Practical Remedies

Nurses lead the way to a healthy health care system.

| November / December 2002

It was on a vacation in Maine more than a decade ago that Hollie Shaner (right) was first inspired to clean up the planet-and the hospital where she worked as a nurse. She wanted to show her kids beautiful beaches like the ones she remembered from her childhood in Florida. But as they walked along the sand at sunrise, they found themselves dodging soda cans, cigarette butts, and diapers. When something bobbed up against Shaner's leg in the water, she thought it was a jellyfish. It turned out to be a foam cup holder emblazoned with the words "Hollywood, Florida"-her hometown. "I looked at my kids," Shaner says, "and got choked up. I had to get involved."

Shaner started recycling, eventually cutting her household waste from four bags of trash a week to one bag a month. And her environmental concern carried over to her job at a large Vermont hospital, where she started one of the nation's most comprehensive health industry recycling programs. Today, Shaner runs her own environmental consulting firm, CGH Environmental Strategies, working with hospitals and state agencies around the world on pollution prevention ( She also serves as president of the Nightingale Institute for Health and the Environment (, which helps health care workers make the connection between health and the environment.

Nurses like Shaner are a leading force in the greening of health care. On the frontlines of handling medical waste, nurses also are closest to the patients, every day confronting illness and saving lives. Harking back to Florence Nightin-gale's 100-year-old premise that the key

to nursing is putting patients in the best possible condition for nature to act, Shaner says that an environmental per-spective is essential: "People need clean air, clean water, good waste management, and plenty of light to be healthy."

Health Care Without Harm;

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment;

Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care

Healthy Building Network;

Clean Med Conference;

Sustainable Hospitals;