This Is How We Make Healthcare More Sustainable

These days, we all know just how important it is to try and lead eco-friendly and green lives. There have been countless campaigns ran by various organizations to try and persuade families to choose the environmentally friendly options. You know the kinds of things that help us lead eco-friendly lives; things such as choosing an organic diet and walking rather than taking the car so much. In fact, this push towards green living has persuaded a lot of households up and down the country to embrace renewable energy sources. As a result, there are now lots of homes up and down the country that are equipped with solar panels and devices that can wind energy. So, it looks like we’ve almost won the battle to ensure we are all leading eco-friendly lives, right? Well, not quite.

There is one part of life that is still causing a huge carbon footprint to develop. And that is the world of health and medicine. Even though hospitals and doctors surgeries up and down the country are employing a few green practices, there is still a lot to be done in this industry. The majority of the medicines and treatment procedures that are carried out these days still are not good for the environment. But that doesn’t mean that all is lost. All of the following steps can be taken to ensure that the world of healthcare becomes a lot greener and sustainable.

Raise Patient Awareness

One of the main things that healthcare professionals and organizations need to do first is to raise patient awareness. Once patients are aware of the impact that they are having on the environment, then they might go about their own healthcare in a much more eco-conscious way. For instance, rather than wasting gas by driving to their hospital and doctors appointments, they might instead choose to take the bus. Some might even decide to be super active and jump on their bike! It’s also a good idea to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling.

For instance, if a patient doesn’t finish the entire course of tablets they are given, they should know that they can return them to a pharmacist. That way, they can be properly disposed of or recycled. This is much better than when the patient simply throws them out in the garbage. Many healthcare professionals will find that by simply raising patient awareness, they will be doing a big bit in moving to a more eco-focused way of caregiving.

Deal With Medical Waste More Effectively

Another big problem in the world of healthcare is how to deal with medical waste. Most of the time, it is incinerated in a very hot fire. Of course, this isn’t the best way to dispose of anything as all of the fumes and carbon from the fire and incinerator will mix into the atmosphere and could speed up the greenhouse effect. Not only that, though, but harmful and toxic chemicals from the incinerator could easily leak into the surrounding environment. So, what should health organizations do with their health waste?

The best thing we can do right now is to try and reduce medical waste as much as possible. One way to tackle that is to only prescribe patients the absolute minimum amount of medicine that they need. That way, they won’t ever be left with too many tablets or medicines that they need to dispose of themselves. Thankfully, there is also some research into hospital incinerators to see if they can be created in a way that doesn’t pollute the environment so much.

Use Food Digesters To Minimize Food Waste

Hospitals create a lot of food waste throughout the year. After all, they have a lot of patients that they need to feed while they are in for treatments! As a result, every hospital on the plant creates a whole lot of food waste throughout each year. This can be a big problem for the environment as most of that food is simply thrown out with the garbage and ends up on landfill sites.

So, if a hospital were able to successfully reduce the amount of food waste it creates, then the environment will be a lot better off as a result. One way around this is to use natural food digesters to get rid of all that waste. This is currently being tried in a few different situations and it is hope that this tech will soon be brought into the healthcare world.

Source Organic Food For Hospitals

Hospitals could also be a lot greener if they started relying on organic food. The food we eat needs to come from sustainable and environmentally friendly sources if there is any chance of it being eco-friendly. If we buy our food from unsustainable sources, then we are responsible for the carbon footprint they create as we are funding their business.

So, hospitals would really be at an advantage if they sourced their food and ingredients from local and organic businesses. The nearer the food businesses are to them, then the fewer miles the food will have to travel in transit, which can again help to reduce a carbon footprint.

Encourage Patients To Choose A Greener Death

Did you know that the way we die can also have a big impact on the environment? For this reason, hospitals need to start encouraging people to opt for a green death. It is more eco-friendly for patients to die in their own home as they won’t be taking up any beds and energy in the hospital. Not only that, but what happens to their remains afterwards can also affect the environment.

Majority of the medicines and treatment procedures that are carried out these days still are not good for the environment

For example, cremations release a lot of mercury and other toxins into the environment. Plus, the process of incineration also releases harmful gases into the environment. If patients opt for greener burials, then they can do their bit in securing the environment for future generations.

Replace, Reuse, Recycle

If at all possible, items, equipment, and tools that are used in hospitals need to be replaced, reused, and recycled. Whether we are talking about body thermometers, rag2 knockout mice, or inhalers for asthma sufferers, we need to start looking into how these things can be made sustainable. Ideally, items need to be either reused or recycled. Of course, that isn’t always possible in a hospital environment because of the threat of cross-contamination.

Thankfully, though, there is a lot of ongoing research into this. Not only that, though, but it has been shown that hospitals need to try and rely a lot less on plastics. Plastics degrade at exceptionally slow speeds when out in the environment and release dangerous toxins into their surroundings. Ideally, hospitals need to switch from plastics to other biodegradable materials.

Minimize Paper Communication

As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of paperwork that hospital workers need to deal with on a daily basis. This is to do with patient records and also internal communications. However, all of that paper is extremely bad for the environment, as you can probably guess. There is one way around this, though – hospitals and healthcare professionals need to embrace digitization.

By going digital, they can get rid of all their paperwork completely, which will save a lot of trees in the environment! But that’s not all; it will also serve another benefit as it will help hospitals deal with storage issues. Now that all their forms, contracts, and documents are online and digitized, there is no more need for them to store hundreds of papers in filing cabinets. This will save them a lot of space in the workplace.

Discourage Staff To Drive To Work

As well as trying to discourage patients to drive to their appointments and consultations, it is also necessary for hospitals to try and put staff off of driving to work. There are other forms of transport they could use, such as buses, trains, and bikes. If they live nearby they might want to simply walk in each morning for a very relaxed commute! It is critical that we try and get as many cars off the roads as possible in the next few years if we are to try and hit the government’s reduced CO2 emissions targets.

Choose Video Conferences Over Face-To-Face Meetings

Doctors and other health experts regularly travel around the country to various conferences and health expos. Some of them even take international trips to meet other experts from other countries to swap notes on research. But all of that travel is adding an excessive amount of carbon into the atmosphere.

So, why not rely on tech and start taking part in video conferences? Thanks to state of the art devices, online conferences now feel like they are happening face to face. This is the road we need to be going down if we are going to help make healthcare a lot more sustainable.

Hopefully, you can use some of these great ideas in your own organization or hospital to make it a greener place.

Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of Cleantech Solutions, and an internationally-acclaimed blogger, journalist, consultant, advisor and ecopreneur. His areas of expertise includes waste management, renewable energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection, resource conservation and sustainable development.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on salman@cleantechloops.com.

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