Sentara hires Director of Sustainability to reduce health system's carbon footprint
Lisa Darger cannot walk past an empty meeting room without reaching in and turning off the lights. "Motion sensors are a good start to conserving energy, but integrating conservation as a life skill is more important,” that’s the mindset Darger brings to her new role as Director of Sustainability for Sentara Health, a not-for-profit system of 12 hospitals and hundreds of sites of care and business in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
“The goal is to reduce our collective carbon footprint and maximize healthy environments for our patients and employees,” Darger added, “so that sustainability is integrated into every service line and even employees’ home lives.”
The system effort begins with thousands of products purchased through Sentara Supply Chain and extends to air conditioning and heating schedules, recycling, composting, green spaces, and water and energy consumption. “Sentara can reduce its environmental impact and costs and, through team education, encourage those practices to continue at home,” Darger said.
“Conservation is a skill and a commitment that health systems can learn and adopt,” Darger added. “Just setting back thermostats in office buildings on weekends can save enormous amounts of energy.” Building assessments and energy tracking can identify opportunities for improvement, which can result in a positive rate of return on investment.
Darger plans to establish an environmental task force with representation across the system and develop a strategic sustainability plan to present to the Sentara board of directors in 2024. She plans to host a virtual Earth Day event using Sentara’s existing communications technologies and encourage employees to participate.
Darger comes to Sentara after 11 years as Sustainability Coordinator for the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. She also served as Director of Energy Education in Warren Township near Indianapolis, Ind., and worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“It’s a dynamic process,” Darger added. “There are local sustainability advocates and efforts throughout the Sentara system,” Darger said. “My job is to corral all that passion for environmental stewardship into a standardized approach across the enterprise.”