Forget cancer or heart disease. Experts say climate change is the biggest looming threat to humans. As individuals step up and change their behaviour to be more environmentally friendly, the magnifying glass is being held over large organisations to see what changes they have implemented in recent years to do their bit. Rotorua Daily Post reporter Jean Bell looks into what our DHB is implementing to help keep both local people and Mother Nature healthy.
Feeding food scraps to pigs and phasing out reusable plastics are just some of the ways the Lakes District Health Board is shrinking its environmental footprint.
Neighbouring Bay of Plenty DHB has also jumped on the bandwagon by extending its "Meat-Free Monday" trial, where cafe food is red-meat free for one day a week, recycling single-use stainless steel medical equipment and phasing out polystyrene cups to reduce its environmental footprint.
The Bay of Plenty DHB also hired a sustainability manager in June this year to help understand and reduce their environmental footprint.
Lakes DHB chief operating officer Alan Wilson said the DHB would not follow Bay of Plenty DHB's lead and implement a meat-free Monday but it had a number of other initiatives.
"Meatless tasty alternatives are always offered on each day's menu for both staff and patients," he said.
Wilson said recycling of plastic waste had increased in recent years, food scraps were passed on to pig farmers, fruit trees had been planted at Rotorua Hospital and takeaway containers at the main Rotorua Hospital cafe were compostable.
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Polystyrene and plastic cups were phased out in 2017 and compostable paper cups were introduced last year.
Wilson said the hospital produced 360,000kg of waste that went to landfill each year and the DHB introduced Daniels re-usable sharp bins - which recycled the metal from needles - a decade ago, but the DHB did not know how much waste or metal was recycled.
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The DHB committed to not building any additional carparks to encourage staff and patients cycling, walking, bussing and carpooling. The DHB currently had one hybrid car and planned to add more hybrid vehicles to the fleet.
According to documents released to the Rotorua Daily Post by the DHB, the vehicle fleet had been reduced by seven cars despite a 15 per cent increase in organisational demand since 2014.
The fleet was used more efficiently after vehicles had GPS installed which highlighted "poor vehicle use such as 'unofficial journeys' [and] driving at [a] speed that increases fuel use" were targeted, according to the document.
Wilson said the DHB was the only DHB in the country to utilise geothermal energy for its heating and water heating and in 2017, the DHB had received funding from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority for an energy-saving de-scaling unit for the hospital's main cooling towers.
He said the DHB had discussed employing a sustainability manager but more pressing recruitment took priority. In the meantime, the sustainability committee formed in 2014 introduced several initiatives.
Envirohub manager Laura Wragg said any initiatives that the DHB took to reduce its environmental impact needed to be applauded.
Wragg said the DHB using geothermal heating was a "great initiative" and she imagined it was a considerable cost-cutter for the DHB.
She said everybody needed to take responsibility for sustainability in the workplace but having a sustainability manager within a large organisation was great and recognised the importance the organisation placed on it.
She said it was easier to set recycling targets and ensure the right amount of stock was bought in the first place when organisations kept records of waste and recyclables.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said the ministry did not mandate any particular environmental sustainability actions for DHBs but it did encourage action in a variety of ways, including through the recently published Sustainability and the Health Sector guide.
The Seven Sinners' - most common environmentally-damaging items
- Coffee cups
- Plastic bottles
- Plastic straws
- Plastic bags
- Cling wraps
Seven steps to reduce your environmental impact
- Eat less red meat
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Buy local
- Drive and fly less
- Reduce your electricity use
- Conserve water
- Plant trees