Going Green at Mayo Clinic

April 22, 2017, is the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, a worldwide celebration of events held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day celebrations took place in 1970 and was recognized in more than 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. The event is now observed in 192 countries and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. According to the first Earth Day organizer and chair of the Earth Day Network, Denis Hayes says Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year."

The mission and efforts of Earth Day are significant to Mayo Clinic, where environmental sustainability is at the forefront in its practice of medicine. Recognizing the link between environmental health and public health, Mayo is committed to fiscally responsible environment-protection practices in patient care, education, research, and administration in order to benefit the health of its patients, staff, and the communities in which they live and work.

Mayo exercises a thoughtful and comprehensive sustainability approach to environmental stewardship including:

  • Energy conservation.
  • Employing “green” sustainable building design, construction, and operations strategies to minimize environmental impact throughout the total facilities life cycle.
  • Practicing environmentally responsible purchasing and waste management through source reduction, reuse, and recycling programs.


Green Advisory Council

The Mayo Clinic Green Advisory Council leads the environmental efforts that develop and encourage improvements to conserve energy, ensure a more environmentally responsible supply chain, reduce the waste stream, construct and operate facilities for long-term efficiency, and participate with industry and educational leaders in sustainability.

According to Henry Tazelaar, M.D., Chair of Mayo's Green Advisory Council, “Mayo Clinic’s campuses, collectively, have made significant improvements in waste-stream diversion, energy management, and water conservation in recent years. In total, these efforts are estimated to save Mayo more than $6 million annually through more efficient operations."

Listen to the podcast below for more information from Dr. Tazelaar on Mayo's sustainability initiatives, efforts, achievements, and future goals as an organization.

Saving Energy

Mayo strives to reduce energy consumption through efficient and cost-effective facility design and operation while providing a safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors. In fact, in 2010, Mayo committed to the Clinton Global Initiative to reduce energy use 20% by 2020 in its existing facilities and is currently on track to meet that goal.

Energy performance achievements include:

  • New LED light fixtures brighten parking Lot I on Mayo Clinic's Phoenix campus while providing 74 percent more energy efficiency than the previous lights.

    All campuses completed upgrades to more energy-efficient fixtures such as light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. Renovations have occurred with older campus buildings to operate more efficiently. There is higher use of energy-efficient building designs in new construction. These efforts have conserved more than 175,000 KWH (kilowatt hours) of energy in Rochester since 2010—enough to provide electricity for more than 6,000 homes for a year.

  • New metering systems help to identify and respond to issues quickly.
  • Geothermal building design is helping sites within the Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin and Northfield Minnesota to harness the ground’s insulation to reduce heating and cooling energy demands.
  • Mayo Food Services is working with vendors to increase the percentage of food sourcing from within a 150-mile radius to reduce fuel expenses and emissions. Food Services is also working with vendors to reduce food and packaging waste and increase recycling opportunities.
  • Mayo Rochester facilities are consuming 13.5% less energy per square foot compared to 2010. The estimated avoided cost is $4.8 million annually.
  • The new United Therapeutics Lung Restoration Center on the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, incorporates a green building design to result in a “net zero” energy consuming building.

Plastic containers used for specimen transportation are washed and reused.

Conserving Water

A rain garden at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire reduces storm water runoff.

In addition to saving energy, Mayo has conserved water through the following initiatives:

  • By using meters to adjust cooling needed for equipment, Mayo Clinic in Rochester saves 5 million gallons of water per month. At the Saint Mary’s power plant, diverting cooling water to the cooling tower saves 50,000 gallons per month.
  • A laundry water-reclamation system at Mayo Clinic in Florida reuses approximately 70% of the water, which normally is discharged into the sewer system.
  • Domestic water "booster pumps" installed in Mayo's Rochester downtown campus save $48,000 annually.
  • Mayo campuses use native plant species that require minimal watering with drip irrigation and natural coverings (mulch). This reduces weeds and watering demands, as well as designing rain gardens to retain rainwater from running off into nearby sewers.
  • Waterless urinals on the Florida campus and at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, save more than 100,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Improvements in Mayo’s heating and cooling systems also have saved millions of gallons of water per year.
  • The Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, dedicates two acres of land for community gardens that support community health through accessibility to local nutritious and sustainable produce.

Reducing Waste

Mayo strives to ensure its operations protect, conserve, and reuse natural resources by reducing waste, recycling, and reducing toxins. In 2015, 32.7% of Mayo's overall waste stream was recycled.

Waste-reduction efforts include:

  • Food Services in Rochester offers china and silverware for meals eaten in the cafeteria, and upon request, staff members serve water in pitchers, rather than bottles, for meetings.
  • Each year, Mayo's Rochester campus diverts approximately 1.4 million pounds of food waste from the waste stream and sends it to a local hog farm to be converted to hog feed.
  • A portion of the Rochester campus's municipal solid waste is disposed of at the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy facility and helps generate energy for the community.
  • Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Eau Claire use reusable waste containers for sharps and hazardous medication waste. This practice prevents the disposal of approximately 458,000 pounds of plastic each year.
  • The Rochester campus donates approximately 230,000 pounds each year of unused medical supplies to a charitable organization for worldwide distribution to individuals in need.
  • The enterprise Division of Health Care Technology Management created a Medical Equipment End-of-Life Management Program in 2015. The program reviews older equipment to determine if it may be reused internally, donated, resold, salvaged for parts, or recycled. This allows for better utilization of equipment, optimizes financial return, and ensures proper disposal.
  • The Mayo Clinic Recycling Center in Rochester expanded by 4,000 square feet in late 2015. The expansion provides space for recycling additional materials.
  • Mayo Clinic in Florida reduced the amount of regulated medical waste disposed of in operating rooms by sorting non-regulated and regulated waste into separate waste streams.
Mayo Medical Laboratories recycles all of its styrofoam containers and Berry Boxes in collaboration with Mayo Clinic Recycling Center.


  • Recycling and toss-a-bag collection points are standard for new buildings or remodeling projects at Mayo's campuses in Florida and Arizona.
  • Mayo Clinic in Arizona combines recycled material, which increased the kinds of recyclable materials accepted, and boosted the recycling rate.
  • Food Services in Rochester recycles all paper, cardboard, aluminum, and plastic. It also uses paper napkins and cups made with recycled fiber.
  • The Mayo campuses in Eau Claire, Arizona, and Florida recycle "blue wrap" from operating rooms.

Toxin Reduction

  • Replacing the mercury-reduction policy with a mercury-elimination policy was a major milestone for Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The policy aims to eliminate the use of equipment, products, and compounds containing or using mercury.
  • Food Services in Rochester uses “green” cleaning agents and dishwasher products, and Environmental Services in Rochester has a “Green Cleaning Policy” that identifies cleaning and purchasing practices, which reduces environmental impact and improves safety for patients, visitors, and employees.
  • When selecting materials for building interiors, Mayo strives to eliminate those that contain toxins such as PCBs, PVC, and dioxins, which are found primarily in some foams and vinyl products and carpet backing.
    • Wall vinyls are made of recycled vinyl or are PVC-free.
    • Carpets have non-PVC backing.
    • Upholsteries have “green” finish options.
    • Chrome finishes no longer are selected due to the toxicity of the manufacturing process.
  • The Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont is partnering with Martin County, Minnesota, to help patients dispose of prescription drugs through a product that deactivates narcotics in medications for safer disposal.

Greening the Supply Chain

Mayo's Supply Chain Management area focuses on timely and cost-effective provision of resources. Since 2013, Supply Chain has been working to reduce waste and costs associated with office supplies, vehicle fleet management, and reprocessing.

Highlights include:

  • In early 2017, Mayo became a founding member of Greenhealth Exchange, a purchasing cooperative with a mission to accelerate the adoption of new and existing "green" products in the health care industry. Mayo staff members at the Arizona, Florida, and Rochester campuses can use programs to locate reserves of these products or offer surplus products to other Mayo areas to use.
  • The estimated writing-utensil use at the three main campuses of Mayo is 200,000 per year. Through the enterprisewide Writing Utensil Recycling Program, recycling receptacles are collected and shipped to the manufacturer to earn rebates.
  • There have been updates to policies for buying and using fleet vehicles. The three main campuses currently operate about 300 vehicles, representing a variety of makes and models.
  • Mayo has seen expansion of surgical-devices reprocessing and a portfolio of reusable products. Reprocessing efforts diverted 75,000 pounds of waste from the landfill and saved more than $1 million in expenses.
  • The Office Supply Exchange Program at the three main campuses encourages reusing and recycling surplus office supplies, ranging from printer paper to binders to staplers, by allowing others to “shop” the free exchange before placing a new order for supplies.

Sustainability Awards

A solar panel array on the Damon Parking Ramp helps power Mayo Clinic's downtown campus.

In Mayo Clinic's commitment to partner with other health care organizations, communities, universities, and other entities to achieve its sustainability, Mayo has received the following engagement and awards:


  • 2017 Practice Greenhealth Emerald Award for demonstrating superior sustainability programs that include setting the standard for eliminating mercury, reducing and recycling waste, achieving sustainable sourcing, and other areas.
  • 2017 Practice Greenhealth Greening the OR Initiative Award for reducing the environmental impact of surgical procedures in operating rooms.
  • 2015 Practice Greenhealth Emerald Award for improving ongoing commitment to environmental performance.
  • 2015 Practice Greenhealth Making Medicine Mercury-Free Award for efforts to eliminate mercury from facilities and patient care areas.
  • 2009–2015, named among the best workplaces for commuters. The Best Workplaces for Commuters is a program of the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida that recognizes organizations that have taken exemplary steps to offer employee-transportation options. The program offers sustainable transportation innovations. In addition to encouraging bus commuting through subsidized passes and coordinating carpooling, the city of Rochester and Mayo campus provide 102 bike racks (1,074 stalls), which has a fill rate in spring/summer/fall months of 85%.


Eau Claire, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Cool packs are reused and resent to clients as supplies, when the packs meet Mayo Medical Laboratories high supply requirements.
Kelley Luedke (@kschrib)

Kelley Luedke

Kelley Luedke is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her kitty, and exploring new foods.