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Featured Changemaker: JULIE MOYLE on impactful steps toward sustainability

Julie Moyle has been working in sustainable healthcare for many years. As a founding Philanthropiece Advisory Board member and community activist, Julie had plenty to share with our interviewer Caitlin Mendenhall about helping communities and the healthcare industry thrive responsibly.

What kind of work do you do and why is it so important?

I’m most commonly known as a nurse. My clinical training has been all around surgical services. I’ve been in this field of healthcare sustainability for twelve or thirteen years now. In the course of my career, which began after I graduated in ‘86 from Vanderbilt, I’ve been in many different operating rooms. After I graduated with my master’s degree from Duke in Nursing Administration, I did some teaching at the University of North Carolina, but I missed being in the operating room. When I moved out here in 2000, Boulder Community Hospital was in the process of building the Foothills Campus, and they contacted me to help hire and manage the surgery department. It was the first LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – a green building certificate) certified hospital in the world. It gave me a front row seat to this evolving movement about ways that we could reduce the environmental impact of our work.

Three years ago I was offered a position with a public health campaign called the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. This was a fantastic three-year campaign funded by three nonprofits and twelve health systems representing 500 hospitals. They pulled together the best of the best of these environmental practices and made them available for free for any hospital in the U.S. and Canada that wanted to participate. The idea behind it being to remove any financial barrier to doing this work, which is so important because of the inextricable link between the environment and our health. Caring for the environment is caring for people. Period. If the healthcare sector fails to respond to environmental threats, then we risk being hypocritical, as opposed to following our Hippocratic Oath. When hospitals get this, they reap the benefits in all areas, so much so that it’s almost a new business strategy or business approach. The Healthier Hospitals Initiative identified best environmental practices and categorized them into six areas which include cleaner energy, less waste, safer chemicals, healthier food, engaged leadership, and smarter purchasing. We’re talking about changing the entire healthcare sector, through hospital demand for inherently safer products and services, in that they are safer for the environment and therefore safer for us. So by focusing on the environment, we get better health not only for patients but for all people who work in or visit hospitals.

After the three years of that campaign were up, I was offered a position with Practice Green Health, which focuses on helping hospitals reduce their environmental impact. We’ve strayed from our relationship with nature, our life force, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that. It’s important to me to be a part of the solution. I get to work with people all over the country who are committed to this work and I get to provide them with the resources to do their jobs. It’s fun and challenging. I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to be able to fulfill my personal growth by taking care of the people who are taking care of their hospitals, patients, and the environment. In addition to working with Practice Green Health, I also have my own consulting company, doing research, presentations, and putting together study guides on the subject. While I still do practice medicine and enjoy giving my patients the best possible care that I can, I take that same attitude to my work in sustainability. It’s patient care on a much bigger scale.

Who are some of the people that have helped you along the way and shaped your path?

I’ve had several mentors in working in the healthcare sustainability sector. I have the privilege of working with these pioneers who’ve been at this for 20 years. They are such incredible thought leaders and hard workers. The challenge is reigning that energy in to be able to maintain a work-life balance. My hat is off to everybody who is engaged in this work. It is an honor to help and support them.

How did you get involved with Philanthropiece, and what do you bring to the team?

I’ve been a part of this since the beginning. The connection opened up at the invitation of both Joanie and Libby, even before Philanthropiece became an organization. I was part of the discussion of trying to come up with a name and a mission. I think what I bring is my health background and the sustainability piece and how that might work in the programs and in the communities that we’re involved in. Sustainability, in the sense that they are self-sustaining, is important in all our programs. It’s incredible to watch that be born and grow. If you come in with all due respect for a person and listen and understand, it just takes that spark. When an individual realizes that they have the capability to affect positive change, it throws open the doors of empowerment, innovation, and engagement, and who knows what kind of ripple effects that will have. That’s what it’s so exciting about being a part of this organization. It’s fun to see how all these aspects of my life come together.

What do you want to say to our community?

The ultimate question that we will all have to answer is, what did you do when you knew what was happening? What we did will be the legacy that we hand down and the stories that future generations tell about us. We only have a window of a couple of decades to right this course. I try to engage as many people as I can in this because you never know, even if it’s just one person, what that one person would do differently. When someone realizes that what they do makes a difference, all of the sudden they are part of something that is bigger than themselves. That’s how you build collective community.

It doesn’t matter to me why people embark on this work, just that they do. I think that’s how we can reach out to people and engage them. It’s a matter of finding that lever to pull that’s going to ignite that spark. It is so important to identify mutual objectives. When you have that, you have mutual admiration and partnerships, and that is amazing. When you have businesses and hospitals that you would think have opposing agendas come together and work together on something, it’s transforming. And that’s what sustainability its. It’s about collaboration. At the end of the day all of us want clean air, clean water, clean food, and we want our kids to grow up healthy. That’s something we can all work toward.

What does community mean to you?

A community is a group of people who realize that their destinies are intertwined. There is no “us” and “them”. It’s just us collectively, and our well-being depends on one another. We have to support one another and exercise compassion. Community is a collective whole of people who understand that their survival is based on their ability to work together. I think we’ll see that more in response to the climate change that we face. If we focus locally it will help. A healthy community is one you feel safe in, where you know someone’s got your back, and it’s about teamwork. It’s the opposite of selfishness. People need to step away from their own lives and their own needs and realize that our actions and our decisions have an impact on the people around them. Once there’s an acceptance of that, well then, welcome to the community!

We all have days where our hearts and shoulders feel a little heavy. Where do you draw your inspiration from in these moments?

When people feel like throwing their hands up, I usually tell them not to worry about anyone else except themselves. If you do just one thing for yourself, you start to affect change in the people around you. In her book, Walk out, Walk on, Margaret Wheatley says, “start anywhere, follow it everywhere.” It doesn’t have to be a big change; it’s more of a paradigm shift or shift in your way of thinking. That’s what leads to a larger community of people who want to shape the future in a positive way. That’s why I named my consulting company 1×1 Consulting. One person at a time, one project at a time, one place at a time. I really do believe that by affecting change in just one person, who knows what that could lead to.

How do you make space for yourself? When are you happiest?

I am happiest when I get out and do the things that I love to do. That means gardening, backpacking, strapping on my hiking boots and running out to the slab and back… I love the outdoors. I think it is important to maintain that balance and make sure you’re taking care of yourself, because only then can you bring that best foot forward and take care of others.

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