Developing a Green Team is Key to Your Energy to Care Success

Tip #17

By David Lockhart, CHFM, CEM, SASHE, Support Services Administrator, Roseville Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente

Greetings, and thank you for taking the time to read my Tip of the Month, which I believe will be an essential element to your success in obtaining and maintaining an Energy Star certification.

As part of our national celebration of Earth Day on April 22, my Tip of The Month highlights the importance of developing a Green or Sustainability Team at your facility to assist in your quest to obtain the Energy Star certification. Back in 2012, it was not until we assembled our facility Green Team that we made the necessary progress to reach the Energy Star certification the following year.

Assembling and engaging knowledgeable and passionate staff to be a part of your Green Team is truly the key to making a difference when it comes to your energy and sustainability performance. In this tip, I’ll share who those team members should be, what tools and information you can use, and finally, vital activities and programs you can execute to ignite your entire facility on the path to Energy Star certification.

A successful Green Team is made possible by bringing together leaders who can help you remove barriers, communicate your message and assist you with validating your savings. The individuals you select should be people at the forefront who are passionate about doing what is right for our planet. Let’s start at the top: you need to recruit your CEO or COO as your lead sponsor. Choosing a well-recognized leader as your sponsor demonstrates to all staff how important your mission is. These C-suite members can also help you move barriers when challenges present themselves, because believe me – the challenges will come.

The next person you need to play a role on your Green Team is your CFO or one of their direct reports. As your program begins to reveal savings opportunities, you will want finance to validate your savings; but, more importantly, you want your financial leader to see all of the available opportunities firsthand and support reinvesting at least 50 cents of every savings dollar into more savings opportunities. For your Green Team to sustain their success over time, some investments will need to be made.

Next up, your team should include a project or construction manager. This person plays a crucial role in helping you implement small projects that will reap energy savings payback, usually in under one to two years. Also, it is important that this person has an understanding of future projects and the role energy performance plays in each of them, as well as the ability to communicate these future projects to the Green Team. Almost every project should have an energy goal attached.

Another essential person on your Green Team is your communications/public affairs leader. It will be important that everyone – all staff, but also your members and community – knows about your Green Team’s great work and successes. Sustainability performance improvement is just as important as care experience scores for our members to hear about. You will want your expert communications team to help you spread that message and motivate your organization.

Last is one of the most important tips for your Green Team’s success: invite as many passionate frontline staff as you have to participate on your Team. I guarantee you have nurses, doctors, housekeepers, security officers, administrative staff and many others in almost every department at your facility who live and breathe sustainability. They do it in their homes but have never been empowered to do it at work. These folks see the waste every day, on every shift, and they will provide you with the resources you need to make a difference. Yes, some people may come to you with unrealistic ideas and ideas you will not be able to implement, but I promise you – most will bring you amazing ideas along with most or all of the labor and support you will need to make things happen.   

Okay, so what’s your first step? Your first step is to reserve your largest conference room or outside assembly area and invite the facility to a brown bag “Lunch and Learn,” which will be your kickoff Green Team meeting. This first step is crucial, because it commits you to the team and its goals. Your next step is to gather your data and tools and set your agenda for the meeting.

As you build your agenda, it will be important for you to understand where your facility currently stands when it comes to energy and sustainability performance. What is your Energy Star score? Do you have a recycling program? Use both topics as baseline and as drivers for your key performance indicators as you develop your goals. I highly recommend that you focus on your energy performance first, as this provides easy and early wins and can help pay for other programs as the savings begin to stack up. Next, review all the tools, resources and information that is available on the ASHE Energy to Care website. Review the Sustainability Road Map and anything else you can find that will help you communicate your message and engage your new green team. This kickoff meeting should be designed to communicate your intentions of activating a Green Team and empowering staff to make a difference. Your actual Green Team should be a small group that properly represents your leadership as well as your frontline staff, teams and/or departments. I recommend monthly meetings with the smaller green team and semi-annual meetings or other communication methods to share your progress and activities with others.

Your newly formed Green Team will not have to move this program all on their own, though! Reach out to ASHE and invite their assistance with a facility Treasure Hunt: I’ve been on two so far and the results and education are phenomenal. This is the perfect program to start your team off on the right foot. Also available to help is your electric utility provider. Chances are they have programs and rebates that can help you get started, like bringing in experts in retro commissioning or educating your project team on rebates and other savings opportunities. Lastly, read the many success stories ASHE has published to get more ideas on how you can execute similar steps and activities.

In closing, I want you to hear this more than anything that I said above: just do it and have fun. Energy savings and sustainability are not hard work, they are the right work. When you bring together passionate people who want to do what is right, the work is not hard, the work feels good. You do not need to know it all nor have all the right answers, all you need to do is facilitate and provide some tools and guidance. Believe me, we have all the tools and guidance to help you succeed.

Happy Earth Day!

About the Author

David LockhartAfter serving four years in the U.S. Navy as an electrician and eight years in the power generation industry, Dave joined Kaiser Permanente. Over his 27 years with the organization, Dave has worked at every level of facility operations and has been involved with opening, operating, expanding and improving facilities. Dave has a certificate in Industrial Electricity, an associate degree in Mechanical Electrical Technologies, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State in Vocational Education. Dave holds certifications in health care facility management from the American Hospital Association, and is a Certified Energy Manger (CEM®). Dave sits on the Board for both the American Society for Health Care Engineering and its state chapter in California. Dave is the Energy to Care Liaison for both associations and has led many teams to Energy Star Certifications. Dave is currently leading a group of health care teams on the education and implementation of Reliability Centered Maintenance in the health care industry.

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