How to make hospitals more eco friendly

24 January 2022  •  Locum
How to make hospitals more eco friendly

Like so many big institutions, the NHS is taking big steps to become more eco-friendly with wide-reaching efforts and a long-term strategy to reduce emissions across the board. However, it's not just policymakers who can make hospitals more environmentally friendly; nurses, cleaning staff, biomedical scientists, occupational therapists, healthcare recruitment firms and visitors can all play a part in creating a greener healthcare system. From small individual actions taken to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling to work to major institutional reforms and innovative water systems, let's take a closer look at how to make hospitals more eco friendly.

How to make hospitals more eco friendly

Sustainable hospital practises

The benefits of more sustainable hospital spaces can be huge, with many hospitals around the world committing to a better way of running. By making decisions that consider the environmental, social and economic factors involved, more forward-thinking hospital systems can become common. Rainwater harvesting facilities can be a great way to reduce water consumption and encourage self-sufficiency, as can planting trees and making sure there are more green spaces around hospitals. Being involved with the local community and encouraging public feedback on hospital spaces can also be crucial for making better choices for everyone.

Cutting down waste

We all know reducing waste is essential for a more sustainable future, however, in hospitals, where infection control measures are fundamental, there is a huge reliance on single-use plastics and disposable items. Of course, certain items can't be switched or reused in a sterile, hospital environment, but there might be some alternative ways to reduce waste there too. Some simple ways to cut down waste in hospitals include:

  • Switching to air dryers rather than paper towels in bathrooms to reduce the amount of paper thrown away
  • Turning off lights, not in use with sensors
  • Buying locally grown produce that hasn't travelled far
  • Preventing water wastage with automatic shut off taps
  • Reducing unnecessary cannulation
  • Sending communications by email rather than printing and posting
  • Diverting wasted food to compost
  • Using less wasteful food procurement practices
  • and more!

Reducing single-use plastics in hospital

As mentioned earlier, single-use plastics are essential for some healthcare purposes, but they can often be wasted or involve less packaging. Unique solutions, such as a project to create surgical procedure packs instead of products that are individually wrapped, was trialled by Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. It saved staff time and reduced packaging waste by 90%, saving 2.6 tonnes a year.

Introducing recycling facilities for both healthcare settings and waiting areas can vastly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, however, clear labelling is needed to make sure everyone knows what can be recycled. Switching from disposable sharps bins that would have been incinerated with reusable ones can also be an efficient way to cut down single-use plastics.

Switching to greener alternatives

One of the biggest ways hospitals can become more eco-friendly is by switching to products that are better for the environment. The healthcare system is reliant upon a wide range of chemical products, which can be switched to more eco-friendly alternatives on a wide scale. Many hospitals across the country have started using more eco-friendly cleaning products, which can have a huge impact.

Energy-efficient updates to hospital buildings can also reduce wasted energy, from extra roof insulation to reduce heat loss to energy-efficient water heaters. Secure bicycle storage can encourage staff members to cycle to work and electric car charging points could help make electric cars more practical for staff and visitors.

Cutting down transport emissions

The way that we get to and from hospitals, whether for treatment, work or for locum jobs in the UK, the emissions caused by using a car start to add up quickly. Around 10% of emissions from NHS activity in 2019 came from staff commutes and travel from patients and visitors.

Making sure there are good links to public transport is important to address this, as are car-sharing programs and staff incentives to travel to walk in a more eco-friendly way. As an individual, look for locum jobs near me to reduce how far you have to travel and see if there is a more eco-friendly way to travel to and from work, such as on a hybrid bus.

Reacting to a climate crisis

The environmental crisis has been described by the WHO as one of the biggest risks to global health, with poorer air quality, shortages and rising temperatures affecting people around the world. The long-term impact of harmful environmental practices must be considered as hospitals are under increasing pressure. As healthcare workers pulled together during the Covid crisis, new ways of doing things have been seen across the country.

Not only have some of these reduced infection rates, but some of them may also be better for the planet too. There has also been a huge recent shift to holding patient and staff meetings online, due to Covid-19 restrictions, however, this has also had an environmental benefit for the healthcare industry. By reducing patient and staff travel needs, online appointments could be an important way that hospitals can cut down emissions.

Embracing green technology in hospitals

Choosing and adopting green technology is another way that hospitals can become more environmentally friendly. Upgrading to eco-friendly heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems can have a dramatic impact on the energy used by hospitals.

Technologies like ground source heat pumps and solar panels can also reduce energy costs for hospitals, as well as make them more eco-friendly. Other innovative solutions have been trialled across the world, such as gas capture technology of anaesthetic gases so they can be reused in Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, which reduced emissions by 8,965 tonnes and save $2.6 million a year.

Find your role

If you're passionate about the environment and making hospitals better places for the future, there are so many ways you can incorporate these ideas into your practice. Check out our wide range of locum jobs in the UK to find your perfect role today. To discuss how to make hospitals more eco-friendly in further detail, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash.

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