The healthcare industry one of the most important sectors in the world.
Every year healthcare workers save thousands of lives and help make the world an overall healthier place. However, for how much good the healthcare industry does in the world, it also has some negative effects on the global environment.
The healthcare industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, which can cause serious health issues for some regions. In fact, the healthcare industry is responsible for 4.4% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the equivalent of 514 coal fired power plants. To put this into perspective, if the global healthcare sector were a country, it would be the world’s 5th largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. Although this is a global issue, the United States is no innocent bystander as they have the largest share of healthcare greenhouse gas emissions of all countries at a staggering 27%. The second largest contributor is China who accounts for 17%.
This issue has gotten a lot more attention in recent years and many healthcare facilities worldwide are making changes to try to limit their contribution to the problem. For example, in the US several Boston-area hospitals and clinical institutes announced a commitment to decarbonize. The University of California system has pledged to become completely reliant on clean electricity for its campuses and medical centers by 2025. The Cleveland Clinic is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2027. Additionally, many hospitals throughout the US have received LEED certifications, a program that rates environmentally friendly buildings.
Reducing the carbon footprint of a healthcare facility is a very challenging task overall, but when breaking it down there’s some straightforward steps that hospitals can take. Here’s a few examples of what facilities are doing to improve their carbon footprint:
Energy use is a big contributor to the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry with over half of total carbon footprint stemming from it. Shifting to clean energy and electricity sources can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of facilities with many already doing so. For example, the University of Vermont Medical Center uses a solar panel array on its rooftop to generate some of its energy. The Center also participates in the Vermont Gas Renewable Natural Gas Program that captures methane from a landfill in Quebec. Another facility that uses clean energy is the Boston Medical Center that buys electricity from Summit Farms, a 650 acre solar panel farm in North Carolina. The Boston Medical Center is able to eliminate about 119,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year by doing so. The University of California in San Diego has two medical centers that are working to reduce their energy use and find renewable options in order to meet their goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2025. They currently buy some sustainable energy from the University of California but they will likely have to explore other options, as the university has also prohibited any new buildings from using fossil fuels.
Improving Energy Efficiency
It may seem like an obvious way to reduce the carbon footprint, but improving the efficiency of energy use in healthcare facilities can drastically improve their carbon emissions and save millions of dollars in the long run. That’s why large medical systems like the University of Wisconsin Health in Madison is taking a variety of energy saving steps. The health system has begun using lighting controlled LEDs, installed high- efficiency equipment, and added HVAC occupancy sensors and demand-reduction strategies. Other facilities like the Ahuja Medical Center in Ohio feature a smart building design in order to be able to use natural light and rely less on artificial lighting. The same facility also has a white roof which absorbs less heat and leads to savings in HVAC costs.
It can be expensive initially to make the change to using energy smarter, but it can save loads of money for the facilities in the long run. The Boston Medical Center’s energy-saving measures have reduced their operating costs by almost $25 million. The Cleveland Clinic has reduced its energy use intensity by around 19%, which in turn as saved its facilities around $50 million.
Reducing Waste and Recycling
Hospitals generate over 5 million tons of waste every year including normal trash and regulated medical waste, which can be harder to dispose of. Reducing waste and implementing robust recycling programs can be a tricky task, but hospitals have began to take on the challenge. Facilities such as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota operate their own recycling center where they recycle plastics and glass. This center also recycles surgical blue wrap that they then sell to a company that converts it back into polypropylene. The University of Vermont has a similar program that has diverted 50 tons of blue wrap since 2010. Making the effort to implement a recycling program and taking steps to reduce the amount of waste will greatly improve the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry, especially if more and more hospitals begin to do so.
There are many different ways that a healthcare facility can reduce its own carbon footprint and all of them should be explored. Using equipment that is more efficient both energy-wise and time-wise is an excellent place to start. If a facility doesn’t use the right equipment for their needs, they could be wasting time, money, and hurting their own carbon emissions at the same time.
Lakeside Manufacturing understands the benefits of using high-efficiency equipment and is here to help outfit any hospital with the right equipment for their facility. Whether your facility needs a new standardized supply and distribution system, or a completely custom line of equipment, Lakeside is here to work with you to ensure that your facility is performing to the best of its abilities. We would love to hear about your facilities’ challenges and work together to come up with the best solution to save you time and money. Get in touch and let’s figure out how to improve your carbon footprint together!