Green Office Certification Profile - Douglas Niedzwiecki & Angie Alvarado
Green Office Certification Profile by Mary Ann Wilson
Douglas Niedzwiecki, Chief Administrative Officer & Angie Alvarado, Administrative Assistant
Department of Neurosurgery
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
How did you decide to do the Green Office program?
Our evolution to the Green Office program began with the UCLA Neurosurgical Clinical Quality Program (www.neurosurgery.ucla.edu/quality) which started back in 2008. That program focused on eliminating inefficient processes, in the form of how we waste our time and the products we use, as well as how we waste patients’ time in the hospital. One of the things we found was that we were using too many surgical instruments for our surgeries, and each one of these instruments had to go through high processing including autoclaving, chemical cleaning as well as individual packaging. For example, doctors would open the packages containing more instruments than they would actually use for surgery, so we came up with ID cards that specified which instruments were required for each case and repackaged them, which not only saved a lot of money but eliminated physical waste and processing. We measured our outcomes not just on our bottom line, but from the patient’s perspective - is the outcome of their surgery better or worse than before we made our improvements? Based on that experience, we decided to keep going and implemented a recycling program of the cardboard boxes and saline solution containers we use in the hospital, and then we looked further. Dr. Nasim Afsar contacted Nurit Katz, and we then became engaged with the Green Office Program.
How long did it take you to complete certification?
It took about two months. When we first started, we were doing pretty well already. In fact, we may have already been at bronze. Angie Alvarado, the department’s purchasing coordinator and point person for this project, took the survey and ran with it - literally.
She surveyed over 90 employees as a group and then went office to office to investigate. She was doing a space survey so it tied in with what she was doing. She looked into the lighting systems, how staff operated their computers and printers, as well as all their supplies. That process took her a month and a half. However, we did not include the science laboratories in the survey, because the products they order vary according to the regulations they have to follow.
How did you motivate your department to make changes?
It was wrapped into the previous program so there was no resistance.
How would you characterize the initial response to implementing these changes?
The process really began with the quality program. To make those initial changes, it took a big effort, so we had a retreat. From that retreat forward, everyone was on board.
At that time, health care reform was looming in the distance. We knew we would receive less money from the government, so we had to become more intelligent in how we used our resources.
If you felt any resistance to making changes, were you able to overcome it?
There wasn’t any resistance.
Did you have any up-front costs to implement any of these changes?
About $500.00. We didn’t purchase smart power strips because of urgent care requirements, but we turned them off manually. Also it was the most costly of all the changes. However, we bought new light bulbs, bought toner bins (we have a school that recycles them so we don’t need to drop them off), free-trade coffee, and paper (recycled paper is more expensive).
We do have an issue with paper jamming; because the 100% recycled paper is thinner, and thus harder to go through the machines, so we went from 100% to 50%. Besides, they were always running out of the 100%. We just got a new machine so we might not have a problem with it. This new machines consolidates the fax machine with the copier and reduces paper as well as toner.
Did you see any savings as a result of implementing these changes? (e.g., lower energy costs, lower paper costs, no plastic ware, etc.)
The biggest area we saved in was on utilities, but we don’t receive that bill. We don’t pay to be in the space. Paper is more expensive so we didn’t really save there. The lights are where we got the financial benefit from this. I’d say we saved more implementing the Quality Program.
What are the challenges, if any, in maintaining a green office?
Some things go on without a hitch while other things take constant reminders, though we can’t keep asking people if they carpool or take public transportation. Do we audit to see if people are turning their equipment off? No.
We give away reusable mugs and bags with our logo on it to staff. Also, we noticed that overnight nurses would pull out linen blankets that were intended for patients, so during Nurse Appreciation Week we gave them fleece blankets, which didn’t require industrial washing every night.
Have you gained any insights from implementing this program that may be helpful to others?
Everybody was already making their own individual effort, so it was great having a forum, a brainstorming session in which people shared what they were already doing. It was at the brainstorming session where we realized we were already at bronze and that it would take just a one-time effort to get to the next level.
Bruin buy helped. They now have an image that shows if a product is recycled or green.
Published: Monday, November 07, 2011