Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Joan Plisko, Director of MD H2E

I have spent a decade dedicated to healthcare environmental sustainability in Maryland. For a large part of that time, I worked with Barb Sattler and Louise Mitchell, both visionaries in the field. While they are not part of MD H2E as we wind down the initiative, their/our collective legacy remains as the bedrock of MD H2E’s success.

Ten years ago, we were knocking, no banging, on doors to get hospitals to listen to our messages. First – stop burning mercury, plastics, and other potential toxic material in old, decaying, inefficient incinerators; its bad for patients, bad for staff and bad for community members. Second – stop using toxic pesticides in places where vulnerable populations are trying to heal. Third – feed patients and staff healthy, local, sustainable food. And guess what? They listened! Not all at once and not everyone on all fronts, but as a collective, hospitals listened, asked questions of us and of each other, and they changed practice.

My first presentation for MD H2E was a ten step process for recycling batteries. It was a pragmatic approach to decreasing waste. Fast forward ten years, I am preparing a presentation on stormwater management for health care providers. In between my first and most likely last presentations, MD H2E staff have presented on so many environmental and sustainability topics that we found significant and important (e.g., hazardous pharmaceuticals, climate change, regulatory compliance). We were able to be creative and authentic in our scope of work for one main reason: our generous and faithful funders believed in us. And to them, I owe my gratitude – for  believing in the efforts of a small but mighty group that transformed a culture in Maryland and set an example for the country.

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