Fairview’s Green Team initiave reflects spirit of Earth Day

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Fairview Northland Supply Chain Service and Product Assistant Kaari Beulin, next to mail slots in the Fairview Northland mail room. The mail slots were once considerably more full with junk mail prior to Beulin’s initiative to stop unwanted junk mail from coming in.
Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Fairview Northland Supply Chain Service and Product Assistant Kaari Beulin, next to mail slots in the Fairview Northland mail room. The mail slots were once considerably more full with junk mail prior to Beulin’s initiative to stop unwanted junk mail from coming in.

Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton and its sister Fairview facilities are acting in the spirit of the annual April 22 Earth Day year-round.
Earth Day was first observed in the United States in 1970 as part of a movement to reduce pollution and reduce the waste of natural resources. Two decades later Earth Day became international.
Fairview media specialist Jennifer Amundson and Fairview Northland and Fairview Maple Grove-Clinics supply team supervisor Jennifer Vaught spoke the day before this year’s Earth Day about Fairview’s 5-year-old “Green Team” environmental initiative. Vaught called the Green Team work “fun.” Both called it helpful to the environment but also big cost savings for Fairview.
Part of the initiative is Fairview Northland’s mini Reuse Store. If a department has ordered too much of certain items, it sends them to the Reuse Store where everything is inventoried for all departments to see. That way if a particular department is in need of an item, it can get it without having to order it new from a supply company.
Fairview Northland only has enough room in its Reuse Store for small office supplies. It sends its larger surplus items to Fairview’s large Reuse Stores at its University of Minnesota and Southdale facilities. Vaught says she lets everyone know at Fairview Northland about any big items available before shipping them out. Other hospitals in the Fairview system can draw from the large Reuse Stores.
Fairview started its “Green Team” initiative to “promote sustainable practices,” which according to Amundson:
• Has had 334 tons of food waste from its facilities either composted or donated to a Food to Hogs program during 2011-12.
• Has had $1.5 million worth of usable supplies redistributed annually through Fairview’s Reuse Stores starting in 2012.
• Has had 64 tons of operating room clean-instrument wraps and 35 tons of shrink wrap and soft plastic recycled between 2012 and 2013.
• Has since Jan. 1, 2013, been using compostable coolers for pharmacy deliveries, replacing as much as 44,000 plastic foam coolers and thus keeping them out of landfills. The new coolers are made of a biodegradable corn starch.
Not all of the Fairview facilities send food waste into a Food for Hogs program. But Fairview Northland is one that does, turning the waste food over to Joan Johnson, an environmental services employee at Fairview Northland. Johnson feeds the waste food to the hogs at her farm, where she has taken in pregnant sows from farms that have been unable to continue caring for them, Vaught said.
Amundson is among the Fairivew employees who have used Fairview’s Reuse Store system. She needed what she calls a small cafe desk for her office and found one that had been a surplus item at another Fairview site.
Also, because Fairview has gone to more digital record keeping, it is not using the paper supplies it used to and has a surplus of some of those materials. From that surplus, Fairview plans to offer about 300 three-ring binders to the Princeton School District next fall.
Amundson said that the Green Team initiative is resulting in less reordering of supplies and not having to take so many things to the landfill.
Even before the Fairview’s Green Team initiative, which is overseen by Fairview sustainable manager Wesli Waters, Fairview was finding a way to reduce waste and resources. Vaught and Amundson explained that Fairview, for at least nine years, has been donating to Global Health Ministries medical supplies that Fairview can no longer use. Those reasons may include a puncture in a wrapper or conversion to new models where older supply models are no longer used at Fairview. Among the places these supplies have been used are Central America, Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
Vaught noted that a company named Sterilmed assists Fairview in reconditioning medical devices so they can be reused and also assists with Fairview’s equipment recycling. Another company that Fairview has found helpful in recycling equipment is Scientific Equipment Liquidators. Fairview has a lot of exam tables that it no longer uses that it can sell through that firm, Amundson and Vaught noted.
One other area that Fairview Northland has helped reduce waste is an idea that Fairview Northland Supply Chain and Product Assistant Kaari Beulin thought up. Beulin had noticed the large amount of junk mail coming into the medical center’s mail room daily. Through Beulin’s initiative, she contacts the employees the junk mail is addressed to and asks them if they still want that particular mail coming to them, and if the answer is no, Beulin will notify the sender to stop sending the materials.
Vaught said that has greatly reduced the amount of mail stacked in the Fairview Northland’s mail room and thus reduced the amount of paper used and amount of energy used to produce and deliver it.
Fairview Northland, for the first time, gave out 50 evergreen seedlings on Earth Day to employees on a first come, first served basis. Half of the seedlings were designated for planting along the route of a walking path planned to go around much of the perimeter at Fairview Northland, and the rest of the seedlings could be taken home for planting. Fairview Northland maintenance worker Dan Lindau is overseeing the seedling plantings at Fairview Northland.
Fairview Northland is also converting its lighting system to LED lighting.
“We’re continuing to find ways to save money and be environmentally conscious in what we do,” Vaught said.