The healthcare industry is one of the largest in the world, with over 17 million people working in the sector in the United States alone. This means that the industry also has a significant environmental impact, contributing to the rise in greenhouse gasses. As the world continues to face climate change and its consequences, healthcare professionals are coming together to reduce their ecological footprint by developing and implementing green initiatives.
Read below to learn how, from medical waste management to energy-efficient buildings, healthcare professionals are taking steps to protect the environment while still providing quality care to patients.
One of the most significant impacts that healthcare facilities can make is through the construction of energy-efficient and sustainable buildings. Green buildings are designed to reduce energy and water consumption, and generate less waste. For example, the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC) helps professionals make informed decisions during the design, construction, and operation of healthcare buildings. They provide guidelines on using sustainable materials, reducing water and energy consumption, and implementing renewable energy sources. Abraham Lincoln Memorial Center, Lakeview Hospital, and Stony Brook University Hospital are just some examples of many who have stepped up to abide by these guidelines.
Reducing Medical Waste
Healthcare facilities are also taking steps to reduce their medical waste by properly segregating materials and utilizing eco-friendly waste disposal methods. This includes separating hazardous and non-hazardous waste, recycling, and reusing waste materials, to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. In addition, some hospitals are also implementing waste-to-energy facilities that convert waste into renewable energy.
Healthcare facilities are making an impact by adopting sustainable procurement practices. They are sourcing environmentally friendly products, implementing responsible packaging, and minimizing the purchasing of single-use products. This not only reduces the ecological footprint but has also helped reduce healthcare costs, creating a win-win situation.
Use of Renewable Energy Sources
The healthcare industry is also adopting renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines to power their hospitals and clinics. This allows facilities to generate clean energy and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, reducing carbon emissions.
One of the newest efforts gaining traction in areas such as San Diego is the greenification of medicine itself. There is a growing effort to use earth-friendly drugs that have the same effects as existing medication. The practice of this idea has started and grown in anesthesiology, where professionals have found alternatives to common drugs that are just as effective and safe, cause less damage to the earth, and are often cheaper than the medication we use today. The growth of efforts such as these can put a major dent in the environmental damage done from healthcare efforts.
The healthcare industry has a responsibility to reduce its ecological footprint, and practitioners are stepping up to the challenge. Now more than ever, it is essential that we all play a role in reducing greenhouse gasses, and together, we can help to mitigate the impact of climate change. These efforts have largely gained traction in areas with higher populations, but every healthcare group has the ability to help!
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