Healthcare carbon footprint and how it impacts the environment: Opinion


By Gaurav Dubey, CEO, LivLong

Something to bear in mind for all of us: novelist and environmentalist Wendell Berry’s poignant quote. “The Earth is what we all have in common!” Nothing underlines the importance of this blue planet more. Yet, in our haste to a better life for humanity, through the rapid evolution of technology across sectors, we have silently let Mother Earth suffer.

It is not widely known that even a sector as critical to life as healthcare is substantially responsible for causing emissions of greenhouse gases, leading to increased air pollution.

Not only this, but the healthcare sector is also responsible for causing water scarcity to a certain extent. The sector generates a massive amount of greenhouse gases. Reduction of the carbon footprint of the healthcare sector needs direct action to minimize waste and excessive use of energy. Considering the advent of technology in the healthcare industry, hospitals in the future will have the potential to mitigate climate change.

In a report published by Health Care Without Harm, it was found that the climate footprint caused by the healthcare sector is similar to the 4.4% of global net emissions (2 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent). Talking about annual greenhouse gas emissions, the yearly climate footprint of worldwide healthcare is about that of 514 coal-fired power plants.

It’s not surprising that if healthcare were a country, it would rank fifth place on the list of largest emitters. The pollution generated by the healthcare industry is a reason for the deteriorating environment and our health too.

 Due to the increasing pollution content in our surroundings, we have invited some major life-threatening problems like cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and asthma.

One of the reasons the healthcare sector is contributing so much to ever-increasing pollution levels is that the hospitals are energy-intensive buildings requiring energy 24×7 throughout the year.

The facilities require continuous lighting, heating, cooling, electricity for high-tech diagnostics, treatment equipment, housekeeping, and sterilization that potentially have harmful chemicals.

These products are transported to the hospitals via transport services. Therefore, hospitals create pollution in the environment through the deployment of such tertiary services. In addition, the healthcare sector generates harmful waste like solid waste, municipal, hazardous, biohazardous, pharmaceutical, and radioactive waste.

 People have to be more vigilant about hospitals and how they harm the environment in general.

Much equipment in the hospitals is only used for one time and then disposed of when the treatment is done. This disposal is another reason why a lot of waste is generated by hospitals, ultimately causing harm to the environment and human health.

It is miserable that India, among the ten countries, accounts for 75% of healthcare’s climate footprint. India is also the seventh-largest absolute health sector climate footprint and that is why we need to be more careful as a country to deal with this issue.

According to some experts, the health sector emissions in India are equivalent to the emissions of 10 coal-fired power plants or 5,16,286 tanker trucks worth of gasoline or 8,280,255 passenger vehicles for a year.

Around 71% of the emissions come from the healthcare supply chain through the production, transport, and disposal of goods and services.

What can be done to curb the healthcare carbon footprint?

It goes without saying that keeping ourselves healthy will by default reduce the need for resource-intensive healthcare. In addition to our individual efforts, hospitals and the healthcare systems should intrinsically work to improve their environmental performance. Many health care organizations are already trying their best to contribute as little as possible to the carbon footprint.

Some organizations have committed to using 100 Percent renewable electricity and reducing waste and emissions. And healthcare, in general, is also taking an online route. With digitalization coming to full force, the health techs will be able to provide effective solutions at home. This will cut down the wastage of resources and cause less air pollution.

By collectively making efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, we can keep ourselves, the people around us, and this planet healthy for the generations to come.
Mr. Gaurav Dubey laid the foundation of LivLong Protection and Wellness Solutions Ltd. In 2021, it uniquely caters to new-age medical issues by combining technology.


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