Mercy Health – a Catholic health care ministry serving Ohio and Kentucky – is committed to sustainability. Prioritizing care for creation honors Mercy Health’s commitment to health and stewardship, and aligns Mercy Health with the priorities of the Pope and Catholic Archdioceses in the communities it serves.
When it comes to the intersection of health and climate change, Pope Francis has warned about the dangerous health impacts climate change and pollution have. By reducing carbon emissions, health care facilities can directly improve the health of their patients and communities. In 2016 and 2017, Mercy Health’s sustainability efforts led to more than $1 million in savings and avoiding the waste of the equivalent of 300,000 bottles of water.
Recognizing that its environmental impact extends beyond its health care facilities, Mercy Health has taken critical steps to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Working with MindClick’s Healthcare Sustainable Purchasing Index (HCSP) gives Mercy Health information about the sustainability of the products it purchases, including the amount of postconsumer recycled content used to manufacture the product, how it is packaged and how energy intensive it is to manufacture the product. Using this information has enabled Mercy Health to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of its purchases, by helping them pick suppliers that share their vision of caring for creation.
Mercy Health’s sustainability efforts also address the environment through building and campus design, including construction and demolition. Construction incorporates flowers and plants and energy efficient features in appropriate spaces. For example, the roof of Mercy Health – West Hospital in Cincinnati was Ohio’s largest (2.5 acres) “green” roof with 65,000 native, drought-resistant plants when it was first built in 2013. Green roofs can help regulate the temperature of underlying roof surfaces and building interiors, reducing the energy needed for building cooling and cooling the surrounding air temperatures. When Mercy Health’s Home Office was constructed in 2016, it added to the environment with the planting of 417 trees, 992 shrubs, and 1228 perennials where an unused parking lot was located before.
Examples of energy efficient features contributing to sustainability include the 125-patient bed tower at Mercy Health - St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital in Youngstown. The tower has doubled the facility size, but only increased energy use by 43 percent, from 68 million kBtu's (222 kBtu's/sq. ft.) to 97 million kBtu's (200 kBtu's/sq. ft.). An estimated 80 percent of all construction waste at the facility was recycled, including concrete, block, wood, gypsum, asphalt, steel, plastic, shingles, masonry, cardboard, and brick, soil, paper and fabric debris. Mercy Health – Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati used shredded jeans in the new tower walls, reducing noise up to 80 dBA. Materials from the demolition of the D’Youville Educational Building on the Mercy Health - St. Vincent campus in Toledo were also recycled and reused, ultimately diverting 8000 tons of concrete and steel from the landfill. Recycling both reduces the use of virgin materials and reduces waste, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
In the future, Mercy Health plans to further refine EPP practices, continue to support green operations (practices), review energy and water opportunities (e.g., water valves, HVAC, LED, etc.), and review food and nutrition sourcing (e.g., opting for locally sourced menu items, reusable straws, etc.) to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and in turn create a healthier society for everyone.