Green Nursing

This course will provide you with knowledge about climate change and carbon footprint and how these effect the health of our population. It will provide you with with skills to implement into your nursing practice to reduce your carbon footprint in the healthcare setting.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives

The learning objectives for this resource include:

•Recall the meaning of climate change and carbon footprint.

•Identify individual actions that  can be implemented on a daily basis to reduce carbon footprint in the healthcare setting.

 • Identify the effects of climate change on human health.

What is Climate Change?

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to a long-term significant change in the average weather of a region or the earth as a whole. 

Climate change is occurring due to human activities, in particular the large scale burning of fossil fuels for energy, which emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 2012). 

The health care industry contributes to 2.4 million tons of waste per year along with being one the largest contributors of energy consumption and contributors to climate change. Hospitals are open  24 hours per day, 365 days per year!!! As nurses,  we work in the health care industry and at times we are responsible for disposing waste and energy consumption. 

What is carbon footprint?

What is carbon footprint?

"Carbon is a shorthand for all the different greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The term carbon footprint, therefore, describes the best estimate of the full climate change effect of something. That ‘something’ could be anything – an activity, an item, a lifestyle, a company, a country or even the whole world. A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon emitted by the consumption of a good or a service, be it a car, a chocolate bar or a restaurant meal" (Goodman, 2013, p.52).

Let's revise climate change and carbon footprint!

  • Climate change is........
    a long term change in the average weather of a region.
  • Carbon footprint is.....
    is the amount of carbon emitted by the consumption of a good or service.

What are the effects of climate change on human health?

Effects of climate change on human health

Below is an infographic about the effects of climate change on human health. It shows that climate change will effect the entire population regardless of where you live.

Effects of climate change on human health

Effects of climate change on human health – 

•Severe weather events - severe weather events associated with climate change, such as heavy rainfall, floods, hailstorms and bushfires, can also cause injuries and illness, and lead to water and food contamination. Very hot days and heatwaves can lead to illnesses such as heatstroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks. Heat related deaths is the leading cause of environmental deaths in Australia.

•Spread of infectious disease  - Rising temperature, changes in rainfall patterns and more severe weather events are expected to lead to higher rates of some infectious diseases.

•Air pollution - increases pollution in the air can lead to exacerbation to respiratory illness such as asthma,hay fever, and even lung cancer and heart disease.

Mental health -  Fires, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events can lead to mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.

•Pressure on health services -  Each of the issues described above can put substantial demand on health services, in particular ambulances and emergency departments in the case of extreme weather events. (Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 2012, p.6). 

Check your understanding of climate change on human health

  • Flood related deaths are the leading cause of environmental related deaths in Australia.
  • It is estimated that between 2030 & 2050, climate change is expected to cause and additional 250,000 deaths per year.
  • The effects of climate change on human health include; sever weather events, air pollution, demand on emergency services, mental health and spread of infectious diseases.

Reducing your carbon footprint in the health care setting

Role of the nurse in climate change

Role of the nurse

As world environmental health issues continue to grow, the nurse’s opportunity to promote greening initiatives becomes an ethical duty and an expected part of the job description.

Environmental awareness must be part of nursing practice, rather than an additional chore; if so, changes will be naturally adopted and sustained over time. The major task, then, is to identify specific issues that contribute to healthcare’s carbon footprint and improve efficiency, conservation, and convenience. Nurses can identify specific environmental problems and suggest solutions (Munoz, 2012).


Practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Waste Reduction

  • Nurses have significant control over the resources they use and through their awareness they can have a direct effect on waste reduction. Nurses should: 
  • Only open packages of items necessary for the procedure. 
  • Think about appropriate waste segregation – is the item contaminated; does it really need to go in clinical waste? 
  • Consider how non-contaminated items could be re-used – for example, in procedures that do not require sterile items, for play or for demonstration. 
  • If the only available option in a clinical area is a clinical waste bag, ask why this is the case and suggest a domestic waste bag is made available for non-clinical waste. 
  • Ensure patient areas are not overstocked, which can result in unnecessary disposal of items to comply with infection control policies. 
  • Use re-usable resources rather than those for single-patient use where possible, for example washable slide sheets.
  • Effective ordering/purchasing of stock e.g ordering medications in most appropriate doses to reduce having to discard.(Richardson et al., 2014).

Education

Nurses can educate others, for example colleagues, students and patients, by modelling good practice and challenging poor practice. 

Nurses should: 

  • Be aware of and inform colleagues and students about the relative costs of clinical and domestic waste. 
  • Educate patients about the effects of climate change on their health.
  • Discover who in the clinical area orders supplies; discuss the potential for putting the cost of items on the shelves where they are stored to help show the value of the items.(Richardson et al, 2014).

Practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Ways to reduce your carbon footprint

  • Think and prepare - what equipment do you need for a procedure, avoid over- stocking a patients bedside with single use items they may not need. (Blackmore, 2013).
  •  using the recycling bins or trying to implement if not available 
  • setting computer printing settings to double sided, black and white printing; 
  • turning off lights and opening blinds, computers, monitors and accessories when not in use
  •  using video conferencing where possible to reduce travel emissions
  • If purchasing equipment, buy in bulk.
  • use products with recyclable content where possible (Mejia & Sattler, 2009).
  • developing a roster for changing patient's sheets to reduce unnecessary washing (Goodman, 2013).
  • start a green team at place of employment.

Starting a Green Team.

The purpose of a Green Team is to raise awareness about the health care industry’s relationship with the environment and to develop strategies to minimize the negative environmental impact of heath care settings.

To start a green team, nurses can;

  • assess areas in need of improvement.
  • identify colleagues who are interested in being on the green team
  • contact experts in the field of green nursing eg other hospitals with successful programs.
  • establish goals for the workplace.
  • hold meetings
  • facilitate the implementation of green strategies (Mejia & Sattler, 2009).

Example of how a hospital has implement strategies to reduce their carbon footprint

Short video of carbon reduction in hospital

Knowledge quiz

Climate change deaths in 2030-2050 will increase to

  • 250,000 per year
  • 25,000 per year
  • 500,000 deaths per year

Waste consumption

The health care industry contributes to  tons of waste per year.

Climate changed is defined as....

  • a long-term significant change in the average weather of a region or the earth as a whole.
  • The varying degrees of temperature in the weather from season to season.
  • the change of temperature of a specific climate.

Carbon footprint is defined as

  • carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon emitted by the consumption of a good or a service
  • is the amount of carbon that is in the atmosphere

Effects of climate change on human health - Match the term with the correct response

  • Severe weather events include hailstorms, bush fires, floods and heatwaves. Heatwaves can cause -
    illnesses such as heatstroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks.
  • Air pollution can exacerbate -
    illnesses such as asthma, hay fever, lung cancer and heart disease.
  • Extreme weather such as bushfires, floods and hurricanes can cause mental health issues such as -
    illness such as anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress
  • Rising temperature, changes in rainfall patterns and more severe weather events are expected to lead to the increasing -
    spread of infectious diseases.
  • Extreme weather events are increasing pressure on -
    emergency response services.

Ways to reduce your carbon footprint - Nurses can reduce their carbon footprint by...

  • double sided printing, turn off lights when not needed and order in bulk
  • ensure patients bed sheets are washed everyday
  • when administering medications try to give doses exact to order, i.e avoiding having to halve tablet and discard
  • Only worry about waste segregation if there is an audit
  • nurses cant really make much difference to carbon emissions, it is up to the employer
  • preparation and thinking about a procedure is key to minimising waste
  • start a green team at your facility

Self Reflection - what have you learnt from this resource experience? Is there anything you would like to continue to learn about?