Healthy Patients, Healthy Planet

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Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery off River Road South has been leading the way in environmentally friendly practices since 2007, when it became the first business to be certified EarthWISE by Marion County. Since then, it has earned re-certification every 3 years for keeping up with recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation despite growing its business. In 2012, Willamette Ear, Nose and Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery won a prestigious Mid-Willamette Valley Green Award: the EarthWISE Business of the Year.

Its comprehensive recycling program means that the plastics and paper that surgical equipment comes in is separated and recycled, mounds of cardboard from shipments of medical supplies are broken down and recycled, and reams of patient forms are shredded for confidentiality and then recycled.

The surgical center has even added composting bins to collect staff members’ food scraps. Another bin in that area collects paper towels for composting. Staff members focus on reducing waste as well. The office building and surgery center was designed and built with low-flow toilets and showerheads, and the two staff kitchens were stocked with reusable dishware.

Despite increasing medical paperwork requirements, Willamette ENT has reduced its paper usage.

Many of the patient forms can be signed electronically in the office, chart records are faxed directly from the electronic medical chart to another doctor’s office, and prescriptions are sent remotely to pharmacies.

Staff follows the guidelines written in the staff handbook about energy reduction. Lights and computers are turned off when they are not in use, and motion sensors help with that protocol in high-use areas. Plus, the IT employees make decisions about new electronics partly based on how efficient the new devices operate. “We are finding that more and more electronics are using less energy than they used to,” said Linda Nishioka, director of facial plastic surgery. “Even though they are more powerful, they are also more efficient.”

Part of the energy used at Willamette ENT comes from the sun. In 2012, the center installed a 41.85 kilowatt solar electric system. The solar panels generate about 45,000 kilowatt-hours of power each year—the equivalent of powering 10 average Salem homes.

But the medical facility’s interest in being a good environmental neighbor extends even further.

A 12-car parking lot and sidewalk was paved with porous asphalt to eliminate runoff during the months-long rainy season. The facility’s landscape plants are native and low-water users, and two solar water heaters heat the water used throughout the entire facility. Willamette ENT’s efforts have helped inform other businesses as well. The marketing company used by Willamette ENT uses soy-based inks and post-consumer recycled paper products.

“We believe in doing the best for the environment in every aspect of our business—including where we do business with other businesses,” said Nishioka.

For more information about the EarthWISE program, go to www.mcEarthWISE.net or call 503-365-3188

By Salem Magazine Contributer, Beth Casper