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Shades of Green: 'Green Team' reduces waste at Medical Center

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Nick Haubach

Nick Haubach, nursing recruitment resource specialist at the Medical Center.

When Nick Haubach joined the Medical Center two years ago as a nursing recruitment resource specialist, the hiring of each new nurse produced 150 sheets of paper, much of it redundant and therefore wasteful.

And there was no paper recycling program.

Haubach was inspired to devise electronic forms and eliminate needless duplicates (and triplicates!).

This drew the attention of David Miller, associate hospital director, who invited Haubach to join the hospital’s Practicing Green Health Care committee (a.k.a. the Green Team).

Haubach’s efforts to reduce waste expanded to the cafeteria, then other areas at the Medical Center, and the next thing he knew, he was co-chairing the committee with Miller.

His charge: do even more to reduce hospital waste streams while spending virtually no money.

With help from the Office of Sustainability, the Green Team obtained funding from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity to expand UIC’s recycling program to all floors of the hospital.

Hospital staff can now more easily separate bottles, cans and paper, using desk-side receptacles.

In the cafeteria, a more Earth-friendly sugar cane pulp container holds “to go” orders instead of Styrofoam. Employees and visitors can purchase an attractive beverage container and receive deep discounts on refills, along with free ice water.

Haubach is pleased to see the Green Team programs take off. He does the same things at home, but at work the results are vastly multiplied. It’s satisfying to change people’s minds about recycling, he says, and see demonstrated interest — even enthusiasm — for the programs.

Working with other Chicago hospital networks on sustainability is a top priority, Haubach says. A graduate student in hospital administration is forming a network to exchange information and brainstorm with other institutions.

Were money no object, Haubach would like to provide the greenest possible hospital, with day lighting, large windows and an outside garden. Research indicates these kinds of surroundings are better healing environments.

His message: think about what you, as an individual, can do differently to reduce waste.

The Medical Center will hold its second annual Green Fair in April, an Earth Day celebration with prizes, green product vendors and lots of information on healthy living.

Kate Yoshida is program coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

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