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Partnering with Students to Spur Change

Green-Team-Press-Release-Photo-003-300x200_(1)By Kyle Tafuri, 8-27-2018
Back in 2017, we partnered with the Montclair State PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies.  The Institute developed a paid summer green team program where it brings together students from colleges and universities and places them within communities or companies to develop solutions to sustainability problems.  What makes this program so unique is that these students are not just studying sustainability, but come from all disciplines including chemical engineering, marketing/communications, finance, environmental sciences and more.

Our first summer green team had students from Fairleigh Dickenson, Ramapo College, Rutgers University and Montclair State University.  They worked to enhance our team member engagement program through updating our intranet, putting out surveys campus wide, conducting focus groups and much more.  These were not the only benefits of engaging with these students; their perspective and energy rejuvenated our entire team.  All of us within corporations can fall into the trap of negativity and believing that change is not possible.  By partnering with these students, they were able to challenge our assumptions and spread their positive energy throughout.

During the summer of 2018, we worked with our second green team with students from Fairleigh Dickenson University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, Middlebury College and Ramapo College.  The students were tasked with providing a recommendation for a renewable energy strategy for the entire Hackensack Meridian Health System.  With rising energy costs, instability of the grid and aging facilities, HMH needs to ensure it is evaluating clean energy for its future.  Many of the energy companies that we have consulted to date have biased evaluations based upon the technologies they specialize or sell.  We asked the students to conduct an independent evaluation of renewable/clean energy sources for our system.  The students proposed what was in our best interest from a financial, social and environmental perspective when it comes to planning for our future energy needs.

Their project included the following deliverables:

                - Landscape of renewables in healthcare and NJ

                - What type of renewable is the best fit for our hospitals (geothermal, solar, wind, hydro and others)

                - On-site versus off-site: what is the best we can do from a business decision perspective?

                - What are the current incentives at the state and federal level for our hospitals?

                - Make the business case, if not renewables, what should we be looking at for energy in the future?

The students met with experts throughout the industry and worked with many of our internal facilities teams.  They were able to provide us with specific plans for Southern Ocean Medical Center and Raritan Bay Old Bridge.  We have taken their business plans back to the teams at our respective sites and are looking to take their work to the next step.  I would strongly encourage any organization looking to rejuvenate their sustainability program to consider partnering with students from colleges/universities in their areas or with programs similar to the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies.


kylewebKyle Tafuri, director of sustainability, Hackensack Meridian Health, leads the development and management of corporate sustainability and ensures they are creating a healthier environment for patients, team members and the community. Based at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at HackensackUMC,  Kyle has led sustainability efforts since 2012. HackensackUMC has been recognized by Practice Greenhealth five years in a row (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) as a Top 25 Green Hospital. Tafuri participates on a number of industry councils and advisory boards including, DOE Better Buildings Healthcare Alliance Steering Committee, Health Care without Harm Climate Council, the Safer Chemicals Market Transformation Group, the Healthier Foods Market Transformation Group and others. He has been named one of the 30 under 30 people to watch in sustainable business by GreenBiz Group. Kyle received his Master’s Degree in Sustainability Studies from Ramapo College in New Jersey and his Bachelor’s Degree in Science of Business Administration from Boston University.


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