Greening the Emergency Department

In emergency medicine, where every second counts, the push for sustainability might seem daunting. However, Stanford’s Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department (ED) is making strides in creating a more ecologically friendly environment.

The initiative, known as the Stanford ED Green Team, was sparked by inspiration from other specialties within the medical field, notably anesthesia and orthopedics. The team’s primary goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the ED’s medical practices without compromising patient care quality.

One of the team’s flagship projects involves the recycling of pulse oximeters, devices traditionally considered disposable. Driven by a collective effort from ED physicians, nurses, residents, and other staff members, the team has successfully implemented a program to recycle these devices, diverting them from the waste stream and working with medical device companies like Masimo for reprocessing.

Another focus is optimizing the ED’s waste streams. The team has undertaken a comprehensive waste audit, weighing all trash leaving the department over 24 hours. This data-driven approach allows them to identify areas generating the most waste, leading to targeted interventions, such as educational campaigns and real-time tracking of waste disposal habits.

The effort began in 2018 when Jean Reyes, MBA, MSN, RN, first applied principles of corporate social responsibility, sustainability and cost-savings to her work on the Stanford Health Care (SHC) supply chain. Partnering with nursing and physician leadership as well as supply chain managers, Green Team co-lead Reyes expanded efforts throughout the pandemic, in part to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). In 2022, Reyes officially launched the Greening the Stanford ED initiative.

Challenges unique to EDs, as highlighted by James Marvel, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and co-lead of the team, include the fast-paced nature of the environment and the unpredictability of patient needs. To address this, the team focuses on streamlining interventions into existing workflows to minimize the burden on staff while promoting sustainability.

Reyes and Marvel both emphasize the importance of starting small, tackling low-hanging fruit, and gradually expanding efforts. They credit the success of the ED Green Team in part to broader institutional support for sustainability within Stanford Medicine, which has made an unprecedented commitment to safeguarding the environment through innovative solutions to achieve ambitious sustainability goals.


Spring 2024