A Northern Light Health Pharmacy electric vehicle, or EV. The system has signed the Health Sector Pledge to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Credit: Courtesy of Northern Light Health

Northern Light Health has joined more than 100 other health care organizations in signing a pledge to reduce its emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Northern Light signed the Biden administration’s Health Sector Climate Pledge, which launched on Earth Day last year. It shows health organizations’ commitment to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and building more climate-resilient infrastructure, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The department announced in March that it would accept new signatories after stakeholders asked to join the pledge following the October 2022 deadline.

Northern Light Health’s decision to sign the pledge means the hospital system with facilities around Maine has joined at least 102 other organizations representing 837 hospitals nationwide, according to October 2022 figures from the Department of Health and Human Services. It was not immediately clear whether other hospital systems in Maine have taken the pledge.

Reducing emissions also ties in with Gov. Janet Mills’ climate initiatives focused on building climate resilience and generating clean energy jobs in Maine.

Stakeholders involved in the pledge also include health centers, insurance companies, suppliers and others, meaning more than 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made the commitment, the DHHS website said.  

Mills announced in December that she is investing $5.4 million in state and federal funding for the two initiatives. Maine has a four-year climate action plan, called Maine Won’t Wait, which was established in 2019.

The initiatives are meant to further the state’s climate goals, which include powering Maine by 80 percent clean energy by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2045.

“Northern Light Health aims to reduce our contribution to climate change, all in an effort to improve the health of the patients we serve,” said Tim Doak, vice president of facilities, sustainability and supply chain.

In a news release announcing the pledge, Northern Light Health did not say how it plans to meet its goals. Organizations that sign the pledge are expected to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, publicly accounting for progress annually.

They must also designate an executive-level lead for their work and develop a climate resilience plan for their operations, anticipating the needs of groups in their community that experience disproportionate risk of climate-related harm, according to DHHS.

A page on Northern Light Health’s website, focused on sustainability, outlines the company’s efforts.

For example, Northern Light is increasing employee awareness through internal communications, monthly newsletters and educational speakers.

Last year, 60 percent of the system’s electricity was procured from renewable sources, and this strategy will continue.

Historically, Northern Light Health’s vehicle fleet has been powered by gasoline or diesel, but plans to seek hybrid or electric options. Northern Light Pharmacy recently added four new Chevy Bolt electric utility vehicles to its delivery fleet, which are in Bangor, Waterville and Portland.

“Hospital boilers are being converted from No. 2 fuel to propane when appropriate, resulting in substantial greenhouse gas reduction and a cost savings benefit,” according to its website.

Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital is partnering with the University of Maine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions to complete a food waste audit. The results will inform waste mitigation efforts for food service programs across the organization.