With the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in full swing in Glasgow, many organisations are looking at how they can operate in a more sustainable way. Norwich Research Park is home to many of the world’s leading researchers into climate change, so it’s no surprise that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which is based there, has unveiled three initiatives that it believes will go a long way to reducing its impact on the environment.

How theatres staff are reducing their carbon footprint

The NHS has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint and become net-zero by 2040. To help reach that goal, the surgical and anaesthetic teams at the hospital at Norwich Research Park have been taking action.

One of the first steps taken has been to remove desflurane – one of the worst polluting agents – from most of its operating theatres. Desflurane is one of many greenhouse gases used in inhalational anaesthetics, which account for 5% of all emissions from acute NHS hospitals.

The NHS has also switched to reusable trays for drawing up anaesthetic drugs. This change alone will save more than 2,500kg of CO2 a year, which is the equivalent to 6,477 miles driven by an average petrol-powered car.

The theatres team also has plans to reduce non-clinical and clinical single-use plastic items, introduce waste segregation and switch to reusable sharps bins.

Dr Amy Greengrass, consultant anaesthetist, said: “Climate change is the single largest crisis facing us today and is also a health crisis. In order to start meeting the NHS net-zero targets, change needs to start happening now and we have an opportunity to be at the forefront of this change. There has been a really positive reaction to these initiatives from our anaesthetic and theatres staff.”

Eastern Daily Press: Left to right: Joel Fiddy, theatres matron, and Dr Amy Greengrass, consultant anaesthetistLeft to right: Joel Fiddy, theatres matron, and Dr Amy Greengrass, consultant anaesthetist (Image: NNUH)

New trees to provide cleaner air on hospital grounds

The hospital has planted hundreds of new trees over the years to help lower carbon emissions. The grounds of the hospital is already home to more than 16,000 trees. This year more than 150 young trees have been planted to help create a second inner shelterbelt. Not only will they provide better protection for the grounds from wind and heat, but they will also help to lower carbon emissions and provide cleaner air.

Emma Jarvis, project lead and environmental arts manager, said: “We know how important trees are in the battle against global warming. We’ve identified how we can play our part and help reduce our carbon footprint. The tree species have been chosen specifically to cope with the rising temperatures of the planet.”

Eastern Daily Press: Coffee grounds from the NNUH's canteens and cafés are being turned into compostCoffee grounds from the NNUH's canteens and cafés are being turned into compost (Image: Getty)

Turning coffee grounds into compost

Coffee grounds from the hospital’s canteens and cafés are being turned into compost to help reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill and create valuable compost for its planting programme.

Serco, the hospital’s waste management partner, has started this ground-breaking initiative with the ultimate aim of seeing all coffee grounds from the on-site cafés, restaurants and individual staff members going into compost bins instead of general waste. This will reduce the number of trucks that have to come to the site, thereby reducing waste management costs.

The added benefit is that the programme will create its own compost for the hospital’s planting programme, diminishing the amount of money spent on compost.

Abbie Downes, retail supervisor for The Pod and green ambassador for Serco Health NNUH, said: “On a daily basis from just one Pod we have been collecting 24kg–25kg of coffee grounds. We have three to four outlets and we can widen that out to office areas once we have fully established this programme."