You have probably seen numerous posters and campaigns promoting environmental awareness around, and heard environmentalists urging for more eco-friendly practices on the news numerous times. Everyone has a part to play when it comes to saving the planet, and it does not take extraordinary effort or a lot of time to be environmentally friendly. As a healthcare professional, you can be part of this “Go Green” effort by simply making a few changes at work and spread awareness to your colleagues. Here are a few tips on how you can become an eco-friendly health professional:

1. Promote recycling

One of the easiest steps that you can take to be eco-friendly is to place a recycling bin in your office. You probably have a ton of documents that you no longer need and can be recycled. Instead of throwing older folders into the bin, you can reuse them by putting on new labels. When you start taking the first step and encourage other co-workers to do the same, they will likely follow your lead and eco-friendly habits will gradually become part of your workplace culture.

2. Reduce carbon footprint

In Malaysia, paper accounts for a large amount of municipal solid waste – the third highest after food/organic and plastic waste. This is true not only for residential waste, but also commercial and institutional waste. While it will probably take a very long time before healthcare organisations can become completely paperless, reducing the amount of paper used is not an impossible task. Whenever possible, keep paper use to the minimum by using electronic documents instead of paper (e.g e-faxing, e-mail, etc.).

3. Eliminate use of plastic utensils

When you are buying takeaway food from the hospital cafeteria, you can do your part in being eco-friendly by bringing your own reusable containers and cutleries instead of packing them in disposable plastic containers or bags. Plastic waste makes up an estimated average of 24% of the municipal solid waste in Malaysia. [1] Switching to reusable containers not only reduces the amount of waste in hospital bins, it will also benefit the hospital in terms of improving overall hygiene.

4. Advice on proper medicine disposal

Advising patients on proper medicine disposal can be one of the most significant things you can do as a health professional, as many patients do not know about the proper way to dispose medicines. In 2010, the Pharmaceutical Services Division of the Ministry of Health Malaysia has implemented a program known as the Return Your Medicines Programme. Through this initiative, patients can return their excess or unused medicines for safe disposal by the Ministry. [2] Doctors can spread this information via social media or give direct advice to patients during their visits.

While your healthcare organisation works on implementing long-term green strategies for the organisation as a whole, becoming an eco-friendly individual starts with small steps that you can initiate on your own. Since health professionals spend a lot of time at work, your workplace is the best place for you to start taking steps towards becoming an eco-friendly individual, and spread awareness about environmentalism by promoting such practices to your co-workers at the same time. MIMS

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[1] Aja, Ogboo C., Dalton, Oseghale S., Al-Kayiem, Hussain H. “Review and Evaluation of Municipal Solid Waste Management Practices in Malaysia”. Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management. 40(3)(2014). 215-232. Web. 14 Oct 2016.
[2] “Return Your Medicines Program”. Pharmaceutical Services Divisions, Ministry of Health Malaysia. 19 November 2013. Web. 14 Oct 2016.