A New Prescription for Hospital Cleaning
Cleaning a hospital is not like cleaning your home or office. There are patient areas that must be sanitized with germicidal cleaners and non-patient areas where other types of cleaners are used. Why would a hospital consider using environmentally preferable and bio-based products, sometimes referred to as "green" cleaning products, when the old tired and true products work just fine?
Using toxic cleaning products not only has serious health consequences for janitorial staff but also can be a source of complaints from nurses and other hospital employees who are exposed to them every day. Patients, with their health already compromised, may also be particularly sensitive to the chemicals used for cleaning their rooms. These negative impacts are counter to a hospital's main mission -- to promote, restore, and maintain the health of all the people they serve, including employees as well as patients and visitors. Greenwich Hospital, concerned about employee safety, compiled an exhaustive inventory of cleaning products used at their facility. As a result, the hospital found that they could replace 62 products with only 10 green cleaners and 7 germicides. In addition to reducing the negative health impacts, Greenwich Hospital found that switching to "green" resulted in cost savings and more efficiency.
Recently, some Connecticut hospitals learned more about the green cleaners at a workshop held on March 30 at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven. The workshop was co-sponsored by the CT Hospital Environmental Roundtable (CHER). CHER is a collaboration of the DEP, Hartford Hospital, and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) and is open to any Connecticut health care facility. The focus was on environmentally preferable products (EPP) and bio-based products that can be used by hospitals for cleaning and food service. (See below for definition.) The purpose of the workshop was to make hospitals aware of health and environmental effects of toxic cleaning products and to have them learn more about "green" alternatives and how to switch to these products at their hospitals.
The world of EPP and bio-based cleaners is new territory for most hospitals in the state. There are only three Connecticut hospitals currently using less toxic cleaning products -- William Backus Hospital in Norwich, Greenwich Hospital, and Danbury Hospital. At the March 30th workshop, experts on this topic presented technical information on these products and staff members from two different hospitals talked about their practical, "real" world experiences using the cleaners. Vendors were also available to answer questions and to distribute samples of their products. Workshop attendees even had refreshments on plates made from sugarcane, grass, and reed plasma.
As a result of the workshop, hospital representatives learned that using environmentally preferable and bio-based products can improve employee health and patient and visitor comfort, and can significantly cut operating costs. By being good environmental stewards, hospitals make a strong statement about their commitment to the health of the all the people they serve.
Definition: An Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) has a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products used for the same purpose. These products also take into consideration recycled content, waste minimization, water, and energy conservation and the amount of toxics disposed or consumed. A bio-based product relies on plant or animal materials as the main ingredient. The materials used to produce the products are from renewable resources and generally do not contain synthetics, toxins or environmentally damaging substances.
- Some EPP and bio-based products are Green Seal certified. Green Seal is a non-profit organization that identifies and certifies products and services that "because less pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion" and perform well. To earn the Green Sea, an industrial and institutional cleaner must meet the following standards:
- Do not contain carcinogens, reproductive toxins, skin and eye irritants, skin sensitizers;
- Are not combustible;
- Do not contribute to photochemical smog, tropospheric ozone production or poor indoor air quality;
- Are not toxic to aquatic life; and
- Can be readily biodegradable.
- For more information on the CT Hospital Environmental Roundtable (CHER) and presentations from a recent meeting on green cleaning, visit the DEP website. Additional resources can be found at:
Developing the State Solid Waste Management Plan
DEP has begun the task of developing an updated State Solid Waste Management Plan. The Plan will address the management of all solid waste generated in Connecticut. The public will have opportunities for participation throughout the planning process. Early on, DEP intends to hold a one-day public stakeholder forum that will present the status of the State's recycling and solid waste management activities and gaps between current solid waste generation rates and goals. DEP will be inviting the public and other stakeholders to the forum that is tentatively scheduled for early June 2005. Please check the DEP website concerning the forum for more information as it becomes available.
Plug into Clean Energy
Did you know that as of April 1, you could buy clean energy for your home and business in Connecticut? Every customer of Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating can sign up for either 100% or 50% clean energy.
In Connecticut, clean energy is defined as energy from wind, solar, small-scale hydro, landfill gas, fuel cells, ocean thermal or waves/tides, and small-scale sustainably harvested biomass. Biomass includes a wide variety of renewable materials, including wood, agricultural crops, and animal manures. The clean energy product offered by one clean energy supplier, Sterling Planet, includes the following energy mix: 33% from wind, 33% from small hydroelectric generation, and 34% from landfill gas generation. The other clean energy supplier, Community Energy, draws 60% of their power from wind and 40% from landfill gas generation.
If you choose to purchase clean energy, the cost depends on which supplier you choose and how much electricity you use in a month. Check your electric bills to find out your usage in kilowatt-hours (kWh); keep in mind your usage varies throughout the year. An average household (using 500 kWh per month) that purchases a 100% clean energy product will see an increase of around $6 a month for their electricity; the 50% option will be around a $3 increase. Your regular monthly utility bills will include the cost of your clean energy purchase.
The clean energy market in Connecticut has grown in recent years with the restructuring of the electric market, the legislative requirement for growing percentages of clean energy in our supply mix, and increasing awareness that clean energy is available and as dependable and strong as conventional sources of energy. Clean energy has many environmental and societal benefits, including cleaner air (reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, SO2, NOX, mercury) and healthier communities (lower asthma rates and respiratory disease). These qualities are especially important to the people, flora, and fauna of Connecticut's communities. Interested in learning more?
When it Rains, It Absorbs
Let nature manage your rainwater by collecting it in a rain garden and allowing the water to percolate slowly back into the ground. You will create a beautiful garden that also helps the environment.
A rain garden is a shallow depression in the soil that has several permeable layers of coarse stone and gravel, under a mix of soil, compost, and sand. Plants that thrive in well-drained soil are added and may include native flowers and grasses. The garden is positioned to receive runoff from roofs, sidewalks, and any paved surface. The garden serves as a temporary reservoir for rainwater and its plants benefit as the water slowly flows back into the ground. Rain gardens are a creative way to beautify any area while managing stormwater run-off.
Rain gardens are becoming more common, and there are examples around the state that offer ideas if you are thinking of making one. The University of Connecticut has a rain garden near the Towers Dining Hall that helps reduce stormwater runoff from a parking area. "Rain gardens eliminate standing water, filter runoff pollution, recharge local groundwater, create habitat for birds and butterflies, and most of all, improve water quality," said Richard Miller, UConn's Director of Environmental Policy.
Another rain garden project in Haddam is being piloted by UConn's Non-point Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program in conjunction with UConn's Department of Natural Resources Management and Engineering. This project involved the creation of a vegetated rain garden to receive runoff from the back half of a large conference room roof. The amount and quality of runoff are being monitored as it enters and flows through the garden.
The Jordan Cove Urban Watershed Project in Waterford is the location of many rain gardens. In this residential housing development, each lot has a rain garden and the entire project is being monitored for the effectiveness of many alternate forms of stormwater management.