Championing Sustainability In Healthcare: What Your Clinic Can Do

Championing Sustainability In Healthcare: What Your Clinic Can Do

Many companies and healthcare providers have begun to recognise the link between the health and wellbeing of Victorians, and their environment. Improving sustainability within the health system infrastructure has become an important part of the industry. Hospitals and clinics are looking towards implementing sustainable practices that reduce the overall carbon footprint of the industry. This involves making various changes, including to the type of equipment used, the disposal practices of facilities, bed covering materials, and even the kind of scrubs worn by medical workers. 

So what can you do as a healthcare industry worker? Educating yourself on the most up to date sustainability practices can ensure that you’re always aware of how best to treat the environment within the healthcare industry. 

Let’s have a look at ways you can help, with this guide on how to improve sustainability in your healthcare clinic.

Sustainable Materials In The Workplace 

Green initiatives in the healthcare sector go beyond the physical buildings and putting more plants around them. Adapting materials used within hospitals and clinics can also help improve sustainability. Medical scrubs for men and women can be sourced sustainably for example, made from ethically produced, recycled materials.

Many products that are used in the healthcare industry can also be replaced with sustainable alternatives. Surgical packs, drapes, gowns and medical bed sheets, face masks and gloves should all be considered. These items are often non-negotiably single-use so it is not possible to reduce disposal, but they can create environmental hazards when discarded in bulk and especially if made from synthetic materials like plastic. With this in mind, a shift towards creating them from sustainable materials would significantly reduce what is sent to landfill. Moreover, using recyclable materials means they can be repurposed again in the future, further improving the carbon footprint that healthcare is responsible for.

Some of the operational best practices adopted by clinics to make them sustainable include the use of non-toxic cleaning chemicals and microfiber mops, discontinuation of use of mercury-containing solutions and medical devices, and using paper products made from recycled material.

Sustainability Within Healthcare Facilities

As within any other industry, there are always cleaner, greener, more sustainable practices that can be implemented. Energy efficient window design, keeping artificial light usage low and using solar panels to rely less on fossil fuels are all ways to reduce energy bills and usage. Small businesses in Victoria can benefit from the Solar For Business program run by the government.

Creating green spaces and gardens to help with air recycling, rainwater harvesting, and encouraging public transport initiatives for patients, staff and visitors are easy methods to increase clean air.

These initiatives help lower the carbon footprint created by hospitals, and increase sustainability. By designing hospitals and healthcare facilities in ways that compliment the environment they are in, developers can create structures that help the people inside them, as well as the world outside. 

Sustainability & Health: Intrinsically Linked 

Sustainability is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean in a healthcare setting? The Department of Health has created a framework that all healthcare professionals should abide by.

The department conveys the importance of the natural environment and the need to keep the air clean for all. It specifically targets land use and transport planning policies and decisions. Reducing pollution to maintain the quality of air and reduce the risk of pollution-borne illnesses and negative respiratory effects is imperative.

Sustainability in healthcare also looks at the implications of climate change for the human body..Having too many hot days can increase the risk of heat related illnesses. The rising heat also increases the risk of bushfires and associated injury and respiratory hazards, as well as mental health issues. On the other hand, abnormally cold weather can increase the risk of illness and death in older people and those more vulnerable.

Many of these issues are circular. Our wellbeing is closely linked to the health of the planet, which is why it’s so important for clinics to play their part in making sure they protect the planet as much as their patients. If sustainability can be tackled within healthcare facilities themselves, we can hopefully lessen the problems caused to begin with.

What can you do to help?

As a healthcare professional, seeking out information on sustainable practices in your industry is an important part of staying up to date. When your facility is proposing changes, you can weigh in and provide valuable insight to help your local environment.

Furthermore, buying your own masks, gloves or scrubs from sources that use sustainable materials can make a small but vital difference. Any change will help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the healthcare industry, and increase sustainability, which we should all begin viewing as a necessity rather than a vague goal.