Ask the Expert: Kristian Henderson-Hayes on Sustainability

Kristian Hayes

Kristian Henderson-Hayes, former assistant director of general services at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, shares insight and updates on sustainability measures, past and present, at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Find out what is being done to win the race against waste and submit your questions for Henderson-Hayes to answer in today's Ask the Expert.


Why did sustainability become a focus for the hospital and health system? What influenced you to become involved?

The Johns Hopkins Sustainability Network is the network of students, staff and faculty who are committed to promoting sustainability in their operations and among the larger Johns Hopkins community. As a system, Johns Hopkins understands sustainability as the collection of smart and responsible actions that prioritize people, natural resources, and finances to safeguard the health of future generations. By following the ideals of “First Do No Harm,” we have fostered a culture change by implementing multi-disciplinary initiatives, communicating our success, and sharing best practices to help continue to reduce environmental impacts and to provide for our patients, employees, and local communities.

What has Johns Hopkins done over the past several years to be more environmentally friendly?

There are a variety of ways The Johns Hopkins Hospital has adopted more environmentally friendly initiatives based on reducing negative impacts to the environment and providing healthier options for patients, visitors, and staff. To name a few:

  • Implemented an integrated waste stream solution that focuses on increasing recycling and reducing regulated medical waste (since 2011, we reduced annual generation of regulated medical waste by 57 percent).
  • Introduced a variety of healthier food options for our patients and guests.
  • Implementing meatless Mondays and procuring antibiotic free meats in hospital eateries (currently 60 percent of total meat purchases are antibiotic free).
  • Collaborated with local farmers for our weekly farmers market to try to alleviate some negative impacts of the food industry.
  • Reduced overall sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Utilized construction methods to build to LEED standards. The Nelson/Harvey building is currently under review by Baltimore City’s Green Stars program (the equivalent of LEED Silver).
  • Introduced a 65,000-square-foot green roof to help reduce effects of water runoff.
  • Invested in cogeneration technology to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons in FY14.

How have our sustainability efforts helped our patient care?

Sustainability is specifically aligned with the People and Performance pillars of the Johns Hopkins Medicine strategic plan. In order to reduce current and future health care costs, we focus on our patient, visitors, and employees. The Johns Hopkins Hospital strives to reduce unnecessary exposures by purchasing and applying less harmful chemicals through purchasing supplies and equipment. Some patients and staff are very sensitive to cleaning chemicals typically used in hospitals to clean and disinfect, which may trigger respiratory distress . By utilizing green seal-certified general purpose cleaners when able, we are reducing overall exposure to harmful chemicals. Additionally, use of UV disinfection equipment removes airborne bacteria and viruses, and microfiber mops have reduced overall chemical and water use.

Focusing on foods served in the hospital enables us to offer healthier options while reducing our overall environmental impacts. Reducing the amount of meat served in hospitals provides health, social, and environmental benefits that are consistent with prevention-based medicine. Hospitals can deliver an important preventive health message to patients, staff, and communities by reducing the amount of meat and poultry they serve and by purchasing more sustainably-produced, healthier meats as an alternative. The Johns Hopkins Hospital took a multi-tiered approach, examining all menus to see where meat options could be reduced, increasing vegetarian entrée offerings and implementing a meatless Monday program. The hospital has introduced new sustainable meat products, produced without the routine use of antibiotics. We are also collaborating with distributors and local producers and emphasizing the need for more sustainable meat products on a weekly delivery schedule. Over 60 percent of the meat served at is antibiotic-free, all eggs used are cage-free, and 100 percent of seafood is sustainably-produced.

Of the many measures taken by Johns Hopkins to improve sustainability, which do you think has been the most impactful or successful? Why?

The hospital's operating room (OR) has continued to excel in environmental excellence with the support of the OR Green Team, who has helped segregate recyclables, municipal solid waste and regulated medical waste. Specifically in the OR we collected 5 tons of OR devices for reprocessing. By utilizing a fluid management systems we saved $30,000 on one-time-use supplies such as canisters and solidifier last year alone. With this technology we avoided 10 tons of waste, which otherwise would have been sent as regulated medical waste, a waste stream that’s often 5 times more expensive to dispose of than municipal solid waste. In order to reduce energy consumption, more than 50 percent of our ORs are equipped with LED lighting and more than 85 percent of our ORs have HVAC setback that reduce air exchange per hour when rooms are unoccupied.

What are some ways employees can personally contribute to Johns Hopkins’ sustainability goals?

The first step for employees to personally contribute is to “know where to throw.”

  • All confidential and non-confidential paper should go into Nexcut bins to be shredded and then recycled.
  • All bottles and cans should go into green recycle bins.
  • For more information on our specialty recycling programs such as batteries, eye glasses, furniture, and writing utensils please contact

The monthly Johns Hopkins Hospital Green Team meeting is held at 12 noon on the second Wednesday of each month. This meeting is open to any and all Johns Hopkins Medicine employees to discuss current and future sustainable programs specific at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. We coordinate guest speakers such as the sustainable partners, our own Wellnet group, Re-form, MD Farmers Market Association, and many more to continue building upon our already multi-disciplinary approach to sustainability.

Another recent program is the Green Office Certification program, a simple 10-minute questionnaire to highlight the sustainable programs currently in place in your individual office. This past week for Earth Week Mr. Peterson awarded the three certified offices. Click here to learn how your office could be the next certified office in November in celebration for America Recycles Day.

Dramatically reducing the amount of regulated medical waste was a huge achievement for the hospital. What are some other goals the hospital and health system is working toward?

A host of successful projects, including presenting at new employee orientation to highlight our organizational sustainability goals, implement regulated medical waste reduction program, recycling over 13 streams, Styrofoam reduction, spreading awareness of impacts of anesthetic gases, zip cars and a farmers market, has earned The Johns Hopkins Hospital their first award from Practice Greenhealth in 2014.

Our goals for FY2015 include applying for additional environmental excellence awards, finalizing our environmental sustainable policy, increase healthy beverages by 20 percent compared to FY14, and continue to spread awareness to continue to fuel the culture change of integrating sustainability into our daily operations throughout the hospital.

If you have any questions or interested to learn more about our sustainable programs, please contact



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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }


dale deyoung April 29, 2015 at 8:53 am

I left a message for you & emailed you about 2 months ago about either finding the nearest recycle bin for batteries & pens or getting one put in our building & have not heard back. thanks


Kristian H April 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

Hi Dale! I am glad that you are interested in recycling. Please email and they can provide you with a battery recycling container. I am sorry that we did not get one to you sooner!


Sustainable April 29, 2015 at 9:39 am

Hi Dale, great questions and I apologize for the delay.

We recycle both batteries and pens onsite, however we do not have specific containers for these recycling streams. While visiting offices, we promote the reuse of empty bins or boxes with a simple label to collect these items. When you need a pickup simple email a request with your location to and we'll happily collect them for recycling.

If you're interested in having one of our representatives meet with you to setup an ideal recycling center for your office we'll be available tomorrow between 11-1pm please send your office location and availability to to set up a tour.


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