Sustainability and being environmentally friendly is more than just a set of buzzwords. While companies and large corporations sometimes use advertising ploys and marketing strategies to stress the importance of sustainability to their customers, industries across the globe should be focusing on the implications of their carbon footprint. Including hospitals.
It’s no secret that the environment in which we live needs to be more sustainable, especially considering the impact of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Whether it’s increasing solar panel and wind turbine production, or a minor change like reducing food waste, we all must come together to build a more sustainable world.
The health-care industry is one in particular that is affecting environmental change. In addition to caring for their patients in the operating room, there are initiatives that hospitals are undertaking to improve their processes and support the environment. The health-care sector would typically leave a sizable carbon footprint so that these new practices can be a significant game-changer in green living.
Let’s discuss the meaning of green living and how hospitals are adopting sustainable practices.
Definition of Green Living
Achieving sustainability in any sense of the word cannot happen without diligent strategizing and planning. Significant change does not occur overnight, but green living can help us reach the ultimate goal of maintaining a healthy planet.
Green living is essentially the adoption of practices that reduce the negative impact on the environment. It also implies actively promoting the planet’s health. Anyone can engage in green living, from the average citizen recycling or composting to public or private organizations implementing thoughtful green initiatives.
Think of green living as the means to an end. Green living is the path to follow in reaching a safer planet and ultimately a more secure future for the next generations.
Health-Care and Sustainability
Although health-care aims to take care of ill patients and create a healthier world for us all, the industry also contributes to pollution, resource consumption, and toxic chemical usage.
Research shows that the health-care sector is responsible for:
- 12% of acid rain
- 10% of GHG emissions
- 10% of smog formation
- 9% of air pollutants
- 1% of stratospheric ozone depletion
- 1-2% of carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic air toxics
It remains evident that the environmental impacts cannot go unnoticed. No industry is entirely green, and it’s crucial to understand that no one is pointing fingers at the health-care industry. To move toward sustainability, however, the industry must address its shortcomings and improve its processes to be more green.
Hospitals and Green Living Initiatives
Below are some of the ways in which the health-care industry is ushering in green living practices and incorporating them into their daily operations.
Sustainable building design is a driving force for hospitals trying to be more environmentally friendly. A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for hospitals reduces the energy consumption that hospitals are responsible for. It also helps improve energy efficiency. Many hospitals are now LEED-certified and are reaping the benefits of less water usage, recycling materials, and savings in energy.
Hospitals can reduce their food waste by using composting techniques. They can also ensure they purchase large quantities of food for their patients from sustainable sources or locally. This is a clear example of green living. Sourcing food locally also helps foster a greater relationship between health-care providers and the communities they serve.
Paperless Record Keeping
It’s no surprise that more health-care facilities are aware of the digitization of business processes. Like data storage and patient records. The days where patient records are kept on hard copy or in file cabinets are over. Cutting down on paper is an obvious way to care for the environment, and it’s perfect for hospitals trying to act more sustainably.
Hospitals can implement recycling programs to reduce the amount of waste produced every day. For example, paper, plastic bags, batteries, cardboard, and toxic chemicals from labs can be recycled. When hospitals commit to being more sustainable, recycling properly is usually one of the first changes. If possible, hospitals should also consider reusing personal protective equipment (PPE) to limit how much waste each medical professional is producing. Not all PPE is the same, and sometimes it is unsafe to reuse it. When it can be reused, it cuts down on waste significantly.
Also known as vegetative roofs, these newly constructed or retrofitted additions to hospitals help to promote a healthier environment while also providing energy savings to the hospital itself. When a green roof is installed, the overall temperature of the rooftop lowers, making it less likely that the hospital contributes to the heat island effect. This is a win for the hospital and the surrounding environment.
Hospitals Adopting Green Practices
Many industries need to address their sustainability efforts to create a safer environment. Because we rely so heavily on our environment for resources, businesses must consider how their practices negatively impact the environment.
Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief of Momish Magazine and believes in science, that climate change is real, and is doing her part to keep Mother Earth healthy for the future of her four kids.