Taking care of our environment

The science is clear: The health of our environment has a big influence on the length and quality of our lives. Across our organization, we’re implementing practices that strengthen health by sustaining and protecting our environment. From the power sources we use, to the equipment suppliers we select, to the food we buy, to managing waste – improving sustainability is embedded in every aspect of our work. We’re committed to building and maintaining healthy communities where our patients and members live, work and play.

In 2023, Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental stewardship in health care, recognized HealthPartners with 20 awards for our work over the past year. These included Top 25 Environmental Excellence awards for five of our hospitals, recognition for top scores in the categories of energy, food, waste, and water, and the organization-wide System for Change award for the ninth year in a row.

Signing the HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge

Individual and community health is negatively impacted by climate change and the health care system is increasingly stressed as a result. In April 2022, HealthPartners was one of the first organizations to sign on to the HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge .

The pledge demonstrates our commitment to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions and advancing climate resilience at our facilities and in the community. In 2023, we released our first climate resilience plan, outlining the actions our organization will take to adapt to our changing climate, both within our facilities and in the community.

“As an organization with a healing mission, we’re committed to making health care more sustainable. We’re proud to sign this pledge and join other health care organizations in developing plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Emissions reduction progress update

As of 2022, HealthPartners has reduced our tracked carbon emissions by 14% compared to our 2018 baseline year. We’re implementing business-smart initiatives that address health threats posed by climate change such as:

  • Eliminating the use of desflurane, an anesthetic gas with a high carbon footprint, in favor of more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • Pursuing energy efficiency projects that in 2022 saved enough energy to power over 75 homes for a year
  • Collaborating with our utilities and other partners to identify additional opportunities to reduce energy
  • Using our trusted voice to educate patients, colleagues, and communities on the connections between climate change and human health
  • Advocating on the national level for comprehensive climate change solutions by being members of Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Council

HealthPartners renewed our commitment to renewable energy with a focus on the Community Solar Garden program in Minnesota. In 2022 alone, our use of energy from local solar gardens saved more than $270,000, in addition to over $9,600 saved from our three on-site solar installations. Together, our solar energy commitments saved electricity to power 1,285 homes for a year.

Through the medicine take back program, HealthPartners collects unneeded and unused medication from community members at no charge. We then properly dispose of the medications so they’re not misused or discharged into the environment through water streams. In 2022, HealthPartners collected over 3,500 pounds of medication from the public through this program, which currently operates at six HealthPartners hospital facilities. Since 2011, we’ve properly managed over 44,500 pounds of medication for our community.

Local and sustainable items are on the menu for patients, visitors, and colleagues across our organization. In fact, nearly 40% of food purchases at our hospitals are local or sustainable. Homegrown and locally grown food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on our plates, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and helps improve our carbon footprint.

Many of our locations organize farmers markets and serve as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) drop-off spots during the summer months, and our three Wisconsin hospitals offer community garden plots for residents to grow their own fresh food.

Rather than disposing of medical equipment, supplies, and furniture that are in good working order when our facilities are finished when them, we’ve identified ways to reuse or donate these items. In 2022, HealthPartners donated over 85 tons of supplies to nonprofit organizations like Matter, a St. Louis Park based organization that uses the items to improve access and quality of health care in remote areas of the world. In addition to the environmental effects of sending less waste to the landfill and the associated disposal cost savings, we are especially proud that these items are improving access and quality of health care globally.

In addition to donating medical equipment, supplies, and furniture, we recycle numerous items including electronics, organic and food waste, blue wrap – and mixed recyclables like paper, plastic, glass, and cans.

Research has shown there’s a connection between green spaces and health and wellness benefits. These types of spaces include rain gardens, wetlands, trees, shrubs, wildflowers and other native plants. In addition to the health and wellness benefits, sustainable landscaping requires less maintenance once mature, improves air and water quality, provides habitat for local wildlife, and provides education opportunities.

In 2022, Amery Hospital & Clinic and Westfields Hospital & Clinic became Tree Campuses through the Arbor Day Foundation for the fourth consecutive year. The Tree Campus program focuses on tree investment, education, and community engagement. Amery Hospital & Clinic and Hudson Hospital & Clinic are both certified as Monarch Waystations by Monarch Watch. Monarch Waystations provide habitat for monarch butterflies to breed and migrate.

In addition to donating medical equipment, supplies, and furniture, we recycle numerous items including electronics, organic and food waste, blue wrap – and mixed recyclables like paper, plastic, glass, and cans.

Reducing paper saves the environment while saving money

Between 2019 and 2022, we’ve reduced paper usage by 28%, saving the organization over 32 million pieces of paper and over $230,000 in direct paper purchasing costs – not to mention the indirect costs of toner purchases, printer maintenance, postage, disposal, and more.

In April 2022, for Earth Week, we were thrilled to partner with Keystone Community Services to support their Express Bike Shop youth development program.

Through our partnership, we collected an incredible 136 bikes, promoting sustainable transportation and active lifestyles in our community. We're also proud to have supported the youth employment initiatives of the Express Bike Shop, offering paid apprenticeships to teens and giving them valuable skills and job readiness.