Hackensack University Medical Center ‘s Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® Promotes Community Wellness, Sustainability, and Environmental Health

November 12, 2019

The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, which was established in 2001 at Hackensack University Medical Center, is fulfilling its mission to identify and control toxins in and around our environment and helping to improve community health and well-being through a variety of sustainability and environmental health initiatives — both at Hackensack University Medical Center and in the surrounding community.

Sustainability Efforts at Hackensack University Medical Center

In 2019, Hackensack University Medical Center received recognition as a Practice Greenhealth Top 25 Green Hospital for the sixth consecutive year, bolstering its reputation as one of the most environmentally friendly hospitals in the country.

“We know that the healthcare industry has a big impact on the environment, so it’s important for the future of our children to implement sustainable practices wherever we can,” said Deirdre Imus, Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®.

Hackensack University Medical Center’s Green Team, which is made up of more than 200 volunteer Green Team champions across various hospital departments, including Nutrition and Food Management, Plant Operations and Environmental Services, has been instrumental in helping the hospital take a holistic approach to environmental excellence.

“Our Green Team champions are our feet on the ground on the Hackensack University Medical Center campus.  They help identify sustainability issues and make suggestions about improvements in a variety of areas,” said Bonnie Eskenazi, Managing Director of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®.

Sustainability initiatives on campus include:

Healthier dining options, such as plant-based meals and antibiotic-free meats

Reducing sugar sweetened beverages

Use of low-toxicity chemicals and cleaning products

Availability of electric vehicle (EV) chargers on campus

Implementation of energy- and waste-reduction programs

Use of zero-VOC interior paint

Sustainability education as part of the new team member onboarding process

Hackensack University Medical Center also has strong executive support for its sustainability initiatives.

“Everyone at Hackensack University Medical Center — from our Green Team champions to our executive leadership — is working together to create a culture of sustainability on campus” said Kyle Tafuri, Director of Sustainability at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®.

Honeybees Benefit Local Food Supply

The honeybee population, which plays a vital role in pollinating plants that produce the food we eat, is declining worldwide. To help boost the number of honeybees in Hackensack and the surrounding communities — as well as improve pollination of local plants — Hackensack University Medical Center has installed honeybees in hives located on the rooftop of a building on campus.

Because bees can fly up to two miles away from their hives, pollinating plants in gardens, fields, and wetland areas, their presence contributes to the diversity, color, and flavor of foods grown and consumed in this region. Additionally, the honeybees produce amazing honey, which is harvested and used as part of team member recognition, in our campus community cooking kitchens and educational efforts.

Creating a Healthier Community

Under the umbrella of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, Hackensack University Medical Center team members partner with several community organizations to assist with environmental health and sustainability initiatives, including:

Community Farm Stand at HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Center

At Hackensack University Medical Center, we encourage eating whole, minimally processed local foods that are healthy for us and sustainable for our planet. From June through October, we partnered with a local farmer to bring fresh vegetables, fruit and the now popular micro greens to our community.

River Cleanup Program

In partnership with the non-profit environmental group Hackensack Riverkeeper, summer interns from Hackensack University Medical Center’s University Relations program and members of the medical center’s Green Team engaged in river and community cleanup efforts.

Community Garden Program

Hackensack University Medical Center team members from several departments volunteered their time and got their hands dirty by planting, maintaining, and harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers in sponsored grow boxes at the City of Hackensack’s Community Garden. All produce was donated to the Center for Food Action in Hackensack. Through this unique partnership, Hackensack University Medical Center’s team members did more than grow vegetables; they also developed and strengthened relationships with members of the community.

“At Hackensack University Medical Center, we understand the connection between human health and a healthy environment,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, President and Chief Hospital Executive at Hackensack University Medical Center and Executive Vice President of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health. “Through our participation in community-based environmental and sustainability projects in partnership with organizations such as Hackensack Community Garden and Hackensack Riverkeeper, we can connect with the people we serve and do out part to create a healthier environment for members of our community.”

About The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®

The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center represents one of the first hospital-based programs whose mission is to identify, control and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten our children’s health. Since 2001, the Center has helped Hackensack University Medical Center become one of the first hospitals in the country to implement green cleaning practices, which was just the beginning of their sustainable journey.

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