So employees at nursing homes can contribute to reaching environmental goals

This article is written based on Swedish conditions. Hopefully, it can inspire those interested from other countries.

We have been working to achieve the global environmental goals that are to be reached by 2030 for several years now. The EU is discussing whether the requirements should be tightened even more to save our planet. By taking conscious actions, employees at nursing homes can contribute to reducing environmental impact and strive to achieve the set environmental goals.

Foto: Mostphotos

How nursing home staff can contribute to achieving environmental goals

Large quantities of goods are purchased for a nursing home. In terms of volume, diapers, laundry labels, gloves, and other protective equipment take up a lot of space. The operation also purchases large amounts of cleaning agents, hand sanitizer, soap, laundry detergent, and surface disinfectant. Food is another extensive area.

In addition, lamps, batteries, kitchen appliances, and other electronics are also purchased. All of this is delivered in packaging made of cardboard, glass, plastic, or metal. Newspapers and other paper waste from the residents and the operation are also common. There is also some hazardous waste, such as drug residues and sharp objects.

There are nursing homes that have come a long way in terms of waste sorting. There are also nursing homes where employees, despite being good at sorting at home, are forced to throw garbage unsorted at the nursing home. This, of course, does not apply to hazardous waste, and sometimes the cardboard is taken care of and sorted already in storage. But at the living units, it has not always come as far.

It is also about what is purchased and how it is used to extend sustainability as much as possible. Here, it can be about influencing procurement and taking care of what is there. Often there are obstacles in the design of the premises. But for those who are creative, there are often some low-hanging fruits where recycling or other measures that contribute to a more sustainable world could be implemented without too extensive efforts.

Environmental considerations are an important part of the daily operations at nursing homes. By taking conscious actions, employees can contribute to reducing environmental impact and strive to achieve the set environmental goals. Here are some concrete tips and strategies for how the staff can work for a more sustainable operation.

Energy consumption and efficiency

Efficient use of energy: By being aware of energy consumption, employees can contribute to reducing unnecessary energy use. This means turning off lights in rooms that are not in use, turning off appliances when they are not in use, and using energy-efficient lighting solutions.
Regular maintenance: Ensure that all energy-consuming appliances and systems are maintained regularly to function as efficiently as possible. This could mean checking and cleaning ventilation systems, adjusting thermostats, and ensuring that windows and doors are properly insulated.

Waste management and recycling

Sort waste: Implement clear routines for waste sorting. Make sure there are clearly marked recycling stations for different types of waste, including plastic, paper, glass, and food waste.
Minimize waste: Encourage employees to think about reducing the amount of waste generated. This could mean avoiding disposable products, reusing materials where possible, and composting food waste.

Sustainable food and meals

Organic and locally produced raw materials: By choosing organic and locally produced raw materials, the nursing home can reduce its environmental impact and support local producers. Plan meals that take advantage of seasonal ingredients to reduce the carbon footprint.
Reduce food waste: Work actively to reduce food waste by planning meals carefully, serving portions of the right size, and using leftovers creatively in cooking.

Water usage

Save water: Encourage employees to be aware of water usage. This can mean fixing leaking taps, using water-saving toilets and shower heads, and not letting water run unnecessarily.
Education and awareness: By educating both staff and residents about the importance of saving water, the nursing home can reduce its total water consumption and contribute to sustainable water usage.

Sustainable transportation

Promote eco-friendly transport options: Encourage staff and visitors to use eco-friendly transport options such as cycling, public transport, or carpooling. If possible, consider using electric cars or hybrid cars for the operation's transport.
Plan transportation: By planning transportation and deliveries carefully, the nursing home can reduce the number of trips and thus reduce emissions.

Engagement and education

Environmental education: By regularly educating staff about environmental issues and sustainable work methods, the nursing home can create a culture of awareness and engagement. This can include workshops, informational materials, and environmental projects.
Involve the residents: Engage the residents in environmental work by informing them about why it is important and how they can contribute. This can be done through joint activities such as recycling projects, tree planting, or sustainability workshops.

By taking these actions and consciously working to reduce environmental impact, the staff at the nursing home can contribute to a more sustainable operation and at the same time improve the quality of life for the residents.

Reflection questions - waste
Care staff:
- Are there any simple actions you could take to reduce the nursing home's environmental impact?
- How would you like to work in the long term to improve your environmental work?

Manager, nurse, occupational therapist, and physiotherapist:
- Do you have a strategic plan to develop environmental work and reduce the nursing home's environmental impact?
- Have you done any inventory of the nursing home's environmental impact?

Residents and relatives:
- How does waste management at the residence work for you?
- Is there an opportunity to sort waste for those who wish to do so?

Erland Olsson
Specialist Nurse
Sofrosyne - Better care every day

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