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Environmental Performance

Committing to planetary health:
Our environmental management plan

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is working to set an exemplary standard in environmental stewardship, driven by a commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

As one of the leading health care organizations in Ontario, HHS understands the profound connection between climate change and public health, recognizing the need to mitigate environmental impacts for the well-being of present and future generations. This commitment is reflected in our comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which outlines strategic initiatives and measurable targets to transform HHS into a model of sustainability.

By expanding on environmental and decabonization work ongoing for over a decade, HHS is shifting away from our prior approach of being primarily driven by regulatory requirements to a progressive approach that builds sustainability right into our systems and processes.

In 2023, HHS added the development of an Environmental Management Plan as a strategic project. The goal of this plan is to prepare HHS to meet the challenges of climate change by creating a roadmap to significantly mitigate our climate change and environmental impacts and become a leader in the planetary health movement.

This Environmental Management Plan project is split into three streams of work for the purposes of developing a corporate plan for environmental stewardship and carbon neutrality (“Net Zero”) by 2050.

Our key focus areas:

Utilities

How our buildings operate: Identify a strategy with defined goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Stewardship

How operations and services impact planetary health: Create a strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of our health care delivery and foster a culture of stewardship within HHS.

Reporting

How we report: Transparently and honestly update our stakeholders on our progress, showcasing innovative work, staff leadership and measurable change.

 

Energy Management

HHS is committed to energy and carbon reduction that meets and exceeds government regulations to ensure the health and safety of the Hamilton area and beyond. Our Energy Conservation and Demand Management plan outlines opportunities over the next five years, along with past projects and reductions in energy consumption. Please read our recent ECDM Plan here.

Environmental performance reports

Each year since 2017, HHS has submitted a sustainability report to Sustainability Leadership, a Hamilton-based environmental organization. This technical 150+ page report is condensed into a one-page infographic which features key achievements.

Our Environmental Performance report highlights the following for the 2023 calendar year:

  • Launching an Environmental Management Plan as a strategic project, setting HHS on a path to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050
  • Reducing emissions by 49 per cent since 2016 by making significant investment in facilities equipment and shifting primary energy sources to grid electricity
  • Diverting 37.4 per cent of all waste from landfill
  • Recycling 33.9 per cent of all waste, which is 6 per cent higher than our peers
  • Expanding narcotic denaturing devices to 90 per cent of all applicable areas within HHS
  • Expanding novel recycling programs, such as PVC and contrast media recycling

Please read our 2024 Environmental Performance Report infographic.

Prior Environmental Performance Reporting (only available external facing reports linked):

Environmental awards and achievements

Notable awards:

  • Green Hospital Scorecard – 2013 to 2024 (Bronze – Gold) for various sites
  • Best Sustainability Report for all years 2018 to 2023 Sustainability Leadership .
  • Best Environmental Initiative for waste and energy initiatives 2018 and 2022 – Sustainability Leadership
  • 2022 Sustainability Award for Environmental Excellence – Stryker Canada
  • 2016 Ron Joyce Health Centre – LEED® Gold certification
  • Smart Commute 2016 Employer of the Year
  • 2015 Energy Champion from Horizon Utilities
  • Health Achieve 2015 Energy Efficiency Award Waste Management Award

Key achievements

  • Reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 49 per cent since 2016
  • Introduced many new waste-reduction initiatives, including comprehensive operating room recycling, nutrition services, PPE recycling, PVC recycling in PACU, green bin/organics program, scrap metal, blue bin recycling, device reprocessing, and more
  • Scope 1 & 2 Emissions reporting as per regulatory requirements
  • Hosted Earth Day and Waste Reduction events
  • Smart Commute & Carpooling promotion
  • Participation in the Canadian Coalition Green Hospital Scorecard
  • Member of Sustainability Leadership since 2017
  • Joined the Bay Area Climate Change Council as an inaugural member
  • Introduced new environmental focused roles at HHS to focus on energy reduction and environmental performance

Emissions and decarbonization

As a core element of our Environmental Management Plan, HHS will develop a Scope 1 and 2 Net Zero strategy to meet provincial and federal targets for 2030 and eventually Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

The strategy will include all hospital sites plus the David Braley Research Institute, totaling more than three-million square feet. Read more about the Scope 3 emissions plan on our Environmental Stewardship page.

Scope 1 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are direct emissions controlled by HHS activities, such as burning gas to create electricity in our co-generation plants.

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions, from purchased energy, such as the Ontario electric grid.

Scope 3 emissions are also indirect. These include emissions generated from activities that HHS may be able to influence but not control, such as employee travel, vendor packaging and the energy used to create and ship the materials and equipment used by the hospital.

The Scope 1 & 2 decarbonization strategy will:

  • Set a path to achieve Net-Zero emissions by 2050
  • Set GHG reduction targets based on international and industry-based frameworks and guidance for Scope 1 and 2 emissions
  • Outline steps, measures, infrastructure requirements and high-level financial scenarios to meet or exceed our GHG emissions proposed reduction targets

Emissions Snapshot

GHG Emissions, Scope 1, 2 & 3 Combined (tCO₂e)

Site 2016 2020 2023
McMaster Children’s Hospital 34,106.55 31,762.39 16,274.28
Hamilton General Hospital 16,784.17 16,064.90 8,155.54
Juravinski Hospital & Cancer Centre 21,448.72 19,591.80 11,323.59
West Lincoln Memorial Hospital 581.07 591.78 530.13
St Peter’s Hospital 1,658.52 1,127.74 1,239.38
Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre n/a 572.70 397.96
Total 74,579.03 69,711.31 37,920.88
Percentage reduction from 2016 baseline 6.53 49.15

Environmental stewardship

Our environmental stewardship plan

The development of an Environmental Stewardship Plan (ESP) was identified as one of three streams of work under the new HHS Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The ESP will focus on emissions reductions in the Scope 3 emissions category and also establish other environmental stewardship targets (e.g. waste reduction, corporate greening, food, climate adaptation, etc).

Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are indirect. These include emissions generated from activities that HHS may be able to influence but not control, such as employee travel, food generation and transportation for patient and staff meals, and the energy used to create and ship the materials and equipment used by the hospital.

We are working to develop a five-year ESP that is able to achieve the goals below:

  • Understand our Scope 3 Emissions impacts to put in an evidence-based reduction plan;
  • Identify progressive, climate change-ready targets and focus areas which are outcome driven;
  • Foster an organizational culture which considers the environmental impact of health care within its operations, human resources and business decisions.

Waste management at HHS

Waste is a direct byproduct of health care operations and our waste stewardship practice must balance our desire to divert waste from landfill and also ensure that hazardous materials are properly disposed of.

To mitigate risk of accidental waste contamination, HHS is limited to how widespread its recycling programs can be in clinical care areas. Instead, recycling is focused in areas such as lobbies, cafeteria, offices and other high waste-generating areas, such as operating rooms and nutrition services.

Changes in the global recycling market since 2019 limit the amount of recyclable materials generated in clinical areas because common high volume items such as plastic film are no longer recyclable. Despite these limitations, we are continually seeking novel ways to reduce waste and increase waste diverted from landfill.

2023 waste-reduction highlights:

  • We diverted 37.4 per cent of waste from landfill. Diverted wastes included all blue bin recyclables plus novel programs such as food waste, reprocessable devices and electronics.
  • We recycled 33.9 per cent of all waste, compared to our peer group average of 28 per cent
  • Implemented narcotic denaturing devices across all hospital sites. Narcotics are now properly denatured and disposed of through incineration rather than incorrectly disposed of into sanitary systems and regular waste streams.
  • Introduced the PVC recycling program into more areas of our hospitals
  • Piloted a contrast media recycling program in our CT rooms
  • Launched “Bring your Own Bottle and Bag” initiative to encourage patients to bring their own reusable bottles and garment bags to reduce single-use plastics for planned hospital stays

Supporting biodiversity

Tree Planting and Pollinator Gardens
Working in collaboration with Trees for Hamilton, a local organization that promotes native tree planting, HHS hosts tree planting events on its properties to support the organization’s mission of improving Hamilton’s tree cover. From 2018-2023, over 60 native tree species and many pollinator plants were added at HGH and SPH. In 2023, we worked with One Bench One Tree to plant another tree and bench at the JHCC site.

HHS Community Gardens
Hamilton General Hospital and Population Health Research Institute partnered with Hamilton Victory Gardens to build a community vegetable garden on the downtown hospital site. Produce grown in the garden was donated to local food banks and meal programs to help reduce food insecurity in Hamilton.

The community garden closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and inability to secure volunteer resources during the vital planting season. A small working group comprising HHS and PHRI staff aimto revitalize the garden for the 2024 growing season and make meaningful improvements to support patient therapy use, such as creating more accessible beds for patients using wheelchairs. Patients can practice functional skills such as bending, reaching and carrying under the guidance of therapy staff.

Food

In 2023, HHS took the Coolfood Pledge and is beginning to identify areas where we can reduce our GHG impact through inpatient and retail food services. Coolfood is an initiative of the World Resource Institute (WRI). The WRI explains that:

  • Food production is a significant contributor to climate change, accounting for one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant-based foods generally have a much lower environmental impact.
  • Simple changes to diets and enjoying more plant-based foods can make a substantial difference for the climate.

The Coolfood Pledge is a commitment to setting and achieving science-based targets to reduce the climate impact of the food we serve. HHS is in the “Plan” stage of the project, where food purchase data analysis is taking place. In 2024, we expect to have our data validated and begin to set targets and then promote changes to our retail and inpatient menu planning.

Procurement

HHS is leading an inter-hospital working group to develop Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and EDI procurement standards. This work is in its early stages but aims to set minimal standards and then increase requirements over time. This work includes collaborating with suppliers to reduce packaging, product materials and/or ensure packaging and materials are recyclable. In 2023, HHS vendors were advised that their candidacy would be evaluated based on EDI and ESG criteria.
Our goal is to leverage our position as the second largest health care organization in Ontario to make meaningful changes to group purchasing contracts and supply chains with respect to sustainable practices.

Sustainable buildings

Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC) – New facility opened 2015-16

In 2016, the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC) earned LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification. The RJCHC is a purpose-built facility intended to create a space where children, youth and adults feel welcomed, engaged, and encouraged, while receiving exceptional care.

Highlights of the RJCHC LEED® certification:

  • The project was certified gold, under LEED® Canada New Construction standards, earning 64 points;
  • Achieved exemplary performance in innovative design through:
    • 32 per cent of construction materials utilized recycled content,
    • 45 per cent of construction materials were sourced or manufactured locally within 800 km of the project, or within 2400km if shipped by water,
    • 58 per cent less energy usage gained by individual lighting controls and efficient heating and cooling equipment
  • Installation of low-flow fixtures to achieve a water use reduction of 36 per cent;
  • 86 per cent of construction and demolition waste was diverted from landfill;
  • Building envelope designed to increase thermal resistance;
  • Building’s HVAC systems do not use CFC-based refrigerants;
  • Project offers sufficient space for storing and collection of recyclables;
  • Indoor air quality management plan includes use of low-emitting materials;
  • White roof membrane reflects heat, rather than absorbing it.

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) rebuild – New facility to open in 2025 (Grimsby)

A new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) is under construction and will incorporate high efficiency heat pumps with low CO2 emissions. The new facility will produce approximately 390 tonnes less CO2, compared to the old building. This represents an approximate 50 per cent reduction in CO2 for this hospital site.

Details of the new build include:

  • Building will achieve LEEDv4 Silver Certification
  • High performance electrochromic windows
  • Water-cooled heat recovery chiller for first stage of cooling
  • Rooftop solar panels providing 5 per cent of the total building energy load
  • Read more about the WLMH rebuild

Future LEED and sustainable redevelopment opportunities:

  • The Juravinski hospital rebuild is in planning stages. We are evaluating possible LEED certification pathways and aim to achieve a LEED Silver minimum;
  • Develop and ensure construction polices are aligned with best practice for high performance construction (setting standards that surpass the requirements of the current building codes for example, energy performance shall be 15 per cent below those in the local codes);
  • Leverage technologies to produce low-emissions buildings
  • Develop policies and procedures related to procurement of equipment and fittings
  • Implement Low- to Zero-carbon building standards across all hospitals