Sustainability Pledge

This pledge identifies several behaviors that can help you become more environmentally, socially, and economically responsible in your daily life, both at work and at home. If you are not sure about why a certain behavior is identified as sustainable, click “Learn More” to read about its environmental impact as well as what you can do to get started on the path toward a healthier life!

Energy Conservation

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Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Environmental Impact: Taking two flights of stairs per day saves 72 kilowatts of energy, according to the Nature Conservancy. There are also numerous health benefits of takings the stairs that can contribute a longer life, including reduced blood pressure, fat mass, and cholesterol. The average person burns 10 calories per minute taking the stairs!

What you can do: Instead of choosing the elevator, get your heart going in the morning by taking the stairs in your building. Find a friend and take a break everyone once in a while during the work day to climb a couple flights of stairs.

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Only use lights as needed, and always turn off lights when leaving a room

Environmental Impact: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 20-25% of annual electricity consumption in the U.S. is attributed to lighting. The majority of lighting is used for offices, stores, industries, and warehouses, so using lighting responsibly at work can be very impactful. According to the California Energy Commission, turning off a standard fluorescent lamp for 30 minutes can save about $4 in energy over the life of the lamp.

What you can do: Because different tasks require different levels of lighting, adjusting lighting in your work area (where able) can improve your quality of work and direct electricity for lighting only to areas where it is needed most. Always turn off lights when leaving a room, as it does NOT require more energy to turn them back on when you need them again. For University Hospitals employees, UH Facilities Management is currently increasing the installation of motion sensors for many shared workspaces and offices so that lights don’t remain turned on unnecessarily in empty rooms.

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Use ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs in my office or home

Environmental Impact: Qualifying for ENERGY STAR means that products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Saving energy helps save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs use 75% less energy than standard lighting, produce 75% less heat, and last at least 6 times longer than standard bulbs.

What you can do: Prefer ENERGY STAR qualified lighting for your home or office. For guidance, visit the ENERGY STAR lighting page. LEDs, or light–emitting diodes, are semiconductor devices that produce visible light when an electrical current passed through them. LED lighting differs from incandescent and compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) in several ways. When designed well, LED lighting can be more efficient, durable, versatile and longer lasting. LEDs use less energy and last longer than CFLs and are free of harmful chemicals. For more info visit ENERGY STAR LEDs. Due to CFL’s small mercury content, they should not be placed in regular landfills. For information on proper disposal of CFLs in Cuyahoga County, visit the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District website.

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Lower blinds in the summer to keep my space cool and raise blinds in the winter to let in the sun’s warmth and use natural light (lowering them at the end of the day to trap the heat at night).

Environmental Impact: This easy practice can help trap heat without costing you a cent or burning energy.

What you can do: On the way out to work in the summer, remember to close the blinds so that some of the sun’s heat is blocked. In the winter, be sure to open the blinds to let in those warm rays!

Waste Minimization

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Use doubled-sided copy and print jobs

Environmental Impact: Printing double-sided could cut the amount of white paper consumed by your workplace each year in half. Paper use reduction decreases stress on natural resources (trees) and reduces air and water pollution from paper production. Additionally, less space will be needed for the management and storage of paper documents. Money will be saved in multiple ways, including reduced costs for paper purchasing, supplies and maintenance of printers and copiers, and recycling and disposal as a result of less paper waste.

What you can do: Use double-sided copy and print jobs as much as possible. When printing a document, change the Properties of your print job to Eco-Print, or two-sided printing. If you are a UH employee and aren’t sure how to do this, call the IT Help Desk at 216-844-3327.

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Use recycled paper

Environmental Impact: According to the EPA, manufacturing one ton of office and computer paper with recycled paper stock can save between 3,000 and 4,000 kilowatt hours over the same ton of paper made with virgin wood products. Buying recycled paper helps to close the recycling loop. Compared with virgin paper, recycled paper production uses less energy and water, puts less stress on forests, uses less bleach, releases fewer toxins, and reduces waste that would otherwise be landfilled.

What you can do: Prefer recycled paper whenever possible and make sure to recycle any waste paper that you produce. Refer to the EPA’s website on buying recycled paper and paper products to see many helpful resources.

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If you are a UH employee, utilize the University Hospitals recycling programs

Environmental Impact: The healthcare industry produces a number of complex waste streams, and proper handling of these streams is critical to ensuring human and environmental health. Every day, our hospitals generate hundreds of pounds of waste-- regulated medical waste, municipal solid waste, recyclable materials, hazardous waste, universal waste (think batteries), pharmaceutical waste, compostable material, reusable materials (donated supplies and furniture), and construction and demolition debris, just to name a few. Waste that ends up in the landfill can contribute to the production of dangerous greenhouse gases such as methane. Medical waste that goes into incinerators can produce byproducts such as heavy metals, dioxins, CO2, fly ash residue and other toxins that are detrimental to human and environmental health. Conscientious management of our waste can minimize our contribution to these byproducts, and as one of the largest healthcare providers in the state it is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for the impact we make. Properly disposing of waste materials can also save our organization hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, which is money that can otherwise be invested in patient care and employee wellness. Remember, what’s good for the planet is good for the patient.

What you can do: Whenever you have something to throw away in a UH facility, always ask yourself the question, Where do I place my waste? Know that whenever you properly dispose of something, you are helping UH to remain environmentally responsible and are also saving the organization money which can otherwise be invested in patients and employees. Recycling, for example, is less expensive for us to dispose of than throwing something in the trash. We have implemented a single stream recycling program, which means that any recycling bin will accept non-confidential paper (confidential paper goes into the secure Cintas containers), plastic numbered 1-7, aluminum, and glass. Consult the UH Waste Disposal Chart for any questions on proper disposal of certain items or reference the UH Waste Contact List for specific questions.

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As a UH employee, only dispose of regulated medical waste in the red bag waste stream

Environmental Impact: Regulated medical waste (RMW), also known as “biohazardous” waste or “infectious medical” waste, is the portion of the waste stream generated by healthcare facilities that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials, thus posing a significant risk of transmitting infection and endangering human health (Practice Greenhealth). Healthcare facilities routinely dispose of waste materials that aren’t classified as RMW into the red bag waste stream. This is both economically and environmentally irresponsible. It costs UH many times as much to dispose of red bag waste as it does to dispose of regular municipal solid waste. Much of the time, red bag waste is incinerated which can release mercury and dioxin, both harmful toxins, into the environment. Properly segregating RMW can minimize both cost and environmental harm.

What you can do: Read and share UH’s Regulated Medical Waste Policy at Greening UH’s Less Waste page with your employees so that red bag waste can be minimized. Be sure to only put qualified RMW into the red bags, and properly dispose of trash, recyclables, and other waste streams into their designated containers.

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Properly recycle toner cartridges, batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and cell phones

Environmental Impact: Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools. Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of landfills and the air and saves resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries (EPA).

Millions of ink cartridges are used in the U.S. every year, and it is estimated that up to 3 quarts of oil are needed to produce each one (Alameda County). The cartridges are made up of mostly metal and plastic, which take many generations to decompose in the landfill but are highly recyclable. Recycled ink cartridges conserve energy and resources when they are remanufactured, divert waste from the landfill, and can even save you money (some companies buy them back or have discounted resale programs).

Recycling compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and other fluorescent bulbs allows the reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up the lights. Virtually all components of fluorescent bulbs can be recycled. When CFL’s break they release mercury into the environment, so proper disposal is an important safety measure (EPA).

What you can do: To learn more about recycling these materials at home, visit your county or city’s waste management authority. For recycling information in Cuyahoga County, visit the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District (CCSWD) website. University Hospitals has programs in place to recycle batteries, ink cartridges, and CFLs at most of our facilities across the system. If you are a UH employee and want to learn more about the programs, contact your building’s facility manager.

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Stop my junk mail and junk faxes

Environmental Impact: According to Center for a New American Dream, more than 100 million trees worth of bulk mail arrive in American mail boxes every year – that’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months! The production and disposal of direct mail consumes more energy than 3 million cars.

What you can do: If you are receiving mail or faxes that you don’t want, contact the companies directly to remove yourself from their mailing list. For more ideas on how to reduce unwanted mail in Cuyahoga County, visit the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District webpage entitled “Stop Unwanted Mail”. For more ideas from the Center for a New American Dream, check out their “Junk Your Junk Mail” webpage.

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Use reusable mugs, water bottles, dishes, and cutlery

Environmental Impact: According to the Clean Air Council, Americans toss out enough paper, plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times! The average American office worker uses an average of 500 disposable cups a year. Also, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – that’s 21.9 billion plastic bottles every year!

What you can do: Bring your own coffee mug, water bottle, food container, and cutlery to work to help reduce company waste. This also reduces demand for your workplace to purchase disposable cups, dishes, and cutlery, which is money that can otherwise be invested in employees and other important aspects of the organization.

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Reduce my paper use and avoid printing emails as much as possible

Environmental Impact: Environmental Impact: According to the EPA, paper makes up about 28% of the municipal solid waste stream, making it the material that Americans throw away the most. The average American office worker generates two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day. Increasing paper recycling can lead to huge municipal solid waste reductions, reduced environmental stress through the reuse of recycled paper material, and cost reductions through decreased hauling of waste from the workplace to the landfill. The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District states that every ton of paper that is recycled saves:

  • 17 trees
  • 7,000 gallons of water
  • 4,200 kilowatt hours of energy
  • 410 gallons of fuel

In addition, recycling paper produces 60% less air pollution than producing paper from trees.

What you can do: To reduce waste at meetings, avoid unneeded copies of agendas and flyers. Instead, use a projector (if you have access to one) to display the agenda on the wall for everyone to see. Start a scrap paper bin with one-sided clean paper in your office. Recycle all of your non-confidential paper in any recycling bin, and all confidential paper in designated secure bins in your work area. See the EPA’s paper resource page for more information.

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Bring my own reusable bags whenever I shop

Environmental Impact: In an article published by National Geographic, people worldwide consume 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags each year, and the majority of them aren’t recycled. They never really breakdown in landfills and, if exposed to the elements of nature, can still take hundreds of years to finally decompose.

What you can do: Start using a reusable bag now! Store at least one in your car, purse, or desk at work. Try to remember to use one whenever you shop.

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Use scan and email features or inter-office envelopes to send and receive documents, instead of regular envelopes whenever possible, and promote the redistribution of inter-office envelopes in your office or department

Environmental Impact: This will help to reduce paper waste throughout the organization. Reusing inter-office envelopes is a small step that can make a big difference over time by reducing stress on virgin trees as a natural resource for paper, decreasing waste sent to the landfill, and saving money by decreasing the size of our waste stream.

What you can do: Encourage your fellow employees to scan and email documents when appropriate to conserve paper and reuse inter-office mail envelopes!

Food

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Choose local, seasonal produce whenever possible

Environmental Impact: Food often travels thousands of miles from where it was grown to the dinner plate. The environmental impact of fossil fuels burned from these “food miles” traveled is quite considerable. Purchasing locally (typically within 100-150 miles) significantly decreases the carbon impact of travel (emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change). When food is shipped over long distances, much of its nutrient quality is diminished. Buying in-season, local produce ensures that you are receiving the most flavorful, nutrient-dense food available. Directly interacting with the farmers who grow your food also helps you to learn more about food production which may help you to make more responsible food choices for yourself and your family.

What you can do: There are a number of ways to access local foods in your community. People commonly visit weekly farmers markets or sign up for a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). For more information on these and other ways to find local food, visit the Growhio website, which is dedicated to supporting sustainable food systems in Northeast Ohio.

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Choose sustainably produced foods when shopping or choosing a restaurant at least once a week. Fair Trade, Organic, Grass Fed, Humanely Raised, and Food Alliance are just a few certification systems that support sustainable food.

Environmental Impact: There are many benefits to individuals, workers, communities, animals and the environment when you choose sustainably grown foods. Sustainable food certifying bodies work to ensure that, at the very least, you will be purchasing nutritious, chemical-free foods.

What you can do: Familiarize yourself with different certification systems so you can recognize them when shopping. Start by reading these Certified Food Labels and their descriptions.

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Make sustainable seafood choices by choosing fish and seafood that are approved by Seafood Watch

Environmental Impact: Seafood Watch, an organization that helps businesses and organizations make choices for healthy oceans, estimates that 70% of the world’s fisheries are being harvested at capacity or are in decline. As global demand increases for seafood, there have been rising issues with overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing, habitat damage, bycatch (accidentally catching unwanted marine life), and irresponsible management. Human-made pollution that is dumped into the ocean has lead to unsafe levels of mercury and industrial PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) in many fish. For these reasons it is important to ensure that the seafood we eat comes from responsibly managed fisheries, both wild and contained.

What you can do: There are many resources you can access to ensure that you’re eating sustainable seafood at home and in restaurants. Organizations like Seafood Watch have developed guides and up-to-date resources for your reference. Start out by visiting the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Seafood Guide.

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Eat at least one more vegetarian meal than I would each week

Environmental Impact: The meat industry has an enormous environmental impact. It requires huge amounts of energy, land, water, and grain to feed livestock. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production creates almost 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than transportation.

What you can do: A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and fruits along with a regular exercise program is consistently associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, less obesity and consequently less heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and overall mortality according to scientific research reported in respected peer-reviewed publications including the American Journal of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (Sodexo). To start, choose one day out of the week to eat only vegetarian meals. If you are an employee at UH, the system’s food service provider has already created Meatless Mondays in our cafeterias, so at the beginning of each week you will have at least one tasty vegetarian option at work. This commitment alone would reduce your meat consumption by 20% per week, just like that.

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Make green choices (food, waste reduction, etc.) when hosting an event or meeting

Environmental Impact: Making responsible choices when planning a meeting can promote environmentally sustainable business practices. Some basic planning can support waste reduction, energy conservation, sustainable food, and employee education about environmental responsibility.

What you can do: Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) webpage about Green Meetings for some basic tips and references to other resources. Even simple things, such as utilizing email for memos to cut paper waste or providing reusable coffee mugs during meetings, can go a long way.

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Reduce my food waste in the cafeteria

Environmental Impact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 96 billion pounds of food goes to waste every year in the United States. This waste generates unnecessary environmental stress associated with its transport to the landfill, and also generates added costs to the organizations paying for it to be hauled away.

What you can do: Only purchase what you can eat and try to finish whole plate. Garner support from fellow employees to start a composting program in your cafeteria to capture post-meal food waste. Instead of going to landfill, the organic waste can be turned into a nutrient-rich soil additive. UH has recently partnered with a local composting company to capture all of our cafeterias’ kitchen scraps (pre-consumer organic waste), and with time and coordination the program may be extended in to the dining spaces as well.

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Start a garden at my home

Environmental Impact: The industrial food sector has critically impacted the landscape of our planet and is continually pushing the limits of our ecosystem’s balance. Home gardening, particularly in an urban environment like Cleveland, can redirect our approach to food and the impact of its production in a number of ways. From an environmental standpoint, growing food at home can increase biodiversity of plant and animal life, prevent erosion and runoff that would typically occur on flat unused land, improve food security and availability, and can beautify your neighborhood. Gardening can also improve your physical, mental, and spiritual health by directly connecting you to the ecosystem around you.

What you can do: Want to improve your health? Acquire a new hobby? Eat nutritious, seasonal, delicious food? If so, you may want to start gardening at home. Getting started can be as simple as buying some seeds and having access to soil and water. Learn about gardening on Growhio’s website, which is dedicated to sustainable food systems in Northeast Ohio. When gardening, avoid using chemically-based fertilizers or pesticides that are harmful to the soil or you produce. Try using natural, organic methods of production.

Water Conservation

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Drink tap water instead of bottled

Environmental Impact:The Natural Resources Defense Council states that tap water is much more energy efficient, less wasteful, and just as safe as using bottled water. In fact, up to 40% of the time, bottled water is just bottled tap water. Producing the plastic bottles can release phthalates and other harmful chemicals into the environment as well.

Bottled water easily costs on average 1000 times more than tap (World Wildlife Fund), and from an energy perspective, a recent study revealed that bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy intensive than using tap (Pacific Institute).

What you can do:Bring a reusable water bottle to work and fill up at the water fountain. It is free, easy, and safe! When at home, use tap water for drinking. While contamination should not be a concern, consider using a water purifying filter.

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Turn the tap water off when washing my hands, brushing my teeth, etc.

Environmental Impact: According to the EPA, turning off the water when you brush your teeth can save 8 gallons of water each morning!

What you can do: Make it a habit – turn it off when you brush.

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Report leaks or faulty faucets to my building manager

Environmental Impact: Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. This wastes money, energy, and can cause indoor environmental quality issues (EPA).

What you can do: If you notice a leak, contact your facility manager immediately and let them know where it’s at. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website to learn more.

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Only wash full loads of laundry and use cold water for laundry whenever possible

Environmental Impact: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90% of the energy used by washing machines is for heating water. The majority of energy use in Ohio is fossil-fuel based, so issues of pollution and resource depletion are impacted heavily from home washing machines.

What you can do: Washing four out of every five loads of laundry in cold water can save $60 annually in reduced electric bills and prevent the release of almost 900 pounds of carbon dioxide. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy webpage about energy saving tips in the laundry room.

Transportation

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Routinely carpool or vanpool to campus at least 3 times per week

Environmental Impact:

Consider this:

  • The average household uses 1,143 gallons of gas per year
  • It is expected that the number of cars and trucks on already crowded highways will double in the next 30 years
  • The Average American spends 434 hours – 18 days – in his/her car each year
  • Driving your car 20,800 miles a year emits 23,600 lbs of CO2
  • Every car annually emits its own weight in carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • The US could save 33 million gallons of gas – each day – if the average commuting vehicle carried one additional person

*Rideshare.com

What you can do: Team up with some of your fellow employees and carpool a few times a week. By cutting 25 miles a week from your driving, you can and save 1,500 lbs of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere and dollars spent on gas (Rideshare.com). You’ll find that the stress of your commute will be reduced because you’ll be able to read, relax, or even do some light work on your trip. Do yourself and the environment a favor by carpooling – you’ll save money, help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and maybe even make some new friendships!

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Try out bike share in Cleveland or another city when traveling!

Environmental Impact: Compared to motorized modes of transportation within a dense area, riding a bike, similar to walking, does not emit pollutants or green house gases into the air and offers active exercise to its users and can often be more convenient and affordable, according to recent research.

What you can do: Look for this option in Cleveland, called UHBikes, or other options in cities that you visit!

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Walk, bike, or take the RTA

Environmental Impact: Compared to other household actions that limit carbon dioxide, taking public transit can be many times more effective in reducing harmful greenhouse gases. The American Public Transportation Association states that a single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10%, or up to 30% if he or she eliminates a second car.

What you can do: What you can do: Choosing to walk, bike, carpool, or ride transit 2 or 3 days a week can contribute significantly toward reducing your carbon footprint. On average, buses use 8% less fuel per passenger mile than cars, and trains use 23% less (DART). You can save money too. The American Public Transportation Association, comparing monthly public transit pass costs vs. local gas prices and the local monthly parking rate, found that Clevelanders can save $803 per month and $9,639 per year by taking public transit!

Visit the Greater Cleveland RTA website to see your public transportation options in the Cleveland area. If you live within a few miles from work, biking or walking may be a healthy daily travel option as well.

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Dine in, walk to a restaurant, or pack a lunch to avoid unnecessary driving during the day

Environmental Impact: Driving one mile is equal to one pound of air pollution (Clean Air Campaign). Think about how many miles you drive to and from work every day!

What you can do: Not driving your vehicle at lunchtime can go a long way over the course of a year in terms of reduced air pollution. Give it a try! Find places to walk to for lunch, or pack your meals and save some money while you’re at it.

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Make meetings more sustainable by reducing travel and paper use and, where possible, utilize a conference call line or schedule meetings back-to-back

Environmental Impact: Pollution from travel, paper and food waste at meetings have a massive environmental impact when thought about on a national level. Many opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of meetings and save organizations money are being realized through more sustainable meeting practices.

What you can do: Email documents after meetings instead of printing copies. Make sure that there are recycling bins where you are holding your event/meeting and encourage people to recycle and reduce waste. Check the EPA Green Meetings page to learn how you can make your events/meetings more sustainable.

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2015 Progress Report on Sustainability

2015 Progress Report on Sustainability

View the online report or download the summary. You can also view our archived progress reports here.

13 Environmental Excellence awards

UH earned 13 Environmental Excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth, including the prestigious System for Change award. The awards recognize our health system’s achievements in environmental-sustainability programs and improvements during 2015.

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