How Healthcare Facilities Can Be More Eco-Friendly

It’s easy to incorporate environmentally-conscious practices at home. It’s as simple as recycling bottles and cans, composting food scraps and opting for energy-saving light bulbs. In the workplace, however, it’s much more challenging — particularly when you work in healthcare. Healthcare facilities are governed by rules and regulations that don’t apply to your typical office setting. But despite the barriers, it’s possible to create a more eco-friendly hospital or other health institution.

Given the sheer size of a healthcare facility — even one that’s considered smaller in scope — a small tweak or two can create a major positive impact on Mother Nature. And as an added bonus, these tweaks may also improve the quality of care for patients. Here are just a few ways that healthcare facilities can make the important transition from resource-guzzlers to eco-friendly institutions with only minor changes.

  1. Save Water

You might not realize it, but hospitals use copious amounts of water. Between bathing patients, flushing toilets and sanitizing everything from linens to dining room cutlery, a huge amount of this natural resource ends up going down the drain every day.

By updating some key pieces of equipment, such as showers and dishwashers, one hospital in Seattle saved six million gallons of water in a single year. Think about how this translates into financial savings and decreased impact on Mother Earth.

  1. Source Food Locally

From the food served to patients to the entrees offered to guests and staff in the cafeteria, hospitals also go through tons and tons of grub. In the mainstream model, that food comes from the supplier with the best prices, regardless of where in the world the ingredients grow.

When healthcare facilities work with local farmers and food purveyors instead, they provide healthier fare and also decrease their carbon footprint. It doesn’t take as much gasoline to transport veggies from down the road as it does from across the world.

  1. Enlist Green Cleaning Products

Cleaning and sanitizing are a constant in healthcare facilities. This means cleaning products can have a big impact on the quality of the air and the chemicals in the water that gets washed down the drain.

To keep patients and the environment healthier, facilities can oust any cleaning products filled with toxins or potential irritants and opt for eco-friendly cleaning products instead. They’re just as effective in terms of cleaning, so hospitals won’t sacrifice cleanliness in the name of eco-friendliness.

  1. Go Paperless

Many hospitals have already made the switch to electronic medical records, which has several benefits. First of all, when properly established, electronic systems are more secure than typical paper systems. They’re also easier to access and update. But most importantly, they save reams and reams of paper that would be used to print and file medical information.

As technology continues to improve, so will electronic health record systems — streamlining the treatment process and benefitting the planet at the same time.

  1. Ensure Eco-Friendly Waste Disposal

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities inevitably produce large amounts of waste. Although it’s impossible to eliminate the waste itself, it is possible to ease the negative impact that it has on the environment.

When facilities institute simple recycling programs, this can have a great effect on the eco-friendliness of the hospital. But they should also look into ways to dispose of other waste in greener ways so that harsh chemicals and biomedical waste don’t make it into soil or waterways. Options are out there.

  1. Filter out Surgical Smoke

Healthcare facilities don’t just emit solid and liquid waste. They also churn out gaseous waste. Many modern-day surgical procedures enlist lasers that create smoke when they take aim at tissues in the operating room. This smoke has been found to be detrimental in a way similar to the smoke that comes from cigarettes. Recent research shows that it contains toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene and hydrogen cyanide.

Some hospitals have begun to look for ways to safely evacuate surgical smoke in environmentally friendly ways. For example, they’ve enlisted the help of smoke evacuators to eliminate the noxious gases, and have tried to find ways to cut down on how much smoke they emit in the first place. Do some research and see if you can find ways to implement more eco-friendly surgical smoke procedures at your healthcare facility.

Eco-Friendly Healthcare Facilities Are Possible

With so many ways to cut down on their carbon footprint and other eco-unfriendly impacts, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can even implement just one strategy and yield major results. Whether they work to install water-conserving pieces of equipment or start to collaborate with local farmers to source fresh food, the positive results will benefit both the environment and the patients that count on top-notch care. Going green is a trending topic in the healthcare industry that likely won’t disappear anytime soon.


About the author

Kate Harveston