By Rob Prohaska

Well before the Richards Building was constructed, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital had in many ways been concerned about minimizing the environmental impact of our facility and its day-to-day operations.

Rob Prohaska
Rob Prohaska

We were an early recipient of the “Making Medicine Mercury Free” award. In doing so we went beyond the exemptions allowed to claim this recognition. BMH has installed mercury-free boiler switches, for example—a measure that was not part of the requirements.

Let us also not forget that for a number of years BMH has been using environmentally safe cleaning products. Furthermore, it has been many years since Ernie Dowd partnered BMH with the premier electronics recycler in New England for reclamation of electronic equipment. The Institutional Recycling Network makes sure that those they work with to recycle electronic components do so in ethical and environmentally responsible ways.

As we built the Richards Building, BMH put together a structure that exceeds Vermont requirements for energy efficient construction. (And it continues to do so five years later!) Many standards for BMH were initiated with this building and we continue to employ them in retrofits and renovations. These include dual flushing toilets, “Energy Wheels” to reclaim energy in our heating and cooling systems, highly efficient windows, use of local materials and permeable pavement to name but a few.

I was recently able to walk through an LEED-certified building at a nearby campus. I could not find one item in this building that we had not implemented in the Richards Building. So, while we did not apply for LEED certification, I feel we certainly would have achieved this designation

When we installed lighting at our offsite lot, we used rechargeable LED lighting. This means that the offsite lot is also off the grid while providing good lighting for the area. Based upon the success of LED in this application, BMH has over the past year been converting our outside lighting to LED. As we build out our expanded Emergency Department and lobby, we have made sure that LED lighting is part of the program both inside (via exam lights) as well as outside.

Speaking of our Emergency Department, Governor Shumlin made a stop there during his Earth Day tour in 2012 to inspect the Airedock anti-idle kiosks we installed the previous autumn. This technology enables ambulances to keep on-board medical equipment operational without having to idle their engines. The end result is a reduction of fossil-fuel consumption for emergency vehicles and a significant reduction in exhaust and noise pollution for people in the ED area. I am proud to add that BMH was the first hospital to install this technology, and many others have since followed our lead.

Unlike many other hospital campuses, BMH maintains attractive grounds with little in the way of water other than that which is provided by Mother Nature. Use of native perennials has put us ahead of the curve, as many other campuses now seek to employ plants that do not require irrigation to thrive. This will of course continue as we landscape the “Doorway to Exceptional Care”.

Not everything we do can be measured. But here are a few statistics that illustrate how we minimize our environmental impact while providing patient care:

  • 75,000 pounds of paper are collected, shredded and recycled annually.
  • 36,000 pounds of cardboard are separated and recycled annually.
  • Over 12,000 pounds of glass, plastic and metal are recycled by Nutrition Services and Plant Services.
  • Over 6,000 pounds of plastic are diverted from landfills by utilizing recyclable sharps containers.

It takes a total team effort to keep a facility as large as BMH on the eco-friendly path. I’m proud of the commitment my colleagues have made toward this goal.

Rob Prohaska is the Director of Plant Services at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

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