Celebrate Earth Day! Learn about sustainability efforts at work or home

April 22, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration of sustainability and environmental efforts across the globe.

As Michigan Medicine is on the front lines responding to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the U-M community is continuing environmental stewardship initiatives to protect the health of people and the planet for generations to come.

2019 Environmental Achievements

In the past year, the U-M Health System implemented Blue Wrap Recycling, began a contract with a new waste and recycling vendor, and expanded composting efforts in patient food and retail kitchens. These initiatives support U-M’s goal to reduce the amount of overall waste going to the landfill by 40 percent and help limit greenhouse gas emissions from food in landfills.

Plans were announced in September for the new hospital of the future to be constructed as a LEED Platinum Certified building. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

UMHS is also working with leaders across U-M to develop recommendations on how to achieve carbon neutrality. Tony Denton, senior vice-president and chief operating officer for UMHS, is a member of the U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality.

In 2020, the health system expects to receive its 17th consecutive national honor from Practice Greenhealth, an organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care.

Sustainability from home

Although most normal routines have drastically shifted during the pandemic, there are still many ways you can learn about sustainability and take actions to help the environment, whether you are in the academic medical center or at home.

Now is a great time to become a Planet Blue Ambassador. By completing a quick online learning module, any faculty, staff or student can become certified as an ambassador — giving them access to a monthly e-newsletter detailing environmental programs and events on campus, along with invitations to participate in green challenges.

There are plenty of other sustainable actions you can do during this time. Some ideas include:

  • If working from home, make sure to turn off your computer and any peripherals when you are done for the day and use energy saving settings.
  • When ordering from online retailers, see if they allow you the options of condensing shipments into fewer packages or not using rush shipping. If possible, coordinate with your neighbors to order online only specific days of the week. Doing so better coordinates bulk delivery, thus, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from delivery trucks.
  • Run the dishwasher only when fully loaded. Use air dry instead of the heated dry option.
  • Start composting your household organic waste. Washtenaw County has some great resources to get started. Don’t have a yard or outdoor space? Try out vermicomposting! Just remember: When compost at home, avoid compostable plastics, meats and dairy!

Here is a list of more sustainable action ideas from the Planet Blue Ambassador Program.

This is also a good time to learn more about climate change and its connection to health and the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Watch the Do No Harm video from the organization Health Care Without Harm to learn about how it is the health care sector’s responsibility to help solve environmental issues.
  • Learn about the common link between COVID-19 and sustainability and equity with these resources.
  • Learn about health care sustainability nationwide through Practice Greenhealth.

Thank you all for playing your part in protecting the environment — and Happy Earth Day!

Please email mmrecycle@umich.edu if you have any sustainability-related questions.