An Order of Green Mayo, Please


a letter I sent to Mayo Clinic this morning, about its environmental practices, which quite frankly stink.

Mayo Clinic
13400 East Shea Boulevard
Scottsdale AZ 85259

Dear Mayo Clinic Administrators:

On Friday, March 19, 2010, I visited the Mayo Clinic Hospital and Specialty Building on the Phoenix Campus with my mother, who was a patient of your clinic. [a bunch of redacted stuff about my mom's doctor, who was great, and the fact that the lab lost my mom's blood work, which her doctor said happened all too often.]

I would also like to bring to your attention a few matter unrelated to my mother but still of great concern to me. When I went to the Hospital with my mother for some tests, we used the elevator to get to the second floor. I left her while some procedure was performed, and went to get a cup of coffee. I tried to use the stairs, but couldn't find them, largely because there were no signs leading to the stairs. (This could be very bad in the case of an emergency.) Eventually I simply took the elevator down to the first floor, which required me to wait for an elevator and also needlessly used electricity, two things that really irritate me. When I wanted to return to the second floor, I asked the volunteers at the help desk where the stairs were. "Why do you need to know where the stairs are?" one of them asked me.

"I like taking stairs," I said. "It's one way I get exercise. Plus I hate waiting for elevators."

"Our elevators are very fast," the volunteer replied.

"Not if a lot of people are getting on and off at every floor," I said. "And anyway, what does it matter to you if I want to take the stairs?" Still nonplussed that an able-bodied person would voluntarily climb one flight of stairs rather than take an elevator, they gave me directions, which proved inadequate. I gave up and took the elevator again.

The next time I wanted to travel between floors, I managed to request directions from someone who was able to provide them, and I took the stairs. They were dark, inconvenient and clearly not intended for use except in emergencies--though, as I already mentioned, even in an emergency they could be inadequate, as there is not good signage leading to them.

I understand why elevators would be the primary means of traveling between floors on a hospital. My mother, for instance, could not have taken the stairs. But even (especially?) in a hospital, stairs should be easily accessible to healthy people like me who want to stay healthy. Of course I noticed the large, decorative staircase in the lobby of the Specialty Building. But in the entire time I sat in that lobby, I didn't see one single person use the stairs.

Because my family was at the Clinic so long, I ate two meals there. I was very distressed not to see any sort of recycling bin anywhere in the cafeteria. Of course I understand that a hospital produces a great deal of waste that cannot be recycled, and that biohazardous waste must be disposed of in particular ways. But empty plastic beverage bottles can and should be recycled. Given all the single-use items Mayo goes through each day--cups, catheters, syringes, etc, etc--and how much packaging is involved to keep things sterile, the amount of garbage you produce must be immense. Surely it would behoove you to recycle what you can?

I checked your website, and could find next to nothing about Mayo Clinic's overall recycling practices or environmental policy. There was an announcement about "Jobs in Environmental Services at Mayo Clinic in Rochester," but the emphasis was on the jobs, not on Environmental Services. There was nothing about your practices or policies in Arizona.

As an organization dedicated to maintaining, protecting and restoring the health of human beings, Mayo Clinic should be acutely and aggressively concerned with environmental factors that can cause illness and disease, including pollution and climate change. You need to do your part to maintain, protect and restore the health of the planet, or your efforts to heal its inhabitants will ultimately fail.

I look forward to reading soon about the Mayo Clinic's implementation of recycling programs in its food services and office work, as well as it innovative efforts to reduce and recycle biomedical waste.

Very truly yours,


Isn't it insane the way the US is about elevators. It's so new. The buildings I am in most days were made before elevators were conceived. A woman has a right to stairs!

no kidding, Stella! I hardly ever take the stairs in my own building, and I live on the fifth floor. And it just kills me when I see people wait for the elevator to take them down stairs. Unless you've really damaged your knees somehow, it's just not that hard to walk down stairs.

I work on the fifth floor (which is the sixth, by US reckoning), and I make it a habit to walk up. Mostly because it's cheaper and more convenient than joining a gym. ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on April 19, 2010 8:39 AM.

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