Health system wins national "Partner for Change" award for sustainability efforts

nurse in the operating room, places instruments used in endoscopic surgeries into a bin for reprocessing
Sarah Harms, a nurse in the operating room, places instruments used in endoscopic surgeries into a bin for reprocessing.

Posted May 16, 2012

UC Davis Health System received a 2012 "Partner for Change" Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation's premier membership organization for health-care facilities committed to environmentally responsible operations. The award is one of the organization's Environmental Excellence Awards given each year to honor outstanding environmental achievements in the health-care sector.

The Partner for Change Award recognizes health-care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon their mercury elimination, waste reduction and source-reduction programs. At a minimum, facilities applying for this award must be recycling 15 percent of their total waste, are well along the way to mercury elimination, and have developed other successful pollution prevention programs in many different areas.

The award was presented on May 2 in Denver, Colo., at CleanMed 2012, a major national environmental conference for leaders in health-care sustainability.

"This award demonstrates UC Davis Health System's commitment to protect public health and preserve the environment," said Laura Wenger, executive director, Practice Greenhealth. "UC Davis Health System is truly demonstrating leadership for the future of health care."

John Danby, Sustainability Administrator at the health system, said that many of the sustainability achievements recognized by Practice Greenhealth are associated with the health system's cost-containment strategies. One notable example is the reprocessing of single-use medical devices, a program that keeps the devices out of the medical waste stream.

"This award demonstrates UC Davis Health System's commitment to protect public health and preserve the environment."
— Laura Wenger, executive director, Practice Greenhealth

Once the devices are reprocessed to a level where their quality equals a new product, the health system can purchase them back at a fraction of the cost of a new device, Danby said.

"Most of the labor is expended by the vendor, so the cost to the health system is minimal," Danby said. "It's a great program, with room to grow."

Practice Greenhealth also awarded points to the health system for Food and Nutrition Services' sustainability plan, which sets ambitious goals for procuring locally produced, sustainable and organic products.

Other sustainability efforts at the health system cited by Practice Greenhealth include:

Award logo, courtesy photograph
Courtesy of Practice Greenhealth

  • Appointment of sustainability administrator
  • Pharmaceutical waste segregation program
  • Elimination of Styrofoam by Food and Nutrition Services
  • Elimination of mercury in patient-care areas
  • Waste-diversion and recycling program
  • Chemical-use and waste-management programs

"We are pleased to be recognized for this significant achievement," said Danby. "We are proud to be a model of how health facilities develop and implement programs to improve the health of our patients, staff and community.

"The award shows that we are doing well, but we have a lot of work to do to establish a program that can attain Practice Greenhealth's Partner for Change With Distinction and Environmental Leadership Circle awards," Danby said. "We're really just getting started down the road to sustainable health care."

Practice Greenhealth is the nation's leading membership and networking organization for institutions in the health care community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Members include hospitals, health care systems, businesses and other stakeholders engaged in the greening of health care to improve the health of patients, staff and the environment. Practice Greenhealth is a source of environmental solutions for the health care sector. For more information on Practice Greenhealth, visit

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 631-bed acute-care teaching hospital, an 800-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit