CHOP’s Green Initiatives

Published on in CHOP News

Garden at Karabots Plants sprout at the community vegetable garden at the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center. In all corners of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) — including the roof and basements — we look to find ways to be as green as possible. With guidance from our EcoCHOP team, more than 2,000 tons of waste a year is recycled, composted or otherwise kept out of landfills. “Recycle, reuse, repurpose” is a daily mantra repeated when we renovate or relocate. Old equipment and furniture find new homes in nonprofits. We lower our energy use with solar panels and elevators that capture energy.

And we’re always looking for ways to become even greener. Here are some highlights of CHOP’s environmental initiatives:

Recycling and composting

We recycle 45% of all waste, a big jump from the 28% we recycled in 2007. Items recycled include: plastics, glass, aluminum, cardboard, paper, pallets, electronics, scrap metals, batteries, lead, toner cartridges, construction/demolition materials like wood, drywall and concrete, cell phones, lab coats, surgical wrap and light bulbs. Kitchen grease is collected from kitchens and turned into biodiesel, while food scraps are composted.

Batteries and fluorescent light tubes: Used batteries may be considered a hazardous material because they can contain corrosive liquids or toxic heavy metals, and fluorescent light tubes contain small amounts of mercury. CHOP sends all of our used batteries and fluorescent light tubes to facilities that provide an environmentally sound recycling approach. In 2018, CHOP recycled more than 13,000 pounds of batteries and more than 9,000 pounds of fluorescent light tubes.

Construction materials: In fiscal year 2018, CHOP recycled more than 750 tons of construction materials locally, such as wood, metal, concrete and plasterboard.

Flammable solvent used in laboratories: Laboratory processes require the use of large amounts of flammable liquids. It is critical that CHOP manages these liquids appropriately to avoid the possibility of releasing hazardous vapors and to prevent these liquids from entering into the environment. In 2018, CHOP recycled more than 18,000 pounds of flammable liquids through “fuel-blending,” which lessens the cost of treatment for this material and has the added benefit of reducing fossil fuel consumption for manufacturers that can use the recycled material.

Regulated medical waste (RMW)

Beginning 10 years ago, CHOP began an education campaign to keep regular trash and recyclables out the “red cans” identified for RMW only. Since then, we have lowered the percentage of RMW from 16% to just 6% of our overall waste — well below the industry benchmark of 10%.

Pharmaceutical waste

At CHOP, thousands of medications are prescribed and administered annually, and it is crucial that we ensure that unused or partially used doses of medications do not end up in a landfill and are disposed of appropriately. Since some medications can be very toxic or contain heavy metals, waste medications are incinerated at an EPA-certified disposal facility. In 2018, CHOP destroyed more than 100,000 pounds of waste medications, preventing them from harming our communities and water supply.

Medical equipment reuse

When CHOP updates its medical or lab equipment, all serviceable items are resold or collected and donated to hospitals (often in developing countries) or research facilities.

Linens and medical supplies

When our bedding is no longer serviceable for patients or medical supplies have expired, we donate them. In fiscal year 2019, we donated 3 tons of sheets and blankets to shelters and more than 12 tons of excess supplies to organizations in other countries.

Green buildings

Our newest facilities were built green and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, including the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center (Silver), the Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care (Gold) and the Ruth and Tristram Colket, Jr. Translational Research Building (certified). The Roberts Center for Pediatric Research is currently in LEED review and should earn a Silver or Gold certification. The Buerger Center was recognized in 2017 for its sustainable design and cutting-edge green stormwater management systems by the Philadelphia Water Department.

Making energy

CHOP installed solar panels on the northwest tower of the Main Hospital, the Colket Research Building, the Karabots Center and the CHOP Specialty Care Center in Mays Landing, NJ, that generate .75 megawatts of electricity a day, or enough energy to power about 124 homes. We have installed regenerative drive elevators in the Main Hospital, Buerger Center, Colket Building and Roberts Building. They create electricity when decelerating that saves 20% to 40% of elevator energy they would otherwise consume.

Food courts and cafés

One-at-a-time napkin and plasticware dispensers cut down on waste. Reusable plastic trays replaced single-use cardboard ones. Diners are asked to sort their waste into recycle, compost and landfill bins.

On the street 

CHOP replaced traditional trash receptacles with Big Belly solar compactors, which save five times the number of bags used. We have 12 pairs around the Main Campus, each with a recycling option.

Interdepartmental exchange of supplies

Two systems, CHOP Classifieds for office supplies and ReCHOP for in-house decommissioned laboratory equipment that is still functional, allow unneeded items to quickly go to an office or lab that can use them.

Green escapes

There are three gardens on the Main Campus where families and staff can enjoy nature. The Sea Garden is off the third floor of Children’s Seashore House, and the Buerger Center has a rooftop garden on the sixth floor. The plaza garden on the Raymond G. Perelman Campus on the south side of Civic Center Boulevard features 2.6 acres of plantings, walkways and water features. At the Karabots Center, a community vegetable garden and orchard is a welcoming spot for community activities and the bounty grown there is given to families in our Healthy Weight and Early Head Start programs. Learn more about the gardens at CHOP.

Transportation

CHOP encourages its employees to take public transportation with a monthly incentive for those who purchase passes through payroll deductions. More than 3,600 employees take advantage of the program. There are bike racks that can accommodate more than 400 bicycles at CHOP’s Main Campus, and a new indoor bike garage, with 100 spaces, opened in spring 2018. Two Indego Bike Share stations are available: one next to Children’s Seashore House and one at the Roberts Center.

Green purchasing

CHOP’s Procurement philosophy favors purchasing products that involve minimal handling and packaging and recyclable products when possible. In fiscal year 2019, we collected more than 2 tons of pulse oximeters used in the hospital so they can be refurbished. When we upgrade our medical and office equipment, CHOP looks to resell exiting equipment and has successfully resold laboratory sequencing equipment, digital printers and patient stretchers. In addition, when replacing furniture, we reuse and repurpose existing items whenever possible. Equipment and furniture that can’t be used at CHOP is donated.