Buying in-season produce from local growers is one of many ways to support sustainability in your community. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on your personal behaviors and habits. It’s an opportunity to learn how you can have a positive effect not only on the environment and your health, but also within your community.

If you’re looking for new ways to lessen your impact on the environment, Spectrum Health sustainability manager Sarah Chartier can help get you started.

“There are so many things you can do,” Chartier said. “And many are quick and simple changes that will have a lasting impact.”

Small changes pack a punch

Thinking local and reducing your waste are among some of the simplest things you can do, Chartier said.

Here are a few tips for success:

  • Shop local
    • Support local, diverse businesses
    • You can also keep your dollars local by buying from friends and neighbors
    • Buy in-season produce from local farms
  • Reduce your waste
    • Bring reusable bags with you to the store
    • Use a reusable water bottle
    • Research your recycling options in your community
  • Skip the car and get active
    • An active commute is great for your physical and mental health
    • For short trips, walk, bike or ride the bus
  • Reduce your energy bill at home
    • Get a free energy audit through your heating and electrical providers
    • Most utility companies offer energy reduction ideas, free lighting and other items to lower your home’s energy use

Commit to sustainability

Spectrum Health established its first green team in the 1990s, and its team members continue to encourage a culture of sustainability.

“We’re greening our campuses through design, efficiencies and adding green space,” Chartier said.

Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital received Tree Campus Healthcare Recognition three years in a row, and more than 50 percent of the hospital’s owned facilities have been converted to LED lighting.

There’s a lot to be proud of, Chartier said.

“We started purchasing from local, sustainable and diverse-owned businesses in our cafeterias,” she said. “And we adapted to a culture of recycling. The hospital system recycled 1,624 tons of waste in 2020.”

A new goal: By 2040, Spectrum Health has committed to make all its facilities carbon neutral.

“The 2040 commitment builds on and expands on our existing 2025 sustainability goals,” Chartier said.

These goals include:

  • Converting 70 percent of its fleet to hybrid or electric power
  • Composting or recycling 40 percent of waste
  • Buying 25 percent of food products from local sources and diverse businesses
  • Reducing energy use by 15 percent
  • Doubling 2020 purchases from minority-owned and women-owned businesses in Michigan communities.

“This work is linked to our anti-racism pledge,” Chartier said.

These commitments represent a long-term investment in improving the local, regional and global environment. It reflects Spectrum Health’s commitment to improving community health, Chartier said.

“Interconnection between wealth, health and environment are extremely important to our work in the communities we serve,” Chartier said.