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Keys to Making Physiotherapy a More Environmentally Sustainable Profession

Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV
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A growing number of doctor’s offices are becoming more focused on environmental sustainability. The American Medical Association has talked about this trend in one of its newsletters.

However, doctors are not experts in climate change. They need to be educated on the topic like anybody else. They should follow the right protocols if they are trying to be more sustainable.

How Physiotherapists Are Taking the Plunge Towards Sustainability

As more of us aim to help combat climate change, the big question that everyone asks is, “what can I do to help?” One solution to help reduce your carbon footprint is to make your workplace more sustainable. Even in the field of physiotherapy, sustainability is an achievable goal. You can start by making simple changes that can build up to large, positive impacts.

In 2010, the Royal College of Physicians published an article on sustainable physicians. The NHS is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 80% over the course of 30 years. Health practices in other countries are following similar measures. The principles covered in that post can also apply to other medical professionals, such as physiotherapists.

We asked the sustainability-focused practice Flexphysio for some solutions that should be implemented within our own practices. Here are some choices that they suggested to make a physiotherapy practice more sustainable.

  1. Stop using single-use products. This is one of the easiest changes that a practice can make. Get rid of every single-use product that you can. Naturally, not all single-use products can be avoided, such as rubber gloves, but there are others that can be. This could be drinking cups at the water cooler, where they might be replaced with either regular cups that can be washed or compostable paper cups that will make less of an impact on the environment. Single-use coffee makers are also incredibly wasteful and should be reconsidered.
  2. Think about the products before you buy. In the world of physiotherapy, we use a lot of rubber and plastic materials. Gym equipment, TheraBand, yoga mats, bosu balls, and more are all made out of rubber or plastic and cannot be recycled. These products eventually wear down over time and will have to be replaced, forcing you to throw away the non-sustainable product. You can help this by paying attention to the materials that products are made with. There are many environmentally conscious businesses out there that are making their products from recycled materials or are using recyclable rubber.
  3. Have some staff incentives. You can also promote a greener practice by encouraging your staff to make sustainable choices. Instead of driving the car to work, maybe they can take a bus, walk, or ride a bike. For employees who would benefit from public transport, maybe offering transportation passes would make the option more realistic for some employees. Carpooling can also be a nice option if any staff members live near each other. Remember to practice what you preach: if you expect your staff to make sustainable transportation choices, you need to be making the same choices to model the action.
  4. Go paperless. So many charting tools and billing services are now available online. The need for paper is getting less all of the time. If you can switch to electronic correspondence, bill-pay, and chart notes, you will eliminate the need for the same amount of paper as well as the toner used to print. You might also find that you have more shelving space when there is less paper floating around.
  5. Turn off what you are not using. This is another step that sounds like common sense. If no one is in a room, turn off the light to it. If a computer is not being used, turn off the computer. At night time, make sure all of the lights are off and the computers are shutdown. Otherwise, there is an unnecessary energy drain going on in your office.
  6. Make recycling simple. In the modern world, many humans are simply lazy. That means many people do not recycle simply because it is too much effort to figure out how. In your practice, you can head this off by making recycling simple. Have recycle bins that are separate from the waste bins. They need to be easily marked and easily accessed. If you mark the waste bin with the phrase “Goes to Landfill,” people are going to consider what they are throwing away before they do.
  7. Reduce your swag. If your practice uses a lot of marketing swag to try to bring in more clients, you might want to rethink your strategy. While some swag will help potential clients remember who you are, other swag is just waste waiting to happen. If you prefer to give our swag, make sure that the products are actually likely to be used and see what kind of materials that they are all made out of. You do not want to increase your carbon footprint with plastic sunglasses and a Frisbee.

These are just a few ways that you can decrease your practice’s carbon footprint and help out the environment. Every individual who takes steps toward sustainability, no matter how big or how small, is helping the environment. Remember that once you start making these changes, other people will see them as well, including your staff and clients. Witnessing someone else making sustainable choices can influence how we all make choices, especially when it comes to well-respected physiotherapists. We all have an obligation toward making sustainable choices in our physiotherapy practices. You can get started today.

Sustainability Can Be a Central Tenet of a Physiotherapy Practice

There are a lot of benefits of sustainability in the healthcare field. Physiotherapists can do a lot to make their practices more environmentally friendly. These steps should be a good start.

Freelance journalist - owner of Agreenhand.com.

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