Healthcare Without Harm currently assists hospitals and health systems in 53 countries reduce their negative impact on the environment.  They speak on how there is some irony in the healthcare industry, where medical professionals swear to “first, do no harm”—but in their exercise of this altruistic profession, hospitals inadvertently still contribute to the environmental crisis the world is facing.  For example, according to HCWH, the National Health Service in England emits 18 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, representing 25 percent of total public sector emissions. The Brazil healthcare sector eats up 10 percent of the country’s energy consumption. The US healthcare sector is the largest consumer of carcinogenic chemicals. And China spends $10 billion a year on health care construction.

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, HCWH recognizes that hospitals and health systems around the world have been consciously reducing their carbon footprint, contributing to public health and saving money. At the same time, more things need to be done. HCWH reiterates the responsibility of the health care sector in addressing this concern and has offered a ten-point plan.

First, leadership. Prioritize environmental health as a strategic imperative. Second, substitute harmful chemicals with safer alternatives. Third, reduce, treat and safely dispose of healthcare waste. Fourth, implement energy-efficient and clean renewable energy generation. Fifth, reduce hospital water consumption and supply potable water.  Sixth, improve transportation strategies for patients and staff. Seventh, purchase and serve sustainably-grown and healthy food. Eighth, prescribe appropriately, safely manage and dispose of pharmaceuticals. Ninth, support green and healthy hospital design and construction. Finally, buy safer and more sustainable products and materials.

These ten points entail simple action items that can be done every day, in small “doses,” by hospital administrators and health care professionals alike.

There’s some extra motivation for hospitals as well: Aside from the knowledge that you are helping the environment, “going green is also a lot more inexpensive in the long term,” says GaryCohen, founder and president of Healthcare Without Harm. “It’s good for business.”

Read the full article here