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The Heart of BIDMC

Going Green with Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Amy Lipman

Amy Lipman, Environmental Sustainability CoordinatorWhat looks like trash to some looks like opportunity to Amy Lipman.

"I came across these bags of perfectly good pink packing foam that someone had placed in the dumpster by the clinical center loading dock," says Lipman, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's first Environmental Sustainability Coordinator. "I knew that physics teachers would love to have this stuff for their classes because their kids build model homes they need to insulate. I also knew that anything we take out of the waste stream is money saved because we're not paying to have it hauled away to a landfill. It's a win-win."

An active environmentalist and a founding member of BIDMC's Environmental Sustainability Committee, Lipman has spent the last two years putting systems into place that allow BIDMC staff, patients and visitors to easily recycle and reduce the amount of waste the hospital creates. Her efforts helped the hospital recycle 927 tons of waste last year.

Help the environment at home "Recycling in particular has been great. People literally clapped when the recycling bins showed up on the floors," notes Lipman. "So many people had wanted to do it but there was no infrastructure. People were recycling at home and they came to work and didn't understand why they couldn't do it here as well."

But Lipman's work goes well beyond recycling. She has worked with hospital vendors to convince them to reduce the amount of packaging they use in the products that come into BIDMC and coordinated with charities that can benefit from items the hospital would have otherwise thrown away.

"We donated 32 tons of hospital items last year - everything from OR supplies to old furniture to medical equipment that's no longer useful to our hospital, but will be more than welcome in Haiti, Guatemala, or the Dominican Republic," she says.

Lipman's savvy sustainability efforts are saving the hospital money. BIDMC used to pay for a dumpster and disposal of scrap metal from construction sites on the BIDMC campus, broken refrigerators and furniture.

"Now it is all taken away for free," she proudly notes.

Amy Lipman, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator

A former teacher and school administrator, Lipman knew educating staff and patients was crucial to making the program work.

"People know these things should have another life, but often they just don't know how to make that happen," says Lipman. "We spent a couple of years laying the groundwork, now we're reaping the benefits."

But Lipman isn't stopping there. Her next focus is waste reduction. This includes decreasing the enormous amount of junk mail that makes its way to the hospital mail room - 43 tons of complimentary medical journals were received last year alone - most of which goes directly to the recycling bin.

"I am starting to reach out to doctors to encourage them to send the publishers of these journals an e-mail asking to stop sending the journals," she says. "It's a simple way to reduce waste and save money."

Amy Lipman's tips on how you can help the environment at home »

Every environmental initiative Lipman has created has been cost and labor neutral - no additional spending, no additional staff needed. And, most importantly, none of it impacts the quality of patient care.

"It's fun for me," says Lipman. "I get to interact with a really wide cross section of the hospital around issues that people are passionate about and I get to simultaneously do all of that while working on an issue that genuinely matters."

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted January 2012