According to the World Health Organization, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025.1 Access to clean water sources is essential for health, and we steward these natural assets by reducing our water use, preserving water quality and responsibly managing stormwater and wastewater.
1World Health Organization, “Drinking Water,” 2021, accessed 10 May 2021, who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water
Conserving water reduces the need to divert water from local sources, as well as the energy required to transport, heat and clean water. In 2017, we set a goal to reduce our water use intensity by 10% from our 2016 baseline by 2027. Our water conservation strategies include green building design, landscaping and caregiver engagement.
Our water use per square foot increased by 3% in 2021 compared to 2020, largely due to resuming more typical operations during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2016, we have reduced our water use per square foot by 11% and will explore setting a new water reduction goal in 2022.
Use and Management
We consciously include water conservation measures in the design of new facilities by building to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for new construction. Initiatives include the installation of high efficiency fixtures, equipment and irrigation systems. We also install low-flow faucets, toilets and showers in our facilities where feasible, and fixtures with motion sensors. To conserve water used in landscaping, we implement measures such as rainwater collection, high-efficiency sprinkler systems with moisture sensors and drought-tolerant vegetation.
We also work to reduce the amount of stormwater and wastewater entering sewer systems and waterways from our properties by:
- Installing rain gardens with native plants, pervious pavers, detention ponds and other stormwater management infrastructure.
- Increasing green space and decreasing impervious surface area.
- Consolidating impervious area used for parking via parking garages at our main campus and several regional hospitals.
- Supporting our green teams in creating and maintaining pollinator, rain, produce and other types of gardens.
We have robust waste management programs to prevent hazardous materials from entering local watersheds. Through our Green Cleaning Directive and Integrated Pest Management Operating Procedure, we have streamlined the number of chemicals we use and prioritize chemicals that are safer for human and environmental health in our operations. To ensure caregivers know how to safely identify and handle chemicals, we provide training to all caregivers on safe chemical management practices and accessing Material Safety Data Sheets. We also seek to minimize the use of chemicals in our landscaping and prioritize greener chemical applications where necessary.
Caregiver engagement is core to all of our resource efficiency programs. Through Connect Today—a caregiver learning and collaboration platform—we created a sustainability community with resources and engagement opportunities to encourage caregivers to lead more sustainable lifestyles at work, at home and in their communities. The Sustainability Connect Today community includes a link to our service request platform where caregivers can report leaks, as well as information on how to join our green teams and committees, which share and promote water-saving behaviors across the enterprise.
In 2021, we added the following content to engage caregivers in water stewardship:
- World Water Day and World Oceans Day calendar events, which included ways caregivers could take action and celebrate on those days.
- Event listings for local community events focused on river revitalization and equitable access to lakefront parks.
- A link to a water footprint calculator to help caregivers understand their greatest areas of impact and opportunity related to water use.
- Updates to guides to empower caregivers to conserve water and protect water quality at work and at home.
Another way we engaged caregivers in water efficiency efforts in 2021 was through our Energy Treasure Hunts (ETHs) at Hillcrest, Euclid, Akron General and Avon hospitals. In addition to asking ETH teams to identify low- and no-cost energy savings opportunities, we tasked these cross-functional teams with finding water efficiency opportunities during their facility walkthroughs. ETH teams found opportunities related to metering, low-flow fixtures, chillers and more.
Drug take-back program
Through our drug take-back program, we support community health and water quality by reducing opportunities for illegal diversion and disposal of unused medications. Cleveland Clinic offers 17 drop off locations that are available during regular pharmacy operating hours where caregivers, patients and visitors can drop off unused prescription medications (including inhalers), over-the-counter medications and other drugs.
Medication disposal kiosks are available at the following Cleveland Clinic locations:
- Akron General Medical Central.
- Beachwood Family Health Center.
- Children’s Hospital Pharmacy (main campus).
- Crile Pharmacy (main campus).
- Euclid Avenue Pharmacy (main campus).
- Fairview Hospital.
- Hillcrest Hospital.
- Independence Family Health Center.
- Lutheran Hospital.
- Marymount Hospital.
- Medina Hospital.
- Richard E. Jacobs Family Health Center.
- Stephanie Tubbs Jones.
- Taussig Outpatient Pharmacy (main campus).
- Twinsburg Family Health Center.
- Union Hospital.
- Weston Hospital.
To ensure confidentiality, we shred all prescription bottles with labels. In 2021, Cleveland Clinic pharmacies collected more than 3,600 pounds of unused medications through this program.