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6 Ways Healthcare Organizations Can Go Green



hospital By Jelle Boontje via stock.xchng

Most businesses these days are at least marginally interested in “going green.” Some of them want to support environmental protection efforts that are becoming increasingly necessary on an international scale. Some of them want to be a part of the trend, or are looking to cash in on the public image benefits that go along with becoming environmentally friendly. Even businesses who aren’t after these goals are interested in going green, purely for the sake of reducing the cost of resources and operating more efficiently.

Still, it’s harder for some businesses and organizations to “go green” than it is for others, and the healthcare industry faces particular challenges in this regard.

Why It’s Hard for Healthcare Organizations to Go Green

Why do healthcare organizations have a harder time going green than other organizations?

– Tight funding. For many healthcare organizations, going green simply isn’t practical because funds are already limited. This is especially true for nonprofit organizations, who won’t be able to afford things like solar panels or other massive institutions.

– Energy demands. Most “green” strategies involve reducing the energy demands of a facility, but in hospitals and healthcare organizations, energy is needed to keep people alive and healthy. This priority can’t be sacrificed.

– Bureaucratic decision making processes. Many healthcare organizations are massive and decisions are subject to multiple levels of approval, slowing down the potential adoption process for new changes.

– Higher priorities. The lives and health of patients are often in the balance, and energy efficiency often deservedly takes a backseat to those priorities. A technological investment for a new diagnostic tool is often more valuable and more important than a similar investment for a more efficient piece of equipment.

Strategies for Success

Fortunately, there are a number of ways that hospitals and other healthcare organizations can improve their environmental friendliness:

1. Adopt a paperless medical records system. One of your first steps is to finish your conversion to a paperless medical records system. Older medical records systems relied on stacks of paper for every patient, kept dutifully and indefinitely, wasting tons of paper each year and occupying vast amounts of physical space. Digital systems are easier to manage, easier to store and retrieve, and most importantly for a green organization—they don’t require any physical resources to maintain.

2. Source food and resources locally. Most healthcare facilities offer a cafeteria or some kind of food for their patients. Those that don’t have requirements for other resources, from clothing to furniture, to keep their organization running smoothly. If you can, opt to source these items locally. Locally sourced food tends to be riper, more nutritious, and tastier, but more importantly, it cuts down on the massive amounts of energy and waste needed to transport other kinds of food.

3. Utilize efficient means of waste disposal. Healthcare organizations produce many kinds of waste, which is unpreventable. However, you can institute new systems to minimize and manage your waste disposal. A simple recycling program can help you cut back on your overall waste, but the real problem comes in sanitization processes, which are necessary for various forms of medical waste. Seek energy-efficient forms of medical waste disposal whenever possible, and increase your knowledge on alternative methods, such as autoclaving and chemical treatment instead of incineration.

4. Use greener cleaning products. Most hospitals and healthcare organization demand high standards of cleanliness, which in turn demand reliance on cleaning products. However, you have a choice in what types of cleaning products you use, and some are better for the environment than others. Keep a close eye on the chemicals used in each of your products, as well as the types of waste they generate, and make your purchasing decisions accordingly.

5. Conserve water where possible. This is a tough change for healthcare organizations, but even small tweaks can make a big difference. For example, reducing the amount of water used in a single flush or single shower can add up to a massive reduction in overall water use on a larger scale.

6. Keep your staff informed of your overall impact. Simply raising the awareness of your staff can bear a massive impact on your bottom-line environmental friendliness. For example, helping them use fewer resources to complete a job—such as less water or lower amounts of cleaning products—can eventually add up and have a massive impact on your organization’s bottom-line efficiency. Instituting these habit changes is difficult, since there’s no easy way to monitor their adherence, but a simple training seminar can help instill a better environmentally-friendly mentality among your workers.

Few of these changes require massive infrastructural improvements, new rules, new regulations, or significant sums of money to instate. In fact, most of them can be instituted with minimal disruptions to your ordinary processes, looking instead toward minor changes in outlook and behavior. Start small, with a few new systems and greater institutional awareness, and eventually you can scale your way up to something bigger.



New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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