Why do we need to ensure sustainability in the healthcare sector and how can we achieve that?

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Sustainability is important for healthcare & proper planning and use can help achieve it

Posted by Priyanka Sharma on 05 Mar, 2020

Sustainability is the top need of our times and must be practiced in all walks of life. Healthcare, in general, is barely bought into perspective when we talk about sustainability. But that does not mean it can be left out of the sustainability discussion.  

Globally, healthcare has a a climate footprint of 2.0GtCO2e in 2014, equivalent to 4.4% of global net emissions. That means healthcare is above Brazil and Japan when it comes global emissions. If it were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter on the planet; behind China, US, India & Russia but ahead of Japan and Brazil. Not to forget, more than half of health care’s footprint comes from energy use.

So how can we reduce this environmental footprint of healthcare. The good news is that there are many ways to ensure that.

Waste Management: Reducing waste is important and so is managing the waste disposal practices. While hazardous medical waste cannot be reused/recycled, non-hazardous should be segregated into reusable, non-reusable, recyclable, and non-recyclable. 

Recycling: Recyclable waste should be disinfected and sent to proper recycling plants where they can be turned into usable material.

Appropriate Incineration: Much of medical waste is known to be incinerated out of safety concern. While incineration of some of the waste cannot be ruled out, it can be ensured that the waste that does not necessarily needs incineration can have alternate treatment like autoclave/steam sterilization, microwave, and chemical disinfection.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Options: The waste issue would itself be reduced if the manufacturers and user opt for eco-friendly and recyclable products.

Transportation: Medical transportation, whether it's for patients or for medical equipment/medicines, leaves behind a significant carbon footprint which can be reduced by making appropriate transportation choices such as switching to EVs and pooling medicine batches. Pooled transport can also be provided for medical staff.

Energy Usage: Last but not the least, energy use can be minimized by ensuring that best practices for energy conservation are followed by all. Choosing for more energy efficient lights and HVACs, using renewable sources of energy and switching off when not using are some basic ways to ensure that. 

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