Hintz-Polzin Named to Sustainability Post
ThedaCare is on track to recoup a $1.9 million energy efficiency investment this year, just two years after establishing its department for sustainability in health care. New projects worth $1.5 million will commence in 2015 and be paid off in about two years, said Paul Linzmeyer, sustainability leader for ThedaCare since 2012. His department is charged with helping to improve the health of communities by greatly reducing or eliminating ThedaCare’s energy, waste and water footprint.
“Our job is to thoughtfully use resources to meet current needs without borrowing from future generations,” Linzmeyer said. “By definition, sustainability in health care is not simply an effort to save the planet; rather, we are acting as advocates for better human health, as so much waste is detrimental to people’s overall well-being.”
Employee engagement is increasingly important to the success of ThedaCare’s sustainability efforts, Linzmeyer said. “With seven hospitals, 35 clinics and nearly 7,000 employees, our job is to develop and sustain a new way of thinking. Our goal is to think more widely and deeply about the impact of our decisions about energy, material waste, water usage, and food production and consumption.” Several successful sustainability efforts within ThedaCare include:
- In May at Theda Clark Medical Center, food waste and compostable dinnerware will be decomposed at an accelerated rate using environmentally friendly microorganisms. The biotic process produces gray water that can be used in the dishroom to scrape dinnerware, saving one million gallons of water annually.
- Recycling of blue wrap, a polypropylene plastic cloth used to wrap sterilized surgical instruments, jumpstarted a system wide plastics recycling program that has already diverted 80 tons of plastic from area landfills. In the near future, ThedaCare plans to implement a re-useable container program in place of blue wrap to nearly eliminate use of the plastic cloth.
- Lighting was upgraded throughout the system from less efficient T8 or T5 fluorescent bulbs to T12 bulbs.
- HID xenon parking ramp lights, parking lots and exterior lights were converted to highly efficient LED fixtures at many facilities. This changeover also resulted in more consistent lighting for security purposes, less light overreach to neighboring homes, and significantly less bulb and cleaning maintenance.
- At the suggestion of a plant operator, a micro-steam turbine was installed at at Appleton Medical Center to reduce steam generation from 100 psi to useable 40 psi while simultaneously capturing additional energy from the reducer.
- Kitchen hoods at Theda Clark were equipped with controls and laser smoke detectors to turn on the kitchen exhaust only when steam or smoke is detected. Also, conditioned air is no longer exhausted from kitchen areas when exhaust hoods run unnecessarily.
- Natural gas contracts have been negotiated through 2017 at preferred rates.
To strengthen the system of gathering and implementing new ideas in sustainability, Maggie Hintz-Polzin, RN, was recently named to the newly created position of sustainability coordinator at ThedaCare. She will work system wide to collect, develop and report on ideas for a more sustainable health care network. Hintz-Polzin is pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainability Management at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “Preliminary research shows that employees who are engaged in strengthening their employers’ sustainability efforts are better aligned with the organization’s mission, more productive, and retain their jobs longer. As a nurse, I am well prepared to discuss these ideas with other nurses and medical professionals,” Hintz-Polzin said. “The ideas can flow all the way from suppliers to patient care and ultimately impact powerfully the way we consume resources.”
ThedaCare uses a system of Green Teams at each of its major locations to increase awareness of resource use and encourage new ways of looking at standard operating procedures to cut waste. Employees can submit ideas for improved sustainable practices directly to Linzmeyer via a web site portal. Hintz-Polzin will expand in the use of the ThedaCare Improvement System (TIS) as a method to determine suggested projects’ long-term viability.
ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Berlin Memorial Hospital, Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare At Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,803 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.