Health care is a big contributor to the nation’s solid waste stream. Fortunately, doctors are getting wise and many have implemented waste reduction programs. As one Berkeley, CA clinic has proven, a few simple and inexpensive changes can eliminate a LOT of waste.
We all know, in theory, what makes for a healthy environment and why we should care about environmental issues. But it all becomes much more personal and tangible if you get yourself outside and participate in outdoor recreational activities. Your own health will improve, you'll better understand the specific eco-issues in your community, and you'll be better able to educate your patients by setting a good example.
As an industry, health care uses 515 trillion BTUs of energy annually. That's 9% of the country's total energy consumption, and 85% of the energy consumed is petroleum-based. That's not exactly healthy. But a growing number of concerned physicians are making real efforts to simplify, conserve and reduce.
Pound for pound children absorb more environmental toxins than adults, and they are also more vulnerable to adverse health effects of these exposures. Parents are desperate for help with environmental health problems, and green-minded physicians can play a vital role in ensuring healthier futures for the next generation.
Environmental sustainability is not a t-shirt or a marketing tool or something done for "extra credit." Eco-consciousness needs to be guide all aspects of our personal and professional lives. In a busy primary care medical practice, that's a tall order. Fortunately, there's help---in the form of the Green Guide to Health Care's new Operations guidance program. A new non-profit group, Practice Green Health will combine the strengths of three leading eco-medical groups into a single organization.
Greater eco-consciousness means making better choices about the materials we use. But sometimes, there are no clear-cut "good" substitutes for toxic materials, and the choice comes down to selecting the least impactful of available options. Case in point: compact fluorescent lightbulbs which save energy but contain mercury.
A wealth of recent studies are pointing to a disturbing trend: pharmaceutical residues and active drug metabolites are finding their way into our drinking water. Much of it comes from runoff from agricultural waste. But drugs excreted in human urine or feces, and pills flushed down the toilet also play a big role. The solution? Conscientious prescribing and careful disposal of expired meds.
Computers have definitely improved our lives, but from a health and environmental viewpoint…well, they’re not all that great. They’re packed with toxic materials, they burn lotsa kilowatts, and they’re pretty hard on the eyes and hands. Fortunately, a growing number of computer designers are developing cleaner, greener and healthier machines.
Before you go out get that new G5 or the latest Blackberry, stop and think about what you plan to do with your old ones. Forty million computers-laden with lead, cadmium, chlorinated plastics, and other tech-toxins- are disposed of annually. Only 11% are properly recycled.
Over the last decade, there has been a tremendous increase in eco-consciousness in the health care industry, and this has led to a corresponding increase in the number of green cleaning products, building materials, and medical supplies now available. But not everything is as green as it may seem. Fortunately, there has also been a big increase in the number of information resources available to help guide ecologically minded health care professionals.