The environmental impact of health care in Switzerland – a case study of a nursing home

Main Presenter: Sebastian Bradford 

Co-Authors: Regula Keller Matthias Stucki

Session: Poster Session 1

The health sector provides essential services to society by supporting and ensuring people’s health and well-being. However, this service comes at a high financial and environmental cost. In Switzerland, the health sector is responsible for almost 6% of the national carbon footprint.
To support the city of Zurich to reach the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions, a life cycle assessment of a nursing home in Zurich was carried out. As functional unit, the “Operation of the nursing home during one year” was chosen. The reference year is 2019. Greenhouse gas emissions and the total environmental impact according to the Swiss ecological scarcity method were analysed.
The provision of care services caused greenhouse gas emissions of 1 810 t CO2-eq in 2019. Catering is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions with 36%, followed by mobility with 24%. In the case of catering, meat is crucial, and in the case of mobility, commuting of employees by car causes the highest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Other relevant areas are consumables with 14 % and infrastructure with 13 %, for which the building is decisive, while beds and furniture contributes little. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions, namely 93 %, are assigned to Scope 3, while 1 % of the emissions occur in Scope 1 and 7 % in Scope 2.
In terms of total environmental impact, the nursing home causes 4.52 billion eco-points per year. Again, catering is the most environmentally relevant area and has an even higher share of 43 % compared to greenhouse gas emissions. The energy supply, namely electricity and heating requirements, is mainly renewable, which is why it only contributes little to the carbon footprint and the total environmental impact.
By adapting the catering offer, encouraging employees to switch from their own cars to public transport and bicycles and additionally replacing heating oil in the heat supply with renewable energy sources, the total environmental impact of the nursing home could be reduced by 24 % and the greenhouse gas emissions by 30 %.

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