At over 28.5 million, the population of Texas is the second largest in the U.S. and is expected to double by 2050. In response, existing healthcare is expanding rapidly. In 2017, eight out of the 25 largest employers in Texas were either hospitals or research facilities. Many healthcare providers are leading the way to create healthy communities by incorporating sustainability within their facilities and using nature to provide both healing opportunities to patients and vital habitat for Texas’ flora and fauna.Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the nation, doesn’t seem a likely place to find eight acres of tranquil green spaces and a park-like wellness garden, but both are elements of the facility’s campus opened in 2015. Parkland Health & Hospital System’s main campus includes an acute care hospital licensed for 882 beds, outpatient specialty centers, a logistics building, parking garage with solar panels, and a central utility plant, all recipients of LEED Gold recognition and geared to serve residents of Dallas County. In addition, two of Parkland’s outpatient health centers feature special gardens for patients and staff to enjoy – a community garden with vegetables, herbs and pollinator plants at the Southeast Dallas Health Center and a pollinator garden at the deHaro Saldivar Health Center.
For people in stressful circumstances, exposure to green space can offer the peaceful environment needed to help facilitate the healing process.
The eight-acre campus—equivalent to six football fields—is comprised of tree-lined boulevards, flower-bordered pathways and an expansive, tranquil wellness garden outside the cafeteria and hospital lobby. No endlessly watered grass lawns here: all plants are native and drought-tolerant species, creating an estimated 60 percent reduction in water usage over a traditional landscape of the same size.
Parkland’s community garden located at one of its outpatient health centers in southeast Dallas County was established with the assistance of a grant provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The fresh produce from the garden is distribution to eligible patients and their households on a weekly basis. The community garden also promotes land conservation through organic gardening practices, while colorful pollinator plans add beauty and sustainability, providing a valuable resource for patients, their families and the community.
In 2012, Parkland established a sustainability team, switching its conservation approach from being regulatory or economically-based to one that is more proactive. The team is tasked with creating, implementing, maintaining and expanding Parkland’s sustainability programs throughout the organization.
“The focus of Parkland’s sustainability program started out as an effort to increase recycling rates,” says Miranda Skaaning, manager of Facilities Business & Sustainability at Parkland. “It has now evolved to include initiatives centered on energy conservation, green building standards and land conservation, among others. One of our main themes during the renovation was to ‘put the park back in Parkland.’ We hope to continue to be on the forefront of sustainability and conservation practices.”