Doctor’s Offices Going Green
Picture this: you walk into your doctor’s office or clinic and you check in at the front window. You are told to have a seat and wait to get called back when the doctor is ready for you. You start to look around the waiting room and you notice they have recycling bins out, an automatic water bottle filler, posters on eco-friendly practices, or even just a certificate that they are a recognized Green Doctor Office. Any of those observations are indicators that your doctor’s office is trying to be more environmentally sustainable.
Just as doctors are leaders in the healthcare field, they can also be leaders in the environmental movement that works to make our community a better place to live. There are many benefits to taking initiatives to go green including: a healthier work environment, increased patient satisfaction and trust and decreased pollution and waste. There are also benefits on a local, community, and global scale. Within a healthcare facility, going green promotes the well-being of patients, staff, and visitors. Within communities, green clinics promote cleaner air and less waste. In the context of Earth itself, green clinics slow down the degradation of the environment, and help optimize its limited resources.
Healthier Work Environment
Working at a health care facility is a stressful career. It involves interacting with sick and injured people, disgruntled patients and their relatives, phones ringing off the hook, and ever-changing schedules. Furthermore, doctors can be very busy people. While we would like to see them take the lead in making their clinic greener, the task is usually carried out by clinic managers and staff. These employees will feel proud of where they work when they see that their clinic is taking steps to protect the environment and be sustainable. Any of the following suggestions can make clinics safer for staff and contribute to a healthy work environment.
- Choosing safer cleaning agents or cutting back on pesticides and other toxins
- Install an automatic water bottle filler to discourage plastic bottles
- Replace plastic cutlery and plates with biodegradable products
- Promote recycling by placing recycling bins around the facility
- Facilities can be green by design meaning that mechanisms are in place for water conservation, natural light instead of electric, or that it was built with sustainably harvested building materials
- Promote carpooling and telecommute when possible to reduce harmful car emissions
Increased Patient Satisfaction and Trust
The waiting room is the first room you walk into and it is where you form your impression of the entire clinic. It is also where information and displays are most noticeable and impactful. In a 2017 study of all general practice patients in the UK, 77.9% of participants indicated that they normally notice posters, leaflets, and other information on display in the waiting room 1Maskell, K., Mcdonald, P., & Paudyal, P. (2018). Effectiveness of health education materials in general practice waiting rooms: a cross-sectional study. British Journal of General Practice, 68(677). doi: 10.3399/bjgp18x699773.
Green doctor’s office or small clinics can use posters and displays in in the waiting rooms to make a positive impression on first time patients and gain their trust and loyalty. By adopting green practices, clinics show patients that their office is more than a business. This also shows that they are dedicated to minimizing their environmental footprint. By doing so, it motivates patients to entrust their doctors with their health and wellbeing.
Decreased Pollution and Waste
Clinics rely on paper for everything from patient charts and intaking forms to administrative paperwork. While clinics are slowly moving toward Electronic Health Records (EHR), they still rely heavily on paper. 50% of businesses’ waste is composed of paper and 93% of that paper comes from trees 2https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Paper-Waste-Facts .
Heavy paper use contributes to deforestation, displacing animals from their natural habitats and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. More importantly, cutting down trees reduces the amount of oxygen produced which we need to breathe.
Health care facilities also consume large amounts of energy. Energy consumption is another major environmental concern because burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases.
- Going paperless or substituting paper and plastic for recyclable products
- Plant trees around the facility to promote cleaner air
- Invest in energy efficient appliances
- Ensure that appliances are turned off when not in use.
Yasmin Zahra is a recent graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a current MPH candidate at the University of North Florida. She is passionate about one health approaches to increase overall health as it relates to humans, animals and the environment.