How healthcare impacts the environment — and how the industry can support sustainability

Celebrated worldwide each year on April 22, Earth Day sees more than 1 billion people in nearly 200 countries show their support for protecting the planet with activities such as tree plantings, community cleanups, educational initiatives and more. And since its initial observance in the United States in 1970, the annual event held to highlight the importance of environmental awareness has grown to become the most widely observed civic event on Earth.

Sustainability in healthcare

Of course, in the spirit of Earth Day, industries of all kinds can pursue sustainability initiatives throughout the year — and healthcare is certainly no exception. As with many other major industries, the actions of healthcare providers and organizations can have a significant impact on the environment around them. And by acting intentionally with sustainability in mind, these providers and organizations can do their part to preserve the planet and its resources for future generations, all while meeting the healthcare needs of current ones.

With this in mind, the World Health Organization defines a sustainable healthcare system as “a health system that improves, maintains or restores health, while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it, to the benefit of the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

Ways to reduce waste in healthcare

In an industry with significant environmental impacts, the opportunities to support sustainable initiatives are also abundant. For example, in the area of waste generation alone, some of the easy-to-implement steps healthcare providers and organizations can take to reduce their environmental impacts in include:

  • implementing recycling programs
  • reducing the consumption of single-use plastics
  • utilizing more sustainable materials

Further, no matter the size of the practice or the organization, healthcare professionals can promote and participate in eco-friendly, healthcare-specific practices such as ensuring the proper disposal of hazardous medical waste and advocating for sustainable healthcare policies. And healthcare providers and systems can also encourage patients and the community at large to adopt sustainable habits in their daily lives, such as using public transportation, reducing their energy consumption, and supporting environmentally friendly healthcare facilities and practices.

Supporting sustainability on Earth Day … and beyond

This Earth Day, we at Wilmington Health would like to highlight the importance of integrating sustainability principles into healthcare practices, plus stress how seriously we take such eco-friendly initiatives in our practices and facilities. Together, we can all take steps to protect human health and the environment — on Earth Day and throughout the entire year.