Top Five Ways Hospitals Can Reduce Carbon Footprint

22 January 2020  •  NHS
Top Five Ways Hospitals Can Reduce Carbon Footprint

If you’re currently working in a hospital, or looking to gain a locum job at one, there are many different considerations that need to be made, from shift patterns and rotas, to infection control and safeguarding. But one thing that may not have crossed your mind yet is just how environmentally unfriendly hospitals can be when the correct precautions are not taken. Thankfully, recent awareness about environmental health has helped all of us understand what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and treat the earth a little better.

Fascinatingly, the energy used in hospitals and care clinics make up 25% of all public sector carbon emissions used in England alone. This makes sense considering the 24/7 life support, lighting, septic and cleaning necessities for a healthcare building. Because these needs are so high, it is important for hospitals to reduce their carbon footprint wherever possible, especially because this pollution can have the inadvertent consequence of causing health issues that must then be treated.

Here are 5 ways to do that:

1. Recycle

It may seem obvious, but recycling of non-infectious waste is a huge step toward reducing carbon emissions. This might include seeking out a company that can turn oxygen canisters into pipes or PVC plastics into flooring. There are multiple companies in the UK (and worldwide) that are working with hospitals to recycle medical waste. Sterilisation wrap is used daily in hospitals around the globe and is typically incinerated. Not only is that wasteful and releases harmful greenhouse gases, it is also expensive. Many companies are working to sterilise and recycle the sterilisation wraps into things like buckets, ropes, and chairs.

2. Hire a sustainability officer

The aforementioned recycling projects require hospital-wide cooperation to ensure that everything is being recycled safely and correctly. The best person to oversee that is a sustainability officer. These employees lead projects, examine current practices, and make recycling options convenient and accessible. Depending on the budget of the hospital, this might even include a switch to solar energy or maximizing hospital efficiency through turning off heaters in unused areas. Sustainability officers do cost more money upfront but have been shown to reduce energy costs over time and drastically reduce the carbon footprint of individual hospitals.

3. Maintain equipment

In the world of recycling everything and installing solar panels, maintaining equipment can be one of the less exciting options; however, it can also have a huge impact. Equipment that isn’t operating at peak efficiency costs more energy and money to run. So, check your equipment for leaks, cracks, or mechanical issues regularly and you’ll save money and energy.

4. Introduce a Cycle To Work scheme

No matter whether you manage a small or large team, a workplace Cycle To Work scheme can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone. Cycle To Work schemes help pair employees with bikes on a tax-free, flexible wage deduction basis so that employees essentially ‘rent’ their bikes for the duration of their employment (or for a specified time period). During this time, they are encouraged to ride their bikes to work and leave them in a dedicated bike spot whilst they work, before riding them home again. Not only does this improve the physical and mental well-being of the employee, but helps the environment too. Similarly, you might want to introduce a team car-pool so that you share one car between several workers.

5. Take a hard look at your operating rooms

Operating rooms account for 33% of hospital supplies and energy. Even reducing waste management in operating rooms would significantly reduce cost and carbon footprint of the entire hospital. Because operating rooms are considered necessary (which they are), they are not normally scrutinized when observing areas of improvement. Fortunately, that means there is a lot of room for improvement while still prioritizing patient safety and comfort.

Responsibility of Healthcare Professionals

Hospitals are a wonderful, necessary modern development. They have provided humankind with the ability to live longer and fuller lives. Healthcare professionals have a duty to ensure that this trend continues and does not hinder it with high levels of pollution and waste.

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