Every year we receive Health Select Committee questions that we have to complete. And every year there’s been one answer we can’t provide – what is the size of our carbon footprint?
We haven’t been able to answer because we simply don’t know. Personally, I don’t think that position is one we can sustain. Finding out the size of our carbon footprint is the first of many important steps in achieving environmental sustainability and in working towards one of our two strategic objectives: to develop a truly ‘sustainable’ healthcare system.
So on Wednesday this week, the Board passed a recommendation that Middlemore and the Manukau Health Park work towards achieving CEMARS certification. Dr David Galler, as one of the leads for this initiative, is joining me today to share more about CEMARS and what it will mean for CMDHB.
When we reach this internationally recognised standard we will be the first health system in Australasia, and one of the first globally, to achieve the certification.
The CEMARS (certified emissions measurement and reduction scheme) certification programme is operated by CarboNZero , an offshoot of Landcare Research NZ. It’s been designed to meet, if not exceed, the requirements of a range of international and domestic programmes and standards, and is being used worldwide.
Through CEMARS, we’ll be identifying, measuring and reducing our Greenhouse Gas emissions. This is important as we are an extremely energy-intensive organisation, generating significant amounts of waste and using large quantities of toxic chemicals, incinerators, refrigerators, air conditioners and so on. Our environmental footprint is vast.
At the same time, it’s our responsibility to carefully consider the effects of our actions on the surrounding community and environment. Indeed, going green speaks to the responsibility we have as good citizens, and as the biggest employer in South Auckland, to protect our natural resources.
The Board’s approval means that we’ll now be having a project planning meeting with CarboNZero to kick off the process. Essentially, we need to identify our Greenhouse Gas emission sources, then measure our emissions, before developing a management plan and initiatives to reduce the emissions where possible. Once we have a management plan, we receive certification – a process which usually takes about six months. Audits of the initiatives we have put in place then follow every year, and the certification expires after a three year period.
I want to point out that CEMARS will take into account the many energy-saving initiatives already underway, such as paper and cardboard recycling. I know that there’s a lot of good work already happening within the organisation and enormous enthusiasm amongst staff around environmental sustainability. This process will make it easier for you all to be involved and engaged in improvements. Without that we certainly will fail in meeting the targets we set ourselves.
Again it is worth underlining that no other healthcare organisation in Australasia has CEMARS certification. This is a fantastic opportunity for CMDHB to show what can be done and become a leader in creating a sustainable healthcare system in New Zealand.
Another interesting thing to point out is that the financial savings that result from CEMARS accreditation significantly exceed the cost. So if this doesn’t enable us to make more money available for the clinical frontline, then I’ll eat my carbon credit!
So all in all, this is an announcement I’m very excited about and one which I think will bring huge benefit to what we do and the environment in which we do it. Thanks for this goes first and foremost to you, particularly to the many people who responded to my original blog post about Going Green. It became clear to me then that this is an issue many of you feel strongly passionate about, and that passion prompted us to take this action. So thanks again – I’m thrilled my blog is helping us identify things we all care about and work together on the things we find inspiring.
Geraint and David