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Sustainable Healthcare: Together Towards Zero

Carbon and waste neutral by 2030

Hunter New England Local Health District will be carbon and waste neutral by 2030.

Under the ambitious new initiative, Sustainable Healthcare: Together Towards Zero, we are setting our sights on an environmentally sustainable future.

Significant investments will be made in solar power, water sustainability and energy efficient practices during the next decade to lighten and, eventually, eliminate the organisation’s carbon footprint.

We will be doing a huge amount of work in the coming years to achieve this green vision and take our place as an industry and community leader in sustainability.

Why are we going Carbon and Waste Neutral?

Health staff and services work incredibly hard to keep our community healthy.

At the same time, we know 25 per cent of all human disease and death in the world is attributed to unhealthy environments, like unclean air and water, and that health as an industry is a major contributor of carbon emissions.

The reality is, it’s no longer possible to be committed to the health of our community without addressing the health of our environment.

In response, we’re taking a giant step towards clean, green healthcare, investing in solar power, exploring sustainable water practices, reducing waste to landfill and much more.

Work starts today, so we can leave behind a truly healthy legacy, for our generation and many generations to come.

Embracing change for a cleaner future

Solar - Investment in clean, renewable power

In coming years, solar panels will be installed on the rooftop of all of our health facilities, including John Hunter Hospital, which will soon be home to the largest solar panel installation on any hospital in the country.

The $3.2 million solar panel installation will cover 12,000 square metres, about 85 per cent, of the hospital's roof space.

We’ve already made a head-start on our solar panel targets. We’re already harnessing clean, renewable power at a number of hospitals and work is underway to begin panel installation on more facilities in coming months. Our work will also significantly contribute to the state’s Net Zero Plan aspirational solar target.

Rethinking waste management

The District is also working to achieve zero general waste to landfill by 2030.

We’re now investigating innovative ways we can approach the everyday disposal of food scraps, general waste and recycling.

We’ll also be taking a closer look to see what health-specific waste normally thrown in the rubbish, like oxygen masks, PVC tubing, and clean, single–use plastics used every day in our operating theatres, are appropriate and safe for recycling.

Water sustainable practices

The recent drought, arguably the worst NSW has ever seen, was the catalyst for key water sustainability initiatives to be introduced under our bold initiative.

Between now and 2030, we will be aiming to collect 100 per cent of the rainwater that falls on our hospitals’ rooftops.

We’ll also be working with staff at each of our hospitals to find appropriate ways to reuse and recycle water to make the most of the precious resource.

An award-winning strategy is already putting clean, excess water, produced as a by-product of renal dialysis, to good use at Tamworth Hospital.

The excess 50,000 litres a week was once considered wastewater, but is now used to flush hospital toilets. With an investment of $15,000, the hospital is now saving 2.5 million litres of clean water going down the drain each year. This simple yet effective initiative will be rolled out to 10 more renal units in the District in coming years.

Transport’s going green

The District’s fleet of work vehicles is also going green. Gradually, fleet vehicles will be transitioned firstly to hybrid and then pure electric models, replacing petrol and diesel vehicles. E-charging stations will be installed on our sites.

Wherever possible, our staff will use video conferencing to reduce unnecessary travel for everyday business, and when they need to drive it will be cleaner than ever.

We’ll also be making it easier for staff to carpool or ride their bikes to work and when they travel out of town for work we’ll identify preferred ‘green’ accommodation and flight providers.

Annual targets to achieve success

Each year, we will measure our progress to ensure we’re on track to achieve the ambitious plan.

Some targets, such as our strategy to incrementally overhaul our fleet of work vehicles, will be simple to measure.

In the coming three years, our petrol-fuelled fleet cars will be replaced with hybrid models as each vehicle is due for renewal. Hybrid cars use a combination of electric and petrol combustion, use less fuel and produce less emissions than petrol-fuelled vehicles.

In addition to our District’s transition to hybrid vehicles, we have also committed to converting the entire fleet to pure electric vehicles by 2030. Between 2020 and 2030, we will replace 10 percent of our fleet with pure electric models. At the end of the decade we will, without a doubt, be able to say we have achieved our target – 100 percent of our fleet will be clean, green pure electric vehicles.

The success of our solar and water recycling investments will be measured using the savings we make on our hospitals’ energy and water bills. For example, every time we install solar panels on one of our facilities, our District becomes a little less reliant on coal-fired power, and closer to our carbon neutral target.

Deciding on the ideal measurement of some of our targets is still a work in progress. We’re establishing baselines and investigating the best tools and methods for tracking our success. This work will continue into 2021.

Staff as Sustainability Champions

In early 2020, we issued an Expression of Interest seeking staff with a passion and willingness to invest time and energy to help us achieve some of these major goals.

We are so impressed with the groundswell of support from staff nominating to be Sustainability Champions, to make lasting change across the organisation. There’s still time for staff to nominate as a Sustainability Champion and get involved.

Pleasingly, we have also received a number of new, simple and achievable ideas from staff, keen to make their own individual services more eco-friendly. We’re pleased this strategy is creating discussion and encouraging staff to offer their ideas knowing we’re keen to hear about any projects that can bring us one step closer to green healthcare.

It’s the small, grassroots ideas we’re hearing that give hope the legacy of green healthcare we are about to establish will carry on well after the year 2030.