Children playing

"Look for Champions", Deirdre Imus Advises Environmental Designers

Hackensack, NJ, June 14, 2005 – “Start with one change,” says Deirdre Imus, president of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center ™, part of Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC), a not-for-profit corporation. She was speaking to a group of more than 500 people, primarily architects and interior designers in New York City in April at EnviroDesign 9, an industry conference that explores ideas that are shaping the future of sustainable design and business.

As a keynote speaker, Mrs. Imus was commenting on the challenges of persuading hospitals, schools, businesses and governments to embrace environmental concepts, such as the idea behind the Environmental Center’s award-winning Greening the Cleaning® program. “What you need to get into these places is a champion, someone who ‘gets it,’” she says.
"We start out with cleaning, and that one change often leads us into other areas that can be changed," said Deirdre Imus on the topic of "green building" at EnviroDesign 9 in New York. Mrs. Imus is president of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center, a not for profit corporation in Hackensack, N.J.

Previous keynote speakers have included John Kerry, Robert Kennedy Jr., Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry, and Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Arizona.

The specific mission of the Environmental Health Center is to identify, control, and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten our children's health. Greening the Cleaning® means eliminating to the greatest extent possible, all cleaning agents containing hazardous ingredients and replacing them with environmentally friendly, non-toxic products that utilize natural or naturally-derived ingredients. In the case of disinfectants and sanitizers, effective natural substitutes that have been EPA approved do not yet exist, so the Center uses least-toxic alternatives.

She said New York Governor George Pataki instantly understood the importance of greening when they first met about a year ago. On National Healthy Schools Day in April this year, the Governor announced a bill to the N.Y. legislature requiring schools to begin using environmentally sensitive cleaning products. In January, Governor Pataki recognized Mrs. Imus in his State of the State Address for raising awareness of the hazards of chemical cleaning products, and working to protect the environment and children. He issued Executive Order 134 the same day, requiring all state agencies and authorities to also begin using non-toxic cleaning products that are free of harmful chemicals.

Mrs. Imus said she found a champion at the outset in Hackensack University Medical Center President and CEO John Ferguson.

In 2001, The Environmental Center instituted a hospital-wide Greening the Cleaning® initiative at Hackensack University Medical Center to replace potentially toxic cleaning products with more environmentally friendly products. For their efforts, the Environmental Center and HUMC were awarded The Phillip M. Scanlan Environmental Award from Quality New Jersey (QNJ), and recognized in 2001 by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) with the Environmental Award for Excellence.

Since then, some 50 healthcare facilities, businesses, schools and government authorities have implemented the Greening the Cleaning® program, all with direct savings in cleaning costs.

Stay Focused

“We start out with cleaning, and that one change often leads us into other areas that can be changed,” Mrs. Imus said. For example, the Environmental Health Center is advising HUMC on “green building” choices for the new Sarkis Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion opening later this year -- everything from air conditioning and building insulation to organic fabrics for linens and hospital gowns.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. There are often many layers to change when you get into it, and it can often turn political,” she said, “so you have to stay focused on your goal.”

In addition to her role at the Environmental Health Center, Deirdre Imus is also co-founder and co-director of the Imus Ranch, a 4000-acre working cattle ranch in northern New Mexico, which provides the experience of the American cowboy to children suffering from cancer and various blood diseases, and to the siblings of children who have suffered from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Hackensack University Medical Center, a teaching and research hospital affiliated with The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - New Jersey Medical School, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state of New Jersey.


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