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Creating Sustainability in the Field of Healthcare

Authored by Ayesha Rajan, Research Analyst at Vikriti Management Consulting

Introduction

Healthcare is supposed to be about creating societies that are enriched by the improvement and maintenance of mental and physical wellbeing. This is a necessity to any thriving population but creating and supporting a healthy human population can have negative effects on the environment. In fact, it is estimated that around 10% of total carbon emissions in the United States can be attributed to the healthcare industry. While a healthy society is important, it is just as important to protect the health of our planet so in today’s article we will explore ways in which the healthcare industry can become more sustainable. 

Discussion 

The first and most logical step to increasing sustainability in healthcare is within the hospital system. Similar to any other building in any other industry, hospitals use energy and water and create waste. However, unlike other industries, hospitals use a lot more energy. They depend on electricity and water 24 hours a day and have waste that needs to be disposed of in more laborious ways. To combat waste in these ways, hospitals can consider switching to environmentally friendly power forms, such as solar power, to supply energy to their lighting system. They can also use less water in their plumbing systems, as well as their laundry and dishwashing systems. Hospitals can also consider sourcing materials from local or, at the very least, in state suppliers to decrease the amount of traveling necessary to keep vital supplies in stock. 

Another way in which the healthcare system can increase sustainability is on the corporate level. With Covid-19 encouraging remote work, many corporate office buildings are finding themselves completely closed. In terms of the environment, this is a great thing because corporate offices waste significantly more energy than working from home due to the constant need for electricity which often begins well before the first person enters the office and ends well after the last person leaves. Additionally, reducing the number of people on the roads each day has cut carbon emissions significantly across various industries. 

Finally, the last way in which healthcare can create more sustainability is through education regarding mental and physical health. Physical health generally consists of exercise and healthy eating, both of which help create a sustainable environment. Those in good physical health often consume less food which directly relates to decreased use of carbon and for those who are vegetarian, incorporate more unprocessed foods in their diet than processed foods and/or source locally, they often take this a step further by contributing even less to foods that are high energy to produce or source. 

Conclusion

Increasing sustainability efforts in the healthcare industry can happen in several ways – on the hospital front, in corporate offices and in the general population. By decreasing waste on the hospital front and corporate level, we create fewer carbon emissions and less waste and by increasing the health of the population, we see a chain reaction in which we see our society use less as a whole and can eventually hope to see smaller hospitals that produce even less waste due to a decrease in need for prescriptive healthcare.