Understanding the Value of Nature and Product Life Cycles
The way we value nature across the globe fluctuates wildly. From an individual level scaled up to the community level, how nature and humans interact varies depending on a few variables. How you were raised, where you were born, if you have direct access to nature or not, and religious/cultural beliefs can all influence how you think or prioritize the human-nature interaction.
Understanding how ecosystems and biodiversity functions and services benefit society is critical when analyzing or formulating sustainability initiatives. Within the realm of healthcare, having a broad-scope approach is recommended. “Considering the values of multiple individuals, stakeholders, and interest groups at scales beyond the individual is an essential part of the valuation.”
For the health systems that choose a narrow vision and prioritize short-term benefits during strategizing, nothing will truly get accomplished. Nor will these initiatives have any real benefit to the immediate community surrounding the healthcare facility that implements such policies and procedures. “The predominant focus on supporting short-term profit and economic growth typically rely on economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Such indicators generally consider only those values of nature reflected through markets and therefore do not adequately reflect changes in quality of life.”
C-suite members should be reluctant to formulate sustainability plans solely through the lens of profits and losses. It is evident at this point that the climate crisis and the opportunities to address this issue are interlinked with how nature is valued in decision-making.
For example, when choosing a technology to reduce your facility’s environmental footprint, a good starting point is to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is a tool that can help you gain valuable insight and quantify the impact a product’s life has on the environment from start to finish. Understanding the sum of emissions and waste at every stage is critical to choosing the right product to pursue. Linear product processes are commonplace in healthcare technology manufacturing.
Understanding the problem and quantifying the value of nature are the first steps to acting and implementing a truly sustainable solution. However, having a narrow-visioned approach to purchasing “sustainable” technologies can yield unsavory results. Hurting your bottom line, making you less inclined to trust or pursue other sustainable products, and worst of all, not improving the quality of life for all parties involved in and around the facility.
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In healthcare right now, few issues are as important as eliminating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improving environmental health. Much of the focus has been on reducing carbon emissions (CO2). However, complex data showing the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of emissions from waste anesthetic gases (WAG) in operating rooms is of significant concern.
The GWP of anesthetic agents measures the “carbon footprint” of anesthetic gas compared to CO2, also known as the carbon dioxide equivalency (CDE). According to the Turkish Journal of Anesthesiology, The GWP of anesthetic agents measures the “carbon footprint” of anesthetic gas compared to CO2, also known as Carbon dioxide equivalency (CDE). According to the Turkish Journal of Anesthesiology, “The atmospheric lifetime of N2O is the longest (114 years) among the other inhaled anesthetic agents and is followed by Desflurane, which has an 8.9 to 21 years lifetime. Isoflurane and Sevoflurane have relatively shorter lifetimes in the atmosphere, being 2.6-5.9 and 1.1-5.2 years, respectively. However, lifetime calculating methods are also changing (improving), and different data are presented in the literature.”
Considering the ability of WAG to capture and trap heat at much higher levels than CO2 and linger in our atmosphere for extended periods, solutions must arise to diminish this issue. That’s where Blue-Zone Technologies™️ Anesthetic Gas Capture System comes into play. A revolutionary new technology and service that can immediately impact your operating room and put a significant dent in your facility’s GHG emissions.
Recently, Blue-Zone™️ achieved recognition by Practice Greenhealth and Healthcare Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Council as the 2022 Climate & Health Innovation award recipient for its pivotal role in the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center’s sustainability strategy.
Blue-Zone’s™️ technology utilizes proprietary canisters, easily installed into the OR, to sequester and capture 100% of the WAG presented to the system. The captured gas is picked up and sent to Blue-Zone’s™️ storage facilities, where Blue-Zone™️ exchanges old canisters for new ones.
A future application of this technology, pending regulatory approvals in the USA, is to create a circular process in which Blue-Zone™️ extracts the halogenated drug raw material and puts this material into the production of new anesthetic gases the the hospitals will be able to purchase at significant discount (this has been approved in Canada).
Not only does this technology capture WAG and reduce GHGS, but Blue-Zone™️ also presents healthcare systems with an opportunity to rethink supply chain and sourcing procedures. Using technology to create circular economies within healthcare divisions can positively impact staff, patients, surround ing communities, and hospital operating margins.
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The Importance of Scope 3 Emission Reduction
Something every hospital system can do right now is take stock and control of their Scope 1 & 2 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are from processes or assets controlled by the health system (furnaces, vehicles, etc.). Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions associated with the purchase of energy. While the organization doesn’t directly control Scope 2 emissions, they account for the health system’s inventory of GHGs as a result of the system’s energy use.
Scope 3 emissions result from activities from assets not owned or controlled by the healthcare system, yet the organization indirectly impacts in its business model. Generally speaking, an organization’s Scope 3 emissions are another company’s Scope 1 & 2 emissions. Whether upstream or downstream within the healthcare business operations, you have more control over these Scope 3 emissions than you realize. It just takes a little research, analysis, technology, and investment.
For hospitals that outsource their medical waste treatment to third party haulers & disposers, this represents a starting point of their Scope 3 emission sources. Logistically speaking, this is how the process roughly unfolds with an outsourced medical waste treatment company:
- A third party at Point A picks up medical waste. During this time, new waste bags will be distributed (even if you don’t need them, don’t worry, they will still charge you) in exchange for the full waste containers.
- Trucks will leave Point A and take the waste to Point B, their processing and autoclaving/incinerating plants. This is where waste is sorted (often incorrectly), then put through energy-intensive sterilization or incineration processes. Once “sterile” the waste gets placed into another truck for departure.
- Trucks then shuttle “sterile” medical waste remnants to the Point C, the landfill.
- All along the way impacting the environment in numerous ways.
Investing in on-site medical waste treatment technology can pay dividends within a few years, eliminate shady charges from your account books, reduce your emissions drastically (within all three Scopes), and eradicate multiple trips to the landfill. Bringing outsourced operations within walls of the hospital allows for more control.
Healthcare systems should focus on Scope 1 & 2 emissions. However, Scope 3 emissions account for a large portion of a healthcare facility’s “total” emissions. These emissions are more accessible and easier to control than previously thought. By implementing better, non-disruptive technologies that have proven use-cases and achieve measurable results, healthcare can lead the way towards a brighter, healthier future for all.
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For more information about Focus Healthcare Products please click here: https://www.focushealthcareproducts.com/
To request a pilot demo of Blue-Zone Technologies click here and submit the form on page: https://www.focushealthcareproducts.com/sustainable-technologies/blue-zone-technologies/
 IPBES. (2022, July). Summary for Policymaker of the Methodological Assessment Regarding the Diverse Conceptualization of Multiple Values of Nature and its Benefits, Including Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions and Services. https://ipbes.net/media_release/Values_Assessment_Published
 Koner, O. (2022). Anesthetic Gases Do Harm to the Environment, Is It Time for a Change? Turkish Journal of Anaesthesiology and Reanimation, 50(1), 6–7. https://doi.org/10.5152/tjar.2022.7222
A Few of Our Favorite Sustainable Healthcare Champions
Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm, PeriOp Green.
Check out The Eco-Smart Newsletter! Our new monthly newsletter will provide healthcare and sustainability professionals insights into the latest sustainability technologies, our mindset, and bigger picture pieces that will help healthcare on the road to sustainability. This month’s edition contains: 1. Understanding the Value of Nature and Product Life Cycles 2. Blue-Zone Recognized 3. The Importance of Scope 3 Emission Reduction We hope you enjoy. 😁