Cathy Dycaico, MD, Co-Chair of the Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Green Team, tells the story of how a small group of individuals developed a project at their workplace that is expected to save $1000 per month, reduce related greenhouse gas emissions and has also provided a more attractive environment for everyone.

A significant water-saving landscaping project has been completed at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building in Davis. The project includes a number of strategies for reduced water use and is expected to save approximately $1,000 per month in water costs.

Not only does the project provide water savings, but also a much more attractive and lively appearance for the clinic entrance, trees along the west side of the clinic for shade and interior comfort, and a meandering path to the employee vegetable garden.

This project was born at a monthly meeting of the Kaiser Permanente Green Team, a collaborative of representatives from several departments who meet at our Sacramento Medical Center to share ideas and propose initiatives to reduce our environmental impact.

The water-saving initiative arose in a somewhat unconventional manner: We requested a presentation from our landscape maintenance company because we were concerned about gas-powered leaf blowers used to clean off sidewalks at our facilities.

As a result of the presentation and subsequent discussion, we realized that one of our biggest environmental challenges was how much water we were wasting at our medical offices in Davis, due to an outdated irrigation system and extensive lawns.

When the owner of the landscape maintenance company and I subsequently toured the Davis clinic grounds we learned that the planter beds were installed many years ago with an unwieldy combination of both drip and pop-up irrigation. There were also no pressure reducers or filters, so the drip system had consequently “blown out” – it could not be repaired without a major overhaul.

Furthermore, the watering system for the planter beds and sprinklers for the lawn shared the same watering stations. This meant that if the planter beds were adequately watered, the lawns were over watered, creating widespread marshy areas. In addition to the water wastage, about one half of the plant material in the front of the building was missing due to die-off from the broken drip system. The remaining, visible areas of hard-packed soil appeared neglected and inconsistent with the excellence of our facility.

The Green Team’s co-chairs then requested funding for a landscape upgrade project. We made a case for the improvement on the basis of environmental responsibility to our community, as well as a relatively rapid return on the initial investment – and an improved aesthetic experience of our facility for Kaiser Permanente members.

“The final results of the project are much more aesthetically pleasing than we imagined when we were first considered the irrigation upgrade”

After the necessary approvals, the first stage of the project got under way to install a new drip-only system in all planter areas surrounding the clinic. Small sequestered areas of grass, irrigated by sprinklers, were also removed and replaced with drip irrigation since overspray onto sidewalks was a source of wastage. The watering stations were also reconfigured to separate the irrigation of the grass from the planter beds.

After the modifications of the irrigation system, new plants were installed to replace missing shrubs and trees. The new landscaping was designed and installed by our landscape maintenance company. The plants were chosen on the basis of their year-round beauty and ease of maintenance.

The final results of the project are much more aesthetically pleasing than we imagined when we were first considered the irrigation upgrade. The landscape appears lush. Employees enjoy observing many birds and jackrabbits frequenting the shade provided by the new trees and shrubs. Our front entrance now includes a wide variety of healthy, colorful plants that enhance the appearance of our clinic and provide a pleasurable invitation to enter. Our employees take pride in our facility looking great and incorporating environmental responsibility in our daily operations.

-The Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building is located at 1955 Cowell Boulevard just south of I-80. The clinic, which has been serving Yolo County for more than 20 years, is small and friendly with 23 doctors and three nurse practitioners in Adult Medicine, Women’s Health and Pediatrics, who provide healthcare to 20,000 Kaiser Permanente members from Davis and the surrounding communities.

-Kaiser Permanente is the proud recipient of the prestigious System for Change, Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Award. The System for Change Award recognizes health systems that are working cohesively to set system goals, track data, benchmark, and share successes in environmental performance. We are also the first healthcare organization in the nation to track our carbon footprint and have a goal of reducing it by 30 percent by the year 2020.