These infographics demonstrate the concept of a linear economy and a circular economy. Linear economy describes the lifecycle of resources from extraction to disposal1. This style of resource consumption has a profound environmental impact and has negative consequences for public health. The opposite of a linear economy is a circular economy. A circular economy is a system in which the value of resources is retained as much as possible through re-use, repair, and recycling efforts.
Sustainability and Healthcare
Sustainability is an important topic in healthcare today. Approximately 4.4% of global carbon emissions are attributable to the healthcare industry, with more than 70% of these emissions coming from the healthcare supply chain2,3. Not surprisingly, the condition of the natural environment has an impact on the health and wellbeing of people4. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified several physical and mental health outcomes that are strongly linked to environmental phenomena such as climate change4. Among the 15 countries that produce the greatest emissions, the WHO has found that the cost of emission-related health impacts exceeds 4% of their GDP5. The message is clear – if our natural environment is in trouble, we are in trouble too.
Many professionals have started to recognize the environmental impact of the healthcare industry and are making efforts to promote sustainability. Organizations such as The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care dedicate extensive resources to helping facilities make sustainable choices. Several more organizations are paving the pathway to green healthcare as the impact of our changing environment is growing.
Repair and Re-Use with CleanPatch
Generally, when patient treatment surfaces are damaged, they are discarded. Although a puncture or tear may seem insignificant, damaged surfaces are reservoirs for pathogens and bodily fluids. Because a damaged surface cannot be effectively cleaned, it poses a profound health risk to patients and staff, and must therefore be addressed promptly. This means that equipment such as hospital mattresses are discarded in large numbers, regardless of the age and overall condition of the equipment. Disposal of equipment not only contributes to landfill waste but to carbon emissions associated with the manufacturing and procurement of replacements.
Until recently, equipment disposal was the only way to address damaged treatment surfaces. Advances in textile technology, however, have made it possible to keep equipment in use for the duration of the expected service life. Equipment repair prevents resources from premature disposal and allows the healthcare industry to maximize its investment in clinical equipment.
CleanPatch products are meticulously designed to safely repair patient surfaces, and roughly 55% of damaged surfaces are repairable. The option to repair enables healthcare facilities to avoid the wasteful practice of premature equipment disposal while minimizing the expense of buying replacements6.
Green healthcare is not only about waste reduction. It is also about exploring creative ways to minimize emissions, maximize resources, and protect our natural environment. To learn more about how you can make green choices at your healthcare facility, reach out to your local green healthcare organizations!
1Government of Canada. (2022, December 23). Environment and Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/sustainability/circular-economy.html
2Lenzen, M., Malik, A., Li, M., Fry, J., Weisz, H., Pichler, P., Chaves, L. S., Capon, A., & Pencheon, D. (2020). The environmental footprint of Health Care: A Global Assessment. The Lancet Planetary Health, 4(7). https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(20)30121-2
3Karliner, J., Slotterback, S., Boyd, R., Ashby, B., & Steele, K. (2019, September). Health Care’s Climate Footprint – Health Care Without Harm Climate-smart health care series Green Paper Number One. Retrieved from https://noharm-global.org/sites/default/files/documents-files/5961/HealthCaresClimateFootprint_092319.pdf
4United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, February 27). Climate Change and Human Health. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-and-human-health#:~:text=The%20health%20effects%20of%20climate,and%20overall%20poor%20mental%20health.
5World Heath Organization. (2018, December 5). Health benefits far outweigh the costs of meeting climate change goals. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news/item/05-12-2018-health-benefits-far-outweigh-the-costs-of-meeting-climate-change-goals
6Marks, B., de Haas, E., Abboud, T., Lam, I., & Datta, I. (Fall 2018). Uncovering the rates of damaged patient bed and stretcher mattresses in Canadian acute care hospitals. Canadian Journal of Infection Control, 33(3). https://cleanpatch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Surface-Medical-Publication-in-Canadian-Journal-of-Infection-Control-Fall-2018.pdf