Sustainability at Memorial Sloan Kettering

Sustainability at Memorial Sloan Kettering

Man at Memorial Sloan Kettering Lab Medicine building

Healthcare facilities are the center of service delivery, treating patients, protecting health, and saving lives. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), we also understand the importance of limiting our carbon emissions; energy and water use; hazardous, regulated, and solid waste generation; and supply chain impacts to establish a healthy environment and create the conditions for healthy people and communities.

As MSK’s footprint and access to care has rapidly grown, strategic efforts have been continuously undertaken to integrate sustainable best practices to minimize the impacts of our patient care and research operations. Dedicated sustainability efforts are embedded throughout MSK. Our commitments and investments work to advance our vision for sustainable healthcare to lead and innovate sustainable practices with an environmental, a social, and an economic benefit for our patients, staff, and community in support of MSK’s mission to pursue excellence in the care and cure for cancer.

2023 Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award
We have been recognized for our industry leadership, innovations, and commitments to implement sustainable best practices in healthcare throughout MSK. We have earned more than 60 environmental excellence and sustainability-related awards over the past decade, including the latest receipt of the 2023 Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth. This award identifies us as one of the country’s top 25 hospitals in terms of sustainability practices. We have also achieved the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for eight individual MSK locations.

We are dedicated to fostering a culture of sustainability across MSK though the following elements of our Sustainability program framework:

  • Climate Action and Resilience
  • Energy Management
  • Water Reduction
  • Waste Management/Reduction
  • Sustainable Procurement
  • Green Building and Healthy Interiors
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Stakeholder/Staff Engagement
Climate Action and Resilience

CDC Climate and Health Infographic
Warming temperatures, extreme weather, rising sea levels, and increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are taking their toll on human health and devastating communities globally. Healthcare is at the front line of climate change, bearing the costs of increased diseases and more frequent extreme weather events. MSK aims to reduce our climate impacts to protect public and global health. We work collaboratively to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across a number of categories and through a number of strategies, including:

  • Participating in the NYC Carbon Challenge and committing to a 50% carbon reduction goal from energy-use intensity by 2025 — which we are on track to meet and exceed.
  • Committing to the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Pledge to reduce GHG emissions associated with the food we purchase and serve by 25% by 2030, relative to our 2018 baseline. Reporting continues annually to measure progress toward our goal.
  • Reducing climate impacts from the use and production of waste anesthetic gases in the operating room.
  • Inventorying and reducing emissions from our vehicle fleet.
  • Building and renovating our facilities with an eye for resiliency to ensure that patient care and research will not be interrupted in the case of extreme weather events.
Energy Management

MSK seeks to reduce our energy consumption through projects, programs, and capital allocation that increase energy efficiencies within our facilities. Each energy project reduces usage, associated costs, GHG emissions, and/or enhances occupant comfort. Projects that enhance efficiency also improve building resiliency through reduced energy dependence. MSK has committed to a 50% carbon reduction goal from energy-use intensity by 2025, in alignment with the NYC Carbon Challenge.

After almost two decades of investing in energy-efficiency projects, MSK has seen a substantial avoidance of energy usage and costs, thanks to the leadership of the Plant Operations department. Examples of energy conservation measures at MSK locations include but are not limited to LED lighting retrofits, setback and control modifications, upgraded pumps, energy-efficient –80° freezers, and computer shutdown and energy management programs. MSK has recently converted Memorial Hospital, the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center, and the Rockefeller Research Laboratories from steam to hot water and built a combined heat and power (CHP) generation plant, yielding the largest reduction in energy from any single project to date.

MSK’s renewable portfolio includes the procurement of low-impact hydroelectric power and a 2.4 MW solar canopy system.

Water Reduction

MSK aims to reduce our water consumption through projects, programs, and capital allocation that improve efficiencies, reduce water costs, and/or improve resiliency. MSK water-reduction projects include upgrades to low-flow and automatic faucets in existing facilities - our design standard for new construction. Additional projects include overnight setback programs and water-retention tanks. MSK also incorporates water-smart landscaping strategies, such as introducing native plant species to combat drought problems, or drip irrigation to make efficient use of water where supply is limited.

Waste Management/Reduction

Waste is a common challenge for healthcare organizations due to its complexity, disposal, and treatment regulations; costs to manage; and sheer volume. Recycling isn’t enough to reduce the generation and end-of-life impacts of waste. Innovative programs are in place across MSK to prevent the creation of unnecessary waste, advance zero-waste policies, utilize materials in the most efficient manner, and reduce the downstream impacts of waste generated.

  • MSK has single-stream or source-separated recycling programs in place at all sites, maximizing the diversion of paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, and metals away from landfills. We collect and compost excess organics from the back of the house in the Memorial Hospital kitchen. All batteries and e-waste are diverted and recycled, and we capture tens of thousands of pounds of approved single-use devices from across operating rooms and patient care areas annually to place into closed-loop reprocessing programs.
  • Source reduction efforts include a reusable sharps container program that keeps substantial volumes of plastic waste out of the landfills and incineration facilities each year.
  • Select medical supplies, equipment, and office supplies are consistently diverted from landfills and donated to local medical recovery organizations, such as the Afya Foundation and MedShare, for redeployment into global health and humanitarian efforts.
  • Comprehensive paper reduction efforts are increasingly standardized, strategically engaging all levels of staff to leverage our digital transformation tools to limit paper usage, enhance efficiency, protect patient data, and avoid procurement and disposal impacts of copy paper.
Green Building and Healthy Interiors

LEED Timeline
MSK is committed to pursuing green and healthy facility design, construction, renovation, and operations to minimize environmental impacts and foster resilient, restorative, and sustainable healing environments. We prioritize the health and well-being of building occupants and the communities in which we live and work. All new construction and major renovations are designed and built to a minimum of LEED Silver certification, driven by our Design+Construction team’s work and LEED policy. MSK currently has eight individual LEED-certified green buildings (4 LEED Silver and 4 LEED Gold). Design features are in place to conserve natural resources; minimize greenhouse gas emissions; and promote the wellness of the patients, occupants, and communities that we serve.

Design standards prioritize the purchasing of “healthy interiors” — furniture, furnishings, and flooring that avoid a targeted list of chemicals of high concern, whenever possible, due to potentially negative impacts on human health. MSK furnishings and furniture selections and design teams go to great lengths to minimize lifelong environmental impacts and promote occupant health. Materials selected strive to:

  • Reduce manufacturing and transportation-related carbon emissions.
  • Avoid chemicals of concern that may have adverse health impacts for occupants.
  • Use materials made from recycled content.
  • Be easily disassembled to facilitate end-of-life recycling.
  • Apply ergonomic design to all seating and workstations.
Sustainable Procurement

Purchasing leaders collaborate to integrate sustainable practices into the supplier and product selection processes. We seek to purchase products that avoid chemicals of concern, improve energy and water efficiency, optimize waste minimization strategies, and reduce total cost of ownership.

MSK collaborates with healthcare industry groups, our group purchasing organization (GPO), and peers to leverage our collective purchasing power to streamline the availability of more sustainable products, packaging, and services that reduce negative impacts on the environment while improving human/population health.

Select sustainable procurement efforts at MSK include:

  • Furnishings and furniture that eliminate targeted chemicals and materials of concern, including formaldehyde/volatile organic compounds (VOCs), perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), antimicrobials, and flame retardants.
  • Purchasing of virtually 100% of Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)-related, IT-related equipment in targeted categories.
  • Purchasing of healthy beverages, plant-based and locally sourced food, and sustainably certified meat and poultry that is raised without the routine use of antibiotics.
  • Maximizing the spend on office supplies made with environmentally preferable (EP) components. EP components include recycled content, remanufactured, reusable, bio-based, third-party eco-related certifications (for example, BPI, FSC).
  • Use of certified green cleaners (for example, EcoLogo, Green Seal, EPA DfE Certified) for non-disinfection and sterilization applications within evaluated product categories.
Food and Nutrition

Person browsing farmer's market
We strive for an enterprise-wide approach to food and beverage services focused on healthy, locally sourced, and certified-sustainable products. Collaborative efforts exist to improve patient, staff, and population health through ongoing education and the development of resources for our patients and staff, while supporting the development of better food systems.

We continue to diligently source local, sustainably produced food and beverage products whenever possible to directly support the advancement of sustainable agricultural practices and thriving local farming communities. Not only do sustainable farming practices produce healthy, nutrient-dense foods and support local jobs but they also can serve to sequester carbon in the earth.

Efforts to continually innovate and increase plant-based menu offerings are ever present. A plant-forward diet can help reduce the risk for diseases such as certain cancers and heart disease, and is associated with a smaller carbon footprint, decreased water usage, and less dependence on fossil fuels compared with meals centered around meat.

MSK hosts summer farmers markets at our Memorial Hospital for staff and visitors to access healthy, locally sourced food. Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) partnerships exist at multiple regional locations with local farms, and MSK is involved in the global Cool Food Pledge to measure and reduce the environmental and climate impacts of the food we serve, while supporting healthy eating and wellness.

Stakeholder/Staff Engagement

MSK’s Sustainability program is continuously evolving and improving through collaborative efforts between departments, leadership, and more than 500 individual staff members to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, expand social stewardship efforts, and enhance community benefit. Human health and environmental sustainability are deeply connected and essential for the well-being of those we serve. Advanced staff engagement, specialized internal committees, industry partnerships, education, and outreach have produced synergistic outcomes through the implementation and promotion of sustainable practices across MSK that support and benefit our patients, our employees, and the community.