5 years to carbon neutral: Seattle Children’s shows the way

  • US & Canada

Seattle Children’s recently announced their commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025. Since 2015, the hospital has been tracking their greenhouse gas emissions, working to decrease emissions through innovative initiatives such as their transportation program to decrease drive-alone commuting.

The hospital’s climate action plan states: “We know that underserved communities are the most impacted by climate change. Our work to decrease our carbon footprint and make annual investments in carbon offsets aligns with our mission to ‘provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible’ and our vision for improving community health.”

Seattle Children’s will work to decrease emissions as much as possible and then invest in local carbon offsets to ensure they meet their goal. The hospital will focus on energy reduction efforts; continue current programming to decrease overall drive-alone commuting and shift to work-from-home for staff who are able; work with anesthesia department leaders on reduction of desflurane, a greenhouse gas that is estimated to be 2,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide; transition to more plant-based options in their dining services; and continue to decrease their copy paper use the entire organization saw 13% reduction since 2014, and they saved over 3,500 reams of paper in 2019 alone.

Seattle Children’s also offsets 10% of their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by working with a local carbon capture program to plant native conifer trees in local parks, natural areas, transportation corridors, public spaces, and private lands. 

“Seattle Children’s will continue this work and accelerate our efforts to decrease our carbon footprint,” says Colleen Groll, the hospital’s sustainability programs manager. “We feel the urgency to address climate change now, for our patients, families, staff, and local and global community.”

Groll says the approach was driven by four factors: Seattle Children’s mission was the first and foremost reason senior leadership decided to take action, followed by environmental justice, regulatory requirements, and cost savings.

“According to The Lancet’s 2019 report, climate change will dramatically alter the lives of children born today from their development in the womb through adolescence,” says Jessica Wolff, Health Care Without Harm’s director of climate and health. “Seattle Children’s announcement of this ambitious carbon reduction goal further exemplifies their understanding of how climate change impacts the social and environmental determinants of health, and their leadership in promoting the health of children and families. They are setting an example for hospitals across the country by making a public, specific commitment to create a healthy, sustainable world for future generations.”  

Seattle Children’s is a founding member of the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance, a member of Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Council, and a winner of Practice Greenhealth’s Top 25 Environmental Excellence Awards annually since 2015. 

Get started on the road to carbon neutrality at your hospital or health system.