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Atlantic Health System Hospitals Recognized for Environmental Sustainability; Overlook Again Named Among Practice Greenhealth’s ‘Top 25’

April 15, 2019

Summit, NJ – Atlantic Health System continues to be an environmental leader, with each of its hospitals recognized for their accomplishments in environmental sustainability. Overlook Medical Center once again earned Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor, the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award, for the second consecutive year.

Morristown, Newton, Chilton and Hackettstown medical centers, each received Practice Greenhealth’s Partner for Change Award, recognizing health care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon programs to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably and more. The four hospitals also received the Making Medicine Mercury Free Award.

In all, Atlantic Health System earned 13 awards from Practice Greenhealth, underscoring the health care provider’s commitment to making healthy, environmentally sustainable changes in order to build healthier communities.

"Atlantic Health System is proud of our innovative team members who have changed the narrative on eco-friendly health care and have developed environmentally-friendly initiatives to help us improve the communities we serve," said Nikki Sumpter, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Atlantic Health System.

“As more and more hospitals embed sustainability into their operations, the bar for environmental excellence increases every year,” said Gary Cohen, president of Practice Greenhealth. “Atlantic Health System’s hospitals demonstrate the kind of leadership, innovation, and performance that can drive the entire health sector toward more environmentally responsible practices.”

The Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award is Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor for hospitals. These hospitals are leading the industry with innovation in sustainability, demonstrating superior programs, and illustrating how sustainability is a core part of their culture.

In addition to the Top 25 honor, Overlook also once again received the Greening the OR Award, which shows that the hospital is working in several areas on waste reduction and energy savings in the perioperative area.

Overlook added to its environmental achievements this year with Practice Greenhealth’s Circle of Excellence awards in three categories:

  • The Leadership category honors hospitals demonstrating excellence in supporting a long-term commitment to healthier environments through committee structure, reporting, data tracking, communication, and education. 
  • The Less Waste category honors hospitals that have excelled in waste prevention and material handling, as demonstrated through high recycling rates, low regulated medical waste generation and low rates of total waste generated per patient day. These programs address all facets of the complex health care waste stream.
  • The Healthy Food category highlights leaders in sustainable food services, including meat and sugar-sweetened beverage reduction, healthier meat procurement, local sourcing, food waste prevention and management. Top contenders have written policies and an educational strategy that addresses the food system as a critical component in an overall sustainability plan—for human and planetary health.

Since 2015, Overlook has been consistently recognized by Practice Greenhealth, previously earning its Emerald Award, Partner for Change Award, and the Making Medicine Mercury Free award.

“At Overlook, we are once again honored that our ‘green’ efforts have made us among the most environmentally sustainable hospitals in the nation, and are excited to this year be joined by our colleagues across Atlantic Health System,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center and vice president of Atlantic Health System. "Sustainability has been adopted at all levels of the Overlook culture, and is a key part of our commitment to building healthier communities."

How Atlantic Health System’s hospitals attained environmental excellence

The Making Medicine Mercury Free Award, given to health care facilities that have virtually eliminated mercury and have policies in place to prevent it from re-entering the facility, was given to the four Atlantic Health System hospitals in recognition of longstanding mercury elimination practices at those sites, in place as early as 2005.

Morristown, Newton, Chilton and Hackettstown’s Partner for Change Awards reflect a number of initiatives by Atlantic Health System’s “Green Team,” throughout those sites. The team’s subgroups addressed specific areas and initiatives, such as working with food service departments to enhance healthy food offerings.

Other system-wide initiatives included:

  • A project to collect waste medications from the hospitals’ pharmacies, and dispose of them in environmentally sustainable ways
  • Replacing plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws throughout all hospital retail sites
  • As part of the system-wide implementation of the Epic electronic health record, the elimination of paper records contributed to a 27 percent reduction in paper use, equaling more than $100,000 in savings
  • On-campus beehives have been implemented at Morristown and Chilton medical centers
  • Morristown created a community garden on-site

Last year, all five of Atlantic Health System’s hospitals recycled:

  • 689.99 tons of cardboard
  • 72.15 tons of bottles and cans
  • 547.97 tons of shredded paper

Moving forward, Atlantic Health System plans to continue to enhance its sustainability efforts – the organization has committed to reducing the use of Styrofoam, and plans are underway to make practices in the organization’s physician network, Atlantic Medical Group, mercury free.

Top Honors

Initiatives that contributed to Overlook Medical Center’s top recognition included increased recycling efforts throughout 2018, as well as the installation of a fluid management system. The hospital also uses ionized water technology in lieu of chemicals for general purpose cleaning and has increasing the purchase of environmentally-friendly, green-seal chemicals.

Overlook’s achievements in 2018, include:

  • Recycled a total of 524 tons of waste
  • Actively engaged in the Healthy Food in Healthcare organization
  • Diverted more than 181 tons of food waste from landfills through composting and donation
  • 23 percent of food served comes from locally-sourced produce, and 49 percent of food purchases are sustainable items
  • Decreased a total of 126 tons of waste from its surgical departments

The medical center’s tri-generation power plant has had the most significant impact on reducing the facility’s carbon footprint. The power plant produces four Megawatts of electricity on site by harnessing the waste heat produced by the generators and substitutes steam formerly created by boilers. This tri-generation process reduces the cost of replaced energy by more than 60 percent, while also providing a redundant electrical generating capability which, in emergency situations, allows the hospital to operate independent of grid-supplied power.

In 2018 alone, Overlook’s efforts saved an estimated:

  • 5,652 trees
  • 21,334 gallons of oil
  • 1,120,005 kilowatt-hours (a unit of electrical energy equivalent to consumption of 1,000 watts per one hour)
  • 653,822 gallons of water

Operating rooms are large contributors to a health care facility’s environmental footprint, creating opportunity for significant cost savings and sustainability improvements. In addition to ongoing operating room-specific initiatives such as recycling, water/energy efficient and higher capacity equipment, and reduction of DEHP, Overlook’s OR team also increased the use of custom supply packs in order to decrease waste.

Overlook also implemented a unique initiative to keep blue wrap – the material used to keep surgical instruments in the operating room sterile – from entering the waste stream. Polypropylene is a plastic used to make surgical blue wrap, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that blue wrap accounts for 19 percent of all operating room waste, generating 255 million pounds of blue wrap waste annually throughout the nation. Reducing 1 million pounds of blue wrap is the environmental equivalent of taking 250 cars off the road. In response, Overlook began repurposing blue wrap into handy totes. These totes are offered through the hospital’s gift shop and to patients to replace plastic bags for their belongings. Future endeavors include making sleeping bags, pillows and blankets for the homeless.

In addition, Overlook’s efforts to be environmentally friendly have extended outside of the hospital, directly into the community, both right outside its doors and around the world. For example, Overlook Medical Center:

  • Established its own private beehives on-campus in 2013, and expanded the number of beehives to a total of 10 in 2016
  • Provided land down the street from the hospital for a Community Garden, which each year allows residents and organizations to grow local fruits and vegetables, some of which is given to local food pantries for the needy
  • Expanded its Bee Healthy program, which educates local children about nutrition, honey bee culture, growing fruits and vegetables and cooking healthy foods.
  • Maintains a multi-unit chicken coop and purchased 32 chickens, which produce farm-fresh eggs available to the community. Much of the proceeds from the garden and chickens are donated to families in need of food
  • Hosts a Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which hospital employees are able to pick up their weekly produce at work instead of driving to a farm.
  • Donates beds, linens and scrubs that are no longer in use to Focos Hospital in Ghana, Africa

The award will be formally presented at the Environmental Excellence Awards Gala May 9 in Nashville during CleanMed, the premier national conference for leaders in health care sustainability.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of more than 16,800 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system offers more than 400 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ and Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ.

In addition to the employed workforce, Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network represents more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ. This network includes 1,000 physicians and providers comprising one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey - Atlantic Medical Group, as well as members of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners which work to enhance patient care delivery.

Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health care needs including 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of seven regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability and is a founding member of the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system that will expand access to groundbreaking research across seven health systems in New Jersey.

Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with Thomas Jefferson University and is home to the regional campus of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers and is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.