Day 8: St. Mary’s Goes Green—Even in the Snow!

“In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

The Great Law of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy

In 1990, SSM Health Care system Chair and CEO Sister Mary Jean Ryan required every SSM facility, including St. Mary’s in Madison, to establish a Preservation of the Earth (POE) Committee. She was inspired to act by her congregation’s commitment to nonviolence and a photo she had seen of a polluted harbor. She not only established the POE Committees but also banned the use of Styrofoam cups throughout the system—SSM’s first step in taking better care of the earth. “We have learned that we cannot apply the most advanced medical technology to cure people’s illnesses and then send them home to heal in an unhealthy environment,” Sister Mary Jean said.

St. Mary’s Hospital has launched many environmental initiatives, particularly during the first decade of the 21st century. As part of a major construction project begun in 2005, the hospital planned, preserved and recycled for the benefit of the environment by:

  • Using wood from the trees that were in the hospital’s front yard on Brooks Street as architectural elements and furniture.
  • Planning more green space and “pocket parks” for the enjoyment of patients and their visitors.
  • Recycling 63 percent of the materials previously on the 2.7-acre project site.

In 2008, St. Mary’s banned the sale and distribution of plastic bottles from the hospital.  Three years later, plastic soda and juice bottles were banned, too.  Since aluminum and glass are more readily recycled than plastic, these hospital policies would help the environment by keeping plastic out of the landfills.

In 2010, St. Mary’s also went green by addressing several snow-related problems. Faced with inconvenient snow piles, unsightly silt, contaminants seeping into storm drains and lakes, and the aftermath of snowfall often requiring dump trucks to transfer snow to another location, St. Mary’s Plant Services began melting snow on-site through a new process that provided both aesthetic and environmental benefits. Loaded into a specialized bin brought to the site, snow is sprayed with hot water to melt. Oil and other non-soluble products are extracted, and silt particles are filtered out before the clean, melted snow is diverted to a storm drain. As a result, the dirty snowmelt doesn’t reach the lakes. The process also eliminates the need for trucking, providing further environmental benefits.

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