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Nurses leading the way on waste

Nurses leading the way on waste

Victorian nurses, midwives and carers understand the link between people’s health and the environment, whether we are talking about the climate change crisis or pollution. Research, however, reveals a problem: the community often doesn’t.

The Lancet’s 2018 ‘Countdown on Health and Climate Change’ report highlights concerning trends with major health implications in the areas of heat and heatwaves, infectious diseases and declining food security.

There is still work to do to ensure the community understands the crisis, the impact its already having on our health and the solutions.

While traditionally places of health and healing, hospitals also generate environmental health impacts through the resources and products they consume, and the waste they generate. A recent study found hospitals were responsible for seven per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions.

Nurses, midwives and carers are not waiting for politicians to take the lead. The quiet revolution happening in our hospitals and health services is getting louder.

Nurses and midwives are taking this into their own hands by implementing waste reduction strategies. Their recycling and waste management projects may be across a hospital or they may be happening at a ward or unit level.

ANMF will continue to provide environmental and sustainability change leaders with a platform to spread the word about what nurses, midwives and carers can achieve. Indeed, you asked us to. Job Reps passed a resolution at the 2012 annual delegates conference calling on ANMF (Vic Branch) to become more involved in climate change and environmental policy debates.

Since then we have held an annual conference and created and run courses to help nurses and midwives develop and implement environmental sustainability action plans at their workplace.

We have employed an environmental health officer since 2015 to work with members educating and supporting them to bring change into their workplaces. We lobbied the Andrews Government to fund a state waste education officer — a position which began in 2018 — so that we can look at the bigger picture and see what’s working, so no one has to reinvent the wheel.

We have built a sustainable building, meeting a 4.5 NABERS energy target and 5 Star Green Star rating, so ANMF ensures it practises what it preaches.

As our Environmental Health Officer Ros Morgan says, ‘Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can – because every change makes a difference’.