seeing green

How this Houston hospital is leading sustainable health care

Houston Methodist has several ongoing and future initiatives dedicated to reducing the hospital system's carbon footprint. Photo via HoustonMethodist.org

The United States health care sector contributes around 8.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and one Houston hospital is committed to doing its part in reducing the industry's carbon footprint.

Houston Methodist, which recently opened a new tech hub in the Ion in midtown, has put in place several initiatives that reflect a more sustainable future for health care. The organization, which has seven hospitals in the Houston area, revealed some of these ongoing and planned projects at a recent event.

"Houston Methodist is always looking ahead on ways — not only of how we are taking care of patients — but what are we doing to create this environment and making the right efforts for sustainability, which we should all be doing," Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We have to protect this environment that we have or it may not be the same for our children going forward."

The hospital system is currently in the design phase for installing solar panels on the Josie Roberts Administration Building in the Texas Medical Center. This project, in partnership with Houston Methodist's Energy and Facilities workgroup, will be the first step toward renewable energy consumption for the hospital.

Houston Methodist has already rolled out food composting initiatives at its locations in Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and Willowbrook locations — with plans for additional campuses to follow. According to a presentation from Jason Fischer, director of the Office of Sustainability at Methodist, the hospital system has already diverted nearly 100,000 lbs. of food waste from landfills.

Preventing waste recycling or reusing items is another focus of Houston Methodist, Stansbury says, from creating a workflow that enables reusing items that are able to be sanitized rather than thrown away to sustainably getting rid of expired materials. The U.S. has rules about the shelf lives of health care products, but other countries don't have as strict of mandates.

"We're sending (supplies) to other countries that can still use these products," Stansbury explains. "Knowing that we're helping to care for other individuals, to me I think it's very valuable. Other countries don't have the resources that the United States does."

Another notable initiative is incorporating greenspace for patients to enjoy. Houston Methodist is currently in construction on a 26-story hospital tower in the Texas Medical Center that will feature the Centennial Rooftop Garden on the 14th floor.

The Houston Methodist's sustainability team has several other initiatives both ongoing and in the works. More information is available on the hospital's website.

Centennial Tower’s 14th floor will feature an outdoor rooftop garden. Rendering courtesy of Houston Methodist

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A View From HETI

Grace Rodriguez (left) and Juliana Garaizar have partnered up — along with their teams — to collaborate on the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab. Photos courtesy

A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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