As an organisation, UCLH needs to minimise the environmental impact of our buildings and the energy they use and maximise our use of any technology available to support these changes.
We also need to limit the impact of transport emissions and pollution produced by our staff, patients and suppliers and recycle as much as possible.
To achieve this, we will:
• Reduce the direct emissions from our buildings to net zero by 2031
• Be reliant on 100% renewable electricity derived from the cleanest sources
• Maximise our onsite generation of renewable electricity
• Maximise our use of technology to reduce our emissions
• Increase the percentage of waste we recycle
• Make the UCLH vehicle fleet electric
• Minimise the number of carbon emitting journeys made by staff, patients and visitors
• Ensure that our estate is adequately adapted for future changes to our climate
• Maximise biodiversity across our sites.
To help reduce food waste, coffee shops and restaurants on our sites offer discounted, ‘surprise’ bags of food at the end of each day. The outlets taking part in this offer include the Coffee House Cafés at the Macmillan Cancer Centre, Grafton Way Building, Westmoreland Street and the Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals, as well as the Wellspring restaurant in the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
The bags include items such as unsold sandwiches and other baked goods and are available at a discount of up to 70 per cent via the ‘Too Good to Go’ app. Any fresh food that hasn't passed its use-by date can be sold on the app, which is free to download.
Food waste is responsible for 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK – more than the whole aviation industry, so this is another opportunity to support UCLH becoming a net zero organisation.
In 2020 UCLH consumed 20,700,000 kWh of electricity, equivalent to powering 7,137 homes. Switching to a green electricity provider later in the year brought UCLH closer to decarbonising its supply but a portion of that renewable energy still comes from biofuels such as burning woodchips which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Allocating space to generate onsite renewable energy can be challenging on central London sites but it's a necessary step decarbonise UCLH energy consumption by 2031.
In 2023, UCLH completed the installation of a solar photovoltaic system on 3 roof spaces of the University College London Hospital building – podium and Elizabeth Garret Anderson Wing. The 452 panels will produce 180.56 kW in their first year and deliver cash saving per year. The panels will also offset 30 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year.
“The installation of solar panels will bring considerable financial and environmental benefits to UCLH and is just one of many sustainability projects taking place across our hospitals”, said director of estates and facilities, Olúkáyọ̀dé Aláká. “We will continue to explore how our estate can help UCLH reach its target of becoming a carbon-neutral organisation by 2031.”
“UCLH’s net zero strategy outlines our need to measure the environmental impact of our buildings and maximise our use of any technology available to support these changes", said Elliott Westhoff, Head of Sustainability Programme at UCLH. “The new solar panels are just one example of how UCLH is turning this strategy into action.”
The UK has committed to decarbonise the national electricity system by 2035. Home-grown, green technologies such as offshore wind and nuclear energy will support the UK to transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. UCLH will continue to explore where more solar panels can be installed on the rest of the UCLH estate.
A team at UCLH has developed a fold out health clinic built into an eco-tricycle. The trike can nimbly treat London’s most vulnerable homeless patients in a way which combines personalised care and environmental concern in the city.
UCLH’s Find & Treat team, who screen London’s most vulnerable homeless and high-risk people, have produced this Eco-Tricycle which allows access to parks, hostels, soup kitchens, under bridges or other street outreach locations. The bike will support the team to screen for blood borne viruses, STIs, TB, HIV, vaccination and much more.
Designed with an aerospace electrician, it features remote temperature control allowing safe storage for vaccines or other cold chain items and a solar panel which provides an independent, climate friendly charging option.
London’s population health is closely linked to its environmental conditions. High levels of pollution and poor air quality hospitalises approximately four Londoners daily and contributes to around 109 early deaths a year in Camden alone.
Prof Al Story, the founder and clinical lead of Find and Treat, said, “Air pollution harms the health of all Londoners’ and especially the poorest and most vulnerable. For the people we serve who are forced to live on the street, clean air isn’t an option. This new green low carbon e-bike fits perfectly with our mission to help the most vulnerable, protect the air we share and promote better health for all.”
Our electricity is now sourced completely from renewables. We are continuing to install solar panels on more of our hospital buildings, including 452 new panels in early 2023.This means we now have solar panels on The Grafton Way Building, The Podium, and The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing.
Installing solar panels on just one site could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 70 homes. We invested over £2 million in low-energy LED lights in 2022 across our hospitals: these use just a quarter of the energy of our previous lights, and last much longer. This is enabling UCLH to save more than 1,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
UCLH is cutting down the amount of plastic used at its hospitals, including encouraging patients and staff to replace the use of polystyrene cups with reusable ones. As of October 2023, and in line with the latest government legislation, now single use catering plastics will be offered at UCLH outlets.
Two wards are leading the way. Previously, the team at University College Hospital was ordering 2,000 polystyrene cups per month, but the order has now been replaced by 1,000 paper cups, with the ambition to further decrease this.
The Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery is also supporting the campaign with ‘Plastic-free Wednesdays’, when polystyrene cups and cutlery are made difficult to find, to encourage staff to locate reusable alternatives. The ward is now planning to almost completely eliminate the use of plastic cups and cutlery.
Incinerating waste can release harmful pollutants into the air. Tiger waste bags have been brought in to reduce the amount of incinerated clinical waste. The tiger bags are for non-infectious waste such as sanitary pads, nappies and incontinence pads. Previously, this was disposed with clinical waste which is incinerated, but by separating the waste in this fashion we can decrease the amount of burnt waste. The sacks were introduced in January 2021, and this has already seen the amount of clinical waste cut by 20 per cent.
We are also aiming to reduce the amount of waste water that we produce.
Teams across UCLH have been encouraged to clear out of office spaces to make way for a new hot desk system to ensure staff can work well anywhere. As a result, many have been uncovering furniture and other items they no longer need.
The transformation team, which had been based in offices at 250 Euston Road, arranged a major clear out of their office space in June 2022. Seventeen members of staff had been using the desks pre-COVID, but the space needed to be reconfigured to fit just six desks alongside a new bank of lockers.
Sustainability transformation project support officer, Natalia Block (supported by deputy head of transformation, Elliott Westhoff), took the lead in arranging the clear out.
“As well as creating a less cluttered, more pleasant working environment, we also wanted to see whether we could save UCLH some money on waste disposal or buying new and also support our ambitions to be a greener trust”, said Nat.
Nat encouraged staff working in her part of the office to have a clear out of their area over the course of a week, dependent on when they were on site. Unwanted items were then sorted into groups – electricals (which were returned to IT), recyclable, reusable and waste.
She then photographed all the reusable items and uploaded them to UCLH’s recycling portal called WARP-IT. WARP-IT lists unwanted items which can be offered to other departments as a first option before buying new. Items included everything from two large cabinets to a number of stationery items. “The whole process took about ten minutes to do”, said Nat. “The system made a lot of suggestions on how to list items and it also auto-filled listings once the first one was created so I didn’t have to repeat the same information twice”.
The team requesting the goods has to arrange for collection of small items, but waste amnesty firm JPA Ltd can help with large furniture items being moved internally for a small fee. If an item is not claimed by UCLH’s own staff, it then gets offered to partner organisations using WARP-IT including Homerton Hospital or University College London. After that it would be offered to other third parties or charities.
Within a few days, all the unwanted items had been claimed, saving UCLH £809t. This also equates to diverting 232kg of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere – the equivalent of driving 576 miles in an average petrol car or charging 28,221 smartphones.
"Based on our saving, if we replicated the activity across all departments at UCLH, we could make financial savings upwards of £200k as well as diverting over 67 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere. I would encourage every department to use it regularly, both to help get rid of unwanted items and as a first port of call for anything new.”
You can read more stories about our progress in our Green Plan in Action report 2021/22