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Nonprofit, CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada, Achieves Innovator Status

About CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada

CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization located in Reno, NV. They have provided free medical resources, durable medical equipment and supplies to low income Nevadans for almost thirty-two years.  

 

The founders of CARE Chest recognized the community’s need for durable medical equipment, and knew that many community members could not afford the equipment they needed that was not covered by insurance. Recognizing this need, three local pharmacists decided to create an organization that recycles, refurbishes and reuses medical equipment. They sanitize and repair gently used medical equipment and loan it to community members in need.

 

CARE Chest feels that the concept of reusing and recycling equipment fits perfectly with the Green Business Philosophy. They are not only providing the community with vital medical equipment; they also are keeping significant amounts of medical waste out of landfills. In the past year they recycled and refurbished over 2,000 durable medical equipment items for reuse in their program, saving the community and Nevadans over $300,000 last year.

Green Business Practices

What started with durable medical equipment has expanded to a philosophy that
guides their daily work. CARE Chest is committed to doing their part to create a
healthier Nevada. That includes the health and independence of community
members as well as the environmental health of the surrounding community.

 

As an innovator-tier business, they had to go above and beyond the standard green
business requirements. This took much dedication, some large and many small
steps along the way. One large step they took toward becoming a greener
business was installing solar panels in 2011. They now produce 1500 kWh per month!

 

Some of the small steps they took to make a big difference include:

CARE Chest’s 1500 kWh solar panel array

  • Changing aerators in their sinks to reduce the flow of water.
  • Purchasing and using recycled printer ink.
  • Creating a green team.
  • Educating staff via a Community Sustainability presentation given by a local environment based nonprofit, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB).
  • Turning off lights when not in use to conserve energy.

In the past year CARE Chest has recycled and refurbished 2,060 durable medical equipment items for reuse within their program. The total savings to the community and Nevadans is $316,035 for last year. The monetary value is calculated by logging every donation they receive. They then report back to the federal government on the amount of equipment reused and the money saved yearly. The lifecycle of the donated equipment is extended, saving them from entering the landfill, and keeping people independent and at home.

Biggest Challenges

While CARE Chest was already committed to many green practices and ideologies, one of the largest environmental challenges they faced within their industry while going through the green business certification process was finding sustainable and safe cleaning products. They realized that not all cleaning products approved to disinfect medical equipment are on the “EPA Safer Choice” list, but those products were not something that they could stop using. Instead, they try to offset the use of these products by using greener cleaning options around the office. They also stopped purchasing non-biodegradable latex gloves for themselves and the  community members they assist.

 

One aspect of transitioning to a green business model that they found challenging is that some of the eco-friendly products they switched to are less cost effective than their former products. “It takes a full company commitment to adopt a greener philosophy” noted their Development and Marketing Director, Jacob Johnson. However, the company and their 15 employees are committed to the betterment of their community and environment as a whole and view their changes as a positive for the long-term impact of the company and the community.

Benefits of Going Green

Anne and Jacob receiving their certificate at their annual fundraiser, Bacon, Bourbon, and Brews.

Through the process of becoming a certified green business, the employees of CARE Chest experienced an increased awareness both personally and professionally of recycling and environmental concerns. After developing a green team and going through the certification process, everyone on the team became more committed to being consciously green.

 

Jacob noted that, “there is now this little badge of pride you can see everyone wear. Not only do we accomplish the tasks and responsibilities of our individual jobs, we rallied around this cause and have achieved it as a team. It is something that has brought us all together on a different level.”

 

The Executive Director of CARE Chest, Anne Schiller shared some advice for other businesses looking to go green. “Do it!”, she said. “Stick it out and keep working towards your goals; it’s important!” She also noted for businesses going through the NV Green Business Network certification to use the advisors to help you, that’s what they are there for!

 

To learn more about CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada visit carechest.org.

Written by: Kimberly Rios, Sustainability Coordinator and Brittany Shelton-Dooley, Community Educator AmeriCorps, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. 2021.

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