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PeaceHealth Mission and Values Award recipient – Brian Nelson

| Everyday Moments | Videos

Brian Nelson outside on a trail in a forest

A caregiver lives all PeaceHealth Values by championing sustainability and reducing waste.

Cheerleader. Superhero. These words might not be how Brian Nelson would describe his role. But when it comes to recycling, it’s how he serves our Mission. 

As sustainability program manager in Vancouver, Washington, Brian champions eco-friendly initiatives at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and other PeaceHealth locations. 

One of his most successful projects is a blue wrap recycling program now under way at five PeaceHealth facilities. 

Blue wrap is a type of plastic used to wrap sterilized medical instruments. Estimates show hospitals in the United States generate more than 100 million pounds of blue wrap waste each year. Most of it ends up in landfills.

PeaceHealth reduces blue wrap waste by collecting the used plastic. It is then sent to a company that turns it into new medical products such as wash basins and patient care bags.

The recycling program benefits PeaceHealth and the environment by:

  • Reducing the amount of plastic waste sent to landfills. 
  • Creating a sustainable solution to manage waste.
  • Saving money by reducing both waste and the cost of disposing of it.

So far, the program has diverted more than 40,000 pounds of blue wrap from landfills. How much is 40,000 pounds? It’s the weight of four African elephants or 20 rhinos!

Brian is working on many other earth-friendly projects at PeaceHealth. One example is finding a replacement for an anesthetic gas. Desflurane, a gas used in surgeries, isn’t good for the planet.  Using one bottle of desflurane has the same global warming effect as burning 97 pounds of coal. Brian is working with the surgery program to find a better, less harmful option.

Several bales of blue surgical wrap inside a warehouse

He and a co-worker coordinated Ecochallenge across the PeaceHealth system during Earth Month in April and May. The event is an international education and engagement campaign to build sustainable habits. More than 11,600 participants from 57 states and 70 countries took part, including 146 PeaceHealth caregivers. Participants vowed to take climate-friendly actions such as eating less meat, saving water and reducing food waste.

At PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, Brian has implemented more green initiatives. These include:

  • Installation of an on-site food digester in the hospital’s kitchen to process food waste, mainly from patient food trays. It has diverted more than 30,000 pounds of food waste from local landfills since November of 2022.
  • Increased use of electric vehicle (EV) chargers by posting signage at all the entrances to the hospital campus. This signage let staff and visitors know chargers were available and where to find them. It reduced emissions from driving and gasoline used.
  • Launched a Fill-it-Forward program with reusable food containers for staff. Each time a container is used it is tracked and a donation is made to a worthy cause supported by the program. Stickers with QR codes for tracking usage are also available to staff to use on their own reusable water bottle, lunch container or shopping bag. As a result, 36,800 fewer single-use, disposable containers were purchased by the hospital in 2022.

Brian also carries his passion outside of work by coordinating other volunteer activities. He and his colleagues help their community by cleaning up trash on hiking trails and at parks and removing invasive plants at a local watershed.

“Brian serves the community and holds PeaceHealth Southwest accountable to exercise ethical and responsible stewardship in the allocation of environmental resources. He views everything we do at PeaceHealth Southwest as a pilot for PeaceHealth’s other facilities and would love to see all of our work shared systemwide…his passion for going green will continue to spread,” said a co-worker.

He is PeaceHealth’s 2023 systemwide Overall Mission and Values Award recipient. These awards recognize inspiring caregivers who live PeaceHealth’s Mission and Values of Social Justice, Stewardship, Respect and Collaboration every day.

Learn more about all of PeaceHealth’s 2023 systemwide Mission and Values Awards honorees: