Healthcare is undeniably one of the most crucial sectors of our society. It provides essential services central to our well-being and quality of life. Yet, this sector contributes significantly to environmental degradation and climate change, primarily due to its substantial energy consumption and waste production. As the threat of climate change escalates, there is an emergent need for green hospitals – a movement towards more sustainable healthcare.
This article will delve into the role of hospitals and healthcare facilities in the healthcare sector’s carbon footprint, emphasising hospitals that have successfully implemented green initiatives and those adhering to Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) compliance.
Hospitals and Carbon Footprint
Hospitals are among the most energy-intensive facilities, requiring a constant electricity supply for critical life-saving equipment, heating, cooling, and lighting. According to the World Economic Forum, the healthcare industry is a significant player among the major sectors contributing to global emissions, responsible for a substantial 4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. A significant proportion of these emissions come from hospitals.
In addition to energy consumption, hospitals generate substantial waste, including medical waste, which often requires special treatment before disposal. This contributes further to their environmental impact, boosting the sector’s carbon footprint.
Successful Green Initiatives in Hospitals
Children’s Hospital Of Pittsburgh – Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
The UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh exemplifies a ‘green’ campus, optimizing resources like energy, water, materials, and land more effectively than standard buildings. Undeniably, such environmentally friendly buildings foster improved health, comfort, and productivity, thanks to their use of natural light and emphasis on superior air quality.
A noteworthy achievement of this hospital includes two buildings with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. While the hospital building boasts a ‘Certified’ rating, the John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center stands out with a ‘Silver’ rating.
Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) – UK
Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust supervises and operates several hospitals in and around the Greater Manchester area. Some of the hospitals under its management include:
- Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI)
- Wythenshawe Hospital
- Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH)
- Saint Mary’s Hospital
- Manchester Royal Eye Hospital
According to the MFT Annual Sustainability Report 2021-2022, the trust’s sustainability vision is “to provide greener, safer, more consistent care that is fit for the future”.
To realize their vision, the trust has set two overarching ambitions. Firstly, they aim to achieve net zero carbon for emissions under their direct control (e.g., energy, waste, anaesthetic gases) by 2038. Secondly, they strive to attain net zero carbon for emissions they can influence (e.g., our supply chain and patient and visitor travel) by 2045.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre – Toronto, Canada
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is one of Canada’s largest and most prominent academic health science centres. It is located in Toronto, Ontario, and is a leading teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.
Centre’s dedication to environmental stewardship drives to lessen the hospital’s reliance on non-renewable energy and waste resources. To achieve this, the team have established five vital environmental programs: energy conservation, waste management, sustainable transportation, procurement, and an awareness & education campaign. As a result, they have emerged as a prominent environmental leader within the hospital, the community, and nationwide.
- The Harry Taylor Solar Energy Walk
- Gas scavenging in the operating rooms
- Composting & biodegradable food containers in the cafeteria
- The Honeywell Energy & Facility Renewal Program
- Green Task Force
Embracing TCFD Compliance
Many healthcare facilities increasingly align their operations with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations. Specifically, this involves disclosing their climate-related risks and opportunities. Consequently, this action helps increase transparency and encourages further efforts to mitigate environmental impact.
For example, Fresenius Medical Care – is a global healthcare company that provides products and services for people with chronic kidney failure, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and other related medical conditions. (see Fresenius Medical Care TCFD Report )
The Path Ahead
Green hospitals are a tangible reality today rather than a distant concept or theoretical goal. Through the pioneering strategies and impactful results demonstrated by institutions like Children’s Hospital Of Pittsburgh or Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, or Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, it becomes clear that sustainable healthcare is feasible and offers compelling advantages from an environmental, economic, and health standpoint.
However, carving a path towards sustainability is a complex task. It demands deep commitment and systemic change, a feat that, while challenging, is unequivocally necessary. Hospitals are not just passively standing by actively adopting green initiatives and wholeheartedly embracing TCFD compliance. Instead, they are playing an instrumental role in mitigating climate change, improving public health, and steering the course towards the future of sustainable healthcare.