They may not be treading lightly, but hospitals are starting to move a bit faster to reduce their carbon footprints. The improvements aren't all about saving the planet, though. More organizations are finding measurable ways to reap financial savings as well.

Cost savings was the No. 1 factor cited for influencing whether a facility opts for environmentally sustainable operations, according to a survey recently conducted by Trustee's sister publication Health Facilities Management. Organizations are incorporating greener ways of operating into such core areas as energy, water, waste and cleaning.

Some of the greatest progress has come in energy cost savings, though organizations also are seeing payoffs in recycling, waste management, and innovative cleaning methods.

That is a far cry from the prevailing skepticism of just a few years ago. George A. Smith, corporate director of facilities for Catholic Health Initiatives and president-elect of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, recalls the reluctance of other facilities professionals when the original Green Guidelines for Healthcare Construction were being developed. He remembers sitting at conference tables and hearing such comments as, "It's not going to happen," "Costs are just too high," and "Leadership is not seeing this as important."

Despite the growing acceptance, survey results underscore that sustainability gains are not universal. A large number of hospitals still do not monitor their energy performance, measure water usage or participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.

Dale Woodin, executive director of ASHE, says leaders need to be made aware of the total benefits of embracing an environmental strategy. However, only 37 percent of respondents said their facility includes performance metrics for sustainability in its senior management dashboard.

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