There has been significant improvement in the procurement of resources, which includes packaging reduction to reducing waste generation and the purchasing of equipment that has a greater propensity for reuse and recycling. However, one of the bigger areas to target is the appropriate segregation of waste at the point of use.
The ambulance service has set up a Green Environment Ambulance Network (GrEAN) – a collective of sustainability managers committed to reducing carbon emissions for ambulance service trusts in the UK. Over the last few years, they have been investigating and implementing strategies that help to mitigate unnecessary energy consumption, or streamlining processes and systems to make our use of resources more cost effective. But how effective have they been?
I interviewed sustainability managers to have a look at the initiatives they were developing and the good work they were doing. There’s no doubt that their work is a step in the right direction and deserves to be internationally disseminated.
The next step was to see if and how these initiatives were being translated by the workforce as a whole.
From my ethnographical data and time spent in conversation with operational ambulance staff, it is always surprising to learn how many are keen to be ‘green’ at home and have strong values when it comes to recycling and energy efficiency savings, but when they are in the working environment, those same principles can be largely overlooked or forgotten. It really is a matter of good housekeeping principles.
I think it’s important to embed sustainability into a person’s thinking right from the start and so, as an output of my research, I am developing a resource to embed sustainable thinking into the student paramedic curriculum. Student paramedics have nothing formal in their current training to help them think about sustainability behaviours, so the package can be incorporated into lectures across higher education institutions in the UK.
As paramedics, paramedic students and operational ambulance staff, we can be the vanguard for influencing best practice in the NHS. What you do can make a real difference, by making simple cultural changes and adopting the right practices.
Reducing carbon emissions and sustainable development within organisations are indisputably corporate responsibilities. However, ethically, they are also all of our responsibilities.