A lifelong approach to sustainability

31st of October 2019
A lifelong approach to sustainability

Lynn Webster, ECJ correspondent in the UK, highlights issues surrounding sustainability.

At the recent European Cleaning & Hygiene Awards, one category, Best Practice in Sustainability was highlighted as the most discussed topic around. Growing further into both our corporate and individual world it more and more impacts into our everyday lives.

There are six major conservation problems: ordinary decay, inadequate water management, damage from UV radiation, overgrown vegetation, incompatible conservation and restoration work from earlier generations, and visitors (tourists).

Exponential health, knowledge and standards of living improvements at a fast rate have come at a huge cost to the stability of the natural systems that sustain us. Examples present themselves through global warming likely to reach 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2052 if it continues at its current rate. Evidence is emerging of the impact of climate change on our physical and mental health with air pollution links to respiratory disease and deteriorating mental health.

NHS area of concern

The healthcare sector is a key area of concern; the NHS employs five per cent of the UK workforce, produces more carbon emissions than any other public sector organisation in Europe with a carbon footprint of 18 million tonnes of CO2 per annum (energy 22 per cent, travel 18 per cent procurement 60 per cent), 13 per cent of its carbon footprint is road travel; use of anaesthetic gases represents five per cent of acute hospitals CO2 emissions; respiratory inhalers represent 4.3 per cent of the sector’s carbon footprint. In the built environment therefore, facilities not only procure quality and effectiveness but must consider the sustainability qualities of goods driving a circular economy of raw materials production, use, reuse and recycle.

One product example, nitrile gloves use has increased exponentially, often used when not required with confusion as to when they are needed. The NHS purchases three billion nitrile gloves per year, often single use, and they end up in landfill for perhaps 100 years...

Consider the support of procurement and distribution with their help considering solutions in terms of packaging. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. Delivery models where small increases in minimum orders reduce shipping impact nationwide. How are your goods packaged? In plastic wrapping? In plastic containers? One recent suggestion was to replace plastic tape with a paper sustainable version.

Closer to home, consider the grocery shop. We are encouraged to retain and reuse our plastic carrier bags; retailers charging has changed our mindset but groceries used to be carried home in brown paper bags that were regular recycled into numerous other uses - remember covering school books in paper covers to protect them?

A walk upstairs rather than on electrically powered escalators in every store or building; we didn’t jump into the huge gas-guzzling 300 bhp machines to travel short distances; we washed reusable nappies, drying them outside with natural solar power and wind energy not by a machine commanding excessive use of energy.

Sustainability is not simply about producing glossy reports and impressing customers with business ethics. It demands a continuous and lifelong approach.


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