How do you protect the environment? Share your stories

“The cry of the earth is the cry of the poor.” In his encyclical on climate change, Pope Francis reminds us that environmental issues hurt the poor and vulnerable in developing nations more than anyone else and urges all of us to take action now to restore the health of the planet.

Thanks to the passion and commitment of many of you, Providence and our partner organizations have taken many steps to reduce our environmental impact. Our hospital in Newberg, Oregon, for example, was the first LEED Gold hospital in the nation, and our hospital in  Issaquah, Washington,  leads the nation in energy efficiency today.

Our commitment to carbon neutrality

Yet, there is much more we can do, and going forward, you will hear more about our enhanced leadership to achieve carbon neutrality across our five-state system. Our efforts will be led by Joel Gilbertson, our senior vice president of community partnerships and external affairs. Mike Butler, our president of operations and services, will also be directly involved to ensure organizational alignment and engagement.

In early 2016, we will develop a strategic framework for:

  • Making Providence an international leader in environmental stewardship with a measurable plan for moving our organization to carbon neutrality
  • Evaluating what partnerships and legislative policies will be needed to create a healthier environment in our communities
  • Determining how best to support our many caregivers who want to volunteer and engage in environmental causes

Another important change is that Richard Beam will now serve as our chief environmental officer and will report to our community partnerships and external affairs division. He was previously part of Supply Chain, where he and the team have made a tremendous difference over the years. Now, to take these efforts to the next level, we are shifting his reporting relationship, so that we can elevate visibility for this role and reinforce its importance in our communities. Richard will continue to manage energy purchasing and consumption for Providence.

 Your turn

I know many of you share our passion for a healthier planet. I’d love to hear your ideas and what steps you have taken personally or as a team to heal and protect the earth. I look forward to hearing your stories in the comments section below.

  1. On the Oregon POP Campus in 2014, we established a used office supply exchange room that allows the organizations on the campus to consolidate used office supplies in one location and give office supply purchasers on the campus the opportunity to “shop” there first before buying new.

    A few learnings from having this office supply exchange is that there isn’t a good way to dispose of many common office supplies that are in poor, non-working condition other than throwing them in the trash. On occassion the POP Green team has been able to look for disposal options, e.g., personally hauling rigid plastic like a worn chair to a Portland recycling center, or having Mike Geller or his driver pick up and haul a broken Providence refigerator, batteries and other items to the Providence recycling center. I sincerely hope that with leadership taking a more active role in Providence becoming carbon neutral, there will be more resources and guidance in this area.

  2. If people of Providence want to learn more about the role that food waste plays in both our environment and hunger and what faith communities are doing about it you can view these links.

  3. As the Commute Trip Reduction manager for Providence, I think that we can do more as an organization to assist our caregivers in reducing the number of drive-alone commute trips taken each week. Providence, and Swedish as well, has a great ORCA program which is widely used by caregivers in the metropolitan areas. Where we need a bit more work is in the locations that are are not well-served by transit, yet where we are still required by local, state and federal regulations to provide a transportation reduction program and to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the community. Given a few additional resources, there are many things that Providence can do toward this goal, and to support our caregivers in this effort. I would love to partner with other Providence groups to make this happen.

  4. Thank you for embracing this important work. It so heartening that the Pope has engaged the faith community in saving our earth. For my part, my family tries to waste as little as possible. Americans throw away as much as 40% of the food they purchase, and that is fuel and water wasted. We eat minimal meat, primarily because of the energy cost of production. We do all the other recycling, etc., available to us. More than these individuals things, though, we support organizations that are working for systemic changes that will create broad solutions and prevent further damage.

  5. When I took a new position at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, it greatly increased my commute. I purchased a plug-in Prius but there are no chargers at the hospital. In just a few hours we are celebrating the beginning of our new van pool from Canyon Country to Santa Monica. Still would like electric chargers for the days I need to work late – and thus drive.

  6. One step my household took this past year was to purchase a plug-in hybrid car. We burn (and buy) far less gasoline, as the electic charge covers us for most day-to-day driving. This is a meaningful reduction to our carbon footprint.

    Providence should consider installing elective vehicle charging stations at all of our ministries and office locations (there are none at Renton). I believe that this would provide an incentive for more people to consider a plug-in as an option for their next vehicle. If this influences a few people’s purchasing decisions, the benefit to our environment would justify the small investment.

    • Not sure if you realize this but most power plants that produce electricity us natural gas to fuel these plants. Anyway you twist it, the only real way to reduce emissions is to use physical power instead of mechanical.

      • You’re right that the real solution is to cut our consumption of energy, regardless of where it comes from. Lucky for us in the Seattle area, the majority of our power is hydroelectric(around 90%). The Northwest in general uses mostly hydro, but Alaska and California are more dependent on gas.

  7. Besides recycling, growing my own vegetables, and now have my “girls” lying eggs, I no longer buy beef, pork, chicken and fish from grocery stores.
    This has: A- Helped my cholesterol and heart by eating less meat, B- reduced the carbon footprint from the mass produced meat sources, C – Supported sustainability by local farmers, D- I Know where, when, and how the meat is grown, fed, and most importantly…slaughtered. All of this being in an ethical and humane way.

  8. It’s exciting to know Providence is working towards carbon neutrality. The problem is so much bigger than one individual, I know it’s easy to be discouraged and not know how to contribute in a meaningful way. Our city sent out flyers some time ago showing families how to figure out their carbon footprint. It was depressing to know ours was pretty high. Since then, we try to buy more locally grown fruit, we recycle more and take care to know how to do it correctly, and we’ve bought those snazzy shopping bags so we do not need the plastic or paper at the grocery store.

  9. Where do I begin! At home, everything is sorted into, trash, recycle, and compost (yes, toilet paper roles land in the right bin). Plastic bottles left our world some time ago, and are replaced with reusable sport water bottles, cups and glasses. New LED lights illuminate our home, and air from the earth’s core is pulled up through a GEO Thermo Pump and pushed through our furnace increasing heating efficiency, and offering cooling in warmer months. Solar could be in our future, 90% of the daily sunshine in Washington shines on our home, which could power our home and a few others. We grow some vegetables, and hope to add chickens to our family in the spring. At work, I use daily the Elkay water fountain that has allows easy refilling of water bottles (thank you Providence), lunch comes with me most days, in a reusable lunch bag, filled with reusable containers. I do all my work on my computer by leveraging the power of Microsoft Office Technology, do you know what you can do with Lync, OneNote, and Outlook combined! The power is amazing, almost freeing, and can reduce the need for hard copies of anything (notes, slide decks, really anything). My ask of Providence is to increase the learning opportunities of software tools to reduce the need to print on paper, to offer recycle cans at our desk tops, in every lunch/break room, offer free bus passes to reduce traffic and emissions, partner with companies that offer recyclable products or services in every instance possible (i.e. the plastic glasses in the café in Renton), and share more and more about the progress we are making to keep our world safe for all. Thanks for asking, and for listening!

    • I with Monique! We have 3 bins at home for garbage, recycle and compost. I do drive too much, but so appreciate the Trimet pass and utlize it whenever I can.

      I do see a lot of paper wasted in our office environment. I would love to see printers go the way of the dinosaur! But we need training in order to make that happen.

      I love that here in Portland POP2 the cafe does all the compost/garbage/recycling. Takes the guess work out for those that aren’t fully educated on what can be composted and what cannot. However we still sell plastic bottles in our cafe’s and don’t have recycling bins around are facilities, so inevitably some end up as landfill.

      I would also suggest that investment options be provided to caregivers in our retirement portfolios that are environmentally friendly and fossil fuel free. I’d sign up in a heartbeat!

  10. After attending the Providence Leadership Formation Alumni session in November on the topic of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si message, I made the personal commitment to completely discontinue the purchase or use of disposable plastic water bottles. I hope Providence may also move toward the goal and begin serving water in pitchers rather than providing the disposable plastic water bottles in 2016. Its a small but worthy step!

  11. I’m planning to downgrade by moving from my house to a condo:>)

  12. We have built a German Passive House and have Solar Panels. That’s what we have done to reduce the carbon footprint. Also, recyle and take my own bags to the stores when I shop. Combine errands making best use of the car.