Something not commonly known is that hospitals and medical facilities consume a great deal more energy than typical commercial buildings. On average, they use 2.5 times as much electricity, leading to significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions, not to mention costs (which are passed on to patients and health insurers). It's easy to see why: Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, run heating, air conditioning and air filtration systems almost continuously, and utilize large pieces of medical equipment that eat up a lot of power.
So it's no surprise that many health facilities are making a major effort to cut down on energy waste and increase efficiency. To give an example, consider the Gundersen Health System, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, whose leadership was recently honored by the Obama Administration for being "Champions of Change". Led by Dr. Jeff Thompson, Gundersen has been engaged in an effort to cut his organization's carbon emissions and make the facility energy independent by 2014.
In an interview with EarthTechling, a clean technology news site, Thompson described Gundersen's energy solutions that have been most effective. Among the many measures they've undertaken are a switch to methane from a local landfill to provide heating and electricity, which accomplished several goals: It lowered the hospital's electricity bills by $400,000 annually, and diverted methane that was simply being burned and released into the atmosphere so that it is actually put to good use.
"…We try and think about the patients' whole environment rather than just a single patient encounter," Thompson told the source. "Healthcare organizations contribute to pollution, workplace costs, landfill waste and many other problems that affect communities. We need to take responsibility and take action."