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NSLHD commences Australian first net zero program

Clinicians working across Northern Sydney Local Health District have put up their hand to focus on sustainability initiatives as part of an Australian first net zero program. 

A group of 12 nurses, doctors, pharmacists and allied health staff from three NSLHD hospitals will dedicate half or one day a week to be part of the NSLHD Net Zero Leads Program. Northern Sydney is the first local health service in Australia to establish such a program as part of an Australian first sustainability program funded by NSLHD’s charity partner, the NORTH Foundation. 

Royal North Shore Hospital anaesthetist Dr Penny Hodges never considered a role like this would be possible. She will be sharing the net zero lead position with a colleague, each dedicating one day every fortnight. Penny said the opportunity to focus on sustainability alongside her clinical role is going to help her engage and empower colleagues to make sustainability a priority.  

“Being able to become a ‘green’ champion for the anaesthetics department is something very different to my day job and I am really excited about it,” Penny said.

“We know anaesthetic gases represent five per cent of our hospital’s carbon footprint, and our department has already been working to reduce this by educating our colleagues to use alternative gases that are less harmful to the environment.

It’s exciting NSLHD is the first health service in Australia to undertake a program of this nature with such enthusiastic and passionate leads from different clinical areas
NSLHD Planetary Health Manager Nicola Groskops

“Using desflurane for one hour is the equivalent of flying from Sydney to Melbourne in terms of carbon emissions.

“Encouraging our colleagues to use alternative gases such as sevoflurane not only significantly decreases these emissions, but also has a large financial benefit – in 2021 we saved $100,000 by using cheaper and more sustainable alternatives.

“There is also great potential for reducing pharmaceutical wastage and improving waste segregation of general and clinical waste.”

NSLHD Planetary Health Manager Nicola Groskops is coordinating the program for NSLHD. 

“We asked staff at NSLHD to submit an expression of interest in the program and we were thrilled with the response – a real indicator of how enthusiastic clinical staff are about embedding environmentally sustainable practices,” Nicola said. 

“Healthcare contributes seven per cent to Australia’s carbon footprint, and clinicians are becoming more aware of this and want to address it.”

NSLHD has been actively working on its sustainability efforts, committing to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035, with most of the reduction – 70 to 80 per cent – to be achieved by 2030.

The Net Zero Leads and their projects of interest include:
-    Reducing waste in theatres – Erin Foulsham 
-    Respiratory inhalers and opportunities for planetary health – Mellissa Batger, Dr Katrina Tonga and Dr Sophie Timmins
-    Reducing nitrous oxide – Dr Penny Hodges and Dr Andrew Lindberg
-    Study of single use insulin pens – Dr Lyndal Tacon 
-    Preventing general anaesthetic use for paediatric imaging – Dr Carola Wittekind
-    Reducing calf compressor use in ICU – Louise Hansell
-    Establishing a satellite spinal clinic – Patricia Schlotfeldt  
-    Reducing pharmaceutical waste – Sally Nicholson and Debbie Barry


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