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5 ways nurses can lead the charge for sustainability

5 health impacts of climate change

Environmental sustainability is an ongoing effort in almost every industry. According to The Balance, sustainability involves humans taking steps to maintain a healthy relationship with our current ecosystem while making sure we're not stopping future generations from meeting their needs.

» What is the nurse's role in addressing climate change?

Sustainability also helps to fight against climate change. NASA says climate change is affecting temperatures and causing warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets and rising sea levels. All of these changes can play a role in causing more natural disasters and boosting the spread of disease due to changing ecosystems.

Climate for Health says health professionals are in a unique position to see the effects of climate change first hand. Global warming can cause changes in air and water quality as well as other factors that can harm people physically and mentally. When they come in for treatment, doctors and nurses are the first ones to come to their aid.

» Study: As planet warms, mental health issues expected to increase

For that reason, Climate for Health believes that people in the health industry are strong candidates to lead the charge in advocating for sustainability efforts.

So what changes can nurses make to embrace sustainability at work?

Here's a list of ways you can make a difference according to the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments:

  • Save energy. Starting a journey toward a more sustainable workplace can be as easy as flipping a switch. Turning off the lights in vacant hospital rooms can help save energy if everyone joins in the effort. When a room is empty, closing the blinds, unplugging any unused appliances and shutting off the lights is an easy way to avoid wasted energy.
  • Rethink your commute. Carpooling with a co-worker is another way nurses can contribute to sustainability efforts. There are also public transportation options like MARTA trains and buses. For those within a few miles of their job, walking or riding a bike every day could add up to a huge reduction in vehicle emissions.
  • Recycle. Does your employer offer a recycling program? If not, nurses can lead the charge by switching to sustainable alternatives. Using a refillable water bottle instead of plastic bottles is one option. There are also sustainable, vegan shoes that can be purchased to help you walk the walk. Nurses can even take steps to recommend switching to climate-friendly paper and industry-approved cleaning supplies.
  • Do your research. Organizations like the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments are geared specifically toward nurse-driven sustainability efforts. They offer a wealth of information you can use to learn more about conservation. Once you know more, you can propose alternatives that might help cut back on waste or energy use. You can also use that information to start asking questions about things like waste management or whether your employer has considered switching to more sustainable hospital supplies. These questions could lead to important conversations about making responsible improvements.
  • Be an advocate. Nurses can use their voices to call for environmental change at work. Based on their role in working closely with patients almost daily, input from nurses is important in guiding the best ways to focus on sustainability while maintaining necessary standards. As long as proposed sustainability efforts align with best practices and industry regulations, making small changes every day can help create a big impact on the environment. Nurses are in a key position to make a difference in their workplaces.