Building HopeSeattle Children’s has been caring for children for more than a hundred years, founded on the promise to care for every child in the region and provide the safest most effective care possible. That vision still guides the hospital today, but for Colleen Groll, manager of sustainability programs at Seattle Children’s, she interprets it in a unique way – from an environmental perspective.

“Environmental stewardship is perfectly aligned with our mission and vision,” said Groll. “If we want to positively affect the health of as many children as possible, we have to take responsibility for our environmental impacts. When we take responsibility for our impacts, we take responsibility for the health of the people around us, including the children and families we serve.”

Leading the way in sustainability

Recently, Seattle Children’s was recognized as one of one of the 50 greenest hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review. Hospitals selected for the award were evaluated using information from the Practice Greenhealth 2015 Top 25 Environmental Excellence Awards and Practice Greenhealth’s 2015 Circle of Excellence Awards. This includes 10 sustainability categories: Leadership, waste reduction, chemical reduction, greening the operating room, sustainable food services, environmentally preferable purchasing, energy efficiency, water conservation, tracking and measuring greenhouse gas emissions and green building achievements.

Groll has been instrumental in implementing many new programs at Seattle Children’s that have led the hospital to being recognized as an industry leader. The areas where the hospital has excelled include composting, recycling, transportation, green purchasing, energy reduction and paper reduction.

“While our work will never be done, we lead by the accomplishment of many small measures,” said Groll. “When our employees choose to walk or bike to work, we’re reducing green house gas emissions. When we design new buildings, we commit to making them as energy efficient as possible. When we buy locally sourced, organic foods, we’re not only giving our patients and families healthy foods options, we’re protecting the community from exposure to harsh and dangerous pesticides. When we invest in liveable streets, we’re investing in a safer, more active community. Our work is a piece of a much bigger picture.”

Reducing our footprint, reducing hospital stays

The number one reason children are admitted to Seattle Children’s each year is because of asthma, which totals more than 600 admissions each year.

“Imagine a world where we could reduce that number,” said Todd Johnson, vice president of Facilities at Seattle Children’s.

“Well, we can be a part of the solution. We can reduce the number of children who need care for asthma by reducing our carbon footprint and green house emissions.”

The hospital has put a lot of work into reducing its carbon footprint and decreasing the amount of green house gas it emits, as well as investing $4 million in improving neighborhood transportation by making streets safer. Seattle Children’s has reduced carbon and greenhouse gas emissions through it’s comprehensive, employee alternative-transportation program.

The transportation sector, including cars, is the second largest polluter after coal. Today, only 37.4% of employees drive to work, which is down from 78% in 1995. Even the shuttles that go to and from the hospital to offices across the city are powered by clean fuel.

A legacy of environmental stewardship

The latest award from Becker’s Hospital Review adds to several other accolades the hospital has received for its environmental stewardship. Seattle Children’s was named a 2015 Practice Greenhealth Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award honoree, as well as the recipient of two Circle of Excellence Awards for tracking its greenhouse gas emissions and green building achievements. The hospital’s Building Hope expansion was awarded LEED Gold certification in 2013, but it’s not the hospital’s only green building – Seattle Children’s Clinic and Surgery Center in Bellevue, Wash., is LEED Gold certified as well. Seattle Children’s has also funded efforts to improve the sidewalks in the community, earning it the League of American Bicyclists’ highest honor, the Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Business award, in 2015.

“It’s work and achievements we’re proud of, and something we want our community, employees and other organizations to take pride in too,” said Johnson. “We want to inspire others.”