Health care’s contributions to climate change also contribute to many of the diseases we care for, which stands in contrast to a hospital’s healing mission and commitment to “do no harm.” The U.S. health care sector’s greenhouse emissions make up 8.5% of the U.S. total, and American health care facilities emit more greenhouse gas than the entire United Kingdom.
It is imperative that health systems set a net-zero goal for no later than 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5° C and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Kaiser Permanente’s 2025 goals “raise the bar on environmental responsibility, not just for Kaiser Permanente but for the broader social and economic sectors in the U.S. and globally...to inspire us all to create a future where total health is at the core of all that we do.”
The next step is to develop a plan to meet the goal. There are many areas across the hospital where emissions reduction can happen. Reduction strategies might include:
- Energy conservation and efficiency measures
- Renewable energy procurement
- Alternative transportation
- Waste management
- Water conservation
- Sustainable food and beverage strategies, including alternatives to meat
- Anesthetic gas management
These strategies reduce the hospital’s contributions to climate change and air pollution in ways that provide direct health benefits to their communities. Even better, they create positive organizational changes through cost savings, enhance continuity of care, and lead to better recruitment and retention of talent.
Our members are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many ways – some comprehensively and others working through priorities one at a time. Practice Greenhealth has developed a toolkit for greenhouse gas tracking and reduction as well as complementary resources designed to help members mitigate their climate impacts.
The Cool Food Pledge
The Cool Food Pledge is a new platform to help hospitals offer diners more of what they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions, saving costs, and improving health.