Green and Healthy at Bon Secours St. Francis

If you’re looking for comprehensive health services, from cancer care to sports medicine to home care, you’ll find it at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville. But before you ever come through their doors for medical care, the hospital has been working hard to make their part of the world a healthier place for you to live.

In 2013, Bon Secours St. Francis received Greenhealth’s Environmental Leadership award, which is the most competitive award given by that organization. Awarded hospitals must meet minimum quantifiable (at least 25% recycling rate) and subjective (“lead the healthcare sector in innovation and sustainability”) criteria.

Vice President for Facilities and Support Services Karen Schwartz, who oversees the sustainability efforts of the hospital system, says that the Greenhealth award “supports and validates our journey to model healthy practices for the Greenville community—hopefully it will stimulate other local businesses to begin their own ecological journey and use us as guide; this will  help promote the overall health of our area. We only have one earth and our goal remains to implement strategies that will leave the earth better for future generations.”

The ways in which the hospital system has shown itself to be such a leader worthy of the award range from the relatively small and inexpensive to large, resource-intensive changes. One of the small changes was replacing styrofoam cups that hospital staff members use to drink their tea and coffee with reusable cups that were given to staff free of charge—reducing their styrofoam cup usage by 156,000 cups per year, a savings of over $5,000. Additionally, replacing disposable items in tray service to patient rooms with reusable ones reduces plastic and foam usage by 2,000 cups, 3,000 plates, and 1,000 each of forks, knives, and spoons.

On the larger end of the spectrum, St. Francis was the first hospital system in South Carolina to be named an Energy Star partner, with every piece of equipment purchased having an Energy Star rating. Replacing the boiler in the downtown facility alone resulted in a $300,000 annual savings in energy costs.

In addition to taking steps to ensure the health of the planet, Bon Secours St. Francis is also, obviously, concerned with the health of the people in the Greenville community, and healthy eating is a big part of that. Since 2009, the hospital has maintained a community garden where churches, nonprofits, and individual residents can grow their own fresh produce, and the garden has established an internship program for students in Furman University’s environmental studies program.

Bon Secours St. Francis has joined 443 other hospitals across the United States in signing the Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge: participating hospitals pledge, among other things, to increase their offerings of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods; work with local farmers and food suppliers to procure locally sourced food; and reduce, through repurposing of leftovers and composting, their food waste.

The sustainability initiative can be broken down into four categories: reduce, recycle, replenish, and reuse. Ms. Schwartz says, “Our focus on Ecological Stewardship is deeply rooted in our commitment to Catholic Healthcare and Care for God’s creation. We are committed to the overall health of the Greenville Community—there are many chronic health disorders that have an environmental link.”

Encouraging employees and the community to take up their own green initiatives, profiling “Stories from the Green Council,” and partnering with the City of Greenville’s Plan-It Greenville are ways to extend Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital’s environmentally friendly practices out into the community.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at