Reducing Carbon Footprint in the Workplace is Everyone’s Business

Reducing Carbon Footprint in the Workplace is Every one’s Business

Environmental news focuses mainly on glaciers, studies on global ocean currents and tsunamis, all thousands of miles away but shouldn’t we be looking at what’s going on in our own back yards?

As health care workers, most of us work for the National Health System, the largest employer in the country, but did you know that the NHS is one of the largest polluters in Europe, that the NHS alone produces around 20 million tons of carbon dioxide every year?

A lower carbon NHS is vital. Reducing the carbon footprint is every one’s business.

Aiming to raise awareness, the first NHS sustainability Day of action took place in March 2012 and since then sustainability days are held yearly.

We all know we should be doing something, take a more holistic view but we don’t always have a clear understanding of sustainability, we haven’t quite understood how we can make significant changes to better our environment.

For NHS Sustainably Week, Radiographer Charles Hurford based at the London North West Hospitals Trust arranged a tree planting event with Northwick Park Hospital where staff and children from a nearby junior school planted 8 ecologically suitable trees next to the maternity unit of the hospital.

But this environmentalist is contributing much more; he understands that for sustainability to work within a business three things are important:

  • Raising awareness in the workplace
  • Networking
  • Sharing ideas about best practices

Reducing waste and creating ecological awareness within a hospital are serious issues involving everyone but to bring about real changes within the trust, staff and management have to be work together.

With their help and support, Charles now has projects within the radiology department dealing with the problem of waste, he has engaged the Hospital trust on how best to use up their green spaces but equally important, he has formed teams of sustainability champions at the hospital, each member promoting sustainability in their individual departments.

The waste management team has set up 100 recycle boxes throughout the hospital and an intensive recycling program within the radiology department; in all x-ray rooms, the angiogram suite, in CT, in the catherization laboratory (cath lab) and in theatres. Most important, staff members are shown how to use them properly especially the hospital cleaners. Informing is not enough.

Charles said, “Cleaners are very important to train as well as clinical staff and also office workers who create a lot of waste. Initially we had problems with the clinical waste getting into the recycling boxes.”

Healthy Nature Walks

Charles feels that helping the staff, making their work more enjoyable will allow them to have fun at work.

He and the sustainability champions’ team organize nature walks, lunchtime sessions mostly where participants learn, observe and study various aspects of nature – woodland ecology, badgers, birds, wildflowers etc.

How does the hospital staff get to know about these walks?

Charles said; “I put a message out on the hospital intranet, where and when to meet and we walk around the hospital.

“You could do this even in an inner city hospital,” he enthused.

Charles has even started a sustainability magazine, LNWHT Sustainability News which keeps everyone aware of new development within the trust.

The projects put into place at the North West Hospital Trust are fine examples of hospital workers taking an active part, inspiring and enthusiastic members of staff bringing positive changes to the environment. Charles says: “A happy work force is a more sustainable work force. It means we will have less sickness, less staff leaving and it will make work more interesting; less money wasted equals sustainability aims. This is called a sustainable workforce.”

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Written by Alice Alech with thanks to Charles Hurford and London North West Hospitals Trust