As healthcare practitioners and global citizens, we recognise that our planet is under significant threat from rising levels of environmental carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
There is little doubt that human activity, at many levels, is a primary contributor to this threat. As business operators and consumers of products and services that directly or indirectly contribute to this problem, we should take whatever actions are available to us to help to slow the rise in environmental CO2 levels.
The guidelines that follow can serve as tools to help us to minimise our own CO2 emissions, and can be disseminated to the personal and professional networks of which we are all a part, and allow us to act as agents of change for others within those networks. Where we employ staff, we should also ensure that we enhance an awareness among our employees of the threat from rising environmental CO2 levels and encourage them to make use of the guidelines below, at work as well as at home.
- Energy Use
- Electricity suppliers- Base-load power generators, such as coal-fired power stations, contribute significantly to total environmental carbon dioxide levels. While renewable power sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro-electric generators offer a lower environmental CO2 impact, because of possible limitations in their capacity to supply base-load power, and some perceived cost impositions, these lower-impact power generation sources are presently underutilised by most of the larger electricity retailers.
However, we should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the electricity that they supply is sourced from renewable power generators, and where this isn’t feasible, to ensure that their electricity supplier is maximising their use electricity supply from renewable sources. For more on Australian renewable energy retailers, see https://www.greenelectricityguide.org.au/#ratings-container and https://www.canstarblue.com.au/solar-power/the-greenest-energy-companies-in-australia/.
Where your clinic arrangements are such that you cannot select your power supplier, you should take whatever steps are appropriate to influence the person responsible for dealing with energy retailers on your behalf to take the above into consideration.
- Web hosting services- These hosting services often use significant amounts of energy because the hard drives used by these services to store data need to be kept running constantly and they need to be kept cool. When selecting a web hosting service, you should ensure that they use renewable energy sources or purchase carbon offsets to make up for their estimated CO2 For more on this see https://www.greenwebhost.com.au/. For more on carbon offsets, see below.
- Minimise your energy use- you should ensure that all office equipment, electrical appliances, diagnostic or therapeutic tools, and any other items that are used in the clinic are purchased on the basis of their power use and/or energy rating, and where appropriate, are turned off at the power point when not in use.
- Lighting- ensure that only efficient lighting (LED or other energy-saving light bulbs) is used. Switch off lights when not in use either manually or through automatic sensors.
- Insulate- ensure that your clinic space is properly insulated so that the minimum amount of energy is required to maintain an appropriate internal temperature. To do this, ensure that floors, ceilings and walls are properly insulated, windows are shaded, and that the physical workplace is fitted with energy efficient windows and doors, and seal any air leaks.
- Air-conditioning- If required, air-conditioning units should be purchased based on their energy rating (with the most efficient commonly available usually being split systems). When in use, turn the thermostat down one or two degrees above the desired temperature for heating, or up by one or two degrees above the desired temperature for cooling. Close off areas that don’t require air conditioning to minimise power use. Nearly one half of office CO2 emissions are caused by heating and cooling appliances.
- Drying- If gowns, towels and other fabric items are used in the clinic and these are washed, where appropriate, dry them in the sun on a clothes line rather than in electric dryer.
- Shade- where appropriate, use window blinds and wall coverings such as sun-tolerant trees or shrubs to shade the east and west walls and windows of the clinic to minimise the energy required for cooling, as they’re generally the areas that will receive the most heat from the sun.
- Water- if hot water is required and the opportunity is available, install a solar hot water service. Keep water use to a minimum as it requires energy to treat it and to pump it. Domestic water heating can account for up to one fifth of household CO2
- When purchasing any appliance, select the smallest that can do the job, with the highest energy rating.
- Appliances- should be properly maintained. If they’re working inefficiently, they may be using more power than is necessary.
- Reuse, Recycling and Minimising Materials Use
- Where possible, reduce the amount of materials that you use in your clinic and where possible, recycle materials such as cardboard and paper.
- Ensure that all of the material that can be accepted by your local council for recycling, is provided to them in an efficient manner.
- As much as possible, minimise the use of paper in your clinic. Use electronic rather than paper client files, email or SMS receipts and treatment plans to clients rather than providing paper receipts or treatment plans. Reducing your use of paper:
- Saves trees, which play a critical role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and producing oxygen;
- Reduces the level of CO2 emissions that result from paper production- the production of 1 tonne of paper is associated with 1.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions; (http://www.technewsworld.com/story/68834.html)
- Reduces the level of CO2 emissions caused by transporting the paper from the manufacturer to the user.
- If the use of paper cannot be avoided in the clinic, ensure that it’s recycled.
- Only print documents if absolutely necessary and use the two-sided print feature.
- Therapeutic Goods Distributors
- Before opening an account with a therapeutic goods distributor or manufacturer, ask them for a copy of their environmental sustainability policies, and if they don’t have these, sign up with another that does.
- Ensure that your therapeutic goods distributor, and/or your therapeutic goods manufacturer, is a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant. Signatories to the Covenant commit to making and using packaging that is recyclable, reusable or compostable and are committed to reducing problematic and unnecessary waste.
- If appropriate to do so, bike, walk, take public transport or car share, to and from your clinic, and to and from other work related events.
- If you have a clinic website, include all of the details needed by a client to get to your clinic by public transport, and encourage new clients to use public transport, walk or bike when they book their first consultation.
- If appropriate to do so and if required, when you replace your current vehicle, replace it with an electric or hybrid-electric vehicle. Note that new diesel and LPG fuelled cars are generally more efficient than petrol cars.
- Work remotely from home if and when appropriate, to minimise your travel-associated CO2 emissions, and consider attending professional education events by webinars rather than attending in person.
- If you have to drive a vehicle,
- Drive efficiently and avoid peak hour traffic;
- Check your tyre pressure. An under inflated tyre creates more rolling resistance and therefore results in more fuel consumption;
- Remove unnecessary weight, or optional features on your vehicle which create air drag and roof racks when they are not being used;
- Have your car air conditioner serviced regularly, keep the filters clean and use it only when it is necessary.
- Where and when appropriate, travel by train rather than plane. It’s of note that Israeli aircraft manufacturer, Eviation Aircraft, unveiled the world’s first all-electric commercial airliner was in Paris in June this year. It carries nine passengers for up to 1,040km at 10,000ft 3,000 metres at 440km/h on a single charged battery. It’s expected to enter service in 2022 and could prove to be a much better alternative to planes that burn fossil fuels.
- If you have to fly, consider buying carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are a form of trade and when you purchase an offset, you are funding projects to reduce CO2 These offsets may be tax deductible.
For more on this see sites such as: http://greenfleet.secure.force.com/offset?type=individual. Carbon offsets can also be purchased to offset any other activity that you carry out that may be associated with CO2 emissions. For more on carbon offsets generally, see https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/carbon-neutral/ncos-eligible-offsets.
- Clinic Environment
- Apart from the guidance provided elsewhere in this document, consider installing living plants in your clinic and/or install a vertical garden. These measures reduce the levels of CO2 in the clinic, contribute to cleaner air, and have been shown to improve the health of those working in these environments1.
- It’s useful to discover how much CO2 production your clinical activity is associated with. To do this, carbon calculators such as those found at carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx can be used. Once you’ve established this baseline, regular audits can then be conducted to monitor your progress towards a carbon neutral clinical practice.
- You can also monitor your electricity consumption by recording that consumption over time using your quarterly or monthly energy bills, and also via the use of smart meters that can monitor hourly, daily or weekly power use.
- Other Things
- Red meat consumption- suggesting to clients that they minimise their red meat intake can have broader CO2 reduction benefits. According to the Australian Climate Council 70% of global agricultural emissions CO2 come directly from livestock farming2. Farmed animals are also responsible for significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide2.
- Think about who you bank with- Australia’s 4 largest bank hold significant investments in oil and coal producers. Doing business with smaller banks that have clearly stated and effective environmental sustainability policies that they’re acting on may make a difference if enough financial service consumers make the same move.
- Where appropriate, work with other clinics that have an environmental sustainability policy.
- Where appropriate, divert food and garden wastes from landfill to composting. When food and garden wastes break down without fresh air they create a mixture of gases including significant quantities of methane.
- Encourage clients to grow their own food and where appropriate to buy local organically grown foods.
- Where appropriate, purchase products that have not been transported over long distances.
- Most things that you buy come with an environmental price tag Think twice about purchasing anything- do you really need it?
- Try to minimise your consumption of products which generate high levels of CO2 such as water, metal, paper, glass and plastic.
- Broadcast your Initiatives
- Publish your environmental sustainability policy on your website. As a healthcare practitioner, yours is a highly credible voice in your community. Broadcasting your environmental sustainability initiatives not only encourages other to think about this and follow your example, it encourages like-minded people to seek out your services when they’re choosing someone to help them manage their healthcare needs.
- http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132316304723 (viewed 4/11/19)
- http://climatecouncil.org.au (viewed 4/11/19)