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St. Mary’s starts recycling program in green effort

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In 2005, a concern over how chemicals in everyday cleaning products could affect children with asthma and allergies led to the creation of the "Green Team," a three-person group of hospital staff who researched ways the hospital can be more environmentally friendly. As a result, the group switched to more earth-friendly products, said Tina Hess, who chairs the Green Team.Since then, the group has grown considerably, Hess said, and its green projects have expanded. One project, to remove all products containing mercury from hospital grounds, won recognition and an award from the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, a national organization aiming to achieve environmental sustainability in health care.The group has also started shredding and recycling all paper waste. In accordance to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the hospital shredded all personal documents before but now includes all paper. Last year the hospital saved some 385 trees by shredding and recycling, Hess said. The hospital also has reduced waste by 85 percent since the team was formed in 2005, she said.Leslie Johnson, St. Mary's communications director, said the hospital is leading the way in environmental sustainability when compared to other long-care facilities of the same size.Hess said she is surprised by the group's success, but knows the secret behind it. She said the team makes going green part of its daily routine and it's not just something to revisit when the group formally meets each quarter."Making it our identity here at St. Mary's is what makes it work," Hess said.In the future, Hess said the Green Team will expand its recycling program and start managing the facility's food waste through a compost system.She also plans to involve the children in more green-friendly activities.As someone who has visited impoverished areas in Russia, Poland and the Ukraine Hess said she has seen what can happen when the environment is not taken care of and feels "respecting the environment is the most important thing you can pass on to your children.""You can't really keep treating the world the way we are treating it," she said. "It's not going to last."

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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