Nicole Freedman, Chief of Active Transportation City of Seattle

Nicole FreedmanThis past week we had the opportunity to sit down for a Green Line Series interview with Nicole Freedman, Chief of Active Transportation for the City of Seattle. Nicole is tasked with overseeing the expansion of the newly purchased Pronto bike share program, creation of Summer Parkways programs and a new TDM 2.0 program.

Prior to moving to Seattle, she worked as Director of Bicycle Programs for the City of Boston which was part of Mayor Menino’s vision for healthy, sustainable communities.  During her tenure, she helped transform Boston from the worst cycling city in the country to a recognized leader in cycling. Under her leadership, the city created 92 miles of bike lanes and implemented a successful bikeshare system.

Nicole Freedman will moderate the GoGreen Seattle panel session: Technology + Innovation Changing the Transportation Landscape in 2016.

GoGreen: How is your team moving forward with the daily operations of Pronto? Will services still remain the same in the transition of ownership?

Nicole Freedman: Daily operations and services will remain the same. To better serve riders we plan to move several stations to make the bikes more accessible. The first of these decisions was relocating the Frye Art Museum (Terry & Columbia) Station to the new Capitol Hill U-Link Station at Broadway & Denny. Longer term, we will be looking at expansion in order to better serve current riders and appeal to new riders across the city.

GoGreen: Can you address the plan that will be laid out over the next six months to better serve low-income populations and communities of color?

NF: A plan is currently in the works. We hope to test out a reduced cost membership program similar to the ones in Chicago and Boston. Whether or  not we can test this out before expansion is unknown, but we will certainly be making plans. The keys to success for such a program: great outreach and adding stations in low income neighborhoods.

GoGreen: From your experience, what does it take to transform a city into a bike friendly environment?

NF: There first must be a cultural shift within the city and with pedestrians. The department is working towards making Seattle a bike friendly city through the bike network of protected lanes and greenways with focus on the center city bike network. The further we are on pedestrian and bike issues the more that we need to work with drivers and expanding the public right of way. There will always be trade offs when developing more protected bike lanes either by removing parking or car travel lanes. We will need the public to be actively engaged and provide input.  Drivers and pedestrians are instrumental in the success of the city’s bike share program.

To find out more about projects and programs that the City of Seattle Transportation Department will focus on until 2019 read the  Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan (BMP). The department’s vision is to make riding a bicycle is a comfortable and integral part of daily life in Seattle for people of all ages and abilities. The actions and investments in the plan will advance this vision through new bicycle infrastructure, bicycle parking and other end-of-trip facilities, and programs to enhance safety, maintain facilities, and encourage more people to ride bicycles.

City of Seattle Department of Transportation will be exhibiting onsite during GoGreen Seattle on March 30. Check out TransitScreen and learn about new, innovative partnerships with Uber and Lyft to help people get home safely.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.

 

Green Line Series | McKinstry’s Influence in Collaborative Energy

AshAwad01Ash Awad, P.E. is the Chief Market Officer at McKinstry. Ash is responsible for McKinstry’s market development strategy and has more than 20 years experience in the industry. His extensive knowledge covers systems engineering, evaluation of sustainable ideas and development of alternative-financing solutions. During this Green Line Series, we asked Ash a few questions around collaborative energy.  He will participate in the session District and Cooperative Energy | Hot Ideas + Cool Technology in the Seattle 2030 District as a part of the GoGreen Seattle program track on Sustainable Building and Design.

GoGreen Conference: We are excited to learn of McKinstry’s focus on “collaborative energy”, most recently featured in the new Amazon/Westin project in Seattle’s 2030 District. What does “collaborative energy” mean and how does this drive a more sustainable future?

Ash Awad: Collaborative energy is a derivative of the more well-known district energy concept, but instead of a central plant being the supplier of energy that is distributed to a “district” or collection of buildings, one of the buildings within that collection is the supplier of the energy. We like to refer to it as collaborative energy because a number of parties must collaborate to make it work. In the case of the Amazon/Westin project, a private building owner (Westin) had waste heat from its data centers that it was releasing into the atmosphere that the owner thought could have value as a heat source. Another private building owner (Amazon) was about to build its new corporate headquarters across the street and wanted to make that building as energy efficient as possible. Through its policies, the City of Seattle enabled these two private owners to innovate and design a system that captured the waste heat from the Westin, piped it under the street and delivered it to Amazon – thus the collaborative energy concept was born. Collaborative approaches like this are key to driving these cutting-edge outcomes.

The idea of re-using energy that’s been transformed into a different state isn’t new. McKinstry has engineered and implemented waste heat recovery systems many times before.  What is new is doing it on a large scale when energy suppliers and users are different entities and the energy crosses private property borders.

Dense, energy-intensive, mixed-use environments – such as cities – are not only smart ways of using and conserving land, they are also fertile ground for recycling energy.

This renewable model turns waste heat into an asset, rather than a liability, and promises to dramatically increase the energy efficiency of cities while reducing their carbon footprint. It’s a win for energy users because it saves them money and provides them energy price certainty for a long time; it’s a win for the community because we don’t need to bring on more energy generation resources.

We hope that this project catalyzes a paradigm shift in the way communities think about energy use and policy that shapes it.

GoGreen Conference: McKinstry designs the systems to take advantage of waste heat. Can you share new developments with these systems? Any new McKinstry projects launching that will utilize this?

Ash Awad: McKinstry is working on several other energy recycling opportunities. McKinstry thinks of buildings as energy resources – not just energy users. The Westin/Amazon project demonstrates that data centers in particular, are energy-rich environments that can benefit adjacent properties and communities.

The mechanical systems that are the backbone of these types of projects are readily available and are getting more and more efficient. What’s really interesting is the role data is playing in helping us better figure out how to use waste heat. Through the use of technology, buildings are getting smarter, which allows building designers and operators to be proactive in making decisions that affect the efficiency of our built environment.

GoGreen Conference: Our GoGreen business and public sector leaders will be very interested in learning about McKinstry’s work in this area. Can small and medium-sized businesses utilize these new systems? Why should business and public sector leaders care about this?

Ash Awad: This type of system may not be right or even possible for everyone. Retrofits to accommodate this solution can be expensive, and often downright impossible. Facilities with central boilers are good candidates, but if the boilers aren’t fully depreciated or have life left in them, it can be hard to justify replacing them. Utilities or other heat providers must obtain permits and navigate other bureaucratic obstacles in order to add water pipes and other needed infrastructure.

Businesses should care about this because how their facility operates directly affects the perception that people have about their business. Increasingly, building owners are looking for ways to make their buildings more energy efficient not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is also good for business. Research has shown that a company’s environmental record impacts people’s decision to do business with them. And building owners looking to attract tenants are finding that how “green” their building is can be a huge factor in determining lease rates.

Public sector leaders should care about this kind of innovation because as Oregon-based EcoDistricts describes the promise of this idea: “With the right mix of inspired design, smart planning and skillful execution, cities can be engines of innovation full of talented and creative people who accelerate economic growth, shared prosperity and ecological resiliency.”

This collaborative-energy approach spotlights the opportunity tied up in the massive untapped productivity of energy that resides under our streets and in our buildings in this country. Focused public policies that encourage urban density and public-private partnerships that build stronger neighborhoods are the key that can unlock this potential.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.

 

Green Line Series | Google [e]Team

Kati KallinsDuring this installment of the Green Line Series, we had the opportunity to interview Kati Kallins of Google’s [e]Team: Environmental Design and Construction Projects. She will be joining us on March 30 during the session, The Business Case for High Performance and Deep Green Buildings.

Kallins is on Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services [e]Team, which is charged with delivering exceptional environments, experience and ecology on Google buildings. She has led sustainable design and construction projects with teams in North America, Europe, and Africa. Using her in-depth expertise on healthy building materials, indoor environmental quality metrics, and strategic communications, she works with project teams to deliver innovative office spaces that promote health and productivity.

GoGreen: There is a lot of buzz around high performance or “green” building right now. What high performance projects has Google completed recently in the Seattle area/WA state?

Kati Kallins: In 2016 Google open two new buildings and doubled the size of our Kirkland Campus, now totaling over 375,000 square feet. Google leases the space from SRMKII, LLC, who built the new space to Google’s sustainability specifications, including targeting LEED platinum certification.

The new building is on a site that formerly housed a chemical mixing and packaging plant. After completing an environmental cleanup in 2012, Google’s property developer, SRMKII, at Google’s request, conducted a second cleanup to voluntarily surpass state standards and remove all detectable remaining contamination at the property, even small pockets of chemicals, at concentrations safely below state cleanup levels. The Washington Department of Ecology has called the cleanup “cleaner than clean” and plans to remove the area from the state’s contaminated sites list.

The new high performance office buildings in Kirkland are designed with a focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ), efficient resource use, and superior user experience. The new buildings were designed to “bring in the outdoors” because these design features have been proven to improve the health and productivity of occupants. Since people spend 90% of their time indoors this focus is paramount to creating Google’s exciting workplaces. With features like a sky bridge, public park, green roof, vegetative screens, and patios the building achieves Google’s goal to be a vibrant and restorative place to work. A portion of wood used in the office also was harvested from timber felled on-site during construction, so local natural materials can be found throughout.  All interior office furnishings also meet Google’s stringent IEQ Healthy Materials Program that vets building products for health and transparency criteria. The office uses resources efficiently onsite through a rainwater cistern that will reduce potable water use by 76% and a chilled beam HVAC system that will save 55% more energy than a traditional building HVAC system.

GoGreen: How do Google’s goals and values align with its green building strategy?

Kati Kallins: Google has always aspired to be a globally conscious company that is focused on improving the lives of our users and contributing positively to the world’s toughest issues. Doing the right thing and a standard of excellence are part of our fabric at Google – and our green building strategy is an extension of those values.

We work hard to create the healthiest, most productive work environment for our employees. To do that we approach buildings as living systems, designing for natural light and clear air, designing out harmful man-made chemicals, and using natural resources more intelligently. Our approach goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to designing buildings that are sustainable for local and global ecosystems.

We believe that a healthy work environment and a sustainable world begin with transparency and cooperation.  Our focus on creating healthy environments begins with vetting building materials through our Healthy Materials Program.   At Google’s offices worldwide, we put all building products through a rigorous screening process to determine which adhere to our healthy building standards—and we purchase the products that best meet our stringent criteria.

Yet our green building initiatives don’t stop with the building materials in our offices. We make every effort to address the factors that impact people’s experience of indoor environments, such as thermal comfort, daylight and access to views. We also provide aggressive performance benchmarks for energy and water consumption. We use sophisticated building control technologies to ensure systems are on only when we need them. We’ve installed solar electric and solar hot water panels on our roofs, treated water on-site for reuse, and used recycled municipal wastewater for other applications (e.g. toilet flushing and landscape watering). We have the aspirational goal of diverting 99% of construction waste from our projects. Google’s green building strategy is focused on cultivating extraordinary human experiences in the built environment through focusing on the experience of building occupants to optimize health and performance of employees.

GoGreen: Google places a lot of emphasis on helping employees perform at their best. How can small and medium size businesses apply a similar focus to their green building strategies and/or office environments?

Kati Kallins: The strength of Google’s green building program comes from its foundation in our company’s unique philosophy and values. Our initiatives and real estate philosophy are really an extension of our core values as a company. We value our employees as a key part of our success as a company.  So it makes sense that many of our green building initiatives are focused on helping our employees be their best. Our goal as a company is to have happy, healthy, high -performing employees.

For example, at Google our employees work hard to write software code and solve user problems with our products. To help reduce stress in their already chaotic lives we focus on building an office space that improves their health and productivity. For example, research has shown that access to views reduces cortisol levels in the brain (a stress hormone), so we strive to give employees access to daylight and views wherever possible. Our Healthy Materials program also focuses on optimizing indoor air quality by reducing off-gassing materials in the space –  a major health impact for employees. By using water efficient fixtures and purchasing renewable energy for our building operations Google signals our belief in conservation of resources. This is a company principal that many employees take pride in, so the benefits are wide-reaching. Our green building strategy is built around this goal of optimizing the workplace for employees and acting as stewards of the natural ecosystems we live in. This strategy is synonymous with our company culture and aspirations to make the world a better place.

To find out more about sustainability at Google’s Campus Operations, visit their website.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.

 

Green Line Series | Eugene Mayor, Kitty Piercy

In this installment of the Green Line Series we had the opportunity to sit down with Eugene Mayor, Kitty Piercy. This year during GoGreen Portland we will bring together mayors from across the region to discuss the impact being made in their cities to solve environmental challenges and improve the quality of life for all citizens. Read along to find out about initiatives in the environmental movement being made in Eugene.

GoGreen Conference: What caused you to decide that sustainability was a key element of governance that you wanted to focus on?

Mayor Piercy: There has long been interest in sustainability by many here in Eugene, but it tended to focus on environmental protection rather than the triple bottom line. The business community eyed the concept of sustainability warily and often focused on areas of conflict. When I ran for office, I was cautioned by my environmentally-minded friends to stay away from the very word sustainability until after the election. As I talked to people across the political spectrum, I concluded that was wrong. Most of us live here because we love the natural beauty of this place, because we care about the well being of our neighbors and know that all our families need a strong economy with good jobs. I concluded that the bridge across our community was sustainability and an approach to it that, in keeping with our community values, truly embraced the triple bottom line. Early in my administration, I launched the Sustainable Business Initiative—a new task force to help us build a platform of ideas and actions to move this forward. The work of the task force was a critical step, both in terms of bringing a community focus to the idea but also for engaging businesses in developing a credible path to sustainability. I knew it couldn’t be successful without a meaningful partnership between government and business.

GoGreen: In 2014, Eugene City Council took a bold step in adopting the Climate Recovery Ordinance that codifies some ambitious climate action goals for the city. How is this approach different from what other cities are doing and what do you think will be some of the biggest challenges to its implementation?

Mayor Piercy: We’ve committed ourselves to significant greenhouse gas reductions in a way that few others have. By putting our climate action goals into our city code, we’re holding ourselves accountable for reaching them. So it’s not just a matter of creating another plan with aspirational goals, but also committing ourselves to monitoring our progress closely and making adjustments if we’re not on track.

We’re also considering a new goal—one that calls for reaching a safe level of emissions in line with 350 parts per million CO2.  In developing this new target, we recognize that we can’t look to the past for setting our goals but must be informed by what the science tells us is safe for future generations.

These are aggressive goals, and we’ll face a lot of challenges in meeting them. The biggest challenge is overcoming the fear that we can’t get there. We can—we have all kinds of solutions already available to us: renewable energy, electric vehicles and biofuels, energy efficiency and many other technologies and approaches available today. We need to stay committed to this path and be willing to invest now to make these changes possible.

GoGreen: The City of Eugene focuses on three aspects of sustainability – social equity, environmental health, and economic prosperity.  In what ways does the city advance this Triple Bottom Line approach to build a more sustainable city?

Mayor Piercy: Several years ago, we adopted the Triple Bottom Line as a decision-making framework, and we use this as a lens for considering all kinds of choices we make routinely, those involving policy, programs, budgets, investments, etc. So we have a very explicit Triple Bottom Line approach, and this helps us consider all the potential impacts of our choices. We may not always have the luxury to advance all three aspects (environment, equity and economy) simultaneously, but the TBL approach brings a discipline and transparency to the discussion. This thinking has become ingrained in discussions both at Council and in the community—it’s become part of our DNA!

GoGreen: How do you balance your hopes for a sustainable city with some of the other challenges you face, such as homelessness, unemployment, increasing demands on city services, etc.?

Mayor Piercy: Well it certainly isn’t easy, but we have to be opportunistic and leverage all our work to achieve multiple goals. That’s just the reality for local governments today. As policy makers, we are often asked to choose between competing needs and goals. In keeping our library open despite serious budget pressures, we maintain equal access and opportunity for everyone, no matter the income. It is a place even the homeless can utilize, a place one can find job openings and explore arts and culture. We need to integrate sustainability in all that we do, so if we need a new city facility, we make sure it’s the highest energy performer our money can buy. If we need to repave our streets, we take that opportunity to include bike lanes, and so on. It means being intentional and resourceful and keeping our eye on the long game.

Event Details: The eighth annual GoGreen Portland, will take place Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the White Stag Building. Tickets are available at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503-226-2377. Save 30% on tickets with promotional code GREENLINESERIES.

Green Line Series | Deb Hatcher, Founder of A to Z Wineworks

Deb Hatcher

Our latest installment of the Green Line Series digs into the wine industry, sustainable practices and what it takes to become the first Certified B Corporation winery in the world. Deb Hatcher will be joining us at GoGreen Portland in October as a moderator for our closing plenary: Oregon Wine Industry Sustainable Showcase with Wine Tasting where she along with five industry experts will share their know-how as well as some of their delicious wine!

GoGreen Conference: Can you share some of the best practices you have put into action on the business side in the past year?

Deb Hatcher: One of the most exciting developments for us this year is that our Director of Viticulture, Ryan Collins, developed a unique Comprehensive Vineyard Summary we provide to many of our grower partners.  This report has helped us to improve our margin growth, cost controls and quality control by giving an accurate picture of the fruit we receive from their sites.  The summary covers chemistry and quality parameters (measurements of the water or various tannin content, for example), a general assessment of their soil breakdowns and a vineyard management scorecard that measures everything from canopy management to disease severity.  Importantly, they are also able to see how their fruit quality compared to their peers.  This tool is a game changer.

When we purchased REX HILL in 2007, we installed an Integrated financial and inventory system   At the end of 2014, we upgraded to their newest web platform introducing multiple features including an easy to use point of sale system for our tasting room that we helped to develop.  We continued our infrastructure expansion creating more efficiencies and economies of scale by adding 14,000 square feet of production space to be followed by an additional 20,000 square feet next year.   To continue deepening engagement at every level of the company,  we coach new presenters for our national marketing meetings.  At our spring meetings this year, we had 25 individual staff presenters.  These presentations help to build confidence and increase competency as we push authority down the ranks along with increased responsibility.

Last year we became the only certified B Corporation winery in the world.  We are working to help others certify and are pleased to welcome this year additional wineries including two from Oregon.  This year we have also been able to begin to support bee health research.  We added bees to the floral graphics on our Riesling bottle to indicate that we are donating a portion of the sale from every bottle to bee associated research.  We bought some specialized equipment for the Bee Lab at Oregon State University and contributed to Bee Girl’s research at Southern Oregon University into compatible vineyard flora for healthy bee population support.

GoGreen: Which example of sustainable best practices or innovation in the industry really stands out to you as cutting edge and leading the way for other wine businesses to follow?

DH: The Oregon wine industry developed the LIVE Certified Sustainable program for vineyards and wineries.  While being rigorous, LIVE takes a practical approach recognizing that trade-offs are sometimes necessary in agriculture.  For example, if in a wet year an excessive number of tractor passes in the vineyard are required because of mildew pressure, then LIVE allows a winery to improve even more in another area to compensate.  It is important to realize that if a business isn’t economically stable, then any other sustainable practices will be short-lived.  In some cases, growth and size can bring more opportunities for innovation and improvement.  We think more wineries should become LIVE certified and not just vineyards as more change can be made in the winery to not only ensure better quality fruit but also improve the treatment of natural resources and employees.

It also seems time to welcome improved technology which other countries long ago pioneered because they had no agricultural labor force.  Our recycling sprayer captures 98% of any excess spray and eliminates drift.  Our cross flow filter uses dialysis technology to clean the wine without stripping it.  Pulse air technology breaks up the cap in a large fermenter in seven minutes instead of having someone punch it down for an hour and ten minutes.  Finally, using state of the art robotic technology in the field can now deliver individual grapes from the vine to the press in as little as thirty minutes not only improving quality but greatly increasing efficiency.

GoGreen:   You are one of only a handful of wine organizations to be a certified B Corporation. Why did you decide to get certified? How has this certification been beneficial to your business?

DH: As certified Biodynamic farmers, it is a bit like applying Biodynamic principles to business: engage the whole business and examine ways everything is interconnected and serves the greater good.  We are not a “benefit corporation” so we don’t receive tax benefits but we have received media attention and have found more opportunities to inspire others through collaborations with other B Corps.  We hope the changes we made to our legal language, to take into account all stakeholders with our decisions rather than to be required to make the greatest return on investment for shareholders, may offer protection from a possible undesirable purchase.  We are more aware of the importance of documenting all of our practices as well as discovering more best practices.  Finally, it distinguishes us in the marketplace as customers are increasingly concerned with the origins of their food.

We appreciate having third party certification of our practices every two years.  Objective, documented measurements give us a legitimate way to measure our improvement and authenticate that we are being a force for good. Until our B Corp certification, we had few ways beyond modeling best practices that didn’t seem boastful to try to inspire other companies to review and improve the effect of their established ways on their staff, their community and the environment.


Event Details: The eighth annual GoGreen Portland, will take place Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the White Stag Building. Tickets are available at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503-226-2377. Save 30% on tickets with promotional code GREENLINESERIES.

Green Line Series | Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Director of Community Affairs, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

In the first GreIbrahim Abdul-Matinen Lines Series interview for GoGreen Portland we had  the chance to connect with Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Director of Community Affairs, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, a passionate voice for transforming our pollution-based way of life to one that prioritizes our planet and its people for over 15 years.

Raised between Brooklyn and rural Upstate NY, Ibrahim appreciated environment and sustainability at an early age. His father, a devout Muslim, taught 5-year-old Ibrahim that the “Earth is a mosque,” that every inch of the planet is sacred and to be protected. Ibrahim retells this moving story in his Amazon Environmental Bestseller, “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet,” a one-of-a-kind expose of the positive contributions of people of faith to the environmental and environmental justice movements. Completely committed to making his birth city into a global leader of environmental policy and practice, Ibrahim has been in several civil service roles since 2001. He advised former Mayor Michael Bloomberg on PlaNYC — the City’s sustainability blueprint and he currently directs Community Affairs at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Ibrahim’s head is all policy; his heart is all organizing. He merges the two consistently, bringing marginalized communities into City Hall conversations. Ibrahim can be heard on WNYC and WBAI and seen on Al Jazeera, AriseTV, and ABC News.

GoGreen Conference: Tell us about yourself – what is your background and how did you get to where you are today as a leader in sustainability, equity, and social change?

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin: I got where I am today because I could pursue my interests in race and class dynamics, the excesses of consumption, how we treat the planet and how we collectively made decisions without having to worry about paying back college debt. I had a full football scholarship. When I graduated I gravitated towards work that was fulfilling and not just what I needed to do to pay the bills.

GoGreen: Your father taught you that the “Earth is a mosque” and the planet should be treated as a sacred and protected space. How has this statement influenced both your professional career, but also your personal habits and practices?

IAM: My father was quoting the Hadith – or a saying of the Prophet Muhammad who, in my humble opinion, was a freedom fighter and an environmentalist. I try to stay as anchored to those reminders in both my professional and personal life as possible.

GoGreen: What have been the biggest obstacles facing sustainable practices and making them a habit for the city of NY? How have these obstacles been faced and over come?

IAM: We have a lot of work to do. We think we are the greatest at everything in NYC. I think our biggest obstacle is living up to that but i also think that we make progress everyday.

Find out more about Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on his personal website.

Event Details: The eighth annual GoGreen Portland, will take place Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the White Stag Building. Tickets are available at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503-226-2377. Save 30% on tickets with promotional code GREENLINESERIES.

Green Line Series | Virginia Mason and the Washington State Climate Declaration

Katerie ChapmanOn this installment of the Green Line Series we had the opportunity to interview Katerie Chapman, Senior Vice President and Hospital Administrator, Virginia Mason Medical Center from the plenary session Washington Businesses Call for Climate Action. Read along to find out more about Virginia Mason’s commitment to better environmental practices and their leadership in climate action.

GoGreen Conference: Why did Virginia Mason sign the Washington State Climate Declaration in 2014?

Katerie Chapman: Virginia Mason did more than sign the declaration — we chaired the team that  developed the Washington State Climate Declaration.  We led the effort in Washington state because climate change impacts human health significantly.  Not only is it a risk to health, but climate change is forecast to have major impacts on Washington state’s economy.  Embracing clean energy and technology provides an opportunity to respond to climate change while growing Washington state’s business sector.  By acting on climate, we can protect our region’s health and keep the economy growing.

GG: What is the biggest opportunity/challenge that climate change presents for Virginia Mason?
KC: Our biggest carbon emissions relate to our energy use. Our hospital is one of the most energy efficient in the country and we have achieved Energy Star ratings for three years in a row.  We have been working on reducing our energy use and running our buildings more efficiently since the 1990s.  We have a culture of innovation, so this is a natural process for us.

The big challenge with climate change will come when we see its effects on our patients expand.  Over the next decade, we anticipate seeing more respiratory issues and heat stress due to high heat days and wildfires.  We are leading on climate to ultimately help reduce the impacts of climate change, and our team will be ready to respond for our patients.

GG: How has Virginia Mason’s vision and strategic planning evolved in response to climate change?
KC: Virginia Mason was honored to participate in the Health Care Climate Resilience Roundtable at the White House. During that discussion, the White House highlighted President Obama’s plan to create resilient and sustainable hospitals.  As a result of the meeting, the National Institutes of Health created a toolkit for assessing health care climate resilience.  We were the only health care organization in the Pacific Northwest to test the toolkit prior to the roll-out. The tool kit gave us some “ah-ha” moments. For example, we realized we are not necessarily sizing our HVAC systems for the additional high-heat days that are forecast due to climate change.

GG: Can you describe how Virginia Mason has implemented programs to engage employees with sustainability efforts?
KC: In 2002, we implemented our own “lean” or “kaizen” program by adapting the Toyota Production System to health care.  The resulting Virginia Mason Production System is fully integrated into Virginia Mason’s culture.  Employee engagement and respect for people are at the core of the production system, which empowers employees to facilitate process improvement.

Our focused commitment to quality extends to environmental sustainability.  Sustainability is  integrated into our everyday work along with patient safety and other organizational process improvements.  One simple way that employees can engage in process improvement in their department is through our online “Everyday Lean Idea” system.  Employees enter ideas into the system where they are tracked from testing to refinement and full implementation.  We have a “green idea” category for sustainability ideas, and these “Everyday Lean and Green Ideas” are shared across the organization. Another way employees are engaged is through Kaizen Events, during which a team of employees work together to create solutions to a problem or opportunity.  Kaizen Events have included sustainability topics like hospital pharmaceutical waste management and missioning supplies from the OR.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.  Single Admission Tickets are $195 and Group Rate Tickets are $175 (groups of two or more).  Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.