Health care has a massive carbon footprint. These doctors are trying to change that

Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) are working to reduce the health care sector’s large carbon footprint, estimated to be 8.5% of the US’s total.

The problem observed: Operating rooms, despite representing a small part of a hospital’s physical footprint, produce an oversized portion of its waste.
* The health care sector contributes significantly to climate change through energy used to run facilities, transportation, products, and waste disposal.

Initiatives underway: In response, a group of doctors at UPMC formed the Clinicians for Climate Action, aiming at curbing UPMC’s environmental impact.
* The group has successfully urged UPMC to phase out desflurane, a potent greenhouse gas used as an anesthetic.
* They have also reduced cafeteria food waste and cut down on single-use items, making significant savings in the process.

Major changes achieved: UPMC has established a sustainability office on the group’s recommendation and has signed a White House pledge to halve carbon emissions by 2030.
* The sustainability office, called the Center for Sustainability, is working to measure and reduce the hospital system’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nationwide concerns: However, the larger challenge of the health care industry’s environmental impact remains, with some experts suggesting a national emissions reduction mandate as the only viable solution.
* The Joint Commission, a national hospital accrediting body, has thus far only offered voluntary certification in sustainable health care, after hospitals objected to a proposal mandating facilities to measure their emissions.

View original article on NPR

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