Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/nclexion/public_html/wp-content/themes/jnews/class/ContentTag.php on line 47
Environmental sustainability brings up images of climate change, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and single-use plastics.
The worldwide concern for these issues, inspired by the BBC’s Blue Planet and Greta Thunberg’s school strikes, now feels like a distant memory as we all focus on the Covid-19 crisis. The sustainable use of healthcare supplies has never been more pertinent ‘because’ of the pandemic, due to the increased use of personal protective equipment and difficulties with the supply chain of clinical supplies. Also, the pre-existing global environmental problems still need to be urgently resolved.
“We need to stop this toxic, counter-productive situation”
Healthcare contributes to a large amount of the country’s carbon footprint, which means our nursing care is making the planet sicker. The destruction of our ecosystems through rising temperatures, smog and microplastics then negatively affects public health. We become nurses to promote wellbeing, not cause ill health. We need to stop this toxic, counterproductive situation, where our nursing practice harms both our physical environment and public health.
The For a Greener NHS campaign is aiming to help the NHS become carbon neutral. If each nurse made a small change for improved sustainability, the collective effort could significantly reduce the environmental footprint of healthcare practice. Nursing is the largest healthcare profession, and there is power in numbers.
Are you motivated to be greener in your working life but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for you.
Find out if your department has a green champion you could assist. If not, set up a championing scheme in your trust for peer support and a teamwork approach.
Ask if your organisation has a Green Plan (formerly called Sustainable Development Management Plan). If not, ask the executive why not and share guidance on writing a Green Plan from the Sustainable Development Unit and For a Greener NHS.
Offer a nursing perspective to your employer’s procurement and waste management teams for any identified issues with supplies, waste and disposal.
Seek out opportunities for reducing or improving work-related travel through increased use of online meetings, active transport (walking and cycling) and carpooling.
Embed social prescribing and health promotion principles into your nursing practice, such as using outdoor spaces, physical activity, music, art or similar interventions which promote health with no or minimal consumables where possible.
Use a ‘green lens’ to consider environmental sustainability when local protocols, policies and clinical guidelines are updated.
For nurses caring for patients with respiratory disease, use guidance on reducing the carbon footprint of inhalers from the NICE patient decision aid and the British Thoracic Society’s Position Environment and Lunch Health Position Statement.
Join the Green Nurse Network on the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s (CSH) free online site for shared resources and practices. The CSH also facilitate a green ward competition and their SusQI framework can be used to embed sustainability principles into quality improvement projects.
Seek out case study examples and guidance from other sustainable healthcare organisations, such as Care Without Carbon and Health Care Without Harm.
Use social media and online conferences to learn from other nurses and celebrate your own successes with environmental sustainability to share ideas and knowledge about what works and does not work for green nursing.
Explore the links and co-benefits between ecologically friendly nursing with financial savings and social responsibility. Use this ‘triple-bottom-line’ approach while communicating to clinical, managerial and multi-disciplinary colleagues about the need for ethically sound, responsible and sustainable healthcare.
Whether we are a newly qualified nurse, an experienced practitioner, or a manager with strategic leadership responsibilities, we can all take a role in greening up nursing practice.
Heather Baid is principal lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton