Smitha: During my residency, I heard a lecture about the environmental impacts of inhaled anesthetics. I had never thought about how my role as a physician has a negative impact on the environment, but from then on it was impossible not to notice the waste and resources involved in just one surgery.
Alexis: When I started learning more about how healthcare is actually part of the problem in terms of contributing to climate change and filling landfills – it’s just antithetical to the work of caring for patients.
Robert: Every day we come to work because we are concerned about the health of our patients. Sustainability work is an opportunity to do something that directly affects the health and wellbeing of our entire community.
Smitha: A few years ago, I started asking around about what had already been tried around sustainability within U of U Health and I realized there wasn’t a system in place for it. The sustainability work that had already been going on without an organizational, systemic component is amazing, but I wanted to make sure this could keep growing and become a part of our system that is incorporated into everything we do.
Robert: I had been doing energy projects for a few years and had heard from people wondering how they could be involved in sustainability at U of U Health, but it wasn’t until recently that we really started figuring out how to put a structure to it. With consistent unstructured support from the top down and from the bottom up, the Green Team came together really organically under Smitha’s leadership.
Alexis: It really was a grassroots movement that coincidentally picked up momentum right as Kerry Case joined the U as inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer. We now meet with her and her team regularly, learning from what they are doing throughout the U. It has become a great example of a One U effort.
Smitha: Our first big win was in 2018 when leadership at Hospitals and Clinics approved funding a membership for Practice Greenhealth. It allowed all of us to feel more supported and empowered in this work. Since then, we have gained support from all of health sciences leadership including Hospitals and Clinics, University of Utah Medical Group and the School of Medicine.
We want as many people as possible to be involved and we want it to be easy and accessible. I think there is a tremendous amount of employee satisfaction and a deep sense of purpose for the people joining us in this work and there is a lot more to do.
Alexis: It’s exciting to know that there are things we can do in healthcare to make it so that every part of our system facilitates health. Anyone is welcome to join us.
If you are interested in joining the U of U Health Green Team, contact Alexis Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Robert Armstrong, Energy and Sustainability Coordinator, U of U Health
Alexis Lee, Environmental and Social Sustainability Director, U of U Health
Smitha Warrier, Medical Director of Environmental and Social Sustainability, U of U Health