The Conversation: Five ways hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint


Our healthcare sector produces 7% of Australia's emissions. Hospitals are only responsible for half of that, but there are many ways to reduce their environmental footprint and improve sustainability. DEA's Dr Forbes McGain, an expert in sustainability, outlines five of them.

"Picture the environmental life cycle of many disposable surgical instruments. Iron ore from Western Australia is shipped to China and smelted, fashioned into stainless steel surgical instruments in Pakistan and exported as single-use instruments. In Australia, clinicians use these instruments once, then discard them. 

So much that comes into patient contact is routinely used only once. This includes gowns, surgical drapes and covers for patients, anaesthetic breathing equipment, face masks and bed mats. 

On top of this, energy is wasted in hospitals because heating, cooling and devices are left on when not in use. It’s not surprising then to learn that health care produces 7% of Australia’s carbon emissions; hospitals produce about half of this. 

Here are five ways Australian hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint and improve their financial bottom line."

First published in the Conversation on 24 May 2018, where you can read the article in full.

Forbes McGain is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. He is also a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.



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