Intended for healthcare professionals

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Editor's Choice

UHC and climate provide rebels with a cause

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m49 (Published 09 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m49

Rapid Response:

Re: UHC and climate provide rebels with a cause

Dear Editor,

Surely I am not the only person who loves a new notebook? And there was no denying that it was a beautiful specimen. It took all my willpower to resist the thick cream paper, bound with a silver cover. There were over one hundred people at the workshop and in front of each one of us was a high quality notebook – that’s a lot of trees! There were so many notebooks, I could even have taken a couple for my children – they would have been delighted, but we already have far too many gifted notebooks at home.

I left the notebook on the table as a silent protest, and made sure to complete the course feedback to highlight the vast quantities of paper used at that workshop, and to demand a change in the future. The organisers had printed all the slide shows for every delegate, and each group exercise used reams of paper. We weren't even allowed to write directly on the paper – instead we were told to write on the supplied sticky notes and stick them onto the paper. Did you know that sticky notes can be pretty tricky to recycle?

There has been a suggestion to avoid flying to conferences and to have more virtual meetings, but for me nothing can replace the value of a day away from the workplace to share ideas over a conference lunch break. I love meeting new and old colleagues whilst we drink coffee and view posters, and I return to work feeling inspired and refreshed.

Of those attending the workshop from my department, a 180 mile round trip, I felt that our transport choices had been reasonable: four people had travelled by train, including me, and the remaining six had shared two cars. But as I put yet another sticky note on the A3 paper flowchart on the table, beside the bottled water, it made me think about the small gestures we could all make to reduce the environmental impact of our continuing professional development (CPD):

• Bring your own reusable water bottle and coffee cup.
• In countries fortunate to have potable tap water, drink it! Don’t open the bottled water and ask course organisers to provide tap water in jugs.
• Bring your own pen and scrap paper, or try taking digital notes - perhaps directly onto a CPD App. Besides, do you actually read your notes afterwards?
• Don’t pick up a free pen. Or a free anything. Do you really need any of that free plastic or paper junk?
• Reject paper. Ask for a digital copy of course materials.
• Ask course organisers to make environmentally friendly choices and give them suggestions via feedback. How about joining a conference organising committee to help influence environmental decisions?
• Return your lanyard or name-badge cover for reuse.
• If dietary requirements are requested in advance, be a vegetarian for the day.
• Consider your accommodation and transport choices. Could you lift share?

I’m sure that you and your readers have tips of your own - I'd love to hear them!

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 January 2020
Clare V Bostock
Consultant Physician
Aberdeen