transit (ORBT) system in 2020, and UNMC will have a station when that launches. Our goals are in line with global goals in terms of recognizing the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing pollution, and global water issues. We believe it is important to push forward and to not coast, and by truly leading, we can help solve some major issues on our planet.” c Read more about Verdis and the TravelSmart programme in an SBM Partner Update exclusively online. SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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University of Nebraska Medical Center 42nd and Emile, Omaha, NE 68198 T. 402-559-4000 www.unmc.edu

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Profile for Sustainable Business Magazine

University of Nebraska Medical Center  

Sustainable Business Magazine speaks to Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Nebr...

University of Nebraska Medical Center  

Sustainable Business Magazine speaks to Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Nebr...

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