UVM Medical Center Joins United Nations-Backed Race to Zero Climate Action Campaign
Climate Pledge is Latest Step in UVM Medical Center’s Commitment to Environmentally Sustainable Health Care
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- As part of its ongoing commitment to achieving environmental sustainability, the University of Vermont Medical Center is pledging to achieve the ambitious goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The commitment comes as UVM Medical Center joins Race to Zero, the United Nations-backed global climate action campaign.
A healthy climate is critical to patients and communities, and integral to The UVM Medical Center’s mission to keep our communities healthy. This is a bold step forward on the journey toward sustainable health care. The UVM Medical Center is proud to be in the first cohort of health care organizations around the world – and among the first three in the United States – to officially commit to the United Nations’ campaign.
“Everyone has a role to play in creating a healthy environment, and we want to engage everyone in our organization, in one way or another, in our efforts toward achieving a carbon-neutral future,” said Vice President of Hospital Services Gary Scott. “Our aim is to make sustainability ingrained in all we do, and we will continue to take steps in that direction.”
As part of its commitment to Race to Zero, UVM Medical Center pledges to achieve an interim target of 50 percent reduction of energy use by 2030. That is in line with its 2018 commitment to Burlington 2030, a local partnership that aims to cut transportation emissions, energy use and water consumption by 50 percent.
Health care emissions in the U.S. account for 8.5 percent of the nation’s carbon footprint. The UVM Medical Center has been incorporating sustainable practices in all operations, from large-scale recycling and composting initiatives to transitioning to green buildings, local farm partnerships and the elimination of harmful chemicals. These efforts continue to be a major priority, despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
For example, UVM Medical Center invests in sustainable food production that reduces the use of antibiotics, pesticides and fertilizers. The hospital purchases from more than 70 local producers and about 42% of its food dollars are spent within 250 miles.
“Even with supply-chain issues during the pandemic, we were able to make progress in these efforts and recently developed a new partnership with a local dairy, Miller Milk,” said Diane Imrie, director of Nutrition Services and chair of the UVM Medical Center Sustainability Council.
General waste reduction is another long-term commitment for UVM Medical Center. Currently, 36 percent of total waste is recycled at the Main Campus. About 401 tons of compost is collected per year, about one-third of the food waste generated. Those numbers decreased in 2020 and 2021 as fewer people ate at the hospital during the pandemic.
A Track Record of Commitment to the Environment
By weaving environmentally sound practices into its patient- and family-centered mission of care, the UVM Medical Center has established itself as a national leader in health care sustainability. Recent honors, include:
- The 2021 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth, a national advocate for sustainable practices in health care.
- Recognized by Health Care Without Harm as a 2021 Climate Champion of the Health Care Climate Challenge.
- Recipient of the 2020 ASHE Energy to Care award for reducing Energy Use Intensity at the Main Campus by 10 percent annually since 2018.
Megan Malgeri, MD, a family medicine physician at UVM Medical Center Family Medicine in Milton, says she supports the hospital’s measures to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.
“The climate crisis is one of the biggest public health threats of our time,” Dr. Malgeri said, explaining that higher temperatures and precipitation increase vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, worsen allergies and asthma, and place stress on the heart and lungs.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, there are issues that require us to come together and use science, public health and policy to help guide us toward solutions to global problems,” Dr. Malgeri said. “We are rising to the challenge posed by COVID-19. Let’s also work in concert on climate change, supporting ways to lower carbon pollution, which will improve our health.”
About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a 499-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.