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Calculate the carbon footprint of your hospital

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2366 (Published 15 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c2366
  1. Paul Grant, clinical leadership fellow, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton,
  2. Sarah Lou Bailey, clinical lecturer in global health, University of Sussex, Brighton
  1. drpaul.grant{at}doctors.org.uk

The NHS is a big polluter, and this shouldn’t be forgotten however the priority of environmental issues in the public services fluctuates. Calculating the carbon footprint of your organisation is relatively straightforward, and the Carbon Trust has produced an online calculator to enable you to do so (www.carbontrust.co.uk/cut-carbon-reduce-costs/calculate/carbon-footprinting/Pages/carbon-footprinting.aspx).

You need to gather the following information, which should be readily accessible (the main problem is knowing who is the right person to ask within a hospital trust):

  • 1. Annual electricity use in kWh (available from the Estates & Facilities department). The Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton spends £2.2m pounds a year on electricity, for example

  • 2. Vehicle use as average annual mileage (contact the Transport department)

  • 3. Your energy use on site, such as gas, oil, steam (Estates again)

  • 4. Employee travel by road, rail, and plane (Human Resources should be able to provide the total annual average and the costs incurred)

  • 5. Information on other sources of emissions relevant to your hospital. This is more difficult but relates to indirect causes of emissions such as from your supply chain, waste disposal, water and sewerage, etc.

When the calculation is completed (it is roughly 20 000 tonnes of CO2 per year in Brighton) the data need to be presented to the hospital management board to signal the importance of the issue and to help deliver a strategy for change. Clinical leadership has a big part to play, and nationally nephrologists are taking a key role (www.greenerhealthcare.org/green-nephrology-programme).

Examples of practical improvements to hospital infrastructure include reducing solid waste, increasing recycling, installing a fuel cell, upgrading the lighting, and making laundry, heating, and cooling systems more environmentally friendly and efficient. How about a solar powered dialysis unit? Hospitals should be at the forefront of helping to keep our environment healthy as opposed to the current toxic situation.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c2366

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