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Sustainability at Valley Health System
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In 2010, we took Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Care Pledge and committed our hospital system to providing not only more nutritionally sound meal choices, but also sustainable, local food that doesn’t tax an already overburdened food system. With more than 1 million meals served yearly, it’s been a huge, but rewarding undertaking here at Valley.

On the most basic level, taking this pledge has meant increasing our offerings of fruits and vegetables—including those grown locally, thanks to a partnership with Catalpa Ridge Farm and our own onsite vegetable and herb garden—while limiting unhealthy and refined products. Aligning with our promise to provide foods grown and harvested in an environmentally responsible manner, we’re proud to offer antibiotic- and hormone-free milk, bisphenol A (BPA)-free water bottles, non-genetically modified foods and fair-trade coffee. In 2010, Valley was recognized by the Humane Society of the United States for improving food safety and the lives of poultry by switching to cage-free eggs.

Our other endeavors include:

Meatless Monday

If you’ve visited Valley on a Monday, you may have noticed we’ve increased our meatless dining options. How exactly does Meatless Monday help the environment? Consider this fact: According to research,* it takes 6.7 pounds of grains and forage, almost 53 gallons of water, 74.5 square feet of land and more than 1,000 BTUs of power to produce one quarter-pound hamburger. From an environmental standpoint, that’s a lot of resources for a small product. From a healthcare perspective, diets higher in meat consumption have been associated with higher levels of obesity in many studies. Going meatless, even for one day, has the potential to make a positive impact on the environment and community health.

Honeybee Harvests

Our newest employees have certainly generated a buzz. Working out of a rooftop “office” at Valley’s Luckow Pavilion in Paramus, our bees (which are managed by Bee Bold Apiaries) have been busy producing honey in their hives, which is used not only in food prepared at Valley, but also sold to the community at the hospital’s gift shops. Valley Health System was the first hospital system in New Jersey to introduce rooftop hives.

Honeybee populations have dropped off dramatically in New Jersey and around the country, so the introduction of these hard workers into our community is a boon for the estimated 87,000 acres and 2-mile radius of flowers and trees our bees pollinate. In 2013, their first year in business, the hives produced 45 pounds of honey. In 2014, that number jumped up to 100 pounds.

Slashing Cooking Waste Output

When it comes to recycling and waste output, Valley Dining’s numbers speak for themselves:

  • We recycle 2,700 gallons of fryer oil every year, which is collected by an outside company and recycled into biodiesel fuel.
  • We decreased aluminum use by 50 percent beginning in 2011.
  • We switched to non-skid patient trays in January 2013, saving us 7,300 pounds of paper a year.
Educational Opportunities

Want to know more about how to eat healthy? Eager to catch that recent documentary on vegetarianism? Among our educational opportunities are exciting chef demonstrations and informative film screenings.

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Hospital buildings consume a lot of energy, so taking steps to reduce this consumption can result in huge payoffs—for the environment and for hospital operating costs. For example, replacing the hospital’s main lobby lights with LED bulbs not only results in less energy consumption, it also saves the hospital $3,000 a year alone. All new and existing construction projects at Valley will require use of LED lighting, as well, which will add up to additional savings and reduced energy use.

To help fund some of these changes, Valley is fortunate to have received a grant from PSE&G’s Hospital Efficiency Program. Improvements going on throughout Valley include:

  • Optimizing chiller plants, which help cool the air in a building, including improvements to cooling towers and chillers, as well as changing pumps to high-efficiency models
  • Upgrading building management systems and replacing pneumatic HVAC controls with DDC (direct digital controls); HVAC systems are also being switched to variable air volume (VAV) systems, which still meet codes necessary for hospital air flow, but regulate heating and cooling based on need
  • Replacing exterior lighting with LED lights
  • Using motion detector sensors, which turn off lighting when a room is not in use, and dimmers, which detect when a room can be lit by daylight alone
  • Linking carbon monoxide detectors to parking garage fans; these detectors allow fans to shut down when parking areas are not in use
  • Installing five charging stations for electric vehicles

The Valley Hospital is also investigating replacing existing paint with low or no VOC paint.

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Picture this: Prior to 2009, The Valley Hospital used disposable hospital gowns—gowns that are worn and changed by staff every time they enter an isolation patient’s room. At this time, 2,300 gowns were being discarded each day for a total of a whopping 840,000 gowns being thrown out every year. But in 2009, we made the switch to reusable gowns, taking 63 tons of waste out of the waste stream and saving $175,000 in the process.

This is just one example of how we’re striving to meet our Practice Green Health objectives. Here are some more:

  • Our recycling rates are fast approaching those of model Practice Green Health Hospitals, and we've succeeded in increasing our recycling numbers, from 295 tons -- or 17% of all waste -- in 2013 to 437 tons -- or 22% -- in 2014. These materials include everything from batteries to light bulbs, computer equipment, cardboard, construction debris, metal, carpeting and medical instruments.
  • We introduced blue wrap recycling, which recycles the material used to cover sterilized surgical instruments.
  • Since 2009, we’ve cut the amount of regulated medical waste we produce from 266 tons to 111 tons, for a $77,500 reduction in disposal cost.
  • Changing to a more efficient washing and decontamination system for carts and surgical tables reduced related water use from 367,200 gallons to 79,200 gallons.
  • Reprocessing single-use items, such as shavers, scalpels and tourniquet cuffs has reduced waste by 6 tons and saved $41,000 in supply costs in 2014.

Valley is proud of the success we’ve had thus far in limiting our environmental impact as a Practice Green Health hospital, and we’ll only be expanding our efforts in the future. That’s a promise to our patients, our staff, our community and our environment.

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