Why Earth Day is Important to Avera
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Published on April 13, 2021

watercolor illustration of globe and earth day

Why Earth Day is Important to Avera

The celebration of Earth Day, taking place April 22 this year, encourages us all to reuse, recycle or reduce – and those are things rooted deeply in Avera’s values as well as its operations.

“These ideas of good stewardship are not new, and they predate the creation of Avera, and they are in our values statement,” said Sr. Mary Thomas, Senior Vice President of Mission for Avera. “One of the tenants of the both the Benedictine and Presentation Sisters is to treat ‘tenderly’ the earth, and to tread lightly, especially in our carbon footprint.”

Avera is guided by Gospel values of compassion, hospitality and stewardship. These are deeply connected as pollution and environmental changes impact us all, Thomas pointed out. “Frequently, the people who are hurt the most by environmental decisions are the poor, and they have almost no voice in these matters. So inaction is not a choice – stewardship is our mandate and a growing aspect of Avera’s services to people and communities.”

Sustainability in Health Care

Identifying concrete ways to make changes that lead to less waste and impacts on the planet is something built into almost every part of Avera’s operations. The pandemic created an opportunity over the last year to make changes as Avera strives toward a goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 25%.

“As part of every new project and every remodeling project, from Tyler, Minn., to Gettysburg, SD, we implement strategies to reduce energy use, material and asset management and waste decreases,” said Garrett Peters, AIA, ACHA, Avera Vice President of Facilities.

Peters explained some examples:

  • Avera evaluates lighting and has moved to LED use extensively, many times finding the payback on these investments can happen in a single year.
  • The health system uses automation and sensors to save energy, along with lower-volume plumbing fixtures and more efficient heat, ventilation and cooling methods.
  • Equipment is evaluated for quality as well as life-span, and enhancements save money and resources.
  • Avera seeks materials like brick, lumber and stone from local sources, as well as recycling and waste removal partners who are proactive and share this value.
  • Landscaping with plants native to the region helps reduce the need for watering.

“We investigate everything and look at stewardship as a long-term commitment. LED lights are a great example – many have 20-year lifespans. They cost more than shorter lifespan bulbs, but they pay for themselves,” Peters said.

What Can You Do?

Small acts add up.

"People should reuse, recycle and reduce as much as possible,” said Jonah Luzier, MD, Avera Medical Group Radiology, who represents Avera on the Sioux Falls Sustainability Master Plan Committee. “It can seem like the decision to use one less plastic fork or bottle each day, or better yet, none at all, won't make a difference. But when added up over millions per day, can change the world

In addition to his work on the city’s sustainability committee, Luzier serves in a similar capacity with Thomas and other Avera leadership.

“We’re entrusted with God’s creation, and we can care for it as Christians,” “I found Pope Francis’ writing on the topic inspirational, and Sr. Mary asked me to share my passion for the topic with Avera, and with the city.”

Steps you can take to contribute include:

  • Buy and use less plastic materials – refill a water bottle, for example
  • Start composting and recycling more
  • Adopt a trail, highway or other green space with a group and keep it clean by picking up trash
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator and when you are able, use manual-open doors rather than automatic ones
  • Turn off lights, appliances not in use and keep thermostats set properly

“The possibilities are endless. An important consideration in stewardship is that it takes all of us in order for it to work,” Luzier said.

Making a goal of making changes – it helps everyone.

“We can partner with one another to make changes that will help the planet,” Thomas said. “It’s an important aspect of faith and something we need to keep on the forefront.”

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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