What does a green healthcare system look like?

4 October 2023  •  NHS
What does a green healthcare system look like?

The green trend in healthcare is on the rise. That's good news! Healthcare providers are not only working to reduce their carbon footprint but also bringing attention to the environmental impacts of medical interventions and diagnostics. As a result, patients are being encouraged to eat healthier organic foods and make lifestyle changes that can help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Here's what you need to know about how hospitals are going green.

Energy efficiency is a focal point for green healthcare

Thanks to the green building movement over the last decade, most significant healthcare projects are built with an eye for energy efficiency. This often means applying LEED Silver or Gold standards to all of their projects. In addition, they are often designed by architects who have specialised in green design and construction techniques.

We've also seen that many healthcare facilities have adopted more efficient water-saving practices as well—such as using rainwater harvesting systems or high-efficiency toilets—which can save enormous amounts of money on utility bills over time.

There's been a move toward materials selection that is more sustainable and environmentally responsible. This includes using natural light whenever possible, designing spaces so that they aren't overcrowded with furniture (and thus use less power), choosing materials that won't leach harmful chemicals into the indoor environment (like PVC pipes) and cutting down on transportation miles for construction materials and equipment.

Implementing Green Plans

The NHS brought the framework for Green Plans for all care boards and trusts in NHS England into place on July 1, 2022. The main aim of this plan is to use legislation to guide the NHS towards net zero targets - which include lower emissions and defined environmental goals.

These Green Plans clearly outline the aims of integrated care systems in terms of sustainability and net-zero goals. It looks at many different areas that NHS facilities that could do more in terms of meeting these sustainability targets, such as transportation, supply chain management and digital transformation. All of these metrics are inspected and brought into Green Plans as a way to make the NHS as a whole more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Touchscreen technology

New touchscreen technology in exam rooms is less energy intensive than older electronic devices. These touch screens use a fraction of the electricity compared to older technology, which is a win for both the environment and your wallet. This touchscreen can be used in exam rooms, patient rooms and waiting areas at hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices.

By bringing in the latest touchscreen devices and diagnostic tools, hospitals not only enjoy greater energy efficiency but also increases hygiene practices. Keyboards are notoriously difficult to clean, so the implementation of touchscreen peripherals makes it much easier to disinfect.

Low-flow plumbing

Facilities managers have embraced low-flow plumbing and cleaning chemicals that are environmentally friendly. These facilities also use motion sensors in restrooms, which automatically turn on lights when someone enters. Motion sensors can also detect when an area has been cleaned so that lights will automatically shut off when no one is present.

Switching to organic food for patients and staff

There’s a big push to transition over to organic food options over processed foodstuffs. While conventional foods have been shown to contain more pesticides than conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains, they also contain higher concentrations of Nitrogenous fertilisers (N), Potassium (K) and other elements that can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. In fact, these chemicals have been linked to higher rates of cancer in humans. Organic foods do not contain synthetic fertilisers or pesticides; instead, they rely on natural methods like crop rotation and composting which greatly reduces environmental pollution while improving soil fertility.

Sustainability built into the curriculum

Increasingly, medical schools are including sustainability topics in their curricula, including the long-term environmental impacts of major medical interventions and diagnostic tools. For example, Harvard Medical School has instituted a new curriculum that examines how to alleviate health disparities in low-income communities by reducing waste and pollution.

Digital transformation and video calls

Some hospitals, especially those in rural areas, are offering telehealth services and virtual wards, instead of requiring patients to travel long distances for appointments or tests when less invasive forms of communication can take place via video call.

Telehealth has been used to reduce travel time and costs for providers as well as nurses and technicians. Because many hospitals have a shortage of qualified staff members, they often need to fly in specialists from other cities or states—a costly process that can also result in missed appointments because the specialist may not be able to find affordable transportation back home. Telehealth allows healthcare providers to provide care remotely so that patients do not have to travel as far away from their homes or workplaces by reducing the amount of time they need to spend at the doctor’s office.


The healthcare sector is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution. Yet it also has enormous potential to be a leader in sustainability. There are many ways that hospitals can go green, including improving their recycling programs, switching out old equipment with new energy-saving devices, and offering telehealth services instead of requiring patients to travel long distances for appointments or tests when less invasive forms of communication can take place via video call.

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