Climate Change and Health Care
Updated: Aug 29
The Bon Secours Health System and Practice Greenhealth recently hosted a webinar concerning the subject of climate change and its relation to the health care industry. The webinar was given by David McCombs, the Vice President of ERP/Supply Chain Operations. The webinar provided extremely useful and extensive information concerning the changes that hospitals can make to reduce their contributions to climate change.
The webinar began with a short review of climate change, including why and how it occurs and the negative consequences of continued increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these consequences include increases in heat waves, sea level rise, increased precipitation and flooding, increased droughts, poor air quality, increases in zoonotic, vector-borne, water and food-borne diseases. The increases in heat waves, pollen allergens, poor air quality and vector-borne diseases should be of high concern to hospitals, as this will have a direct effect on their patients.
Because hospitals are high energy users, they are in turn large contributors to climate change. This webinar highlighted seven areas that hospitals can focus on to decrease their contributions. The first is transportation. David suggested reducing fleet emissions, incorporating the use of hybrids, encouraging the staff to use public transportation or bicycles, and purchasing materials and equipment from local suppliers as ways to reduce negative transportation effects on climate change. The next focus area was energy conservation and efficiency. Ways to reduce effects from this area are by performing an energy audit, utilizing renewable energy and combined heat and power units (CHP), incorporating energy efficient products, reducing standby energy use, and educating staff members and conserving energy.
The third area of focus was in green building design, which pertained more to newly constructed facilities. Some ideas are to choose a proper site location that reduces transportation needs, using sustainable materials, building LEED certified facilities, incorporating native vegetation and local & regional materials, and utilizing green roofs. The Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas was the first hospital to receive LEED platinum certification and is a fine example to gain ideas from. Alternative energy generation was the next focus area and suggested installing on-site renewable energy units, partnering with municipalities and utility companies on renewable energy projects and purchasing renewable energy.
One of the easiest and most effective areas to modify is waste disposal and management. By recycling, composting, buying recycled products, disposing waste locally and educating staff, hospitals can greatly reduce their impacts and save money. Food service was the next focus area, suggesting reducing meat options, buying locally and seasonally, incorporating organic food, and reducing waste as ways to decrease negative contributions to climate change. Finally, the last focus area was water conservation. Hospitals can monitor use of water, install low-flow technologies, incorporated drought resistant plants, repair leaks, collect and store rainwater, and eliminate the purchase and sale of bottled water.
At the close of the webinar, the question was brought up on how to persuade hospital administrators and executives to invest in these options. A representative from a hospital that has successfully incorporated a number of these suggestions stated that performing an energy audit and a feasibility study on the hospital and then using the results to demonstrate cost savings and return on investments. Integrating a combination of some or many of these methods and modifications can greatly reduce hospitals impact and contributions to climate change and also provide significant cost savings to the hospitals themselves.
To obtain an archive of the webinar, please visit: www.practicegreenhealth.org/tools/webinars/archive/
Further resources for hospitals, consultants and others can be found at: www.noharm.org/us_canada/issues/climate/chlc/resources.php
For a limited time EES is offering FREE Sustainability Audits to health care facilities in the region. Complete the form below to learn more!!