The Case for Sustainable Design in Health Care

stethoscopeThese days, as threats of climate change loom, businesses in all sectors continue to try to make their practices more environmentally friendly. It’s not an easy feat, especially in health care – hospitals and labs contribute up to 4.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. From supply chains to disposal procedures, sustainable activities are lacking. This is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Luckily, with some significant alterations, this is achievable. Not only will the Earth benefit, but patients will as well.

Why It’s Important

Over the past decade, the planet has endured some alarming changes. Extreme weather patterns, like droughts and precipitation rates, are on the rise. Frequent natural disasters are the new norm. Many individuals want to fix this on their own, but that’s nearly impossible when just 90 companies in the world are the source of two-thirds of carbon dioxide production.

So, while reusable water bottles do help to reduce plastic waste, it’s up to businesses throughout the world to make an impactful difference. If those in the health care sector are a part of the problem, they need to create action plans now. On a similar note, think about the number of hazardous chemicals used in these facilities daily. What about the food served in hospital cafeterias or the cleaning products used in significant quantities?

All this is to say that if the industry can adopt a more sustainable design, everyone will profit. It’s essential to remember that climate change has a significant influence on public health. The more that’s done to combat it, the better off the entire population will be in the long run.

Where Hospitals Can Start

While some facilities have already started on their eco-friendly journeys, there’s still a lot to be done. Here are a few ways hospitals can embrace a green design that benefits the planet and their patients and saves them money:

  • Plant a rooftop garden. Also known as a green roof, these areas help to regulate temperatures and reduce electricity costs. Heat rises and often escapes through the roof of a building, so this is a terrific way to reduce energy consumption. Hospitals can choose to grow flowers and various plants, all of which are accessible by patients and staff.
  • Install rubber floors. A simple way to reduce the use of chemicals is to replace tile and carpet with rubber. This material is easily cleaned without the use of harsh industrial products, which improves the environment for patients. They’re also noise-resistant and help reduce joint impact.
  • Seal the building envelope. Hospitals consume a lot of energy by necessity, but one of the simplest ways to reduce energy is to maintain the building membrane. This prevents leaks and air gaps that can waste money and require more intensive consumption to maintain hospital temperatures.
  • Serve local food. Hospitals should strive to serve the best food available in their cafeterias. To make a positive impression on both their communities and the environment, they can source vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy from local farms. This is the healthiest option for patients, staff and visitors.
  • Conserve water when possible. In Washington State, the Virginia Mason Medical Center saves nearly 7 million gallons of water per year. To achieve this, they replaced all their appliances and technology with water-efficient models. This action saves them money and serves the planet at the same time.

These are only a few steps that facilities can take to assist their patients better and make a tangible environmental impact. But no matter how the health care system achieves this, there are dozens of other benefits as well.

Other Significant Advantages

Aside from the health of patients and the planet, going green can help the health care system in other ways.

Hospitals that embrace the sustainable movement can teach about its advantages through classes and seminars. On a similar note, employees who work at these facilities engage more: a company with an ethical mission brings about a sense of stewardship, ownership and community.

Above all else, patients who stay in such a facility feel cared for and appreciated. When the overall goal of a business is to help the planet, everyone feels a little happier.

An Eco-Friendly Healthcare System Is a Must

These days, it’s easier than ever to apply sustainable solutions to business practices. In the health care industry, this is a must for both the planet and patients, especially when one looks at its carbon footprint. When a company embraces such a movement and applies its ideas to their values, the results are noticeable.