Just before Christmas last year, I was given one of the desk top cubes that are being rolled out across the organisation. I started using this small green cube in my office for non-recyclable rubbish, and larger communal bins for my non-confidential paper and mixed recycling. Before long, I became very aware of just what I throw out in a day, and not just at work! At home, I’ve been thinking more about the waste my family creates and how we can make more environmentally friendly decisions, like choosing to recycle where possible. My wife and I have even competed in an electronics store to see who could find the most energy efficient appliance to buy. And all of this is thanks to the simple introduction of a small plastic cube to my office.
The cubes, of course, are part of CM Health’s journey to improve our environmental sustainability. Since our organisation measured its carbon footprint and became accredited with CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme) in December 2012, there have been some exciting initiatives introduced. I’m joined today by our Sustainability Officer, Debbie Wilson, to update us on CM Health’s progress.
By measuring our carbon footprint, we were able to see what contributes to it and where some simple changes could have big results. Our first area of focus has been waste, which represents 4% of CM Health’s carbon footprint. That might not sound like very much but it actually adds up to over 1800 tonnes of medical and general waste per year. A large proportion of this is made from recyclable material.
Some of the initiatives to reduce our waste are the introduction of desk top cubes (which encourage people to think about what they are throwing away and recycle their waste where possible), worm farms (which are enabling our staff to compost food scraps) and recycling in theatres. Currently we are trialling recycling in Theatre 5, with staff using different bins to segregate mixed waste, paper and cardboard, and soft plastics. The trial has been really successful to date (Theatre 5 is recycling 100kg per week), and is dramatically reducing the amount of general theatre waste CM Health has to pay to have removed.
We also have green theatre groups in Radiology, the Critical Care Complex and Women’s Health who are diligently exploring their own initiatives to help reduce our carbon footprint. By removing any identifying information from discarded paper, Radiology has managed to recycle more paper and therefore reduce how frequently its secure document bins are emptied (from weekly to monthly). This simple action is saving $45 a month – a small win but one that would have greater potential if we bring our vast organisation onboard.
Another big focus area is energy, with electricity representing 25% of our carbon footprint. As you may have seen last year, we have investigated the introduction of an overnight automatic ‘sleep’ system for computers in non-critical areas and hope to roll this out later this year. Subject to business case approval, we are also looking into retrofitting more energy efficient lighting in high use areas such as public corridors. Our Engineering Department has already done a lot of work in this area and, with their help, we hope to implement this soon.
A lot can also be achieved by looking more closely at our procurement processes. In the next few months, we hope to remove polystyrene cups from the procurement chain and replace them with a more environmentally friendly alternative through our C.U.P. campaign. This campaign (which stands for Cut the costs, Use a washable or recyclable cup, Protect our future) is aimed at promoting reusable, rather than throwaway, options. To reward people who support C.U.P., we will be introducing a 20 cent discount at all Middlemore Hospital cafes for those using a reusable cup.
Meanwhile, we’re also looking at introducing quality office paper made from recycled fibres, reviewing our food procurement for both staff and patients, and establishing purchasing criteria for items such as green cleaning products. We’ve got plans to look at a community greenhouse, trial a ‘meat-free’ Monday (as the production of meat is less environmentally friendly than vegetables) and introduce air blade hand driers at MSC. CM Health spends $800 per week on paper towels in just one toilet block at MSC, which doesn’t take into account the cost of disposing of heavy, wet towels or the cost of fixing toilet blockages when the towels end up being flushed. We’re interested to see what a difference air blade hand driers could make. We’re also working with regional, national and international groups to share ideas and stay connected with the global community which is passionate about greening the healthcare sector.
As one of the largest employers in the city, we have a corporate responsibility to care for our environment at the same time as we care for our community. What is really heartening is that by working together in small but meaningful ways, we are making progress to reduce our carbon footprint. We think this demonstrates just what power we have collectively to make change happen, even in the face of big, global challenges. One step at a time, we are making a difference.
Geraint and Debbie