Hackensack Meridian Health has been working towards sustainably for years, however in 2012, they hired a Director of Sustainability, Kyle Tafuri, to put a full-time focus on and take sustainability to a new level. The purpose of their efforts is to promote the mission of health by utilizing a variety of sustainability initiatives as Tafuri has been quoted as saying “The air we breathe and the food we eat play an important role in promoting better health and well-being”. HMH aims to create a healthier community and environment through safer chemicals, healthier food, and reducing pollution all while partnering with local communities.
Fairleigh Dickinson University at Florham
Hackensack Meridian Health is taking these steps through several initiatives. Some major initiatives include food options, energy resources, supply chain, and clean products. HMH has taken a healthier food option by introducing antibiotic-free meats. Antibiotics in meats were creating antibiotic resistance in people. HMH now has 90% of the meats served being antibiotic-free which has helped team members and patients eat healthier. Hackensack Meridian Health is working to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing emissions and building a clean energy future. Two of their initiatives are solar power and the NJ Natural Gas SAVEGREEN project. These projects will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and limit their use of fossil fuels. According to Robert C. Garrett, CEO of HMH, “The SAVEGREEN Project allows the healthcare industry to play a bigger role in reducing carbon emissions and is an example of the all hands on deck approach that is needed to create healthier more sustainable communities throughout New Jersey.” While they are in the process of the switchover, HMH does track their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions and is actively working on measuring scope 3 emissions. Since the efforts have started HMH has reduced its energy consumption by 30%. Another key area of focus for HMH’s sustainability program is using clean products. The cleaning supplies HMH uses are third-party certified by ECOLOGO and minimize the negative impact on the environment. The supplies are safer and healthier for team members, patients, and visitors which ensures no one is exposed to harsh toxins found in typical cleaning supplies. Additionally, HMH migrated furnishings to those that do not contain toxic flame retardants. This was an impressive task given the sheer size of HMH. When it comes to their medical equipment Hackensack Meridian Health uses reusable medical equipment where possible, which limits the amount of single-use and disposable products. These medical devices are reprocessed and sterilized for the next use; this prevents excessive waste which helps the environment.
Tafuri and his team are working towards getting these sustainability programs ingrained in the core operations of the hospitals. To do this, they partner with everyone from the supply chain, to facilities employees, food services programs, nurses, executives, and everyone in between. This is important because to truly make sustainability work everyone in the organization has to buy into the goals as Tafuri has said “The keys to sustainability are to create positive change and build meaningful relationships. To engage the employees, they have established sustainability committees. Employees can participate in a variety of events, such as beach clean-ups and hosting teaching kitchens. Sandra Holton, a financial analyst at HMH, has participated in many of the company’s engagement events. She and her coworkers have helped with beach cleans ups. According to Sandra, “I love going to the beach; therefore, I was happy to help clean up, I want my kids and grandkids to be able to enjoy the beaches forever so if I can step in to help it’s a no brainer.” This shows the impact that these events have because the employees feel connected to HMH’s sustainability program. Having people like Sandra and her coworkers believe in the company culture of sustainability and help participate in these activities will make the sustainability program stronger.
While Hackensack Meridian continues to pave the way for sustainable hospital systems, they face challenges. Some of the challenges that HMH faces are unexpected health issues like Covid-19, money, lack of information, and competing priorities. Just like everything else, Covid-19 halted many projects that Kyle and his team were working on. The projects lost the funding, the supplies, and the workers when Covid-19 hit. This has had a lasting impact as they are just now beginning to restart projects such as solar panels for the hospitals. Sustainability for 17 hospitals takes a lot of work and money. HMH is leading the way for health systems and forging its own path into unknown territory with very little information available to them. This makes implementing a successful program more difficult since they are figuring it all out, without guidelines to follow. In a hospital system as large as Hackensack Meridian Health, the focus may temporarily shift away from sustainability efforts since the care for patients is the number one concern. This creates challenges for the sustainability program.
Even with all the challenges that Hackensack Meridian Health may face, they are extremely successful in their efforts. For the past several years HMH has received awards from Practice Greenhealth and Top Green Hospitals. While the list of achievements is very long the most notable ones come from Hackensack’s two biggest hospitals: Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) and Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC). In 2020, both organizations received recognition as one of Practice Greenhealth’s Top 25 Hospitals for Environmental Excellence. HUMC was one of only three hospitals in the country to earn this recognition for seven consecutive years. On top of that HUMC was also recognized by the Circle of Excellence which is given to the top 10 hospitals nationwide that lead in sustainability efforts.
In conclusion, Kyle Tafuri and his team run a very successful department at Hackensack Meridian Health. Even with the challenges, they face they continue to be recognized as a top hospital system for sustainability in New Jersey and around the country. They do this through partnering with anyone who can help achieve their goals whether it’s a supply chain, food source, energy, or cleaning supply partner. The more people they can get on their team the better their efforts will be. By reducing waste, limiting pollution, and eliminating exposure to toxic materials, HMH is paving the way for sustainable hospitals and it's time for everyone to follow them.
Kyle Tafuri, Director of Sustainabiity
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Edison, NJ, US
Business Website: https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/en
Year Founded: 2016
Number of Employees: 10000+
Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH), one of New Jersey’s largest health systems, is paving the way for sustainability in the health world. HMH consists of four academic medical centers, two children’s hospitals, nine community hospitals, two rehabilitation hospitals, and one behavior health hospital for a total of 17 hospitals. Hackensack Meridian Health has taken it upon themselves to pave the way for sustainable healthcare.