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The Environmental Department of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust launched the Green Champions Network in January 2015. The in-house funded and managed Network was designed to overcome the sustainability challenges faced by one of the largest Trusts in the UK by positively engaging with its staff, patients and service users on environmental issues.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare employs 8800 staff in a variety of settings within the East Midlands and South Yorkshire including prisons and secure units, mental health and acute hospitals, health centres as well as within the community. By creating a network to encourage communication, ideas sharing and promote best practice, the Environmental Team hoped this would improve the environmental performance of Trust and encourage sustainable practice amongst staff.
In recent years the Trust has delivered a number of significant sustainability projects such as photovoltaic panels, voltage optimisation, introducing a carbon cap on leased vehicles and replacing the coal-fired boiler heating system at Rampton with an efficient combined heat and power plant. Although this has been successful, it became apparent that as well as technical and innovative fixes, we wanted our staff to be fully engaged and as such acknowledged that we needed to frame sustainability differently, focusing on behaviour change and grass-roots approaches.
The network has a logo which is easily recognisable and is included on all promotional materials which includes a wheelie bin desk tidy, banner pen and metal pin badge worn by all Champions.
The Environmental Team created an Environmental Awareness Calendar which provides a structure to the year in terms of our engagement activities focusing each month on a different environmental theme. This allows us to plan our year in advance, but more importantly network members can make suggestions of activities ahead of time allowing them to participate much more fully.
A monthly e-bulletin is produced in-house and circulated which discusses key topics, outlines what the Trust is doing to make improvements, as well as identifying ways in which Champions get involved. This has included developing initiatives at their sites, sharing ideas, taking part in activities and events or circulating information within their networks.
The key to the success of the network is the support it has from the Trust’s Sustainability Committee chaired by both a Non-Executive and Executive Director. After the first year we had over 200 volunteer members; at the time of writing this had nearly reached 300 members across more than 50 locations, many more than our initial estimates which is very rewarding.
Our Green Champions Network has been developed, launched and managed using internal resources only. We take great pride in the fact that the project is owned and managed internally; there has been no support from external third parties which would have cost the Trust significantly. This makes it personal to the Trust and hopefully easier for our staff to engage with. The only cost to establishing the network other than staff time has been the purchasing of promotional materials which have been used to sign up new members at Trust events and inductions. We had a budget of approximately £50 a month to deliver this project; there is no doubt that this would have cost the Trust more had this been delivered by external consultants.
During December as part of Festive Focus we asked our Champions to ‘Do a good deed in December’. The aim of this was to use the generosity of our network to support local foodbanks across the region. By promoting the activity in our e-bulletin we managed to collect 9 boxes of food just at our headquarters in Nottingham. We were also made aware of collections taking place which had been independently arranged by Green Champions in other locations within the Trust. It is important to us that the Network isn’t just about the benefit for the Trust, but that it had wider reaching impact in the communities where our staff and service users live.
One of our greatest successes has been a chance discussion between two green champions from different sites. One champion was looking to grow food for their catering team to use on site and needed planters to do so; the other lead vocational training including woodwork for patients at our high secure site. The network brought these two together, and created an opportunity for patients that might not have existed otherwise. The catering team got their planters at a fraction of the cost of buying new, and the patients had the opportunity to develop their own skills by making something of value for the Trust, supporting their own wellbeing and recovery.
The Green Champions Network wasn’t established as means of reducing costs or our carbon footprint as such, more as a means of sharing information and raising awareness about environmental issues that are important to us and which influence the way in which we deliver care to our patients and service users. These are however by-products of our activities and wherever we can, we do try to deliver reductions, but the overarching aim is to enable communications that lead to an overall improvement of environmental performance of the Trust.
Most of our campaigns to date have not been measured for quantifiable benefits; instead we focus on raising our profile and promoting small but constant changes in behaviour and attitude. However, that said one of our ‘pilot projects’ which was measured proved to be very successful and based on its success will now be repeated. This was our in-house Energy Challenge which ran for 12 weeks starting in October 2015 the network’s energy month, ending in December. Using data quality and the locations of Green Champions to guide our selection, 19 sites were selected to participate in the mini competition. They were all visited by a member of the Environmental Team to engage with building occupiers and to distribute resources, such as leaflets, posters, stickers and thermometers. Energy consumption was closely monitored on a weekly basis using high quality half-hourly data, and feedback reports were sent to the building occupants to provide update on their progress. The PDF reports included a summary league table, remaining energy budgets in graphical format and normalised carbon emission information, as well as monthly hints and tips on how to save energy. The weekly emails included hints and tips on energy efficiency utilising structured fortnightly topics, i.e. office equipment; lights; space heating; ventilation and air conditioning; weekends and holidays; and Christmas. We hope to repeat an expanded version of this campaign in October this year, building on the previous success.
Another high profile campaign is the implementation of Warp It, an online platform used to share and reuse unwanted furniture that would otherwise be disposed. We launched this for a month using the Green Champions Network as our test group before further roll out to the Trust. We chose to use the network for the soft launch for two reasons. Firstly we had an existing means of communication with a diverse group that we knew was effective, and we were able to use that network to send out additional messages and promote the software. Secondly the champions were known to be interested in furniture waste, as over the year one of the most common questions we received was why the Trust wasted so much furniture. Within the first 6 months more than 150 people signed up and over £11000 was saved by reusing existing assets rather than buying new.
Our calendar of events provides a great framework for delivering our Green Champion Network whilst support our wider sustainability objectives. We will definitely be growing the use of Warp It and we will also be repeating the Energy Challenge at some point next winter, using the champions to promote these campaigns and grow them beyond what has already been achieved. We are also planning to bring together as many of the Champions as possible for a day event celebrating the achievements of the network, and to table discussions of how we can now advance the green agenda in the Trust.