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Reducing Paper – an Easy Win for the Environment

Category: Sustainability
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Every fall, St. Luke’s typically uses around 266 reams of paper to print employee benefit packets for open enrollment. Those packets were then mailed to every employee’s home. Countless employees admitted that the packet went straight into the recycling bin because they weren’t changing their benefits and had no need to review the packet.

That’s why this year, instead of printing, those packets were published online and a simple postcard with a link was mailed to employees. Thanks to this St. Luke’s sustainability initiative, an estimated 133,470 sheets of paper were saved.

This approach also saved the power to run the copy machine 24 hours a day, a week of staff time stuffing envelopes and postage costs. The immediate success surprised even the committee who led the initiative.

“People have been really excited,” said Katherine Becker, St. Luke’s Vice President of Corporate Compliance who led the task force. “This was an easy win.”

It’s the latest success of St. Luke’s four-pillared strategic plan:

  • Health of our Patients
  • Health of our People
  • Health of our Organization
  • Health of our Communities

The paper reduction initiative is part of the Health of our Communities pillar. This pillar tackles priorities related to St. Luke's engagement with the communities that it serves. Initiatives under this pillar include campus development, engagement with local universities, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as well as sustainability.

"We’re starting to see opportunities everywhere.”

Becoming more sustainable as a large organization can feel like an overwhelming goal. “To be effective, we knew we weren’t going to change everything overnight,” said Becker. “But we did start asking: What can we do?”

With this success, the group is tackling more paper reduction projects. “Some uses for paper will never go away completely,” said Becker. “Still, we’re starting to see opportunities everywhere.”

Other paper reduction tactics include:

  • Shifting to secure e-faxing rather than traditional fax machines
  • Providing patient education information electronically
  • Using electronic patient registration and e-signatures
  • Using screens in conference rooms and emailed agendas
  • Favoring electronic invoicing with vendors

The community is happier with the results, too. “Patients like when they can securely fill out forms online ahead of time,” said Becker. “It’s the way we’re used to doing things now.”

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