Earth Day Is Every Day

By Brenna Davis

In a country where health care is the second largest producer of waste (behind fast food), we are working hard to be a sustainable health care leader. Why? Because providing quality care includes preventing environmental illness and preserving the natural environment for future generations.

Virginia Mason Reducing Waste in Health Care Infographic

Click to enlarge

While Earth Day is significant in that it draws awareness to the need to preserve our planet, we want you to know what our EnviroMason program has been doing to contribute to the preservation of our most precious resources all year long:

In 2014, Virginia Mason:
• Became the first health care organization in the U.S. to obtain Marine Stewardship Council certification, which allows us to serve sustainable seafood in our cafeteria. Our Food and Nutrition Services Department serves 1.5 million meals, and almost 40 percent of the supplies were local or sustainable.

• Partnered with Pike Place Market to bring an express market to First Hill.  This serves Virginia Mason team members and local residents of the neighborhood who don’t have nearby grocery stores. The market is affordable for everyone through the Electronic Benefit Transfer card (EBT) and Seattle’s Fresh Bucks program.

• Expanded our recycling and composting program throughout Virginia Mason Hospital, diverting more than 50 percent of our waste from landfills in an industry where 20 percent is the average.

• Expanded our commitment to clean air through alternative transportation by supporting legislative action that led to a comprehensive transportation program in our state. Our team members continued to receive a 75 percent bus pass subsidy and free access to bike cages. Our efforts led to being honored by the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation as one of the best employer transportation programs in the city.

• Implemented four hours of free parking while charging electric vehicles on the Blink Network, increasing use of the charging stations by 200 percent.

• Installed new sterilizing equipment that saved more than 2 million gallons of water a year. The new, more efficient models also use less electricity. We have already seen cost savings as a result.

• Led the call for climate action in our state as chairs of the Washington Business Climate Declaration. Almost 200 businesses have signed the declaration, including other major employers in the state.

• Participated in a White House roundtable on climate resilience in health care. We continue to work on this issue at the national level as founding members of the Health Care Without Harm Climate Council.

Last week we also led a global call for climate action by joining eight other health care institutions around the world to launch the 2020 Health Care ClimateChallenge with Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network. The 2020 Challenge invites health care systems and hospitals to reduce their carbon footprint and protect public health from climate change. This initiative marks the first international effort to track emissions and take measurable actions to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint. You can learn more about this work at

So on this Earth Day 2015, please join us in taking a moment to consider how you can reduce your environmental impact and protect the natural world. After all, we need a healthy planet to have healthy people.


Brenna Davis, director of Sustainability

Brenna Davis is Virginia Mason’s director of Sustainability. She is founder of the Pacific Northwest Healthcare Sustainability Leaders Roundtable and chairperson of the Washington Businesses for Climate Action, a group of business leaders that recruited more than 180 businesses to sign the Washington Business Climate Declaration. 


  1. Joss Jackson says:

    I want to post something very nasty, but I will refrain.
    Good job on attempting to take care of planet.

    What about the homeless population here in this great city of Seatte. Homelessness rose 22% already in 2015.

    I would think people, human beings, would be more of a priority than serving fresh fish to the employees at Virginia Mason.
    Here is Seattle again. Exaggerating and so off base on what is really important in life. Human beings.

  2. Joss Jackson says:

    Actually, first and foremost, we need homes, food and REAL resources for the homeless for healthy people.
    Seattle does not care about their people. Hey. Let’s build a tent city. Blah. Joke.

  3. Ingrid Ougland, Virginia Mason Community Benefit Manager says:

    Hi Joss,
    Thank you for your comments! In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to highlight some of our work to make a traditionally wasteful industry less so. We are very concerned about climate change and its impact on our environment, the health of our community, farming, the future of fresh food and access to it. We are proud of our community benefit work, which addresses some of the important concerns you noted. Virginia Mason has developed and currently runs several homeless assistance programs. Among them: a weekly program for homeless women and children at Mary’s Place; a regular program at Plymouth Housing Group; and our extensive outpatient program at Bailey-Boushay House. We also hold free flu shot clinics for the homeless and support the Edward Thomas Respite Care Program for homeless men and women. While just a snapshot of our work, we hope it gives you a better idea as to the breadth of our outreach efforts. You can learn more at Thank you again for raising some very important issues!

    • Joss Jackson says:

      Wonderful work you guys are doing.
      Just to be truthful. Yes. These resources for homeless or people in need do exist. A big part is left out of the equation. The waiting lists! The requirements of receiving this help! This is the part that is left out. It looks and sounds beautiful. All of these programs. But what you don’t mention is the availability and criteria of receiving these benefits.
      Again. Yes. Tremendous work on the environment and all of the waste. Great job. It just makes me so sad that Seattle has homeless people sleeping under Macy’s windows in the freezing weather simply because there was no more room at the inn.

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