Hospitals are an important part of the healthcare industry and have a significant impact on the environment and climate change.
The bad news is that they are an intrinsic part of it. And the good news is that more and more hospitals are committing to becoming more sustainable and reducing their carbon footprint.
By reducing energy consumption, implementing sustainable strategies and raising awareness among staff and patients, hospitals can contribute to a more sustainable and healthier future for all.
The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing industries in recent decades, and as such, there is a significant impact on the relationship between hospitals, climate change and the environment.
Healthcare facilities are large consumers of energy, water and resources, resulting in high greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution. However, more and more hospitals are committing to becoming more sustainable and reducing their carbon footprint.
In this article we look at how hospitals are tackling climate change and seeking to become more sustainable.
Relationship between the hospital industry and climate change
The healthcare sector is closely linked to climate change, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the use of natural resources.
To what extent?
It should be noted that hospitals are responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, through multiple sources:
- The energy they consume for lighting
- Heating and cooling
- The emission of anaesthesia gases
- Emissions of other pollutant gases
Moreover, the production and transport of medical products also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
It is important to remember that if the health sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter of CO2 on the planet.
At the same time, hospitals consume large amounts of water and energy, which results in a significant impact on natural resources.
Thus, the demand for water and energy can be up to three times higher than that of office buildings. In addition, water used in hospitals can contain toxic chemicals and biological materials that can contaminate groundwater.
This is highlighted each year on World Climate Day (26 March) and World Water Day (22 March).
The problem of infrastructure and electricity costs
In recent months we have seen news reports of electricity bills for private hospitals rising by up to 500%, or the veiled ‘threat’ that the energy crisis will hit hospitals very hard next winter.
In this context, healthcare centres are accelerating their energy efficiency plans in view of the constant increase in electricity prices since the beginning of the post-pandemic period.
Not surprisingly, one of the ways in which hospitals can reduce their environmental impact is by reducing electricity costs.
How can this be done?
It can be a big challenge, but there are several strategies that can be pursued:
- Upgrade the hospital’s electrical infrastructure, modernising it from the ground up, going for high quality products specially designed for surgical units, ICU and critical care areas, such as the best IT power systems, isolation monitors, uninterruptible power supply systems, earth connections, alarms and repeaters, etc.
- Use LED technology for lighting, which is more efficient and consumes less energy than traditional lighting.
- Use efficient heating and cooling systems, such as geothermal systems.
- Optimise the use of medical equipment: For example, it can be programmed to go into standby mode or automatically shut down when not in use.
- Use renewable energy, installing solar panels or wind turbines to generate renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
- Digitise medical records, use electronic communications and rely on Data networks, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to improve decision-making.
“One of the ways in which hospitals can reduce their environmental impact is by reducing electricity costs.”
How to make hospitals more sustainable complexes
In addition to reducing energy consumption, hospitals can also implement other strategies to become more sustainable and reduce their environmental impact.
Some of these actions include
- Investing in renewable energy through solar photovoltaic panels and the like.
- Implementing recycling programmes to reduce the amount of waste they generate. Materials that can be recycled include paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, metal and electronics.
- Use of environmentally friendly cleaning products that are less toxic and less harmful to the environment.
- Promotion of sustainable transport practices, such as the use of public transport, bicycles or electric cars. They can also provide facilities for bicycles and electric car charging stations.
- Development of gardens and allotments to provide fresh and healthy food for patients and hospital staff.
- Implementation of awareness programmes to educate staff and patients about the importance of sustainability and how they can contribute to reducing the hospital’s environmental impact.
Initiatives originating from the healthcare sector
One of the initiatives that is fighting hardest to reduce the impact of hospitals on climate change and promote their sustainability is Sanidad #PorElClima.
This platform brings together the community of actors in the healthcare sector committed to the climate emergency and its main objective is to reduce the carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality in the healthcare sector by 2050.
Sanidad #PorElClima (Healthcare Climate Action) helps each organisation to identify the actions it has implemented in water, energy, consumption, mobility, carbon footprint and waste management, thus contributing to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and to the fulfilment of the Paris Agreement.
As a token of courage, the platform recognised 10 hospitals committed to climate action a few months ago, among which the following stand out:
- The best hospital in Spain, the Hospital Universitario Fundación Jiménez Díaz, for its “MAS+ Programme”.
- The initiative “Towards a Sustainable Health Department”, of the Hospital de Manises
- The Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona for its initiative “Sustainability as a driver of integral health and well-being”.
These are just a few initiatives that show the commitment and the need for hospitals to be more sustainable and contribute to combating climate change in order to protect the environment.