Sustainability and greening the workplace
The health sector is a major user of resources and can have a significant carbon footprint. It is estimated that the NHS produces 600,000 tonnes of waste - over one per cent of all domestic waste produced in the UK - and consumes 50 billion litres of water a year. Energy used by the health sector produces about 3.5m tonnes of CO² a year. This all contributes to climate change.
As an organisation, the RCN is committed to reducing its impact on the environment by preventing pollution and continually improving its environmental performance.
Climate and Health Council
The RCN is a signatory of the Climate and Health Council's declaration to take action on climate change and global health and recognises the critical impact of climate change on global health and the environment. The college is currently actively working to measure and minimise our own carbon footprint and similarly, through RCN safety representatives and other activists, is encouraging health care provider organisations across the UK to do the same by, for example, reducing health care waste.
RCN members are being encouraged to sign up to the Climate and Health Council declaration to take action on climate change and global health. Read more and sign up to the declaration on the Climate and Health Council website.
Health care without harm
The RCN is a member of Health care without harm an International Coalition of health care organisations and health care professionals who share a vision of a health care sector which does no harm and is committed to preventing disease and promoting the health of people and the environment.
NHS sustainable development unit
The NHS sustainable development unit was set up in April 2008 to provide leadership, support and policy input to ensure that the NHS in England is the leading public sector organisation in promoting sustainable development and mitigating climate change. The RCN responded to the NHS consultation document 'Saving Carbon, Improving Health'.
Read the RCN's response to 'Saving Carbon, Improving Health' (Word, 251KB), a draft carbon reduction strategy for the NHS in England. Further information and case studies on how health care organisations can reduce their carbon footprint and improve environmental performance can be found on the Sustainable development commission website.
Read the RCN guidance on the Safe management of health care waste (PDF 124.6KB) [how to access PDF files]. The guidance provides advice on adopting safe management of waste practices to reduce the harmful effects on the environment and lower waste disposal costs to release funding for reinvestment into patient.
Centre for Sustainable Health care
The Centre for Sustainable Health care is a UK wide charity which works with partner organisations to promote more sustainable health care. Its work includes the Green Speciality Programme which involves working with clinical specialities to transform the care pathway in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the NHS.
The charity is also working to promote the sign up to the 10:10 campaign within health care. 10:10 is a national campaign which aims to achieve a 10 per cent cut in the UK's carbon emissions by 2010. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare has developed tools and checklists for use within hospital and ward settings. Information and tools on the various initiatives can be accessed at sustainablehealthcare.org.uk