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NHS green champions help tackle the climate emergency

Green champions at Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals have been inspiring colleagues to take simple steps to help protect the planet.

The infusion centre team standing outside with katie Sell holding their five TGI awards
The Infusion Centre team receiving their Think Green Initiative Awards

Three teams have made it all the way through the five levels of Addenbrooke’s Think Green Initiative (TGI) challenge, making small changes to how they work that make a big difference to our impact on the environment.

Senior Sister, Anna Mayhew, together with specialist nurse Sue Walters have championed reducing, reusing and recycling within the Infusion Centre.

The pair work hard to make the serious message about the climate emergency accessible, with tips of the week, quizzes, games and even a wildlife photography competition that patients helped choose the winner for.

Their initiatives include a popular ‘swap box’ that allows staff to exchange unwanted items with each other – instead of throwing them away.

Box on table filled with items for exchange - a label shows the words 'swap box'
Popular swap-shop where staff can exchange unwanted items

Jackie Cort-Monk, lead resuscitation officer, teaches life-support and has brought in a number of simple green initiatives to reduce waste and increase recycling in her department.

This includes cutting back on printing, reducing the use of anti-bacterial surface wipes, and setting up a system to make sure single use coffee cups are being recycled.

Jackie said: “Cutting down on paper has made the biggest impact on the way we work. It's actually made our processes much slicker. So it is a green initiative but saves time and money too.”

I think one of the things we're learning is that people just need to see others taking action and that inspires them to take action too.

Jackie Cort-Monk, lead resuscitation officer
Woman in nurses uniform standing inside holding a box full of single use cups for recycling
Jackie has set up a system to ensure disposable coffee cups are recycled

Jessy Varghease, a clinical research sister looking after patients on cancer research trials, inspired her colleagues to action when she learnt of the gravity of the climate crisis.

Jessy said: “In 2019 the government were talking about the climate emergency, with flooding, fires, heatwaves, and I was thinking: what can we do?”

She set about inspiring her team to make changes to how they worked, taking them through the hospitals’ TGI programme in only one year. This included introducing recycling options, changing how they worked to reduce printing and making sure that equipment was all switched off at the end of the working day.

She was supported by her team leader, Nisha Kandasmy.

Two nurses standing inside in front of a green champion display
Nisha (left) and Jessie (right) standing in front of their Think Green record of achievement.

Jessy says the biggest impact has come from changes to how they process the trial blood samples. By bringing a computer into the sample handling room, they could stop printing out study flowsheets every time they processed a sample and so reduced the amount of paper and ink used.

She’s also proud of introducing recycling across the ward, telling us: "We introduced more recycling bins and can now recycle many things, including packaging from gauze and syringes."

Previously we didn’t recycle very much. We had not been thinking about the environment – but now we are

Jessy Varghease, a clinical research sister

Jessy now works on the Clinical Investigation Ward and is planning on bringing her green know-how to help spread the message about sustainability with her new team.

Katie Sell, sustainability manager, who supports staff through the TGI programme said:

It is inspiring to see all the work our Green Champions at CUH are doing.

Adding: "As part of the challenge, they’ve looked at everything from energy and water use to how we travel, and what we buy and throw-away.

"They truly are leading the way and empowering others within the Trust to do the same.”

The Think Green Initiative is part of a programme of staff engagement that supports the Trust’s Action 50 Green Plan. This sets out a series of actions the organisation will take to halve its carbon emissions by 2032 and become a net-zero organisation by 2045.