Greening the Operating Room

When you think about an operating room, you typically think about the life saving surgeries that happen there. You don’t usually consider the large amount of energy used — or the amount of waste that goes into a landfill. Virginia Mason addresses these environmental issues in our operating room (OR) while still providing the highest quality of care to our patients.

Green Team

Members of the Perioperative Services Department, which houses Virginia Mason’s operating room surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and technicians, have formed a Green Team group that comes together each month to focus on reducing the OR’s environmental impact. Made up of some of the brightest emerging leaders at Virginia Mason, this innovative team collaborates to implement sustainability ideas. In 2013, The Green Team won the OR recycling photo contest sponsored by Practice Green Health.


Virginia Mason was the first to implement an OR plastics recycling program in the Pacific Northwest. The program, which was created at a staff member’s suggestion, has been embraced by the entire OR team. The recycled materials vary, but the majority is rigid plastics and blue wrap that keep surgical supplies sterile in transport and storage. Each year, we recycle about 7 tons of OR materials alone.

Device Reprocessing

Ever wonder what happens to all of the surgical tools after we've completed a procedure? In the past, these disposable items were thrown in a landfill. Now, Virginia Mason purchases a number of medical devices that are used and sent back to the manufacturer to be reprocessed for reuse. Once reprocessed, these devices are safer and more effective than ever and are inspected more rigorously than during the original manufacturing. The devices reduce the cost associated with purchasing and disposing of them, which reduces our environmental impact and the cost of patient care.

Energy Conservation

An operating room needs energy to keep the lights running, but we can still do our best to conserve that energy. Energy efficient LED lighting is being installed throughout our ORs. This includes retrofitting our bright surgical lamps with more LED surgical lights. And to conserve even more energy, we are in the process of installing occupancy sensors to turn the lights off when the room is not in use.