Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO, progressive pediatrics blog

Children's health isn't the only health we're working on. Meet our sustainability expert, Denise Deutsch.

Almost 9% of carbon emissions in the United States are generated by the health care industry. It makes sense when you think about it. Hospitals are big buildings and they’re open 24/7. They need a lot of electricity, heating and cooling. They use a lot of goods and supplies that are trucked in from all over.  

The negative effect hospitals have on the environment eventually ends up affecting people’s health. So, it’s imperative that health systems reduce their environmental impact.  

At Children’s Minnesota, this work is led by our Environmental Sustainability Program Manager Denise Deutsch. Here’s Denise to tell you a bit about herself and how Children’s Minnesota is getting greener. 

In Denise Deutsch’s words

I grew up on a farm outside of Hastings, Minnesota, and being green was just an everyday thing. We hung our clothes outside to dry. We grew a lot of our own food and were careful not to waste it.  

It was an eye-opening experience when I went to college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and saw how different it was, how much food was wasted back then and how people in general weren’t really thinking about sustainability. 

I graduated with an environmental engineering degree and have since worked in the environmental, health and safety field. It’s so exciting to me that sustainability topics are finally becoming mainstream, and other people are passionate about the work as well!   

Denise with her two sons
Denise enjoying the outdoors with her sons Maximus and Jackson

Where we are now

I came to Children’s Minnesota in January 2020 and last year I officially became the environmental sustainability program manager. But I don’t do this work alone. Our Children’s Minnesota green team is made up of a wide range of people from across the organization. We meet monthly and are working to embed sustainability into all our Children’s Minnesota initiatives. 

When I arrived, we already had programs for recycling and conserving water. We changed fluorescent lightbulbs to LED to save energy. We have a food-to-hog program where cafeteria leftovers go to farmers to feed their animals. We use cloth isolation gowns instead of disposable paper ones. 

In fact, a big challenge in health care is that a lot of our goods are disposable because we need to prevent infection. One thing I’m proud of is how we’re reusing some surgical instruments and pulse oximeters instead of throwing them away. We send them back to our vendor for reprocessing; then we buy them back at a lower rate to reuse them. Since April 2022, we’ve saved 2,113 pounds of instruments and pulse oximeters from going into a landfill, which equals about $390 saved by reusing instead of buying new. We’re reducing our environmental impact AND saving money at the same time! 

Where we’re going  

Now we’re taking our sustainability work even further. I’m happy to say that in February 2023 we became members of Practice Greenhealth, an organization that helps health care facilities create and meet sustainability goals. Practice Greenhealth has cohorts comprised of environmentally-conscience representatives from health care systems across the country that focus on different sustainability areas: procurement, energy, water, waste. We participate in these cohorts to share and learn ways to become more sustainable. Practice Greenhealth is also helping us calculate what our current emissions are and how we can create goals to reduce those emissions moving forward.  

What you can do

  • Do you use plastic utensils at work? Bring your own utensils from home.  
  • Bring your own coffee mug and water bottle instead of using disposable ones.  
  • Is there a more sustainable way for you to get to work? Consider carpooling or taking public transportation. 
  • Be a voice for sustainability. Speak up if you see something that’s not good for the environment.  

The tagline on my email is “Make every day Earth Day!” Each of us as individuals can make a difference, every day. 

Marc Gorelick, president and CEO

Marc Gorelick, MD
President, chief executive officer

Marc Gorelick, MD, is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Children's Minnesota. He is deeply committed to advocacy issues that impact children's health, sustainability and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Julianna Olsen