Those interested in the greening of Canada’s health care system now have a new resource at their disposal with the release of the “Green Office Toolkit for Clinicians and Office Managers.” A collaborative effort of Canada’s leading green health care organisations, the “Green Office Toolkit for Clinicians and Office Managers” is designed to simplify and inspire the greening of medical practice offices and targets Canadian physicians and their staff.
The twenty-nine-page toolkit, authored by doctors Neil Arya, Jean Zigby, Lisa J. Jing Mu, Lynn Marshall and greening health care experts Jasmine J. Mah, Linda Varangu and Kent Waddington contains practical and affordable ideas to assist physicians in making eco-friendly office improvements and contains real-life examples from green health care physician champions across Canada.
Lead author Dr. Neil Arya says, “The impetus behind creating the publication was to help health professionals walk the talk, role modelling and supporting the health and wellbeing of our patients while respecting the foundations of health for present and future generations. We feel the Toolkit is a tremendous catalyst to incite action on the part of physicians who have been waiting ‘for the right time’ to make health care healthy and to embrace green practices.”
It is estimated health care causes an estimated 6-10% of all environmental harm and ensuing illness from Canadian society. However, increasing numbers of clinics and health institutions across Canada and the world are looking at how they can have better impacts on the planet we depend on.1
Having a green office doesn’t have to be costly. In fact, the benefits of a green office can include cost savings, as well as a healthier office environment, and improved patient and staff experience. Cost savings mainly result from reduced waste and improved efficiency.
Dr. Jean Zigby, Past-President of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Founding President of Synergie Santé Environnement notes “Doctors and administrators can integrate principles of sustainability into their clinics without burning themselves out. The idea is to begin with popular and easily achievable strategies first, such as office recycling or bicycle racks. Examples exist in every office.”
It is hoped that patients and clients may appreciate and learn from the examples set by their care providers, and take environmental and health-conscious actions in their own offices or homes. In addition, anything that can be done to reduce our environmental footprint will help reduce the impacts of climate change. The Lancet Commission on Climate Change has identified climate change as both the greatest global health threat and opportunity of the 21st century.
Clinicians and office managers can lead the change by establishing environmental sustainability as a core value and integrating it into the cultural and corporate fabric of the organisation. This is often incorporated into a “Triple Bottom Line” consisting of health, economic sustainability, and environmental values. Explicit acknowledgement of such values can create a space for discussion, open doors for green investments, and foster a corporate culture that embraces environmental stewardship and climate change preparedness.
“After over 40 years of family practice, one of the aspects of my practice that I feel proudest of is that we honored our environmental values in the clinic. As a physician, I feel deeply troubled by the environmental issues we face, knowing that human health and wellbeing relies on healthy natural ecosystems. It’s been important to me to contribute to the solutions, starting with minimizing the environmental impacts of my clinical practice, but also engaging with my community in addressing key environmental issues. At the end of the day, if we as physicians don’t walk the talk, how can we expect others to?” says Dr. Charles King, Family Physician.
The Green Office Toolkit is a free download
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is the only organization of physicians in Canada that is dedicated to environmental issues. As a non-profit organization, our mission is to promote human health by protecting the environment. www.cape.ca
The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care is Canada’s premier integrated green health care resource network and is leading the evolution of green in Canada’s health sector as a national voice and catalyst for environmental change. Collaboratively we strive to reduce health care’s ecological impact from compassionate care delivery while providing a nurturing platform upon which to discuss and promote best practices, innovation, environmental responsibility and climate change resiliency. www.greenhealth care.ca
McMaster Family Medicine provides holistic family health care and quality education through the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. They are now celebrating their 50th anniversary and proud to support sustainability in health care. www.mcmasterfamilypractice.ca
Synergie Santé Environnement helps Québec health care institutions take a responsible approach to the undertaking of concrete and effective actions with measurable results by providing them with advisory services aimed at improving environmental practices.
Women’s College Hospital Environmental Health Clinic is a unique multidisciplinary clinic and the only one of its kind in Ontario. Established in 1996, it promotes environmental health and improved health care for people with chronic complex environmentally-linked health conditions. www.womenscollegehospital.ca/programs-and-services/environmental-health-clinic
1 | Hancock, T. (2001) Doing Less Harm: Assessing and Reducing the Environmental and Health Impact of Canada’s Health Care System. Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care. http://www.sc.edu/sustainableu/TrevorHancockInfo.pdf
— Kent Waddington