The Power of Example: Small Sustainable Swaps for Big Impact
24 January 2024 | Hanna Mountford, Joanna Sagnella, Matthew Bradby, Bethan Cornick
When we hear about climate change and its worrying statistics, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not know how or where to start on our journey towards sustainable living.
What we forget is that change always starts with one person and that we can influence those around us. While we might not see immediate change, and might even meet some resistance, our actions can become contagious.
When you share an example of a greener way of living, you plant a seed in other people’s minds. Depending on the ‘climate’ of their mindset, some seeds will grow faster, while others might take a while to break through. But no actions are without impact. Start with yourself and be a role model – others will follow.
Ideas for greener living
The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) communications team have recently started making small, sustainable swaps at home to help climate change, and want to share some of the steps they are taking to inspire others to do the same.
Here are some things that Hanna Mountford, Digital Project Manager, tries to do, to help the planet:
- Minimising food waste by adopting mindful shopping habits, cooking in larger batches, and repurposing leftovers for the following day’s lunch or freezing them for later use.
- Reducing plastic use by buying household items with no or less plastic packaging, for example soap bars wrapped in paper, washing powder in a carton box, using the glass jars from sauces and jams as containers, and using fewer disposable products.
- Saving energy by using energy-saving bulbs, unplugging all devices and chargers when they are not being used and turning off the light when not needed.
- Using water wisely by adopting habits like taking shorter showers, installing water-saving shower heads and tap aerators, and repurposing cooking water for nourishing household plants.
- Embracing a slow fashion approach by making thoughtful clothing purchases, favoring quality over quantity, exploring second-hand options on platforms like Vinted and in charity shops, and actively participating in repurposing, donating, or recycling old clothes and textiles to reduce fashion-related environmental impact.
- Minimising carbon footprint by using public transport and opting for walking whenever possible, as well as eating less meat.
- Contributing to a greener environment by going paperless and engaging in tree-planting initiatives to generate green spaces and foster a healthier environment.
Also trying to protect our planet is Joanna Sagnella, Publications Manager:
- Buying local by shopping at and supporting our local farm shop for fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Reducing fossil fuel use by installing solar panels on our roof.
- Reducing plastic by carrying cloth shopping bags wherever I go.
- Reducing waste by drinking tap water and having a reusable bottle in the office.
- Having plastic free periods by using period pants instead of single use sanitary products.
Matthew Bradby, Head of Communications, is also being greener:
- Minimising waste by buying shampoo bars, not bottles. Lots of places now sell the bars and I get them online from a small company.
- Reducing food waste by using a wormery to make compost for the garden.
- Reducing and recycling plastic by buying food that has as little plastic wrapping as possible. Separating and recycling all the containers I can.
Bethan Cornick, Policy and Communications Intern, is reducing her impact on the environment by:
- Reducing carbon footprint by eating no meat. Having one vegetarian meal a week is the equivalent to not driving your car for 348 miles!
- Reducing plastic by buying sustainable cleaning products and washing capsules.
- Reducing contribution to fast fashion by sewing or knitting clothes and mending clothes before recycling or donating them.
- Minimising waste by using beeswax wraps instead of cling film for food.
- Saving energy by washing clothes at 30 degrees when possible and putting the dishwasher on a shorter cycle.
- Reducing reliance on transport by cycling or walking most places and getting public transport when this is not possible.
Free Sustainable events
The QNI is delighted to be collaborating with the Centre of Sustainable Healthcare on a series of 3 free four-hour long webinars designed to enlighten, educate and equip nurses working in the community with the skills and knowledge to understand the climate crisis, how it relates to healthcare and provide them with the practical methods and examples of applying sustainability through quality improvement.
The first of the series, ‘Climate Change and Healthcare’, is on 2 February 2024, 2-3pm. Free and open to all.
Sustainability & healthcare resources
There are also many sustainable alternatives in the healthcare sector.
Queen’s Nurse Angela Disney has published several blogs on sustainability, one of which focuses on community nursing.
The QNI have also recently published a blog on sustainability in the care home sector, written by Heather Kirton, Clinical Governance Lead at St Monica Trust.
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) helps health organisations with green space projects and carbon modelling. Rachel Stancliffe, Founder and Director at CSH, and Siobhan Parslow-Williams, Quality Improvement Education Lead at CSH, discussed sustainability and healthcare with Sir Muir Gray CBE at the QNI Conference 2023.
The Greener NHS Programme has a target for the NHS to become Net Zero by 2040. The NHS has already reduced emissions equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes annually.