Planetary Health & Environmental Sustainability

Taking Action Together: Medical Staff and Providence Partners


Providence showcases Planetary Health initiatives to a provincial audience

L to R: Anthony Munster, Executive Director, PHC Projects, Planning & Facilities Management; Dr. Kristine Chapman, Neurologist

On April 17th in Vancouver, Dr. Kristine Chapman and Anthony Munster highlighted PHC’s commitment to planetary health and environmental sustainability to more than 200 physician leaders and health authorities from across BC.

Their presentation to the 2024 Facility Engagement Summit emphasized PHC’s proactive response to the climate crisis through both organizational initiatives and grassroots action.

Dr Chapman detailed the outcomes of PHC’s January 2024 engagement event on Planetary Health, where medical staff and partners learned about medical staff projects for environmental sustainability at Providence sites. The gathering sparked vital conversations and fostered innovative ideas for integrating sustainable practices into daily processes.

Anthony Munster noted that the ideas generated at the session, along with the pockets of work and projects underway, are feeding into the development of an organization-wide Planetary Health strategic plan – with a new PASS-funded Physician Advisor, Dr. Gillian Goobie, supporting the process.

The presenters welcomed other medical staff, health care professionals, and health authorities from across BC to join Providence in taking collective action to address climate change.

Planetary Health & Environmental Sustainability Engagement Event

January 11 Engagement Event with Medical staff and Providence Partners:

  • Medical Staff Projects: videos and takeways
  • Group discusion ideas for environmental sustainability in daily practice

Presentations & Opportunities for Environmental Sustainability in Health Care

In January 2024, Providence Medical Staff and partners hosted a provincial-wide event that included inspiring presentations and innovative projects on environmental sustainability in health care. This was followed by participant discussions that generated ideas for supporting planetary health and enhancing sustainability in daily hospital processes. The event was sponsored by the Providence Health Care Physicians & Surgeons Society with funding from SSC Facility Engagement.

Fiona Dalton – CEO, Providence Health Care

“It’s not right to give health care a free pass on planetary health. There is a lot that we can do, and a lot more that we need to do. I’m happy that we can come together to celebrate what has been done, and much more importantly, re-inspire each other to come together to say ‘but what else are we going to do this year and the next year to play our part in this climate emergency?”

Watch Video: Opening remarks


Guest Speaker Presentations


Dr. Andrea MacNeill – Regional Medical Director of Planetary Health

Watch Video: An overview of the landscape of environmental stewardship and health care sustainability.

“All around the world, the health professional workforce is rising up to meet the climate and ecological crises. We in BC, have the great benefit of visionary leaders who see that paradox of health care that harms and accept that we need to deliver care differently, and who realize that we should be leading voices in the global climate arena. This won’t always be easy. It won’t always be comfortable. But it will 100% be worth it.”

Context-setting Presentation Takeaways
  • There is an urgent need for transformation in health care to address healthcare system contributions to environmental unsustainability. A blend of leadership, mandates and grassroots action can achieve significant, impactful change.
  • Health care organizations can lead with strategies that integrate environmental sustainability into frontline clinical care and recognize it as a dimension of care quality.
  • Canada is actively participating in global efforts to develop low-carbon, sustainable, and resilient health systems.
  • Networks like CASCADES focus on mobilizing knowledge and supporting sustainable healthcare innovations in Canada.
  • The Lancet Commission on Sustainable Healthcare and initiatives led by institutions like UBC and Yale are establishing a research and policy agenda for transforming to sustainable health systems and positioning healthcare professionals at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis.


Anthony Munster – Executive Director of Projects, Planning & Facilities Management, PHC

Watch Video: An overview of PHC’s contribution to climate change and initiatives for change.

“Canada has a dubious distinction of being the third highest polluter to per capita, but we are working to change that.It’s clear that the effects of climate change are burdening it already exhausted health care system. The system not only having to deal with the impacts of climate change, and its consequences are also a major contributor to this crisis.”

Context-setting Presentation Takeaways
  • Publicly funded entities like health care are mandated to report their emissions annually and purchase carbon offsets, aiming for carbon neutrality for reported emissions, mainly from utilities and transportation.
  • Efforts are underway at Providence reduce building emissions from utilities, which make up the majority of emissions. PHC achieved a 9.3% reduction by 2022 and is aiming for a 50% reduction by 2030. Further reductions can be achieved with the new, greener hospital facility.
  • Providence is encouraging medical staff and staff involvement in environmental stewardship, to build a community of sustainability and planetary health with:
  • An invitation to join the Planetary Health and Environmental Sustainability/Stewardship team, a cross-disciplinary environmental stewardship team created in 2023.
  • Small grants for research specifically aimed at planetary health.
  • Supports to become a green plus leader through the environmental Energy Environmental Sustainability Team in the Lower Mainland – training, resources and a website called


Dr. Andre Mattman – Medical Biochemist, St. Paul’s Hospital

Watch Video: Reducing low value care and unnecessary lab testing.

“The task at hand for our generation is to reduce this enormous flow of oil by first reducing the demands where it has been growing exponentially. And second, by generating the energy we do need more cleanly – essential to life – and to meaningful health care.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Health care is hindering success in stemming the flow of oil – and adding to the flow.
  • Efforts can be made to minimize low-value care: unnecessary and high cost practices that consume resources and energy and have an environmental impact without significantly benefiting patient health, preventing disability or improving life years.
  • High-Value Healthcare: Health care practices and guidelines that focus on care that optimizes health outcomes and minimizes environmental impact.
  • Examples of eliminating/reducing low-value care
    • Reducing LDH Testing show to reduce emissions, impactful oil use reduction.
    • Reducing TSH testing (where considered to be low value)
    • Vitamin D testing for example, is is increasing exponentially because of guidelines and patient preferences. The guideline, patient and ordering doctor should consider whether high value.


Dr. Eileen Wong – Family Physician, Holy Family Hospital

Watch Video: Reducing food waste and improving the food experience for seniors care.

“What can you do personally, besides eating less meat? we hope that you will help us promote plant-rich diets by being a champion in the workplace. You can measure food waste using QI, but also invite us the working group to present plant power to your colleagues and the patients there. You can make a difference.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Dr Wong is leading work to improve food quality and food experience for vulnerable seniors at Holy Family hospital in long term care and rehabilitation.
  • Used a QI lens/methodology to measure food consumption and food waste, the food experience, and reduce food complaints.
  • Recognized at the BC Quality Forum, this work included:
  • A significant reduction in dinner entrée waste: Utilizing meal tray tickets to monitor food consumption and further work to achieve a 50% reduction in dinner entrée wastage among cognitively intact residents.
  • Testing of vegetarian lunch options (vegetarian week for lunch entrées) which showed an increase in food wastage, and provided valuable lessons on the logistics of menu changes, food service operations, and the importance of patient choice in achieving improvements.
  • Moving forward: Collaborative efforts with VCH and Fraser Health towards sustainable dining and more sustainable menu options in the BC lower mainland.
  • Dr Wong’s Food Working Group has been engaging staff, patients and residents including through the Celebrate Plant power and World Food Day events. The group is open to present to interested colleagues/groups to spread awareness.


Dr. Shanta Chakrabarti – Cardiology, SPH

Watch Video: Reducing clinic visits and resource utilization through virtual care and monitoring in cardiac care.

“One of our patients lives in Fort St. John. He has a defibrillator and needs to have checkups every six months at St. Paul’s Hospital which is the provincial heart center. Each time he comes for his appointments, he has to take time off work, has to travel, and come to a hotel. It leads to significant carbon footprint. And he’s not the only one.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Heart disease management is evolving, with patients with devices like pacemakers to address rhythm issues.
  • There are three main pathways for patient follow-up: regular check-ups, suspicion of device malfunction, or emergencies such as sudden cardiac arrest, each traditionally requiring in-person visits that contribute to a larger carbon footprint.
  • The remote monitoring program aims to minimize the need for transportation and in-person visits.
  • It allows for data transmission from patients’ devices to health care providers through a secure system, either via a dedicated device or a smartphone, to achieve timely and efficient care without the need for physical clinic visits.
  • Leveraging remote monitoring technology will not only to improve patient care and experience, but also to contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
  • Requires ongoing research to quantify the benefits and promote sustainability.


Dr. Chris Prabhakar- Department of Anesthesia, SPH

Watch Video: Decreasing the anesthetic agent carbon footprint in the operating room.

“There are technologies available now where some of these agents can be captured and processed, and potentially even reused clinically, instead of exhausted into the atmosphere.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Significant impact of anesthetic gases on carbon footprint: A landmark study in the Lancet in 2017 highlighted that desflurane, the main anesthetic agent health care in two facilities, contributed up to a 63% of the operating room carbon footprint, compared to only 4% in a center that did not use it.
  • Desflurane requires 3x the mass for the same clinical effect as sevoflurane, has a longer atmospheric lifetime (14 years), and a global warming potential 2500 times that of CO2. Sevoflurane and nitrous oxide have significantly lower (but still notable) impacts.
  • Attempts to voluntarily reduce desflurane use by 50% at PHC were more successful with the removal of canisters and vaporizers, for a 50-80% reduction.
  • Nitrous oxide, used predominantly in maternity services, has a long atmospheric lifetime and high global warming potential.
  • There are also issues related to wastage from central supply systems and leaks for gas flow. Transitioning from a central supply to portable cylinder units is proposed as a solution.
  • Additional recommendations include exploring alternatives to general anesthesia like regional anesthesia, and adopting innovative technologies for capturing, reducing and recycling anesthetic gases.

Dr. Trina Montemurro- Department of Anesthesia, SPH

Watch Video: Reducing waste in the operating room.

“Around the world and even locally in our own province, there’s much work being done to decrease waste in the operating room. The important thing is that we continue to generate new ideas. We look at what other hospitals are doing to reduce waste, and borrow those ideas.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Operating rooms contribute significantly to environmental waste, with the amount of waste from a single surgery comparable to what a family of four generates in a week, primarily due to the use of single-use plastics.
  • Practical steps include initiatives like marking unused suction tubing and anesthesia circuits as clean for reuse (using green “I am clean” stickers) and informing cleaning staff to not take those away but instead use for the next patient.
  • Exploration of reusable breathing circuits that only require filter changes between patients are and consideration.
  • Despite the simplicity of these kinds of waste-reduction concepts, implementing them in the context of hospital operations presents challenges, requiring commitment and creativity.
  • The importance of sharing and adopting waste reduction strategies among other institutions globally will foster a community of practice dedicated to minimizing environmental impact in health care settings.


Dr. Victor Leung- Environmental Sustainability Team

Watch Video: Reducing the impact of pressurized meter dose inhalers.

“We believe that by expanding the lifecycle of these dispensers, we will have a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to circumnavigating the earth 18 times on an annual basis.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • There are opportunities to improve prescribing practices and reduce waste for inhalers used by patients when they are admitted to hospital, and throughout their health care journey.
  • Pressurized Metered Dose Inhalers significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, highlighting the need for climate-conscious prescribing practices.
  • PHC dispenses 5000-6000 dispensers in acute care on an annual basis as single patient use. Unfortunately, every dispenser is only used to about 15% or less resulting in 85% wastage.
  • Programs that allow for multiple patient use of these dispensers through cleaning and disinfection have shown success.
  • This extends the dispensers’ life cycle to they can be used for multiple patients until they are fully used– instead of discarded, resulting in significant waste.
  • PHC is looking to establish a program to reinitiate the recycling of these inhalers in a collaboration with PHC and VCH pharmacy, and with eventual expansion across the region.
  • Resources for Low-Emission Inhalers:
    • CASCADES has released a playbook for both inpatient and outpatient settings to promote climate conscious inhaler prescribing practices.
    • provides information for patients and prescribers on low carbon emission inhalers, including PharmaCare coverage and instructional videos.


Dr. Tony Wan- Internal Medicine

Daily Scan: Project cuts unnecessary use of preventative blood thinners

Watch Video: Reducing heparin to improve patient outcomes, reduce costs and improve planetary health.

“In terms of return on investment, we reduce drug costs, and estimated that 90,000 kilograms equivalent CO2 is reduced from our effort (annually). We also reduce a lot of nursing hours. And most likely, with time, reduce complications such that can be triggered by Heparin.”

Rapid Fire Presentation Takeaways
  • Heparin production: Annually, 1.1 billion pigs are slaughtered to produce heparin for global use, a process that is not efficient and raises ethical and environmental concerns.
  • Re-evaluating heparin use in patient care: The current medical culture of administering heparin to hospital patients to prevent blood clots is often unnecessary, as many patients have a low risk of developing such complications.
  • A strategy to align heparin prescriptions more closely with patients’ actual risk levels (provided by pharmacist) aims to significantly reduce unnecessary heparin use, thus lessening its environmental and ethical impact.
  • Strategies for reducing heparin exposure include implementing guidelines for prescribing through pharmacist-led screening.
  • Strategies have proven effective, drawing lessons from antimicrobial and opioid stewardship programs.
  • The heparin stewardship initiative in PHC started in March 2023 has led to a 53% reduction in heparin use on medicine and geriatric hospital units.
  • Adoption includes monthly education lectures to physicians, residents, and students.



Ideas & Opportunities for Action – Participant Discussion Takeaways



Low Carbon Care

Question 1) What can you do/what are you doing in your clinic/Division/Dept/Other area?

Opportunities for Action:

  • Reduce usage of paper reports and recycle more.
  • Take advantage of virtual care when possible.
  • Install more cooling and heat pumps that reclaim wasted heat and reuse it to heat the building.
  • Turn off scanners and MRI machines at night.
  • Minimize big panel lab work.

Big Picture Items:

  • Talk more about planetary health and environmental sustainability.
  • Learn the best practices in your department.
  • Integrate environmental sustainability as a part of the onboarding process and curriculum for medical students.


Question 2) What supports do you need/were helpful to allow you to do this (start & implement your related project, idea, change)? From the organization, div/dept, other?

Opportunities for Action:

  • Use smaller metered-dose inhalers (MDI) canisters without so much wastage.


Big Picture Items:

  • Collect more data on ordering, impact and hire someone who can help us understand these impacts.
  • Utilize a bottom-up cultural shift where solutions come from technicians.
  • Make Planetary Health and Environmental Sustainability a more well-established concern.
Reducing OR Waste & Other Hospital Waste

Question 1) What can you do/what are you doing in your clinic/Division/Dept/Other area? 

Opportunities for Action:

  • Take desflurane canisters to recycling.  
  • Remove supplies you don’t want people to use or make it difficult to get them.  
  • Turn off equipment and lights when not in use. (Except computers managed by regional IT/HSSBC)
  • Revise order sets in chemistry to help other departments reduce or eliminate options and offer better options. 
  • Move more towards online and reduce our paper consumption. 
  • Minimize unnecessary bloodwork.  
  • Simplify the drugs patients are on (drugectomies). 
  • Purchase better drapes that can be reused and recycled.  
  • Purchase cloth drapes to reuse.  
  • Purchase and use washable gowns. 
  • Get data on cloth vs paper and which is environmentally better.   
  • Switch from big plastic contains to vacuum sealed bags (current pathology lab initiative). 
  • Work on processes with Exceleris to reduce the paper labs, which they get paid to send.  
  • Engage them to stop sending paper;  
  • As individual practitioners, refuse to accept paper, as a group, by considering hiring someone to support physicians for form distribution.  
  • Reduce defibrillator pads for patients in the EP (electrophysiology) lab – data shows that most of the time the pads are not being used.  
  • Stop using paper on the tables that must be wiped down anyways.  
  • Take out just the amount of sodium bicarbonate you need. 
  • Reduce usage of Styrofoam in the OR and replace it with reusable gel pads.  
  • Discuss with operations the OR setup being thrown in the garbage when it is unused (nobody can monitor if it was not tampered with) and if this approach is evidence-based.   
  • Move laparoscopics to reusable/permanent trocar.   


Big Picture Items: 

  • Have employment groups approach this issue collectively. 
  • Lead the way in figuring out what is necessary.  
  • Work with IPAC champions to debunk some stories about safety.  
  • Get the organization on board to support through procurement – make the large-scale change.  
  • Check if endoscopy devices switching from multi use to single use is due to an industry narrative to drive profits or if there is actual data to support it.  
  • Give each department their data on where they are generating the most waste to target their efforts.  
  • Obtain a green assessment of the vendors as part of the procurement process.  
Reducing Medication Use & Unnecessary Testing

Question 1) What can you do/what are you doing in your clinic/Division/Dept/Other area?  

Opportunities for Action:

  • Use tap water not sterile water during colonoscopy.  
  • Reduce unnecessary tests by individualizing cases and not offering every single patient the same tests.  
  • Utilize dashboards to help clinicians monitor trends in use of tests.  
  • Eliminate daily blood work orders; instead look at the patient’s most recent results and then determine which tests need to be ordered/re-ordered.  
  • Use virtual care if feasible, and if the patient has substantial travelling time.  
  • Reduce the amount of pre-op testing and streamline the process so a patient can get all necessary tests accomplished in one visit.  
  • Continue with MedSafer trial to reduce medication use especially in elderly patients.  
  • Ensure the pharmacy divides medication into smaller vials to reduce medication wastage.  
  • Utilize smaller MDIs
  • Understanding current guidelines and sourcing containers with fewer doses.
  • Big Picture Items: 
  • Examine Cerner PowerPlans that encourage over-ordering of tests/procedures.  
  • Get funding for MFA – funded committee that helps to start planetary health initiatives.  
  • Use playbooks from CASCADES, etc.  
Reducing Food Waste & Advancing PHC Initiatives


Opportunities for Action:

  • Track food wastage at SPH. Measurements being done (biannual food wastage results). Data not available yet. 
  • Get more data re: food wastage – Why aren’t patients eating the food? (mostly due to not feeling well). 
  • Don’t wait to start measurements.  
  • Label food with carbon footprint (is this already being done by Food Services)?  
  • Celebrate Plant Power event events at PHC wards with physician champions: Posters, samples to be given 
  • Engage staff: posters, materials, education 
  • More plant-based menu items in maternity ward, especially for GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus) patients 
  • Batch (same day) discharges so some meals do not end up being delivered. 


Be aware of limitations to changes: 

  • Food services repatriated from a private provider to in-house.
  • Sites available for food tasting-needs dietitian discussion and approval
  • Legislative constraints: legislation allows certain amount of calories, water intake.


Educate/ raise awareness among staff & patients 

  • Try to cut down on high carbon food. 
  • Explore ways for families & friends to provide more foods to avoid wastage. (However, must be cleared with dietitian, staff.)


Explore more food choices 

  • Acute care menu
  • Ask patient meal preference (less wasteful).
  • Timing of choice
  • Psychiatry interested


Explore food options 

  • More fresh fruits & vegetables.
  • Different recipes.
  • More plant-based foods incorporated at an institutional level. Gradual with partial vegan; Not completely vegetarian but gradually changing to complete vegetarian.
  • More plant-based menu items.
  • More comfort foods (tomato soup, mac & cheese, chicken noodle soup).
  • More tasty foods for patients.


Explore timing of meals 

  • Synchronising meals and ordering the day before or day of?
  • Cancelling meals not needed e.g. when patient is away for specialist appointment.


Explore additional support opportunities  

  • Spread Quality Improvement (SQI) funding for team-based Food QI project available
  • Green Leaders training
  • Food Working Group on the EST – meets monthly every second Thursday