Earth Day 2021, Let’s Get Greener – It’s still that simple!
19th Apr 2021
“our planet…in peril from what was a discarded respect for balance, between what might be consumed for the necessities of life and the very capacity of the planet to renew itself, even survive”Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day Message 2021. Áras an Uachtaráin, Wednesday, 17th March 2021
In recognition of Earth Day 2021, Blackrock Clinic congratulates our colleagues at RCSI on their achievement of the “Green Flag” status, awarded in 2019 by An Taisce’s Green-Campus programme. This accreditation is awarded for sustainability and environmental management. Earth Day 2021 also gives me an opportunity to update you on Blackrock Clinic’s environmental sustainability plan.
As a major acute hospital, we face an ongoing dichotomy between “patient” and “place”. Our pledge as medics is to “first do no harm”, and patient focus is our immediate priority. Yet an acute hospital is one of the most abundant waste generators of any industry sector. This waste is complex, both clinical and general, hazardous and benign. Our energy requirements are equally mammoth as we facilitate patient care intensively 24/7, 365 days a year.
So whilst we serve the medical requirements of our local and further reaching communities, we need to mitigate the harm done to our environment.
We can work towards a harmony by recognising this eco responsibility and incorporating rigorous eco governance
In healthcare we use benchmarks to measure success in any given field. Similarly, with environmental issues, we look to improve resource efficiency and reduce waste / emissions against established performance standards. To this end we have worked closely for some years with local and national environmental expert bodies, and have achieved certification as well as friendship and great advice.
Our achievement of EcoMerit Certification in 2015 gave us a solid grounding in the impact that small changes and continuous improvement could make to our eco footprint. Supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, we formulated our plan to reduce environmental damage in the key areas of: waste; water and energy outputs, while increasing energy efficiencies and recycling. A dedicated Blackrock Clinic “Green Steering Committee” was then convened to put this plan into practice, as well as to drive biodiversity and education initiatives.
As previously mentioned, our waste is complicated. In Ireland an acute hospital typically produces the following quantities of waste per in-patient bed day¹:
- Food waste: 0.78kg
- Healthcare Risk Waste: 1.9kg.
- General Landfill Waste: 4.2kg. This waste accounts for 61% of all waste generated, 32% of which is recyclable material!
The main solution to complex waste is separation at source, thus reducing the amount contributed to landfill, augmenting the recyclable tonnage, and isolating the risk waste. Following best practice guidelines, segregated waste bins are placed strategically allowing for ease of use. Close monitoring of waste types is ongoing, along with information and education on the prevention of waste stream contamination. This separation process benefits the environment and also hospital expenditure. Risk waste, disposal of which comes at the highest price per tonne, is reduced. It also progresses our 2019 “Blackrock Goes Green” campaign to ‘recycle and reduce plastics’, a principle now being applied across all areas of the hospital.
That our world is threatened by an emerging global water crisis is a chilling fact. Blackrock Clinic has committed to a three year strategy to reduce our current water consumption (greater than 30,000 cubic metres per annum) by 15% – 20%. Earlier this year our Engineering Department proudly completed Irish Water’s “Water Stewardship Training Programme” and has been awarded their “Certified Water Steward” badge. This certification commends our best-in-class operations (with continuous improvement) of sustainable water metrics. It also recognises best practice training and Blackrock Clinic’s commitment to optimising safety levels. HSE / HPSC guideline compliance is applied throughout the hospital campus.
The carbon footprint of the hospital is a continuous study. Some ways we are achieving goals are:
- Power usage: A “not in use standby feature” is fitted to all new operating theatre areas, and retro fitted to pre-existing areas.
- Lighting: A programme is underway to replace all fluorescent, halogen and tungsten lamps with LED lighting throughout both buildings.
- Heat: A combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit is used to re direct and make use of excess energy produced.
- Parking: Electric car charging points are being researched, along with further bicycle parking areas as the use of cycles by staff (and patients) increases.
We are fortunate that Blackrock Clinic is built in an area of natural beauty. Fronted by Blackrock Park and Dublin Bay, we have sight of the Wicklow Mountains to the right and Poolbeg chimneys (a local landmark) to our left. Mention is often made of the sweeping panorama from our 5th floor Day Unit, which can offer a mindful escape from the waiting room worries.
Our setting offers a reminder that we are part of that beauty and not separate from it. Our groundsman is fastidious in flora display, with a growing vision towards fauna biodiversity. Initiatives we are currently exploring include: a seasonal range of pollinator friendly plants; a wild garden, and insect hotels.
Our eco strategy is based upon a spirit of community, generosity and education. Whilst we are transparent and accountable in our self-appraisal, we remain grateful for the help of environmental experts. Our neighbours and professional communities are also our eco-allies, and going forward Blackrock Clinic is proud to sponsor the RCSI alumni “Global Impact Award”. No community balances sustainability in isolation.
¹Epa.ie. 2014. [online] Available at: <https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/green%20business/Reducing-waste-in-Irish-Healthcare-Facilities-waste-guidance-booklet-reduced-size.pdf> [Accessed 8 April 2021].