We want to contribute to a healthy life and a healthy society, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations. We want to increase our positive impact on health by reducing our negative impact on the environment and climate. We do this by offering future-proof healthcare, education and research, in an economical, social and environmental sense.
More than half of our CO2 emissions are caused by our buildings. We therefore developed and established a CO2 roadmap in 2020, in which we worked out with what measures we could reduce the CO2 emissions of our buildings by 50% in 2030, and by 95% in 2050. We shall use this roadmap as a framework for our building projects within our Strategic Development Outlook for Accommodation .
More and more healthcare professionals at UMC Utrecht are also working on make their care process(es) more sustainable. Healthcare professionals are pooling their forces in the UMC Utrecht Network for green healthcare professionals. In this network, which now consists of about 300 professionals, knowledge, ideas and best practices are exchanged and concrete projects initiated and coordinated, whereby sustainability can be accelerated and upscaled. The network also serves as a sounding board for UMC Utrecht-wide sustainability initiatives.
Note: We were not able to fully calculate the CO2 footprint for 2021 on time due to the absence of part of the data. We shall publish the exact CO2 footprint for 2021 on our website as soon as all the figures are available.
Sustainability outlook in education
In our education, we are working hard to expand the number of educational moments in which attention is given to Planetary Health. To introduce a clear line for the long term, the Green Team Education in 2021 drew up a vision paper on how sustainability should feature in education. The intention is that all students must get an understanding of how environmental topics like climate and biodiversity fit in with each other and with healthcare, think about how they see their own role in making the (bio)medical sector more sustainable, and learn how they themselves can make a difference in the field. The vision paper has a wide reach and each educational program will be working on their own plan of attack.
Led by UMC Utrecht, the European ePlanet consortium (which consists of UMC Utrecht, Charité Berlijn, Gent University, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, and the game-design company Superbuff) has been working since the end of 2021 on an online platform for modules on Planetary Health to be used in the medical curriculum. In addition to the usual teaching methods, they are also creating modules with a gamificatiion aspect. As a player, you are then challenged to really get your teeth into the subject. You learn about how health and the environment go together at an individual, local and global level, and how you as a doctor can strike the right balance, for example when choosing a treatment. The project is financed by the EU’s Erasmus+ program, and the modules will be freely available. The education platform is expected to be ready at the start of 2023.
Hub Circular hospital
Within the Knowledge Alliance of TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht , besides Preventive Health, Circular society is an important topic. The Circular Society work group is working on the transition to a sustainable circular society by combining the knowledge of WUR, TUe, UU and UMC Utrecht and finding responsible solutions to limit the use of resources. Two hubs were formed in the work group in 2021: Circular inclusive cities, and Circular safe hospitals.
At the beginning of 2021 the work group organized two sandpit sessions where researchers were challenged to come up with concrete research proposals. For the Circular safe hospitals hub, this led to four concrete research proposals. Each of these studies received a small grant of EUR 23,000 from the work group. Two of the studies focus on disposables and were launched in 2021: one is a study on barriers and possibilities for replacing OR disposables with circular alternatives, and the other is a study on circular business models for cataract surgery. The other two studies, which are kicking off in 2022, focus on the waste of medication, and drug residues in waste water.
In addition, WUR and UU students tackled various OR-related research questions – including environmental impact analyses to make anesthesia, blood-pressure cuffs, and laryngoscope blades more sustainable. These studies provide tangible leads for further increasing sustainability in the OR.
At the initiative of the Gynecology department, research was conducted in 2021 by CE Delft to compare the environmental impact of disposable steel gynecology instrument sets compared to a reusable steel version.
After only three uses, the reusable instrument set already appears to have a lower impact on climate and human health over the entire life cycle. The impact of sterilizing reusable sets is much smaller than the process of manufacturing, transporting and recycling a new single-use set. Extrapolated to the average number of births at UMC Utrecht per year, using a reusable instrument set can prevent an annual climate impact of 1,580 kg of CO2-eq. The conclusion of the report served as an incentive for the Gynecology department to replace their disposable sets with a reusable set. This switch will be made in 2022.