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The Green Operating Room: Simple Changes to Reduce Cost and Our Carbon Footprint

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Generating over four billion pounds of waste each year, the healthcare system in the United States is the second largest contributor of trash with one-third produced by operating rooms. Our objective is to assess improvement in waste reduction and recycling after implementation of a Green Operating Room Committee (GORC) at our institution. A surgeon and nurse-initiated GORC was formed with members from corporate leadership, nursing, anesthesia, and OR staff. Initiatives for recycling opportunities, reduction of energy and water use as well as solid waste were implemented and the results were recorded. Since formation of GORC in 2008, our OR has diverted 6.5 tons of medical waste. An effort to recycle all single-use devices was implemented with annual solid waste reduction of approximately 12,860 lbs. Disposable OR foam padding was replaced with reusable gel pads at greater than $50,000 per year savings. Over 500 lbs of previously discarded batteries were salvaged from the OR and donated to charity or redistributed in the hospital ($9,000 annual savings). A “Power Down” initiative to turn off all anesthesia and OR lights and equipment not in use resulted in saving $33,000 and 234.3 metric tons of CO2 emissions reduced per year. Converting from soap to alcohol-based waterless scrub demonstrated a potential saving of 2.7 million liters of water annually. Formation of an OR committee dedicated to ecological initiatives can provide a significant opportunity to improve health care’s impact on the environment and save money.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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